So Brian is out of the country for the first time ever. I was very nervous about it because, except for one week in Canada, I've not been out of the country either. Neither of us have any context for this kind of thing. He flew across the pond with three other men from our local church to London to do LEAP with World Harvest Mission. They are working book tables and canvassing neighborhoods, surveying the community for several church plants already in place, as well as visiting Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim temples/mosques and learning about their religions and cultures from their leaders. It's hard and draining work with long hours. Talking on Skype has been so very helpful, but we are eager to have him back home with us. He flies in Monday evening.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have been hanging in there. It's a different thing for a husband to not be present, as in entirely unavailable, vs. just not being present because he's at work or studying late. I have a very weak but newer empathy for single moms and military wives.
It's been good though--there have been several times in the last few days that I've looked at my kids and become overwhelmed with gratitude for my family. They are so good at rolling with the punches.
For example, there was the swim meet on Thursday. I was Skyping with Brian until time to leave, while the kids packed the snacks and towels, and I showed the plumber the clogged sink in the middle of it all. We get to the meet and I realize I have nothing for my 4yo to do during the meet. Not a coloring book or legos or doll for all five and a half hours of the longest meet ever. She never complained. She did get to swim a little in the play pool and ended up falling asleep on the ground next to our chairs about 10pm. And Patrick snugged up with me while we waited for Sarah Frances to finish her last relay. Catherine was content to watch too. I literally sighed with a proud and full heart as they all picked up the bags and chairs to head to the car together about 10:45.
Then yesterday I swam with them for fun. Twice. I hardly ever get in with them. They're so loud, and it's very wet out there. But it was really enjoyable just to play with them. Reminded me that I like them even when it's overstimulating.
And yesterday we had errands to run--the kind where we all five have to get out of the car four times and drive through once. Their behavior wasn't perfect by any means, but it wasn't too much for me to handle. It wasn't too much. Amazing.
Last night I let them pop some corn on the stove and dish out Rocky Road in a sugar cone for their dinner. We ate on pallets in front of the TV watching 2 entire movies they'd picked out at the library earlier that day. Again, I had a moment when I looked at each of them and thanked the Lord for my large brood.
Today they played with lots of friends for about 3.5 hours at a birthday party, and I was hardly interrupted by anyone needing anything from me.
Tonight Sarah Frances baked fish sticks in the oven entirely by herself (I was on Skype again), and we watched the third library movie. At least most of us did; Lillian sat with each of the rest of us for a bit. She's an equal opportunity snuggler/wiggler. Then they all went willingly straight to bed. Amazing.
As I write it out, I'm seeing some of the forest--they're getting so much older and more independent. I've not worked myself out of a job by any means, but it sure is nice that they can take care of so much by themselves. And care for each other more (even if they're the ones causing each other's trouble) vs. coming to me with every little need. And work things out between themselves vs. me constantly having to intervene. And be content with less. It's a beautiful thing to watch and experience.
It's gospel living: lives are changing as we are growing, loving and serving each other very imperfectly and effortfully, yet effectively, only by the grace of God. It's messy, but a sweet mess.
And, wow, I sure do love my four sweet messes.