On a recent Sunday night, after a much longer than necessary weekend, I took advantage of an oh-so-small opportunity to sit in the recliner in the basement and attempt to ignore the constant motion around me.
Then, Noah dropped several small pieces of Renee’s scrapbooking paper, of varying shapes and sizes, into my lap. He was trying to make a birthday card for Grandpa Dougherty, and asked me to help him arrange the pieces into something that would make an interesting card.
In less than 10 seconds, I dropped them in some semblance of card-forming order, and then brushed him away to make it work with a glue stick and scotch tape. No problem. A few minutes later, it was a card fit for a king.
I was checking something on the computer with a lap full of small child and others lurking, and Ellie was rattling something in my ear, amidst the constant droning of little voices reaching to at least a three-block radius from our home.
“Dad, will you help me make a birthday card for Grandpa like Noah’s? I want to make a card like Noah made and I can’t find the right kind of paper and pieces and I don’t know what colors to use or how to cut the paper and I don’t know how to put the pieces together and I want to make something for Grandpa and it’s his birthday tomorrow and I don’t know how to make a card like Noah’s.”
This is where a good father would swiftly move distractions from the view and focus all energy on a little 6-year-old bundle of heavenly bubbles and do the right thing.
This is where I say, “No, Ellie, I don’t know where that stuff is . . . and I need to do this other . . . and I can’t . . . and just put it . . . it will be fine . . . Mom will help you tomorrow . . . it’s time for bed.”
Ellie returns to the table and the pieces, and works diligently on her own without complaining.
One load of kids up the stairs, picking up shoes and dirty dishes along the way, then running back downstairs for this and that, and stop.
There’s Ellie standing at the bottom of the stairs in the doorway to the laundry room, facing the other direction, wimpering and wiping tears from her eyes. She ran into the family room when she heard me coming.
“Ellie? What’s wrong, honey?” I offer contritely, sounding suddenly fatherly and gentle and carrying enough guilt to melt Antarctica.
She was still standing with her back to me, wiping her eyes, until I sat down and offered again, more softly, “What’s the matter, Ellie?”
Then she turned, rushed to me and dug her face into my shoulder and blustered out, “I can’t do it! I want to make a card like Noah’s for Grandpa’s birthday, and it’s not coming out right, and nobody will help me, and I can’t do it.”
Oh, Lord! Oh my sweet Jesus. Really? Please Lord, fix me of all the stupidity that ever leads to heartbreak such as that, from a beautiful creature such as this. Oh, Lord, please!
We found new sheets of paper, and we picked all the colors she wanted, and went through all of the options twice, and Ellie instructed me on all of the intricacies of the design in her vision. We cut and glued and taped. We found stickers and picked the perfect shapes and wrote all of the right words.
As we worked, I discovered Ellie’s first attempt, laying amidst the rubble of remnants. There was more tape than paper, and the words were written in ink and smeared and fragmented across the face of it all.
It was a pitiful expression of something conceived with passion and visions of beauty.
All of the right intentions, but none of the ability to produce the vision. From a grown-up perspective, even the final product fell short. From a six-year-old perspective, it was heavenly.
Oh God, help us, we can’t do it – celebrate this life with its due – and we’re broken-hearted. Even the best falls short, but you are gracious, and you see our poor efforts and vision as more than enough. Please, Lord, help us to help one another, to be sensitive, to build and serve with passion to produce the best version of your life among us with the limited vision we carry.
Please, Lord, help us.