I am my parents' daughter....for good and bad and quirks and tall foreheads and big pores...
Growing up my mom and dad and sister and I circled up in the little doorway before dad walked down the side walk and stepped into his Honda for his salesman's day behind the wheel. He always prayed over us each...and then pushed back my bangs and kissed me gently on the forehead. A blessing for the day and he always said "I love you". Always. I can picture him now with his gold wristband and brief case and my mama standing, looking at him with her chestnut hair pulled back in barrettes. Then she would whisk my sister and I off to school. Our days always began with a prayer.
I have started the tradition as I sit in my driveway at the helm of the minivan. It wasn't really a prayer of sweet love and protection like my daddy's as much as a plea for the help of the Almighty to please make sure that we all survive an outing with three kids
But for whatever reason I started praying before our drives and I am glad to say that it is now a practice for me and my girl crew and God blesses it.
Its sort of a practical way to acknowledge God in our very literal "paths" (Proverbs 3) as we sit under the carport, before I take song and radio requests or we listen to Adventures in Odyssey again...
I've noticed that when we include God in the ordinary moments of life, unordinary events rise to the surface..
A few weeks ago we dropped off oldest girl at art class and me and my middle and most little decided to enjoy a walk down to the playground. It was an early spring day and we were so eager to be outside and welcome spring.
I know its silly, but every spring and autumn I feel like I've experienced partial season amnesia...I make a big deal about it all...the first crocus...that baby spring green dripping down willow trees..and those little blue flowers that crown the heads of weeds in the sidewalk...so because of my nature fascination and my four year old's "I Spy" game the two blocks to get to the play ground...took some time.
We finally turned the bend down one street and our goal was in sight...the promised playground. You don't deny a four year old the promise of the playground when Spring has just showed up like a long awaited relative and she can finally run and scream into the warm air..."We're almost there Madelyn." I encouraged her little legs to move faster as the stroller carting baby girl clicked over the bumpy cement sidewalk. And then I saw her.
Two houses from our destination I saw an old woman bent over a trunk trying to fish out bags of groceries. She had support hose on and I watched her try to hoist the bags out and then drag them slowly up porch steps.
No thinking, no "maybe we should go onto the park", no of my normal indecisiveness.
I just sprang into life and told Madelyn that we would have to help this lady.
I greeted her and told her that I could help. And she did not resist. She welcomed it.
I carried the bags from the car and noticed the anxious looks of Madelyn as I continued...
We were done I thought and off to our destination for forty five minutes of Vitamin D and monkey bars.
Not so. This older lady had the authority of a diplomat as she told me that I was coming in for strawberry short cake that she had just purchased at the super market. I had to say yes. It wasn't so much of an offer, but an order and I was duty bound to comply. I saw in her matter of fact brown eyes that denying her would be to deny God's gift to me at that moment.
I surveyed the space that wasn't exactly 'kid friendly' and knew that I would be silencing the lip quivers of a four year old 100 yards from a play ground and wrestling a baby in my lap who wanted to investigate all of the artifacts that comprise an elderly lady's home. But I knew I was supposed to be there.
She put her groceries away and told my Madelyn that her name was Mary Jane. She set a Sprite in front of Madelyn and I prodded Madelyn on, appealing to her sense of "no soda" rebellion.
"Look Madelyn, you get a soda!" I said trying to diffuse to the storm cloud that is Madelyn when she is upset. It sort of worked.
Miss Mary Jane fished a knife out of a silver ware drawer and handed it to me as I stood there, baby on hip. "Here's a knife to cut the strawberries." And I tried, knowing my one handed strawberry slicing was really a butchering of berry juice...
After she took over the berry slicing and cut a slice of buttery pound cake...she placed them all on china plates and topped them off with dollops of cool whip...she handed me and Madelyn a straw and our community sprite (even the baby took a few sips) and there we sat with Miss Mary Jane, a woman we just met. And there I sat knowing God wanted us there, despite the complete strangers that we happened to be.
In the midst of those thirty minutes of cool whip, Sprite bubbles and the four year old's teary blue eyes I heard Miss Mary Jane's story. She shared what her heavy load had looked like for years...A story I can't imagine, but how she had simply taken care of someone that she had to. How she had done what most today would not do and now she was free to finally branch out and live life again...even though that freedom came to her in her eighties. I looked at her with admiration. She didn't judge my crying kids or even seem ruffled by Madelyn's insists that we leave or her whispers of, "I don't like strawberries." She just was so happy to have us in her presence. She told me in her plainspoken way that someone else had recently seen her plight and brought all of her groceries in and she had rewarded them the same way. "My mama always fed company. And so do I." she simply said.
I glanced at the clock in the antiquated kitchen clothed in that sea green tile that stamps homes circa 1950..."Mary Jane, I have to be going. We have to pick up our girl at art class." She joined hands with me and we prayed together. It was unexpected hospitality from her...in the end we were both blessed.
I had a raging Madelyn, crying torrents all the way back...we didn't have any more time before we had to pick up sissy and her clear blue eyes leaked tears all.the.way.back. all fifteen minutes.
But later I whispered through her blonde strands, down into her ear..."God wanted us to meet Mary Jane today. We were supposed to help her."
I am my father's daughter as I pray before I go along the way and I am my mother's daughter when I decide that inconvenience is worth the price of loving a neighbor...my mom meets no strangers in public and always holds up a grocery line with small talk. Once I was contacted by a florist who knew me because my mom talked about me and always showed my pictures to the workers at Kroger s. Creepy. I can't tell you how many people have received invitations to church in a Walmart aisle or to my mom's Christmas parties...friends hatched in the deli or at the local nursery garden center. That is who my mom is.
And I as I walk through the ordinary moments of parenthood...i find that faith is most real and practical and played out when it occurs in the daily events present to me now. It's most real to me and my kids when I enter the seemingly insignificant circumstance now and seize the opportunity as a time to love...when i literally bloom faith in the moment I'm planted in...when faith isn't just for spiritual conversations or Bible study...but when faith is a kiss on Mary Jane's cheek and swallowing down her cool whip and being okay with letting my four year old guzzle down her soda.
Pray along the way and you will see God today...even if it is in the love of an eighty year old's teary brown eyes...