• Shea Kropiwnicki

When you're the black sheep


There was no denying that we were the black sheep.

I recalled a poster from many of my elementary school classrooms displaying a single yellow tulip in a field of red tulips.

"Dare to be different" it read.

Challenge accepted.

We took the dare.

We were the yellow tulips, the black sheep, of the airport because we...were flying with kids.

Young kids.

As we walked down the concourse with our Oregon Trail caravan, the other passengers were not-so-secretly crossing their fingers, knocking on wood, and whispering a prayer that we were on the flight to Canada when their final destination was Cancun. We don’t have dysentery, I wanted to reply, but that would have drawn more attention.

My Mom and I, along with my four littles, had spent some time with her family in Texas and were heading home. After spending three hours at the airport the previous day and still being in the lone star state due to a cancelled flight, we were back again for round two (round three really, if you consider that we had to fly there). This round, just like the first, included passing through security with four kids under the age of five, a double stroller, and six book bags.


Stress levels were in the green as we had prepared with kid-approved snacks (candy), pre-downloaded Netflix shows, and a game plan for the team. No big deal to the experienced Mom and Nana.

After passing through security and realizing there was still an extra 30 minutes lingering before boarding began, I opted that we go to the carnival conveniently located between gates 18 and 30 that regular people refer to as the escalator.

My Mom took off with the baby. I took the remaining three down the escalator only to discover that the carnival had been extended and also included four moving sidewalks.

What a dream.

We learned and laughed and provided entertainment to the businessmen hurrying to their connecting flight. You know, the men power-walking down a moving sidewalk with their fancy swiveling carry-ons. I enjoyed every time the kids caused the stone-cold killers to side-smile. Never a full smile because they didn’t want to admit they had been won over by a preschooler, but still more than a smirk.

After the rides were over, we moved on to the aquarium that boasted of free admission. We watched Dory and Nemo swim around the five foot tank along with every other person walking in concourse E.

Fun times.

Our summer bucket list earned two check marks thanks to the Dallas airport.

Using our GPS, we then located our campsite at gate 31. The team captains huddled up and regrouped. After a few minutes of trying to get our fellow players organized, I realized that the three-ring circus had begun its opening act, and I had to stop The Ringling Brother and Sisters before they got to the part that included fire.

Divide and conquer.

I jetted to the bathroom with the baby and the third child. Many minutes later, I almost wanted to take back our dysentery promise. What happened in that 8x8 family bathroom is best left untold.

Rejoining with our other half, my Mom had the two oldest sitting in the double stroller. I could clearly see that my normally calm, cool, and collected Mom was none of those things as she informed me that an annoyed lady stated, “Kids that old should not be in a stroller.”

"She is enabling them," the lady continued in a passive aggressive tone.

Blood boiling but Holy Spirit moving, my Mom calmly replied that the younger two were in the bathroom with their mother.

The lady huffed.

That was all.

A few short words with my Mom that caught her off guard.

My sinful heart's initial reaction was a concoction of anger, mixed with annoyance, with a generous heap of "ha-ha-you-were-wrong" sprinkled on the top. Eat that, lady. All of this happens in approximately .375 seconds, and then the Holy Spirit does that magical yelling-whisper thing that catches my attention but speaks so softly...

She doesn’t know your story, He says.

She didn’t know she was only seeing the oldest two out of the four kids in our family.

She didn’t know she was talking to the Nana and not the Mom.

She didn’t know that my five year old is the size of the average seven year old and that we're already planning our retirement home courtesy of his professional basketball career.

She also didn’t know sitting kids were necessary at all times because our stroller would fall over from the book bags hanging from the handles.

She looked at one picture and thought she had read the full story of our family.

I don't and won't pretend to know her. Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she had lots of bad days that have turned into bad years. I'm not certain. I don't know her story. And I won't fabricate a story about her pretending that I do.

Here's what I do know (It's very little, but it's helped me).

The mouth is the front door of the house of our hearts.

Whatever ugliness you or I have shoved in our back closets will eventually come walking or running through that door. And there could be neighbors involved. People near and dear to us. Even the passer-bys, those on the sidewalks and roads, get a taste of the dark corners of our hearts.

And that's what happened on this day. I've been there. I've been the Judgmental Judy, Negative Nancy, and Chatty Cathy all rolled into one person in one moment.

And as I sat uncomfortably on the plane with a baby in my lap, wedged between two kind gentlemen in 18A and 18C, I recounted times where my mouth accidentally opened the door to my heart. I discovered I could keep attempting to lock the door, or I could clean out the clutter.

Here are some helpful questions I ask myself when I want to love people beyond the picture I see...

1. Is this my opinion, or is this a Biblical truth the Holy Spirit is prompting me to share in a kind and loving way?

2. If this is my opinion, has this person asked me to share my thoughts?

3. Do I know this person? Am I judging the book by its cover and its pictures without knowing any of the story?

4. Am I saying this to downgrade others in order to upgrade myself? In other words, does it make me feel better about myself when I think less of others?

5. If I have refrained from sharing, is my heart still clouded with judgment over insignificant things?

6. Do I wait until this person has left and share what they said/did with a close friend (gossip)?

By the time our plane landed back in the east, an announcement had been made that a random person was selected to receive 5,000 free sky miles.

My three year old had been awarded more opportunities to fly.

Oh the irony.

While I think we will refrain from flying for a while (who doesn't love a good 'ole road trip with four kids?), I am thankful the Holy Spirit speaks to this Momma's heart in the smallest ways. I am thankful that He has the power to take this black sheep and make me white as snow by the blood of the Lamb.

Truth Teller: We are Sinful Sallys with judgmental eyes and hearts. Because of that, we occupy old, dilapidated houses on this earth, but one day we can have a room in the house of God!

Grace Giver: God loves us despite all of things we try to sweep under the rug, shove in the closets, or hide under the bed. He knows every inch, every corner, every imperfection of our hearts, and He still loves us.

#love #kindness #selfcontrol

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