(The second of four posts in a series on family.)
‘Did you make all of these?’ Standing on two points in somewhere Oklahoma, my hand sweeps across rows upon rows of wooden knick knacks in one of those gas station junkin’ stores. Some were small enough to fit in one cupped palm but there were also a few that would require the assistance of several grown men to haul out.
It felt like one of those stupid questions as I observed him working wood and knife like a Rubik’s cube from his weathered rocker.
There was one good-sized shaving of wood stuck to the side of his red cap and his overalls appeared more dust than denim.
‘Yes ma’am,’ said this gentleman a full two, maybe three, generations ahead of my own.
Watching his blade strip away here but gently smooth over something else there, it seemed he was carving from some mold that only I couldn’t see. What I could plainly see is that his beat-up hands had paid the price for his life’s work.
‘Do you still enjoy working with wood even though you do it all day long?’
I watched him work his mouth with the movements of his fingers and he said, ‘I do mostly.’
A long pause settled in the air between us, then he continued, ‘It’s taken a toll on my eyes and hands and some days I’d like to set fire to the whole place for the trouble.’
He chuckles here, and then softer: ‘It’s just always come natural to me. Some days it’s boring, some days’re more fun. It’s just how it is. But I never wanted to do anything else. I just thank the Lord when I get up in the morning, grab some wood, and I just sit at this chair until my work is finished.’
I observed the care he took and that he loved this work and that he was exceptionally good at it. I told him so and he looked up at me then and we exchanged our grins.
Swaying baby dolls on my hip as soon as I could stand, my desire to be a mama was as natural to me as my own penny-colored eyes.
I can tell you plain:
it is my life’s sweetest, hardest work.
Any Tuesday holds messy crayon drawings so sweet, so earnest my heart can barely take it and a battle of wills with a teen with the exact and opposite effect on this very heart. A morning may commence with a mess of rush and mad, tangly words and that same day is likely to end with giggles around the table.
Grace and grousing.
Peace and pandemonium.
Laundry and dishes.
It’s a fine, exhausting dance.
Why do we tend to think the good, natural things might always be easy? In the hard, in the droll, in the monotonous, it is tempting to slack, to shortcut, to throw in the towel.
Don’t give up, Mama.
The growing of right-strong beings takes a good bit of time.
And I can promise at the end?
The time it took will never seem enough.
It costs your hands in all manner of ways….but hear me well:
every thing you do matters.
Don’t you know you’re carving arrows?
Our littles come to us like big hunks of chunky, shapeless wood and leave our homes able to hit their marks with sure purpose and strong aim because of every bit of the time, hands, and heart we invested in their fixing.
Every night spent not sleeping to tend the feverish, feed new babies, or wait on a teen to come home is the chiseling of faithfulness.
Every repetition and redirection of the thing you’ve said for the ever-loving thousandth time is the steady molding of honorable leaders.
Every good boundary drawn tight around the wild way of human hearts is the chipping away of what doesn’t belong and the firm shaping of steadfast character.
Every dish washed, sock dried, bath given, boo boo kissed, nose wiped, diaper changed, homework checked, book read, tear dried and hug given is an honest-good testament of enduring love.
And soaking these sturdy fledgling weapons in the deep well of God’s truth is the very same as sending flaming arrows across the night sky of a dark world.
Whittle by whittle, Mama…we’ll get there.
Just keep at the chair.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Psalm 127:4