Dear Tess and Josiah,
I just read through my posts about this road trip, and I realized it looks pretty fairytale fantastic. It really has been such a joy. However, the whole reason I’m chronicling this trip so carefully is because I’m not very crafty (just wordy!), so this is the only scrapbook you will have of our big adventure. More than almost anything, I want you to be faith filled people who love life and believe the best, but I also want you to honestly acknowledge the downsides, defeats and discouragement that make all that Jesus does for us so incredibly beautiful. Here, then, is my official and authentic list of vacation up’s and down’s.
Pro: Small Spaces
Oh, how I’ve loved letting our world shrink down to just the four of us for a few days. When our lives are pressed up against each other like this, I am more aware – more overwhelmingly, abundantly certain – of the indelible image of God stamped inside of you. You two are more beautiful, more intricate, more intelligent than I ever could have imagined when living in the gaping, bustling, wide-open world that is usually our home.
Con: Small Spaces
Captured inside this tiny square footage, we also realize the full potential of our great capacity to annoy one another. And we have hit our heads on every imaginable surface in this motor home. Sometimes I know you are bored and want to go home and it makes me want to be fun or funny or juggle or something so that you will want to stay and absorb this time…but what usually happens is one of you beats me to it. You say the right thing or make the right face or show the right heart and we are back on track again. Small spaces present many opportunities for big wins, and one of them this time is that I will go home more in love with my youngest children than I have ever been.
Pro: The Great Outdoors
It’s beautiful and freeing to feel the wide open nature of Nature. It smells lovely and there is arguably no greater feeling on our planet than to sit beside a crackling campfire in the early morning and just absorb the warmth of this abundantly overflowing life. In those moments, it seems that the gospel itself – the vibrant and pulsating good news – is written on every leaf of every tree and every sunset and each smooth stone. It’s the most beautiful cathedral in the world.
Con: The Great Outdoors
The older I get, the more I realize that I am – at the heart of it – a city girl. I love the bustle, the variety, the people and the sounds of urbanity. Sometimes – though I think I shouldn’t – I feel lonely in all this beautiful, quiet space. Sometimes I think you do too, but it’s okay because we will really love our friends when we get home.
Con: Extra work
I forgot how much work it is to “live simply”. I forgot about life without laundry rooms and plenty of hot water and full-sized showers. This has been a refresher course in work…especially as we work to make up for some of the strength that Dad is losing. And that – in itself – carries a hefty emotional wallop. It’s not that we don’t like helping him, it’s that we’re not always sure how. I feel both of you straining inside to know when to step in and when to hold back. And sometimes I feel you struggling to do things you weren’t necessarily designed to do until now. But you do it and you do it without a single word of complaint or condescension and for that, you are and will always be my heroes.
Pro: Extra work
Because it builds teamwork and trust. It makes us self-reliant and family-reliant. It gives us strong muscles and reminds us not to take our regular lives for granted. It sets clear gauges on the things we can and can’t control. Work is good.
Pro: The Memory-making
I love that Jesus has given us this beautiful way to make memories together. I can’t even begin to count or describe all the ways that I am grateful.
Con: The Memory-making
I won’t try to pretend here: this make-a-memory-to-last-a-lifetime responsibility creates a certain pressure that I have never known before. Dad and I both feel it. It’s like we’re always carrying a bucket filled with water to help grow the legacy of our family, to carefully tend the ground of the growing-up years you will remember when we are long gone. While we know it’s essential, that darn bucket is heavy and the water is sloshy – especially since that day in February when we began to hear the clock ticking so ominously in the background. The problem is that just because we know this time is important, doesn’t mean we’ve figured out how to do it as well as we should…we still get frustrated and yelly and annoyed with each other and then we feel like, “Oh no, I hope our dumb humanity didn’t just ruin this trip for them.” But I guess what I’ve decided is that sometimes a photo is just a photo and an argument is just an argument and a sunrise is just a sunrise…none of those things get to be the whole picture of our time together, they’re just colors on the canvass that God is painting beautifully, using both dark strokes and bright beams of experience. We are made fuller and freer through His complete workmanship. Even when one corner isolated may look less lovely than the rest…it adds texture and strength and life to the whole. This is not to excuse our failures, but rather to give them context in the greater landscape of life.
So, there you have my list of pro’s and con’s and I know that each of you have your own unique and yet equally-valid list. No matter what you ever do or where you go, you will be able to generate just such a list. I guess what I hope the most is that you remember this time as real – not a fairytale for framing, but an experience for absorbing. I hope that these days and miles are logged in the journal of your life as evidence that God is good in hard times, that His story is written all over our world, and that you have the strongest, kindest, truest dad in the history of dads.
That’s what I hope. Because I couldn’t love you more.
Jane Williams - Wow,…. “I guess what I hope the most is that you remember this time as real – not a fairytale for framing, but an experience for absorbing.” The best advice for Life’s journey I think I’ve ever heard.
Arlene - Thank you for sharing, not only your trip but your heart. LOVE the pictures!
On our trip to Kenya this past February, the team from Detroit area taught the children in Tana River a song, along with silly actions. The song goes . . .
Making melodies in my heart,
Making melodies in my heart,
Making melodies in my heart,
For the King of Kings.
Insert the word “memories” . . . not only are you making family memories but also God memories!
Love you and your family and praying for you all
Tami Rice - Oh Bo…I am sitting here giggling with tears running down my cheeks. As Weeza said in Steel Magnolias, “laughter through tears is the best emotion there is!” Since that day in February I have thought some of your same thoughts regarding making memories etc for your family. Also, it has sparked within me a desire to be purposeful in creating memories for my own children because as God has shown through Team Stern you just never know when things can change. Thank you for being transparent through this journey. You are touching lives in huge ways! Love you all and pray for continued wonderful memory making days!
Jill - LOVE <3
Jenna Javens - As always, Bo, this is beautiful. I love you and your family so very much.
bo - Thank you, Jane…I was hoping that made sense outside of my own head. 🙂
bo - Oh Tami, that is exactly what I’ve hoped…that other families will make intentional memories too. Thanks for sharing that.