Jamie woke me up this morning with his familiar greeting, “Mommy, what are we going to do today?” Jamie doesn’t use customary greetings like, “Good morning”. He sleeps in a blue race car bed and lives a race car life. Fast. That is his only speed. So, I answered him in my I-am-too-old-for-this-I-don’t-want-to-get-up-yet-voice, “We are going to lay right here for a few minutes”. The questions continue. There are no easy transitions in this house. Every time I answer him, I get back, “And then what”.
Our conversation goes something like this:
Me: “We are going to eat breakfast.”
Jamie: “And then what?”
Me: “We are going to watch Curious George.”
Jamie: “And then what?”
Me: “We are going to grill out hamburgers later and maybe go see some fireworks.”
Jamie: “And then what?”
I am being “and-then-whated” to death. The rapid fire question blasts me like water from a fire hose. My easy, relaxed mornings extinguished. I often wonder what God is teaching me through my son. I know the lessons are probably profound, if only I have eyes to see them. I pray for a heart that truly desires to learn. It is easier to just wish the hard things weren’t so hard, and to want to return to a more comfortable and predictable life.
We went to the zoo last Sunday for Chloe’s birthday. Jamie approached the day with his same typical drive. He dragged me (sometimes literally) from one activity to the next. Train rides to pony rides. Let’s go to the next animal. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I have to potty. I once heard a mother say that her children’s questions made her feel like she was being pecked to death by baby birds. I think I understand her now.
By evening, my husband and I were both weary at the thought of stopping for dinner with Jamie. We have to eat, we reasoned. So we went to Bob Evans. I sat next to Jamie because, by this point, my husband did not have the bandwidth to keep up with his activity level anymore. I redirected him in between taking bites of my own dinner. Sit down. Stop it. Take a bite. Don’t play with the salt. Give me that straw (poking it over the booth at the people on the other side). Quit leaning on my arm so I can eat. I lost interest in my own meal. I was on a mission: Get the food into Jamie and get out the door. Quick!
We told Chloe she could have a piece of pie for her birthday. The poor kid, this wasn’t much of a celebratory dinner. Jamie became obsessed with the thought of pie. Over and over he said, “I want a piece of apple pie. I want a piece of apple pie. I want a piece of apple pie.” And over and over we retorted, “You have to eat your dinner first”. This continued as Chloe finished her dinner and we ordered her pie. Jamie kept talking incessantly about the pie we were all sure he was not going to get by this point.
Then, out of nowhere, a voice broke our bubble. I am talking about the bubble of our own little world. We had been so focused on getting through the meal that we had forgotten we were in a public place. A man in the booth behind us yells (and I mean yells), “Get that boy a piece of apple pie!”. We all froze in horror as we realized how disruptive we were being to the people around us. My husband laughs and says jokingly, “Oh, you heard that?” Then another guy across the aisle yells, “I heard it too!”, followed by the woman across from him, “I think everyone in here heard that”.
Everyone laughed, but we were really shrinking in embarrassment. So, what did we do? We ordered the pie. Pronto. We really didn’t know what else to do, trapped between a birthday and all the eyes upon us. We helped the kids eat the pie quickly and tried to slip out as quietly as possible. But that was impossible. Chris ended our birthday bash by dumping his to-go coffee on Chloe and me, when he tried to pick it up with Jamie in his other arm. Don’t worry; the coffee was not hot enough to burn. It was the humiliation that scalded us. We nearly crawled out of the place.
Today, we celebrate Independence Day. I am thinking about the traditions we have to celebrate our freedom. The dearly held things we do that are “as American as apple pie” to us. Things like parades and fireworks. I wonder about those of us today who are not feeling so celebratory. The ones who are facing harsh realities that make the party seem a little much today. The greatest freedom you have in such times is the ability to choose to see God in them. To know and believe He is God, and He is with you. Sometimes it takes a loud voice to burst through our narrowly focused mission to change our circumstances, and accept them as they are. The most pressing questions in life are answered in this quiet trust. God’s fireworks tend to blow up our conceptions of life. But, by His grace, we are the parade of His glory.
“But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Eat the humble pie and walk on in glorious freedom.