Embracing Reality

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
But tasks in hours of insight will'd
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd.
~Matthew Arnold

Ladies retreats have always been one of my most anticipated events. When the kids were small retreats meant a full night's sleep and no one else's food to cut up. As they have grown older and sleep is less rare, the retreats still promise a reprieve from a busy schedule and the emotional exhaustion that seems to have replaced the physical.

Last weekend I took off with a beloved friend for North Carolina and the Whole Heart Mom retreat led by Sally Clarkson. This was my first time to attend this event, and I had the privilege, along with a few others, to briefly speak and share some of my mothering journey.

Through her books and blog, Sally has been a mentor to me for years. My heart has returned to her kind, affirming voice time and again over my 21 years of mothering. Her message speaks to the soul of a mom, drawing out and validating the unique calling and value of motherhood. Throughout the weekend I heard story after story of how her books, especially The Mission of Motherhood, had encouraged women to embrace the beauty, challenge, and privilege of being a mom.

As I listened to Sally share and spoke with other moms over the weekend, my passion for my children was renewed. New life was breathed into ideals that had faded with disappointments over time. My heart's desire to give the best of my energy and time to my husband and children was affirmed. I left excited and encouraged.

If you've ever attended a retreat like this, you are probably familiar with the phenomena I am about to describe. It typically begins the morning of the last day of the retreat. The mental list that possessed your brain the day you arrived but has been conspicuously absent for the last 24 hours starts to return as you pack your bag before attending the morning meeting. Usually, the passion for your last few hours of freedom are strong enough to shove the list aside for the day. BUT once the day's events are over, and you've said your goodbyes to new friends, it looms menacingly in the back of your mind. "Breathe deep," you calmly tell yourself as you begin the drive home. Then the self-talk begins. It reminds me of that little worm in the Veggie Tale movie of Jonah. "I am a skilled metal worker," except it sounds something like this, "I am a loving mother. I respond with grace and love when I enter the house and the breakfast dishes from last Friday are in the sink with the weekend's on top, and the kids ask what's for dinner, and . ." You get the idea.

It's not really like this. Yes it is. The exact mental talk may vary, but the impending threat of life as we live it, not as we imagine it, looms large after a retreat. It threatens to consume all our hopes and good intentions. Often it does. I've heard the most dangerous part of a space shuttle journey is when it is reentering the earth's atmosphere. What a perfect analogy. The friction and heat are unbelievable and the vessel is most vulnerable to explosion. Am I talking about the space shuttle or moms? Yes.

That's why the poem at the beginning of this post is such an inspiration to me! Instead of feeling like it was all for naught, a motherhood pipe dream, I can accept the often overwhelming reality of my days while drawing inspiration from my "mountain-top" time away. Amy Grant used to sing a song whose chorus says:

And I'd love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I'd love to stand on a mountain top
'Cause I love to feel my spirit soar

But I've got to come down from the mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they'll never know that they can go
To the Mountain Of The Lord

May we walk in faith as women and mothers, in hours of insight and gloom, in paths that lead to mountain tops and through valleys, fulfilling the blessed tasks our loving Father has entrusted to us.

"I am a loving mother . ." ;)

So many gifts. So much gratitude . .

195. waking to a cacophony of busy spring birds
196. daughter's insightful, beautiful prayer
197. sun "rise"
198. husband's strong, gentle hand reaching for me in the night
199. kids warming themselves like kittens in the spring sun
200. tiny blue flowers all over the yard
201. two hundred things to give thanks for that I might have missed if it weren't for this precious woman and this exercise . . read the book (thank you, Ann)
202. sister and father on missions trip in Guatamala
203. son home for spring break
204. conversations that rankle and challenge and ultimately affirm truth and love
205. season of Lent