When I was about 8 months pregnant with Nina, I seriously considered having a t-shirt made (a very LARGE t-shirt) that read: “Yes, I’m pregnant. I am due August 25. No, it’s not twins. Yes, it’s a girl. Yes, I checked the Chinese lunar calendar to be sure. No, this is only my first cup of coffee. Yes, I look tired because I am so very tired. Someone come finish my shift while I take an epic nap.”
Heading out on an international adventure with 3 kids for 10 weeks is a lot like preparing for the birth of your first child. You do everything you can, read the books and the blogs, go to the classes and make all the plans. But when it comes right down to it, you really don’t know if you’re ready until you go live. Of course, you are more than ready. But lots of things (and sometimes people) tell you you aren’t. Honestly, when are you ever ready for something you’ve never done before? It’s in the leap toward faith that you realize you’ll regret infinitely more the things you choose not to do than the things you choose to do.
Listen. I looooovvveee organization. Like I LOVE it. I will voluntarily organize food storage containers on a Friday night (I understand if we can’t be friends anymore). I have tried to organize the hell out of this trip. I have multiple spreadsheets and to-do lists. I have researched and talked to people who know stuff and purchased needed items and tickets and booked so many things I could probably get certified as a professional trip planner person (that’s an actual title, right?). Everything looks great on paper and in theory and also in my overly idealistic mind. But can I tell you a secret?
I am weary from preparations. I am weary from anticipation. Weary from the sleepless nights and my body being in constant motion. Weary from the questions. I need a t-shirt. This baby is overdue. It’s time to induce.
I am even ready for all my tidy preparations to get a little bit messy. In fact, I INVITE IT.
I have at least 17 half done to-do lists strewn about the house. I have been to Smith’s every single day for the last 5 weeks. Amazon and I are on a first name basis. I’m not sure anything will be clean when we leave, despite my war on dirt and grime for the last 4 weeks (sorry, Ally). I’ll probably forget something important, like my passport or to turn off the oven. I’m still worried the cat will die while we are gone, though he did make a miraculous recovery a few weeks ago (yay for diruretics!).
But in about 48 hours we will be boarding a plane bound for Addis Ababa with all our most precious possesions and my neurons will be firing somethin’ fierce, partly due to the exciting journey about to commence, partly because of my ever-so-slightly increasing claustrophobia and partly because of my extreme fear of plummeting to a watery death in the Atlantic Ocean. Lucky for me, they serve free booze on trans-Atlantic flights.
Oh hey, so did I mention Ben and I just came home from four days in Sonoma? Because, like, we can’t do normal things like stay home right before traipsing off to a bunch of other countries. Also, it’s ok if you want to stop reading the rest of this and shun me. It was as dreamy and romantic as you think it was. The vineyards and the gardens and the white picket fences and rolling hills breathed life and renewal into the space between us. We laughed and dreamed and set intentions for this gift of time set out before us. Perhaps I’ll share those intentions at a later time, but for now, I can’t seem to shake something sweet Ilana told us at Limerick Lane Cellars on a foggy Saturday morning. Blue eyes shining out from her wild, vine-like tendrils, she poured a splash of fruity red zin into our glasses and began to relay the history of how this winery came under its current ownership.
“When Jake bought the field across the road over ten years ago, the vines had not been tended to for some time. You see, when vines aren’t tended to they initially overproduce, growing out of control, until they eventually die.”
Whatever, Ilana. You think you know us so well. * quietly cries into glass of zin while gazing longingly at the more fruitful, wisely tended to, 109-year-old vines*
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Jesus uses the vine to show people how rich the fruit of our lives can be when we are rooted in his love, drenched in his mercy, and tended to with meticulous care by his faithful grace.
On the eve of this gift of sabbatical, I’m taking wisdom from the vines. It’s time to tend. Not just to my own soul or to Ben’s, or even to our three precious little ones. Yes, these are all important and each will be tended to in its own special way. But the vine I’m eyeing is the main shoot, the soul of our family. It’s time to till the soil, to let the sunlight in. To find rest, renewal, and direction. To prune back the unnecessary parts, pouring nourishment back into what brings life: curiosity, playfulness, tenderness, and utter delight in one another. I’m willing to bet that the key to all of this is in the slowing down.
Which is why I secretly (desperately?) hope that the only thing I see in Athens is the Acropolis. I dream of climbing up and down the ruins all day with my kids, laughing and getting sunburned and skinning our knees and maybe we will get ice cream on the way home as the sun sets over the ancient Greek hills.
Hold me to it, will ya?