I reeled from my pitiful attempt at gravy curdling on the stove, and wagged a burned finger. Homemaking, I thought again as I backpedaled from the mess, comes as naturally to me as kung fu to a fish.
“Here Mum!” I turned to see Pip standing in the kitchen, his pants dusted with a kaleidoscope of chalk smudges. His face was ruddy, smeared in spots with dirt from his excavation for precious stones in the front yard. He wore his winter hat, not for warmth, but for safety — its knit weave controlled every stray hair from his neck, its ear flaps shielded him from threatening sounds. His spandex compression shirt, adorned with iron-on decals of He-Man, served the same purpose, embracing him whenever he moved, hugging his limbs when the world seemed too much.
“I got this for you because I love you,” he said. Between three fingers, he held a dandelion, its stem already limp from its traumatic wrenching from the earth. “You said you wanted to start putting flowers on the kitchen table,” he added. “This can be the first.” He beamed.
In the fringes of our yard, daffodils await their triumphant chorus. The golden bells have just opened on our forsythia, and clusters of hyacinth flowers await flourish in purple blooms. By aesthetic standards, any of these blossoms would have outshone the fistful of yellow spikes my little boy offered. In the coming months, dozens of its cousins, cast away as weeds, will meet an untimely end beneath the blades of a lawnmower. Their brazen head will be lopped off, their awkward petals demolished and scattered. They will be declared a nuisance, expendable.
Yet when gripped within Pip’s fingers, how perfect, how precious became this paltry bloom. He had put aside the torrent of irritability and overwhelm that trouble him hourly, and found grace in a spiral of petals. Through a humble weed, love had broken through.
God works this way. He does great things with the meager, and beautiful things with the misshapen. He chooses the smallest, the humblest, the most broken as his servants. (1 Sam 16:10-12, Numbers 12:3, 1 Tim 1:15) He works for good through the greatest calamity. (Gen 50:20) With his most beloved broken and crushed, he reaches through the firmament, and in love makes things new. (Rev 21:5) Where we see weakness, he offers grace. (2 Cor 12:9)
He shatters pride, so new blossoms can burst forth.
I’ve spent the past few months wrestling with God. After Pip’s evaluation, as we clumsily felt out life with special needs, the questions of why wrapped around my heart, infusing me with daily bitterness. Resentment broiled to the surface. I’d left medicine to follow God’s call, but a large part of me, in shocking arrogance, wanted to comply on my terms. Over the past two years, God has compelled me to confront my idols.
I thrived on productivity. But now I inevitably find grime in corners I have just cleaned.
I prized efficiency. But it now takes 30 minutes of wrangling over potty, shoes, and refusals to wear coats to leave the house.
I’m an introvert, who needs alone time to rejuvenate. But is anyone less alone than a mom with young kids?
A “save the world” mentality drives me. But my daily life fodder is now the mundane.
I relish instant gratification. But this business of shepherding hearts is long, with few immediate rewards.
I relished accolades. But few come from the mouths of babes.
And then there is a dandelion, its wilted spires an emblem of love. There’s sunlight drenching the kitchen table as we read Little House over pumpkin bread. There’s the tenderness of a little boy’s smile, at long last breaking through his anxiety over daily sound and touch. There are masterpieces in dry erase marker, impromptu math games, a pause in the forest to listen for a wood thrush.
I consider God’s graciousness to us, and in the stillness of a springtime morning, I struggle for breath. His mercy toward us in this season — in the face of my arrogance, despite the brokenness to which I’ve so stalwartly clung — is stunning. During all the years of my training and career, homeschooling was never the plan. God inexplicably placed the idea in my heart, like a shadow that deepened daily. But now, I see how perfect were his methods. I shudder to think of how our family would struggle if I was still barreling ahead at the hospital, subsumed with my own self importance, while Pip fought daily to deal with every crowd, shout, and unpleasant texture. Homeschooling was never the plan. . . but oh, what a plan! This business of gentle learning allows him to explore as widely as he can, to drink as deeply of the world’s wonders as he can, without the barrage of stimuli that would paralyze him. It’s a practice in grace, watching God nourish him into the person he intended. That God called us this way, was mercy manifest. That he has equipped us to continue, is the greatest gift.
Even on the hard days, I count it all joy. On the days when Pip, after a week of handling things so well, has a meltdown in the grocery store, complete with screaming and a blow to my chin — there is joy there. God can work even with our ugliness. Through Christ, God redeems even the most corrupt. He assembles the stray petals, the unseemly stems, and makes things new. He strips away the idolatry of a surgeon desperate to prove her own worth, and points her toward the fount of all worth — Christ Jesus.
There is a deep well of peace in serving God where he has placed you. There is a refining grace, in realizing his work even in the hard moments.
There is a profound beauty in redemption — in the love that breaks forth through brokenness — if we can only put away our preoccupations, and embrace his will.
Outside, dandelions have pushed their mangy heads through the soil, tangling amid the new shoots of our irises.
I count it all joy.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Cor 12:9