Swift Away the Old Year Passes

2011 was the year when I didn’t get enough sleep. I blame Abram, mostly. Not that I regret one second of the blurry nights awake, holding and feeding him.

But if you asked me what one moment of the year was the straight up distilled essence of 2011, it was a moment when Abram was finally asleep. June 22, 2011, sometime around 2:00am, somewhere near Supply, NC.

The previous afternoon, Erik, Zora, Abram, and I, along with 40 teenagers and 10 adults, drove down a dirt road, and discovered that the mission camp we were planning to spend a week at was not exactly what its directors had represented it to be. (Yes, I am being diplomatic.) They had concealed from us that the building where we were to stay was not yet completely constructed, and certainly hadn’t  yet passed inspections. In several key regards, it was unfit for occupancy, even by a youth group that was ready to rough it a bit.

Faced with the emergency need to get everyone settled in for the night after a long bus ride, several of the adults sprung into action and tried to get the camp building into shape, and we decided that the girls and my family would sleep in a nearby Methodist church. while the boys toughed it out at the camp.

While the girls got the better deal in terms of a finished roof and walls, this tiny little country church, with two already ailing toilets, had never been designed to cater to the sanitary needs of 30 people. By early evening, the toilets had stopped working, and teams of kids were crossing a state highway to access the flushibility of a gas station’s facilities.

Meanwhile, Erik was trying to settle our children to sleep in a miniature nursery. Even with the furniture removed, only 2 twin air mattresses and travel crib fit inside, so I would be sleeping on a mattress in the hallway.

Finally, around 1:30am, the teenagers and chaperones were asleep, and most mercifully, so were our own children.

I had not yet had a chance to visit the gas station, which it turned out did not stay open all night, but closed around 1:00. Things were getting a little desperate.

It was a lovely night. You would think that we would relish the quiet, and enjoy a moment to ourselves at the beginning of a busy mission trip week. Or, maybe, we should have been inside getting some much needed sleep.

What we were actually doing was tapping away frantically on our smart phones, trying to find a hotel where at least we and the kids could stay for the week. (Erik was not sure how he would safely keep the kids engaged all day in either a small church without functioning toilets or the construction zone that was the mission camp headquarters.)

We were also fighting about when we might check into this hotel. My need of a bathroom was spurring me to advocate immediate hotel occupancy. Erik was taking a more reasoned approach: waking an exhausted 4 year old and 4 month old was a horrible idea. Erik won. We would move in the next morning.

Eventually, my amazing youth leaders and equally wonderful youth group members worked together with me to salvage the trip. We secured accommodation for the whole group in the same hotel (although, sadly, this depleted the carefully stewarded youth group savings account my church had constructed). We gritted our teeth and found a way to work with the camp’s disorganized staff, which had also mislead us on their ability to manage a group of our size, and coordinate enough appropriate work for us.

That moment in front of the church, though, at 2:00am, with Erik remains at the center of the year for me. It was a year when I juggled family and church needs. It may have been the year that church needs lost out to family needs as we moved back to the city, closer to Erik’s work, and away from my position. I lost sleep, not just over the care of my darling baby, but also over the care of God’s most precious people.

Somehow, I hope, 2012 will be a year when I will get it back into balance, the various callings of my life: family, ministry, children of mine, children of God. I’d like to imagine I’ll get more sleep, too. But you never know, in January, where you might be on a fine June night, and what you might be called to do at 2:00am.