lesson du mois: cute as they are, i am not the sum of my children.
thing is, i know this. i know i've been redeemed at an unthinkable cost, and that it's madness to define my worth by anything outside of who God says i am.
and yet. when my kiddos are freshly-scrubbed model citizens, when they're bright and happy and high-achieving, it's insidiously easy to claim credit. to draw my value from these small, shining people. from my daughter, who pelts down the hall to circle me as tight as her skinny arms will go, crushing me with gratitude for adding lace to her flower girl dress. from my older boys, who don't let a day slip by without entreating me for a game of pit or soccer. z, who counts down the minutes till we can read of dragons and heroes each night.
but what happens when my child scribbles and grabs and tantrums, when at five years old he wields the emotional maturity of eighteen months and suddenly my personal worth won't pile up to a hill of beans?
yesterday was the hardest yet. m screams like the world's on fire if i hold his hand, pushes and flails if i gather him close. i'm mom, the one with those pesky things called limits and expectations and consequences, and he'd much rather seek affection from people who are all fun and no time-outs. and it feels akin to insanity, to insist on loving this small person who will kick my emotional shins all the livelong day, but he needs it and i need it and so we circle through these motions for as long as it takes, bleeding all the way.
Love is not like that, is not like
along that they call
Love; it is not like that, is not
like that desiring-companionship that
they call love; it is not like that, is not
like that desiring-of-one-beautiful
that they call love; it is not like that.
When will they learn that love is not
Ask St. Valentine—he was beheaded
because of love; ask St. Francis—
call him a sissy, but he became
a beggar because of love; ask
all those who know and they’ll tell
Love is not like that; ask Jesus Christ.
for a God who loves me when i kick and flail
for clothes to wash
for nate the great
for mercy, clean and free
for a husband who sees
for floors to clean
to know that the story doesn't end here
every morning my smallest boy and i lace up for a long, slow walk. sometimes we have a grand time, spotting trains and crickets and jets streaking the sky. mostly we don't.
little m is categorically opposed to exercise, and also temperatures that fall outside of the 70-75 degree range, so the combination of the two just about undoes him.
yesterday this was at the end of the walk, and when we turned the bend he got his second wind (or first wind, actually) and took off at a sprint for the tire swings.
i know it's not always feasible to plant fun at the end of his drudgery, but his shrieks of glee sure have this way of warming me through.
also blazing my insides today: oodles of you have said you're faithfully praying, and i'm overflowing. God is tying our family together in ways that transcend the impossible, and your faithfulness--and His--is nothing short of restorative.
my girl shonda is one of those fabulous folk who make this planet funny and inhabitable. she's authentic and warm and a wee bit sardonic, which all piled together equals My Cup of Tea. shonda&co brought taz home from ethiopia last may; come november they're headed back for mb.
to say we're pretty much stoked for their family doesn't quite cover it.
friends are hosting a shower for shonda, but in her signature style she's eschewing kid gear and cute clothes and instead simply asking that we help preserve the lives of some precious people. in particular, precious ethiopian people who, due to the ongoing drought, are desperately hungry.
she's chosen FOVC as a vehicle for giving, because they're a grass-roots bunch powered by volunteers. they're also the sole ngo at work in the region of ethiopia our littles hail from.
in other news, i woke wednesday morning hours before the alarm, which is normal. a rush of window fan and chittering crickets cloaked the dark, again normal. my spine curled with the ache of exhaustion, normal. the mister rose to breakfast the littles, normal. i finally gave up sleep as a lost cause and lumbered from bed, brushed elle's hair: normal. kissed the kiddos off to school: normal. but something about the day hung differently, and i've finally decided just what.
yesterday morning, for the first time in eight weeks, i rose with the expectation that the day ahead would hold more than its wearying tug-of-war, that something, perhaps many somethings, would be good.
it's the same fissured landscape, but the view transforms when i'm standing on a big ol' hill of hope.
dad sat catacorner from me at the breakfast table and most days he halved a papaya the long way, scooped out seeds like a trove of black pearls. this is what i think of watching the sun climb this morning: the creamy orange-pink of papaya flesh, and my dad, smiling over his spoon.
for parents who smiled
for a doctor who calls to chat about my child's health like she has all the time in the world for us
for the joy that is my pre-k class, and especially the child who prayed, 'dear God, thank you for me' for baby bumps
for sidewalk canvases
for small-people quilts
for library books
and for hearts that hold on
the biggers' first 4/5ths of a week at school has gone swimmingly, though by friday they were plum worn out. and slowly, slowly little m is learning that although mom will dedicate the overwhelming majority of her day to walks and home-preschool and games, i may at times engage in activities apart from Entertaining Small People. because occasionally we like to have laundered clothing and stuff.
friday threatened rain, but we pitched the tent out back anyway. i find it's easy to throw caution to the wind when a change of clothes and dry beds lie fifteen feet west. we had hamburgers with blues hog sauce, pb s'mores, a game of pass the buck and then euchre by flashlight.
we also had reptilian trilling noises in the dark, which may explain the guest appearance of velociraptors in my dreams that night.
and the rain held off after all. :)
these two boss each other like a pair of spinsters, but in the next breath i'll catch them tied up in giggles and clearly having the time of their lives, inseparable.
and though morning till dusk is one strung out dance of Who Is In Charge, and though i fall into bed bled of patience and humor, God is still there the next day with a fresh supply of mercy and the promise of His tender, unwavering company.
my girl lori, home
a sweep of cool in the middle of august
front yard baseball
the people who surround me in small group
food on our table
crystal, who prays
the smallest signs that maybe he will trust us after all
'tis the season for packing lunches and 16 glue sticks (i've stopped asking) and traipsing to the bus in sneakers so fresh you can smell the new.
i'm quite certain we just started summer holiday, but time has been more slippery than usual as of late. plus also for reasons unbeknownst to my brain, the Educational Powers That Be shrink our vacation a wee bit each year. so. yesterday morning, after whole-wheat pancakes and much flattening of hair, the four olders trundled off to school again.
(mr. fifth grade)
this is her eek!firstgrade! look, but do not believe it. the rest of the time she was doing this:
there was one small person (plus one mama) who was less than ecstatic about the commencement of school. little m spent much of the morning hanging out by the window to watch for his brothers and sister. we'd coax him away with puzzles and play doh and memory, but soon enough he'd scoot right back, as if certain the intensity of his vigil would bring them home.
but God knew just what we needed. my girl jenn & her sweet crew sent us a bucket of happy to keep small hands and imaginations well occupied.
(aren't chalkboard surfaces the cleverest thing? sadly, in my unpacking excitement i managed to thoroughly smudge up j's beautiful penmanship.)
(cooper household, thank you. your timing was impeccable.)
at 2:30 the biggers winged back home full of homework and first-day tales. little m was clam-happy. we had snack and bikes and play and an evening of together, and this morning? we pulled it all off again with only a few short minutes of window-time.
with friends like y'all and a God who sends mercy by the bucketfuls, i suspect we just might survive this school year after all.
he's so much bubbly chatter and vim, his heart anchored in tenderness and justice. he's silly and clever and a river of patience with his younger brother. (m cheerfully allows little m to drag him by the hand and dictate his day's itinerary, and though i remind him that he's allowed to say no sometimes, he delights in his brother's happiness.)
he's the middlest of the middles, a tough spot to inhabit if i've ever seen one. but oh, he's our joy.
m, i hope you flourish in the knowing that you are loved from your cowlick to your heels, that this knowing equips you for the long and messy business of loving others. i hope God is closer than breath, that He is your treasure, your magnificent obsession.
happy birthday, sweet boy. you're the best kind of wonderful.
wednesday came raw and clotted with storm clouds. it'd been a rough week already.
i knew to expect this, the endless loop of reteaching limits, the constant scouring and disinfecting, the one-sided loving. i knew, but somehow that doesn't make this existence any less exhausting.
but God has this way of showing up in the middle of my personal downpour. i pray for immediate evacuation, and instead He comes down and resides with me in my struggle, helps my heart expand to cover this need when it would be so much more convenient to disengage.
i was chin-deep in weariness yesterday when My All-Time Favorite Person (aka our trusty postal worker) popped up on my doorstep with a package. my soul-friend brandee baked us cookies, wrapped each one and double-bagged them. and as i unflapped cardboard to reveal those buttery rounds of perfection (that girl knows her way around a cookie) and drank in her words of kindness and affirmation, the not-aloneness of it all buoyed my spirit in a way that could only have come from Him.
and another soul-friend is bringing us dinner tonight and another sent m the softest welcome-home gift and my aunt and uncle dropped off a gorgey dresser and all of you loving us is keeping me afloat till pretty soon i realize i'm not up to my eyebrows in a sea of emotional demands at all. it's an ocean of grace, clear through.
* * *
please join us at emily's for more imperfect prose.
ps friends, if you are willing, please pray with me for the dear sosna family. they attended court with us in ethiopia back in may, and are still waiting for a letter from MOWCYA before their process can proceed. their two beautiful boys need so much to be with home their parents. thank you.