Saturday, July 4, 2009

Time in a bottle

Children are a heritage from the LORD. The fruit of the womb is a reward. – Psalm 127:3 (NKJV)

On the kitchen windowsill above my sink are two vases of flowers: daisies my 5-year-old grandson Kyle picked for me the day he was a little stinker and got me mad, and a handful of tiger lilies my husband plucked on the way home from work the day my daughter and her two boys left after a wonderful three-week visit home.

Since Jaime lives 700 miles away, we don’t get to see her and her family often. Now that she’s teaching full time, her week-long Christmas visit is no longer feasible, so she decided to make her annual visit home in June and extend it to three weeks.

So Dean and I brought two mattresses in from the motorhome, emptied a few drawers, moved my lateral filing cabinet into the closet and transformed my writing room into a bedroom for the boys, Alex, 8, and Kyle. I took a monthlong sabbatical from writing and stocked up on macaroni and cheese, paper plates, disposable cups, Band-Aids, Fruit Loops, paper towels, and laundry detergent. I made sure there were children-friendly games, puzzles and movies on hand for rainy days.

Our other three grandchildren, ages 10, 6, and 2, who live next door, were thrilled to have their Southern cousins visit during the summer, when they could play outside. The kids spent every minute they could together. We had a houseful from morning ‘til night.

I sat back and savored every moment, soaking in the sounds of children’s laughter and spats when a game they were playing got too intense, and enjoying my brood together at last. I made a note to hang up a few strips of fly paper in strategic but out-of-the way places. And, of course, I kept the vacuum cleaner within reach.

My refrigerator was crammed. My bare feet picked their way through scattered toys and pieces of toys and games. I stitched a seam on Kyle’s stuffed penguin, did loads and loads and loads of laundry, and ran the dishwasher sometimes twice a day.

Before they came, I’d thought that after three weeks, I’d be ready to see them go.

I wasn’t. I could go for another three weeks (give me a few hours every now and then to myself, though). The day they left I cleaned the upstairs, washed all the bedclothes and hung them on the line, and kept so busy, I made myself sore.

The next day, however, I cried for two hours in an empty and too quiet house. Good thing my daughter-in-law called and asked me to watch the kids in the afternoon. But the oldest, Brent, who had bonded with Alex, looked like I felt—bereft.

When my kids were little and creating chaos, I couldn’t wait for them to grow up and move out, so I could have peace and quiet and order—and a life.

Now I realize they and their families are my life, and an empty, too quiet house isn’t what I really want. I want my brood close, filling my house and heart with life and love and joy.

There was a song back in the ’70s called “Time in a Bottle” that pretty much sums up what I’m feeling today. If I could save time in a bottle, I’d bottle up the first time I held each of my babies and the times I’ve held my children and grandchildren in my lap, reading to them or scratching their backs or just watching TV. I’d bottle up the Sunday evenings we made homemade ice cream using an old-fashioned, hand-crank ice cream maker and the times we spent camping. I’d capture those fleeting moments watching my children run through the grass on a glorious summer day, and I’d bottle up every single visit they made home.

And in lonely, missing-them moments like these, when the reality of how quickly life is passing hits home, I’d pluck down a bottle, open it, and inhale the love and energy of the most cherished moments of a life that’s been blessed beyond all I could have asked or imagined.

Life is passing by all too quickly, Lord. Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:15) and to rejoice in each day, each moment, that You give me (Psalm 118:24). Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Psalm 127

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