Monday, February 19, 2018

One of Those Days...

Last week, I had one of those days....

As I abruptly and unwillingly awoke to the blasting of a neighbor's car stereo at 5:30 am, I didn't have opportunity to assess the situation before answering an urgent call from a disoriented five-year-old. After getting him settled in our room, I realized the reason I was experiencing the neighbor's car stereo to the fullest was because there was a neighborhood blackout. This explained the loss of the faithful sound machines and nightlights which led to our child waking at such an unreasonable hour. It also explained why I ran into no less than three walls on my way to rescue him from his perils. I rose an hour later to wake two of my sons for school and our youngest (still wide awake) jumped out of bed eager to begin his day. Our two older sons were extra groggy and eventually admitted to being awakened by the blackout. [This is a thing when you live in the city. We aren't used to the dark, and we trust our sound machines and/or window unit air conditioners to block out the sounds of our neighbors’ lives during the hours we choose to sleep.]

That evening, chaos abounded with the usual needs and requests for water, stories, and my perpetual presence (in at least three places at one time). The evening was also sprinkled with requests that tend to happen rarely (and, typically, not all at once): a thermometer, Vicks, and for the neighbor to fix their security light that was apparently impacted by the blackout and had not (much to my child's demise) yet been restored. [Who knew  the sliver of light produced by an obnoxiously bright lamp fifteen feet away and ninety-five percent blocked by a blackout shade would be an irreplaceable comfort?]

It would be depressing for me to even record the above if it weren't for the middle of my day. Two of my sons and I ran errands together and then took the long way to visit Matt at a fundraising event for his work. Our ten-year-old son stayed to help and was later delighted to recount all he learned at the event, about his fundraising success, and about the joys of getting to know his colleagues better. It turns out his exuberance for preventing homelessness far outweighs his fear of asking total strangers for money.

During the event, our youngest and I walked around the city together holding hands. We decided to take public transportation to our favorite cafe for lunch. We played Connect Four while consuming savory crepes and vanilla cream puffs. Since it was just the two of us, I had opportunity to delight in his every expression. We then walked the mile home, and a friendly dog walker asked my five-year-old if he would "help train" her youngest charge (a two-and-a-half month old Chihuahua) by giving him a treat. My heart leapt watching him, donned in his Robin superhero costume, carefully (and seriously) fulfill his responsibility. When we arrived at home, I allowed him to choose a short film and we watched it snuggled together. When the film was over, he took off to play with his Legos, and I had the pleasure of listening to him as he, along with his team of misfit heroes, saved the entire world no less than seven times. Eventually, he moved so he was playing within two feet of me- glowing- basking in the awareness of my delight in him. Later we chatted as we traveled to pick his older brothers up from school. When they saw us, they were all smiles- glad to be going home and glad it was burrito night. They all three cracked jokes that were borderline inappropriate for dinner conversation, collapsing into giggling hysterics several times over the course of the meal.

After breakfast until about an hour into the bedtime routine, our family enjoyed each other during each moment we were together.

It's easy to judge a day by one or two lousy snapshots. At 9:30, that night, when I was rinsing potassium hydroxide out of my eyes because I had finally located the thermometer and opened its battery compartment only to find the batteries had leaked some time ago- in that moment- I wasn’t remembering the joy that should have defined my day.

I do the same thing in years. And in decades.

For seven years our family's challenges have been almost unbearable. There were times we didn't think we would make it.

And we still have excruciating battles. This year has not been a picnic. One of our sons missed over two months of school and endured some major medical setbacks because of gross negligence on the part of his school. The rest of our family walked through that messy trial with him. For much of the year it's seemed we've been engaged in active combat. We have scars. One of our sons couldn't bear the stress of watching his brother's pain and that stress impacted his health dramatically. Another of our children couldn't sleep during a period of about three months. It seemed every hour, all night, he needed to be reminded everything would be okay.

And our other child- he showed more compassion than we expected to see from him. Ever. His thirst for relationships grew. His trust in his parents grew. His love for his brothers grew. His desire to be a part of a positive community grew. He helped carry burdens, wrote encouraging notes, asked the right questions, and listened intently to the answers.

One night Matt was recounting our three current, greatest struggles and I was overwhelmed with sudden gratitude.

While the snapshot is still ugly... I realized that if you had told us seven years ago that the three struggles we're currently facing would be our current struggles, we would have jumped for joy! We would have fallen on our knees thanking our Father for providing in ways we never could have imagined.

So yes. I'm tired. Our house smells like stale burritos and Vicks. If I’m lucky, I smell like stale burritos and Vicks. I wipe every surface before touching it. We are still lacking the ambiance formerly provided by our neighbor's flood light. There isn't enough caffeine in the world to remedy my lack of sleep over the last several months. Our relationship with our child's school is awkward, lonely, and frail. And it seems I’m going to have to go out and buy a new thermometer.

Even more weighty is the fact that we have very little specific direction on how to meet our children's very real and ever-changing needs over the next days, weeks, months, and years.

But the reason we lack direction is because our current struggles are linked to miraculous growth in our family that we could never have anticipated.

So today I refuse to allow my happiness to be determined by the chaotic snapshot and the presence of my current struggle. Rather, I'm going to take a step back and see the miracle behind the snapshot and the challenge.

Because,in our experience, today's struggles are the almost always the result of yesterday's miracles.


  1. So, I'm laying on the couch...again...holding a sweet toddler who is just uncomfortable and can't tell me why. I hate sleeping on the couch. Despise it. But I've spent countless nights here over the past month. Yep, month. Someone has been sick every single day for a month. I'm tired. I know I'll be tired tomorrow. I'll medicate the exhaustion with caffeine and do my best to be kind to my students tomorrow when I just want to take a nap. Thank you for reminding me that there can be bright points so I need to search for them. Let's reconnect, friend. I miss you.

    1. Allyn!

      I almost fell over when I read your name and, before reading your comment, was wondering if there could possibly be another individual with your name.

      I'm so sorry to hear your family has been sick all month! This winter has beat the junk out of us too, and it isn't pretty. There is only so much patience to go around.

      It's great to hear from you. We do need to connect. Love you!

  2. I had to laugh about your house always smelling like Vicks... mine does too but only because my youngest "washed" the windows with it. Really though you wrote so beautifully about this topic! My most frequent struggles are only a result of the most amazing parts of my life.

    1. It's great to meet you, Megan. Your youngest sounds brilliant! That's incredible. My oldest once "washed" his friend's hair with Vaseline.

      I hope your windows were easier to clean than that sweet child's hair was. It still looked wet after a week's worth of washes!

  3. Oh man! I wish I could gift you some sleep, friend!

    1. Thanks, friend. Sleep is that amazing gift that is so difficult to give to one who needs it the most. Hope you're able to take care yourself these days.


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