Friday, July 26, 2013

Grace Goes on a Family Vacation (And Lives to Tell About It)

I just got back from vacation.

(Insert maniacal laugh here).

I have 2 bee stings, traveled over 700 miles with 2 children under the age of 3, and submitted myself to at least 4 hours of crying. I swear my trusty old SUV is still shaking in our garage after withstanding an emergency side-of-the-road potty break, five spilled drinks, and those DVD-player-just-died tantrums.

My eyes are sunken. My hair is windblown and frayed. (And its not in the beach-beauty kind of way, but in the 'I just stuck five fingers in a family vacation light socket' way.)

I know, I know. I shouldn't be complaining. This is a first-world problem. I just got back from vacation. 

But in all fairness, the prophet Paul who wrote Philippians 2:14 to remind us that we should do everything without grumbling or complaining didn't have children or a spouse. (OMG, did she just say that?) Yes. It's been that kind of day.

But if you've read the Huffington Post blog on "The Real Reason Parents are Always Tired", you may have a very clear picture of how I feel right now. If not, here's the truth.

Even though there is still Lake Chelan sand in the bottom of my diaper bag and a fuzzy layer of dust on my cowboy boots, (we spent our final vacation days at the family farm)-- I cannot say I feel rested. I cannot say I feel grateful. I cannot say I feel like a very good Christian.

Like there is such a thing. 

Instead, I feel zapped. Zonked. Empty. Cranky. And Desperately in need of wine.

And this makes me seem spoiled and just as bratty as any two-year-old. I wish I was one of those people who could take the highs and lows of raising little children with grace. Especially when those highs and lows take place in some of the most beautiful places in the country. But instead I feel graceless.

And I realize that that word grace runs through my fingers like water. I can't fully grasp it. And yet, I can't help but thirst for it.

Like a moth to a flame.

I know I need to burn my hard heart into soft wax, but I'm not there. I have read Give Them Grace, Grace-Based Parenting, Loving the Little Years, and am currently downing Glimpses of Grace.

So I know Jesus wants me to "get" this word, because he keeps leading me to it. But he can't make this horse drink. I know understanding and implementing grace means the difference between accepting my lot and flourishing amid a whole lot- but I'm not getting it.

I keep reading, but not digesting. I keep pouring it in, so why isn't it coming out? Or is it?

Above all irritation and inconvenience, I deeply love my family. Even in moments of fever pitch, I desperately love my husband. I love being able to have places to escape to when the beautiful weather in Washington State really shows itself off. And I hope I get to spend many years continuing to do so.

However, tonight I am fighting the urge to sleep on the couch. Or in a tree in the backyard. Or just walk and walk and walk until I get lost. Or found. Or at least feel something other than cheerios under my feet and anger sitting on the tip of my bitten tongue.

And it's these kinds of moments that I have to write. I need to anchor this unbridled temptation to tear myself away. I need to fend off the urge to separate and replace it with the glue of fellowship.


I know that's a Christian word. It's also one that can seem so very, well, mundane. Like a musty-smelling church hymnal that seems to sigh in boredom every time you crack its spine- fellowship is one of those words that have lost its weight with me. I don’t usually use it. Unless, I mean it.

And tonight, surprisingly, I do.

Isn't that a word reserved for church? Can it really apply to your family? Yes, fellowship is family. Whether you share blood or not.

And inconvenience is just one way the enemy likes to cut links in your family chain.That desire to remove yourself from the pot when the water gets too hot is a sneaky way of removing yourself from the soup of surrender.

Sometimes fellowship seems like a whisper in the middle of a thousand screams. I know it seems like a very thin veil when what you really want is a bullet proof vest.

But even when seeking fellowship with your family in the middle of discord may not seem like it's enough, it totally is.

Because you see, what I'm learning (when I can hear myself think for a few minutes)-- is that this family of mine; this crazy, some-days-I-want-to-run-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool, family-- gives me life. And life abundantly.

I never wonder what I am doing with the days I have been given. I know. I am molding little hearts.

And in the process of softening theirs, I am forced to throw mine in the blender.

So while a family vacation with a 3-month old and a strong-willed toddler isn't something I would recommend for the faint of heart, I will say that grace is found in the fellowship somewhere if you look hard enough.

It's found when you finally tuck your babies into their own beds upon return. It's found when you rifle through days of mail and get wedding invitations and thank you cards. It's found when you inhale the smell of your own clean sheets. It's there when your daughter rolls over for the first time while you’re unpacking and your son whispers Jesus’ name for the first time during his night time prayers.  

It's found when you realize the people you all of a sudden miss the most are in the rooms next to you. And then it dawns on me: those same people you envisioned strangling with your seat-belt or at least throwing yourself out of a moving vehicle to escape from- are no longer your moving targets.

Grace has moved me to the bulls-eye.

So I am going to go crawl into the empty space next to my husband. Because in this place of absolute exhaustion- even when I still can't seem to sort out my tangled bundle of strung-out nerves, I have found one thing to be true: grace isn't gone. She's been here this whole time.

Grace is the glue that’s holding this family together. And suddenly I realize that maybe I don’t have to get grace, she just shows up when the cracks begin to show.

So tired that I may be sleeping in my swimsuit tonight,

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