I was pruning these same apple trees and grape vines when I first felt the pull of contractions. Today, it is a two year old that calls me down. “Mooommy,” he calls. He’s standing in the green turtle box filled with sand he collected with his grandpa from the shores of Lake Huron last summer. He stands there barefoot having demanded to take his shoes off even though it’s the middle of March and the snow has not yet fully melted.
I climb down from the ladder and walk over. He holds sand in one hand and lifts his other hand toward my face. I kneel down in the muddy grass. He puts one finger in the handful of sand and then lifts it to my forehead. He touches my head very gently and mutters some indiscernable sounds.
He is blessing me. At church, there is a point in the service where we pass around a clay jar with oil and bless the person next to us making the sign of the cross on their forehead.
After he blesses my forehead, he looks down at my chin with a look of sincere concern and says “booboo.” He points to the pimples on my chin (yes, motherhood seems to name the shit we’d rather keep hidden). Then he puts his finger in the sand and proceeds to bless my booboos gently with sadness in his eyes. He gets each one moving my face to make sure he hasn’t missed any. “Thank you,” I said. Thank you for blessing me and for knowing that act so well that it enters your own thoughts. Thank you for feeling empathy and wanting healing for me. Thank you for feeling that the power of blessing can do something about that. You amaze me.
Then it’s “maaaamaaa.” And he is ready to bless the next one. Erinn and I take turns being blessed and then doing a little pruning or chicken coop cleaning. It goes on like this for some time, until my own desire to get some work done forces me to say, “I am going to keep doing some pruning. Why don’t you bless the flowers?”
He hops out of the sandbox with his handful of sand and walks barefoot over to a patch of snowbells that have just poked through offering a sign of hope of spring. And there he sits, slowly blessing each flower with bits of sand collected from the water that nourishes this place. I love this kid.
I often wonder about how it is as parents we are to pass on this faith tradition that has claimed us. How do we help him to nurture a sense of the sacred and the power of sacrament? How do we teach him about faith being rooted in place and history? How do we share with him that faith and justice are completely and inseparably bound? What do we do that encourages a spirituality that roots his body with the earth and in his watershed? How do we show him how deeply loved he is by God for all that he is?
At two, we can’t really sit him down and explain it all to him, nor would that probably work at a later age. All we can do is bring him along and invite him in to the places and practices that nourish our own lives. We take him to church whether it be in the sanctuary, a hospitality house, or our own living room. We push him in the stroller from one protest to the next. We give him beet seeds to put in the dirt beside our house. We go deep into the woods calling out the bird sounds as the geese honk overhead or the woodpecker searches for bugs. We share with him the bread broken and shared again and again with those we love and all who have done so before. And on our pillows in the dark of the night, we all ask “who should we pray for?” and “what are we grateful for today?” We tell him the stories of Miriam, Shiphrah, Puah and so many more. We sing. We light candles. We lift our faces to the rain. We have dance parties. We cry and hold one another. We kiss one another’s booboos. We dare to love one another and trust in that love always.
While these little pieces of faith begin a knowing for him in his innermost being, I too find myself falling in love with God and this world all over again. Seeing through the eyes and heart of a child is a tremendous gift. I am constantly stumbling over the miracle of his thoughts and ideas, his generosity and his joy, his empathy and his fear, and his trust in being loved. While I hope in some way as parents we can share with him a love of God, I know that every day he is giving that to me. I give thanks for the sand in my hair and the daily reminder of the flowers blessed by this child.