This past month, Jackson received his monthly recipe box in the mail (thank you, Grandma) and instantly tore open the box. This specific package was filled with lemon-themed recipes in celebration of summer. I love all things summer, so I was in! Jackson was inspired by the box theme and came up with the idea to make fresh-squeezed lemonade. We just so happened to have a bag of lemons laying around. It was meant-to-be.
As we started the process of making lemonade, I, being the daughter of Mike Campbell (the king of positive sayings), excitedly proclaimed, “You know what they say about when life gives you lemons?” My boys looked at me with blank stares and confusion. I explained how lemons are very sour, but with a little sugar (or a lot in our case), the juice can become something amazing. I took it a step further and tried to teach them the simple life lesson that it is the mix of the sour and the sweet experiences that makes life enjoyable.
I tend to be an optimistic person, likely from my years raised by parents who were always trying to get us to see the “glass half full.” This outlook has shaped me and helped me in so many situations, specifically in having a child with special needs. I try to position myself to see the good and what is hopeful.
OK, I want to be honest. This idea that we only see the positive and the good, well, it’s just not true. The same week that I taught my kids about making sweet lemonade out of sour lemons, I was struggling. Struggling with the brokenness that this world holds. The sourness of life was all I could taste.
I was struggling with the fact that my child could not run and jump and enjoy a carefree summer. That our family is always thinking about how to do activities that others do without a second thought. I was struggling with the “whys” and I had bitterness in my mind and heart. It felt hard. Sometimes, it is hard.
I was struggling with how this world has heavy things, hard things, broken things, and even death. I was wrestling with thoughts of dear friends who have lost pregnancies, babies, and children. Thoughts of friends who are currently fighting cancer and so many little friends who are battling bodies that aren’t whole. In life, there are lemons. Lemons you don’t even want to touch your lips, too sour to bear. Lemons you just want to squint your eyes and shake your head at.
There are lemons days, lemons season, and lemon years. They feel unsweet, bitter, unpleasant, hard to swallow. Here’s the deal. It is ok to feel and even to acknowledge that things aren’t right. In a recent sermon, I was reminded that the Psalms, a book of the Bible, is filled with lamenting. Raw and honest cries to God. “The real problems of real people,” our friend Aarik preached. He went on to remind me that we don’t have to hide our lows from God (like we ever could..). We don’t have to bring the lemonade to God. We can just bring the lemons.
Sometimes we have to dig deep to find joy. What’s the first step in making lemonade? You take a lemon then roll, cut, and then harshly squeeze the heck out of it. Similarly, we have to deal and feel with the hard, the pain, and the brokenness. God wants us to come to Him. He wants us to bring those moments, days, seasons, thoughts, hurts, pains, questions to Him. To be real and raw and truly ourselves in His presence. We don’t have to sugarcoat our true deep pains and doubts. We can bring them and He can handle it. Slowly, very slowly, He shows us how to squeeze the pain and mix it with the sweet hope that only He can bring. Again, Aarik put it perfectly, “Our celebration is muted when we don’t feel the pain.” We have to give ourselves permission to go there and feel it. Feel the pain, so we really feel the joy and victory too.
Some days and seasons, I really feel the hardness of watching my child battle an incurable condition. Somedays, tears flow from the exhaustion or the anxious thoughts of the “unknowns”. Somedays, I feel sad for my son, who from day one has suffered like I have never experienced. But somedays, I get to celebrate even bigger victories. Victories that other parents don’t celebrate. I get to feel the greatness of small steps that others take for granted. Somedays, I get a front row seat to miracles. Somedays, I get to taste the sweetness, and the sweetness is worth all the sour and all the squeezing and work to get there.
So next time life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade. No - take those lemons and bite into them. Take in the sourness, the bitterness and the hard. Then give those lemons over to be made into something new. When the work is complete, you can sit back and really savor the sweetness of the lemonade that is produced. In other words, as the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)