I have banked the fires of my body
into a small but steady blaze.
Here in the kitchen,
where the dough has a life of its own,
breathing under its damp cloth
like a sleeping child,
the real child plays under the table,
pretending the tablecloth is a tent.
A brown bird dazzled by light
has flown into the windowpane
and lies stunned on the pavement--
it was never simple, even for birds,
this business of nests.
The innocent eye sees nothing,
repeating what the snake told Eve,
what Eve told Adam, tired of gardens,
wanting the fully lived life.
But passion happens like an accident.
I could let the dough spill over the rim
of the bowl, neglecting to punch it down,
neglecting the child who waits under the table,
the mild tears already smudging her eyes.
We grow in such haphazard ways.
Today I feel wiser than the bird.
I know the window shuts me in.
I know that when I open it
the garden smells will make me restless.
I have banked the fires of my body
into a small domestic flame
for others to warm their hands on
for a while.
-Linda Pastan from Carnival Evening
Sometimes as an adult I wondered if it was too late to run away and join the circus.
I remember once in Dallas when John David was about thirteen and playing me like an arcade game (he has always been the high scorer), I let it be know I intended to pack a suitcase and stay in a hotel. To run away but just for the weekend. It had been an angry day.
The shock, the absolute disbelief, the indignation expressed at the thought of Mom leaving was almost comic and would have been hysterical had I not been positively rabid to go.
Oh, the thought of room service and a movie without car crashes or blood! No one calling me to find their socks, car keys, checkbook, math book, or Bible just as I soaped up my hair. The notion of full rolls of toilet paper and getting to finish a coke I opened (without sharing it) was heady fare. No one to challenge me. Ahhh the lure of peace and quiet. No arguments. The sound of just my own voice, my own thoughts, to be my own better self if only until Sunday afternoon.
The most understanding man on the planet was calling to get me a room at the Anatole but his son was a different story. "Mothers can't run away! Mother's can't leave even for a weekend. It isn't done." This was followed by many attempts at apologies of all sorts that were just shy of genuine. The tired expression on my face must have signaled that I had crossed the imaginary line where I lost all ability to be reasoned with or bullied. The weary side of motherhood with an oppositional teenager had made me its poster child.
I was just putting my favorite old rag of a nightgown in the suitcase when JD rode up to the house on his skateboard with roses in hand and a sincere 'mea culpa' on his lips. He had been to several florists until he found roses he could afford. (I thought he had run away too...again) The petals of those roses mark some of the most personally meaningful passages of scripture in my Bible. Many years later I would hold their papery remembrance of a fragrance long ago faded, and will my son home from Iraq. Mothers can't leave. It isn't done.
Our wonderful, long-suffering God isn't going to ever run away and join the circus either. He won't be dialing up the pay per view or ordering room service. His eyes are on us. Like the gifted, passionate woman in the poem, who was restless and capable of so much more, we can feel our lives are unused or ill used or put on hold. God always has a plan. After all, this is the God who became a man to let the world into His kitchen.
He is here for us and He isn't going anywhere no mater how hard we try to wear Him out. The everpresentness of God says we are not on our own here. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." Isaiah 49:15-16
Maybe the dough is breathing under the damp cloth and there are things, good things, that you would do now if you could or do better if life would cooperate. Take heart, "He makes everything beautiful in its time," and you are part of everything He is beautifying.
The kitchen season will lend its lessons and richness to the days that follow. Along with the other crowns, I think there must be "kitchen crowns" in the Kingdom . I know there is one waiting for me. It will probably be made from my old strainer John David stole to catch carp with in a storm drain.
On the day a 25 year old son returned to Christ he told me, "Mom, I know God will always love me because you have always loved me no matter what." On the day a 30 year old Sergeant called me from the middle of a war he told me, "Mom, I am going to come home and sit in your kitchen."
Sometimes the very moments we feel the most like we are lost or have been set aside are the moments of our greatest influence. When we feel that all we are doing is just watching the bread rise, maybe we should know it for a blessing. There is glory in the rising. Humility waits on greatness and patience has work to do.
Besides, the circus is over rated. Mothers don't leave.