I’ve never been so grateful to see a lollipop.
We had a beautiful time in Colorado. The weather was perfect and everything was enticingly green. The Fly, keen on adventure and outdoors, was experiencing a taste of heaven as he and his buddy took to the bikes...dirt and motor. Muddied and lovely, they would come back sore and happy.
Boys and their toys. It makes me happy that he still loves toys.
While the wild at heart were out being wild we, my dear friend and the babies...both sets...went on our own adventures. We played in new parks and fed giraffes and braved 40 minute car rides. We joked at how we are going to reminisce and miss this all too much all too soon. We were joking but we were also telling the truth.
The Little Man didn’t sleep well until our last night. The kids played hard and slept light. All four were exhausted by the end but full from unending play. We stopped picking up the toys at one point as we realized it was a battle we would not win.
We ate a lot of ice cream and junk food. That’s what you do on vacation. The kids did not complain.
I spent a whole day with one of my very best friends. I have three very best friends. I am very blessed. They are more like sisters though...loving me and living through it all with me at the same time never tiring of my constant chatter. I’m the loudest...I think...there is one who may compete with me:).
The best friend and I did best friend things. And, we talked the whole time. We poured out and processed together as we spilled our insides as if we hadn’t spoken in ages. But face to face was so fulfilling, different than a message on a small screen or even a voice in the ear. We hugged and said goodbye at the end of our time. I teared up remembering when we used to spend the night at each other’s houses every weekend.
We boarded the plane in the afternoon after a long haul to the other end of the terminal in search of the lone Starbucks. The things I do for coffee.
The flight was hard. The Bug was perfect. The Little Man was not. He is almost two. Almost two doesn’t sit for very long...especially on a lap. I came prepared but he did not. He was not prepared to sit and be entertained by much.
He fell asleep as we taxied into our gate. Yes, after we landed. The flight attendant smiled at me knowing the disbelief the Fly and I were facing as the Little Man’s eyes lay shut and his face look so innocent and sweet. If only that flight attendant had known the sleep struggle we have been through the last two years.
After a very long ride home we all slept, in our own beds. Being gone was wonderful. Being home was wonderful too. I love my bed.
The next day was filled with the usual readjustments. Laundry. Timeouts. Laundry. Grocery Store. More timeouts. More laundry. Cartoons. Naps. Quiet. Laundry.
That morning I looked at my face. Colorado was beautiful but it had done a number on my skin. The air is crisp and fresh but my skin was not as big of a fan. As I was surveying the damage I noticed to two unruly caterpillars on my face, my eyebrows. Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually love my eyebrows. I am thankful for their fullness but if left too long to their own devices I can give Brooke Shields a run for her money.
I picked up the phone to make an appointment to reshape and refresh those babies. I’ve been going to the same girl for almost 10 years now. I love her. Thankfully the salon is part of a gym and tennis club. They have childcare that is amazing. An appointment in the early evening made it certain that nap time would be over and the kids would do fine in the childcare center for the15 minutes it would take.
We got there in the nick of time. I checked the kids in quickly and rushed to the salon. Stephanie and I chatted from the moment we walked back to her room to the moment she walked me back to the front. Thankful for fresh eyebrows and a little relief from the “timeout twins” I walked back to pick them up.
I don’t usually go in the evening so I was not very familiar with the staff. I went in to pick up the Little Man whom I had left in tears...which is normal...he usually calms down within a couple minutes. I asked if it had taken long for him to calm down to which I was replied to with remarks that I filtered as condescending and insensitive. The words themselves were not harmful but the abrupt and harsh manner in which they were conveyed hit me hard and out of nowhere. I felt like I had lost my footing and a bit dizzy. I scooped up my baby and grabbed the Bug and fought back the tears as we exited.
So quick to leave, with the Bug trailing behind, I didn’t watch as she tried to push her way through the exit turnstile. She usually goes under but lately all she wants is to be big and do big things like big people. I should have known she would try to do it like me. It whipped around and bonked her. The back of her head, bumped, and her pride in doing it herself, bruised.
It was the straw the broke this camel’s back.
I ushered her out as quickly as I could with mere seconds to go before the deep breath in would catapult a wail like you had never heard. We made it right out the doors as she let it go. I held her and rubbed her head. It didn’t hit her hard but it didn’t matter. It hurt.
Both of us and the Little Man huddled outside together, each of our faces tear-stained from the hurt sustained.
Then she brought out the lollipops. A young, beautiful twenty-something, fresh-faced and kind, with her jar of treats. She knelt down to our level. She got down next to us and offered my sweet babies a little something to distract from the pain...a little something that makes any kid forget the hurt and remember the good...the sweet.
She looked at me and her face grew concerned. After telling her over and over that I was ok and her telling me over and over that we could talk, did I need anything, could she help in anyway, we stood and I introduced myself to this young, angelic, kind-hearted woman.
Laken. Her name was Laken. I wouldn’t forget it because it was beautiful just like her heart.
We said goodbye. I walked the babies to the car, buckled us all in tight, and cried all the way home. I fought the anger. I fought the embarrassment. I fought the I shoulda, coulda, woulda said ________, to that lady. I fought my mind and my flesh as I wanted to pass the judgement right back I felt her pass over me. I fought myself to forgive.
It took a good twenty-four hours. I realized once again that it is the hardest to forgive those that aren’t asking for your forgiveness. It’s hardest to forgive those who don’t realize what they are doing or what they have done was wrong, hurtful and left a wound.
Even now as I type the words I realize the power in saying, even if it is just to myself, “I forgive you.” Breathing, whispering them out loud so that the universe is witness to the miracle makes it real. That’s what it is. Forgiveness, when real, is a miracle. For a heart and a mind to fight the innate desire to seek revenge or justice and to let go, to release, to extend mercy is a miracle.
But there is more. The true miracle is not what it extends to the person at fault. The true miracle is what happens to the forgiver. The release of the offense frees the forgiver to be healed, for the broken heart to be bound up, repaired and restored.
That’s what Jesus does. He came to offer forgiveness so that we could offer forgiveness so that He could do the work of binding up broken hearts. Jesus enters the scene of injustice and hurt and he doesn’t just tell us to live with it, he offers us something better...something sweeter than anything this world has to offer...sweeter than lollipops.
Laken was a picture of Jesus for me. She probably doesn’t realize the impact of her kindness. Kind people don’t usually think about that...they are just kind. But her step toward me and then her stoop to my level, to my kid’s level, I will never forget. Her heart changed the way that story would have gone. My heart went from hurt to thankful, from seeking vengeance to seeking Jesus and asking Him to show me the lesson in all of this.
And, that lesson, friend, is grace. The lesson, once again, has come back to grace. Grace: getting something you don’t deserve.
We could all let ourselves experience more of it. It is freely given, you know, by the one who did the ultimate forgiving. There is nothing we can do to earn it...just receive it. And, if we do, we may give it more often. And, I have learned, once again, when the cycle of grace takes over the cycle of bitterness, a heart is free to be healed.