And you just never know what to expect when they come.
I always expect the worst and occasionally enjoy the surprise of a fun visit with no confrontational letters later.
But I knew this time; I could tell. Just two days in and she was frazzled, and he was rescuing her as well he should. The next day political spats began and came to a teary climax the next morning. And that afternoon the daggers shot from eyes and words began to me murmered under breath and "going home early" was overheard.
I stayed buried the whole time in the protection of a good book. But I knew. . . They were leaving and the letter would come - the letter that would trip me up and land me on my backside, hard on the ground, sore and shaken.
They left early on Sunday morning. We spent the day relaxing, recovering.
And then it came that night, after promises of no hate or anger or drama - the note. She must have written it as soon as she got home and then pushed the "send" button before we could even get in bed for the night and sleep peaceful.
A tyrade of anger and rage, it questioned my parenting, my faith, my homemaking, my integrity. Everything from false accusations pointed at my children to criticism of my reading all week. . . I knew in my heart that it was all wrong - all an attempt to make me cry, make me grovel, make me apologize for nothing I did wrong.
But my head kept telling me there was something to it. And, as always, I gave into the guilt. My stomach knotted and my eyes burned in secret moments over laundry, in the shower, in the dark in my bed. I didn't want anyone to know; didn't want to make the situation any more horrible.
How do you recover from that? How do you pull yourself out of the pit made for you by someone close?
You look to God for the lesson in it all: Be content with what you have, where you are, who you spend the moments with. Because lack of contentment and joy-in-the-moment lead only to bitterness and a biting tongue.
And then you sit back contented in the place He's placed you. You look around and find the joy-moments, the love notes from God worth oh so much more than the hate mail in your in-box. You let Him hold you with each moment and rest in His grace which is greater than every real and imagined short-coming.
* 3yo in a cowboy vest hand-stitched by my Mother-in-Law.
* Seed shopping with my kids at a local farm store.
* Bees on smiling sunflowers. Resident monarch on the zinnias.
* Laughing with my chidren. Laughing with my husband.
* 3yo gripping a lollipop in a tight fist - eating slowly, one lick at a time.
* Slurping noodles - big smiles and laughs.
* Bright striped pants and polka-dotted shirt with blue Mary Janes - a look only a kid could pull off.
* Blanket forts in a tree.
* Small, sweet tomatoes from the garden.
* Easing a younger mom's mind.
* 3yo: "I want you. . . mom. . ." and "Is that the cross God died on?"
* The serene scent of a book.
* Sweaty bare toes in sand.
* That I always have a choice in how I react.
* A purple pepper found in the garden.
* Cherry tomatoes: "These tomatoes are making me happy, mom!"
* A second small crop of tomatoes.
* Falling asleep to cricket-chirp and waking to bird-song.
* The sound of the wind.
* Watching 7yo create, thought to paper. And coming to understand her a little better.
* Warm, moist kiss on my forehead.