Over the Hills and Everywhere

The role of women in the telling it on the mountain

My friends, both paid supporters and free subscribers, I am writing this last day of November as an act of Advent hope, because like Love, hope does. Hope is a thing we act out, and tis the season, right?

Here I have found myself in the state of womanhood between being so hot I melt in my clothes and acting so cold I send my boys shivering from the room. Who knows what today will be: up or down? When I see Jesus, amidst all the glory, I hope he’ll still let me know his reasoning for several things. One is: why, in his infinite wisdom, did he make a woman’s body to go awol just about the time her kids gear up to leave the house? I see it coming. A flash of many things at once, a heat wave and then tears out of nowhere as I recognize how skinny a minute really is. They are nearly men. The work I was expecting to do with them, much of it has been done, and now I just hang on for dear life, watching their brains and emotions work it out. Respect and tenderness, the love of God and his story, as well as the love of movement, nature, and reading, these things go into them when they are very young, in the days that muddle together over the top of our own youthful identities.  

Now I have a house full of teenagers, which is a whole new thing. This has become a house full of Reactionaries — that’s what I’ll call them, and if I say one thing, their knee-jerk is often “you’re wrong.” Sometimes, when they’re able to hear themselves with mercy toward me, they’ll complete their comments with a Trump-impersonator voice: “You’re wrong!” Ah, the grace of humor between a mother and her sons, it may save our very souls. Much of my work these days is in finding creative ways to ask them to rethink what they’re about to do or say - or to try again on what they’ve already done or said. I am a Reframer. I imagine this is the role a parent could always play, so long as the frame we use isn’t bonkers. 

Praise God, the church calendar has turned over a new year, and Advent has begun. For us, this means getting still at night around the candles, a hot drink, and a piece of chocolate. It means rehearing our origin story and softening up in the warm hand of a loving God who’s made a way for us  (and for the hurting world) through Jesus.

For me as a woman and as a mom, I am also re-awakening to Mary as she begins her journey, not only with her Son, but also with us all. Her “yes” leads me. Her ache, her own knowledge of the story, and then her prophetic poetry, this is all her way of mothering. She shows us: here is a way to reframe your life, your desires, and yeah, your place in the world in this specific time. 

I wonder if a day will come that I’m no longer wrestling with my vocation as a mom, as a minister, and as a contributor to society. Seth brings me a glass of water with some worry in his eyes, but thank God he’s always able to go on with his own work because he must. I know he sees me fraught and sometimes still at a loss. How can I find his same strong sense of footing in the world? (Eve ripples through me.) What does it feel like to know what an hour of your time is worth? Even if I say “be it unto me” like my mother, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel it stinging. Our Lady has more than seven sorrows, let me assure you.

As for my work, I have piled our food and yard waste high with chicken shit and leave it composting for spring. If nitrogen-heavy, I’ll see plants rise and choke yellow before I respond to the sign. There were many seeds last year that didn’t take, but later when I chunked them to the decomposing scraps, they burst out in knots of vining green from the mound. How many words have gone into me that give void returns? I have lain shallow in crow-picked rock-bed, and even then, the seed splits wide and waits. Maybe it’s true that not a single thing is wasted. Not the furlow or dry ground, not the days of shoveling, knee-deep in manure.

If the words for this Advent are “Stay Awake,” then I do, often up half the night. This Advent is the loudest one I’ve experienced so far. The news, pandemic fear, all the heartless shopping on the mind-numbing phone is a lulling racket (the lullaby of someone not our Mother), but now here’s Advent, the jarring clap of the hands. We’re heading up the mountain with Mary to reframe this noise. More than the decorum, gifts, and griefs of this season is the journey we have ahead of us, what hope. What a reason to have our own oil lamps full and trimmed. We get to — and we must —sing our own Magnificat. We cannot put out the bone-eating fire of our mothers, even if it stings us. What else are we supposed to do, if what we were born to do is tell?

Now you tell me: what is an act of hope you can do to reframe the story in your own head and the story you live with your one life?

Keep burning.