The mountains never-ending

The last of the maples shine gold on the backdrop of the rusty oaks and their gray maple sisters, bare now of the leaves of scarlet, stripped by the winds. A blue jay fans his wings of evening sky and black over the gray quiet before the rain. The world is silent and still. The hill facing me a mountain on this valley landscape. I wear her words tattooed on my t-shirt No, my hands cannot reach it, my mind can't comprehend it, but my soul is going to get there one day. I've been climbing my whole life, and I'm only at the bottom of the mountain.

My parents were good parents, are good parents. But oh, the mistakes we all make on the weary road of mothering, the ways we bend children to our own image of children, the way we knock self out of their little souls and fill it with should be and must be instead of I am.

Last year, I pushed my children up each doorstep, their fear in the dark palpable, but the draw to Halloween candy beating it's bass drum through their little bodies. A year earlier, I couldn't take them trick-or-treating because Amy was hovering between life and death in the hospital. This year, they run pell-mell, us chasing after them between houses. The fear is gone and they are free spirits, football players among the ghosts and goblins, dancing in the dark night. My eight year old is suddenly rocketing into her "tween" years, body developing, little wise mind carried on shoulders heavy for her child's frame.

I say it to them, sometimes. Calm yourself down. You aren't allowed to [fill in the blank]. I mount a sign above their bedroom door: Thou shalt not whine. It's not in the commandments, but I'm pretty sure it can be extrapolated by the suggestion of a verse - one of my favorites - that says pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones. I try desperately to walk the tightrope. Teach them self-control, but let them be who they are. Let them stay in their skin, oh please Lord, for many years to come. Caleb will stop his wailing to whimper, "I'm so sad, Mama". I can't stop his sadness, but I can affirm it in my fierce hug. Oh, that he did not already know that life is sad. That life hurts. That people wound you and people leave you. Might I pass on to him that Jesus never leaves, nor forsakes, nor asks us to package up our burdens in stoic faces, but rather asks that we hand them, covered in tears as they come, over to Him to tend to!

Another mountain of motherhood waves hello from across the valley, years of three tween and teen girls coming, as they grow up like weeds around my trunk.

My own words haunt me. I am glad for cancer. Cancer taught me to enjoy this day, and look forward with jubilee to the next. Oh, but the haunt of the possible ending, the way things will go if they don't go how we want them to. Can you live without your mother, ever? Isn't it a world of pain and emptiness you're left in as you stand by her grave, whatever age you are when that grave becomes reality?

And so it is, my thoughts roiling in the quiet countryside, as I watch dragonfly nymphs huddle in a transparent gray swarm of cloud, yearning for warmth as my children yearn for my warmth. I hug knees to chest, and breathe out the ache settled deep in my chest. Lord, help me help them to be themselves, yet ever less of human and ever more of divine. In Your goodness, Lord, bless this little family shipwrecked on the shores of heartache, bind us and keep us and make us whole.

I go to the riverbed, shoes on the shore 
I’m shaking a little bit, hardly know what for 
Oh, and the water’s cloudy as the sky 
I’m looking for answers in the riverbed of life 

I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold 
Until I have all my heart can hold

I go to the pages handed down and worn 
I’m hearing the sages with the Truth on their tongues 
Sifting beauty from the layers of ash
I’m tracing the universe with my fingers in the sand 

It’s there in the city, where the nations converge 
It’s in the graffiti and the shapes of the earth 
Choir lofts and kitchens, where voices ring loud 
Reflections of grace, shining glory over doubt 

I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold 
Until I have all my heart can hold 
I’m panning for gold, I’m panning for gold 
Take all I can hold