Note: This "Grounds for Insanity" column was published in the 07/09/12 edition of The Goshen News.
Like a bolt of lightning flung from the heavens, he dropped it in my lap. “I’d like a sister,” he said, peering meaningfully at me.
I think I croaked. I know I spluttered from somewhere beneath the desk where my head now rested between my knees. Where in the world did that come from? And why was the little booger chucking this conversational bomb right at me when he could see I had no coffee close by? Why?
When he persisted, I gathered my wits, drew on all my diplomatic expertise and feebly suggested that he simply enjoy his newest cousin, Baby Leah. He seemed unconvinced.
I thought the issue had been laid to rest. Finished. Done. Forgotten. Until the other day when his brothers informed me that it was back. He’d been doing what he does (shadowing his siblings), and they’d been doing what they do (working sporadically). Which, in this case, meant painting the chicken coop.
There they were on a bright, sunny day, brushes in hand, when he said it again. “I want a baby sister.” And so commenced a community prayer meeting with congregants dropping to their knees in the grass, taking his request to the Almighty. This, see, as their mother worked away, typing blithely upstairs in her office, unaware of what was happening amidst the paint cans and ladders.
They shared the story when they straggled in for lunch. Once more, I spluttered. Once more, I croaked. And once more, I found myself with my head between my knees, burbling something incoherent from my spot beneath the table.
We talked, then, about topics of import. Things like faith and common sense and how those two can work. Stuff like miracles, the power of God and how someone has to be the last.
They knew, those kids did, what a big surprise he’d been, coming, as he had, toward our middle age. We’d thought (they knew this) that Boy Three had been the period on the end of that sentence. Instead, he’d turned out to be another comma, and all because Someone (Boy Two) had prayed. They knew that, too.
And that was why B2 had such sympathy for his small sibling. I understood it. But the fact that they’d chosen that particular day to secede from the family over the chicken coop assignment called into question their level of discernment and how tuned in they really were to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The secession had turned out to be short-lived, ending, as I figured, when they discovered they’d have to swim the English Channel to reach their destination (the
U.K.). They’d appeared at dinnertime, looking
hungry, thoughts of secession and handwritten letters forgotten along with the
paint brushes. But there’d been a prayer
Wasn’t there always something to pray about here? Oh, there was. Once the children had started showing up, Mother's list had doubled, tripled and then exploded. And for The Mister, once The Girl had shown up, high-spirited thing that she was, his list had expanded, too.
Poor Mr. Schrock. He’d picked a live one, alright, one with a pack of inner hyenas, an inner cheerleader and some red in her hair. One who cared – deeply – about things like the style of her shoes and the color of her handbag. Which meant he had issues of his own to pray about.
“Lord, help her find the perfect purse.” Such was the heartfelt petition he’d raised from his spot at the bathroom sink. This in response to the cry of frustration he’d heard issuing from the bowels of the closet one night as his harried wife dug in her purse for the Chapstick.
It was becoming untenable. Summer had come, and I was still skulking around with the Completely Unsuitable Black Purse and its tiny pockets. Seeing my chance, I announced it casually in a department store last Saturday night. “I’m going to look at purses.”
He paled. I could see it on his face: fight or flight? Choosing the latter, he mumbled something that may have been “electronics” and headed for the door at what was not quite a full run. And there it was – the Perfect Purse of Summer in a bright tangerine, large, with perfect pockets. Prayer answered.
As for Little Schrock, his story ends differently. An older sibling who was there told me later that after they’d finished praying, they got up from the grass where they’d knelt. Suddenly, Little cupped his hand around his ear. “Shh,” he said, urgent, listening. “I hear something. I think it’s God.”
“What’s He saying?” they asked, wanting to know.
“Wait. No,” he said at last, dropping his hand. “That wasn’t Jesus. It was just a frog.”
Today, I give heartfelt thanks for prayers answered and some that aren’t. For finding the perfect purse in summer's perfect hue. For being spared a trip to the
English Channel and for children who chose not to swim it
after all. For a blue-eyed boy, the
perfect little period on the end of a long, rambunctious sentence.