It takes approximately two hours to get home from my in-laws, and of course we left late wanting to squeeze in as much visiting as possible. After a last minute search for random socks, action figures, and princess themed underwear (items which should have made it into the hastily repacked suitcase but most likely didn’t) we buckled ourselves into the van and waved goodbye.
It took approximately two weeks into Lent for me to hit with blunt force an unforeseen brick wall, the likes of which was bigger, stronger, taller than my current character could scale using ordinary amounts of perseverance, meditation, and dairy-free garbanzo beans. Take my money? Fine. Eat up my time? Well, alright then. Close the door on opportunities I had hoped would come to fruition? Actually, I expect that sort of thing when the seasonal Prayer of St. Ephraim is echoing in my head like a warning bell alerting me to dangers I might otherwise stumble into unawares. But please, c’mon now, I’ve got active sons and daughters, a mountain of tasks to be managed, a household to run and a personality that thrives on order (ironic, isn’t it?) – I cannot afford, I mean I really can’t afford to surrender to You my health and productivity.
In hindsight, I know shouldn’t have pushed it. I shoved all of us into plans that nobody wanted to miss out on and because of that rash decision, I am feeling the unpalatable side effects of a sickness disregarded. Days earlier I was feverish and cotton mouthed from several unpleasant episodes of retching and cramping and reassuring two-year-old Mary that mommy was fine despite the fact that she lay all hunched over and grimacing on the bathroom rug. I thought surely it was over when my stomach ceased convulsing but the exhaustion, migraine headaches and lingering queasiness that stubbornly stuck with me throughout the weekend, proved otherwise. And now, as we pull onto the highway, my mind begins to wander into dangerous and forbidden territory, into chasms every mother should most certainly avoid exploring. I begin to play a numbers game I know at the outset will be unsolvable.
What is one of me – well, two thirds of me if you factor in my illness, divided by:
Four kids at home on spring break,
Three floors of a dusty old house that were torn apart to get ready for a trip I couldn’t fully enjoy,
One spouse working extra long hours,
Twelve unanswered e-mails and/or phone calls,
A few unfinished projects I am falling way behind on,
And a head full of important dates and details as of yet unrecorded on a calendar?
Let’s see here…no matter which way you look at it, that certainly seems to leave me with a whole lot of negative.
It is silent, save for the thump, thu-thump, thu-thump sound of our tires turning 70 mph on the open road. The under thirty crowd is sleeping while us mature folks sit reflectively up front, arms linked in a makeshift gesture of something between romance and camaraderie. “I miss you,” I think to myself, but I don’t say it, opting rather to daydream about a car ride with my husband that goes on and on indefinitely past flu bugs, appointments, stress, responsibility. “Poor old mom,” I sigh inwardly, with the lack of free time, the lack of me time, the demands that never pause for a woman to catch her breath. Down I go, slow and low, to the recesses of self-pity where I am the focus, I am the victim, where I have forgotten why, exactly, we are munching on almonds instead of string cheese. Presently, a radio program has been added to the background noise offering weather reports, commercial breaks, and news stories. “Iranian Christians,” says the man with the mellow voice, “are being tortured and killed with regularity.” Thump, thu-thump, thu-thump. To my right I see a billboard with a bald and fragile sweetheart of a girl smiling bravely atop a single convicting sentiment: “Be thankful,” it reminds us, “for all of the healthy children in your life.”
Sometimes, like Saint John of Chicago, I am aflame with love for God. But other times, like Jonah, I sit grumbling under the shade of His provision. I wish that it were possible to tattoo authentic piety on my spirit, on my soul, on my heart, but it slips and slithers away from me like a bar of soap at bath time and too often, the sweat, grime, and filth remain uncleansed. It takes work to remember – never ending, all consuming effort. One mindless detour has within itself the potential to burst a swelling faith and send me groveling on my knees before the Savior who never budges, who stays as radiant and bright as the sunshine while I bask in His warmth and then hide from it, while I revel in His love and then resent it if it burns, if it sears, if it blisters my craved for comfort.
At 9:30 pm, we back into the garage. I am desperate to collapse immediately but there are a few things yet to get done. “Let’s go guys,” I nudge, “grab your backpacks and jackets.” Like a spent row of ducks we waddle groggily in formation toward the screen door. Clothes are scattered, teeth go unbrushed; there are kisses, covers, then lights out. I, too, lie down, with yearnings for peace, with prayers that the Lord will sustain me until tomorrow when I’ll rise to greet the day and do my best to grasp the Truths that lead away from my own ideas of happiness and onward, upward, forward to salvation.
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