OK, God, I get it. Seriously. I am not in control.
Take last weekend. College friend Jeff, his wife Cherisse and their 4-week-old baby girl stayed with us while they were away from their Louisville home on a work-related road trip. We decided on Chinese for lunch Saturday and headed toward the restaurant. We were in our mini van and they were behind us in their car. We turned left onto the access road near the restaurant and they turned left too … only there wasn’t enough room for them to make it without getting hit in the backside by a pick-up truck. Everybody was OK, and the 4-week-old baby went on back to sleep. Jeff’s car’s bumper was thrown across the field.
Momma and baby were sitting in my van while the guys talked to the guy who was driving the truck. Along comes a bike rider on the sidewalk, and he just fell off. Like he had a heart attack or something. He just fell over. And laid there, moaning. So the guys went to help, and quickly noticed [rather, smelled …] the problem. The bicyclist was drunk. And he even puked to prove it.
The police car and ambulance showed up soon after. We assured them the bicyclist’s accident was unrelated to Jeff’s back bumper being thrown across the field. The ambulance took the drunk biker to the hospital and we took Cherisse to the ER while Jeff finished dealing with the accident report and the uninsured driver who hit him.
So much for Chinese food.
Cherisse checked out fine and just had some soreness. They changed their road trip plans and headed back to Louisville. Meanwhile, we canceled some plans with friends because we weren’t going to be able to leave as early as we had originally planned. But then we ended up meeting up with the same friends and doing the same thing we had planned, just later than we planned.
Yes, I know You have plans for me. Plans to prosper. And not to harm me. You know, sometimes I just think I’m a really great planner. I think about lots of details. But, thing is, You think about even more details. You see an even bigger picture.
So I organized my friend Sarah [you know, Davey‘s mom …] a birthday lunch Thursday at a local restaurant that is known for its delicious bread, fabulous desserts [free for the birthday girl!] and lunch-time crowds. But I made a reservation: 12 chairs, plus three highchairs. Apparently, I was confusing because when I got there I only saw nine chairs and three highchairs. And not much room to add any more.
My eight other friends and the few kids that were joining us [some were home with sitters] started showing up, and I was stressing out that not everyone was going to have a place to sit. Courtney’s kids were the ones that didn’t really have a seat until we squeezed in extra chairs to our already too-tight table arrangement.
Meanwhile, I was noticing that Ben in his high chair was sitting awfully close to the glass table top. So I moved him back a little. The waitress told me when the ladies at the neighboring table finished eating, she would move their table to the end of ours so we could spread out. Good deal.
Then Cate needed to go the bathroom. Someone was already occupying the single-stall bathroom, so we stood there for a minute before I decided to go back and re-arrange the chairs so the three kids could sit at the table that was going to be added so us adults could talk during our lunch. The waitress recruited table-moving help from a bus boy, who was carrying a tub of dirty dishes, which he ended up dropping. So then he had to sweep up the broken dishes while the waitress attempted to get us situated.
But there was a lot going on, and my plan got confused with my friend’s plan and I ended up at the far end of the newly added table, feeling very removed from my friends. At least I was sitting next to birthday girl Sarah, so I wasn’t completely lacking adult interaction.
Remember I moved Ben away from the table so he wouldn’t hit his head or attempt to chew on the glass table top? Yeah, well, in the the shuffling of people and tables, he ended up closer to the edge … a fact I didn’t realize until he was screaming after apparently hitting his face, more specifically his eye, on the edge of the table. I can’t remember when my food came, but I remember sitting there with a screaming baby — whose eye was swollen and red, thankfully, only on the outside — and a salad in front of me. But no fork.
Cate was talking to me about how her yogurt was green and pink mixed [She often talks about flavors in terms of colors. This, for instance, was watermelon.] but how she loved just pink yogurt, all while spooning the green in her mouth. She wanted my full attention while she shared her thoughts on yogurt. Yet her brother was still screaming. Different waitresses asked if Ben needed ice. I really just wanted one of them to bring me a fork.
Apparently two of my friends tried to offer assistance, but they seemed so far away at one of our original tables that I couldn’t here them. But instead of saying that nicely, I said, “I can’t hear you. I’m stuck down here with the kids.” I’m sure my tone was frustrated and smart aleck. But it was the truth. Not communicated with any love.
I couldn’t hear anything but Ben crying.
So I decided to just pack up my kids and untouched salad. I could eat at home after giving my son some Tylenol for his probably throbbing head. Tylenol might have been good for me at this point too.
A couple friends had already slipped out because they had to get back to work or relieve the husband watching the kids. Apparently when I started packing up, I killed the party and everyone else started gathering their belongings. I paid for my food, reminded Sarah to get her free dessert to go, and headed to my car, holding my crying son, carrying my diaper bag on my shoulder, holding the Styrofoam box of my untouched salad and a smaller version containing Cate’s partially eaten lunch, and nudging Cate forward through the crowded restaurant. I just wanted to get to my car.
I loaded the kids in the car, turned on the air, and cried. Jaclyn came to my window and we talked. She understood how I was feeling and reminded me that every moment of our lives is not like this, something I should know because, well, I hadn’t been that stressed out since my friends and I decided last month that taking our combined six children to the public pool was a good idea. Although that was more personal stress and not so much me feeling bad I had organized chaos for my friend’s birthday! I had planned to run errands, but I ended up accepting Jaclyn’s invitation to swim [thankfully, not at the public pool, but at a friend’s house] with her. Cate liked that idea better too.
So we went home, where I soothed the banged-up Ben and then ate my lunch while the kids laughed on the safety of the carpeted nursery. I then gathered floats and towels, changed people into their swimwear, and drowned my stress in a pool filled with water slightly cooler than bath water.
I soaked up some sun while Ben napped and Cate swam. I texted with my friend, who absorbed my harsh tone, reminded me that friendship is more valuable than a moment of insensitivity, and even left flowers on my doorstep in hopes my afternoon would improve. I also thought about how next time I’m planning a lunchtime birthday party, I’ll to order carry-out food and invite my friends over to my house.
You comfort me. I know this. You always have room for anyone at your table. And You give me everything I need. There will be bumps and bruises along the way, but You sustain us so we can live and learn that You are indeed the ultimate planner and care-giver.
Knowing we had plans to spend Saturday at Kentucky Lake with out-of-town friends Katie and Aaron and their 9-month-old Ben, finding two infant life jackets was on my to-do list. After my chaotic lunch on Thursday, I ended up waiting until Friday to venture into Walmart to evaluate the life jacket situation.
The situation: One infant life jacket in stock. And it happened to be hot pink.
Hmmm … Maybe I could just borrow something from my well-equipped sister-in-law? So I finished shopping at Walmart and then moved on to Kroger, where I prefer to buy my groceries. In the Kroger parking lot, I realize I should call Angela to discuss the life jacket situation. Turns out, she has one, which she didn’t mind letting me borrow. I decide that I’ll have to drag my kids back into Walmart so I can buy the pink one. I mean, the babies have to life jackets on the boat. And a boat ride is worth putting my son in a hot pink life jacket.
Grocery shop. Take ice cream, milk and other refrigerated items home so they don’t melt in the sweltering, humid Kentucky air. Go back to Walmart. Go to Angela’s.
Two life jackets. Check.
You provide, I know. Sometimes it just involves two trips to Walmart.
Later that day, Greg texted me: “Pontoon boat has bad gas leak and is in the shop til next week. Jet skis will still be there tomorrow thought.”
Oh, OK. I can deal with jet skis. Although I guess now I may not need to pink life jacket for my son.
Katie and Aaron get here later than expected Friday night. We decide Saturday morning to go on to the lake, nobody thinking that Katie probably can’t ride jet skis because she’s 13 weeks pregnant. We got there and I couldn’t find the key … until I realized many minutes later that I overlooked where I was supposed to be looking. We had lunch and got the jet skis in the water. While the babies were napping, Greg drove the jet ski and pulled me on a tube. It was some of the best tubing I’ve experienced, despite the choppy water.
Later we all decided to get in the water and I was going to take Cate on a jet ski ride after convincing her it was like riding a go-cart on the water. She wanted to help me drive. So while everyone else was swimming off the neighbors’ dock, I went to fetch the jet ski. I noticed the floating dock that secures the jet ski and is attached to the main dock wasn’t attached like I expected, but I figured it was attached another way. I got the jet ski unhooked and was trying to push its back end into the water, when I noticed I was floating away … on the dock, with the jet ski.
I waved my hands and yelled that I needed help. Greg waved back. Then they realized I wasn’t just being friendly. Leaving Katie and her baby Ben, Aaron and Greg [toting Cate and Ben] came to my rescue. Greg asked what to do with Ben, and I said strap him in the infant carrier and sit him somewhere level. So while he was taking care of our children, I decided to get off the floating dock that was floating farther away, and I pulled it [using the string of the jet ski] back to the dock to which it was supposed to attached. I started investigating the problem and saw that three of the four metal poles that were supposed to hold the additional docks were broken from the pull of the floating docks with the lake’s current. Not good.
Greg and Aaron worked on securing the docks while I rode over to help Katie, who was tired of treading water and walking on rocks with her baby in a float. I didn’t realize the water was as shallow as it was near her until it was too late … and I’d driven the jet ski too close. I killed the motor, so I couldn’t go farther into the rocks and so I wouldn’t create lots of waves near my 9-month-old friend. Turns out, I really killed the motor. Like it wouldn’t start. So I hopped of that, and pulled it to the neighboring dock [not the one at the house we were using] by the rope that I had already used to rescue the escaping dock. I tied it up, and Aaron ended up diagnosing the troubling rocks stuck in the jet ski and helping Greg get both the working and non-working jet skis back to the trailer. We were calling it a day on the lake.
We played cards inside the lake house while kids slept, talked about dinner, decided to treat ourselves to Mexican on the way home, enjoyed said Mexican food, played Settlers of Catan and enjoyed fresh blackberry cobbler. The lake day that wasn’t meant to be ended on a better note. And I only could laugh thinking back on our day.
Thank you, God, for laughter. Your joy comes even when we don’t expect it. Your mercy keeps us afloat when we’re drifting away. Your grace reminds us that we’re human. You alone can all your plans. And I’m happy to be along for the ride.