Monday, May 9, 2011

Hazards of the Job

It’s been a few weeks now since I last “lost it” with my kids. I feel like I wear an electronic sign on my head that says, “23 days without incident.” What will it say tomorrow? “24,” I hope.

I’m a mom. Losing my patience is a hazard of the job.

Before having kids, I pictured my future self as the perfect balance of nurture and tough love, an embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit—always patient, always kind. Calm at all times. But then I gave birth to Jalynn—smart, passionate, strong-willed little J. My perfect (and unrealistic) plan wasn’t the only thing she’d break.

We were at the park at the time of my last incident. Jalynn was racing up the steep concrete steps that separate the duck pond from the playground. Malakye toddled behind his sister, failing in his attempts to keep up. Jalynn slipped and fell. The result? One tiny speck of blood and an emotional reaction fit for the victim of a broken limb. Her frantic sobs attracted a crowd—babies with worried looks, grandmas with first-aid kits and cell phones in hand, fingers poised to dial “911.” I tried to smile, to laugh it off as I hauled her like an awkward piece of furniture to the top of the hill and applied a small Dora band-aid to her tanned knee. I tried reasoning with her. But her cries only got louder. She had lost it.

Then so did I. Loud words, rough body language, angry eyes. Right there in front of the onlookers. I’m not sure what bothered me more—Jalynn’s embarrassing matinee or the fact that she’d thwarted my storyline for the day. I’d lost control (in more ways than one).

Back in the privacy of our mini-van, I cried the whole way home. My tears of frustration eventually gave way to a different kind—the tears that fall when I’m overwhelmed by Grace. I had lost it. I had failed my daughter that day. But He hadn’t. He still wanted to make something beautiful from my ashes.

A few minutes later, I put Malakye down for a nap and walked wordlessly into Jalynn’s room where she lay on her bed, dirt and dry tears staining her still-round face. I sat down next to her; she cuddled into my arms. “I’m sorry for the way I acted, baby,” I told her. Then I prayed simple words of confession and praise to our loving God.

We continued to sit quietly for a while, feeling each other breathe, resting in the cover of God’s perfect love.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh, to be a little girl again ...

(I originally began writing this piece as a work assignment.* But somewhere in the writing process it became deeply personal to me and morphed into what I've included here. And I want to share it with you.)

We were gathered for home church at some friends’ home when my dad got the call that his father had passed away. My grandpa had suffered a stroke several days before, and we all knew his remaining breaths were numbered. Dad stepped outside to take the call, and when he reentered the house a few minutes later, his eyes were red with tears that hadn’t yet fallen.

I knew I should say something, do something, feel something. After all, my dad had just lost his father. But I couldn’t shake the seeds of apathy that for years I’d allowed to take root in my heart. My grandpa was a religious man and could probably have quoted more of the King James Bible than anyone I knew. But he was human, and in his humanness, he’d made mistakes, mistakes that hurt people I love. So in this moment when my daddy needed someone to hug him, to hold him and give him permission to cry, I just stood by and stared.

Jalynn, not yet two years old at the time, was with us that evening. She didn’t understand strokes or death. But she did understand the heart of Jesus. So when her grandpa came back into the house, she walked over to him with her arms stretched out. He bent down and picked her up as she wrapped her chubby tan arms tightly around his neck and held on, his silent tears wetting her untamed curls.

Precious Jesus, forgive my own heart. I want to be a little girl again!

(*an edited version of this piece appears in a Tru Wonder Weekly Homefront. Check out Tru at