No one knows what really goes on inside a home except the people that live there. Behind closed doors, even the most "perfect" looking home can be perfectly miserable.
"Winds from the east... Mist comin' in... Like something's a brewin', about to begin..."
As I peer over the deck of my third floor room on this grey and gloomy day, I think of London.
It's been nearly 20 years since I walked the streets of that historic city, but I remember the damp, foggy air.
This coastal neighborhood of Ocean Grove, New Jersey reminds me of the setting of Mary Poppins. With the English Channel only a brief ride down the river Thames, I can imagine the Atlantic magically transforming into the North Sea
I walk through the narrow streets and across the green just as Bert began the movie in the park.
I almost hear the whistle of Admiral Boom blowing from the top of one of these old Victorian homes.
“Shouldn’t wonder if you were steering into a nasty piece of weather.”
Happily preoccupied with superficial perfection, it’s possible to be oblivious to the people in our lives and completely miss the potential within our own walls until a storm moves in and blows away the facade.
Mary Poppins isn't exactly the woman I remember her to be when I first saw her through elementary eyes. She's a little more stern and strict than I had painted her in childish memories.
So why did I adore her and not fear her when I was little?
She was a gentle constant in a world of overly regimented neglect. The make-believe-world of Mary Poppins was adventure and surprises without chaos. Yet, the reality of daily life of errands and chores was order without boring predictability or legalistic harshness.
She had a gentle seriousness ensuring the nursery was tidy and the medicine was taken, and in both instances it was her even-tempered sweetness that made both palatable.
So what is Mary Poppins' secret?
Was it having tea parties on the ceiling?
... stepping into sidewalk-chalk drawings?
... racing or joining a fox-hunt on a merry-go-round horse?
... or singing and dancing on the roof-tops?
She was spontaneous and fun, but I believe her real secret was knowing the power of patient and generous love.
Expecting nothing in return, she steadily poured love into children, wives, and fathers; teaching them to appreciate the value of what was under their roof by example.
With her eyes open to the truly important things, she creatively gave others perspective.
She saw people and details, be they the bird woman on the steps of St. Paul, chimney sweeps, or the dog with an urgent message.
She knew a "pie-crust promise" when she heard it, "easily made, easily broken",
and never judged things by their appearance, "even carpetbags".
She chose optimism, "well begun is half done".
She chose to join in the fun, "if we must, we must";
nor was she too busy to sing with the birds.
Unselfishly, she delighted in the secret joy of helping others rediscover a love of laughter by challenging them to indulge in large amounts quality time as a family.
I live in a happy home with a loving husband and generally cooperative children. But, when bickering starts and the natives are restless, I can respond in a way that makes a frustrating situation only more miserable.
It is at those times, I need to borrow the confidence and stamina of Disney's fictitious English nanny and mix in a little of Bert's easy going manner and jolly outlook. Such a recipe is just what I need for handling ordinary parenting tensions in a winsome way.
Why argue when a lullaby would put the rebellion to bed?
Why lecture when a story will dispel the greed?
There is a time to not explain and walk away,
and there is a time to walk along side, listen, and then give advice.
It takes discernment and a little creativity to know what is really needed in each situation.
Who but God can give me this kind of wisdom?
He gives to all who ask and is the greatest source of inspiration.
I am not Mary Poppins, and I am definitely not "practically perfect in every way". But, I know the One who is absolutely perfect, and He has promised everything I need for life and godliness.
No nanny, baby-sitter, or grandparent could take my place in this divine match. Because, apart from God Himself, no one loves my children more than I do.
God made me the mama of these munchkins, and as much as I enjoy getting away for a long weekend, I can't wait to get back home to "my world".
There is no substitute for a heart and home at peace and filled with joy.
When "outsiders" take a look at my life, I want the surface appearance of beauty they see at a distance to prove genuine upon closer inspection. I'm not after perfection in physical order and routine; I'm pursing a deep down delight in my husband and children in the celebration of daily life.
(After writing this post, I did a little reading on Julie Andrews and came across this article originally published in 2000, "How Do You Solve a 'Problem' Like Maria Von Poppins?", further describing this "kind but extremely firm" method of discipline.)