The parable of the protesting preschooler (or, when God drags us kicking and screaming)

He was sleeping happily on the couch when we hoisting him upright and informed him, “It’s time to go. Get up!”

If you’ve never roused a four-year-old from a late-afternoon nap, you have no idea of the battle which ensues.

He did not want to go, and he demonstrated that by shouting and flailing. Hiding under his blanket didn’t help (he was amazed that we could find him so easily), and when he started kicking, I decided he didn’t need to wear shoes anyway.

“I don’t want to go!” he wailed, but his 16-year-old brother took that as a challenge and flung him over his shoulder like a sack of flour.

Pummeling his big brother’s back, my littlest boy bellowed all the way to the van where he was dropped, shoved into his seat, and belted in before he could escape.

The shouting and protesting continued as we drove for twenty minutes to our destination, all of us trying to ignore his yelling as well as someone can ignore a horde of stinging wasps.

His shouts continued as we piled out of the van, and we received many looks of curiosity and amusement—and probably some disapproval—as we hauled out our protesting son and got in line behind the two hundred or so already ahead of us.

“I . . . do . . . not . . . want . . . to . . . do . . . this!” He was nearly dry-heaving now, and I ignored everyone’s stares around us as I held my objecting preschooler.

Not soon enough, the gates opened, the crowd before us piled in, and we followed, with angry boy still held tightly in my arms.

He quieted as he saw the scene before him, remembering that we did this last year, remembering that it wasn’t as awful as he thought.

He saw the piles of free pizzas—his favorite.

He saw the swimming pools—reserved for all of us who participated in the summer reading program set up by our local library.

He saw the water slides—and I could feel his rigid body go soft.

He wanted this.

But he wasn’t about to show that. Not yet. After all of his protestations, his pride couldn’t let him surrender so quickly.

So we sat down at a picnic table as the other kids and parents rushed into the water. He watched with both longing and resentment in his eyes.

My husband leaned over to me and whispered, “Go wade in the kiddie pool. I bet he’ll follow.”

So I announced my intentions to our son, then strode over to the pool. My feet had barely touched the water when he was by my side, dancing in excitement.

“So you want to go in?” I queried.

“YES!” he cried. Forgotten was his early protests, maybe forgotten was his twenty-minute temper tantrum, certainly forgotten was his pride as he began to strip, right there, to get out of his pants and underwear.

Discreetly I brought him back to our table where we covered him with a towel and put on his swimsuit. Then he ran—even though we shouted to only walk—back to the kiddie pool.

No amount of water could have wiped the smile off his face as he played and splashed and pretended to swim. We went down the big water slides together, and with joy he climbed out of the landing pool and raced back to the pool—the deep one, though—and jumped right in.

Dad followed, because our four-year-old can’t swim, and even though he bobbed under the water a couple of times until Dad could rescue him, he was still smiling as he coughed and spluttered to clear his lungs.

Pizza was eaten, the boy was nearly drowned a few more times, and a good time was had by all.

At the end of the evening when the sun went down and the winds came up, he was eager to be wrapped up in a towel and brought back home to a warm bath.

“So,” I started casually as I washed the chlorine off of him that night, “are you glad you went to the pool with us?”

He grinned.

“Even though you were screaming and crying that you didn’t want to?”

He laughed. Oh, that was so three hours ago!

I was about to be smug that I was right all along—he would enjoy it—until I felt God tapping me on the shoulder, as He occasionally does, to point out something He knows I’ll bite my tongue about later.

How many times has God placed before me a situation that I didn’t want because it would yank me out of my warm, soft spot?

How often has He dragged me away, kicking and screaming, to a new adventure?

How often has He patiently ignored my protests, even when I was utterly ridiculous in my complaints?

How often did He sit next to me, long-suffering, as I surveyed the scene before me, knowing that I’d want it, but that my pride wouldn’t yet let me admit it?

How often has He gently led me to the water, waiting for me to finally give up and jump in with both feet?

How often has He chuckled as I bounded and cheered and flopped and laughed with joy at my new situation that I was so sure I did not want?

And, perhaps most importantly, how long until I quit instantly whining to God whenever He thrusts me into a new situation that I will eventually love?

I’m afraid my pride won’t allow me to answer that just yet.

“There’s another plan for you, my boy. You’ve changed your path before, now do it again.” 

~Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea

Four reasons why change is the best, crappiest thing that can happen to you.

I hate and love change.

Sometimes change is most welcome: when you finally get a new job; when you finally move into that better place, and when that baby finally decides to be born. There are times when change is desired, sought after, even prayed and begged for.
The change that cancer is in remission.
The change that you are no longer in debt.
The change that you get to throw away your “fat” clothes.

But change is also a nasty beast. When life is floating merrily along, change is the white water rapids which you didn’t expect to throw everyone out of the boat.
Chronic illness.
Loss of job and/or house.
Death.

It’s when God whispers, “Plot Twist” in your ear, and you know nothing will ever, ever be quite the same again. And often, it’s a huge battle in our minds to decide if this latest plot twist is a good one or not.

But change has to happen, for these terrible, marvelous reasons:

1. It’d be horrible for things to stay the same. Don’t believe me? Think about this: What if your baby really did stay little forever? Never learning to speak, or walk, or play? After a while, you’d grow annoyed, even dissatisfied with this creature who does nothing but leaches off of you, year after year, whining and crying and demanding you carry it around. While it’s sad to see our little one outgrow those newborn clothes, it’s also thrilling to hear their first laughs, see them figure out how to toddle, and watch their personalities grow.

We don’t really want things to stay the same. We’re excited when that baby is old enough to catch a ball, when we can take him camping, or to the movies. While one stage quietly fades away, a new, even better stage takes its place. Progress is exciting.

2. We’re not mean to be stable. It’s the one thing in life most of us crave—stability. Maybe we crave it because it’s so elusive. I cringe whenever I read articles about money management and budgeting, because our income is rarely the same each month. And our family life is always changing; kids never have the same schedules year to year, and someone is always doing something new, somewhere else, with someone else. They go to different schools, go to college or the army, and find significant others, once again changing the dynamics of our family.

And thank goodness. Because, honestly, I find I get bored with predictability. While we crave stability, I think a lot of us also crave adventure. That’s why we go on vacations, take up new hobbies, write books, take classes, take on new challenges. We need to be shaken up every now and then. Snow globes aren’t interesting until after they’ve been tumbled around.

life as a snow globe

3. What would we miss if we didn’t change? Years ago we built our dream house, with a huge yard, and plans that we’d stay there forever. It’d be where our grandkids came to visit us.

Four short years later, we lost that home and had to move two thousand miles away. I was bitter that we lost our dream.

After two more moves, we settled in rural Virginia, and our kids had adventures we never could have had otherwise. We traveled and learned and had a great time.

Not long ago we had the opportunity to drive by our old “dream house.” I was startled to hear myself say out loud, “I’m so glad we didn’t stay here.”

Because staying would have been terrible . . . for me. I realized then, as I looked at our old house, who I would have been had we never left. I would have been narrow-minded, fearful, and quite prideful, I’m ashamed to admit, had I stayed in my small town, with my small ideas, and with my small ambitions. I needed to change, in order to help my nine children who have so many different challenges. Our change changed everything, and I liked who I had become because I was forced to change.

4. The only way to grow is through change. And I’m not just talking about our children. I’m talking about us—adults. We’re not done improving simply because we hit a certain age, although some may think we are.

I once met a woman who lived in the same house she was born in. She never traveled out of her little town, except occasionally down to the “big city” ninety miles away, which she found a terrifying place. She married and raised her family and lived to be quite aged, all staying in the same neighborhood, and only occasionally crossing the state line to visit a grandson in another rural community.

At first, I envied her. She had a place that was home. At the time, we were moving around a lot, and all I wanted was a place to consider a permanent home.

But I was struck by a strange sense of stagnancy. Of dullness. Of fear. Of entrapment as I chatted with her. She’d never seen the ocean. The “distant” states of Colorado and California were evil and horrible places. When she heard of all the states we’d lived in, she literally pulled back, almost as if she feared I was contagious. She promptly turned to the person next to her—a long-time neighbor—and started up a new, safer, more predictable conversation.

I didn’t feel as nearly as contaminated as my acquaintance thought I was. Moving to new states, starting new jobs, beginning new projects are—initially—terrifying, but eventually invigorating. I think about how much I’ve changed over the years, and I like what I’ve picked up along the way.

This poor, dear woman, however, never felt she could leave. Her great-grandparents settled the area as pioneers, and she felt duty-bound to stay where they had landed.

I always wondered if it ever occurred to her that her ancestors once started somewhere else, and made a lot of changes in their lives to get where they finally ended? That perhaps they appreciated the changes they experienced, and maybe were sad that she never encountered any?

The purpose of life is growth through change, and that thought is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling.

Last month I was harvesting berries in our yard which, after eight years of work, is nearly exactly the way we want it. Our neighborhood is wonderful, the valley picturesque. We’re conveniently situated to all our children and the colleges they want to attend, and we love where we live . . .
Then God whispered into my ear those two words which terrify and thrill me: PLOT TWIST.

“No!” I nearly cried out. We’ve finally got some stability! Predictability! . . . Wait.

Have I become complacent? Narrow-minded? Or, even worse, stagnant?

Within a handful of short days, my husband was recruited, interviewed, and invited to take his dream job . . . thousands of miles away.

Change, coming again. I handled it in the most mature manner possible: I wept every day for three weeks.

Then God started trickling into my mind the reminders I listed above, knowing that while I’d “kick against the pricks” for a while, eventually I’d become intrigued. He patiently ignored my protestations, just like I do when I pat my children on the head as they whine about something they don’t want to do, but later will realize they really wanted all the time.

God’s smirking at me right now—yes, He does smirk. Because He also knows just how much I love a good plot twist.

But usually not while I’m in the very long middle of it, where I can’t see the outcome. While we’re trying to figure out if this change is temporary or permanent, who will join Dad and when, do we rent our old house, keep it, or sell it, then what will we move into, once we finally join Dad in several months . . .

Change.
I hate it.
I love it.
Right now, however, I just hate it. Mostly. (I have to confess, the coast of Maine is intriguing . . .)

Stay tuned. Plots change every day.

Crud and hallelujah.

Eventually Mahrree whispered, “I never wanted to leave this house . . . Every good memory is in this house.”

The woman answered just as softly. “And you take every good memory with you. Your life isn’t the house. Your life is your family. Things don’t matter. People do.”
Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn

(And thanks to eBookDaily, who today just featured me! Ebookdaily125)