One of my dear friends, dear in a way that few are or can ever be, lives three time zones away in a small city just west of the Rockies. Talking to her is easy, as it should be with such a friend. We reminisce, laugh, give and receive advice, we enjoy each other. Talking is easy, but finding time to connect can be difficult. Between the challenges of managing the time difference and our combined seven children, we have succumbed to the idea that 5 or 10 minutes on the cell phone while sitting on a park bench are better than nothing. We don’t have the hours of free time we had as newlyweds, and any time we do have free is quickly scavenged by husbands and little faces. These small conversations allow us to keep up with each other’s lives until a spare moment provides a window for something more. It works for us and I’m grateful for it, although the idea of having uninterrupted time together around a campfire or their kitchen table is a dream that makes me anxious for sleep.
This July that dreamy sleep is coming; we are packing up and heading West–one of my favorite destinations, especially in the summer. Stitching our children into this tapestry of family friendship is something that gives me such joy. What a gift: the trip, the time together with our own family and with theirs, years of memories, years of love. I can see the hand of God in it in so many ways. How He’s moved us and led us through time, moved us across states and through our histories. Like all the dear friends in my life, I treasure them as the family I have chosen.
During one of our more recent conversations, it struck my friend that we’ll have to be mindful of our selfish desires to sit and visit uninterrupted [I’m starting to doubt that’s even possible] and work to not shush the kids away or hastily get them into bed at night. How easy it can be, she argued, to want the kids to stay off playing, to be busy in another room, or to be angelically sleeping so that we can have adult time. Even in a setting with many children [and adults that sometimes act like children], we need to be mindful of their need to have our attention, focus, and love. The thought settled in and I thought a lot about how easy it is for me, at the end of a long day at home to want to rush through bedtime. I try to tell myself that in 5 more years–maybe even only 3 more years–my little ones won’t be fighting for my lap and asking me to sing to them. They won’t be waving a book in front of my face and pleading to hear it…again. I tell myself to take it slow and enjoy it. But some nights seem to crawl by and everything in me desperately wants my place on the couch with no small voices crowding in my head.
Last weekend, with family over and the campfire ablaze, leaving the coolness of that spring evening to return inside with my cherubs was not on my list of thrills. I shot a look at my husband who was too busy cramming a chip in his mouth and laughing at his brother to notice. No help?! I wanted to protest. I wanted to cram chips in my mouth, too. I was selfish; I was only thinking of myself and not wanting to miss out on 20 minutes with the group. And then…my friend’s voice rattled my heart. I got a grip on my bad attitude and went to do bedtime.
And what a surprise was waiting for me when I did. After tucking in three tired bodies and praying with them, I shared with my oldest two, “You know, you guys, tomorrow is Baptism Sunday at church. It’s going to be a really special day…” I explained the significance of Baptism and reminded them what they’d be seeing and what it meant. I re-lived the day I went into the water and came out to receive their hugs. Both of them stared at me and hung on my every word. Jonah asked really good and important questions. His sister joined him and expressed the desire to talk more about it–and maybe it do it themselves next year, together, brother and sister. We processed it and talked about Jesus and the Jordan and how He changed everything.
In that moment I knew: a new gift was unfolding just for me because I took the time to sit with my kids. Despite the campfire, our friends over, snacks being shared and drinks being sipped in my absence, I was inside being wrapped in the warmth of a moment totally unexpected. Another gift nearly lost to my own blindness.
This July we’re heading West. We’re heading toward a home we do not yet know filled with people we know intimately. We’re going as a family, uniting with another family. I’m praying that my own blindness, my own selfishness is held in check by the One who gave me such a precious moment with my kids last week. A seed was planted then. Not just, I hope, in the hearts of two kids captivated by the love of God, but in the heart of mom who needs to stick closer to the Vine.