... my day, that is.
Oh, the weekend started out with promise.
We had made it through a hectic week that included several deadlines for me, the end of the law-school semester and graduation for Joe, wrestling workouts for Carson, football practice and a jamboree game for Christian, nightly ballet rehearsals for Mary Ashley, and a choir concert for Emma -- all of that on top of school and church commitments. I took Friday off from work, determined in those few hours of quiet to make our house look less like a storage room for our spring activities and more like the center of our family life. Joe's parents would be joining us on Sunday for worship and a matinee performance of Mary Ashley's spring ballet production. I had been planning our brunch for weeks and couldn't wait to gather everyone around our table for a festive Mother's Day celebration.
Friday morning found me humming a happy tune as my housecleaning plans quickly shifted to creative projects (somehow that always happens). By lunchtime, I had put together a shelving unit for our screened-in porch and was ready to tackle a couple of painting projects.
However, as afternoon melted into evening, my to-do list seemed to keep growing, and the work stretched into the wee hours of Saturday morning. After a scant few hours of sleep, I awoke to more housework to complete before serving as a volunteer for Mary Ashley's first matinee performance. Dressing for the show, I wasn't feeling my best but determined to press on.
The ballet was breathtaking -- a true joy to behold -- and I left the production happy that Mary Ashley had been invited to spend the afternoon between shows with a friend from class. I kissed her goodbye and told her I would pick her up after the evening performance -- 9:30, based on my estimate. Off I went to get groceries and flowers for the next day's celebration.
By this point, my throat was hurting and I felt achy and tired. But it was time to pick up the other children -- Emma from a neighbor's house and the boys from an outing with friends. When we dropped off the other teens in their group, little did we know it would take us hours to get back home thanks to a train that stopped on the tracks, backing up traffic at the railroad crossing for miles. (Oh, and this was after a heart-stopping near-death experience in which a huge truck nearly hit Carson on the driver's side ... but that's another story.)
By the time we reached home, I was exhausted. Joe suggested the two of us run out for a quick bite to eat before picking up Mary Ashley. We slipped out -- my cell phone left behind, the battery dead, following our afternoon expedition. Little did I realize, Joe had also left his phone.
Soup and a steaming latte were a balm for my sore throat, and we enjoyed catching up on the day's events. When we discovered that neither of us had a phone, I grew concerned that we would lose track of time and suggested we head to the venue. Turning on the ignition to his car, Joe pointed out the time: 9:30. Only a few miles away from the performance, our timing should work out perfectly.
Imagine our surprise when we rounded the curve to see the parking lot nearly empty -- the building pitch dark ... and locked. "Oh, no!!" I realized with a start. "The show must have started earlier than I remembered!"
Without our phones, the only thing we could do was return home to check in. When we reached our driveway, I flew into the house and called for Mary Ashley. "Is Mary Ashley here?" I called out to the other kids. Emma came downstairs, and seeing my panicked expression, nearly started to cry. "Where is Mary?" she pleaded.
I ran into the bedroom to charge my phone, waiting impatiently for it to turn back on. Our answering machine blinked with a message from her ballet teacher, saying the show had ended at 8:45. Would we be there soon? Joe rushed back to the school to see if they were still waiting somewhere. In the meantime, I reached a teacher and found out that a classmate's mother had picked Mary Ashley up when we couldn't be reached. I grabbed my keys and raced to their home -- finally reuniting with our daughter a little after 10 o'clock.
Although initially she was relieved to know we were safe, on the ride home Mary Ashley's joy turned to grief as she recounted the evening. As we pulled into the garage, she was bawling. "I was one of the first girls ready to go," she said between sobs. "I waited and waited, until finally everyone had gone but me. Then the teachers started leaving, and they started locking the building." My heart was crushed knowing I had let our sweet girl down -- especially when I had expected her to be so pleased to see that Joe and I were both there to pick her up.
After explaining the mix-up and snuggling with Mary Ashley, she seemed to feel better, but I only felt worse. When she left our room to get ready for bed, I started crying -- softly at first, but soon the tears were coming in great heaving waves. We had worried our precious daughter and inconvenienced the ballet staff, as well as her friend's parents, and it was all my fault. I was so humiliated -- and sick on top of that. And I still had hours of work to do in the kitchen to prepare for our brunch the next day. I felt completely exhausted and overwhelmed.
Go to sleep, Joe urged. We could eat out instead of cooking at home. In fact, his parents had already suggested it. I cried at the thought of giving up the brunch at our house, then cried harder knowing I would need to stay up most of the night if I wanted to do it. Reluctantly, I agreed that we should just go out to eat and headed to the kitchen to put up the ingredients I had intended to prepare. Realizing this was the first year since Mary Ashley had started ballet that I hadn't hosted a gathering in honor of the event, the tears kept streaming.
The next day was Mother's Day, and I felt like the worst one ever.
Joe soon joined me in the kitchen, wrapping me in a warm embrace. "You are a great mommy," he said. "You are such a servant mommy that even on a day that is supposed to be about letting us pamper you, you want to turn it into a time to serve us."
He helped me put up food, then reminded me, "We don't love you because of what you do for us. We love you for you."
Sunday unfolded differently than I had expected -- without a pretty tablescape at home to commemorate Mary Ashley's ballet or a tantalizing menu to honor Joe's mother -- but it brought blessings just the same. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a restaurant, with the kids snuggled up beside me and kind words of encouragement all around. Eating out afforded us a little time to relax and visit before heading to the show -- a performance that amazed all of us with its loveliness and message of hope.
In the end, although my Mother's Day weekend did not match my vision of perfection, it did hold a few lessons worth passing on. (Besides double-checking pick-up times and making sure both parents never leave the house without at least one cell phone.) Someday when Mary Ashley feels like the worst mom ever, I hope that she will remember that her own mom felt that way sometimes but was never too proud to apologize and try to start again. I also hope she will realize that sometimes in life we need to let go of something good, like a brunch, to accept something better, like much-needed rest.
So, yes, maybe this wasn't my weekend -- not my best moments and definitely not according to my plans. But as it turns out, I wound up getting exactly what I needed this year for Mother's Day:
A gift of Grace from the ones who love me most.
"And He has said to me, 'My is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).