One time in my middle school years I went horseback riding on the beach during a family vacation. Like most tourist experiences of this kind, it wasn’t quite the dream I hoped it would be. A large group of random people were rushed to mount tired horses and led en masse to plod slowly along a narrow strip of sand that wasn’t nice enough to front a resort. It was unremarkable, to say the least, and I probably wouldn’t even remember that whole experience today if not for one intense moment that seared itself and the whole event indelibly into my memory.
At one point in the ride a couple of more experienced riders were allowed to urge their horses to a gallop, and a couple of other horses, mine included, decided it would be fun to join in. Without warning my horse bolted off and sent a shock of adrenaline through my heart. Thankfully I had spent enough time on a horse to be able to slow my eager mount back down to a walk, but I watched the other lady steak ahead of me down the beach screaming in terror as she slid off her horse. I don’t think she was seriously hurt, but I doubt she ever road a horse again.
My little burst of speed was far less dramatic, but during that short stretch of near panic my whole body, mind, and soul were consumed with one objective – staying on that horse! I was not interested in the beauty of the sunset on the beach, what I would eat for dinner that night, my future career, my current crush, or the state of millions of lost souls. I was 100% focused on surviving.
That is how I feel like this last year has been. That is where our family is now. We are just trying our hardest to stay on the horse! We are not able to keep a handle on intentional relationships, rigorous academics, healthy eating, family discipleship, stellar dental hygiene, dealing with my parents’ estate, and the dozen different aspects of our work.
One week we are blessed to meet with a couple of friends and are deeply encouraged, but our schoolwork is confined to the bare minimum, we miss family devotions, and we eat more frozen food than I care to admit. The next week we hunker down at home and get a little more school done and start back to our family devotions, but miss church because one child is sick and we only have one car, a long commute, and a meeting in the afternoon. The next week we have 6 doctor’s appointments and start to deal with various health issues, but get nothing done toward dealing with my parents’ estate, and family devotions are out again.
And every week we hear about something that we need to do better – floss more, sell the house faster, be more intentional in counseling our children through their grief, give up more ‘personal time’ for work because there’s just too much work to be confined to work hours, or advocate for our work more actively. And every week I find myself more and more jealous of Matt Damon in that movie where he is stranded on Mars.
I can’t even get a decent dinner on the table, but I’m supposed to keep close track of what my kid is eating that could be causing her severe stomach pain, all the while knowing deep in my gut that her stomach pain is most likely from the stress of an unexpected move from the continent she calls home in order to say goodbye to the 4th close relative she’s lost in 5 years. I know because that’s exactly what my stomach does under extreme stress, and I am about to start my 3rd round of intensive stomach acid treatment in 5 years because of my pre-ulcerous stomach and esophageal spasms. All due to stress.
I really want to be able to enjoy the sunset, give a little thought to our school instead of cruising on autopilot, give in relationships and not just take, and I especially want to be very intentional in shepherding my children through life and all the loss and transition they are encountering. But I just need the horse to stop so I can form a thought about something other than hanging on!
Toward that end, we are aiming to slow down for a season and regroup. We are trying to get our health back in order with root canals, echocardiograms, stomach medicines, and flossing. We are seeking counseling and advice from professionals and peers. To be sure, we still have a pretty intense stretch ahead of us since we need to move as soon as possible (and haven’t found a place yet), and go through my parents’ house and pull out the important things we want to keep from my family, and have an estate sell for everything else, and sell the house and my mom’s car, and deal with a really tricky estate for my mom AND my dad since his estate was never closed… But we are really trying to slow the horse down before we fall off.