About this series: We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name. So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
It was a dark and stormy night.
No really, it was. I peered out the window at the rain, shivered, double checked the thermostat, and made sure the doors were locked. My oldest had come home from school that day complaining of not feeling well. I waffled all afternoon, then at 4:55 I finally called the pediatrician to talk to the nurse. She offered an appointment for the next morning, and I thought, “There go my errands!”
The last few days of school were intricately choreographed: drop-off, toy store, pharmacy, cleaners, grocery store, pick-up. I sighed because his appointment was going to alter my carefully crafted plans. I felt (kind of) guilty about that, but the guilt wasn’t strong enough to keep me from complaining to my husband.
The children slept and the rain continued. It kept time as I marched about the house doing night-time chores. I shuffled toys into the playroom, loaded the dishwasher, and charged my phone. As I connected the cord, a text appeared. A friend was at the hospital with her son, and she was asking for prayers. He was about to undergo emergency surgery to reattach his lip. Something about squeezing the family dog too tight during the normal bedtime routine. I stopped, and I prayed. I stayed up later than I normally would, waiting for more news.
The house was completely quiet when I flipped the Christmas tree lights and finally headed towards bed. As I stood up in the dark room, I thought about my friend’s son and mine. It hit me: They are the gift. These precious children are the gift. Taking care of them is a gift. Staying up late with them, breaking up their fights, taking them to the doctor, changing my plans for their needs – it is all a gift. But it’s just that sometimes, they are so close, you forget.
I nearly sat back down, heavy with gratitude and grief over my own selfish and misdirected thoughts. This was on December 12th. How could I have known that less than two days later, I would be overwhelmed with gratitude and grief once again? I didn’t know then that the horror of what happened in Newtown would shake us all; that it would – whoosh! - clear our foggy stupor, and help us see the truth so crystal clear: children are a gift. I didn’t know it in that core-altering way yet, but on December 12th, I walked down our quiet hallway with a fresh resolve to do better as a mom.
I kissed each nestled boy, and helped our youngest sleepwalk to the bathroom. He never opens his eyes or says a word during this part of our nightly routine. But on December 12th, as the rain pitter pattered outside, he spoke, just as I was leaving.
“I love you.”
I caught my breath, and whispered, “I love you, too.”
And then, “Thank you, God. Thank you for these gifts.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Courtney is a former lawyer who now spends her days tying karate belts and separating tiny Lego pieces. You might see her shamelessly driving around town in a minivan, or you can catch her at her blog, A Work in Progress. where motherhood, faith, and the occasional domestic pursuit are all fair game.