For someone who spent a lot of her growing up years amidst corn fields in the midwest, I now spend a fair amount of time in and around water. Especially in the summer, when our family takes to our old ski boat turned wake-board boat, I am often more wet than dry on a given day.
This year, like many before, we have made the trek East to warmer temps (well, except for that record-breaking heat wave in Seattle that we missed by being in Idaho), warmer water, and relaxing days on the boat. Our second week of vacation this year included six teen boys, ranging in age from 16 to almost 20--from a junior in high school to two college sophomores. They are the nicest guys--their niceness punctuated by some rude and crude and politically incorrect moments, laughter, encouragement, and lots of snacks and energy drinks.
As we hit the water today (you go first, Amy!--no one else wanted to be first in the cold river....), I was struck by what an analogy for life our boat can be. We have had a full boat this week, so the weight of all these big guys needs to be distributed evenly for smooth rides. We hope for calm water (in boating terms, "glass") but sometimes get waves and wind--or both in the same ride. We have people watching who is behind the boat, to encourage, clap or cheer when they've done something new, and hold the flag up when they fall to signal to other boats there's a person down. We have a tower to help wake boarders be more successful in their endeavors, and a bimini for shade. We have soap to make it easier to get the boards on, and we patiently change the rope length depending on who's turn it is.
Sometimes, a few of us have to sit out so someone can take a run without so many of us in the boat. We all wear life jackets when we get in the water, and we wear sunscreen in the sun. We bring snacks and drink along for the ride, and share towels when one of us is wet and cold. Sure, there are cranky moments, but by and large, we are a big team-family on the boat, all working to help each other be successful and have fun.
I was thinking how great it would be if everyone had this in their lives more of the time--life jackets when getting in rough water, a flagger to alert others when they need to maneuver more carefully around your friend. People to cheer when you try something new, and cool drinks and snacks for when we need a break. How nice it would be if we could all prevent ourselves from getting burned and if we could get out of the heat whenever we needed to. I was thinking that, if we were all there for each other a little more, how much more relaxing life might be, even when the water gets a little rough, or there's an unexpected gust of wind and your life doesn't handle quite as well as it does when the water is flat calm.
My favorite quote of all times is from Mother Theresa, and it happened to be on the N-Sid-Sen camp shirts this year: We do not do great things, only small things with great love. The more we put love into the small details of life, the richer and lovelier it is. The more we surround ourselves with an encouraging team, the easier it is to get through the challenging times. So, today, I have a wish for you: May you always have a life jacket when you need one, a flagger to provide support and safety, and a loving team you've chosen to be in your boat, no matter what the weather conditions.
It's another emotional summer around here. Last year, we launched our first child; this year, good family friends are launching their first...or last. Either way, our summer experiences have been punctuated by a tenuousness--will this be the last time we...go to camp together? all participate in swim team in some way? have family vacations with all of us? see these dear boys/young men?
As I navigate through these waters that are becoming reluctantly familiar to me, I also hear the pain and strain of good friends whose marriages are in trouble. Some didn't make it past the changes of having children; others collapsed in the midst of rearing children with special needs, drug and alcohol use, arrests, abuse. But an unusually large number seem to be finding that, once the children are gone, they have grown so far apart that they can no longer see the relationship they once had or hoped for.
I am grateful for my marriage, which has been nearly 23 years of laughter, tears, anger, intimacy, happiness, and incredibly hard work. Simultaneously, I am saddened for those who have not found the help and support we did in order to get through those rough times, and who face an uncertain future--perhaps alone, perhaps relieved, perhaps starting anew.
Exhausted from a week at camp, I attended the graduation party of a dear friend of my son's, with whose parents I am also fortunate enough to be close friends. We have shared much of our families with each other over the years. Watching a slide show of this young man's growing up years, I teared up. So did his dad. We had a few teary moments with each other reviewing how much we've meant to each other as our children have grown. Our spouses gracefully exited to remove themselves from the emotional display in the kitchen and converse elsewhere....
I was reminded of a youth group activity from a couple of years ago. Imagining that Christ's head was at one end of the room and His feet at the other, we placed ourselves one at a time where we thought we were in terms of doing His work here on earth. Many chose the hands or feet. Some the head. I chose the heart, saying, "because I just love everybody so much." They laughed and agreed that was a good place for me.
But it takes all of us to do Christ's work. We need those who keep their heads, and those who love everyone. Those who will travel with their feet to wherever the work is, and those who will use their hands to do the work.
And now, as I look around at the changes happening in families of dear friends, I know we all need to be the arms of Christ to put around each other and hang on as we maneuver through the rough waters of change.