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Finding a New Family in Christ

alec vanderboom

This weekend I experienced a form rejection from my Mom. It was one of those things where everything is confusion and chaos, weird third party messages, strangely worded emails and odd gaps in phone conversation. It ended with me and my deliciously chunky teething Baby Tess getting booted from grandma's home to make room for my brother's younger "porch party" crowd.

One of the hard things about dealing with my Mom's social anxiety (read "or any mental illness") is her objections to social situations often don't make "sense." This weekend was an important one, the first time my brother brought his serious girlfriend home for our town's annual "Strawberry Festival."

I LOVE my brother's girlfriend, Jenna. She's a solid Christian and the best thing since sliced bread for my brother. Jenna has babysat my kids and helped me shop for a new house. The way she wordlessly hands my brother her sunglasses simply because he's squinting while driving us melts my heart.

So when my Dad announced that we Benjamins had to stay in a hotel this weekend because there wasn't room in the house for both us and "my brother's friends", my brother let out a long sigh. There was technically more than enough space in a five bedroom house. My brother starting reviewing potential room arrangements when I just let out a sigh of my own.

Maybe it was being so tired from the move, but I just felt too exhausted to stand up for "my rights" anymore.

"Let's just roll with the punches, this week," I thought.

My Dad made us reservations at a hotel that I never heard of before. From his description, I assumed we'd be in a run down motel in the center of my small town. I pictured the type of place that had seen better days in 1941.

So I was shocked, this past Friday, when I walked into a sweet, new Bed and Breakfast straight out of New England. It was lovely restored by a History Major with Gibson Girl like flair. The bedrooms were amazing. I couldn't wait to show the flouncy details to my girly 8 and 4 year old daughters.

Fast forward to 11 PM that night.

Jon and I were in HELL.

We had four over-tired, over-stimulated children who refused to sleep. Three kids wrestled, kicked and whined in one bed. For two hours, Jon had played constant referee, while I sat on the floor with an irritable Baby Tess. The only thing that calmed me down during this awful episode was looking at the beautiful window treatments and thinking "At least we never go on vacation, because spending a lot of money to be this miserable in such a beautiful place would really, really suck".

In the middle of this experience it was hard not to mentally whine "I wish at least SOME of the kids could have spent the night with grandma--familiar beds usually mean easier time getting to sleep..."

Eventually my older kids went to bed.

Around midnight, my husband and I crawled into our bed with baby Tess. There was absolutely nothing romantic about sleeping in a Gibson Girl room near my 10th wedding anniversary with my best friend because our Baby Number Four spent the ENTIRE night awake, crawling on either my or my husband's face.

Then my older kids then woke us up at 6 AM. God bless the inn keeper who made us an early coffee at 6:30 and then funny mickey mouse pancakes for the kids at 7 AM.

I stumbled through Saturday exhausted. I missed most of the famous five hour Strawberry Parade. First Tess needed a nap. Then my older children crashed. We skipped out of "party-graw" a series of fun music acts on Main Street in order to drive the kids to sleep on curly country roads.

At 9 PM we tried to gently transfer three sleeping kids to our rooms at the B & B and failed. Maria woke up at the foot of the stairs and burst into tears. Baby Tess and Alex soon followed. Jon and I briefly nodded to the innkeeper couple as we shepherded our crabby sheep up the stairs and into their pajamas.

I left the bedroom 10 minutes later to grab another bottle for Baby Tess. I was so tired, and disoriented that it took me a few moments to register what the concerned innkeeper was saying in plain English.

She wanted to send her husband to Walmart to buy some Tylenol for our teething baby.

"Oh she's fine. We're really all fine. It's just a long day," I said with a wave of my hand.

But the innkeeper didn't go. She said "We noticed that the little one was taking off her sandals and saying that her feet hurt. She could use some pain reliever too, can't she? Can't we get anything for you and Jon? I'll bring you up some wine as soon as your finished in there."

I sat there completely speechless in the hallway of a B & B. "Oh my goodness, she WANTS to help us..." I thought.

It's like a shocking thing for me. Because I'm so used to doing everything alone, without help, trying to take up as little space as possible as the Mother of this big, noisy family who I often wrongly assume is a major irritant to the whole, entire world.

So I let the innkeeper's husband go to Walmart. The innkeeper left me a tray with one bottle of Pedicare and two glasses of red wine. "Tylenol for the Baby and Tylenol for Mommy and Daddy" she said with a smile.

Then she waited in the sitting room with her husband and the opened bottle of red wine. After the kids went down (A full day of Carnival rides are an expensive, but effective sleep aid) my husband and I joined them. Baby Tess slept comfortably on Jon's chest. We drank our wine and got to share the story of Tessy's amazing NICU experience with an understanding former nurse from Cleveland Clinic. (Our innkeepers surprising past job).

I was praying over all this strange coincidences in front of the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday. The innkeeper was asking us at Sunday morning breakfast "will Grandma be watching Tess during church so you guys can pray?" Her kindness brought tears to my eyes.

No, I don't have anyone to watch Baby Tess during church. It's just me, praying over her noisy, cute head.

It's just my husband and me on our own, sitting alone the church pew, trying to raise up these four precious babies for the Lord. We're not alone technically,--but we are ALONE. And the thing that I wanted to shout out to the world is that "its okay." You are never really alone, if you're a member of the household of God. God will send you Mothers and Sisters and Brothers who are fashioned after his own heart to shelter and comfort and support you, no matter what.