The wind is howling in a bitter, raging way and I am huddled next to the plug in heater in the office at church while the children run crazed and argumentative laps up and down the parish hall. Maybe they are having an actual game but I was promised they were doing 'laps' 'for exercise'. I've also been assured by everyone that every scrap of school work is done. And Matt is home cleaning the basement for exercise, not 'exercise' which is how it would be if I were doing it. So me sitting here, pursuing the vast sea of the World Wide Web, next to a pile of clean pristine church bulletins, the fruit of some few fretful hours yesterday and today, is perfectly justifiable, whatever the devil may try to say about it. (Hat tip Martin Luther)
Romulus has just been 'reading' to me--that mind/body/soul deadening exercise that comprises me sitting grinding my teeth and praying over and over 'Lord Jesus have mercy on me a sinner' while he writhes around on the chair trying to take his shirt and shoes off, picking all the skin off his lips, but never once sounding the sound of an actual letter unless I say aloud his name, sharply, and sometimes with a loud cry.
The child that wants to read speaks English the way I have always spoken French, haltingly, desperately, clutching at giant words like 'actually' and 'think so' and 'imgonnagogetdressedandgetmycoatandgowithyouonyourwalk' always without breath. She moves in when Romulus is finally at the end of either of us coping and looks at the back of Little Bear's Visit and says, 'You should buy me this red book here. Think so? Let's go buy it.'
'That book's not red,' I say, 'it's black. And we're not going to the store right now.'
It's really hard to keep my attention focused here, on the various dramas of all these children--and how is it that I'm only noticing now how many of them there are? I feel like I should have clued in three or four children ago and done some serious and real mental arithmetic--and not wander away in my mind to other climates and landscapes and colors and sounds. So many people I know and love are off in places of warmth and bright color doing interesting things, eating interesting food. How many of them envy me? Do they sit and think, 'what I wouldn't give to do the same things in the same order every single week'.
But I can't dwell too many minutes in discontent. We are memorizing Number 21:4-9 in the middle of which is documented that wonderful cry of the Israelites to God, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and water and we loathe this worthless food.' In response to which The Lord says nothing but only sends fiery servants to kill the people. Which is it, I wonder every time we say it out, no food or worthless food? Either way it wasn't true. There was food and it was heavenly food and also meat. Quail, for heaven's sake. As if any of us can afford to eat quail. Gladys turned her delicate nose up the other day and said, 'I weally weally like it' (whatever it was I can't remember) 'but I don't want to spoil it by eating it.' Like saying, 'yeah God,' as if any of us should be saying 'yeah' to God, 'thanks so much for everything. I'm really really grateful, but while you're at it, could you please make it something different, and put us all somewhere else.' I don't really want to be the one to say it. And I am really really grateful for the one who was lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, to whom I can look and be saved from death, but from whom I also gain life and warmth and perfect spiritual food.