by Christine Gough
A few weeks ago, we loaded up and hopped on a plane to the Bay Area. It had been two years, to the day, that we moved to Oregon from California, and our boys, now 4 and 8, had yet to return for a visit. Our eldest would be jetting off the following morning to Disneyland with Grandma and youngest would be occupied by Grandpa’s plans to keep his mind off of NOT being in Disneyland. Our bags were packed and our itinerary was full of coffee dates, early morning walks, restaurants to enjoy, parks to visit, the zoo to explore, a wonderful family wedding to attend and even a San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s game.
Fun to be had. People to see. Memories to be made. Adventures to be lived. And yet, I was filled with anxiety. Would the upended routines and schedules throw the boys off? Would we over-extend ourselves financially eating & touring our way through the Bay? Would the flights be on time? Would we encounter nasty traffic? Would the boys have sibling moments leading me to utter embarrassment? Would I pack enough snacks and the proper clothes? Question after question after question. Anxiety growing and magnifying before my eyes.
The funny thing is, 99% of my concerns and worries never came to fruition. And if they did, it wasn’t something we couldn’t handle. But like those bags smashed and packed into our little rental car, full of promise of the week ahead, I didn’t realize something was amiss. Looks can be deceiving.
After getting the boys settled in the car, the bags smashed in the backseat and our phones out and on to navigate to the in-laws, we heard a rap on the window and saw the guy from Budget waving us down. We’d gotten into the wrong car. We were CLOSE to the right car. Just a bit off. Luckily they caught us before we left. But all the same? We were in the wrong car.
In the anxiety and the tiredness I find these moments happen all too often. Either focusing so much on the details that the big picture gets lost. Or so overwhelmed by the situation that I forget to pay attention to the details. Maybe you, like me, have lost your sunglasses only to realize they were on your head all along? Or were so wrapped up in hosting a dinner party that you swapped sugar for salt in a recipe?
I do this over and over and never seem to learn. As a parent, I fail my own good intentions daily. After stepping on one too many LEGO, not being able to navigate through our playroom, I lost it the other day. And rather than driving off in the wrong car, my body took care of the situation instead, landing me straight on the couch for the next 24 hours having thrown out my back. Tension had been mounting and instead of taking a breather, talking to God, regaining my equilibrium? I got angry. And my body snapped and told me, “Anxiety and stress or not, you need to take a moment.”
The stars aligned and all the boys slept the next morning until 7:25am. Anyone who knows our sleep woes understands that this is truly a miracle. My back was seizing too badly to hobble out and get the paper so I managed to get over to the kitchen and shuffle back with a cup of coffee. I sat down with Shauna Niequist’s new devotional, Savor. I read and read, page after page. Backwards. I started in August and worked my way back to April. The words spoke to my heart, as did the quiet.
Zephaniah 3:17 leapt off the page, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but rejoice over you with singing.” No more rebuke. Only singing and delight. My go-to is rebuke. In the classroom much of my day teaching involves discipline. I am constantly refereeing between my own two boys. I am putting myself down for failing to do everything on the to do list. And in this case, for having my back go out, rendering me slow and helpless. Those words spoke to my heart, though. God delights. God is with me. God saves me. Mightily. God loves. God rejoices, not just with words, but with singing.
The rebukes that I dole out or speak to my own heart can be covered with singing. Erased and replaced with delight. When my parenting is overtaken by lists and anxieties and fears, God speaks love. As I make mistake after mistake, and come close but am still not on target (hello, parking mishaps!), God still is with me. Not rebuking, but singing. Reminding me to slow down and breathe.
Packing it all in, trying to control every move of our kids and ourselves, only leads to failure. And luckily, in the case of our rental car mistake, some laughs at our own expense. May we choose the way of love, of UN-packing it all, not trying to fill our days with too many to do’s, rebukes or anxieties. And to see the place we are meant to be, which might just be in the parking space right next to where we’re standing.