A few weeks ago, we had one of those Sundays that happens every so often; the kind where everyone wakes up late and groggy, when little ones are hard to motivate to get dressed and Mom and Dad don’t feel so motivated themselves, the baby won’t nurse and keeps crying and it just seems like every thing we normally do is this hard, up-hill battle for some reason. It feels like chaos and it makes you ask “why are we doing this?” with hesitant sighs.
My husband had wrangled our restless little sheep into the van that morning. We were already 15 minutes late for church and I was still trying to soothe the baby. The doors to the van were open in the garage and my husband stood at the door with his shoulders hung and a look of defeat all over his face. I said, “honey, this is supposed to be a day of rest and this doesn’t feel very restful. Let’s call a spade a spade and do something else all together.” He relaxed and agreed. We unloaded the van, changed into our comfy clothes and relaxed. I finally got the baby to eat.
Then we decided to get out and about. We needed some fresh air to clear the yuck hanging over us all. We piled into the van and headed to a newly opened donut shop. We smiled and giggled as we crowded around a tiny cafe table and binged on sweet treats. My husband and I leaned way back in our chairs and clung to our warm coffee mugs we had brought in with us. Sigh…this was better. We smiled and laughed with each other. We ran into neighbors and I even saw a gal who I had gone to high school with way back when.
After our sugar coma, we loaded back into the van and went for a drive. We have a favorite neighborhood here in town. The kind you dream of living in one day…So we lazily drove the streets of our favorite neighborhood looking for houses for sale and dreaming of what could be one day. We decided to begin the trek home after our little dream session, but there was one more neighborhood we wanted to drive through.
We pulled into it with groans of opposition rumbling from the back seats. We assured them we wouldn’t take long this time.
Suddenly, my husband gasped and stopped the car in the middle of the street. He looked at me and smiled as I grabbed my chest to calm my racing heart. He didn’t say a word but slowly put the car in reverse and pointed out the front windshield. There in the street was a little box turtle booking it across the street for dear life. I squealed with excitement, jumped out of the van and grabbed it, then hopped back in the car. The boys were ELATED.
“Can we keep it?!” “Can I hold it?” “What should we name it?”
We all giggled and talked about this little guy. My sweet husband made the split decision to drive to the pet store and get the lo-down on whether this would be a good decision. We decided to name the turtle “George” as we went into the pet store. The hubby and I distracted the kids with fish (so shiny!) while he asked the lady at the pet store about our new found gem.
Hmmm…not such good news. Apparently, wild turtles carry disease and have about a 5% survival rate if you bring them in from outside. Additionally, we would need to spend roughly $150 to get all the “stuff” needed to keep our little “George” alive. Boo…those weren’t good odds. I envisioned my highly emotional 7-year-old melting into a ball of tears at the discovery of one dead George in a few weeks…ugh. So we decided it was time to free George and relocate him. Maybe we could even find a lesson in this too. But um, not in the store. We again distracted the boys until we could get back in the van and break the news to them. Weeping and gnashing of teeth goes over so much better in the privacy of your minivan….
And, oh, the tears. Well, one child cried. The other cheerily complied and was excited for the next adventure we were about to embark upon. (Mostly because he knew it would annoy his brother to be so compliant and not side with him on the matter.) Through blubbering and wails, weeping and gnashing of teeth, we talked with our broken-hearted boy about how important it was to do what was best for the reptile. It was a great time to be just like the Kratt Brothers! We had a “wild” animal in our possession that would die if we kept it. So the “best” thing to do, the most loving thing to do, was to relocate George.
We brainstormed together. Where have we seen other turtles? Where is there lots of space and nature, lots of options and things for him to eat and not a lot of busy streets? LAUREL PARK! We drove to the park not far from our house that had a big pond FULL of turtles. And, there was also a creek and lots of other places George could go if he didn’t like the big pond.
Our tender-hearted, tear-jerking boy carried him from the car to the pond. We gently laid the bag down (we didn’t want to touch the potentially disease ridden creature!) and let George walk out on his own. He was a little tentative at first, but seemed happy once he was in the grass. He stayed still at the waters edge for a long time just taking everything in. We all said our good byes and we were off.
Home it was. We had a very un-ordinary Sunday. It was time for lunch, time for naps. As we drove home, we discussed where we had seen God that day. We talked together and appreciated the opportunity to play, rest and be with one another in reprieve. The boys missed their usual Sunday morning experience and let us know. But we appreciated that they noticed the difference. We aren’t a perfect family, but hopefully that day, our boys saw us struggle well together. I pray it was a chance for them to see that sometimes it isn’t black and white, it’s not either, or. Sometimes it’s both, and. Does that makes sense?
I really believe that we swing towards extremes both ways in life; both in too much freedom and in too much obedience. It’s legalism creeping into our hearts. We aren’t saved by what we do or by our actions. It’s by who we know (Jesus) and who we are (His followers and children). That Sunday, we needed a break to be human beings, not human “doings”. We felt like all we were doing was going through meaningless motions and for what? It’s a fine line really. I don’t want my kids to bail on church “just ’cause”. But I also want them to be able to recognize that if you are doing something just to do it, if it has lost it’s meaning, then it’s time to re-evaluate what you are doing and rediscover the meaning that was lost. (I.e. seek it out actively, not ignore it) At the end of our un-ordinary Sunday, I felt that way. I felt that we had sought out a new thing in order to refresh our hearts.
We are back to our ordinary Sundays these days. But that break was a blessing for us in so many ways. I’m so grateful for the funny memory of togetherness, playfulness and rest. We don’t do those things enough.