This post was inspired by Glennon Melton over at Momastery for her reply to a comment on her blog post titled “There Will Be No Eclipse“.  She writes, “This is part of our work, our vocation, our art, and our mission down here. To turn shit holy and then to hold it out to hurting people and say LOOK! MAGIC! HOLY SHIT!!!!”

Note: You will not often see profanity on this blog. I am not a potty mouth. It takes a certain combination of mood and circumstance for me to go there. I hope I don’t traumatize any of you who might think of me as a sweet, mild-mannered girl. I actually have some of the ingredients of a spicy enchilada in me.So here we go.

The other day I went to a parent-teacher meeting for all of the parents of the kids in José’s class. It was an excellent meeting. His teacher was informative, inspiring, and engaging with an obvious love for her students. (There’s an answer to the prayer of my last post.) Maestra Lydia started the meeting by talking individually to each parent about their child’s improvements. Sounds great, right? José’s two accomplishments were identifying his belongings and eating at school.

Sometimes it takes me a while to realize that I’ve reacted to something, especially when events are tightly sequenced and I don’t have time or privacy to process them, like at meetings like this one. Now that I’ve had some time to absorb and process, I realize that the two achievements that la maestra cited were not representative of what José is capable of. He’s understood what belongs to him for a really long time and although he was eating fairly well in the past, he’s recently regressed in that area. The thought that flitted through my mind too quickly to register at that moment was, “That’s all you think he can do?” Of course, that’s not a fair question. I’m pretty sure that la maestra knows that José is capable of more than that, but it’s what first came to mind.

We proceeded to sit in a circle with our children to hear la maestra talk about some of the classroom routine. She also had the kids demonstrate how they participate in this routine like signing the days of the week and chanting a fun rhyme. José was paying attention but not participating so I encouraged him to move his hands like his teacher during the signing demonstration. He sort of made a circular motion with his fist for one of the days of the week. During the chant, José was sitting quietly but a little spacey. My reaction to all of this was disappointment. Not in José himself but in knowing that he’s capable of doing more and wondering if la maestra is challenging him and insisting and encouraging him to do more. And I was also absorbing the fact that many of the students were completely engaged and/or participating. I wasn’t enjoying myself.

The next part of the meeting was helping our kids make christmas cards to exchange with classmates. José dislikes crafts. He used to hate them so it’s definitely an improvement that hate has changed to dislike. But this activity did nothing to encourage my mood. I have no qualms about insisting that José participate in activities, but he doesn’t respond well to me when I’m in teacher mode and even less when I’m in frustrated teacher mode. So we both suffered through the card making activity.

Next came sitting in a circle for the actual card exchange. At this point José was getting antsy and started disbehaving. I was already frustrated and therefore lacking patience. José was one of the first to exchange and was supposed to give a hug to the exchangees, but he was unsettled and la maestra quickly moved on to the next exchange. I saw this as a missed opportunity to encourage him to interact, even if with something other than a hug. After all, he’s not averse to physical contact and does a really good low five-fist bump.

Finally, when it was time to leave, I noticed a paper taped to the wall next to the teacher’s desk titled something like, “Expected Skills.” I don’t remember much of what was written – I think I was already emotionally overloaded – but I remember thinking, “Most of those are skills José doesn’t have. I’m a terrible mother for letting him get so far behind.” (Just so you know, I quickly gave myself a mental slap on the face because guilt like that has no place in a mother’s mind and I know I do the best that I can. But the part about José’s skills is true.) I flashed back to a recent conversation with la maestra about José’s chances of graduating to elementary school or whether he would have to repeat third year kindergarten a second time. She assured me that because of José’s age, he would most likely automatically graduate. Again, it took me some time to process the fact that José hasn’t necessarily demonstrated his readiness for first grade. He’ll most likely graduate whether he’s ready or not.

Sorry for being a downer but there are days like this one when a couple months’ worth of unpleasantness and bad moodness is concentrated into one day and my overwhelming sense is, “Man, this is a shitty situation.” However, I happen to believe in a God who can take shitty situations and make them holy. He’s done it time and time again in my life so I think I have reason to trust that this time will be no different. Now I’d like to list some of the shit that God has made holy in my life.

1. Post-partum depression and then just plain depression.

I recently connected on a deep level with one of Rogelio’s cousins who is going through anxiety and panic attacks after the death of her husband, who left behind two young children. She has been encouraged by being able to talk freely to someone who identifies with what she’s going through and who has ideas about how to cope other than “suck it up” or “you have to be strong for your kids.” Look, Holy Shit.

2. José was born with a chromosomal abnormality.

I have become friends with some amazing women who I otherwise would not have met. I’ve been trained by skilled therapists in strategies that help my son reach his highest potential and that have made me a better mom. I have looked over the brink and come away seeing that it is an honor and privilege to know José. I have embraced a calling to advance inclusive education for people with disabilities. Look, Holy Shit.

3. Rogelio was denied a visa to the US with a ten year penalty when we applied the first time. We never got the chance to apply for residency in Canada.

My marriage went through some fire in the process of living in and traveling between three different countries. Now that we’ve survived the fire, we have never been more committed to each other than we are now. Look, Holy Shit.

4. We had to leave Canada just as everything seemed to be falling into place in our lives there: great job, great friends, incredible interventions for José and supports for me. We had to leave it all behind.

I no longer confuse blessings with the One who blesses. I am learning to let go of my sense of entitlement to things that are not guaranteed in life, even if I work my butt off to achieve them. I am being freed from the need to hold on to whatever good comes my way. (Except for my iPad. I have trouble with the thought that it will die one day. Unless iPads go to heaven and then I’ll get to see it there.)

There are things that sometimes make me sad these days. The disappointment is real. And yet strangely life still feels satisfying. God has never let disappointment be the end of the story in my life and I trust that he will make something holy out of this, too. Use the comments to share how sh***y situations have turned into blessings in your life.