I am sitting sideways in our big red chair, laptop on my legs stretched across the armrest and wearing comfy pajamas at half-past ten in the morning. It is Saturday ... a free Saturday ... and oh, just what the doctor ordered after this past week of adjusting to new full-time school and ministry schedules. The five kids are happily playing throughout the house - Owen downstairs on the Wii, Eva and Isabel pleasantly in their room, Ian and Alec with "new" (to them) toys received last night when the kids and I were invited to a visit with old friends (and Chilean-style returned home past midnight, another reason to be grateful for a relaxing Saturday morn!)
The only family member missing is Pedro, but as ministry in Iquique has gradually regained its regular post-summer pace he has shouldered his pastoral responsibilities with willingness and enthusiasm. No longer is there a team of four pastors to share the load of the ministry - right now there are two, and soon there will be just one. With the exception of Monday (due to a last-minute cancellation) Pedro has had a commitment every night this week. Two of these were visits to couples considering baptism, one was our regular Thursday night prayer meeting, and Friday he filled in for our youth director who was away on business. This morning he picked up a group of guys to help a family from church move to their new apartment.
These are interesting and sometimes challenging days as we seek to find our new "normal." Every weekday starts early as we get five kids up, breakfasted and dressed so that four of them can be out the door no later than 7:45 AM. Pedro delivers them and returns for Alec who begins pre-school at 8:30. After a short walk there and back, he returns and the two of us have an unbelievably quiet house and a time for coffee and couples' devotions (this is truly a dream come true.) Then he is off to church, except for Tuesday mornings when he studies at home and I go to church for our weekly ladies' prayer meeting.
The morning flies and at 12:30 I begin my school pick-up route. First Alec, then at 1 PM Ian, then at 1:45 Owen, and depending on the day the girls may come home together at 4 PM or staggered at 2:30, or 3:15 ... on Wednesdays we have children to pick up every 45 minutes! Pedro will often help with the girls so I can try to prepare a late lunch/early dinner (our big meal of the day) which he shares with us before going back to church or visitation.
Writing is my catharsis, so I'm going to admit here that I am struggling the most with hitting our stride. I had high hopes that with four open mornings a week (not counting Tuesdays) I was going to be able to dedicate myself to lots of studying and even the possibility of starting an online masters program in counseling (a dream of mine.) But the truth is, almost every day there is some errand to run that is easier to do alone than with five kids in tow - or the laundry is piled high, and the messy house is calling - the unfinished projects and unpacked boxes are staring me in the face - or the recent burden of a fractured relationship (a church family we were close to that has suddenly walked away and won't respond to our efforts to to talk) weighs me down with sadness.
We are still in transition, though, and I know that eventually our new normal will just feel - well, normal. Meanwhile I am reminded that talking things out to the Lord as I walk through my days takes away the loneliness. I am reminded that reading a bedtime story (currently Pilgrim's Progress) to my children, helping them with homework, and tucking them in at night is just as much a ministry as what my husband is doing outside the walls of our home. And I am thankful for a friend from church who comes a couple mornings a week to help me tame the madness of our messy house and reminds me that it's only been two months (is that really possible?!) since we set foot back in Iquique and that this, too, shall pass.
More importantly, I am reminded that finding our new normal is not about me. It's about God and what He wants to do in and through us. This week my husband encouraged me to remember the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Our job is to plant the seeds. God's job is to give the increase. Our job is to be faithful. God cannot be anything but faithful. He is working, and finding our new normal is really all about keeping up with His!