After dinner dishes are dull,

A chore for every tired mother,

And I am no exception.

I stood one night at my task

Impatient to be out and free

I whisked about my kitchen

Half in anger and frustration,

Making the square hot room

A kind of temporary prison

In the midst of all this irritation

One small son burst in,

A muddy barefoot four year old

Bug-eyed with excitement

“God’s in our alley!”

My first reaction – instant laughter

And a wonderful urge

To hug this grimy youngster

Nothing would do

I must go and see.

So we did go

Just the two of us

To the back of our lot

Where the mud pies were made

There behind our own garage

In the narrow strip between fences

Wild flowers were glowing

In the half-light of dusk

Like a magic carpet.

“He is there in our alley.”

The complete faith of a four year old boy

I stood for a moment

My hand in his

Absorbing the quietness

Glad for a chance to catch my breath

Marveling at the miracle of beauty

Evening light had brought

To the ordinary yellow daises

Blooming among the weeds

And do you know

My son was right

God was in our alley.

By Mary Nancy Patton

My mother died a week after Thanksgiving.  While we were going through all of her stuff, we found the poem.  I could visualize her as a young mother, frustrated by chores and then surrendering to the vision of a small boy’s clarity.  This poem speaks of so much: my memory of my mother, her generosity of spirit, her ability to stop and appreciate a child’s wisdom.  It also shines a light on the wisdom of the present moment, taking time in our busy lives to be quiet and notice the little ways God’s presence is known.  So often it is our children that will do that for us, reminding us that it is the simple pleasures which quiet our thoughts and allows God’s voice to be heard and presence to be felt.  William R. and Barbara Kimes Myers in Engaging in Transcendence calls these moments “mud puddle experiences” in which God is found in the small every day happenings such as: a baby’s smile, my son’s delight with a new type of hot chocolate, a spontaneous deeply meaningful conversation with my daughter, a beautiful sunset, or a splash in a mud puddle.

We are always blessed with these brief moments of clarity if we expect them to occur. These “mud puddle” experiences are gifts of remembrance to help us through the difficult times. It is during those times of frustration, anxiety, struggle, pain, and adversity which provide our most meaningful opportunities to hear God’s voice.  I have learned this lesson over and over again with struggles in my relationship with my husband and my children, with the past pain associated with fighting for my son and being angry with the world for how we treat children with special needs labels, with the sadness upon the death of my mother.  I have gradually learned that these seemingly painful events have been catalysts for my own change and I am grateful.  Each opportunity teaches me to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice – that which reminds me of my Oneness with God – rather than the separated ego’s voice of lack and limitation.  When I do this, my perspective of the world changes.  The problem that seemed so difficult is transmuted.  The painful event is still the same, but now I have accessed that stately calm within and it no longer seems so overwhelming.  I can glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel; I trust that there is a greater purpose for me to learn from the event causing the suffering.  I now trust that there is always a profound learning coming from times of great sadness, loss, pain, and suffering that joy will come.

We can learn from the small frustrations of having to do every day chores, like washing the dishes to prepare us for the more painful times of adversity.  With our thoughts we can make our everyday chores “a kind of temporary prison” or we can stay present and love what is.  The principle is the same whether we are washing dishes or parenting our child who struggles.  We can accept each moment in life as an opportunity to remove the obstacles to the Truth of who we are or we can stay stuck in the prison of our own making.  God speaks to us in times of great stress as well as those unexpected “mud puddle” moments.  God is in our alley, always.

Categories General Spiritual Musings | Tags: | Posted on March 10, 2008

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