The kids, The kids feel it too. They are starting to pick up their dad’s habits, repeat his harsh tone with each other. Rachel doesn’t like hearing it in her house. Grandma Mary really doesn’t like hearing it. “If I had half a mind, I’d, I’d get out of this bed and on the phone with John and I’d give him what for. Why, in my day we didn’t speak to each other like that and we certainly didn’t speak to our cousins like that without haven’ to run right out side and pick out our switch for a spankin’.” Tucker, the oldest son at 10, was the worst offender. You’re always the hardest on your first child, that’s where you’ve laid all your eggs, put all your hopes and dreams and where you’ve hedged all your bets. John was rough on Tucker, and Tucker is rough on his siblings. He’s real bossy with his sister Harper, she’s next in line at the age of 8. She’s real motherly and tries to fill in where her mother so blatantly leaves off, but Tucker doesn’t want any of it. He wants to be all the man his daddy is, and then all the man he sees in his Uncle Ron, and all the man he hears about of Grandpa David, from Grandma. He wants to be ALL the man. That’s a lot of man for a kid who hasn’t even hit puberty yet, but he is determined, and the result is a bullish, red faced kid who comes across as annoying, bossy and sometimes whiney when he can’t get his way. Harper puts up with it all. She’s been around Rachel and Mary long enough to see what a servant heart looks like, and like I said, she fills in the gap where her mother Nikki leaves off, and she does it with style like no other 8 year old has ever done. I honestly don’t know how long she’ll hold up though. I half expect that one day we’ll hear her having a conversation much like her Aunt Rachel had a few days ago, hollering to Tucker “When do I get to be selfish? huh?” But only time will tell, time and the Holy Spirit. See last year little Harper gave her life to Jesus, she really understood what it meant that God came down in flesh, died on the cross in her place, and rose from the dead because death couldn’t hold Him, and she trusted Jesus with her life. Every day since then, except for two days she was real sick with the flu, she had prayed “Thank you for saving me. I love you. Please help me do good things for you. Amen.” She had, in it’s sweetest form, faith like a child. Rachel knew this and she and Ron and Mary would take time each night, alone as they fell asleep, to pray for Harper, as well as the rest of the kids, Booker, an adorable little boy, named for Nikki’s love of books, and a precious little girl named Catcher, because as much as that girl wriggled in her momma’s tummy, she thought “I’ll never catch her!!”
John’s wife Nikki is a children’s book author, who ironically can’t be bothered to stay home with her children for more than three days in a row without getting really irritable. She spends her days traveling to different book stores signing autographs, traveling to zoos, children’s museums and recreation centers to observe children for “research” for her next books as well as taking lots of time to just sit still as a method to banish writers block. It’s something she learned about in college and she clung to it like a binge drinker clings to the last call’s final pour. That method suited her personality much better than that of a stay at home mom, and it makes one wonder why you’d bother having kids if you really had no intention of being with them, then hide your disdain of them by writing books for children. One of life’s ironies.
If you had asked Nikki about this she would tell you she IS a mother to her children, and isn’t farming them out to be raised by Rachel. So why is it that Rachel, who is the mom to her single “belly baby” Lily, feels like a mother of five?
Rachel’s brother John is the father of the four kids that just piled into Rachel’s kitchen and plopped their backpacks onto her table. He had been a farmer as a young boy but was badly burned in a barn accident, the same accident that took his dad David’s life and his mother Mary’s legs. It was a bad accident, and one that wasn’t really talked about much anymore. Rachel was afraid that bringing it up would be too hard for grandma Mary. On that day Mary lost her husband David, she lost her legs, and although she didn’t lose her son, she lost a part of him, because their relationship has never been the same. From that day forward he started his journey away from her and the rest of their family, away from Jesus and his church family, away from all his memories of farming, without of course, being a total jerk. After all, his dad did at least raise him to honor his momma, so he would still be around, he would still call her once a week and send her a mother’s day card and a birthday card and he’d spend way too much on her at Christmas.That was the true extent of the relationship. In his heart, if he were really honest, he were an orphan of his own making. He had set out on his own, plowed his own way and hadn’t ever gone back to how things were and had no intention of ever doing so. He decided NOT to be a farmer and to stay far from it.
John is now an orthopedic surgeon. Something about seeing his mom go through all that pain of losing her legs pushed him to orpthopedics. It was also the one way to show the outside world that he was in fact, not a total jerk. As far as the town knew, it was the accident that turned him away from farming and into “something greater”, this new career of genuine healing.
Bare feet hit the floor early in the morning, the drape of a clean white gown unravels from under the sheets. A little girl with sandy blond hair and freckles like cinnamon sprinkles, yawns, pulls on a sweater and sticks her feet into her tall rubber work boots.
You see the girl as she stomps out of the house, pushing through the screen porch door and hear it’s rusty hinge slam shut behind her, she clobbers down the porch steps and out across the yard, one foot turning slightly into some mud and manure. “Ouch” escapes her tongue in her groggy morning voice. You hear the stool being pulled from the barn wall, it’s legs scraping it’s way down. She sits on the stool, scooted up next to her goat, the hem of her gown has gathered muck. She milks the goat as she sings softly, “In the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus”. She leans her forehead into her goat, tenderly and patiently doing her chore as she does twice a day, as she’s done every day since she could get that stool down off the wall. She like’s being relied upon, she likes being needed. It makes her really fit in here. Here, service means family.
She muddles up the ramp going into the henhouse, the hem of the once white gown collecting hay that’s now sticking to the muck. The hens cackle softly as the girl says “excuse me, pardon me, just here collecting the rent honey”, her little hands reaching in, her hair lights up golden in the sunrise streaming through the cracks in the henhouse, and the freckles on her face seem to dance as she smiles. She says to the hens ,“The worker deserves her wages, and I woke up hungry today!” She turns around and heads back to the house after dropping their scratch feed down for the hungry chickens. They cluck their thanks and get busy eating the morning offerings as she heads back to the house, her day only beginning.