The way life mixes up

Though sometimes I think it would be nice for life to stay peachy and lovely for a long, long time…it never does.  Every single day life is a mixed up mess of good, extraordinary, crummy and terrible.  At least mine is.  Sure there are long seasons of darkness and heartbreak that seem like they won’t end.  And there are several days in a row where kids don’t argue and calamity hides.  But mostly, it’s just a big mix of everything.  Every single day.

Part of the way I’m finding my way past the ‘months long night’ that I wondered if it would ever pass – is in a daily decision to be grateful.  Grateful for what has been.  For what is.  And for what’s to come.  Joining in with Anne Voskamp in the practice of thankful list-making has radically changed my perspective on  this wife/mama/teacher/cook/driver/planner/mediator life of mine.

Upon opening his birthday card yesterday from my grandparents, our 4 year old shrieked with glee “He’s alive?  Really?  Grampy isn’t gone?”.  I gently explained, again, that it was from his great-grandparents, not from Grampy.  But no words can express the heart pain in trying to make that make sense to a hope-filled little boy.  I wept and his face crumbled.  Grampy is still gone.  And it is no less tragic today than it was that cold, rainy January day when our life changed forever.

My wise mother did her own gentle explaining to me last month over coffee.  As I questioned and doubted most of what I believed, which she assured me was okay, she said:

I think you’re waiting for it to make sense.  For answers.  You want to understand.  You need to understand in order to move forward.  But things like this kind of loss will never, ever make sense.  You won’t find the answers and you won’t understand.  You have to let go and trust what you know to be true about who God is.

That is, in essence, just what I’ve done.  It’s sort of like of  learning to walk with a limp I would imagine.  There is a piece of us that is forever altered by the deep mark of pain.  Every life is marked with some kind of very hard thing that shapes and molds – either for good or for bad.  I read in a magazine just this afternoon that suffering is a universal language.  So after spending months in a place of waiting for some grand epiphany, with timid and slow steps, I am choosing to walk again.

Even if it’s a different walk.  Even if it still feels foggy some days and I still wonder why.  Even if little moments that come from nowhere bring me to my knees.

Life, in all sorts of forms around here, beckons me onward.

The hope of the God who has been nothing but faithful to me for many years, beckons me to walk with Him.

#109 – promises, beautiful promises

#110 – plans and prospects

#111 – the exhilaration of saying yes

#112 – time to have a real conversation after children are all sleeping

#113 – God’s continued provision

#114 – the sweetness of a secret kept

#115 – watermelon juices dripping from all appendages of a clothes-less little girl

#116 – one cool room in one sweltering house

#117 – being called a princess by two little boys in one day

#118 – the utter, complete miracle of this verse and how it’s becoming real to me in a whole new way:

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3

Why not being perfect doesn’t deem me a failure

Any facade I was holding onto about being an excellent parent continue to be pulled away these past few weeks.  Perhaps it’s just me but in my experience with a uniquely challenging child that often eclipses the needs of the rest of the family, the long haul of it can be daunting.  I think that because we’ve seen great strides and wonderful improvement in our son’s life and coping skills, I began to feel like we were moving on.  Along with that, I let myself forget some of the tools that were built into our life and slacked a bit on the things that I know help him.  Without thinking about it a bit, on some level I thought we were all good.

After the dismal failure of swimming lessons and several other choicely located fits of a completely overwhelmed, overdone child – I remembered.  And it hurt.  I remembered how he is wired and why his brain makes life difficult for him.  I am so aware that so many parents have much greater challenges than I with their children.  I am so grateful that we’ve received all the support and tools and help we have.

But my heart just ached to be able to make life work better for our son.  To help him feel like all of life was not too much for him.  And I can’t do it.  Makes me cry just to type the words.

This is one of the hardest absolutes of parenting.

My son’s life is just that.  His.  I’m not writing his story.  God is.  All his current struggles and the far greater struggles that await him will shape the core of who he becomes.  I may be a key character in the story and goodness knows I want to be a great one.  But the reality is I will fail him more times than I can count.  I will weep beside his bed as he sleeps and pray for God to cover over the times I get it wrong.

The only way I can face tomorrow is in clinging to a truth that I believe with all my heart: the way my children turn out is not up to me.  God holds their life, their future, their whole being in His able hands.

Pondering all of these things, I just remembered that I never did a book review for a book that really spoke to me and is worth sharing.  Written by Leslie Leyland-Fields, the book is entitled “Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 other Myths that Trap us in Worry and Guilt”.  Yes, I know very long title for a book.  But the heart of the book held truths that I really needed to hear.  More than any is that parenting isn’t actually my highest calling, even though we often here this is church settings.  Loving and pursuing God above all else is actually the ‘parenting model’ that will transform not only my life but the lives of my children.

The other profound piece that I took away was the myth that “Good parenting leads to happy children”.  This was something I knew at some level but upon digging deeper left me feeling so hope filled and so freed.   Heart-level discipline and strong leadership may not lend themselves to happy children all the time.  Happiness isn’t actually what I’m aiming for.  If I did a quick inventory it’s the least happy times that often have shaped my life, for the better.

So though happy may not describe my son and it may not perfectly describe me at the moment, that is truly okay.  He will learn to overcome.  It is part of his unique and epic story.  I too am learning and will continue learning not just to survive what is hard but to overcome and relish the journey, even when it hurts.

Looking up today

Just so it’s no secret, this list is changing my life.  Choosing, even in the midst of the constant flow of life’s hard things, to find something to be thankful for…and to learn that the hard things can be the good things.

#72 – being awake early, alone, on a Monday

#73 – anticipation of seeing old friends again

#74 – first sunburn of the year

#75 – three uninterrupted hours of gardening

#76 – an impromptu adventure

#77 – courage to finally order photos from Christmas

#78 – the smell of coconut oil

#79 – baby spiders

#80 – baby birds

#81 – watching lambs frolic

#82 – learning one painful step at a time that God is my audience…not people

#83 – tender hearts of little boys

#84 – sacred moments unpacking fishing gear that was Grampy’s

#85 – breathtaking beauty in the mountains

#86 – finishing up school work for summer

#87 – watching God do what I myself told Him He could not do

#88 – my children have a father to celebrate this weekend

#89 – somehow Grace will carry my husband through losing his