I fell to sleep at 2:00 a.m. last night after being pretty shaken up by the recent death of a dear mentor from my past, Don Rhymer, who encouraged me as a Young Life staff person in my newlywed days. Married for 29 years and father to 3 really neat kids, he was truly an example of a man who lived a good life of strong faith and great relationships. He was one of those people I said goodbye to in California and hoped to spend time with again in future days. He was a good man. You can read his story here http://radiatedon.com. (warning, he has a great sense of humor, you’ll laugh through tears at his writing)
Eyes swollen from crying, I was woken again just before 4:00 as my 2 year old wanted me to come cuddle with her. My baby chimed in wanting to be nursed, so he and I crawled into bed with her and I tried to sleep while she tossed and turned and he suckled. At 4:25, she started to choke and spew throw-up into the air, all over me and the baby and I leapt into action, babe still attached, calling to my husband for back-up. Just one of many crazy days of parenting.
Still, it is a pretty great life I have. I don’t say that as a trite response to hardship, nor to brag, nor because it is perfect. It is far from perfect. I am sleep deprived and a little spacey at best, impatient and crabby at my worst. I take a shower an average of a few times a week, and I am usually wearing a shirt with day old spit-up (I know, gross huh?). I figure with mountains of laundry, why make more? We have some business concerns that feel pretty daunting. My marriage, sayeth the marriage and family therapist, is not at it’s best. We are in that post-baby, well post stressful-summer – heck let’s just be real honest and say post-becoming-a-pastor’s-family (there should be a term for that) – season of busy life where we are looking across at the person we most cherish and adore and thinking “Hey, you look familiar? Do I know you? We should hang out sometime.” Who has any time?
Especially those crazy folk like us who keep having all these kids. And speaking of kids, on a regular basis we worry about them, that one or more of our children is doomed for jail, the psych-ward or the streets. Obviously I exaggerate, but you know what I mean parents out there. I could go on with a myriad of worries, imperfections, faults and failures, but what I am overwhelmed with right now is what a great life I have. I don’t say that without the awareness that there are those who suffer, really truly suffer from very hard things, and my concerns really are very small in comparison. But probably because my life is so far from perfect, there are divine moments where huge gratitude over something very small overtakes me, and it keeps me going.
It happened when I was holding my fussing baby today, doing what I could to help him fall to sleep. My two year old was just lulled to napping down the hall. My baby’s cries softened with each of my bounces. His sweet face burying into the space between my arm and ribcage to try and block out the world. Eyes roll back, then closing, and the big sigh of sleep breathing taking over. Isn’t naptime the best? I am standing in the quiet of my room and glance over at the big comfy white chair near the window, where I rarely have time to sit these days, and then over to the row of books beside it. The one on the end is my favorite, Great With Child by Debra Rienstra. On the cover a glowing belly bulges from under a soft shirt. Her posture is laid back, relaxed, contemplative in it’s pose. My heart warms at the idea of sitting in that chair for a few moments to read it – once both my little ones are napping, just before the big kids get home from school, when the laundry is done, the meals are cooked, the clothes mended, the children listened to, played with, kissed and held and loved, and well, probably never, or at least maybe not for 5 years or so. It would be pure indulgence!
And it is just the possibility of that moment that fills me with gratitude. Because really I could sit and read, and sometimes I do, when everyone is all tucked in for the night and I am feeling rebellious enough to leave some of the work of all this for tomorrow. It is not often, but that’s okay, because this will not always be and I try hard to remember what I know so well. That nearly 9 year old down the hall used to be this small and I strain to remember the details to answer her request for stories of when she was little. I wish we could go visit those long days of being a first time mom, when the road ahead seemed so long and full of unknowns. I know these days pass by quickly and my ache to capture them is akin to gathering the scent of summer in a glass jar to carry me through winter. Impossible. I had two full journals and a detailed baby book written to my daughter by the time she turned one. This little guy’s baby book stares blankly at me by my bedside table. How do I start, when I know it will end? I take pictures, thousands of them, and they sit frozen on my phone and computer. What is it now, 20 cumulative years of photo memory books for each year of my children’s lives to complete? Huh, maybe I should let that one go. But that kind of makes my heart hurt and my lungs get tight. They will grow up too fast, and cliche beyond cliches, I know I will miss these precious days.
And so I look with a big heart of hope at that favorite book of mine, knowing one day I will have time to read it again, and if the day is not today, it is for damn good reason. Because the endless mundane and meaningless laundry means my kids have lived a good day and will be clothed tomorrow. The meals that come together without too much creativity these days, means their bodies are nourished to grow and be healthy. The listening and the mending and the kissing of owies and the reading of stories and the cleaning up throw-up and the work work work of it all is so very worth the opportunity to nurture these most precious souls for a season. When my house is empty and quiet for years to come, creating those photo books won’t mean I am ignoring a little voice or risking more sleep deprivation. I am not sure I will be able to bear it then, taking in all that has passed, so for today, I try to breath deep into my imperfect life and take in the scent of a very good season.
Don, it would be a gift to know you were hanging out with my Fisher in heaven. He would be almost four now and I am sure he’d get a kick out of being your buddy. I wish all my kids could have met you.