Saturday, May 21, 2016

To the stranger at Target

I know exactly what you saw.

You saw what seemed like a mother distracted by her cell phone, ignoring the toddler tapping her leg asking her to "c'mere!" And you made a snap judgment about my mothering. And honestly, I probably would have had the same thought if I'd walked by someone else in my shoes. But I would have kept my judgmental thoughts inside my head.

You didn't.

"Oh my gosh. Just talk to your kid!"

I whipped my head around to see you, but you were gone. You could have been any of the handful of women walking away from me. I said "Seriously?" in your general direction, knowing full well that you had every right to question my ability to pay attention to my child.

Except that you didn't have every right. Because you don't know me at all. You decided to judge me based on the three seconds of my day you happened to witness. You decided you were seeing the whole story. Shockingly, you weren't.

What you didn't see is that my toddler had my full attention for the entire shopping trip until that point. You see, in his 2-year-old wisdom, he has deemed himself much too mature to ride in the cart, which puts me on full alert of his whereabouts down every aisle and around every turn. He has opinions about everything that we walk by, so our trip is a constant conversation about what we're buying and what we aren't.

What you didn't see is that I had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, all while watching my little guy test the limits, getting farther and farther away. Checking out all the fancy kids' toothpaste and telling me all the characters he sees. And finally finding a spot to sit on a bench near where I was.

What you didn't see is that the very helpful pharmacy tech asked if I would like to enroll in text message reminders for picking up my prescription each month. Since I had unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in this service last month, I decided to give it another try. He had me text a random automated number and follow the prompts. "Text the blue 7 digit Rx number on your bottle." Will came back over to me, pointing to where he wanted to go next. I told him he had to wait just a minute while I finished something. He went back to his bench. I continued the enrolling. "Please text your 4 digit year of birth." Will came back to plead with me again. "Just a second, buddy. I'm almost done." The automated texts kept coming. "Please text the 10 digit pharmacy phone # located on your Rx." Dear Lord, what a process. This better be worth it. I'm locating the phone number and making sure I enter it correctly when Will comes back, taps on my leg and begs for me to "c'mere!"

And that's when you walked by and decided I was a terrible mother for not paying attention to my child. And my heart stopped for half a beat. And I fought the tears stinging behind my eyes. I felt so misunderstood. So attacked. "Seriously?"

I finished enrolling, double checked with the pharmacy tech that I had done it correctly, and proceeded on with the rest of my shopping. By the grace of God, I had saved the pharmacy stop for last, so I just had to grab a couple more items and make it to the check-out lanes and then I could leave. I made it through the check-out process (but not without my dear boy reorganizing all of the snacks on the shelf while I unloaded my groceries and paid), made it to my car, and burst into tears. I texted my husband about you. About how you'd ruined my day. How you'd stolen my joy.

But then I drove home, and God calmly reminded me that no one, least of all a perfect stranger that knows nothing about me or my child, has the power to do that. You don't have the power to ruin my day. You don't have the power to steal my joy. In that moment of your snap judgment, I gave you far more power than you deserved.

So, don't mind me, but I'm taking it back.

For a few minutes, I believed what you thought about me. But it's not the truth. I know that I am a good mother. Heck, I'm a fantastic mother to three amazing children. I'm nurturing and helpful and compassionate. I listen and comfort and teach. My kids know that I love them. And that matters more than what you think you know.

So thanks for making me think. About the truth, about my kids, about myself and my own tendency to judge. But next time, stick around for the whole story. Maybe you could listen to my toddler's toothpaste reviews while I pay for my prescription.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

One piece

My dad loves jigsaw puzzles. I didn't know this about him until a handful of years ago on vacation. Our family spends a week in a cabin on Lake Mille Lacs every summer, and this particular year, my dad found a cabinet full of games and puzzles and decided that we needed to put one of the puzzles together. And it's become a tradition--every year we complete a puzzle. (I use "we" pretty loosely. This photo is a little more accurate--it's pretty much just my dad and brother).

While jigsaw puzzles aren't necessarily on my list of relaxing vacation activities, I do find them fascinating. I love that I can reach into a box of puzzle pieces and pull one out and (without looking at the picture on the box) that one piece tells me absolutely nothing about what the final product is going to look like. It might be blue. I could guess that it's part of the sky or water or maybe a pick-up truck or someone's shirt. But I would only be guessing. The only thing that one piece tells me is that 1/1000th of that puzzle is blue.

One of the biggest gifts God gave me when Hannah died was the overwhelming peace and understanding that we were only seeing the tiniest part of a much bigger picture, and that He was the only one who could see the whole thing. I can actually picture where I was sitting in my midwife's office when this happened. We had found out Hannah was no longer alive, and we were scheduling induction for the next morning. We were devastated. Nothing was happening the way we thought it would. But in our grief, God was saying, "I know this doesn't make sense. But trust me."

A friend was in the hospital after Hannah was born and we got to talking about this idea that we all have a list of questions to ask God when we get to heaven. Why do bad things happen? Why do babies die? We want answers. We want things to make sense in our finite, limited human brains. And my friend said, "I think we're going to get to heaven, be face-to-face with our Creator and think, 'Well. I feel like I had something to ask you. But I don't think I do anymore.'" Because in that moment, everything will make sense. We will finally be seeing the whole picture. The completed puzzle. We will see all of our pieces and where they all fit together. Our questions will be answered before they're even asked.

Four and a half years later, my "Hannah died" puzzle piece isn't all alone anymore. It is surrounded by a few more pieces and sometimes I can tell they're starting to take shape. It's as if my single blue puzzle piece from earlier is now surrounded by other blue pieces and I can tell it's going to be a sailboat. The whole sailboat isn't put together yet, and I certainly don't know where the sailboat fits into the rest of the picture, but it's getting there.

And that's what grief looks like right now. I still hate that that piece has to be there, but my puzzle wouldn't be complete without it. And I'm called to trust the One who holds the rest of the pieces and knows where they all belong.