After months of slacking off on exercise, I was determined to start this week out right. To get up early and exercise, shower, and read before the kids got up. At six o’clock Monday morning I was up, but was glued to the bathroom, sick with a stomach bug.
I was going to homeschool with enthusiasm, because I want to finish the school year strong. We didn’t crack open a single book. Instead the kids played with each other and entertained Edmund while I laid and watched.
I was actually looking forward to cleaning after the weekend, because the twenty minute cleaning challenge has been so invigorating. Instead we munched on crackers and the carpet gathered a thick layer of crumbs. But not just crumbs, oh no! In their sweet efforts to entertain Ned, the kids turned the house upside down. Toys and cars and books and Tupperware littered every square inch of the living room and spilled over into the kitchen and school room.
I was going to catch up on the ironing for Joshua, but instead he stayed home late to care for me, brought home dinner after work, and conquered the messes the day created with a tenderness that must have rubbed off on the kids.
There was so much I had planned for my Monday, and not a single bit of it got done. But I have rarely felt as blessed as I did laying there on the couch. I want to teach my children to serve others cheerfully, I just don’t want to be the one they are serving. I’m Mom, after all. I’m the one who is supposed to care for them. But the tender enthusiasm they poured into serving me made my heart melt.
They brought me crackers and water and blankets, entertained Ned, and played quietly together. At lunchtime, Rose set up a picnic on the kitchen floor, spread butter on bread, and read a Fancy Nancy story aloud while the kids ate.
Once I’d laid Ned down for a nap, Rose said with a smile, “You go take a nap too. I’ll read a story to Meg and tuck her in.” I gratefully crept up the stairs, and sank under the covers. When I finally woke up, the three oldest exclaimed, “Don’t come downstairs until we say you can. We have a surprise for you.”
Part of me really hoped the surprise was that they cleaned up all of their own accord and the floor was visible again. But even though I love a tidy home, I pushed the thought aside because I knew that whatever the surprise was, it was a heartfelt token of their love for me.
Minutes ticked by as snippets of their frantic preparation drifted up the stairs. Finally, the surprise was ready. They led me down the stairs with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes, three glowing faces stared up at me.
A superman cape was taped across the kitchen entry. Inside, they’d set up an assembly. Rose read a short speech (the main point of which was “we love you and hope you feel better soon!”) and then they pulled out presents: Will had made a paper picture puzzle. Meg drew a rainbow. Rose had a sweet note. And they all had hugs and kisses.
By the time I inched up the stairs to bed at night, my heart was overcome with blessing and my mind was mulling over the day. So often I think that in order to have a happy home, I need to be strong and busy all day. Monday I was neither strong nor busy. But when sickness laid me out, the children responded to my weakness with a tenderness and love that astounded and challenged me.
I tend to think that the house needs to be (mostly) tidy in order for there to be any hope of a peaceful home. I’m not sure such a messy home has ever greeted Josh after work, but despite the mess, we were at peace. Sometimes love (especially the love of four little kids) is messy. But love creates peace in the midst of a mess.
Thankfully, the stomach bug was short-lived and by Tuesday I was able to take the stairs two at a time again instead of creeping up them like a snail. (Which was a good thing since I wasn’t the last to get sick!) But I don’t want to forget to imitate the tenderness of my children, learn to see the love beyond the mess, and remember that even though we should aspire to diligence, sometimes the love of Jesus shines most clearly through our weakness.