If you are still reading these posts, I applaud you. :) Thank you for reading my ramblings and reports. I really prefer to write about issues of the heart rather than particulars and logistics and information, so forgive me if the last few posts were boring. If you are planning a road trip of your own to any of the places we visited, I would love to talk with you more about our experiences.
This trip came at an interesting time in life for me. The beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy with my seventh child; that point in pregnancy where I feel the most vulnerable and prone to worry, the least desirable or attractive, and the most overwhelmed. The middle of dealing with circulation issues that began years ago and get awful during pregnancy, often causing dizziness and exhaustion, the only way to deal with them being, giving myself daily injections in my stomach. The middle of learning how to parent a teenager: a first for me and something for which I feel so inadequate most of the time. I mean, how do you say, I love you completely just the way you are, but your attitude stinks and it will not be tolerated? How do you say, I'm scared to watch what your heart is choosing to be drawn to these days, please don't be drawn to that, but hey, here's some grace and I will embrace you no matter what? It's a hard place. A really hard place. As a good friend of mine framed this time of life: an opportunity to improve my prayer life. :) SO aptly spoken.
In the midst of all of this, as I was preparing for our trip, I asked God for direction. He said to me, "Put on a servant's towel. Just as my Son did as an example for you to follow in John 13:1-17. Just as Paul commanded the believers in Philippians 2:3-11. Wash your family's feet. Serve them. Show them what love looks like on this trip. Your 'vacation' will come at another time. Yes, there will be moments of joy and moments of rest on this trip, because I desire for you to smile and laugh and enjoy My creation; but above all this is an opportunity to serve. Make this trip about capturing and embracing your children's hearts, not about serving yourself."I guess He was warning me to have this on the forefront of my mind and make it my goal because He knows that this is hard. This is not how my selfish, sinful heart would naturally flow.
So I thought, okay, I'll serve them by having tons of homemade food fresh from the garden prepared for the trip, by having the house and laundry and sheets all clean and fresh for them when we return home, by having everything in the RV in impeccable order when they set foot in it on Saturday. In other words, I will serve them by being perfectly awesome. Then, right in the middle of my week of preparation, I was reaching to put dishes away in the kitchen, and suddenly, MY BACK WENT OUT. Okay, if you're like me and you've heard of someone's back "going out" but always been critical because it's never happened to you and you thought they were being a big crybaby, uh, IT HURTS. A LOT. As in, I couldn't move. As in, I wished someone would just shoot me and put me out of my misery. As in, I thought about calling an ambulance or 911 or something but my blasted phone was all the way across the room and I. COULDN'T. MOVE. It literally took me half an hour to stand up. And every second of that half hour was excruciatingly painful. Minutes after it happened, I asked God, "WHY??? You know how much I have to accomplish this week! I have to pack the kids and wash their sheets and clean and do and organize and be awesome! WHY???" And He gently, lovingly said, "Julie, you can serve your family without being awesome. Without having everything in impeccable order for them. You are to serve them with your heart. Your attitudes. Your words. Your choice to be gracious and forgiving. You can do all of that with a bad back. In fact, I need you to do it with a bad back so you can just focus on your heart, not on what all you can check off your list of awesome."
Luckily that evening I was able to get to a chiropractor and begin the process of healing. It wasn't immediate relief like I had hoped for- in fact, it was worse for the next 24 hours before it got better- but God was gracious, and by the time we left on Saturday, I was feeling well enough to at least function and go on the trip. Something I wasn't sure I would be able to do when it first happened. God is good.
He gave me those instructions because He knew that the coming weeks would be difficult and glorious at the same time, in so many ways. I shared with my children the passage God had given me from John about washing the disciples' feet, and I literally washed their feet as we talked about all the ways we can figuratively wash each other's feet. We talked honestly about how unnatural it is to put others' needs ahead of our own. One morning He woke me up with the song in my head that goes, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full."We had honest talks about the importance of that command, about how loving one another in the 1 Corinthians 13 way is so hard sometimes and how it's different from the way our culture portrays love. We were given opportunities every moment to love and serve or to be selfish. I think God put that message heavy on my heart because we were in such close quarters, with no breaks from each other, and were constantly faced with the choice to display love or not. Brian and I were challenged to rise up and be the leaders in this area because we knew that the kids would do as we do, not as we say. It was up to us to model it for the kids. I failed often. It was harder to do than I thought. I was given many opportunities to be mad, to get frustrated at myself and others, to be impatient. But I grew a lot in the process. And I think we grew as a family. We apologized to each other with genuine hearts when we messed up. When we found ourselves being critical of each other we gently brought ourselves back to a place of love. Because at the end of the day, what mattered more than whether we saw the sights or made it to the next destination, was that we loved each other. Really, isn't that the point of any journey?