I am sitting at my favorite coffee shop that is much too close to my house eating a gigantic piece of Macrina Walnut Anise Biscotti (every word deserves capitalization) and wiping all the stray crumbs (there are a lot) on my recently clean pants. I am recovering for a few minutes. We had a fundraiser for New Horizons at our house yesterday and I blew my energy wad early. Sam and I both have been dragging for the last 24 hours and are walking a fine line between exercising proper coping skills and completely dissolving into selfish misery.
I almost lost it last night when we got home from the playground and Manny began to freak out about some unidentifiable incident. He was a broken record of screams without a single syllable to support his complaint. I took him to the bathroom, but he was too despondent to pee. Like the Tasmanian Devil, he whirred a path of destruction back through the kitchen and dining room until it all exploded into a furious stream of urine flowing down the ramp. “Mama! Mama!” Manny cried, as though I hadn’t noticed what was happening.
I wanted to take the scream baton from Manny and run with it. I wanted to do that thing where I also act 2 years old, but I dress it up a little nicer so that it seems like it might be defendable adult behavior. I’ve been practicing that a lot lately. Thankfully, I was able to stifle my impulse long enough to get Manny to the bathroom where he proceeded to proudly deposit a poop in the potty, thus solving his mood entirely. Never underestimate the power of accomplishment.
This has been the week of love. Monday night Sam was just about to tuck Manny into bed when he asked him, “Who do you love?”
“Who else do you love?”
“Who else do you love?”
“Do you love Aslan?”
“Sometimes.” (Such complexity of emotion! )
By this point, Sam was really enjoying the conversation and wasn’t ready to let it end. So he began to prompt.
“Do you love anyone else? Grandma?”
Then last night, after the poop accomplishment, Sam and I were serving the kids dinner. Sam said he loved me and Manny began to tell all of us that he loved us. Over and over and over. It was very dear and I was so glad to have so many opportunities to tell Manny I loved him back. He really is such a wonder.
Elena is walking all over the place. It is so shocking to catch a glimpse of her little head bobbing up and down as she walks around the kitchen island. These are the same girls who didn’t even roll until after they crawled. I laid them on the bed on their backs until they were almost nine months old. Every time I went to the doctor and had to fill out the questionnaire, I always lied.
“Do you leave your child unattended on the bed?”
“No.” I checked that box every time even though it was a total lie. And now Elena and Glory are trying to scale every climbable area of the house, which there are many. They even climb up on chairs and SIT on them. This may sound boring and obvious, but I hope I always celebrate these details. If I don’t , who will?
On Tuesday night, Sam and I put the kids down, handed Rona the Saint the baby monitor and went to Ryan and Brooke’s house to have a great conversation with Barry and Linda, a couple who are on the brink of being empty nesters. We came hungry for wisdom and perspective about parenting and marriage and following Jesus and they offered up stories of pain, struggle, triumph and praise for the faithfulness of God in their lives. It was the best church I have been to in a long time and I left wanting to love with more abandon, serve my family with less agenda and praise God for all of it.
Embrace the pain, Barry said. Embrace the frustration. Embrace the chaos.
What is remarkable about these sentiments to me is that pain, frustration and chaos are not limited to events of magnitude. Pain, frustration and chaos can sweep over me and there is really no discernable reason except that it is really hard to show up and be present in this life a lot of the time.
Last week, James B preached from the text where Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego receive their death sentence to walk into the fire, but they do not burn. And King Nebakenezer (not at all the spelling, but my phoentic version!) releases them amazed by God and God’s power. And James B’s point was that God does not deliver us from the fire. God delivers us from within the fire.
I hope I never get thrown into a literal fire. But emotionally, there are fires smoldering all over the place and they ignite without warning. I am excited about embracing the heat. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that it dawned on me that it really hurts to grow. I think I’ve always wanted to be mature because, in my opinion, I was never very good at being youthful. Self-awareness is a blessing and a curse. In high school, I equated maturity with melancholy and being moved by Sarah MacLachlan and Tori Amos in the dark. Now I think maturity is about how we respond. And responding requires refining. And refining requires some heat.
Makes me wish I had some more coffee. And some more time. Here’s to embracing the rest of the day.