Our family - along with our staff - traveled to Des Moines, Iowa for a couple of days to attend a pastor’s conference. There were business meetings during the days and church services during the evenings.
Traveling with our children to hotels is always an exciting thing as hotels mean pools and pools mean swimming! So while my husband was attending the morning business meetings, I was back at the hotel with my crew - ensuring they were fed, bathed, and rested for the evening services.
On Monday, I deemed our pool time would squeeze in beautifully after lunch and before baths and naps. I successfully got everyone changed into their swimsuits and sandals and we made the trek from Room 360 down to the pool.
As we entered the spacious room, I was surprised to see the hot tub area undergoing a certain amount of remodel. There was a new mural being painted and an artist hard at work.
I was braced for the hot tub to be closed but was pleasantly surprised to see a sign saying: MURAL PAINTING IN PROGRESS. PLEASE KINDLY REFRAIN FROM TOUCHING WET PAINT. THANK YOU - MANAGEMENT
The artist turned and briefly acknowledged us - giving us neither warm smile nor hello. He had really nothing for us but an annoyed look on his face. (But I can’t be too hard on him because when a mother with four young children enter a room, the party begins…and you never really know what you’re going to get!)
He turned back to his work and continued to paint. I turned back to my children and took off their sandals and put on their floaties.
For the next hour, I watched my children as they laughed, jumped, and swam in the water. I also watched the muralist work. Although he wasn’t the least bit friendly, he was good. His attention to detail in the bear was amazing - as was the reflection of the sunset over the water.
The children were impressed and said that they couldn’t wait to come back next year so they could see the completion of the other bear, moose, cabin on the lake, two paddling the canoe, and the boy fishing from the dock.
But for the hour we were in the pool - the artist painted trees. Tree after tree after tree. A little green mixed with a little blue - one evergreen after another, after another.
And then he would do something that every good artist does - he’d set his paintbrush down and step back from his work! He’d look at the bigger picture - gain perspective - and then approach the wall once more to pick up his paintbrush and continue to paint.
I found the process amusing - admirable even. And as I soaked in the hot tub with my happy children, I couldn’t help but see the parallel of the very lesson the Lord was teaching me…
We, as mothers, can so easily become engrossed in our work. When days turn into weeks - that turn into months and years - we can mistakingly believe that all we do is paint trees!
The Wash, Rinse, and Repeat cycle of Motherhood is all-consumptive. And cleaning everything from dirty dishes to dirty diapers and wiping everything from runny noses to runny bottoms is less than romantic.
But with each day, week, month, and year that passes - we paint trees. A little green mixed with a little blue - one evergreen after another, after another.
However, if we never take the time to set the paintbrush down, step back, and take a look at the “Mural Painting in Progress,” we will lose all joy for the painting of the trees!
And there is certainly a blessing to be had for those who take the time to step back…because you cannot see the forest when you are staring at trees!
And in order to be able to truly see the forest, you must spend time with the One who says:
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways.
- Isaiah 55:8-9
Through the years, I have learned that my Mothering takes on a whole new level of patience, grace, wisdom, and joy when I spend time with God. And because of this, I find Him on a daily - and sometimes hourly - basis!
Merriam-Webster defines perspective as: the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
Stepping back gives us the perspective to address the question that can haunt us as mothers - Am I doing a good enough job?
With “the capacity to view things in relative importance” in hand, we are no longer solely consumed with the “painting of the trees” questions: Are my children eating enough fruits and vegetables? Are they getting enough water and sleep? Do they need their toenails clipped? Have I washed their favorite blanket recently? Are they keeping up in school?
We ask the much bigger “painting the mural” questions: Am I stewarding the children that God has given me? Am I modeling for them patience and grace? Am I teaching them to be kind - and choosing to forgive? Am I giving them opportunities to rise to the occasion to be responsible, mature, and self-propelled individuals? Am I leaving margin for mistakes? Am I instilling virtues of honesty, trustworthiness, and humility? Am I creating a legacy that will outlive me?
Am I doing a good enough job??
And in those moments with the One “who sits in the heavens” (Psalm 2:4) and who says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” (Isaiah 66:1), He addresses the areas that need a little more attention and detail…
It comes to your attention that your compliant child just needs a coffee date with Mom. And the child who is easily distracted needs to be praised when staying focused. And you realize that your sensitive child is exhausted and is in need of extra naps and longer hugs. And the child who has been struggling with anger simply needs fresh air and room to run.
Yes, looking at the bigger picture - through the lens of eternity as our timeline - we gain perspective. And from those moments, we understand that forests are made up of trees! And suddenly, the task of painting them becomes joyful - admirable even!
Yes, we are reminded that there is greatness in our work and what we do matters!
So dearest Momma, let’s enjoy a little green mixed with a little blue - and the painting of one evergreen after another, after another. Let’s keep in mind that these are our “Mural Painting in Progress” years and if we want to see how it’s coming along…we’ll have to do a whole lot of stepping back!