Our "vacation" was a quasi-camping trip. We tent camped, but had the convenience of a rustic cabin on the property so we could escape the elements when necessary. The days were fun. Really fun. The kids played in the water, biked, fished, and invented new ways to get dirty. My Mother- and Father-in-Law were there and they helped entertain and feed the kids, and my Sister- and Brother-in-Law were their with their two kids, who provided additional hours of play for my boys. So the days were generally relaxing and nothing to complain about. But the nights were a different story.
The nights were like something out of a torture camp, where the victims are allowed to not quite fall asleep before being awoken again. The first night's sleep was one child after another having one issue or another. Itchy mosquito bites so filled one child's body that they woke him up in tears (thank you, Benedryl, for saving my son from certain torture), another of my children had a night terror (where do you take a screaming child that won't stop and won't stop and won't stop? Thank you, Dodge Grand Caravan, for being semi-sound-proof), another of my children cried out every 30 minutes or so for one reason or another - none of which I will ever know (thank you, Lord, for prompting me to bring 832 binkis for just such an occassion).
Our second night gave some relief, but the third night topped it all, with the baby waking at 2AM and crying and crying and crying until 4AM when he decided that it was just time to be awake. "Hi-eeee, hi-eeeeee" he kept saying over and over again until I finally grabbed my coat and the baby and got in the van for "a little drive around the lake."
I popped in a little bit of City on a Hill music and began my journey - not sure what I was hoping for. I knew that he would not sleep and I felt a hopeless in that regard, but I took solace in the fact that we were warm and he was happy to be along for the ride. And 30 minutes later, we were beginning the second lap around the lake and I was wondering how many times we would pass our tent before I could nestle myeslf back into my sleeping bag. And being pregnant with #4, I was also contemplating how many more camping trips I would have to endure where sleep was so incredibly elusive. I was wanting to let myself cry, yet tears would not come.
With no other alternatives, I just kept on driving.
And then pre-dawn hit. Have you ever seen pre-dawn? It's like hope written into the sky. It's that time of day when everything is still dark, but slowly you can start seeing the outline of the trees against the lake. The outline of the mountain in the distance can be made out, and you can see the clouds - just barely - against the night sky. It is breathtaking.
And then the Lord reminded me that in all things, even suffering, we are to rejoice. And He gave that to me. The Lord filled my mind with one prevading thought: You are tired, but you are tired because the God of the Universe gave you the most amazing gift when he gave you your children. If not for the sleep-deprivation, you would not have these wonderful blessings. And with that thought, my heart lightened and I was rejoicing in my suffering. And I know that the Apostle Paul was enduring much worse when he wrote those words, but I gained this new-found understanding of what he was referring to. It is not that Paul enjoyed the suffering, it is that he knew that if it weren't for the blessing of knowing Christ, the suffering would not be there. And Christ in his life was such an incredibly precious thing to him that he said that he would gladly suffer, as I would gladly suffer. I would much rather endure sleep deprivation and have the blessing of my children, if the alternative is to get good sleep but be without my children.
And so, at 4:30 in the morning, as I watched the sky slowly lighten , I was filled with Christ's joy. I do not wish a terrible night's sleep on anyone, but I do pray that every mom would have the opportunity to see the pre-dawn of hope that Christ offers, and the deep privilege it is to raise children to the Lord.