The light changed from green to yellow.
I glanced at the dashboard clock, 5:58 p.m., and stepped on the gas. If I can get to Mom’s by six, I won’t be too late.
The light flashed red. I slammed on the brakes. The 67 tests I needed to grade flew from the seat to the floor. Ugh! I rested my head on the steering wheel. Every day there was so much to do. More than I could get done. My life—like those tests—was in disarray.
And my poor mom! When I decided to go back to work as a teacher, she’d agreed to watch my daughters, Grace and Genevieve—then two and six months—two days a week. My girls loved their Nana and playing with my parents’ yellow Lab, Riley. Mom took incredible care of them.
But after a year and a half, the demands on my time were only growing. I constantly felt guilty about the hours Mom had to put in. Here I was—late again, picking the girls up in the dark!
A loud honk behind me jolted me. The light was green. I pulled forward, waving sorry to the driver behind me. Sorry, sorry, sorry. That was my motto lately. Sorry, I can’t stay for this meeting. Sorry, students, I haven’t gotten to your tests. Sorry, Mom, I’m running late. Sorry, girls, I’ll be back soon.
Ten minutes later I arrived at my parents’ house. I cracked the front door and squeezed in to keep Riley from getting out. He was a practiced escape artist; rounding him up could take hours. I nearly tripped over him, dozing in the hallway.
I remembered when my parents had brought him home 10 years ago, how he’d bounded around nonstop. “Hey, boy,” I said, leaning down to scratch his ears. He didn’t even lift his head, his tail thumping a tired beat.
I know how you feel. Ten years ago I’d been full of puppy energy too, ready to graduate college and bound into adulthood. Where had the years gone? I had a wonderful husband, two healthy kids and a good teaching job. But there was something missing. Sorry, God, I added quietly to my list of apologies. Sorry I can’t enjoy this great life I’ve been given.
Where were the girls? I headed toward the family room. “Hello!” I called out. A scene of chaos greeted me. The girls had thrown cushions off both couches. They were jumping from the couches to the cushions, wild looks on their faces. Genevieve glanced up. I reached for her. She screamed, “No!” Grace ignored me and kept jumping.
It took me a second to find Mom, slumped in a chair, hair sticking up, glasses askew. “It’s been a looong day,” she sighed. “The girls are really tired.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, forcing a smile. That word again! “Thanks for watching them tonight. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.”
Usually, Mom would say it was no bother. Instead, she just nodded.
I gathered the girls’ things then opened the door to the garage to get car seats from Mom’s van. I was just unbuckling one when—whoosh—Riley streaked past, out the open garage door, a rocket in fur. “Nooo!” I wailed. My body wilted as I watched him fade into the darkness.
I wanted so badly to collapse into bed. Not that rest was coming anytime soon. Once I’d corralled Riley, cooked dinner, put the girls to bed and graded those tests, it’d be long after midnight—if I was lucky.
“I accidentally let Riley out,” I told Mom. I picked up Genevieve. “I’ll take her with me to find him.” My daughter cried and reached for Nana. I pulled her tight and headed out, my jaw set.
I spotted the dog across the street in a neighbor’s backyard. “Riley, come home!” I yelled. “Come get a biscuit.” He ignored me. I crept toward him, my heels sinking into the mud of the neighbor’s yard. Genevieve was heavy in my arms. I was a few feet away when Riley looked up and darted away.
“Bad dog!” I yelled.
“Bad!” Genevieve echoed.
My feet ached. I pulled off my heels, preferring cold to pain. At the end of the block, Riley ran from tree to tree. I chased after him, nearly falling as I lunged for his collar. “That’s it,” I yelled. “You can stay out here all night.”
Riley trotted away, indifferent.
I started back to my parents’. The wind blew, rustling the branches of the maples above me. I held Genevieve closer and took a deep breath. The brisk air felt exhilarating. I stood there for a moment. All around me lights shone from windows, their glow warming me.
I saw families inside around dinner tables, sharing stories from their days, days probably as hectic as mine. I looked down the street, through the windows of Mom’s house, the setting for so many wonderful times. The other homes faded from view.
Suddenly, I was picturing my life, seeing it more clearly than I had in years. There was my husband, the girls, my parents, even that rascal Riley. They came steadily into view until they were all I could see. I thought of the laughter, the happiness, the hectic love we shared. What God had given me was incalculable.
My stresses? They were there, but now they seemed insignificant. Love makes everything else insignificant. Focus on what matters, I heard a voice inside me say, and all will be well. All is well.
I walked leisurely, feeling Genevieve’s small arms hugging me. I was almost at Mom’s when I heard a neighbor call from across the street. “Looking for a dog?”
“Uh, yes, I am,” I said.
“He’s in our backyard in the trash,” she said. Great! So much for my sense of calm. I went to the neighbor’s, where Riley, seeing me, promptly dashed off. Finally I cornered him in another garage.
Back at my parents’, Riley scampered to his corner and curled up, as if we’d just had a great game. Grace was in the kitchen, playing Memory with Mom.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Mom said. “You didn’t have to go after him. He always comes back now.” She pulled out a chair. “Why don’t you rest and have a cup of tea while we finish this game?”
My stockings were ripped. My arms ached from holding Genevieve. But God had lifted a much heavier burden from me. “I’d love some tea,” I said.
The girls were laughing. Mom had found a second wind. The kitchen felt so warm and inviting.
Sometimes we all need a little escape from the confines of daily routine, to realize how good we’ve really got it back home, a moment to rest and even revel in the hectic blessings of life.