Strands

Strands

My fingers fumble. Little tendrils already escape the confines of my crude French braid, and her golden hair finely frizzes as it dries. We start over.

She’s a willing model, my girl, enduring these awkward attempts in a way her older sister never would.

I spritz more water on, draw the part straight down the center of her head, first angling the comb down her forehead to use her nose as a guideline. Even this part is difficult for me.

{I believe there are two types of moms: those who can do hair and those who can’t. I will leave you to guess which one I am.}

We watch YouTube tutorials, and a particularly helpful one shows me how to hold the hair strands as I braid. I gain a sense of rhythm and proficiency in my braiding while holding the strands in this fashion, so different than the haphazard way I was doing it before.

***

I’m visiting my parents’ farm, and as I so often do here, I head to the woods to talk to God. Here, each step leads me farther from my workaday life where His voice is distant and muddled and closer to Him. Here, we talk. Here, prayer comes effortless.

But today’s walk is not blissful or revelatory; instead, it’s an ugly outpouring of my failures:

God, I feel like I’m right back where I was three summers ago. Everything you guided me to, everything I started for you has either come to an end or slowed to a trickle. I’m afraid I’ll just fall back into my comfortable old life — the work, the kids, the house — and forget.

What now, God? What now?

The answer doesn’t come quickly, but rather, a month later during a long car drive: You hold the strands, Beth. You braid.

***

I don’t like this answer, because I know what it means. I don’t have permission to just focus on one or two aspects of my life anymore. God’s upping the ante.

I’ll be holding and plaiting together the strands of a life that’s full and complex — one that includes paying work as well as occasional blogging; managing kids in pre-K, 5th, and 7th grades {and the requisite homework and activities}; engaging again in volunteer roles like Sunday School teaching, Girl Scout co-leading, and helping out at school; managing our household and serving as a loving wife and mother; as well as caring for myself, mind, body, and soul.

God’s not condoning over-scheduling, nor does He expect perfection, but He is telling me these past three years have been training for this. I had to be shown how to pare my life down to one or two simple strands so I could hold those well. Now my fingers are more deft, and I’ve learned how to hold my life’s central strands firm and secure while plaiting in the others.

I know I will have days — or weeks, or months — when my fingers slip and life becomes a tangled mess. And, I know I’ll be tempted to let go of the unruly pieces like I used to — instead of stilling and steadying my fingers and working calmly on through.

But, there will also be moments when my braiding is rhythmic and proficient,

when God shines through …

and coats the strands glorious.

Are you like me? Are your life’s threads slippery and hard to grasp some days and thick, long and tangled on others? Is God’s calling you to hold and plait these strands together — to make art out of a life that’s brimming, intricate, and often messy?

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