She comes to the door, crocodile tears falling, desperate to have audience with me, the harried mother attempting to get four children to AWANA on time.
A bully at school calls her drama queen and I don't scratch my head when I hear it.
Lexi is soft-hearted and hard-hearted, stubborn and pliable, hungry and starved, beautiful and homely, high-maintenance and higher-maintenance.
And right now she wants to go to AWANA but her mother won't let her. And Aidan, another neighbor of ours and a classmate of Lexi's...his mother will let him come and that burns a jealous whole in Lexi's heart and I can't seem to shut my door on her drama, even though we need to be there in twenty minutes and my children haven't finished their spaghetti and I haven't combed out the girls' wet hair or taken a bite myself.
And the church is eight minutes away.
As I listen to her sobbing and her begging, it's all I can do to keep my tone even. My demeanor controlled.
My son is not unlike her and I know she doesn't choose this drama. The Lord has her crying and begging at the right house because even as she stretches my patience daily, my heart aches for her.
I'm no stranger to begging myself, as my Heavenly Father will attest to. And drama? I can dish that up too.
I long to wash her dirty, disheveled hair and trim her bangs. I long to have the money and time to peruse thrift stores for her like she were one of my own. She's ten and her clothes are too tight, too short, and her tops resemble camisoles.
"Maybe your mom will let you go next week", I offer in desperation.
"I won't be here next week."
Never mind that this is a lie we've heard before. What she really wants is for me to defy her mother and drive her to AWANA anyway, I suppose.
Finally, I do get our front door closed and Lexi does leave the premises and I do get the crew to the church on time. Sort of...if you consider that the teachers ran late.
On the road there, I remembered. For six and a half years there were no neighborhood children to play with and we prayed for friends. Now, as new children show up weekly from various streets and the yard resembles a school playground, I wonder at my naivete.
Boy did I have it good before.
For neighborhood children? They resemble the world in all its brokenness. And me? I'm redeemed but really just as broken and what was God thinking in making my home this hubbub?
Most days I'm so spent by 4:00 when these kids come knocking, I want to lock the door, slump down and hide.
All these kids know we're homeschooling, church-going Jesus freaks and how can I possibly shine for Jesus when the dinner and bath show must go on as planned and doesn't God know the witching hours are hard on my nerves, anyway? How do I add the dance of playground referee while draining my spaghetti, washing preschooler hair, and setting a nightly table?
I don't know God, but I trust you?
Tonight was AWANA missions night and a missionary from the Ukraine asked us to pray for Ukrainian children because their daily realities are dark and painful, lonely and loveless.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The spiritual poverty in the Ukraine is as shocking as the physical poverty in Kenya.
Ukrainian children are expected to be married by eighteen and to have their first child in their first year of marriage. By the third year of marriage eighty percent of them divorce.
And that child they had in the first year? He becomes inconvenient as another spouse is sought.
So they drop the child off at an orphanage. Extra baggage.
I'm listening and ready to cry at the darkness in another mother's heart, all those miles away. How could she? Atheist or not, how could she?
I look over at Aidan, my neighbor boy sitting across the church pew from me, listening to this same story. I brought him in my old, rotten, 220,000 mile van, to this church, after praying for two years that my witness would be strong.
I thought of the darkness in the Ukraine and the darkness on my street and I realized something.
I don't have to be ready at 4:00 when the children come knocking on my door. I don't have to be all smiles, ultra-controlled, full of stamina and patience. I'm not on display. My lifestyle is not on display. My children are not on display.
The God of the Universe, He's on display. And he'll do just fine, whether I've had a good day or not. He doesn't need me, but he'll use me, brokenness and all.
Tomorrow when they come knocking, my nerves might not be ready but my heart will be. Before Christ plucked me from a dark, hurting world, I was a dirty sinner like the mothers in the Ukraine who drop their firstborns off at orphanages. I want to think I was better, but I wasn't. I was lost, hurt, confused. I wanted my own way and I desperately needed the Light.
While we were sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Prayer Time: Dear Lord, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the glorious life we have in you. Help me to say yes to playground referee and to lost souls. Shine your Light from my home, my porch, my yard. May all these children burn to ask about you. Give me the patience, the right words, the right prayers. Help my children to grow in you, to tell about you, to uphold you. They are in a battleground now, Lord. Protect their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and may they say yes to evangelism. Yes to putting others above themselves, yes to the Gospel-driven life. Shine, Jesus, Shine.
In Your Son's name I pray, Amen.