My heart was in the right place. It was three days before the start of my adventure to Papua New Guinea - three days before I would squeeze my family goodbye, and I was packing up and leaving for a three-day work trip. My heart could not handle. So I packed three small bags and declared, “You’re coming with me, kids.” My work demands allowed me to build breaks into my schedule, affording me "fun time" with my Henry, Harper and Greta.
And it was fun. We went swimming. We rented a paddle boat. We jumped on beds. We dined lakeside and studied the movements of a grass-nibbling groundhog that Harper named, “Ground-y.” When work beckoned, I set up the kids with their devices and headphones and activity books. Given the circumstances (single parenting, working mom, memory-making dreams), the kids did great.
As for their mother, well, her heart was in the right place.
The reality was that swimming included a lot of, “Out of the pool kids, Harper has to go to the bathroom which means we all have to go,” and then I would lead three kids with towels dragging and a chorus of whines (“I have to pee!” “I’m too cold!” “Why can’t I keep swimming?!”) back inside the lodge to the bathroom. The paddle boat that they begged me to rent resulted in Hot, Sweaty and Tired bickering in a boat in the middle of the lake. The only legs that could paddle us back to shore? Mine. The bed jumping always resulted in kid tears and mom yells. The meals never came fast enough and were usually too crunchy, too sticky, or too little, depending on who you asked.
The literal breaking point occurred when my 50-pound 7-year old and his pipsqueak sister were foolishly playing with the stroller, tipping it over with the 7-year old in it. He walked away without a scratch, but momma’s cell phone did not.
With less than 36 hours before my trip and still another day’s worth of work ahead, I was in the middle of a state park with three small kids and a shattered cell phone (and a lodge room without a mini bar).
I did not have the time to deal. And I certainly did not have the mental health to deal with a shattered cell phone on top of work on top of three tired kids on top of where are we?
I called for back-up.
It was 9’o’clock at night, and my knight-and-shining-armor answered without hesitation, “I’m on my way.” His sacrifice required much - he had finished a marathon of a day at work and then completed a construction project at home. He needed a shower and his own bed, and by making the hour long trip to us meant he’d stay the night, take off work the next day, and scramble to find someone to help with our dog.
It didn’t phase him in the slightest. When he arrived at the lodge greeting me with the same smile that stole my heart the day we met, I collapsed into his arms. For the first time in two days I felt rest, my most genuine offering, “Why did I ever think that I could do this without you?”
That brings us to yesterday, my last day before boarding my first of five flights to Papua New Guinea. In retrospect, I can see the battle, the last couple of weeks littered with hiccups and breaking points and increasing irritability. A force of darkness stepping up its game, working to beat me down as I have been following God’s lead in preparation for my trip.
Yesterday I felt the force of the Overcomer - the One who is fighting for me, leaving nothing and no one to come between me and His love. By His overwhelming grace, I wrapped up my day at work, found a store to replace my phone screen, and made it home in time to squeeze my people. The kids unknowingly offered my heart just what it needed to carry with it these next two weeks. True to who they are, they each gifted me through their unique personalities. Greta, still groggy from her nap, grumpily responded, “No!” when I asked for a hug goodbye. She ran over anyway, curling her body in my lap as I cocooned her, the cuddle rhythm that is our own. Henry, my literal-thinking son with a tender heart, considered the facts of my trip - fifteen days we would be apart - and following a moment of deep thought, he softly offered, “I think I miss you already.” And Harper, with a spunk that speaks louder than words, squeezed me breathless, and then ran in for another hug as I walked to the door, and then another hug as I walked to the car, and then as I started to drive away, she stood nearby on the sidewalk and said, “I’m going to keep watching until I can’t see your car anymore.”
Heart full. Grace victorious. Mercies anew.
He will overcome.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. 1 John 5:4
Jesus: "I have said these thing to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33