unexpected

He had just given me my toilet back. Now he was telling me we would be without water for another 24 hours. Or more.

“But……we are going to have a baby…..tomorrow morning.” The plumber already knew that. They had been working long hours to get me working pipes before I popped.

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Later that night there was a drug bust across the street.

The next day four different shifts of women rallied around our older boys to care for them while we birthed their brother.

The omen was clear. Chaos would abound.

Which is exactly why I never planned on having a third child. In my opinion control is preferable to chaos.

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Lucky for me, life does not always go according to my plan.

Because chaos has, indeed, abounded since that day five years ago when our third boy entered this world. But so has endless amounts of love.

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And somehow the fact that he is a whole hand old today is making me pause extra-long and think about the enormity of it all. (That and the fact that we did all of his celebrating this past weekend so there is nothing left for me to do but be sentimental.)

An era is ending. And that era lasted much longer than I thought it would. About five years longer. But what a beautiful era it was. Hard. Gruelingly hard. But simultaneously boundlessly beautiful.

Zachary was my gift to get to do it all over again, one last time. To live in different skin than I did the first two times. More comfortable skin. Completely imperfect and still quite messy skin, but somehow more peaceful skin.

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The one thing I wanted to do more than anything with my life was be a mom. But once I got there all of my “stuff” came to the surface and it was like breathing through mud. Slowly, very slowly, I have been working through all of that stuff. Learning to be loved. Learning to love.

And I have nothing but gratitude. Because somehow, the third time around I was free to enjoy the process. Somehow I was enjoying not only Zachary growing up but all three of my boys at the same time, in this new skin.

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And although my children are not out of the nest yet, the fact that all are now out of the formative years seems significant. And today I have not only been delighting in this child and all of who he is, but also in all he brought to me.

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Happy birthday Little Z. And thank you.

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discernment

I don’t truly grasp the concept. If I am terribly honest with myself, I will admit I don’t really want to. I would prefer formulas. Rules. Distinct black and white. Abundantly clear clarity. I would like to do away with life’s murkiness.

Tell me who the safe people are in this world and how I can distinguish them from the unsafe ones. Is there a mark on their cheek? Do they wear certain clothes? Could everyone just walk around carrying signs?

But no. This is something that requires discernment. Learning as I go. Listening to my intuitive side.

And quite frankly my intuition often feels underdeveloped. Only in the last two or three years did I learn I even have an intuitive side. Or that it could be helpful to me in any way. That little voice. That sense of something without tangible proof.

So I am continually baffled.

But of course, life has been doing what life tends to do and presenting me with opportunities to practice and learn this foreign concept of discernment. Making choices or understanding people or situations in the current moment without needing to label or put them in boxes where I will keep them forever.

Allowing for mystery and fluidity beyond what I see while still working with the reality of where I find myself in the current moment.

Acknowledging that sometimes discernment happens in a moment and more often it requires a process.

And I have been doing what humans tend to do and making mistakes and feeling awkward and discouraged in my learning process.

But I also believe in the midst of this, God has been showing me his gentleness and tenderness toward me. Even when the learning curve of life feels steep and painful.

And he wants me to know that he loves me in the midst of it all.

So he gives me sons who pick up on my tension and hurt feelings from others as I learn the hard way (by experience – yuck!) and give me extra hugs and kisses and tender looks and sweet shoulder rubs. And I think my heart might explode. When did they develop such a capacity for compassion?

And he gives me friends who remind me of truth and encourage me and listen and listen and listen and give me hugs. Friends who don’t put people in boxes just to make me feel better but who help me understand the complexities of life and walk with me as I struggle with all of it.

And of course he gives me a husband who provides comic relief while he communicates his unending loyalty to me with his over the top protective comments.

And he gives me this sense that he is with me. That he is for me. That he loves me. And that he is in fact helping me learn this thing called discernment. 

forever preschool

When will he finally get this? To be fair, he is truly doing an exceptional job learning. But even still, I find myself quick to be frustrated with my youngest son. He is all of four years old now and we are constantly working on the tasks of his life-stage.

Learning to not get his way and handle himself appropriately.

Learning to speak up for what he wants instead of whining or whimpering.

Learning to respect others, get along, and use his words.

And all the while figuring out who he is and how the world works.

Simple.

So why do I not have more patience for the poor boy? I am not in new territory. I have done this before. Twice. And yet there is something in these moments of teaching and coaching that reaches beyond this one child. Whatever it is seems to trigger a quiet desperation inside of me. One that is distinctly disproportionate to the four year old at hand.

Eventually, after one of the days of family togetherness that didn’t bring out the best in us, a light bulb goes on. I am not just disturbed by Zachary and his age appropriate behavior. I am also discouraged with his older brothers and the fact that they have not mastered the tasks of preschool yet, either. And I am disgruntled with my husband because he has not mastered the tasks. And while I am at it, I am completely stymied with the entire world for not mastering the tasks of preschool.

Which really, of course, all boils down to the fact that I am irritated with my own self. Because I have not mastered preschool either.

So my distinctly disproportionate desperation comes from the knowledge that no one ever truly masters these tasks. My son is doomed to live a life of humanity. And so are his brothers. And his father. And the rest of the world. And me.

I must have tricked myself into thinking these tasks should be easy because the age appropriate time to address them is when we are small. And my frustration only magnifies when I realize NO ONE has mastered these simple tasks, including me. The futility of the situation glares at me every day.

The problem is, the tasks I speak of may be simple but they are also enormous.

And so I have changed my mind. Instead of thinking the tasks are small because we teach them to small people I realize the tasks are just as gargantuan as they sound and that is why we start learning them at such an early age. Because truly, these tasks require a lifetime to even begin to grasp.

But I have to believe it is worth the effort to try.