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How Am I Getting Lost?

May 11, 2012

I was about 11 or 12 at time.  My cousins, aunt and uncles, and my family were spending the weekend with my grandparents in their cabin in upstate Pennsylvania.  This was a special weekend—the number of times I had been to the cabin I could count with probably 2 or 3 fingers.  The cabin was rustic, set alone by itself on a dirt road on a side of a mountain.  We went in summer, when the mountains were lush and green–covered with mountain laurel (not the grape bubble gum variety we have here), rhodadendron bushes, and ferns.

My cousin, Jason, who is four years younger than me, and I decided to go for a hike.  We somehow convinced our parents we would be just fine.  We would have no problems finding our way home, we assured them.  Off we set.

We followed paths through the woods, talking about whatever an 11 and 7 year old would talk about.  After awhile we decided to head home.  We couldn’t.  I had no idea how to get back to the cabin.  We headed the direction we thought we should go, but saw nothing familiar.  Eventually, we hit a dirt road that headed down hill (we had hiked up hill the whole time we were walking).  I figured that we if we followed the dirt road, down hill, it would eventually run into a bigger road where maybe we could find a way back home.  It was right about when we headed down the dirt road, that the rain started, not a hard rain, just a drizzle to cool things off a little.

We did find the big road eventually and somehow we managed to get back to the cabin.  It involved a car, but I don’t remember exactly whose car and if we knew the people inside the car or not.  What I do remember is that we weren’t scared.  Our parents were terrified, but I knew eventually we would find something familiar and find our way home.

The chapter I finished reading this morning in Altars in the World was about the practice of getting lost.  As I read, I both identified with the idea of being lost and wondering how I’m lost now.  My mind wandered to being a mother.  With Mother’s Day fast approaching, there are lots of articles and blog posts floating around that reflect on someone’s mother or what it means to be a mother.  Is that how I am getting lost?

I know I sure feel lost some days when it comes to mothering.  I feel lost about how to respond when my five year old screams about wanting more cereal, when his bowl is filled to the top and he hasn’t taken a bite yet (knowing there is no way he can finish that bowl, even if he worked on it all day).  I feel lost when I have time to myself–it overwhelms me sometimes and I have a hard time figuring out what to do, even though somewhere I have a to do list a mile long, the breakfast dishes are still on the counter, and the living room obviously needs to be vacuumed.  I feel lost at swim practices, with most parents hanging out in the grassy area talking, while I still sit apart so I can watch my three year old on the playground and occasionally see the big two swim.  I feel lost a lot when it comes to being a mother.  I won’t even get into the ways I feel lost looking for God, wondering if I am looking the right ways in the right places with the right words.

I can take two things from being lost.  I can remember the confidence I had as an eleven year old.  I couldn’t have been more lost in a strange place, but yet I wasn’t afraid.  I had faith it would work out ok.  That confidence would serve me well.  I may be very lost as a mother, not knowing if what I do will get my children to the right places.   However, as a child of God, I can have faith that I am not alone and that no matter what happens, God is there and will work through the situation.

Second, my lost-ness can translate into how I deal with others.  I like how Barbara Brown Taylor says it best:

“You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Those most likely to befriend strangers, in other words, are those who have been strangers themselves.  The best way to grow empathy for those who are lost is to know what it means to be lost yourself.

Wouldn’t it be such a strong community of women if we dealt with each other with empathy?  I know I can’t be the only one lost. I need to remember what I think I need when I am the most lost and find ways to give that to other mothers.

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