Disequilibrium and Ducks and What is Saving Me

Today, I am joining up with Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog: What is saving your life right now. It just seemed like the right question.

Our next-door neighbor wears overalls with no shirt underneath, and he only puts in his false front teeth when company is coming.

He mows both of our lawns with his John Deere lawn tractor. Some days, he picks up our kids to ride along with him, one on each knee, as he rides slow, straight lines across the overgrown grass.

And sometimes, he raises ducks.

He found the most recent crop a month or two ago – just little balls of feather huddled behind some car tire in some parking lot. Their mother, gone.

He built a wooden pen in the back of his garage. When we saw them for the first time, they huddled together at the back of the pen around the heat lamp. Safe and warm and waiting.


Since Dane was a baby, we’ve gone to these parent-child classes through the school district. The kids play, and the moms sit in an adjoining room with cold cups of coffee and learn words like equilibrium and disequilibrium – the pendulum-swing of a child’s disposition.

It has to do with their growth cycles and their changing, and for months they can be precious and sweet and eager to obey, and then ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE and we are in disequilibrium.

Dane has been like a train, flying towards it for months, and now we are there. These last few weeks, he has been fearsome in his independence, pushing hard against every boundary, crumbling at every no. We are fighting about nap and potty training and food choices and sharing. He gets frustrated and smacks me in the face; he melts into tantrum – a noodle on the floor, debilitated by his rage.

I love him fiercely, and I am fiercely angry, tired to the bone. Another blogger posts a list of her favorite parenting books, and I spend the day wracked with guilt because I have not read any parenting books, and maybe if I had, there would be less shouting and screaming and exhaustion. Maybe I’d be able to navigate disequilibrium better. Maybe I could lead him through it.

But it feels like we are both there, drowning in uncharted waters. It feels like disequilibrium is happening to me too. These days, I struggle to pull myself out of bed at five in the morning to write. I feel swallowed by all this exhaustion.

When I do manage to get up, I sit for a long time in front of a blank page, and the words don’t come. I feel wholly inadequate. There’s so much tired built up in these bones that even the coffee doesn’t help much.

Last week, Andrew was gone on business, and I stopped writing altogether. I let my RSS Reader pile up with unread posts. I took a day off from this blog spent the week madly cleaning and decluttering, as if by restoring order to my kitchen, I could restore it to my soul.

I threw away old spices and expired Jell-O and filed all my varied ingredients into pretty containers from IKEA. I cleaned out the freezer and the deep freeze and made Pinterest-worthy inventories that I affixed to the side of the fridge with sticky tack. I stayed up too late; I woke up too early.

There was a whole jarful of expired mustard seed. Jesus once said that faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains, but mine was expired and dusty, stuffed at the back of my cabinet.  Unused.

I tried to dump out a few of the seeds for a photo, in case I ever decide to blog about it, and they skittered madly around the kitchen, disappearing under the oven and the fridge. Renegade mustard seed that I will be finding for years.


I can’t believe how fast they grew, the little ducks. One day, barely as big as your hand. A few days later, little wiry pre-adolescents, pecking around their pen.

Then one day, I stood on the deck in the morning and watched as the six of them waddled in a little pack across our backyard and into the pond to navigate the waters together.

Every morning for a week, a few more ducks flew in, until suddenly the pond is teeming with them. It’s like they sensed, somehow, that this is a safe place to grow and play and live and splash. Our neighbor throws feed into his yard and they come, eat, swim, fly.

And this is what is saving me: in the early morning when I am too tired to do this again, when I’m in the middle of the first cup of coffee and the cursor is still blinking over the blank page and the kids are stirring—much too early—in the monitor…this is when the ducks come in.

They fly fast and low over our deck and down into the pond. There is something powerful to me about this soundless arc of feathers and flight, and I catch my breath when I see it.

I am saved by this daily reminder of the simplicity of rescue. Of redemption. One day, six ducklings were scooped off of the hot, unyielding concrete. All it took was a little warmth, a little food and light and water.

Just look at them now. They are sleek and strong and beautiful. They are floating under the bright orange sky. It is another beautiful day.

37 thoughts on “Disequilibrium and Ducks and What is Saving Me

  1. Oh, friend. You have such a gift. Even in your exhaustion, your creativity knows no bounds. Beautiful imagery here. You’ve got me asking questions I hadn’t even considered.

  2. There’s something so comforting about watching animals just live. I drive by sheep and piglets every day on the way to and from work and they always make me smile.

    Grace and rest to you.

  3. 1. Mothers need to be honest about how hard this nonsense is.
    2. It is hard for all of us, no matter how pretty the veneer.
    3. Dude. This teenager thing might be the end of me. For real.
    4. Compassion is my lifejacket.

    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one barely keeping afloat. Love this idea of compassion as a lifejacket. Beautiful.

  4. “Renegade mustard seed” Love those words. Life sometimes seem that we are chasing renegades…. chasing them to catch them or to put the down or to set them free….. renegade children, renegade ideas, renegade requirements, renegade people and then those renegades turn around and show us their true colors and then are no longer renegades but they are our children all grown up to God fearing adults; Ideas that are a life blood to others; and things we must go through to come out as we should and people who come to Christ to find where their allegiance should rest forever.

    1. Love what you did with the “renegade” analogy. Thanks for this beautiful expansion.

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes.

    “When I do manage to get up, I sit for a long time in front of a blank page, and the words don’t come. I feel wholly inadequate. There’s so much tired built up in these bones that even the coffee doesn’t help much.” Oh, my, yes. When I started my post, I wrote a page about everything that is making me so tired. It was awful. Bone-tired. Kids are hard. Even with the parenting books. I don’t know that it’s made it any easier. The wrong books to read fill you with guilt because they are telling you the only true biblical way to do it, and I’m not…and the right books fill me with guilt because I know I’m not doing the things I know I should. It’s all just exhausting.

    And the food battles…OMG. My kids are living on so much frozen crap food b/c they fight me over all the healthy, yummy stuff I make. I love food and cooking and they are ruining it for me. I hate cooking now. I hate thinking of meals and recipes and grocery lists. I’ve resorted to buying them shakes and healthy juice drinks so I know they are getting their vitamins in with the crap. It’s so exhausting being a parent.

    1. Thanks so much Caris. And I agree about the food battles. It is relentless. And they are so freaking stubborn. It’s enough to do you in.

  6. I love this, I am saved my chicken imagery these days so I think it’s fun that we both see love in “fowl language” (sorry :-/ )

    Your imagery, the coffee, the late nights of rumbling through cupboards is so real and I can relate beyond measure. Mostly I am glad to see your heart here on this internet.

  7. Mmm. I needed a moment of ducks and orange sky and feeling like *someone else* has tired all up in her bones along with me. Thank you!

  8. I loved the renegade mustard seed, too, but this part stopped me cold: “that I will be finding for years.” I forget, in our nomadic life where we move every 2-3 years, about the roots that most people set down in one place. How what you do today could make a difference to you – in the very same place – a few years from now. What a great reminder to me today. Thanks for a beautifully honest post!

    1. Thanks, Jenn. I can’t imagine living that kind of nomadic life (I’m such a hobbit that way), but I’m sure what you do in the place you’re in now will be making a difference to others, even years after you’ve left it. Love how you said that.

  9. My favorite part of your post is that about the mustard seed. I was with you in that kitchen…I was so with you. Keep getting up early. You have a gift. 🙂

    1. Ha. Thanks, Sarah. And thanks for the perfect prompt. It was exactly what I needed.

  10. Amazing post. Anytime I can be reminded that we share these challenges of motherhood, it’s good for my heart. My weary from two two-year olds heart. Thanks Addie.

  11. It’s been a rough week. I actually went through my kitchen cabinets throwing out expired things today kinda as you said…to somehow restore order to my life as well. Thanks for writing and doing it do well through your exhaustion.

    1. It’s kind of therapeutic, right? But also exhausting. And also, it makes you extra aware of all the OTHER places in your house that you really should clean out…

  12. Love you as always, your words nothing less than true and pure even in the admitting. I too am tired but not because of kiddos. My boy is seventeen and does not even start communicating until after midnight. I am tired because I think I have been so strong. My post this week took my last ounce….time to rest knowing it is now out there. You continue to be one of the teachers teaching us young in writing years writers how to share well.

    1. You certainly don’t need any teaching from me! Your post this week was incredible, and you have experienced and learned to give grace in a way that is so beautiful and authentic and inspiring to me. I’m so thankful to have you here on the blog and to know you in this online world.

  13. I’m just getting started on this parenting thing, but I’ve already learned about those frantic moments gulping coffee, trying to get a little writing done before the squawking begins. It’s all very good and wonderful, but it is quite a change! It seems that change and loss are constant in life, but there is growth, redemption, and new life that we can continue to find.

    1. Welcome to Coffee Gulpers International. Madeline L’Engle talked in her Crosswick Journals about how being a parent and a writer is like trying to put two things first simultaneously.

      I find this to be so exhausting and discouraging at times, but both are things I feel made to do…so I keep getting up, gulping away, watching those ducks.

  14. This is gorgeous, Addie. And so completely relatable.

    Can I just tell you that when you write about being exhausted it is like balm to my soul. The weariness, oh the weariness! That may be the biggest challenge of motherhood. Not only is it the fairly constant self-denial and rewriting of plans and deep breaths begging for divine patience, but it is all done while exhausted.

    Maybe instead of parenting books and classes we should all enroll in some military torture survival class. Isn’t that what they train for? Surviving if you’re a prisoner and they mess with you all day but then don’t let you sleep at night? 🙂

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