Receiving Gentleness; Mothers and Sons and December

oil pastels opened 

water set aside in a mason jar, rimmed with acrylic paint-marks from years ago

circle cakes of color in straight rows waiting for the brush  

afternoon window light through white blinds, we sit together on the new carpet and create.

He chooses the soft oil pastels. So, I use the watercolor.

He draws everything bold and direct with precision. blue. red. yellow. tons of black. until the black is all used up.

And my brush swirls through the water, I dab it gently in the paint and add softness all around his lines,

blending and connecting colors,

adding a touch of translucency, a dimension of transparency to all the opaqueness on paper.

It's our little art dance we enjoy doing together. Mother and son. Melissa and Oliver. 

Just months ago out the art room window the trees were full and green and now the sky is bare except for bristly branches.

It is cold.

But inside, upstairs, down the hall of our corner cul-de-sac home, we sit together.

He makes noises with each mark and I paint quietly.

These tender moments are warmth in the winter and refreshment in the summer.

I receive the gentleness it brings. The narrative of joy on this motherhood journey.

December celebrates a mother and son.

Yes, angels and a father and wise men and shepherds too. Oils like frankincense and sheep and donkeys and stars and swaddling blankets. The stories seem to connect everything; heaven and earth and nature. And so we sing because we have found a purpose and a belonging. We are not alone and we are part of a story.

This is the expanded the view; but back to a small mothering moment. Back to a little town on dark starry night. A women in labor, going through pain. uncomfortable. hopeful. real life moments. Then the milestone moment. She meets her son. They say she wraps him in a blanket- her next right thing, her practical purpose; covering her son with warmth and love. Then she lays him down in the manger. 

The words and the imagery remind me of what will come later; one day this baby boy's next right thing will be to lay his life down to cover us in love. 

You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.
— Psalms 85:2

From mother to son the cycle of love and gentleness continues. 

It was four years ago when I brought Oliver home from the hospital. I had to learn along the way like every new mom, how to do the next right thing, how to care for a baby. Thankfully friends and family, who had gone before me in this motherhood journey helped. 

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps
— Psalms 85:13

I see this preparation, this divine help, this going before us in the story of Christ and in my own everyday life through the body of Christ. Psalms 18:35 says "You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great."  Another version translates the help- the humble position of stooping down to make us great- as gentleness. His gentleness has made me great. 

 You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your right hand has held me up, and your gentleness has made me great.
— Psalms 18:35

We never know what fleeting moments of our life will stick with us and become a vivid memory. One of those memories for me was of my sister-in-law Ashley teaching me how to swaddle Oliver. She spread out the linen blanket dotted with pastel sailboats onto our worn leather couch. Then I handed her Oliver, whom I had waited so long for. He was actually here now. I was still in awe. She probably showed me all the steps before wrapping up my baby niece, but so patiently she showed me again when I asked her to show me one more time. And so I watched as Oliver was wrapped in love by his aunt. The next day Ashley came over again to help. I remember her golden curls glistening, fresh makeup, sun kissed cheeks, tan from the summertime, bringing encouragement and courage to a sleep deprived new mom. She cheered me on. I needed all the cheering I could get! She assured me I wasn't crazy, all the emotions and all the crying was normal, as was all the soreness. 

Acts of gentleness, the memory still bringing my heart strength four years later. 

This past Tuesday when Oliver is at school I sit on my bed, folding his clothes. Flannel pajamas, Darth Vader t-shirt. They happen to be hand-me-down's from Oliver's cousin Finn, Ashley's first son. While I fold I listen to the Christmas Quiet Collection by Emily Freeman. I bought it because the Holidays always bring me some anxiety, plus the daylight savings/longer nights/less sunlight can effect my mood. I know I need extra gentleness to strengthen my soul in December; Emily's audio devotional with soft music and her kind voice does just that.

When 2:15 comes I get in the car to pick-up Oliver from pre-k. My car sits still in the pick-up line with the playground to the left and the sun shining through the window on the right. Waiting to see his cute face and hear his voice again. These mundane monotonous moments also make me think of words from Emily in her book Simply Tuesday about embracing small moment living a fast moving world, because I am wanting the line to go faster, but learning to embrace the slow!!!! So her words help me find contentment in the now and also to embrace when things change. In a recent Instagram post by Emily I knew I picked up another piece of mothering advice/encouragement from a mom who is a few steps ahead of me that I know I will need! 

Here’s to all the mamas in the middle years, leaving the house after dark, trading pjs for yoga pants, sitting on the sidelines while your taller-than-you kiddos practice, play, perform, or pirouette.

Here’s to accepting her feet have been bigger than yours for years, he stopped calling you Mommy sometime around 4th grade, and she passes clothes down to you now.

Here’s to another Tuesday night at the gym, at the drive-thru for dinner, at the homework table way past your bedtime.

Here’s to a changing schedule, a changing body, a changing season of life. Here’s to the middle years.

Though it may be long, one day this too will end. Though the moments may seem monotonous, they are building a narrative of joy.
— Emily P Freeman

Oliver still calls me Mommy, and my heart melted a little when I read that line about 4th grade, and I tucked away that advice for accepting change in future years. 

When we get home, after snacks and letting him watch a show, he takes the tractor ornament off our little white Christmas tree.  He picked it out two years ago, it is a tradition for us all to buy a new ornament each year. The wedding cake ornament also gets taken off the tree. I watch as he pretends to drag around my wedding cake ornament with the tractor. I hear him say something about hot lava and "it's okay, I will help you". I laugh. Maybe the volcano is about to destroy the wedding cake?  I don't know but I love his imagination, and these "Simply Tuesday" kind of moments.