Somehow, we ended up having a party of sorts tonight. Syd invited a friend; Sarah invited two friends; Justin, our adopted sixth kid, is staying with us, and everybody else is home for the night. Tomorrow is a special day at church - the service has a youth emphasis, both in the topic ("Generation Stress") and in the creative elements. Sarah is leading worship, along with a couple other kids. Syd, Justin and Shannon are all in a drama/pantomime that we'll do (you can see an example here. It's VERY powerful, if you're a believer...) I think they were compelled to invite their friends along, so they'll all sleep here tonight (please, God - lots of GOOD sleep! I already strongly encouraged them to avoid a 2:00 a.m. laughfest. Nothing gets me worked up as much as being awakened on a Saturday night...I am not a nice person at that hour!) and go on to church early in the morning.
Syd and E. made poppyseed muffins and a cake. E. is a great kid from a family a lot like ours; about a hundred kids milling about. Seriously, I think she has ten siblings. She's the one who can relate to the fact that we polished off an entire gallon of milk in one hour. E. is a little hesitant about church tomorrow; her family is Mormon, and this is her first worship service with us. We're just glad that they allowed her to stay over and go with Syd.
Justin and Daniel...we met Justin during soccer practice the first summer we moved here. Shell-schocked from divorce, the move, my dad's stroke and life in general, I was sitting on a hard metal bleacher, watching Shannon get acquainted with her teammates as we ventured into the social web of the recreational soccer league. Justin's adoptive mom was there, and we struck up a conversation. At 66, she had decided to forsake a cozy retirement and offer a chance at life to a homeless boy whose parents were unable to care for him. Shirley has turned out to be an amazing, inspiring friend, and Justin is growing into a terrific young man. We have been through a few trials - he came chock-full of baggage - but through it all, Shirley has perservered and we have stuck together. We are his 'second family'; he comes here on a regular basis, almost as part of his therapy. The opportunity to interact with 'siblings' has given him another perspective on life and family and relationships, and he gives us a great gift as he plays the part of 'big brother' to the boys and good friend to the girls. He calls me "Aunt Beth". Shirley - a single mom, at age 66 - gets a break when he's here, for which she is exceedingly grateful. I adore this kid and am so happy to see him succeed.
Sarah and A. have been friends for several years. The daughter of a local pastor, Sarah always felt like A. understood what it was like to be in a family that did ministry every day, all the time. She is hysterically funny and kind, and she always brings something to bake while she's here. It's very cool that her dad is open to letting her skip services at her own church to worship with us tomorrow.
Sarah worked today. She's just glad to be home now, hanging with her friends. One more showed up after dinner...
It's good to have a house full. They're loud, and they'll probably break something. They'll eat everything they can find and complain that they're still hungry. But they are so full of life, and they're safe, and all is well. I'm glad for a Saturday night at home...with my kids...
...and other people's' kids... Grateful for a pot full of chili and a lot of laughs.