By Rian Ryan
Wonder. Hope. Kindness. Those are the sub-themes in this year’s MOPS theme: We are the Starry Eyed. And they seem a little wild to me. As in wilderness, they seem foreign and distant; like things I once knew but haven’t experienced deeply in quite some time. I think, at a minimum, being inundated by the everyday sameness of mothering little people can, over time, deaden those parts of us that are in tune to the beauty around us. So, also, can the slightly bigger things that come our way. Like Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.
Yes, many of you reading this already know of my family’s summer drama. The school year ended with a bout of colds for all (the kind with the never ending runny noses), followed immediately by another bout of colds. Followed shortly by a terrible case of HFM (for everyone but my husband) that lasted about 10 days. One of those days I laid on the couch unable to do anything due to fever and exhaustion, and another day I sat on the couch all day because I couldn’t walk from the pain in my feet. That was followed by ANOTHER case of HFM that we are still dealing with as I type. My middle child didn’t sleep at all one night last week but instead thrashed and moaned from itching and pain while we held him, and two nights later my 2-year-old daughter followed suit. My daughter’s feet are still peeling from the blisters she had two weeks ago even as new blisters are forming around them. Some summer, huh? Due to our quarantine we’ve only been to the pool once, library once, and so help me I have only been to Target once or twice and it was by myself (ok, that part wasn’t so bad). We have missed almost a month of church, have turned down all the playdates, have been too feverish or too tired or in too much pain for fun indoor activities. Or I’ve been too tired or depressed to make them happen. The walls are closing in on me and for the love of all that’s holy the AIR CONDITIONING CRAPPED OUT during the hottest week of the summer (obviously) and we can’t even go anywhere! And as it turns out, summer break is woefully shorter than I remember it being when I was a kid and school starts the week after we get back from our vacation (assuming we don’t get another case of HFM, though if that happens I might just wrap everyone in plastic and put them on the plane anyway) and I’m just DONE!
And I know, yes, that these aren’t even really big things. I can list 1,000 things worse than what we are dealing with. But our things are just piled up getting heavier and heavier and this camel’s back is broken. When the second case of HFM hit us, I was too shocked to even be upset. For about 5 hours. Then I got mad. Just plain mad. I grumbled at God. How was he letting this happen? Seriously. I’d been looking forward to the awesome fun we were going to have on our summer vacation. We made a summer bucket list, for crying out loud. It remains vastly untouched. And I was bitter. Honestly, I still am a little bit. Why did we have to get sick and watch everyone else have fun? Why did I have to be stuck at home with kids too contagious to take into public? I was truly despairing, so very sad and exhausted and disappointed…and bitter (did I mention that?).
But here’s the beautiful part. In the midst of all this, God has been showing me kindness. In between two rounds of HFM I got to visit a wonderful friend in PA (by myself!) and my kids were healthy enough to go to the Sports Camp that we had already paid for and to which they were looking forward. The day I was unable to walk was a Saturday and my husband was home to take care of everything. My sweet friends did all the meal prep for a freezer cooking session I was supposed to be involved in, and then the one who was 9 months pregnant delivered it to my house. A friend who is dealing with her own personal hardships right now delivered a Frappuccino to my door. The same friend who was 9 months pregnant just had the baby but still delivered a bunch of movies for us to watch while stuck inside. A brave woman knowingly invited my family to her home when our AC was out despite the HFM. I accepted the invitation when the dark, humid, stale house started making me feel like I was going crazy. And then there’s Facebook through which my friends provided me with so many ideas to help soothe my kids’ pain and itching, offered supportive words, and offered their HOMES when our AC was broken. My kids somehow contented themselves to just play inside all freaking day. On repeat. But I couldn’t immediately see all of those things as the gifts they were. The hardness that had built up only allowed me to see the trials as devastating interruptions to the fun we were supposed to be having. There was no hope to be seen, no wonder at God’s goodness.
But something clicked yesterday when I saw the offers to help come pouring in. God wasn’t casting down plagues upon my house, he was offering glimpses of his vast love and unending kindness THROUGH it all. There IS hope in the midst of any trial that comes our way. We have to CHOOSE it by opening our eyes to see. There is wonder in the midst of the mundane, and hope in the midst of fear and despair.
Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. – Psalm 139:12
“Starry Eyed means looking for the light even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable.” (MOPS.org) I want to choose to be Starry Eyed this year. Will you join me?