Once, when my husband was in Australia for two weeks, I drove home from dinner late at night with the kids to find my way to the front door blocked by an enormous snake eating an enormous toad. There was a bloody-death scene at the door, blood smeared across the front walk, and the snake just wouldn't move. I don't think it could, actually, so stuffed with the toad as it was, but eventually my hysterical screaming and Caiden somehow appearing with a rusty machete (We have a machete?) convinced the snake to move. It slithered around the side of the house, toad still hanging half out of its mouth, and I tiptoed around gore to get in the house, a little shaken. The violence of it was stunning.
This time he was in Oklahoma, and I had to let him know that Shadow, his beloved lab, found a chicken and played with it, and Caiden had to wrestle his dead chick from the dog's mouth. It's one thing to have a hawk hunt the chickens and eat them as a course of nature; it's another to have your pet needlessly kill your other pet. That's a hard pill for a little boy to swallow. My husband felt bad, and I did the right thing: instead of cursing the dog, I reminded Caiden that dogs have instinct, that if a hamster ended up in the chickens' coop, they'd eat it in a heartbeat, too. It's nothing personal; it's the way animals are. It ended all right, with only a few tears, and an understanding boy.
But the next day, when we drove up after running errands, and Shadow was running around the yard with yet another dead chick in his jaws, feathers spread across the lawn, it felt like too much. The boy had to dispose of another body, I had to remind him of wretched instinct again, and the silly lab chased him with a toy in his mouth, wanting to play. Caiden's thin shoulders sagged, and he shook his head. Tears spilled out of both of us, and I just wanted my husband home, to help him bury the chick and hug his boy and make it all right.
Instead I made comfort food for dinner, with chocolate chip cookies afterward, and let the kids play hide-and-seek in the darkened house. But by bedtime, my nerves felt stretched and I felt thin-boned and thin-skinned and sad. I'm not good at being alone, without his help and encouragement and presence, and I think to friends who are shouldering their homes and their children and their lives alone, everyday.
I feel stretched after a few days; I can only imagine a few months, years, forever. I admire them. I don't want to be them. I am terrified of ever being them.
Nothing reminds me more of my frame--it is but dust--than days alone, surrounded by children, and mess, and noise, and clamor, with my most beloved one far away. I become quick to snap, quick to tire, ready for bedtime early, for a respite, only to lie in bed sleepless. But it is on those days when I am reminded most that He is here to lighten my burdens, to shoulder them with me, that I am not alone. I am never alone.
And I lay down the burdens, leave my tender ones in His care, and sigh as I slip into worn-thin pages. "Cast your cares upon me." "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust." He is right.
And I sleep.