I missed our church’s Ash Wednesday service. Leila had green snot coming out of her nose which she would take with her hand and smear all over her face, causing her cheeks to chafe.
I’m willing to be THAT Mom in a million instances, but I draw my line at the green snot. So the older girls went off with Travis and the Littles stayed home with me and we watched more snow fall and I wondered at the irony of beginning to prepare for Easter on a day so frozen over. Nothing felt further away than Easter.
I’m sure you saw my posts of children sledding? Or the ones of my cozy snow day brunches? Oh that’s right. There were none of those.
No, we were inside enjoying a week of relationships here. Relationships and screens to be exact. And relationships in front of screens. A few relationships on screens but pretty innocuous ones.
Having all four home all week, in the cold, I needed to make a quick decision about expectations. Meaning my own. Meaning I needed to decide right away that besides being present with these girls and feeding them, nothing else was going to get done. So this brief post took six days, research for a seminary project came to a halt, the laundry is strangling us and the closet under the stairs I keep meaning to organize has become Hiding Spot Number 1/Sophia’s Office/I don’t think my Swiffer survived.
And so we’ve been in each other’s space and sharing each other’s clothes, adrift without the safety of routine, just like so many of you. Thursday we had a meeting in Sophia and Olivia’s room. There we sat in the mess of our humanity, wearing unmatched socks, in a room littered with Build a Bear accessories, and used tissues. I said that we all needed to say sorry and start over. We each would say we were sorry for one thing. I’m so bad at this stuff. So so bad. Don’t hire me for your intervention/mediation/reconciliation. I’m awkward and use too many big words, not surprisingly.
When it got to me, I was planning a soliloquy on all of my shortcomings: how I’m trying, but learning and I will get better at this even if I’m never quite good -but that’s okay because as much as I want to be the best mom I can-if I model perfection would that really help them -and what would that teach them about their own expectations for themselves and grace -and on and on and such…
But then Leila said she was sorry for crying so much and it was my turn. I looked at each of them and remembered something I read this week: how children feel like we do, but don’t think like we do, and adults often assume the reverse.
So I thought about how I’d feel and I got specific.
I’m sorry for getting angry about you cooking your own Easy Mac. That was a silly thing for me to get angry for. I’m proud of your independence.
And then we began again.
I think Lent, actually might just be about getting specific.
For some of us, the season interrupts our rhythms with thoughts of God, and for some of us, it interrupts our thoughts on God and nudges us to get specific.
We recognize that though we may try to move towards God, God has already moved toward us - toward us in our messy rooms and our piles of used tissues and mismatched socks, and in our love of Diet Coke and tableside guacamole. As much as I long to be someone who exists in transcendent speeches and metaphors, as I type here I am fervently wishing we weren’t out of Frosted Mini Wheats. I also know that spiritualizing is the Christian Stealth way to avoid getting to the heart of matters.
So we get specific. About our humanity. Instead of thinking that I shouldn’t feed my kids Easy Mac, ( I really shouldn’t) I admit that I do, and apologize for being a jerk about it. He joins us in the most ordinary parts of living, you know, the stuff that “isn’t important” (except that it matters all day long.) We give up, we add on, we confess, and we prepare.
Because although the words spoken over Ash Wednesday worshipers are not joyful: “from dust you have come, to dust you will return,” and Lent itself, is hardly an illustrative word (sounds like lint, a bit bleaker, perhaps like something that comes out of your nose, just to keep with the theme), the word actually originated in the Old English word for spring. Spring. Miracle of miracles: soon the snow and snot will be memories, we will celebrate that even dust can be redeemed, spring will arrive and Lent will have made us, not just the spiritual us, ready.