It was not a good start to the week. My baby had been fussy all weekend long, waking multiple times during the night, which is unusual for him. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, and his crankiness during the day was not fun to deal with under such circumstances. Then on Sunday evening, my fifth grader started complaining that his ear hurt. That night was his turn to be up multiple times, crying because of pain in his ear. Come Monday morning, I loaded them up and hauled them off to the doctor, to find that both had rip-roaring ear infections, and that my ten-year-old’s eardrum had actually burst. My four-year-old had fluid in her ears but it wasn’t infected, but that evening she started complaining that she had “crumbs” in her ear. Off to the doctor we went again the next morning. No, she didn’t have an ear infection. She had strep. Lovely. With three sick kids, a house full of germs, and myself going on zombie hormones to begin with, it was shaping up to be a pretty awful week.
Do you know who Baal-Hanan the Gederite is? What about Zabdi the Shiphmite or Ezri son of Kelub? How about Obil the Ishmaelite? Shaphat son of Adlai? Do any of those names ring a bell? My guess would be no. So let’s try again. Do you know who King David is? Queen Esther? Moses? The apostle Paul? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume you know each of those people and can recite an account or two from their lives. Even young children learn about baby Moses in a basket or David and Goliath. But let’s face it- no one teaches Sunday school lessons about Shaphat son of Adlai. No one even knows who he is. But every individual listed above is mentioned in the Bible, even the “no-namers.” And that’s a good thing. Because in the grand scheme of life, I’m a no-namer, and chances are, so are you.
As a mother of five, I see my fair share of fighting. It seems like some days all I am is a referee, mediating between one fight after another. And it gets old pretty fast. Most parents can probably agree with me on this point. In general, fighting is looked upon as a bad thing. Kids are encouraged not to fight, especially with their fists. We try to teach our kids to work things out by talking through their differences rather than fighting. But I have surprising news for you. Sometimes fighting can be a good thing.
I love to write. I love the thrill I get when I have a good idea for a plot development. I love holing myself away in my little closet office as I race to get the words onto the screen before I forget what I’m trying to say. I love talking about my characters to anyone who will listen. I love that I can use my imagination and not have to follow a set of directions. I basically love everything about writing. Well, that’s not exactly true. There’s one part of writing I could do without: editing.
I see a lot of myself in Martha. I like to be industrious and keep busy around the house. And trust me, with five kids, there’s always something to be done. The chores never end. And like Martha, I tend to get impatient with those who aren’t helping. Impatience very easily gives way to resentment, and pretty soon I find myself grumbling to God, “Don’t you care that I’m the only one who ever does anything around here?” I may be “serving” others and getting the chores done, but it certainly isn’t with a happy heart.
The smell hit me in full force as soon as I walked in the door. We were returning from a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip to the beach, and we were all hot, tired, sandy, and greasy from sunscreen. All I really wanted to do was take a long shower, give the kids a bath, and put everyone to bed. But that was not meant to be. It didn’t take me long to realize what the awful smell was. Our dogs had left us a lovely package in their cage, which was smeared all over the place, hardened by now, making for unpleasant cleanup at best. So rather than get that nice long shower I’d been dreaming about, I found myself on my hands and knees scrubbing out their cage. Welcome home.
For as terrible as it got, it had a rather innocuous start. Two days after contact, I noticed two small bumps on my arm and wondered about them. Over the course of the next few days, more bumps appeared. Then more. Then there were some on my sides. My arms and both sides of my abdomen were covered with blistering sores, and during the dog days of summer I was relegated to wearing long sleeves to cover the gauze that hid the ugly red sores and scabs that lasted the better part of a month. What caused all this discomfort and pain? Poison ivy.
I was almost done unloading my shopping cart when another lady pushed her cart in behind me. I glanced at her apologetically, saying, “You’ll be here a while.”
“I’m in no rush,” she assured me.
I smiled and continued unloading. Half of my groceries were already bagged and loaded into another cart, the entire conveyor belt was full of more groceries, and there were still some left in my original cart. The lady behind me observed all this, and tried to make small talk.
“Big trip today, huh?”
“We have five kids,” I explained. “And I try to do a shopping trip for two weeks at a time so I don’t have to come as often that way.”
Her eyes widened. She took in my three-year old and 15-month old sitting side by side in the double cart, uncharacteristically docile as they looked at her. She hadn’t been privy to their meltdown on aisle 8.
“Do you plan out your meals two weeks in advance, too?” she inquired.
I nodded in affirmation, and her eyes got even wider. With awe in her voice, she said, “You’re so organized!”
I sure had her fooled.
One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” What?? How is that even possible? Think about this. Joshua led the Israelites after the death of Moses, and through Joshua’s direction, this band of nomads conquered the Promised Land, defeating strongholds like Jericho simply by marching around the city and blowing trumpets. They had seen God’s hand powerfully at work in their lives, and had witnessed what their forefathers only dreamed of- entering the Promised Land of Canaan. But then that generation died and their children grew up, not knowing the Lord. Why? I hate to say it, but it was because of the parents.
I made an idiot out of myself not too long ago. Okay, granted, that’s not as uncommon as I’d like to believe, but this took the cake. Over Spring Break, a friend told me she was taking her daughter to Chicago, and when I talked to her the morning they were leaving, I asked, “Are you coming back yet today?” There was an awkward pause, and she reminded me, “Ruth, it’s 17 hours away.” Oops. That’s right. We live in Texas, don’t we? I made the excuse that I’m still in the mindset of living in Michigan. But that’s not the whole truth. And the real reason is even more embarrassing.