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So it’s been a while since I’ve officially confessed something here, and given the name of my website, this is unacceptable. So here’s one:

I have a horribly underdeveloped  way of dealing with vacations. I am (not at all metaphorically) a 4 year old child when it comes to vacations. Because…

1) I absolutely LOVE them. The first time I got to visit Disney World with my children, I thought my heart was going to explode under the enormous weight of SHEER JOY. I have to give a shout out to my mother and father in law here who SIGNIFICANTLY contributed to it being the best experience EVER…largely because of their meticulous planning, generosity and saint-like patience holing up with me and my Littles for 10 days. The experience was also awesome, well, because Disney. But I may or may not have been more excited in Disney World than my kids. I wore Mickey Ears, volunteered for the story book times and was shamefully giddy upon meeting Princess Belle (my all time FAVE). All in all, I would say vacations totally ROCK. BUT….

2) I absolutely HATE returning from vacations. This is the part where my maturity level really takes an disconcerting dip. Most adults can go on a vacation, enjoy themselves, then (albeit perhaps begrudgingly) return to their normal lives without missing much of a beat. I, however, am known to shed a few tears during re-entry. I’ve never met a cold breeze I hate more than the one that rises up to greet you on the jet-way immediately after exiting a plane that had JUST HOURS BEFORE been in paradise.  I think I can FEEL the serotonin levels drop. My hubby and I once won a trip to Florida back in college.  I was already tearing up on the plane before we ever even returned home. In my despair, I’m pretty sure I vowed to never go on vacation again because the ending of them is just too much too bear.

But when my hubby and I recently decided to visit my Dad and Stepmother in Las Vegas…our first vacation just the two of us in EIGHT YEARS….I was ready. There is more to Las Vegas than its hotel casinos, though those are a sight to see if only for their breathtaking beauty alone. But we also got to immerse ourselves in other forms of beauty…from the mountainous horizons, to Lake Mead, to the Hoover Dam, to gorgeous sunsets….to the FOOD. Oh the food. Not just from fancy restaurants…my stepmom cooked for us EVERY MORNING. I am a part of a Mothers of Preschoolers group where, according to our surveys, the single most life-giving thing about the whole program seems to be the HOT BREAKFAST. When hot breakfast happens to a mother of a preschooler, lives are CHANGED.20151014_163933

The trip was, in a word, INDULGENT… in the best of ways. I got to wake up when I wanted, sleep when I wanted, immerse myself in beauty and opulence, and I got to experience the overwhelmingly weird feeling of living and breathing for a few days with NO ONE NEEDING ME. It was the stuff good vacations are made of. Upon returning, I searched for words to describe the experience to my mom…

“I just, I just…I felt like a human being!!”.

And then we laughed. Because that sounded so pathetic. And then I realized that some tears had sneaked in through the giggle…because I could tell I already missed it.

“I felt like a human being”….

Meaning, I didn’t have to be a friend, a wife, a mother, a writer, a leader, a daughter, a warrior,  or a (Fill in the blank). I could just BE for a little bit. And it feels really good to just BE sometimes. To get away from the worries, the demands, the needs. The pressures, the deadlines, the to-do lists, the responsibilities. We all have them. That’s part of the reason why we love vacations isn’t it? We get to pack our suitcases full of our favorite things…and leave our baggage behind. There’s something really really charming about that.

But of course, it is only for a time. And eventually, we have to get back to our real lives, our real selves. And maybe it’s just me, but there’s always this moment of impact when my life hits me anew after I return. Like I don’t realize how much weight I carry around until it becomes unfamiliar enough for me to notice it. And this time, when I returned to real life and felt it in its unfamiliarity, I newly appreciated that real life is HARD. Taking care of 4 kids is hard. Caring about people and maintaining good relationships is hard. Marriage is hard. Walking with friends through their difficulties is hard. Praying consistently and fervently is hard.  Following Jesus is hard. Doing the right thing is hard. And being UNSELFISH is really, REALLY hard.

And a part of me was so so so happy to be home…and a part of me wanted to crawl right back into that vacation and cling to selfish just a little bit longer. Life is hard and vacations are seductively EASY…(especially with stepmoms who cook you breakfast and mother-in-laws who do all the planning). I guess sometimes I long for easy.

But then just last Sunday as I took communion and felt the song, “At the Cross” rise up on the stage and in my bones, I was reminded of a truth.

“There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God and Forgiveness
Where all the Love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood, flowing…
At the Cross”.

And the phrase from another hymn  came welling up from some deep place in me, refusing to be subdued. An invitation to recognize…

“It is well with my soul”. 

Yes, this life is hard. Loving people well is HARD. And following Jesus is hard. But even when our flesh is reeling from the weight of it all, it can be well with our soul. It IS well with my soul. Why? Because The Cross “bids me come and die”…it beckons me to let self-indulgence give way to sacrificial love…

But in return I am given a life
free of shame and guilt
with perfect peace
and all the Love I could ever want or ask for. Right here, in the midst of the crazy and the hard.

Oh is it worth it.

As I sat there and let the Truth of those words hold me, perfect peace wasn’t a phrase on a page, it was mine for the having. I felt every bit of it, as real and as tangible as the broken communion bread swirling in my mouth. Easy isn’t the same thing as peace…and it’s PEACE that we’re really after. And you can have PEACE in the middle of hard.

“His body broken for me”
‘We love because He first loved us”
“Taste and see that the Lord is good”

It’s OK to give ourselves a break now and then and refuel. But I don’t want to live there. We are meant to pour our lives out. Jesus was a man “acquainted with many sorrows”. This laboring, this persevering, this sacrificing, this burden-shouldering life we live in a community of loving others…this is the sweet spot. I have tasted and I have seen…the LORD IS GOOD.

Yes I get tired. I can get really stinking tired. And in those moments it’s tempting to dream of a life where I can trade it all in for some self-indulgence, a life where no one needs me. Where I can just show up. Be selfish. Remember when it was an insult to tell someone to go take a permanent vacation? Sometimes, I think it’s the nicest thing anyone could say to a person.

But no one gets to live life on a permanent vacation (well, some people do). Even Las Vegas is real life to a lot of people. For the guy dressed as Winnie the Pooh in 104 degree Florida humidity, Disney is no vacation. Real life is no vacation. Real life is sacrifice and hard work. Especially if you follow Christ. Because He commands it.  And every once in a while, I get smacked in the face with the reality of that…

But it is WELL WITH MY SOUL.

And you know what? I’ve lived selfishly before.  I remember it well. Honestly, often times, it was a whole lot of fun. But I also remember the emptiness. The nagging feeling that I was incomplete. The hopping from one distraction to the next because my real life in between felt completely unoccupied. There was a good dose of yuck living selfishly.
So I can choose easy and get empty…or I choose hard and get everything.

“If you lay your life down, you will find it”
“Though my heart and flesh my fail, the Lord is my strength and my portion”
“Choose this day who you will serve”

20150828_154722So I will continue to take, and enjoy, vacations. And when I return, I will probably mourn for a couple of days like the 4 year old that I am.  I will be probably always be momentarily dazzled by EASY. And I will probably always be startled by reality upon re-entry. Even as I try to finish up this post, I am typing with a Sleeping Beauty cup filled with water resting precariously on my chest and holding it WITH MY CHIN. Why? Because my toddler doesn’t want to drink it anymore and has decided that it only belongs right here in my lap. Setting it down on the table is against the rules. So is taking it to the kitchen. Apparently I am now Keeper of the Cup…and tempted to daydream about writing blog posts in Maui.
But deep down, I know better. No, typing with a cup under your chin isn’t easy. Life is hard.

And it is wonderfully, impossibly gratifying. All at the same time. While I have prayed and labored and sacrificed and persevered, I have also soared and healed and loved and celebrated and rejoiced and worshiped and grown and learned and laughed. From Princess cups of water to the Well of Living Water…I have been fully alive.

I have been, quite simply, a human being.

A human being at peace. WITH Peace.

And I wouldn’t trade it for a bazillion permanent vacations.

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2 Responses to “And the Living is Easy…”

  • Dad:

    Love this immensely … And you can escape back here for a break whenever you want!! It was more than awesome having you guys here.. I love my incredible little girl so very much…

  • Cheryl "Stepmom":

    I’ll make breakfast for you every chance I get!
    You are unique! So very smart, kind & caring!
    With a heart full of love for your family, your
    friends and most importantly, for God!
    I’m blessed to call you my daughter!
    Xo

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