Not the Best of Days

If you are a parent, you know there are highs and lows.  There are joyous triumphs — a good night’s rest or an unprodded “please” or “thank you.”  And there are countless defeats — yelling “I mean it” and “RIGHT now” without any semblance of the hoped-for compliance.  But what I’ve always found interesting is how close the peaks and the valleys are.  One moment, I can feel like the most blessed mother on the face of the planet, pleased with my own children and pretty darn satisfied with myself, and then seconds –and I mean seconds —  later being forced to acknowledge that I am the most inept person in the history of the world.

Today was like most, busy.  I dropped the boys at swim practice and then proceeded to  the auto repair shop.  Last month a tree attacked my brand new minivan in the driveway and my tank of a minivan fought back.  The tree looked like it would total any vehicle ever made, but not my Nissan Quest, baby.  That thing is a warrior.  Still, repairs are supposed to take roughly forever, so I waited until every needed part was acquired by the body shop.  By 9:15 am my tank was checked in for repairs and I started a brisk walk back to the pool a few miles away.

Then early this afternoon I had Enterprise (you know, the “we’ll pick you up!” people who formerly and inexplicably advertised their rental cars dressed up in potato sacks), grab us at the pool.  By the time we rode back to the rental car office, the boys were ready for Slurpees.  And indeed it was a very, very, very hot day, worthy of a 7-Eleven pitstop.  However, before we could make it there an odd incident went down in our car.

From the back seat, my son, Will suddenly yelled out.  “OWWW!  What was that for?”

Me:  “What just happened?”

Will: “Sam just punched me in the head for no reason.”

Me: “Sam, why did you do that?”

Sam: “Oh, I thought he was dead.”

At this point, I should have kept my wits about me. I should not have cracked up at his excuse.  But I did.

Then the oddest thing happened: Sam burst into tears. “Do not laugh at me,” he yelled.  “Do not laugh at me, Mom.  You laugh at me every day.”

At this point, I decided we were not in a Slurpee state-of-mind and made a ridiculously sharp and abrupt left turn toward home.  Perhaps I’m used to driving the tank, and not the rental, but either way, I sailed, briefly, into the side street’s oncoming lane.  And of course, the driver I engaged in a momentary game of chicken was my neighbor and one of the sweetest, most endearing guys you’d ever want to meet.  Back in my own lane, I waved at him and smiled.  Fortunately, I saw him again tonight and was able to apologize profusely.

When we got home I took Sam to my bedroom and shut the door.  I tried to explain to him that I would never want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him, that I think he’s funny in a good way, in a wonderful way.  The funniest person I know is Daddy, I told Sam.  I laugh at him every single day.  In a good way.

You know what Sam said?  He said, “How long do we have to talk about this?”

Which, obviously, really made me want to laugh again.

But I didn’t laugh, I just smiled at him and said, “How bout for ten minutes?”

“How bout eight,” he said.

We never did get a real good grip on why he sucker punched his brother, or how that was a good or reasonable test of whether he was dead.  Maybe tomorrow.  After Slurpees.

The thing is I need Sam to know most of all that I love him no matter what.  Maybe those tears he shed played me like a drum, but I don’t care.  I want that sweet, funny, quirky, doll face of mine to know deep down, in his heart of hearts, that he is loved.

And God wants us to know the same thing.  He wants us to live knowing that nothing in the world could separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). You may reject Him.  You may run from Him.  You may try to live without Him.  But He will never stop pursuing you.  He loves you.  He created you.  No matter what you’ve done with your life.  No matter who you’ve sucker punched.  No matter how lame your excuse.  No matter how many times you’ve fallen back into the same old ways.  No matter how inept you may feel.  God loves you.  He’s crazy about you.

So grateful today that His grace and His love are free.  And they NEVER end.

Raising Optimists

I remember back when I was a mothering newbie thinking about how I’d raise little optimists. I believed I could convince my children to see things in the best possible light because I would just model it and dutifully explain that this is the way to embrace life. But my optimism about raising optimists has proven to be patently absurd. My sons were born with certain dispositions and after eleven years of motherhood I now realize that I have almost zero control over their personalities. Genetics are mighty powerful. Will is no Debbie Downer but you wouldn’t say he faces adversity with great hope either. Nate is so roll-with-it that I’m not even sure it’s truly optimism, most of the time he’s just satisfied with whatever. But Sam may be the optimist I’ve been naively aiming for.

A couple weeks ago we were at a swim meet and Sammy was playing with a darling little baby boy who is just over a year old. Sam’s obsessed with this baby because he laughs easily and is seriously about the cutest little fellow you could possibly imagine. Sam lets Baby crawl all over him, and he never tires of playing with him. But that day for whatever reason, Baby bit Sam. And I mean Baby bit the absolute snot out of Sam. Sam did not cry, even though the indentations from Baby’s teeth were deep and well-marked.

I took Sam over to the lifeguard office to rinse out the wound.

“Wow,” Sam said, visibly surprised and sincerely amazed by Baby. “He’s a good biter.”

See, that’s what I like to see. “He’s a good biter!” And Baby was.

Then just a few days later we were at a basketball game that was played about a half hour away. Maybe the thirty-minute drive with daddy behind the wheel was too much, but as we worked our way through the maze of yet another unknown high school in Fairfax County, all of a sudden Sam was quite obviously unwell. He threw up voluminously in the nearby trash can, just down the hall from the gym. Daddy then took him to the restroom to clean him up and I hit the vending machine for an apple juice. We then proceeded to watch brother’s game, which of course, went to overtime. We kept Sam far away from other fans and he appeared to be just fine.

After the game, he gravely told his victorious brother, “Dub, I was almost sick.”

That’s what I’m talking about! Barfing four or five times and then claiming to be “almost sick.”

So maybe I have a budding optimist after all!

The truth is though, that even with an optimistic outlook, life is full of challenges and heartaches and disappointments. I’m so grateful that I have a Savior who knows all about it. He lived each day knowing how the story ends, but He still had challenges and heartaches and disappointments. And because He did, He is full of compassion. He knows. He’s lived it. And He wants you to cling to Him through it all. Are you? Are you giving Him your worries and burdens and the deepest concerns of your heart?

Even with all my optimism, I need to do exactly this tonight and each day.

Matthew 11 closes with Jesus saying this: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Come, He says. Come find rest for your souls.