I walked into my living room after laying Ely down for nap and it was a disaster. My couch was all torn apart, pillows on the floor, everything in every toy basket seemed to be emptied all over, bringing the risk factor of navigating my living room to somewhere between high danger and impending doom zones. Blankets were slimy, wet and smelly and a stench of “poop” hung in the air.
Normally, I huff, take a breath and begin the clean up process knowing that in an hour or two when the little guy gets up from his nap, this is going on repeat. I know, I know… I should ask my son to help with the clean-up. I mean, I do…. Sometimes. It’s just not his gift. Titus, my oldest, now he could clean! That kid would clean up after me! And if I put something in the wrong place, he’d correct it. It didn’t take much to convince him to clean up. Ely, well… his gifting is to destroy things in Guinness Book of World Record fashion. Don’t get me wrong. I still try to instill these housekeeping values in him and encourage him to help mommy “ea up” as he says it. But there are days that takes more energy than the actual clean-up process itself. So today, I walked into this catastrophe lone soldier style. I took a look around to survey the damage and assess how long this would take. Those “nap minutes” are precious to me.
In my pause to look, I felt something well up inside me. Was that really what I think it was? Yep, thankfulness. Maybe it was because just a few hours ago, I was reminded yet again how little we are really guaranteed in this life and how dependent I’ve become on the hope and grace of Christ to be my enough. A text had come through on my phone from my dear friend who has begun the end of life stage with her sweet 6-year-old son, navigating painful, horrible and precious moments. I was rocked back on my heels of emotions as I replayed that very stage I just walked through with my 6-year-old son Titus, just a short 6 months ago. The disease ripping her son from her arms and requiring a far too early goodbye wreaked havoc in my household as well and we are learning to live in this place of pain and missing, yet holding on to the hope of redemption, wholeness and the promise to see him again someday soon.
“How long, Lord?” I asked out loud staring at the mess. “How long do I get to clean this up day after day?” I miss so much the mess Titus used to make. Yes, he helped clean up so that made it nicer, but really…. The dinosaurs meeting up with the trains on our ottoman, the cars lined up neatly in a row all facing the same direction ready to play out whatever imaginary adventure he had prepared in his mind. Duplos… everywhere. The bowl of cereal there to snack on that wound up getting crushed into the rug more often than not (oh wait… that still happens). Those moments with Titus are now just a memory and gosh, I miss them. So, I stared at the couch cushions resting haphazardly on the floor, the blanket that had been sucked on leaving sopping wet corners to hang. The stuffed animals sprawled everywhere, the dinosaurs hiding beneath the blankets, waiting for me to step on one of their spikes, and the other odds and ends that seemed so random. I’m not sure they even had a purpose for being out except as collateral damage in the 3-year old’s wake.
I stood up on the aforementioned ottoman and snapped a couple pictures. Yes, I want to remember this. My 3-year-old, Ely, isn’t guaranteed a long life either. I mean, who is really, but most of us expect it. But Ely is plagued with the same fatal disease that took his big brother at the age of 6 years old. And I know I’m given a gift because I can’t afford to take my days for granted; to huff and puff about cleaning up toys and messes. I embrace it because it is my son’s presence. He’s living and breathing here in my life right now and I don’t want to miss that. I would never wish this pain on any other mama. Ever. But I do hope and pray that my story helps others see the gifts in their lives that are wrapped up as inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected stops. I don’t want to give anyone a guilt trip. I want to provide an avenue for a perspective shift. I almost sit down among the mess and let it be. But I don’t. I clean it up and every breath breathed holds a prayer for both my boys, for my husband, for me, for my friend. Such fragility, this life and yet, so vibrant that I can feel His spirit moving in me allowing me to glimpse His kingdom in the midst of such mundane things. Joy carries my soul, hope lifts it, and grace allows me to embrace. May we all be stirred in such places as our living room, among stinky, slimy blankets and sharp weapons disguised as children’s toys.
Thanks for listening…