We were sharing a handful of pistachios while sitting on the back porch swing, the sun setting off to the west, Thrushes and Towhees gently calling an end to the day. Swinging back and forth on the old porch swing, she munched on the singularly dispensed nuts that I offer her. As for me, I needed to simply be careful not to knock over the beer bottle that was strategically placed between my feet. For 90 seconds life is suspended in this animated glory, I dare not reach for the beer for fear that the trance will be broken, the moment lost and the struggle we had earlier in the evening resumed.
These moments are so few and when they hit I dare not breathe for fear of losing them. They’re what I call the “grace moments” – God reaches out and puts peace in my heart and it’s the same epiphany that Martin Luther no doubt held when he came to understand that we’re saved by grace, not by works. That same gong goes off in my head as I realize that in this glorious moment, her life and mine are in balance, in agreement, and in the care of a loving God. That will no doubt change in the next 30 minutes but for now, it’s a delightful and encouraging experience.
I watch as other evening birds fly their last sorties for the day, the 3 bats that have graced the skies above this old farmhouse for as long as we’ve lived here, begin their nightly forage at the all-you-can-eat mosquito bar. “Go for it boys, fill up” I say. She laughs. Something in my intonation tickled her fancy and she laughs out loud again, giggling at first but then rolling into a full-belly laugh, extending those 90 seconds for a minute longer. I gratefully accept the extension.
I dread the bedtime struggle, the fighting which is a literal statement. So many parents talk about the fight at bedtime and what they really speak of is the struggle of wills. For us, it’s a literal fight; fists swinging, glasses smashing, diaper shredding, hard shoving and deep fingernail gouging. “Try nice-words”, the therapists suggest. I don’t even respond, as “nice-words” with Bethany are as ineffective as aspirin would be in controlling cancer.
That struggle however, is still a full 9 minutes away – held at bay by a grace moment, one that’s been extended by a full 60 seconds so for the next few minutes we enjoy the birds, the bats, the creaking of the swing chains, the cool of the evening and joy of knowing that each of us is doing the very best we can.