Someone is trying to wake me. It’s so hard to shake myself out of a dream. Dreams can be so thick. It holds me, even though two minutes later once my eyes blink into the light and see a familiar face, I have completely forgotten what gripped me so strongly. Long cold drinks of water to say goodbye to sleepiness, and long warm kisses to say goodbye to my husband. He leaves with two baking pans full of fresh cinnamon rolls. One topped with Irish coffee icing, the other drizzled with bright green liquid sugar. I think I deserve a pot of gold for sending in goodies on a Tuesday. Right? Or at least a rainbow maybe?
I open the blinds. It is raining, the grass suddenly looks so green and the hills so misty. It is a very Irish day.
No rainbow though. Not yet. Keep looking.
CHRIST BE WITH ME
Clothes on. Whoops ~ blue and pink do not make green. And nobody will believe me if I tell them my underthings are green. And I won’t prove it. So green earrings and green scarf. There. Head to the kitchen singing St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Twice.
Coffee made, vitamins swallowed, crockpot turned on (sighing thankful that I put this together last night), recipe for colcannon queued up for the afternoon.
Time to rustle the children. Why is it that the days when they need to be up early are the days their little bodies rest like rag dolls under their blankets? Moist heads with heavy eyelids. I kiss fuzzy cheeks. I snuggle warm bodies. Then I turn on the light and rip back the covers. Oooooh, morning feels so harsh sometimes.
But then they remember. Donuts!!
They hurry to put on clothes. I remember to make them put on something green. Since we will be out in public, and I don’t know if kids are mean these days or not, but when I was little, you got pinched if you didn’t have green on. Whether someone knew you or not, suddenly they thought they had the right to squeeze your flesh between their fingernails if you were not wearing a proper color. Strange tradition. My mommy bear instinct kicks in, and I make sure the boys wear their brightest green sweaters of all. Top their coppertops with Irish hats straight from the island herself, and there we go. We are channeling all our Irish heritage we can at the moment.
Take a sip of coffee, shuffle the boys off to the bathroom, head down to dress the girl. She has a splendid green dress with orange flowers and butterflies. The orange accents please her father, as he annually reminds me that green is for Catholics and orange is for Protestants. I don’t know if I have ever taken the time to even so much as google the truth or tradition behind that… but I believe him, and I take a moment of delight in the fact that my daughter can wear both green & orange with much success. Little bow on her head, little shoes on her feet. Don’t forget blankie and baby doll! The day would be ever so rough without them.
Pop these little people in the car. Oh bother: where are my keys? These things really should come with radar tracking systems built in. Why are there so many purses and diaper bags to search through? Jacket pockets? Nooks & crannies? Hmm. Good thing there are travel cups of milk to pass out to the kids along with granola bars and apple slices, to keep them blissfully unaware in their carseats while I frantically search through the house for the fob. Honestly. A second car key might be nice (hint, hint, darling: Mother’s Day is coming!).
Finally, it emerges from the bottom of a third diaper bag. Of course. I can never remember which bag I took last. On my to do list: improve my memory. One of these days. Perhaps my large cup of morning vitamins needs some additional zinc or ginko biloba or some such magic.
CHRIST WITHIN ME
Here we go! Ten minutes late, but nobody the wiser.
Driving in a misty morning with coffee in hand is delightful. It is St. Patrick’s Day though, so perhaps I should have thought better and splashed in a dash of whiskey to make it Irish coffee. Oh wait, no, better that I didn’t ~ I am driving, after all.
Rain. Potholes. Puddles. Ponds! Windshield wipers. No umbrellas though. I might not have channeled enough Irish in me to remember that far.
I am able to take some back roads to make up time, and we get to the donut shop only three minutes late. The homeschool tour hasn’t quite started yet. About twenty children dolled up in all kinds of bright green shirts and shoes and headbands are lined up, waiting. We walk in just as a Krispy Kreme employee says good morning, leprechauns. My boys tug at my shirt, wanting to know what in the world is a leprechaun and why were they called such a strange word? They are an obvious combination of offended and concerned. A man stands here with a big blob of stretchy dough that looks like it has green sprinkles in it and asks if everyone would like to touch it. Evangeline takes one look at it & declares, rather loudly, messy. The boys suddenly revert to shy copies of themselves, and hide behind my blue jeans.
Watching through glass walls. Mixers, dough, ovens, bakers, bowls of green icing, conveyer belts covered in donuts like bugs processing on my sidewalk, a lustrous white waterfall that glazes them while the children press noses against the windows & make impressed oooooohing sounds. Children all around me, my own three little copper tops buzzing around from window to window, trying to figure out the best viewing point for the baking process.
CHRIST BEHIND ME
An employee scrubs and squeegies the walls of windows. Goodbye fingerprints. Goodbye breath ghosts. Goodbye residual sneezes. Goodbye splatters of icing and melted cooking oil. Children are enthralled with the scrubbing and the squeegie. Especially the squeegie.
Gabriel asks, if I buy him a squeegie, will I pay him to wash all our windows?
Dollar signs and overflowing piggy banks fill his brain.
Clean windows without the aching arms and streak-free countryside views fill mine.
How big of an investment is a squeegie, I wonder?
The window washing is done. Another employee emerges from the kitchen with two boxes of perfectly shaped, perfectly golden, perfectly warm, perfectly glossy donuts. We are given free glazed donuts, and the children squirm their bums onto a green faux-leather booth with delight. They grab at sugary rounds. Fingers and faces suddenly glazed with the familiar white sheen. Wiggles and giggles ensue. They return to the glass walls to peer once again at the baking process. Windows are no longer clean. Hello fingerprints. Hello breath ghosts. Hello sneezes.
CHRIST BEFORE ME
People eventually leave. We are the last to file out of the donut shop, complete with two dozen donuts in hand. Why not? St. Patrick brought the Gospel to people, why shouldn’t we bring donuts to people?
A phone call to one friend who lives nearby – they are in Seattle. Hm, no donuts for them I guess.
Another phone call to another nearby friend – unfortunately the day is just not going to work out for a visit there either. Bah humbug.
Sticky-fingered children buckled in their seats. Mommy, who remembers her love for the gooey deliciousness of Krispy Kremes but is not allowed to indulge in such a sugary glutinous delicacy, still smelling the twenty-four donuts on the seat beside me, making one more phone call.
This friend knows we are coming. They are ready for playtime and chats and donuts. Ten minutes of driving and chatting with little ones about donuts and baking and legends of leprechauns, and we pull into the driveway of dear friends. It feels familiar and wonderful to see faces of loved ones, exchange hugs, tell stories of recent life, play ball, build a fort out of cardboard & couch cushions. Children play loudly. Mommies try to converse over the din. We take turns taking a child out for discipline or potty trips. My friend scales their staircase three separate times to retrieve more superhero costume pieces for super boys. Conversation helps us share life ~ conversing in the same physical space not parted by computers or cell phone towers makes the sharing extra tangible.
CHRIST BESIDE ME
Then the crying begins. My daughter is screaming almost inconsolably. This is a mind-boggling moment, where the little girl clings to me, clings to her blankie, clings to her baby doll ~ but cannot tell me why she is crying, if she is sad or hurting or scared. We take this as our exit, pack up our things, take turns at the potty, leave two (only two of twenty-four!) donuts behind us with our friends, I shuffle two happy boy and one unhappy girl out to the car. It is still sprinkling, the clouds still rest in wispy tufts around the tall pine trees, and I stumble in a little puddle. After I buckle the carseats once again, and my sad girl continues in her weeping punctuated by little gaspy sobs every couple of breaths, I shut the door for a moment. I put my hands on my hips superman-style and take a deep breath. It is a beautiful day, and my car is filled with life. Life strapped into protective seats simply because these lives are particularly precious and life itself is so volatile in its unpredictability. Before strapping myself into a seat where the noisy chaos of playful boys, crying girl, and cranked up Jamie Soles on the speakers would pound in my head, I breathe in the fresh air of March. I think of how cooling and life-giving the raindrops are. Even the mist. I quickly glance around for a rainbow. Still no rainbow in sight.
I climb in the car, take one of a few remaining sips of my morning coffee, and accelerate down the road. I tell myself to smile, tell the boys to be cheerful, even though our joy girl remains inconsolable. The very present picture of unrest, of joy trying to take over sadness, of comfort banging heads with discomfort, of pain having victory over peace… it busied my brain while I drove. I just kept driving. And driving.
CHRIST TO WIN ME
Unfortunately, I had a couple of errands to run. Oh Lord, be with me, as these tired little souls and their weary wee bodies in the backseat want nothing more than more donuts, and a cozy movie on the couch while the rain splatters down on the green fields by our country home. But here we remain, zooming along big roads and a busy highway, in the city.
Suddenly it hits me: call my hubby.
Darling, I’m coming! Please come sit with the children so I can run my important, time-sensitive errand!
And he does. Oh! Isn’t it just like a husband to put his things aside, and come to the wife’s rescue? To humbly sit in a car where his daughter is screaming, another son has begun to cry because nasty molars are slicing caverns into the gums in the back of his jaw, and the remaining son begs simply for another green donut.
CHRIST TO COMFORT AND RESTORE ME
I go inside a tall, boring beige building. But I don’t particularly find this building boring. I have spent blood and tears in this building many times, let me tell you. I run my errand. It takes twenty-five minutes. And during this time, I have quiet around me. I know that my husband is gently leading our children, even if that just means letting them cry the tears that need to be shed and filling mouths & bellies with another round of donuts.
And while I quietly go about my errand, and my thoughts wander to each one of my children and their various current wellbeings, my mind goes to my Savior. And how many times He has saved me before, saved my children, saved my family. In so many varied, both complicated and simple, scenarios. Knowing that this omnipresent Savior is both with me in this quiet moment and in the car with the rest of my family in their discordant moments is comforting, sweet. He is holding us up, and gives us the strength to stand, to endure, the continue on. Even with this day’s tasks and joys and struggles and hiccups. Sometimes He gives us psalms, sometimes He gives us outstretched arms of His people, sometimes He gives us green sugary donuts. Sometimes all three.
CHRIST BENEATH ME
Upon my return to the car, it seems that everyone is about in the same shape that I had left them. None the worse is sometimes all that we can ask for, right? And it’s still a gift. One entire donut box is empty now, so there’s that at least.
With a kiss and a knowing smile, my husband heads back to work, and I head back to the fray of the car, facing another 25 mile drive with crying children. I feel so hungry, dizzy, faint. I can’t reach my water bottle, my coffee cup is empty. The only snacks left in the car are literally oozing with gluten. Why did I let the kids eat all the grapes, oranges, and apples without leaving any for myself? My ears start to ring, my tummy growls, my palms get clammy. In the distance on the right I see, no, not a rainbow, but it might as well have been: golden arches! Yessss. Just what we need to drive out the hissing snakes of tears and fears and dizzy hunger pangs. I swerve into the turn lane, and immediately find myself in the McDonald’s drive thru. Some solutions are greasy and salty, and perfectly scrumptious with every bite. I pass the french fries around and find my water bottle. Ah! Christ’s banishing of evil things are sometimes such little gifts, but you know what they say: good things come in small packages. Red paper cups filled with hot shoe-string potatoes definitely qualify.
We keep driving. The crying won’t stop once the french fries run out. So I call our friendly neighborhood pediatrician and tell him, without explanation, that we are on our way. I divert our course and we head a different direction, off to see Dr. Grandpapa. Stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope. Rather than driving the children to further tears, they bring calmness and peace. Funny how familiarity is so comforting, even when it invades our personal bubble in strange ways.
Another ear infection for the daughter. Aha. Now it begins to make sense. A molar pushing its way through a gum for a son, its iceberg nature causing more trauma beneath the surface than we can even understand. So we head out for antibiotics and acetaminophen. And movies. We simply have to make a quick run to the library while we’re at it, and see what kind of videos I can grab to keep these little guys happy. Such a gift from the digital era!
CHRIST ABOVE ME
Finally. Home. Windshield wipers are tired. The clouds still hang. I tuck boys in beds with blankets and set up a laptop so they can begin cycling through library dvds. It begins with Mickey Mouse. It ends with superheroes. Of course.
I unload the car while she cries, and then my arms are finally free. Open and ready for her. Desperate to cling to her and snuggle her, to put my chin on top of her head, to whisper in her aching ear that everything is going to be okay. She seems to believe me. Oh wait: her eyes have caught sight of Sofia The First. Well. If that’s all it takes right now to make her world a beautiful place of sunshine and rainbows, even while the clouds continue to drop their rains outside, that’s good enough for me. She lift her onto my bed with me. Push play. Snuggle deep into pillows. She climbs onto my lap, and rests a weary head against my breast. Chest still heaves with occasional leftover sobs. Little dimpled hand holds onto my finger. I kiss her moist head. Rest my cheek on her ruffled locks. She watches princesses on the television. I watch her, my princess, and cry because of the beauty of moments like this.
CHRIST IN QUIET
Eventually she is ready to lie down on her own in her bed. Medications are such a gift to the hurting, the sick, the suffering. Blankies and babies and nightlights, likewise. God gives us tangible things to take with us for the slaying of dragons, whether the dragons are owies or infections, bullies or nightmares. It is so easy to give way in our spirits to dread or doubt or fear or anxiety, or all combined together. While my daughter takes blankie and baby doll to the comfort of her bed with the nightlight shedding some peace in the room, I turn to books and blogs for my own armor. I have felt evil prowling about even today. If I wanted to deliver donuts in the place of gospel this morning, I guess now I fight inward serpents who threaten to bite and constrict rather than Irish snakes. But regardless of the littleness of my battles in my world, they are still battles. And I am still thankful for the strong together to whom I run, and for the armor He provides. I drink it in through my eyes, my fingers, my brain, my heart, my soul. I am fortified. Because He is my Fortress.
And I’m ready to face what’s next. And that’s when my husband walks in, and causes me to remember that’s what’s next is dinner. And while the crockpot has done its wonderful magic all day, corned beef is only one part of the sustenance I’ve got planned. Time to go weild knives and light fires, people: it’s time to cook dinner. Fight for victory!
CHRIST IN DANGER
We spend the evening sharing food with one another, and even my daddy joins us around our table. The house smells of beef and spices, onions and cabbage. I mash potatoes with leeks and cabbage, smothering it all with milk and butter and salt. Humble things, yes, but delicious, and it has a really fun name, colcannon. Undeniably Irish sounding, isn’t it? Asher, at one point, thought I said Uncle Colin rather than colcannon, but I assured him that they are two distinctively different delights. There is Guinness on the table, and a hard apple cider, and even the children delight in the tasting. Cool water is guzzled as though we have had salt and sugar in abundance today… oh, I guess, perhaps that is because we have. The child on my right asks for thirds on corned beef. The child on my left asks only for colcannon… four times, I fill her plate with large dollops of colcannon. The child across the table from me pretty much just wants another green donut… I rack my brain to do the math to figure out how many donuts that child has eaten today already… it might be half a dozen, give or take.
When the middle child goes potty and calls out for someone to clean his bum, we are all called in for a serious look at what has happened. We get a very visual education on the idea that “what goes in must come out,” and we realize that Krispy Kreme must use a very lively green food coloring for their donuts. What Asher produces, and is rather proud of, looks nearly radioactive. I don’t think I will ever eat a green donut again, even if I were to find a low-sugar gluten-free version. Asher has taken the surprise out of green donuts for me forever.
Dinner is a jovial hour of eating, drinking, chatting, laughing around the table. The grandfather tells jokes with us. He does math problems with the 3 year old, using green grapes for manipulatives. I didn’t know my young boy already knew 2+2 and 3+1, for instance. Grapes make math delicious and graspable. Then the 6 year old takes the grandfather aside to have some kind of deep conversations for ten minutes in private, as he so loves to do. Sometimes they discuss medical cases, sometimes theological questions, sometimes science experiments, sometimes knock knock jokes. On this particular night, I am not given a hint, I am left in the dark. Eventually, the 2 year old gets a turn with her grandfather, and once she is in jammies, he rocks her in the dimly light nursery. He sings at her request: Holy Holy, Glory Be, Blessed The Man, Lord’s Prayer. He sings things, thirty years in the making, that he used to sing to her mother in a like rocking fashion. Her pain seems gone, her heart seems encouraged, her thumb wet and wrinkly, her blankie clutched at her cheek, her eyes droopy. Grandpapa eventually lays her down in the comforting solace of her crib.
CHRIST IN HEARTS OF ALL THAT LOVE ME
With children in bed, my father gone home, my husband getting ready to call it a night, I go to my instruments. I play St. Patrick’s Breastplate on both piano and harp. I sing. I tinker. I try to find pieces of music with titles that are Irish, Scottish, Welsh, British. Definitely time to go on Amazon and order another songbook or two of things labeled Celtic, because I just don’t seem to have quite what I’m looking for.
Music played for half an hour of invigorating solitude, children lulled into their dreams, husband waiting.
I quickly shower and crawl beneath the duvet. We hold hands while we watch a little television and enjoy some random distraction from the day’s duties & delights. Then it’s lights-out finally, and I can almost feel the nightly rest grab me and pull me down into my pillow.
He says goodnight, we kiss & kiss again, we spoon, we draw the covers close around our chins and scootch our heads into the best positions on our pillows. The rain still falls lightly outside, but I know the stars are out there. The children are sleeping, their cries are silenced and their pains are numbed, their dreams have begun and their little bodies are snuggled like as many cocoons in their own beds under their own comforters. And what Comforter is here holding us all, in our own rooms and our own beds?
Our Father, the Christ, the true Comforter. He is here with us. We know His gospel, we have felt His peace, we have experienced His sustaining grace not only before but today. In the moments that He gave us on this day. In the donuts and the corned beef. In the friends and the store clerks. In the children, the parents, the siblings, the strangers. And even now with our eyes closed and our breaths slowing into rhythms we don’t even know how to replicate, He continues to give us His grace. And He is our rainbow, our promise of peace and life, the sign and seal that God is always good in all things. That no matter what happens when we rise tomorrow, He will again be here with us. And we can not escape Him. Like St. Patrick before us who went hither and thither, we too know that our Lord is always with us, and His gospel is always the foundation, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and priceless to carry with us to all we meet.
With this in mind, I quietly praise the Lord for my husband, my children, my home, my Christ.
And I fall asleep, ready and hoping to meet Him under rainbows in my dreams.
CHRIST IN MOUTH OF FRIEND AND STRANGER