COMMENTARY

Motherhood: Menagerie mind

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As the mother of boys, I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone more than once. Most recently, I jumped into a canoe with a four-year-old for a three-hour paddle down the Blue River. The boys were quick to spot cranes, turtles, fish, snakes, and more great white sharks than you might imagine. Something about no rumbling motors, zero cell service, trickling water, and dappled sunlight had my thoughts floating beyond our seven mile downriver destination.

             
“How’d I get here?”

             
It’s a question I’ve asked before and for varying reasons. Sometimes, my own sinfulness has gotten me stuck in a less than desirable situation. Other times, it’s been a grace not of my own doing to find myself walking down the aisle toward my husband, kissing my kids’ heads before bedtime, or even just picking beans from my parents’ garden.

             
But here I am now, September 2020, reflecting on a canoe trip that I’m sure never would’ve happened without coronavirus pushing us to be more creative with our family “vacations.” Now, mixed with Legos and dinosaurs, I’m treading the unfamiliar waters of homeschool workbooks, social distancing, and a Pee Wee baseball schedule. 

             
If I’m honest with you, it can make me a little envious of all those turtles we saw relaxing on the riverbank. When things get a little iffy, I’d love to pop into the comfort of my shell. Better yet, maybe I’d prefer to be like the crane. When I’m in over my head, as so frequently I find myself, it’d be nice to dip out and fly away.

             
Since March, I’ve been at home with both my boys. While most of the world attempts to maintain a certain distance from one another, I’ve found us closer than ever. We’ve been safe at home and at the playground, in the pool, on the church kneeler, or headed to the grocery. I’ve been with my little chatter-birds making up games and jokes and learning stories and facts.

             
One of our favorite games is, “I am.” It’s simple enough. Someone starts with “I am…” and will give a few characteristics of an animal for others to guess. Only one rule applies. The mystery animal must be living, so no prehistoric beasts or folklore sillies. Some of our favorites are Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, and the common cricket. 

             
It isn’t only in an uncomfortable moment where I’d wish for a turtle shell, or playing games with the kids that I appreciate and relate to an ark-full of different animals.

             
During prayer, a glimpse into my brain is probably reminiscent of Dory the fish. Yet, when it comes to the hurtful actions and harsh words of others, I’m more like Dumbo. You know, an elephant never forgets.

             
At times, my heart has been in a grizzly-sized sort of spiritual hibernation. I can simultaneously be like the hummingbird, busy flitting and fluttering about without noticing the lion (err, the house cat) roaming through the earth and ready to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

             
Give me a national or global humanitarian cause to champion, I’m a bulldog. Bring it closer to home, like when my kids are whining over not having ice cream for supper, and my charity level can become mole-sized.

             
I don’t know how many different animals are mentioned in the Bible, but it’s somewhere close to one hundred. Sheep are the most frequently referenced with over two-hundred appearances in holy scripture. For you curious monkeys out there, lambs and rams were also mentioned nearly as many times each. With all the varieties and complexities of every animal made, God wasn’t and still isn’t done creating. He looked around at all He had made and still deemed it necessary—necessary!—to create me in His image. He created my children. You. Everyone.

             
My heart beats a bit quicker (and my tailbone aches) to think of that canoe trip. That steady water, so full of life. Of all the things walking, crawling, swimming, slithering, and scampering across the earth, we all need one thing: water. Jesus Christ, the Lion and the Lamb, is also that Living Water who has come to give His people life abundantly.

             
Maybe, other than the obvious reason, Jesus wanted the children to come to Him because He knew mamas would come chasing after, spilling our coffee and thirsting for something more. Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so our soul yearns for God, the Living Water.

             
I don’t think I’m the only mother who would confess that the passing and teaching of the faith to my children has taught me far more about the Father than I ever knew on my own. As we go from homeschool subjects of handwriting and history, we’re incorporating truths of God’s love in our religious studies. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is this: The Great “I Am” has given us so many ways to show us He loves us. Just like the countless creatures and expressions of adoration, His love and mercy are endless.


Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, and beekeeper. She is the author of the newly available The Bird and the Bees, a Christian contemporary romance. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com

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