In February of 2020, I had a baby. In mid-March of 2020, my two oldest children stepped off the school bus mid-day for what would ultimately end up being the last time for that school year. I remember looking out our front picture window thinking it was a significant moment, but also simultaneously drowning in newborn brain fog and feeling sort of unable to absorb any moments at all, significant or not. We dove in and slowly learned to survive and even thrive through the thick and thin of the covid era.
On the last official day of school, the school was sponsoring Kona Ice and we decided to head into town for it. The idea domino-ed, as they sometimes do, and that afternoon we actually somehow found ourselves biking the 6.5 mile one-way trip down our country road, onto the old railroad bed trail, finally onto paved town streets again. The catch, of course, was that we were short on time and energy, and I was carrying both a 3 month old baby in an infant seat in a bike trailer (not pictured below, but definitely present), and a nearly 3-year-old toddler strapped in the seat attached to the back of my bike. It was a lot of weight, it was a long trip, and I also had to figure out a way to urge the oldest two on their own bikes to keep moving forward. I also began to doubt toward the end of the trip if we were even going to make it in time... and all would have been for naught. I remember the exercise feeling good, but the mental stress and the ticking clock feeling nearly insurmountable.
We rolled into town and found a place in the weaving line just moments before they capped it off. I breathed praises and thanks, we got our refreshing ice cones, and then headed to find a quiet spot to feed the baby and rest, before beginning the 6.5 mile journey back home.
13 miles, with a lot of little legs. It was a lot.
The other day, my 9-year-old wandered into the kitchen, wondering aloud what she should write her personal narrative at school about. We didn't land on any solid conclusions, but a week or so later when I asked her what she had ended up writing about, she replied, "Oh, that one time when we took a 13-mile bike ride!" I was more than a bit surprised, not aware that it had gone down as a completely good memory. Also, it seemed there were plenty of other, more exciting, more recent family events that she could have chosen to write about. Not the Gulf Shores trip, or the Colorado trip? Not the new chickens or puppy? Not the 4-H projects she'd recently completed?
No. She wrote about the on-a-whim bike trip that almost wasn't, because she remembers the feeling of success. Not the work, or misery, or how hard it was to keep pedaling. Not the heat, the frustrated babies, the exhausted mom. She remembers how good it felt to finish.
This story is good for me to reflect on, on a day like January 4 where all the empty pages of my planner are starting at me, challenging me to make goals and resolutions, trying hard to convince me that if I can just dream it, plan it well enough, set the right goals, I can make it happen.
That's first of all, false - there's just simply nothing I can make happen without the grace of God, and my dreams and goals are certainly not the only driving forces. Second of all, He often brings opportunities, moments, and amazing replacements for my dreams that I could never have foreseen when I was being intentional about my year on an early January day. "Take a 13-mile bike ride with the kids" has never actually been on any of my bucket lists, because especially at that stage of family life, I just never even thought to think about doing something like that.
There's a way for me to dream and plan, while also following His way for a better plan, making room for the unexpected, and embracing the gifts He sends. In the end anyway, this narrative isn't personal after all - my life is a vapor in the narrative of God. With that perspective, 2023 feels quite a bit more attainable. Oh for grace, to keep submitting my personal narrative to the Author.