Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Weekend Without Kids

For my birthday, Jordan surprised me with a plane ticket to visit my friend Leslee in our hometown of Eugene.  A single plane ticket, meaning that he would stay home and take care of our three kids all by himself for an entire weekend.  I'm not talking about "by himself" with the help of grandpa and grandma.  No, our closest grandparent help is about eight hours away, so Jordan was truly doing this thing solo.  What dad agrees to do that?  Seriously, I can't think of another dad who would willingly send his wife away and watch three tiny kids by himself for a weekend.  What a hero.

Turns out, though, Jordan purchased my ticket for the one weekend that Eugene was hit by a freak snow storm.  The roads were crazy, and Leslee couldn't make the two hour drive to Portland to pick me up.  No problem, I'd take a shuttle down.  Then I discovered that the entire Eugene airport had been shut down, causing several flights headed to Eugene to emergency-land in Portland, causing the entire Portland airport (seemingly) to also need a shuttle down to Eugene.  People started to get tense, realizing that there might be limited seating on the few shuttles left.  Without saying as much, the waiting passengers began gathering in the loading zone, casually trying to get in front of everyone else, subtly fingering dollar bills, hoping a tip might ensure them a seat.  They shouldn't have worried.  Everyone made it onto the shuttle.  Yes, we all made it onto the shuttle, where we remained for six more hours.  See, the roads really were bad.  People from the Eugene/Salem/Portland area don't really know what to do when a snow storm hits.  Our cities are not prepared to plow the highways, our drivers are clueless as to how to drive safely, causing a lot of accidents, and when the Department of Transportation mandates chains, we look around at one another and mutter,  "What are chains?"

Our shuttle driver informed us that the shuttle had "automatic chains," meaning that when she got up to a certain speed, she could push a button and the chains would drop and wrap themselves around the tires by themselves.  What?!  Automatic chains?  Are we in the year 2050?  No, we were not.  The crazy, sci-fi automatic chains didn't work, which means that to ensure our safety, our driver did not go above 5 miles per hour for the next two hours (meaning that we made it from Salem to Albany in that time...normally a ten to fifteen minute drive).  I was tempted to lose heart at this point, until I began getting to know the passengers around me.  Every one of them had been traveling longer than I had, and yet most of them had great attitudes.  The cheerful couple behind me were from Texas, and had brought their little dog with them.  There were actually three pets on board - two dogs and one cat.  I (having never owned a pet growing up) learned so much about domestic animals in such a short amount of time.  I listened to a lively debate on collars vs. micro-chips, and I learned that the extremely large cat who was adorned with a hand-knitted sweater with a peace sign embroidered on it, actually had a rare type of bunny fur, according to her owner.  Well, the owners of the Pomeranian "Pom" Chihuahua one-upped the cat owner, informing all of us that the Pom actually had wool fur.  My mind was spinning, rapidly trying to take in cats with bunny fur and dogs with wool, and still trying to fathom the idea of automatic chains.  Meanwhile, the third pet owner had chimed in, letting us know that her dog had such soft fur that she could make a blanket out of it.  When an awkward silence followed her statement, she quickly added, "...but I would never do that!" 

Despite the competitive nature of the pet owners, everyone was friendly toward one another.  My seat partner, who ended up being a captain in the army, was quite welcoming: "Come on over and sit down!  I won't bite...unless you want me to." (we sat in relative silence for the remainder of the bus ride).  Despite the bus's thermostat being out of whack, causing the internal temperature to be at about 100 degrees, despite a two hour bus ride taking a total of six hours, despite the fact that everyone had missed lunch and dinner (we pooled resources, and I had an apple and chili-cheese fritos at 7pm, which was surprisingly satisfying), everyone remained in good spirits, honoring the bus drivers for their hard work and cheering when we finally reached our destination.  As the elderly owner of the Pom put it, "There isn't any use getting in a tiz over it.  We're safe, and God's good in all of it."

And He was good.  I arrived safely in Eugene, and the rest of my trip was just perfect.  I slept in, chatted over hot drinks, went shopping, and laughed until my stomach hurt with old friends who know me almost better than I know myself.  On the way back to the airport, I told Leslee that the most healing thing about the trip was realizing that I wasn't forgotten.  I still had friends (funny, clever, wonderful friends) who were excited to be with me, despite the fact that I'm a mom now, and we're all in different seasons of life, and I live far away, and most of us are terrible at keeping in touch.  My friends hadn't forgotten me, and neither, I realized, has God.

So many times, I have lived in fear that as I do this Mom thing, I'm going to miss out on other things.  I have been afraid that I will lose my closeness with God, because I'm unable to spend the same amount of time with with Him (or at least, the same depth of time with Him) as I used to.  I have been afraid that by the time I'm able to have a career in teaching, that I will have forgotten everything I learned in school, and no one will want me because I haven't been actively teaching in the school system.  And then, just before fear can take control, I'll get a wake-up call.  I'll find myself in a worship setting, and realize I'm closer to God than ever before, and He has been graciously instilling deep revelations about Himself in me without me even knowing it, much less striving for it.  Or, I'll be tutoring one of my students, and realize that I actually know what I'm doing.  I am actually a good teacher, not in spite of being a mom, but because I am a mom.

Leslee was reminding me about a mentor of ours, who always jokes that she missed out on the pop culture of the '80's because she was raising boys during that era.  But if you look at the incredible life of this woman, it's obvious she did not miss a thing that mattered (let's be honest - is it really a tragedy to miss out on '80's pop culture?).  I look at the life of my mother and see the same thing: a woman who seemingly "sacrificed" herself to raise children for twenty-plus years, yet today she is a country and world traveler, a person of deep prayer, an accomplished speaker and writer, a compassionate counselor, and still, my mom. 

Here is what I believe: if we, as mothers, give ourselves to this calling of raising our children, God will give us favor (spiritually, vocationally, relationally), and He will not allow us to miss out on anything.  He will catch us up in an instant.  Yet, if we're not careful, we will miss moments with our kids that are precious.  My hairdresser told me that many nights when she gets off work, she tucks her kids into bed and just lays there for awhile, sometimes so long that she falls asleep in their rooms. "I don't care, though," she said, "I don't want to miss a moment that I have with them." 

I don't want to miss a moment, either.  It was good for me to get away for a quick weekend and be reminded that I still matter to my friends.  But it was also good for me to remember that I matter at home, that I light up my kids' faces, and they light up mine.  It was good to remember that God has not forgotten me, and that He has exciting adventures in store for me when this season is done.  For any other moms out there who are worried or fearful that they are going to lose themselves or miss something while they raise their kids, I say to you what my friend on the shuttle bus said to me: "There's no use getting in a tiz about it...God's good in all of it."  He has not forgotten you.