The first two bottom teeth of my youngest baby are gone, and now his tongue is confused and he lisps with some words. I could just die of love. He asked me why I don’t call his Daddy, “Husband”. I’m not following at first, but then sweetness floods me and I laugh. He calls us by our titles in relation to himself, so why don’t we call each other by titles too? He continues, “Why doesn’t Daddy call you Life?” “Life? You mean wife. It’s wwwife, not lllife.” He stares a hole of concentration right through me, his lips and tongue battling one another. “Wwwwlife”.
“Perfect” I tell him.
I help him brush his teeth. Two less to brush now, though the new are already fighting for space in crowded gums. I help him pack his new backpack with fresh crayons. The smell and perfect order of new crayons in the small hands of a five year old is pure joy.
Just a few more days now.
“Husband” packs a bag too. By the middle of August every year, he and a few work friends drive a less traveled road up the mountain to strike at a small, white ball with craters like the moon. Kevin’s philosophy: swing as hard as you can and pray for the best, or so that’s what my Dad says about my husband’s golf game. I believe him because that’s basically Kevin’s philosophy on life as well. He plays hard. He’s all in with life, but has enough of a gentle spirit to notice the beauty of the walk along the way. Maybe it’s true what they say about knowing a man’s character after playing golf with him.
Summer in the mountains is glorious because humidity is illegal in those parts. It takes a game they say is already set apart from all the others, and somehow makes it a holy experience. But that mountain law has made it’s way down Highway 421, and settled here for the past few weeks. Fall weather in August. The kind that warrants more than just a cup of coffee in hand in early morning, but maybe a blanket around the shoulders too.
He left to go find the white cup at the bottom of that yellow flag, waving at the end of a lot of green; and the girls and their lisping brother left to hike trails and visit old trains with grandparents. One last trip for all before summer ends. And here I am in a quiet house with two dogs, a paint brush and a stack of blank canvases, and Pandora Radio playing Blessed Be the Name of the Lord so many times it has to be none other than the Lord’s will for me to hear it and get it. I thought Pandora was supposed to rotate songs?
It rarely happens. As the kids walked to the end of the concrete driveway, carrying overnight bags, books, and IPod touches; Caroline whispers that she’s always sad to leave me. “I know Caroline. I’m sad too, but it’s good and okay for you to go.” She smiles that smile that protests too much, and I know what she’s thinking so I hug her even tighter. Behind her walks the one I wish I was more like, the one who has started three businesses over the summer. The one my Mom says was just born older, like herself and George Bailey. Ella hurries Caroline’s goodbyes because apparently the world is waiting for her to show up at their destination, and Thomas ends the trail of departing vagabonds with a baseball cap tilted slightly to one side because it’s too small for his head and is unable to sit straight. He’s just following “his girls” with no real clue where he is going, but his personality allows him to easily trust it will be a good time. And if it’s not, he will make it one.
The silver car crests and then descends the hill. Disappears. I walk inside and Mr. Darcy demands attention by nudging my hand. It usually annoys me but I don’t mind it so much today.
All this is what I’m accepting as a dress rehearsal gift from God’s hand. Tuesday we will do it again, and for the first time all three of my kids will go together where someone else is teaching. I will drive them the 22 minutes with no traffic, and then come home to Mr. Darcy waiting for me at the side door to pat his head.
Just like that.
And it’s good.
And there’s guilt I know is false, but I still wrestle it.
More than wrestling guilt, I think I’m throwing punches in the wind at change, and that is so strange to me. How can the same two hands that clasp together and pray everyday for God to change each of us more into the image of His Son, also clench fists and fight the change that’s happening? The stripping away of what’s safe and comfortable is never easy, but I know it’s good. It’s good for children to grow and look more like their Father, and it’s good for me to do the same.
I sit in a restaurant, staring at fries and a church bulletin, pondering all these things. The outside door opens, heat floods through and hits the air conditioned space, no one enters through the opened door though. I can tell someone is trying, and then I see her walker is catching on the frame of the door. Before I can help her, her son who is holding the door gently maneuvers her in. I say hello, she smiles but her expression tells me she can’t speak.
Her frame is fragile. She limps.
Something in my spirit leapt. I stared at my french fries even harder.
My heart raced, for no other apparent reason than God was clearly present, but in a different way than the “God is always with you” kind of cliche. The rest of my meal was awkward, and nervous, and I didn’t know why. Before leaving I went to the restroom and I could see her walker.
My heart settled, seconds slowed, and I walked to where I knew she needed help. Just the three of us there. No words. I lifted her. I walked her to the sink, cupped water from the faucet to pour over her hands. Living Water cleanses. She muttered sounds and her eyes pierced me. She smiled, thanked me with her eyes. I walked her to the door where her son was waiting. He offered me gratitude, but I had already offered it the Lord.
I can hear Him, “There’s a whole world out there to serve Amy.” I can smell the rain coming again.
A holy experience.
Kev comes home before the kids and we sit down on our porch to a delicious dinner I ordered and sent him to pick up. His callused palm holds my hand and he prays for the food, for the day, and for the upcoming week. I feel emotion welling up in my chest and lumping in my throat. Change always does that to me.
The kids return home and Thomas bursts through the door armed with a new cap gun. His grin spreads wide and touches his ears, he’s covered in grey dirt from hiking trails. I usher him to the bathroom to clean him up, his gun holstered and he begins singing as he skips in front of me, “Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be Your Name!” Lisp and all.
I look upward, smile and declare, “Alright already! My heart will choose to say, blessed be Your Name!”
I will choose it.
I can smell the rain coming. Again. And it’s good.