Jackson Five Friday: “Did he bring da brudders?”

My husband, Will, picked our sons up from school a few minutes ago.  Sammy happened to be sitting on my lap, telling me about his day, and asking, shockingly, to watch Backyardigans.

When Will pulled up I said, “Let’s see what Daddy wants to do.”

Sam lept off my lap saying, “Did he bring da brudders?”  Oh how Sam loves “da brudders.”

And Sam is really leading a very different life than his brothers had.  I read to them more, colored with them more, took them to the park and playdates more.  They weren’t forced to attend baseball games when they were tired and cold and grumpy.  They weren’t constantly being told, “Get in the car” to take or pick someone up from practice.  Then again they didn’t have attentive and loving big brothers, who read and played and teased and taught day after day after day.

The brothers adore Sam, and he eats up every second he can with them.  Yesterday, they all “washed” my car.  Then they “raced” leaves in the little river running down the street — the result from the alleged car washing.  The delight of Will and Sam over this simple game was touching.  And Nate is playing baseball with Sam in the backyard as I write this, praising his catching and hitting with uncommon enthusiasm.

The inspiration for this blog, Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  It certainly isn’t the case that the this is universally true in my home.  Believe me, there is spurring and sparring in the other direction as well!  But how wonderful to see these sons of mine loving each other well.

May dese brudders continue spurring each other on to love and good deeds!

Sabbaticalities

Remember in college professors would take sabbaticals?  Even in those carefree days this struck me as a fantastic idea.  The freedom to pursue something new, a true respite from the daily grind?  Brilliant.  In some ways, my whole life has been a sabbatical.  The seasons where I have had to get up, get dressed and go to work every day have been short-lived, almost to an embarrassing extent.  I’ve pretty much scammed the system.

But on the other hand, motherhood is a demanding and full-time vocation.  I think it’s the most important job in the world, and a privilege too.  It is fulfilling and challenging and fun and exhausting, and there’s nothing I’d rather do.  Yet a sabbatical is still a good idea. However short, a little break should be part of the mothering contract.  I’m not talking about a trip to Europe or even the Caribbean.  I’m just talking about a little getaway, even if it’s for a single night.

That’s what I did Friday.  I took a one night (33 hour) motherhood sabbatical.  I had to get someone to cover two volunteer duties at my boys’ school on Friday, I had to arrange for a friend to pick Sam up from preschool and then my husband had to get the boys to two baseball practices, two swim practices, three baseball games, and a birthday party all within that little window.

After preschool drop-off, I drove down with my friend, Holly, to a Young Life camp just outside Lexington, Virginia.  Holly has been my Bible study leader for years (in fact, I first met Holly ten years ago and have loved her madly ever since), but we’ve never had more than a few minutes of one-on-one time.  Well, you can cover A LOT in the course of 180 miles!  It sort of reminded me of my time with Fahim (minus the bladder-about-to-burst pain), but since Holly and I share a love for Jesus and a glass-half full outlook, the miles flew by and we talked and talked and talked and I think we could’ve driven to L.A. and back and not run out of laughs or conversation topics.  Such a gift.

Then at the camp, I was able to have many conversations without interruption or distraction (both of which are hard to come by at my house).  I took a long walk with Holly and another friend along the stream above.  I got to have conversations with some friends about their kids, about overcoming cancer, about one’s longing to do foster care.

It’s always fun to meet new people, too.  One young mama I sat with at dinner had once mooned a “cabin” of women with John 3:16 Sharpied on her bottom.  I immediately loved this fun mama, in part because this is something I personally could never do (read the essay entitled “Bad Naked and Bad, Bad Naked” in my book to find out why).  But what was truly amazing about her little daredevil maneuver was that one of the moon-ees had no idea what John 3:16 was!  No kidding.  God used the mooning to prompt a sharing of the gospel.  Hilarious.

I also sat next to a sweet young mama who told me about how three years ago her healthy husband died of H1N1.  She told me how she’s been surrounded by death her whole life, and how she envies people who go on to heaven before her.  She was something else.  Her beautiful blue eyes were not hardened in the least by her loss.  Her hope and faith must inspire many, because I just ate blueberry pancakes next to her and will never forget her.

I also ran into an old friend, who I hadn’t seen in six years.  She’s gone through some really tough times and I’m so glad that I got to see her, hug her and know better how to pray for her.

There was also some very entertaining skits.  I think the one-girl-show actress could easily do SNL.  She was a hoot!  There was worship music and teaching from God’s Word.  The food was great, the company delightful, and the surroundings majestic.

On Saturday, I got to do the zip line, also pictured above.  Twice!  I had told the boys I was going to do this.  Actually I built it up to a ridiculous extent and was worried about hanging my head in shame if I’d wimped out.  Clouds were rolling in and I needed to leave for home because Will was scheduled to work.  Along with my friends Heidi and Christy, I hightailed it over there at the very first opportunity.  We met up with my friend Jan from Jill’s House, who I also wasn’t expecting to see this weekend.  We climbed the stairs together and flew down as a pair.  I was sort of thinking I was brave to do this — it is quite a ride after all.  But since Jan is traveling this week for her 40 year high school reunion, it didn’t seem so radical after all.  When we climbed out of the lake, laughing and exhilarated we couldn’t resist going again!  When we got to the bottom that second time it started thundering and minutes later it was pouring.

I showered, packed and hopped in my car.  It was the best mini-sabbatical I could’ve asked for.  Even the drive home was a treat.  I haven’t spent that much time alone in the car since I drove back from Roanoke and the bar exam twelve years ago.  It was raining so hard that I kept looking for a faster setting on my windshield wipers, yet I loved every second.  I stopped for Starbucks and sang every mile of the way.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Don’t you think breaks — sabbaticals — are part of this numbering aright?  I sure do.  Our summer vacation, which is largely uplugged and camp-like, seems to ground us like nothing else.  But that shouldn’t be the only time that we jump off the treadmill.  I’m contemplating how to be more intentional, how to spend more time unplugged, how to dial down the speed of life in general.

How are you building sabbaticals into your life?  Have you ever thought about trying to take a week, a month, or even a year off?  I have.  In fact, I’m thinking hard about it, and praying for discernment.

Also, as an aside, I don’t care who you are — how old, how young, how committed to Christ or how godless, I would advise you to never, ever, ever pass up the opportunity to spend some time at a Young Life camp.

What Was I Thinking?

Distance clarifies so much.  Sometimes when I’m working on an article the best thing I can do for it is to set it aside.  After a few days or a week I can read it with fresh eyes and a new structure or new emphasis will just pop out at me.  This applies to parenting too.  Distance crystalizes my own stupidity.  I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day and we were laughing about the ridiculous parenting decisions we made with our first children.

I told her about the time we took two-year-old Will on a roller coaster.  Literally.   He was two.  And it wasn’t a tiny coaster either.  Will just happened to be the size of a five year old, and as is true with all roller coasters, size is the sole criterion for riding.  Even though Will loved every second, this strikes me as incredibly stupid now.

Then there was the time, when we lived in Florida, that I took my three boys to the beach to meet up with some other moms.  Will, Nate and Sam were five, three and three months, and it was at least 95 degrees.  Just getting the four of us out there with our gear was something of a feat, especially given the fiery hot sand and almost instantaneous de-hydration.  Then Will’s friends (who were also all five) were heading out to go boogie boarding.  What did I do?  I let him go boogie boarding, of course.

Today I was at the beach with my family, and Sammy is now five years old now.  The idea of letting him go boogie boarding without me right by his side is ridiculous.  Yes, he’s a different kind of child, but I mean, C’MON!  What was I thinking?

I guess we all have various times in our lives that we lack wisdom, and given the benefit of hindsight we can see these moments with painful clarity.  But the Bible tells us just what to do about this problem.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Standing with my feet in the sand today I remembered that I need to ask for that which I lack.  Praying tonight that I will be a wise parent to Will, Nate and Sam, that I’ll know when to say “yes, go boogie board” and “no, you need to hold my hand.”  How fantastic that this verse from James says God gives generously to all without reproach.