A Mother’s Pledge

We met when she was thirty-six. I didn’t know it, but she had five children in her care. By the time we became acquainted, the first four kids were thirteen, twelve, eleven and ten while the fifth one was headed for the age of seven. Unaware of the fact that she cooked, cleaned, washed laundry, cared for the sick when a pandemic swept through the house, made school lunches, and stitched up holes in clothes, I was just another one to round it all out by being the sixth.

She thought her pregnancy years were behind her, but I showed up to let her know she was wrong. According to one of my sisters, after she got home from the doctor and she had learned of her state of affairs, she wasn’t quite herself. She removed her coat, stood and stared out the picture window overlooking the street and absent mindlessly began to remove her blouse button by button. Her idea was to change into more casual clothes but she forgot she was not in the privacy of her bedroom. She was stopped before she got too far and brought back to her senses. She laughed at herself, but it was quite apparent that she was in some form of shock.

It must have been rough to be up at night with a newborn only to have the alarm sound at five a.m. to get breakfast ready so that everyone could be out the door on time for school. Once the house was quiet, much of her time was spent cleaning and making beds. Before she knew it, they were all back home.

As the years went by, life didn’t get any less difficult as everyone had after school sports, activities and jobs. Supper became like a restaurant shift where some had to eat early and others had to eat late. When I was four, she was in the height of carting people from various destinations before everyone had their license to drive or owned their own car.

The one thing she never wavered on was her appearance. No matter the stress, she always wanted to be out in public looking her best with hair combed and clothes neat. She didn’t want the world to see a disheveled woman who looked like she didn’t have it all together.

I always went along in the station wagon while she drove around town. While she was dropping one off, she usually was picking up another. I tried to stick close to her side as she always seemed in a rush during this process, and I didn’t want to get left behind in the chaos.

“Chrissy, we have to go,” she said as she walked through the living room. This meant I was to put away my toys and prepare to leave.  Because of our hectic life, she generally spoke in short sentences to get her point across without explanation.

“Time to get up.”  “Clean your room.”  “Go to your room.” “Go help your dad.”  “Go to sleep.”

I followed her into her bedroom as usual while she went to her dresser. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and began fixing her hair with her hands quickly. I could tell by her movements she was in a hurry. She grabbed a can and sprayed in circles all around her head to be sure all strands would stay in place.  This was the era of big hair and complicated styles requiring many applications of high powered aerosol. She gave herself one quick look and then turned to see me standing waiting for her.

“What smells like lemons?” she asked me.

I didn’t understand, and I didn’t answer. She sniffed the air to try and detect where the odor was coming from.  I saw her eyebrows come together.

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it!”  Her mouth was wide open.

She spun around and glanced at the product she had just used.

“Furniture polish! I just sprayed myself with lemon furniture polish!  I thought it was hairspray!”

We raced out the door with my mother smelling like an end table.

When a woman becomes a mom, there is an invisible document that is signed within the sight of God where an oath is taken to let bits and pieces of oneself go while caring for the family.  It stretches us to our limits at times but in that process we begin to see how wide and deep our love can go. There are moments of such great frustration followed immediately by dandelion bouquets and sloppy hugs in which all is forgiven.

Our world is so fast paced you might not always recognize those who are working in the trenches, and often times, it is subtle. But, the next time you see a mom out in the store patiently dealing with a screaming toddler, stop for a minute and realize how blessed you are that you have just come into contact with someone who has taken a mother’s pledge.

 

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(The other thing…it was never too early to begin your first real novel.  Her favorite hobby is reading)

Music To Your Ears

Following my divorce, I was in somewhat of a panic as I job searched. I already had a part-time work from home position, and I was employed at a local school as an after hours helper.  However, due to fear and uncertainty, I felt I needed to find more work.  While scanning through the classifieds, I came across an ad that sounded interesting. No music skills were required, and the employer was seeking someone who would be able to travel to various daycare facilities in my area and hold music classes with kids.

I called the number and spoke to a woman who informed me that they were holding a group interview at one of the childcare locations near my house.

“Could you come tomorrow and observe our lead music teacher and see if this would be something you would enjoy doing?”

“Sure.”

Why not. Back then I would have tamed wild sharks if it meant helping me survive financially.

The next day upon arrival at the location, I was escorted into a classroom where at least ten other adults were standing around waiting to be told what to do. This was at the height of our economic down turn, so jobs were a hot commodity.  Some of them looked rather nervous, but I started to notice the cute kids who seemed to range in age from three to four years old. Some of them who made eye contact with me would wave, smile and say,

“Hi,” like they knew me all their life. I returned the smiles and the waves.

The music teacher came in dragging a suitcase behind her and set up in the front of the room.

“Why don’t we have our visiting friends sit down and join us,” she said motioning us to the floor.  As I sank to my knees, six children raced over to sit in my lap.  This resulted in a moment of pushing and shoving.

“Why don’t you all sit down next to me. That way, we can all see each other,” I suggested. I suddenly had become Mary Poppins without even trying.

The teacher led the class in various songs as she pulled instruments made for preschoolers out of her big bag of tricks.

I joined in with my little tribe as we jumped, twirled and followed all of her instructions. This was the strangest job interview I had ever been apart of, and the most fun. The kids sang and danced as she taught them simple rhythm sounds.

At the end of the class, she handed out stickers to an excited bunch who were so proud to wear them like badges of honor.

For the adults, she handed us pieces of paper and said,

“Now that you have watched a class, if you are interested, return tomorrow at this same time. Read the instructions on the sheet because it will be your turn to teach the kids.”

I went home and found empty toilet paper rolls, filled them with rice, and taped the ends shut to serve as shaker instruments.  I practiced my songs and thought of clever things to say to capture my young audience. By the time I went to bed that night, I knew the job was something I would love to do, however, with the crowd that had showed up for the first part of the interview, I wasn’t so sure I would get it.  I began to question why I had pursued this in the first place.  What had prompted me to do this?

Even with these doubts,  I returned the following day ready to take on my competition. Astonishingly, only three of us came back.  I noticed that as the kids tried to communicate with one potential prospect, she seemed edgy and uncomfortable. Her answers were high pitched and her eye twitched non-stop.

The minute I sat down on the floor to watch the two other candidates show us their best performance, I was once again surrounded by many little ones longing for attention.  When it was my turn, I handed each child a shaker and led them through the various songs.  What was once a quiet and solemn room was now a buzzing energetic atmosphere.  All the children took my lead as we marched, skipped and hopped on one foot around the room.

I received a phone call later that afternoon with a job offer.

“You impressed the teachers,” my new employer said.

“That is nice to hear.  I don’t have any musical talent.  I just did what I thought the kids would like.”

“You were the only one who showed up for the job without any music background.  Everyone else had their music degree except for you.”

“Really?  Why did you hire me if everyone else has experience in this type of thing?”

“We wanted someone that we could train instead of a person who thought they knew it all.  And, you related to the kids the best.”

Within the week, I had an official shirt and my own suitcase stuffed with curriculum, instruments and treats.   I began by traveling three times a week to three different centers to bang instruments together and bring a little joy to the classrooms.  I began to feel like the visiting grandmother as I was always ambushed at the door with excitement when I would show up. I began to notice the reason why this was.  The teachers seemed overworked, stressed out and not very present.  I am not saying they were not good people.  However, the work was long and difficult day after day, and sometimes more than eight hours at a time with a roomful of kids who weren’t always glad to be there.

There were days of brawl like fights and many children who were not obedient.  I noticed a glassy look to some of the teachers and assistants eyes as the days wore on.  When I stepped into the room, this was their time to check out mentally.  I returned home after every session to immediately change and wash my clothing.  Sickness was prevalent and my own immune system got a work out.

Before going into the facilities, I would spend a few moments in my car in the parking lot praying.  I would ask God to accompany me so that every child would feel the love of heaven.  I was not able to speak of anything faith related so this was my only way of injecting it into the situation.  It proved to be working because I was the most popular person to walk through the halls.  Kids would see me and practically fall over themselves to grab me around the kneecaps or to hang off of me like monkeys on a tree.

A few months into this, I was in a classroom with four year olds talking to them about the body’s five senses.   At this age, kids love the idea that they know more than adults.

“What do you do with your ears?  Do you smell with them?” I asked.

“NO!”they yelled back at me.

“Do you touch things with your ears?”

“NO!”

“I bet you guys eat with your ears!”

“NO we don’t!”

“Then what do you do with your ears?”

“We hear with them!”

“Oh!  That’s right.  We hear things with them. What do you hear?”

“My mom tells me she loves me in my ear.”

“My dad says I am good at coloring.”

“I hear dogs bark.”

As they shouted out answers, I made sure that they knew that their responses were the best I had ever heard.

When the excitement began to die down, a little blonde boy with brillant blue eyes said,

“I hear God talking to me with my ears.”

When he said this, the adult workers near him began to laugh, which in turn made all the kids giggle.  I saw him quickly put his head down to look at his lap.  It wasn’t difficult to see the embarrassment and that he was the subject of ridicule at a tender age.

“Hey.  You know what?”  He looked up at me.  “If God is talking to you, then I would keep on listening. That is very important.”

The minute I spoke those words it was like a hush came over the room. The two young teachers now put their heads down as I continued.

“Not everyone would be able to say that, so that is about the most special thing I have heard here today.”

Of course, not to be outdone, others began to shout,

“God talks to me too!”

“Me too!”

I again looked straight at him and said,

“If God is talking to you, then I would keep on listening.  He might have something very good to tell you.”

His little smile beamed.  It was one of the only times that I was able to openly discuss God, but it was a sign to me that nothing can keep the divine from invading a place even if it is forbidden.

As we approach a brand new year, take some quiet time for yourself.  People make resolutions one week and fail them the next.  What I have found is that if I sit down with a pad of paper and make myself available for instruction, words begin to come that bring insight and revelation.  Instead of struggling to figure out what you should do next or how you should solve that problem that seems to persist, give God a crack at it.  You will be surprised at what you will hear.  It could very well be music to your ears.

Colorful Wooden Toy Maracas Frame Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

 

(Image courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Out of Order

The three of us looked on as many approached, saw the sign and backed away. It was clearly written in permanent marker and in no uncertain terms that the machine was out of order.

“It’s not working, ” she said with a dejection that jumpstarts a mother into action.

It had been a simple request for a pack of hard to find cinnamon mints while walking through the mall. The grocery stores and gas stations we frequented did not carry them, but a large glass encased vending machine at the food court offered every color of the rainbow to those who desired fresh breath. Unless the machine was malfunctioning.

Instead of walking away, I began to dig in my wallet for change. Money and the availability of it had become scarce following the divorce. My oldest child saw what I was doing and said,

“Don’t put your money in there. You will lose it.”

I had taught her well. It sounded like my own voice and practical advice that I had doled out on numerous occasions to her and her sister, yet, I persisted in locating another coin. Maybe there was one at the bottom of my purse.

“You are going to lose your money.”

Despite her warnings, I felt I was to ignore what I was seeing and go after the item she had requested. I clutched two quarters in my hand as I watched another person go up, read the sign and leave.

When I made my decision to try it anyway, she kept trying to talk me out of doing something so crazy. Once the coins were in the slots and I pushed them in, I grabbed on to the metal handle.

This is where things got somewhat tricky. The mechanism would not budge so my coins were suspended and not dropping in to allow my candy to be dispensed. I latched on with both hands, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and put everything I had into turning that knob to the right. I leaned into it. I grunted inwardly.

After a few moments of mother against machine, I heard the soft clinking sound of my two coins falling into other coins. I opened my eyes to see a pack of red hot mints shoot across the room like a machine gun firing a bullet.

“Go get them!” I said as I watched them fly away. I didn’t have any money left to do it again.

As they both raced to retrieve them, I watched as another person walked up to the machine, read the piece of paper and walked away.

I know that I was not operating under my own impulses that day. How do I know? Because during that time of my life I was hanging on by a thread emotionally, physically and financially. Everything in me at all times feared the worst, and I was in survival mode to make sure my two children had what they needed. The divorce had left its scars on all of us, and I was trying to regain some normalcy.   But, to put my money into a machine that was probably going to take what little I had was not what I would have chosen to do.

However, I had this overwhelming thought to do it anyway because someone great was watching over us. Someone besides myself knew and saw the grief, despair and pain my household was enduring. A love greater than what I could hand out to my kids was watching us struggle to find our footing again like new born creatures. Everything seemed uncertain, so to take a chance by sticking my last two quarters into a machine was definitely not an idea generated by my own thinking.

I was being shown that not everything appears as it seems. It was an inward prompting to trust something bigger than myself, and to bring this passage alive: We walk by faith, not by sight.  Two quarters and a pack of elusive mints taught me one of the best lessons of my life.

When the divine is allowed in to bring healing, love and hope, nothing can ever be out of order.

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