When it’s finally quiet at night, the events of the day run through my head. The day’s story is like a sheet of filled notebook paper. There are faces and conversations, there’s my job in the city; our comings and goings.
But most of the day’s page is covered with lines of Rhema and me. I see myself dressing her in the morning, helping her in the bathroom, engaging in our daily tooth-brushing battle. I’m giving her her meds, trying to find something she’ll eat, working us both through a meltdown. I see myself talking intently with her teacher or therapist while holding her hand. I hear her sweet voice saying “Hi, hi, hi” and “Bye, bye, bye” when prompted – often the only words she ever says to me in a day.
And then just as I close my eyes for a brief sleep, I spot the little girl in the blank spaces.
All day she’s been there, just outside the lines. At age four, she’s so independent – getting ready for school, lugging her backpack behind her, buckling herself in. She’s playing I-Spy and telling the same made-up knock-knock jokes that make no sense at all and laughing like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever said. She’s praying for Daddy to come home soon, praying for her sister to talk, praying for Mommy to catch her train. She’s stooping nearby like a faithful friend while her sister is on the floor and 3 adults are trying to help her stand. She’s hugging my legs while I’m on the phone scheduling another EEG appointment because she believes that hugs make everything better.
One piece of the story stands out to me. I’m struggling to get Rhema to keep her shoes on and get in the car. The girls will be late to school, I’ll be late to work. In a moment of frustration I’m not proud of, I cry out loud, “God, why is this so hard???”
Instantly I hear a little voice, on the periphery, praying earnestly:
“Dear God, please help Mommy. Please help Rhema. Thank you. Amen.”
Of course, He hears her prayer.
And when her sister begins to cry, she steps over the line and comes to center. She pats a back, offers a hug. Even though she’s pushed away, she doesn’t seem to mind. “Don’t cry, Rhema. Mommy’s not mad at you. I’m not mad at you. It’s ok.”
I hold her tightly in my arms for just a moment and tell her I love her times one hundred fifty million and more, knowing she might not ever understand how infinite my love is… until she has a little Hope of her own.
I turn back to her big sister – she needs me more right now.
My Hope knows. She’s seemed to know since she was born. She’s used to it. And, for the most part, she’s ok with it.
(Thank God she’s ok with it).
She goes back. Back to laughing, loving, playing, and praying in the margins.