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That's what happened to tonight. It was a beautiful night. The weather perfect. Sam flying a balsa wood airplane. Hannah reading a book on the back porch, watching the sun set. Stephanie and Jordan fishing with live bait. It was the kind of evening you don't want to end, so after dinner, instead of starting the whole bath, book, bed routine, I gave in to their pleas for more time outside. After all, it is spring break and we are visiting grandparents, but have to leave tomorrow.
Perhaps this is the string that I shouldn't have tugged.
My in-laws and I eat my homemade from scratch banana cream pie while they play and fish and read. It could have been a scene out of a movie -- it was that perfect. Until...the next thing I know, Hannah is rolling her eyes a stomps away because she is more teenager than sweet little girl. Then Steph catches a fish, but Jordan points out it's just one of the minnows they are using for bait. She insists that it's a catch.
Jordan sighs, "Whatever, Stephanie," and casts. The only problem is he's standing too close to Stephanie and catches his hook in her hair.
Did I mention they were using live bait?
She screams. He laughs. I say, "Okay, time to get in the shower."
And it went downhill from there. Inside, they aren't getting in the showers. I watch them go to the bathroom, but then a few minutes later they are arguing on the steps or they are reading in the hallway or they are digging through the almost packed suitcase that now needs packed again.
It is unraveling, heading into one tangled mess. Andy isn't here to pull it together. I'm on my own. The only consoling thought is at least Andy's parents have went on an errand so they aren't going to see how quickly a perfect evening can collapse into disaster.
I close my eyes and wonder if I'm going to be caught in the mess, frayed and tattered. Then I am reminded that I know how to stop the unwinding.
I breathe a prayer, Abba, salvage tonight.
Abba Father is God as Daddy. Like all dads, He doesn't want us unraveling. In the moment of my prayer, he pinched the string. It stopped unraveling. He put it in perspective. I smiled, giggled a little. Then Hannah appeared, showered and smiling. "Can I help you, Mom?"
I looked at her for a moment. She is 12. I think it must mean some moments she's a teenager and some moments she's sweet little girl. Apparently each persona can come and go in an instant. I'm not warm and friendly when I say, "I need the kind of help where I tell someone what to do and they do it and then come ask for what to do next. I don't need the kind of help where someone sighs when I ask them to do something, or they pretend to do it but really are just causing problems."
She hugs me. After that little tirade, she hugs me. "I'm your girl," she says. "What do you want me to do first."
Somehow the kitchen is cleaned and the bags are packed and the laundry is started. Stephanie and Jordan are in bed and Sam showers -- even washing his hair with shampoo! -- and Hannah brings her book to me and says, "This is a great book. Can I read a little more even though it's past bedtime?"
I smile and hug her. "Sure, go read with Sam in my room."
I find them, later snuggled in a big bed, each reading their own books. They look up when they hear me at the door. "Hi Mom!"
"We really like being a family," Sam says.
"That's what we were just talking about a minute ago," Hannah says. "We like being a family. Sometimes people get mad or they aren't pleasant (like you always say instead of mad), but at the end of the day, we are glad we're together."
I'm learning life, when lived to the fullest, is almost always a moment away from unraveling. We live at the tipping point between pure chaos and pure blessing.
I will remember Psalm 118:6, The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.