We have begun the season of Lent with gusto in our house. Weeks ago, I tried to think of something we could do as a family to bring us closer to God and to get my children to understand the meaning of TRUE sacrifice. As I pondered over what that should be, in that way corner of my brain, the one I try to shut down so often because it tells me to do things I don't WANT to do, I thought, "Give up television." I know families who do this and I always admire them. One year (and she may be doing it again), my sister, Maria, and her two children, became "unplugged". She LOVED it and so did they. And these are kids that love their electronic gadgets! They completely gave up TV, iPads, iPods and so on. Ellie was 8 and Mitch was 6. They are still pretty malleable at that age.
Ever try that on a fifteen year old?
I continued to search for an idea. One that I could live with. The idea of giving up TV was very tempting since I don't really watch it (much). But damn, it sure is a good baby sitter now and again and did I REALLY want to do that to myself? Sounds like someone else needed to learn the meaning of true sacrifice as well. Buckle up, mama.
One night at dinner, the kids were all fighting and, well, let's just say dinner was not peaceful. Nothing new... I mean this is usually 60% of our evening meal experience. In a fit of rage, I began to rattle off my usual banter of how rotten they were being and that things were going to change, dammit! Before I could think clearly, the words just spilled out of my mouth, never, ever able to be taken back. *"By the way, kids, get ready. We are giving up all electronics after dinner for Lent. All of us!"
*(does not include mom needing to email or answer texts or dad taking patient calls... or mom occasionally playing Flappy Bird to beat dad's high score).
Ok, so the Flappy Bird thing is a joke (kind of). But the point is, I said it. They heard it. It was decided and I could not take it back.
An eruption of moans and groans by each of the kids ensued. Will immediately told me this would be impossible as much of his homework is done electronically. Ok, Will, don't be an idiot. Of course homework is not included and you know what I mean! No more watching DVR'd episodes of The Mentalist. No more Full House (thank GOD) for Lucy and Emma and no more youtube videos of Elvis or funny cat pranks for Jack. No more 10 minutes of Food Network for me as I drifted off to sleep at 9:00 pm (that's fine, I could give that up) and no more History Channel for John. Nope. We were powering down.
So what were we going to do? Of course, I wanted to pray more as a family. We've been doing it (most nights, we ain't perfect) and the kids no longer roll their eyes so that's a plus. But perhaps we could do something more. Many nights we have sports practices and by the time everyone is home and showered, it is bedtime anyway. I figured those would be the "easy" nights, although I didn't know what I would do with Lucy, who often afforded me about an hour of peace by watching back to back episodes of her favorite show. Girl needs a mute button when she is hanging out with me... WOW... verbal child!
Weeks ago, I was talking to my cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth lives in Oregon, is a runner (she's cool in my book) and just delivered baby number 5 on Tuesday. As a side note, the day she went in to be induced, she started her day with a run with friends and a light stretching class. Might I say she texted me a picture of herself in her Team Mitch tank that day and I wanted to dislike her. She appears to be hiding a basketball under her top. No hips, no big butt, no fat arms. Nope... thin, beautiful and glowing. She ran throughout the entire pregnancy! Can't hate her if I tried. She is awesome. ANYWAY... Elizabeth had read a book called "Running For My Life". It is the autobiography of Lopez Lamong, an Olympic runner. She was telling me about it and said she had read it to her kids, the oldest of which is 9. They loved it. Lopez was a Sudanese child refugee and became an Olympic star. He attributes all of his success to God, who lovingly saw him through many horrific years of his life.
I was intrigued.
Last night, our first "real" night of no sports and no electronics, started out with John coming home from work saying his stomach felt "off". Given that both boys each spent a night vomiting every hour, then sleeping the next day, I figured there was a high probability that John was on his way. I was correct. Poor John spent the evening/night in bed, and ultimately throwing up many times.
The kids and I had dinner and then attacked homework. I never help Jack with math homework. He hates it and I hate it. And sorry, 5th grade math homework is above my head these days. So John helps him. But last night, that wasn't going to happen. I approached Will, who has no school today (I swear, those St. X kids always seem to be off!) and he willingly took Jack into the dining room and did his homework with him. He was kind to him too. I heard him TEACHING him and explaining things to him. Angel #1.
Emma cleaned up the kitchen (don't be too impressed. It was her turn and she complained, but hey, she did it), while Lucy and I attacked the unfolded laundry. When that was done, we read her book for school. Earlier in the evening, Emma needed help with English. Now that is where I can help... usually. Last night's edition was 17 sentences of figuring out when to use forms of "lay" and "lie". Well, who knew there were so many options to choose from... we had "lain, laid, lay, lie, lied... and blah, blah, blah...I didn't have time to review the rules, so a call to Grandma Corey was in order! Ten minutes later, we had our sentences done and mom was reminded of the rules of when to use each form. Emma was happy. I was happy. Angel #2 (thank you, mom!).
With dishes done, Jack's math done, Lucy's homework done, the dog fed and put to bed and laundry folded and put upstairs, it was time to say our prayers. I had decided after I talked to Elizabeth that day that I'd like to read that book. I also decided I'd like my kids to hear his story. John downloaded the book on the iPad Kindle (usage of this doesn't count since I am just reading a book). I called the kids into the living room, was met with a few exasperated sighs, and began reading. I told them I would read one chapter a night when we were all home. They figured they could suffer through just ONE chapter. I read chapter one and none of them moved. They did not budge. Not even Emma. "Should I read another chapter?" "Yes." It was unanimous. I cannot tell you the last time we had a vote that ended unanimously in this house. That never, EVER happens.
The story begins with Lopez being kidnapped from his mothers arms by rebel soldiers. He vividly recalls his parents chasing the truck he was thrown into and screaming and crying. I had to pause a few times as I read to compose myself. He was six years old.
The story continues on about where he was taken (don't want to give it away in case you want to read it!) and what happened to him. The horror was unbelievable. What captivated me was this tiny boy's recognition of God sending 3 angels (older boys, also kidnapped, that took care of him as best they could) to help him.
And suddenly I got it. And the kids got it. No matter WHAT we are going through in life or how awful and horrible our situation, God is caring for us. Always. How many times do I lament over a situation or hardship, never seeing what is right in front of me? How could this boy of six see it in the worst of situations?
I also realized last night, the angels right in my home (and on the phone) helping me. Not even knowing they were being such. I could have stamped around and been upset at all I had to do on my own with John sick (never considering what my sister goes though as a single mother every single night). I could have, but for some reason, I didn't. Perhaps a heavenly angel on my shoulder? Who knows because I can be good at the occasional pity party.
We finished after two chapters. I know the kids are looking forward to hearing the whole story and I am looking forward to reading it to them. I HIGHLY recommend it even after just two chapters. It was now 9:00 and time for bed. "Hey Lucy, I think I'm going to sleep in your bed tonight since daddy is sick." Lucy's eyes lit up at the prospect of having me all to herself in her twin bed (UGH!). "Mom, Lucy can sleep with me so you can have the bed to yourself." I had to make sure that was really Emma, though it sure sounded like her. Yep, sure enough, it was. Angel #3.
Thank you, God. For everything.