Yesterday on Mrs. Gore’s Diary…This is not a post about small elephants or sandburs, but about a Mother Hen who learned some more mighty big lessons, all because of a white picket fence…Lessons that she will be sure to share with you tomorrow.
Ahhhh, ol’ Mrs. Gore used to want SO much. Now I just want much. However, these past years of growing up have taken the SO out of that equation, shaping me into a different woman, less concerned with perishables, less driven to make money, and surprisingly, slightly more in love with the concept of hard work. At around 11:00 a.m. on the day of our family fence painting party, I looked around me and this is what I saw ~
Mr. Gore, curly hair soft, his go-to-meetin’ hair gel left under the bathroom cabinet for the day, was there beside me, face intent on his task of rolling fresh white paint on each blank panel of fence, brow creased in his typical manner of concentration. Those hands holding his paint roller caught my attention for just a bit, hands that hold the Word of God day by day in the confines of his study in preparation for feeding his flock on Sundays, hands that type out sermons or articles or our church’s daily Bible reading guide, hands that rest on the sick among our fellowship as he asks God to bring comfort and healing to their bodies, are the same hands that care for his little family. His hands pounded down each cobblestone in the sweet sidewalk he made for us, they planted and faithfully tended to the encore azalea bushes my Mom gave us last summer, they change out toy batteries, super-glue torn books back together, throw squealing children perilously high up into the air, and help me with the dishes almost every day. Those hands tuck in trusting children every night after stories and songs, and those hands have wiped away the tears of Gideon, Rebekah and Mrs. Gore on too many occasions to count. And now here they were again, splattered with paint, finding yet another way to express to the family “I love you and I spend my days taking care of you.” It’s no wonder that my very favorite way to fall asleep is with one of those beloved hands in one of mine.
The refreshing and invigorating breeze carried with it more than just a hint of Spring; it was positively masquerading as Spring, tricking us into believing that we had made it through another winter and that any moment now the daffodils would spring out of the earth and chocolate bunnies would start making their way to our home to hop into our waiting and empty Easter baskets. I didn’t try to reason with myself, but chose to believe the lie that my favorite season was really and truly here…even if just for a day.
Rebekah was in the corner of my vision, wispy strawberry blonde hair pulled haphazardly back into a tiny little baby bun, looking more like a child of the field than a town-dweller. The remnants of her morning banana drew and stuck dirt particles to her face like I had rubbed her down with a glue-stick and smooshed her face in the dirt pile, the knees of her cotton pants were smudged with moist earth, and her fingernails had grown black as a testimony to her play as she toddled from the dirt pile to the porch to the dirt pile to the sidewalk to the dirt pile to the driveway. Our Miss Sunday must walk one hundred miles a day, never resting from her work or her play until she closes her cornflower blue eyes in sleep. Occasionally she would decide she needed me and plop down in my lap for a spell before moving on to another distraction.
And Gideon, growing alarmingly closer to four with each minute that ticks by, was playing the little man, holding a paint roller of his own, working earnestly alongside Mama and Papa, new paint splattering his hands, his clothes, his face and his hair with each roller’s dip in the paint tray. Occasionally Papa would have to remind him to get less paint on his roller, and frequently had to go back over the panels he had painted to smooth out the more enthusiastic globs, but Gideon did not seem to notice as the stimulation and the fun of a hard day’s work captured his little boy pride, his eager attention for at least an hour, and even his imagination, brightening his eyes and causing his little mouth to turn upward in a contented smile as he covered picket after picket in bright white paint…
I snapped out of my musings and broke the silence of the moment by immediately telling the amazing Mr. Gore something that took me years to learn, something that our work for the day nailed down in my mind and in my heart, hopefully for the rest of my life. “I’m so glad we’re not rich and that we can’t afford to hire someone to come and do this for us…” He most heartily agreed, which didn’t surprise me a’tall as this is a lesson I’ve learned mostly from him, this man who shrinks away from riches like I shrink away from doorbell-ringing strangers…
Without me in his life, Mr. Gore would probably reach sainthood. I am convinced that my greatest contribution to him is to remind him of what sinful people are like so he can be a better minister. I don’t mind…so long as I can contribute. I remember the first time he basically prayed that we would never know the temptation of great riches…I’m sure I snorted and thought something holy like “Speak for yourself!” But after five-and-a-half years of marriage to my earthly shepherd, I have slowly come around to his way of thinking. I mean, I surely wouldn’t mind to loosen up the budget a little, but I have come to a grim realization about myself: I could be given a million dollars and find a million stupid little knick-knacks and accessories to spend it on, in less than a million minutes, and I wouldn’t walk away from the experience any more satisfied than I was before the million dollars had landed in my greedy hand.
They say the best things in life are free (something I totally agree with until Pottery Barn’s Spring catalogue comes out every year), and I think that painting your own fence with your family alongside you definitely fits into that category…to be sure, if we had a big pile of cash sitting in our bank account down the street, the temptation would be great to call up a painting company and have someone else deal with the mess of a wooden white picket fence. But since we don’t, we get to experience a day like last weekend where we find, together, side by side, that hard work is more satisfying and fun than all the leisure and ease that money might buy for us. If we were rich, how might we have spent that Spring day in Winter? Who knows…probably spending more money, being lazy, or delivering sweet tea to the painters in the front yard. Thank God we’ll probably never know.
What we do know instead, is the heart-warming love of family and friends who find time in their own busy schedules to lend a hand without us ever having to ask (well maybe we asked, but we sure didn’t have to beg!). That Zac and Chrissy and Michael gave up hours, days, actually, that might have been spent in more fruitful pursuits to do something for us that we could not very well afford to have done is nothing short of humbling and is just another example of hundreds where the loved ones our hearts have been bound to on this earth have helped us along the way. Which makes me think that Mr. and Mrs. Gore might very well be rich, after all…
And that leads me nicely to the last lesson that was nailed down in my heart and in my mind that day, another lesson that has been a long time in the making, as this Mother Hen tends to get her uptight feathers ruffled when things aren’t done a certain or a beautiful or a perfect way…
It is far too easy to shoo the children away when I am concentrating on finishing a task, to place them in front of the television or throw them a ball of Play-doh so I can pursue my work in peace and finish it in perfection. However, when a child is willing and eager to pitch in and learn a new craft, then by golly, let them! Mrs. Gore has finally learned to start putting a lid on all the clucking and the flying feathers, and that whether it is cooking in the kitchen, working in the flower bed, folding laundry or painting a fence, it is always worth a Mother Hen’s time, it is always worth a Mother Hen’s effort, and it is always worth allllllll that inevitable extra mess to let those little hands in the family dig in and take part (and the same goes for Papa Rooster’s!). I will try very, very hard to pull this lesson out of my apron pocket the next time I am rushing to get supper ready and Gideon asks “Can I help?”, for having him right there beside us on painting day, eyes alight as he developed the foundation of a good work ethic, was deeply satisfying to this Mother’s heart, much more satisfying than having a perfectly painted fence or a germ- and mess-free baking session.
And that is why, even after our children were down for their afternoon nap and Mr. Gore and I were free to paint in blessed peace and quiet, I found myself calling our six-year old niece Abigail to come and join out painting party. I wasn’t absolutely sure of my decision until she arrived in our yard, beaming, ready to lend a hand. As it turned out, we had a most wonderful time talking about college and marriage and doing more of the same…developing deeper bonds of appreciation and friendship as we toiled together on that beautiful February day. And I have found that the children in your life might surprise you ~ Gideon, only 3 years old, contributed greatly to our work, and our busy bee Abigail turned out to be the fastest painter in the West! She truly cut our day’s work in half, never pausing in her task…or her blissful little girl chatter. At one point, she said “Phew…I need to take a little break!…Can I sweep your sidewalk?” Ummmmm…YES.
And so that finally-almost-finished fence is no longer just a fence to me, a convenient yet asthetically-pleasing way to keep strangers and dogs at bay. It is a tangible reminder to Mrs. Gore of the blessings of friends who give up their free days to help us, of a family that not only lives, eats and plays together, but works together, and of yet another ordinary day when all I had to do was stop and look around me to realize how truly rich I am. We have roughly one day of painting left, filling in cracks and touching up what we have already done, but in my eyes, that fence is already a beauty, and not just because it consists of the all-American white pickets that I dreamed of as a young girl. I love it because of…well, all of the above.
And by the way, you’re most welcome at my fencepost anytime. Although it would have been nice if you had come sooner…you know, with a paintbrush?