“Render to me!” The eleven-year-old demands and the easy-going one-year-old complies.
I raise my eyebrows and am informed by half a dozen clambering voices that that’s how the eleven-year-old always asks for something. Considering their storytime each night consists of being read to out of a tome from the 1600s, it’s not all that surprising.
“Mama, I can’t feed myself, you need to,” the three-year-old’s plaintive voice sounds at lunchtime. When she doesn’t get the response she’s looking for, she gives us a wide-eyed stare. “Mama, I really can’t feed myself because my big toe hurts.” This is the same child that informed us just before bedtime that she was Hungry! and after being directed to her papa with the request for food, quickly amended it, saying she was “Hungry for a tic-tac in the morning after she had woken up.”
The five-year-old tells me his “brothers are slightly more fun to clean the kitchen with because they just ask him to sweep the floor” and I’m reminded that I need to be a more fun auntie.
When the oldest girls (17 and 14) bring up stories I used to tell them when they were the little ones, I sigh in relief that the children do hold good memories of me.
My oldest sister and her husband have a passel of happy, loud, messy, hard-working, oftentimes chaotic, and never dull household of children. Nearly ten years ago I spent two months with them (and their then four children) high up in the mountains of Peru where they’d lived for the past six years.
The 12,500-foot elevation created a merciless environment with little air to breathe, an abundance of sickness, and a beautiful, but barren landscape. The sun was close and the wind was harsh – whistling through the valley, creating chapped cheeks, constant sunburns, and rough skin.
There’s a vast difference between Then and Now. The abundance of greenness, the quality of the oxygen, the ease with which to keep a clean house… (There’s an art form that must be mastered in order to keep a dirt floor properly swept, whereas anyone can sweep linoleum.)
Yet some things remain. When I spent two months with my sister in Peru she was living in a dirt house, on bedrest while pregnant for her fifth child. The hostile land she’d chosen to live in had been hard on her – which was one reason I was helping her in the first place. Her family was moving back to the States where good nutrients and care (not to mention air) were more easily come by. Her attitude though remained calm and determined. No matter what she was going through, she kept her voice sweet, her words kind. I was amazed and inspired.
Ten years have passed, and although now in good health, morning sickness is zapping her energy. Yet through it all, she continues to be sweet – to allow a peace that passeth all understanding to keep her kind and thoughtful even as she doesn’t feel well.
My sister went to a Bible college when I was just six, and then married when I was two weeks away from turning nine, yet my childhood memories are full of spending time with her. Of growing up sharing a bedroom (where she tried desperately to teach my other sister and I the art of bedroom cleaning), learning to cook, and being read to. All throughout my childhood, I was in awe of my big sister. She was everything I longed to be, plus more.
Things haven’t changed. Even though our lives have gone in very different directions (I would currently be expecting my fifth child and living in South America if I was her), I continue to be amazed and inspired by her. Her life shows God’s love on a daily basis, even when it isn’t easy. She thinks through what she says, remains kind even when her children try to ruffle her, and takes everything in stride.