It was one of those delicious mornings where you hear the wind before the rain. When the alarm clock screams, but the trees scream louder, urging you to ease back into the warmth of covers. But not to go back to sleep. Instead to lay there snug and listen to the howl and the fury. The shaking of the windows and the air rifling through the fireplace. And then, the rain. Softly at first with a casual drip drip drip which grows to a steady beat on the hard winter earth outside the window. Then, the downpour, deafening ears and widening sleepy eyes. Forcing you to rise and peer out of the blinds into the darkness of a morning without sunlight.
The thing is, the rain didn’t stop. For hours. My fireman managed to get Addie to school that morning. I was so relieved it was his day off and that I could wave them goodbye from inside the shelter of the warm, dry house, holding onto a cup of hot Ethiopian coffee. I could have walked around with a warm cup of something in my hand all day with weather like that.
At about nine in the morning both of my boys were standing in the window seat of the breakfast room. The blinds had been pulled up impatiently, one side higher than the other, and faces and hands were pressed against the glass, creating circles of fog. A hard rain can captivate the mind of a preschooler, but a flood will get the adult’s attention. There was a current of water sweeping down the road and continuing to rise on account of the unending pour of water from the dark sky. It was trash day and so all color of garbage bags were floating down the middle of the street with the occasional blue recycling bin swirling in the mix.
Now there were five adults gawking out of the steamy window. My in-laws, my husband, myself and my brother-in-law, who happened to be in town. The waters had crossed the boundary of the street, over that thin stretch of grass between street and sidewalk, and were easing up the front lawn. The diesel truck parked in the street had small waves lapping the bottom of the passenger door. I wondered what it felt like to be inside of Noah’s ark, the rains pounding from above and the floods thrashing from beneath. Knowing that no one else would survive. Jason’s brother, Jeremy, grabbed his phone and ran to the covered front porch just in time to video two cars passing each other in the flood. A scene that caused some excitement among us all.
We all began to wonder if it would rain all day, or if Jeremy would make it to the airport in time to catch his flight back to St. Louis. But much more discreetly than it began, the rain ended. Around eleven that morning I looked out of the window and the flood was gone. A sweet neighbor lady was outside reigning in the garbage bags scattered all over the street. And Jeremy did make it in time to the airport.
All at once I was struck with the awareness of the gracious hand of God. I thought of that first flood upon the earth and I rejoiced in the promise of the rainbow. A cry for humanity sounded in my heart. There is still hope for repentance!
Little did I know how much I needed to hold onto that truth.
The next day was Jason’s shift day and so I was all alone to get the three kids bathed and into bed that night. I had already determined we would only watch the Nature Channel until 7:30 and then have time to do baths and read stories. But there was a documentary about elephants on. And it ended at 8. And I was glued. Come on, it was elephants!
So needless to say, we were all late getting into the tub. I turned to my daughter and told her she needed to get into the bathtub.
“Mama, I’m too tired!” Addie whined.
I knew she had a bit of narcolepsy in her, so I compromised. “You don’t have to wash your hair, just your body.”
She just sat there, those clear blue eyes looking straight ahead of her. I asked her again and still she sat there, defiant. I was starting to lose it inside, my blood heating and beginning to course quicker.
“Do I need to take away your tooth fairy money?” I threatened. I was exasperated. Had the sweet evening of snuggling and elephant-watching come to this? I felt like I was losing control. I haven’t spanked my seven-year old in quite some time, but I reached for the spoon that night. That did get her attention and she finally slinked off to the bathroom. I held the wooden spoon as shame and despair began to creep over me.
“O God,” I prayed, “redeem this night!”
Later, as I was getting the boys in the tub, I heard her crying in the hall. I ran out to see what was wrong and I saw that she had fallen down, walking from the bathroom to her room. She was dripping wet, wrapped in a red towel and must have slipped on the tile. I comforted her as much as I could and helped my daughter to stand. She seemed to be alright and so she went on to her bedroom.
I went back in to care for the boys, but I could still hear her crying from her bedroom. No, rather it was weeping that I heard. Perhaps she really was hurt. I ran again and reached her room to see her curled in a ball on her bed, her small frame shaking with the sobs.
“Adeline, baby, what’s wrong?” I rushed to her and scooped her up. “Are you hurt?” I tried to ascertain any broken bones. She shook her wet head. I looked at her, puzzled. “Look at me, Addie,” I said gently. But she would not look me in the eyes. “Please tell me what the matter is,” I prodded.
She pushed up from me a bit and freed her right hand. Her fingers began to move. She was finger signing! Jason had taught her the alphabet in sign language a few weeks before. Unfortunately, she was better at it than I was. “Whoa there! Start over, Addie, I didn’t catch that!” I said, realizing that I had better pay attention. She signed, slower this time and I repeated each letter as she formed it. “I V B E E N S I N F U L.” I put it together. “I’ve been sinful?” I asked her. My daughter shook her head as if I hadn’t rightly understood her. I repeated the letters again, “I V B E E N S I N F U L,” but then she added “A L O T !” This threw her into a fresh wave of anguish.
And I cradled my daughter, my Addie Rose, as her heart broke over her sin. She wept and wept and I was awestruck. Dare I believe that God was redeeming the ugly of the night?
“Addie, turn from your sin and run to Jesus. His grace is enough for you.” I smiled at her and said, “His grace is enough for me.”
And I rejoiced that there was still hope for repentance.