Friday, October 12, 2012

Of bluebirds and pigeons

I know we are all familiar with the Bluebird of Happiness, that elusive creature that conjures up images of Cinderella and Snow White singing with nature. It's the idea of a magical happiness that is as beautiful as a bluebird sitting on your shoulder.

Cue the contended sigh.

Recently, though, I was introduced to the bluebird's lesser known, more somber cousin: the Pigeon of Discontent. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping magazine, "A Pigeon of Discontent isn't a major happiness challenge, but rather, an ordinary problem that has settled in to roost." Yep, that sounds about right.

Now, Gretchen and I have one seemingly semantic yet actually important difference: I don't really think that happiness should be our ultimate goal. I am aiming for contentment, something that comes from trusting and resting in the Lord; not happiness, a fleeting emotion that is self-centered and relies on my circumstances. STILL, I have found her book and blog to be interesting and to have some good points, not the least of which is that dreaded pigeon.

That pigeon has been pecking at me lately. It comes at me in the form of a whining child, a scheduling mix-up with my husband, a hungry baby who refuses to eat his favorite food. Small things. Mundane, daily things. Peck, peck, peck.

It baffles me, this pigeon. God has been doing some major work on my heart lately. He is leading me somewhere, and I am excited (and anxious and a little bit scared) to see where we are going. I have been faithfully trusting Him, making some sacrifices, changing some habits, knowing that He has a plan. I think big changes are coming, though I don't know exactly what they are. And some of the sacrifices and changes He has called me to have been difficult, but I have done them gladly.

So can someone explain to me why I can handle the big things with no problem, but I can't seem to escape this darn pigeon? How can I devote my life to God, hope to use my LIFE to serve Him... and then get completely derailed when my 7-year-old comes home with a tummyache? How can I be willing to travel around the world for Him when I cried at the local McDonald's a few days ago?

Three words: Chinese water torture. Drip, drip, drip. It's not the size of the issues, it's the sheer number, the constant pestering. Drip, drip, drip. They wear us down.

As I have been writing, a verse has been running through my mind: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) Doing good is wearying--really? Shouldn't it feel GREAT? In a perfect world, yes. In a fallen world, we have the pigeon of discontent. He is there to distract us, to wear us down, to take our focus off of the big picture so that we focus on the little discontentments. He is there to make us weary and ineffective.

I wish I could summarize this with "The 5 Ways to Shoo Away the Pigeon of Discontent", but I don't have 'em, friends. I am right in the thick of it. But this one thing I know: I keep coming back to one of my favorite verses, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19) It doesn't say He bears the BIG burdens or He picks them up when He knows we have a lot going on or even when HE doesn't have too much going on. He bears our burdens EVERY. DAY. Big and small, important and mundane. We can hand them over.

Sometimes, on days when the Pigeon has gotten the best of me, and I collapse into bed feeling defeated, I picture myself staggering up to Jesus carrying a heavy sack. I drop it at His feet with a thud. He picks it up easily, puts His hand on my shoulder, and says, "I've got this. Don't worry."

Come to think of it, there's another verse that talks about being weary...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Off Topic: Signs

During my lovely walk yesterday that inspired this post, I also encountered a sign that left me laughing.

Have you ever seen the sign, "We don't swim in your toilet, so please don't pee in our pool"?

Well, our local park system has taken that to a whole new level...

Apparently, the "Posted: No Swimming" sign just wasn't effective!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: What's it like?

"I just don't know how you do it!"

I hear this a lot, and it used to make my blood boil. (To be fair, I know I've said it myself in the past, so I know it's well-intentioned. From now on, though, I will save this exclamation for people who guess my card and pull rabbits out of hats.) I'd smile and say something witty like, "Well, I just do it one day at a time." But inside I'd be thinking, "What choice do you think I have? I just do what has to be done!"

I've realized, though, that at the heart of this I-don't-know-what-else-to-say statement is a very sincere but very awkward question: What's it like to have a child with special needs?

It would be a hard question to enunciate face-to-face, but it's a fair one. And now, during Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I think it's a good question to answer. So here goes...

From the minute you find out your child has special needs, you are on a whole new path--one that you have never experienced before...

...and you may even feel walled in, like you have no choice but to start walking.

So you lace up your tennis shoes...
...and embark on the journey.

The path seems anything but smooth...

...and you wonder if you can make it.

It seems like an insurmountable distance for one person to cover...

...and at times it's so hard to traverse that you wonder if you're the only one who has ever walked this path...

At other times, you see people zooming past you...

...and you think, Wait a second, is there some sort of fast track I'm missing? How can they do it so quickly and so well? Where's MY bicycle?

But you keep going.

And just when you think you can't take another step... find provisions...

...and rest.

And suddenly, your perspective...
...begins to change...

...and you can see the beauty beyond the rocky areas.

You begin to relax and take it in...

...and you see that the very rocks that can trip you up can also make for a beautiful river if you flow around them rather than try to trample over them.

So what's it like having a child with special needs?

Well, my friends... it's a walk in the park.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are you aware?

It's that time again... October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month! Yay! Just one more excuse for me to shamelessly show off my sweet baby boy.
Me & Roo on vacation this summer
Now, in blogging there is a rule that you shouldn't ask your readers for input if you don't typically get a lot of comments. But today I am breaking that rule. Today I have a question for you, and I would love for you to respond here in the comments, in a private e-mail, on Facebook--however you're comfortable.

Here's what I want to know: What do YOU want to know? The goal of the DS community this month is to make the general public more aware, obviously. So if you don't have a child with Down's, or if you have a new little one and you still have questions, what do you want to know about Down's? About having a child with Down's? About our little Roo? Ask me anything.

Go! :-)