Monday, May 6, 2019

Hiding in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Mushroom

Last August, our family moved from a large subdivision in a metro area to a house surrounded by woods and farmland, 30 miles from the nearest city.  We own nearly 3 acres of property, but are surrounded on 3 sides by woods and a large creek and a field across from our house.
Since moving here, we've enjoyed having more land and nature at our fingertips and have found joy in harvesting grapes and pumpkins from our garden last fall, cooking up puffball mushrooms found in the woods, and even trapping and boiling up crayfish from the creek out back.
My husband has been eagerly awaiting this season of country life- the time of year where the locals take to the woods in search of wild asparagus and morel mushrooms. I'm not a fan of consuming either, but I'm always up for a walk in the woods and a search of any kind, so I've been playing along the past week or so by keeping my eyes on the ground in pursuit of the prize.  My parents were here visiting last week and they also took to the woods in search of this highly coveted fungus. Much to our surprise, after hours of searching in areas known to be mushroom-friendly (near dead stumps, near other mushroom patches, on sunny hills, etc). This past weekend we enjoyed some beautiful weather, and spent much of our free time outdoors- mowing the grass, planning out our garden, playing with the kids, and yes, mushroom hunting. Despite our best collective efforts, we had come up empty handed.

This morning I was taking a quick walk around the yard before the predicted rain came in so that I could check our mole traps, pick up my son's shoes left out back yesterday and clear my mind for a moment while both kids were at school.   I passed by our swing set, and something caught my attention- yes, there, in plain sight were 3 small morel mushrooms.  No feast by any means, but how exciting to find something you've searched for so hard!  And to think they were in the most unexpected of places- right there by the swing set, in this highly trafficked area, a ways away from tree bases, with bad soil and no protection.

And then that little light bulb went off (you know, that one that would spark a little "ah ha!" bubble above a comic book character).  Isn't this just how life works?  How often in life do we find that what we are searching for is in fact right in front of us?

I'm sure you've been told before that whatever lost object you're looking for is going to be "in the last place you look."  Well of course it will be, because who would keep looking for something after they've already found it?!  But I think the true sentiment behind that phrase is: don't search in the places you expect to find things, look where you'd least expect them to be.  When my sunglasses go missing, they aren't usually hiding in my car, my purse, or on the kitchen counter, they're usually someplace that doesn't even make immediate sense- like sitting near the bathroom sink, near the washing machine, or on top of the dog food bin. 

Anyone know lives with males knows how often things tend to "hide in plain sight."  Your son, brother, or husband asks you where something is, you tell them, they go off in search of said item and then show back up a few minutes later telling you "I looked everywhere but it's not there."  You drop what you're doing, go back with them to the location you had indicated prior, and poof, there is the item, exactly where you told them to look.  Yesterday, it was my son's pajama's-   I told him to go upstairs and check in his bedroom.  He goes, comes back 3-4 minutes later completely exasperated "but MAMA I looked EVERYWHERE! They're gone!"  I follow him back up the stairs, turn the corner into this bedroom, and laying on the floor in the middle of the doorway? His pajamas of course!  His response?  "They must have just magically appeared because they weren't there when I looked!"  mmmhmmm......  I'm sure every mother, wife, sister or friend of the male species could come up with at least 5 stories to the same tune. 

As we poke fun at our male counterparts, how much more must God be chuckling at us and also painfully watching from above while we blindly stumble through life;  ignoring clues, missing signs, tuning out his voice, forgetting his promises, following the wrong paths.  The things we often strive the hardest for in this life are SO OFTEN right in front of us, hiding in plain sight.  Whether it be our relationships, our vocation, answers to family struggles, direction for our future is so often much clearer than we make it out to be.

After growing up in a small town, one of those "where everybody knows your name (and your baggage)" type of places (the same one we ended up back in last summer), I set out at age 18 to find my own path. I moved a few hours away to a Christian college where I only knew one other person and was on a mission to form a new life.  Being surrounded by peers of my age who shared the same beliefs and values, it was sort of expected that you'd find your future spouse at this school, or at least enjoy a dating relationship or two.  Much to my surprise/demise, I never seemed to have luck with either prospect, and my senior year of college I found myself in a relationship with a close friend from my hometown (now my husband of 11 years). That was hard for my pride to swallow;  I was shallowly thinking "I came ALL THIS WAY to end up marrying someone from HOME?!"  But God knew what He was doing with my life.  He knew the ending of the story before I had even opened the book. I spent years dealing with loneliness, longing for a relationship when all along, the person I was meant to be with was right in front of me.

This move to the countryside has been a true struggle for me these past 10 months.  I spent nearly 15 years building a life for myself in the city where I had attended college.  I had a career, friends, a church, a neighbors I loved, and all the other parts of life all settled and figured out.  All of that got left behind with this move, and I'm being forced to rebuild.  Of course there are obvious benefits to our new location and things that I love dearly about living here, but I don't think I was prepared for the amount of loss I'd be experiencing when we moved.  It's been a lonely 10 months, and I've spent most of it feeling as though I was stuck at the bottom of a dark hole.  I no longer have a tribe to call on when I'm feeling down or in need of a coffee date, I haven't had a church family to help me feel supported and lifted up in prayer, and for the first time since I was 15, I haven't had a job to pour myself into and take pride in my accomplishments.  Of course my job as a mother is the most important one I'll ever have, but the rewards in parenting aren't immediately recognized.  There are no incentive bonuses, no employee of the month award, no raises or bonuses for a job well done. I'm learning how to find value and matter in things that actually matter- those little "rewards" that have been hiding in plain sight:  the smiles on my kids' faces, the laughter that fills the house, the chance to attend field trips and kiss ouchies and be in control over what my son watches on TV, eats for lunch, and how he spends his time.  I'm beginning to see that some of the things I've been searching so earnestly for: meaning, purpose, direction can be found right in front of me- through my service and dedication to my own family.

So the next time you're facing big questions about life, maybe you don't need to go soul searching in the woods- maybe the answers are in fact right in front of you.

P.S.  If you're an experience morel hunter with tips to share, I'm sure my husband would be overjoyed to hear them!

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