|Beginning of 2016, before the schedule heated up|
It’s time for my annual family blog. Except it’s been two years since the last entry. It is, however, typical for me to post a blog towards the end of our family respite in Montana. So the reason for the gap year? We skipped Montana last summer because of my Final Four gig. First time in a very long time we let that happen. I think we all agree doing so was a mistake, although we still cannot figure out how we would have swung it. Needless to say, by the time we made it to the day before our departure this summer, we were fried-to-a-crisp, burnt-pieces-of-toast, totally tired and trying to figure out how to reconnect with each other, how to unwind. This from a family that really is very intentional about our commitments – a family that says “no” to a lot of things and isn’t out there building our kid’s college resume with a gazillion different activities. We’ve merely been in a season that has been busy (and I don’t like that word, nor do I throw it out there lightly, I hate it when people are constantly telling me they are “busy”) – some of that from our own stupidity and some of it just because that’s the kind of time we’ve been in with work and school. The date in late July for our departure was the “finish line” for us - the place that told us we were going to be heading out of the busy season and into a new mode of being.
The drive is usually the unwind piece. It takes us a couple of days to get here so that by the time weare rolling down Highway 89 through the Paradise Valley, we have found our bearings a bit, had enough conversation to reconnect, let work go enough to slide into learning how to all be with each other again. I had a harder time of it this year for many reasons. But, mostly, I went into our time together completely exhausted and ready to take that one, big, deep breath – back to the rhythm I love and know, with the family I love and adore. On the drive out, my throat was scratchy and by the time we got here, I had a full blown summer cold. That told me a lot about the schedule the past couple of months. But, what was truly great was the fact that I could actually rest and heal. Which is exactly what I did.
|Nate and Poppa fishing at dusk|
This is the time I typically take every year to assess where I’ve been and where I am going. Life is slow here and we savor our time together. The river goes by steady and easy right outside our backdoor. Emigrant Peak stands majestic and strong on the other side of the Yellowstone – stalwart, beautiful and the same year to year, which is comforting. Dusk comes and Nate, Dave and my dad wade into the water with their fly fishing poles and enjoy the quiet and ease of each other’s company, where the cadence of casting their lines is soothing – especially for this momma who sits on the back deck and watches. Brooks-the-Wonder-Dog perches on the back casting rock and smells the world go by. Every few afternoons, the wind decides to whip up and throw itself down the valley, bending the trees to its will, but never breaking them. Once a week at least, a thunderstorm rumbles around Paradise, the lightening show above Emigrant Peak being one of the most magnificent sights I’ve seen, especially around sunset. When the storm clears, the clouds are all shades of pink and purple, floating over the Absarokas with the last light of the day. But my very favorite time here in this place are the mornings - when I throw open all the windows and pour my first cup of coffee, find my way
My assessment a few years ago was how “Full” I was with the good life, having left behind an extremely difficult job time for me. I literally took the remainder of that year to get my bearings and enjoy the people in my life as I prepared to step into the Final Four mix early the next year. This year’s assessment is a bit different. Here, as we near the end of our time in our “thin place” Dave and I have looked hard at where we want to be over the course of the next two years - these final two years that Nate will be under our roof before he heads off to college.
I know that every parent of a little one rolls their eyes when us old folks tell them that the time really does go by fast. Somehow, I’ve been told, it negates the difficulties of the present moment. When I say time has flown by as I have watched Nate grow up, I am not saying that it negates any of the long
Our long days in Montana are both slow and fast. Slow in their pace because we aren’t rushing to anywhere really (except maybe to meet our favorite fly fishing guide, Hank, for a float down the river and a great day of fishing). Fast in that it feels like we just got here and in spite of the long runs we do up here, suddenly it’s time to pack up and go home. But mostly, life is slow and savored here in our thin place – this place where heaven and earth converge for us – because of its beauty, because ofthe way it settles our souls, because of the way it connects us to each other, because of the relationships it represents on so many levels. It is the reason we intentionally plan this time out a year in advance. Our friends think we’re crazy. First off, we can’t stay at our favorite place (Riversbend Lodge, thanks to Jeff Reed and his folks) without planning a year in advance. Mostly – it’s because when we intentionally plan and intentionally set our lives into a good rhythm and intentionally make choices about our time and our family and our relationships – we are at our best.
|Our teenage "osprey" loves to fish|
So that’s my takeaway from this place this year. A hope, an intentional planning for slow and savored time with Nate as he heads into the last stretch of being under my roof, an intentional planning of rhythm for our family as we enjoy these two years of the journey and prepare to send our “baby bird” out into the world. I liken it to the osprey that lives over at Pete and Carol Reed’s place (our dear friends) down the way. Every year she has babies up in her nest (you can watch this ritual live on the Reed’s webcam every spring and summer). This year we got here late in the season and those babies were pretty much teenagers. They hadn’t left the nest, but we watched them stretching their wings and flying around – up and down and all around – while their momma kept an eye on them from her nest perch. Those teenagers weren’t quite gone, but soon they would be.
I have some work to do because there are always bills to pay. But I don’t have to say “yes” to every contract. I can intentionally choose the things that give me the space for good rhythm, time for good connection with the family I love. I’ve been a working mom all of Nate’s life. Needless to say, I’ve discovered a few things. We CAN’T have it all. We CAN’T do it all. Us working moms can try and convince ourselves of that, but it just isn’t true. I know this because I have lived it. As a working mom, I prioritize, I make decisions about how my time is spent. As a family with two parents working outside the home, we have come to the conclusion that both of us CANNOT be working like crazy people, be good friends to everyone, take Nate to 10 different activities (because God forbid he gets bored or needs to be sure to have that one activity on his college application), and take on outside projects/boards/community work (because we are overly concerned with our reputations in our neighborhood). That is not the life I want to live, nor is it one I would ever be very good at. And it certainly short changes the most important people in my life. You can admire my resume all you want (and I am proud of the work I do and have gotten to do), but my ultimate goal is a son who still admires his parents for our hard work but mostly admires our commitment to a life well-lived, well-balanced, rich in relationship, full in seeking God and moved by deep conversation that changes our hearts and changes the world around us. And honestly, this isn't just good for him. It's the best thing for us - even when he has flown the coop.
|Hanging with the teenage osprey before he leaves the nest!|
So there’s the goal, written out, committed to. We’ll re-work the family budget, we’ll re-work the family calendar – but we’re committed to slow and savored these next two years. Right now I’ve got a teenage osprey spreading his wings and flying around the nest. Before I know it, he’ll be off on his own, making his own way. So while he’s flying around our nest and testing his ability to fly well, I will be here watching, intentionally working through the projects I decide are right for us, intentionally watching out for our family commitments, intentionally helping us stay in our rhythm of slow and savored. Hold me to it.