They say that God does not give imaginary grace. He distributes it like manna; He provides what we need for this moment and asks that we trust it will be on the ground to meet us tomorrow. So I suppose that when I say, "I cannot even imagine being a military wife or a single mom--I could never, ever do it"...the reality is that if I had to do it, God would give me what I needed.
But I am thankful that to date, my worst solo-parenting challenge has been a two-week business trip. And I am not afraid to admit that His grace to me has come not in the form of supernatural strength and patience to push through on my own, but in the form of humility to ask for help and an extended visit from this beautiful, servant-hearted woman:
When Steve made plans to be in Europe for 13 days, and it became clear that I would not get to tag along, I emailed my mom. My parents were due for a visit this spring anyway--so, "please," I said, "could you come for part of the time I am on my own?"
Her response was to fly down for an entire week.
Grammy landed in Nashville on Wednesday, March 25, a lovely belated birthday present. And the number of mournful "I miss Daddy"s I heard from the mouths of little boys decreased exponentially. She took us out for lunch at Chuy's...
...and, as I rolled my eyes, bought Lego Bionicle sets the boys had been drooling over ("For Easter! Just let me--I don't live close so I don't get to do this very often!"). She played ball in the backyard, picked boys up from school, washed dishes, babysat, even vacuumed my floors. She read countless books; she helped me work on a project for the house; she took us out for frozen yogurt. Perhaps most valiantly, she let wiggly boys take turns sleeping in her bed :)
We dragged Elijah and Jude to a "GIRL movie" and took them on a field trip to Cheekwood.
In between all that, we chatted about everyday life; we delighted in the boys together and laughed at the funny things they say; we exchanged eye rolls at their drama. One night late in the week, after a particularly trying bedtime, I came downstairs, hugged her, and said, "THIS is what every night would have been like for the last week if you hadn't been here. And I would be institutionalized. THANK YOU."
We also spent an evening listening to Vietnam-era recordings of her parents and siblings, which I recently had converted to digital audio files. (The family sent cassette tapes back and forth with my uncle when he was in the Army in Vietnam, as apparently the quality of phone calls and/or opportunity to make them was terrible.) I'd never heard her dad's voice before, and it was fun to hear really young versions of my grandmother, aunt, and uncles.
Then on one of her last days here, when both boys were in school, we did a Stray Boots tour in Nashville! We loved the ones we did in New York a couple of years ago, and we each independently had the idea to try one of the Nashville ones. We had a perfectly sunny day for it and so much fun being tourists.
The only thing I regret is that I didn't do what Jude is inclined to do to me: grab her hand while walking together and say, "I'm so glad I have such a nice mama." :)
So I'm saying it now: I'm SO glad I have such a nice mom. She is an extravagant display of God's grace to me and my family.