Our Muddy Freedom

It's with sheer delight that I introduce you to my sweet friend and Mission Year co-worker Jenni Shaffer. She is the mom to four of the cutest kids in my Facebook News Feed and an incredible mentor to so many young adults seeking to live in community and love the poor. She graciously agreed to share her reflections on my blog today. Enjoy!

The forecast was calling for rain, a 50% chance to be specific, and we needed to burn some serious energy. As a homeschooling mom, rainy days are tricky. The main reason I keep my crew of four at home for learning and discovering the world around them is because I passionately believe we need more exposure to nature in our technological, cubicle-happy society. 

We were born to learn and explore. Learning is not a skill that is taught, it is an instinct that is nurtured (or squashed). I am keenly aware of the gift it is be able to stay home with them. I’m not sure this will always be the case, but I am going to do my best with the gift it is in this season. 

My kids will ask the most thoughtful questions about life and the earth while simply playing soccer in the backyard at dusk. 

“Mommy, why do mosquitoes always bite me but not my brother?” 

“Mom, how come the moon is a different shape each night?”  

“Mama, how come the salad is growing well in our garden, but all of the tomatoes are dying?” 

“Mah, what kind of habitat should we make for this caterpillar I caught and can I bring it inside to sleep in bed with me tonight?” Um. No. Seriously though, we often shape our days around their questions and I find myself learning more than them most of the time. 

While technology certainly has its place in our weekly routine with on-line keyboard lessons, Spanish computer games, Backyardigan Episodes during bath-time meltdowns and ipod play lists for sibling tension relief, my kids thrive in the outdoors. So, when a rainy day arises, I either panic or embrace the MUD! 

Sometimes I just do not have the energy it takes to clean up their splashing, muddy mess, so we rely on games like Simon Says, fort-building, free-style painting and things like that. Other times I just say, “Do you guys want to play in the rain?” and the crowd goes wild. And you know what? The rain never damages them. 

Why don’t adults play in the rain? In those moments of skipping through the slippery mess outdoors my children embody a physical picture of freedom. Freedom: the power to determine action without restraint. 

It’s a beautiful sight. It’s almost as if they know in their hearts that this breaks some sort of unnecessary code of restraint on them as they glop mud by the fistfuls on their exposed skin. They squeal and giggle and sing and march with peaceful unity around the backyard. They are good kids, but they are normal and unity is something we notice and celebrate among them (sibling rivalry is a real thing, people!).

This rainy day was like most of them in Houston, Texas. Our typically cloudless, big, blue sky was gathering patches of suspicious gray. The wind was picking up intensity, but it was still dry out. It can stay like this for hours before a torrential downpour ensues. However, once the sky breaks open sheets of tropical rain begin to smother the ground around us. It’s phenomenal.   

No matter how many times my little ones witness this, they always react with enthusiasm as if it’s their first time seeing something so powerful. Running to the bay window they smash their four faces up against it to see and watch the magical rain fall from the sky.   

I envy that. To repeatedly witness a miracle, without losing the awe of it, is a treasure children instinctively carry with them. 

I want to be like them. 

After all, freedom and unity are two of the most important qualities of my faith to me. I believe these two things can change the world and further the Kingdom. As we unify ourselves by loving when it’s hard, forgiving when it’s undeserved, sharing without reciprocation, and befriending when it’s inconvenient we change the world.   

When we accept the freedom we have to be our most authentic-self, we become more alive. In fully living, we reflect our Risen King. When we can re-visit Christ’s death during Lent and His resurrection during Easter with fresh awe and true wonder, no matter how many times we’ve heard the story, we are changed.

This Lenten season I’m extremely thankful for my little mixed up family. We’re not all the same race and not all of my children are biological. Yet they are equally loved and adored and I need them to keep teaching me about the things that matter: like unity, freedom, and wonder. 

After all, this is what I believe life is about no matter where you’re from.

Jenni lives in Houston TX with her husband and 4 kids in their co-owned, community house that they share with another family of 4, plus a dog. She is passionate about nature, nutrition, adoption, hospitality, diversity and spicy food. She loves reading, biking, camping, cooking, writing, and dating her husband...although she has little time for most of it. She adores her children and the constant activity they bring to her daily life. She blogs at Embracing the Moments

1 comment

  1. I think the biggest problem is that you know once you're the grownup that you have to clean up the mess... and some days it's just not worth it!


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