Death can provide an exclamation point on a life that was already expressing the glory of God.
My friend passed between that one-day-will-be-thin sheath of death and life and I tried to remember if I'd ever told her how much of an imprint she'd left upon me.
Claire and I shared a small city but couldn't have been more different, back then. She had six children. I had none. My womb was empty -- and sometimes I wore a suit to work. I was fumbling through my twenties, both unsure of myself and also overconfident and she had bigger concerns than her weekend plans. She'd earned her grey hair.
Not too long after I met Claire, Nate and I adopted two children. I slid off my heels to push a stroller and Claire and I had a whole new set of conversations.
The expanse between her already-established home and the still crisp sheets on our "baby room" beds made it easy for me to come into our burgeoning friendship vulnerable. I didn't know about bed times and read-alouds and teaching manners. She'd been where I was six times before, and recently enough to remember the slip-ups as well as her list of "I'd definitely do this again." It was easy to approach her openly with the admission we mamas can never wear quite right: I don't know what I'm doing. Help!
And her history didn't just mold her home, it helped shape mine. When I was overwhelmed with teaching slower-learners to read and hitting all those mile markers, she casually reminded me -- in the way that only one who's lived it can say -- that hearts beat louder than test scores. She told me about the slow semester with her girls when they played piano and read the Bible and stopped at the corner-store bakery in between. When I was sure that my children's seemingly-extended toddlings were early signs they'd not be able to hold a job at twenty-five, she taught me through story how hearts and bodies are trained over minutes and days, not in leaps and bounds. When I'd developed that mama's eye for their failings, she invited us over for dinner, watchful, and pointed out all the low-hanging fruit I'd neglected to see.
Claire didn't give me that hot-handbook for parenting every new mom thinks she'll find and master, she just lived a long and quiet love for her children and her God -- the kind that rubs backs before bed and writes little notes on the inside cover of gift books and sneaks pastry-runs in between piano lessons. And she invited me in to some of those gloriously hidden moments.
The best of motherhood is hidden, and yet we mamas devour all we can see with our eyes on social media of another's success and call it the new handbook. We see snapshots of first-place award ceremonies and "best of" soundbites with words thumbed enthusiastically the moment it happened and use it as our metric for parenting. We then develop an internal defensiveness because we just.feel.bad about our frequent mom-fails.
That defensiveness prevents us from uttering that vulnerable ask that could be our life-line: I don't know what I'm doing. Help!
All the while, the Claire's of the world -- who have His glory hidden behind their grey hair and their risings and failings and a history that's not always noticed -- live just around the corner.
We forget the grid He gave us in Titus 2: to be urged, trained, encouraged by the woman who has been there, even just a few years ahead of us. We were meant to come, vulnerable, needing help. Mamas were made to be taught -- and by a multitude of teachers (Proverbs 15:22), our mothers and our older friends -- not to arrive somehow mysteriously in-the-know.
My dear-friend Claire, one of my life-lines, went home this past month. (Too early, it felt to me -- though with quite a legacy left behind her.) Hours before she died, my girls and I unknowingly made our first trip to the bakery in town for afternoon crepes.
My friend had left her mark.
It said: reach.their.hearts.
My timid and insecure I don't know what I'm doing. Help! had led me to hidden treasure.
Is today your day to ask for a Claire? To pray: God, send me that 5, 10, 15 years-older-than-me woman who's walked in my shoes but isn't so long out of them that she doesn't remember what it's like to be me?
With gratitude for my friend and for Him who introduced us,