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The Spiritual Practice of Parenting: The Best Laid Plans…

July 27, 2013

DSC_0052Six weeks ago when school was getting out, I sat down and publicly made my summer list.  I had grand aspirations and great ideas.  I was excited about the summer and thought it would be a nice balance of work, fun, and learning.

Then my grandpa died.

Instead of working off my fun bucket list, I switched gears entirely.  Would I go to the funeral on the East Coast or not?  Would my children go or not?  When?  How would this mesh with our trip planned for Colorado with my husband’s cousins?  Would my family still come to visit and when?  Everything went into a tailspin and I reluctantly set aside my summer plans.

DSC_9833With dread, I planned our trip East.  I debated if we could do the 1,400 mile drive in three days or two.  I braced myself for hours in the car with my children and my brother, who so kindly agreed to drive with us back to Virginia (he was one of our scheduled guests.  He came as scheduled, but after just two days with us, started driving East with us).  I couldn’t get excited about it.  I had a hard time sleeping well at night and a hard time getting ready for the trip.  I squeezed in as much as I could before we left–I canned 20 pints of pasta sauce and 10 cups of salsa.

The kids weren’t terribly excited either.  It helped when we decided we would leave after our neighborhood’s fourth of July celebration.  Madeleine had been looking forward to our neighborhood pool party all summer.  We delayed leaving by two days so we could decorate bikes and participate in the parade.  We spent the day at the pool, eating hotdogs and hamburgers, diving for coins, swimming a family relay, and doing belly flops and big splashes.  I left early for the festivities to try to think about leaving the following day.  I was unhappy and not looking forward to starting our family vacation 10 days earlier than planned.  I wanted to do my summer plans.

We made the drive in two days, ending the drive with man’s and nature’s fireworks—a small town’s delayed 4th of July fireworks plus fireflies that sparkled along the side of the interstate and lightening in a cloud in the distance.  The drive went just fine and was uneventful.  We were able to spend four days at my parents’ house in Virginia, which is one of the places my kids are the happiest–especially when it is warm enough to be outside.  We hiked in a National Park and went fishing in a stocked trout pond.  We visited a massive book fair and spent time exploring outside.  Madeleine worked in my parents’ garden.  We celebrated my grandma’s 98th birthday with her and then headed to Pennsylvania for my grandfather’s funeral.  In Pennsylvania we spent three days with cousins, running around the farm I explored as a child.  It was an incredibly rich, full time.  I loved it.  My children loved it.

Curtis joined us in time (thirty minutes from the start, in fact) for my grandfather’s funeral.  After a few more hours in Pennsylvania, cramming in as much as we could, we drove back to my parents’ house were we did laundry and spent the night before heading to Colorado.

While the time in the East was rich with family, the drive to Colorado was rich in other ways.  We stopped for lunch at New River Gorge National River where we hiked as well.  We spent a night in St. Louis and a morning at the zoo.  It was wonderful.

It didn’t take me long to stop dreading the trip and fully enjoying it.  I got over my unhappiness over changing my summer plans and immersed myself in my new setting.  By the time we finally returned home, 5,100 miles and almost 3 weeks later, I had forgotten the anxiety I felt before I left.

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Being a parent is a lot like that.  As a parent, I think I have planned out.  I have expectations and goals I hope to achieve.  I have dreams and plans.  Sometimes they don’t work.  Sometimes they do.  The real issue is what I do when things don’t go as planned.  Do I fret and lose sleep?  Do I fight what is happening around me?  Or do I immerse myself in my situation, looking for things to be thankful for instead of dwelling on what I was missing?

Life won’t always go as I plan.  It’s not just kids that are the variable, it’s life itself.  While I’d like to think that God has my life mapped out and I just need to follow the map, the truth is, I don’t really believe that.  I like to quote the verses that say God has a plan for me to prosper and be happy.  However, as many times as not, the Bible says otherwise.  People of God weren’t promised an easy road.  As a daughter of God, all I am promised is that I will never be alone.  I will always be a beloved child of God.  That’s all.  My plans aren’t the key to my contentment.  My prosperity and even happiness isn’t my guarantee as a Christian.

I have much more than any of that.  When my plans go awry, when I am given an extra 2500 miles in the car with my three lovely, sweet, always well behaved , calm children, I am not promised that as a child of God I will be a perfect parent and not yell or go to that ugly place (and friends, that did happen….I am not proud…but, it does happen).  My faith assures me of something much greater.  Despite it all.  Despite every last bit of it, I am not alone.  I am beloved.

That is more enough.  That makes the change of plans bearable.  I am not alone.  I will never be alone.

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And that extra 2500 miles and 10 days in the car?  The trip was incredible.  For one of the first times ever, I was sad to return home and have the vacation be over.  My summer has gone so much better than I could have ever planned.

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