Doug had the day off yesterday so we decided to drive out to Joshua Tree with the kids. We took Mercy there when she was about six months old, and she LOVED it. Since we don’t want poor Aaron to have total second child syndrome (though itâ€™s probably too late), we though it would be fun to go again.
The church-planting leadership in the Covenant uses the phrase “a well-conceived plan” to describe a project that has good potential in terms of the right church-planter, the right community, the right partner church, the right vision, etc. Well, we thought our trip yesterday was just that: a well-conceived plan. We had packed and planned thoroughly, and had the timing of things figured out just right in terms of naps in the car, etc. But the day ended up being a total disaster.
First, we arrived at Joshua Tree to high winds that made the very cold temperatures (which we HAD anticipated) basically unbearable. It was so windy that Aaron, who is now walking, could not. So, my nice picnic that I had envisioned having in one of the picnic areas turned out to be a frustrating grump-fest in the crowded car.
Second, as we left the grumpy lunch realizing we were not going to play outside as much as we had imagined, we at least were excited about driving around inside the massive park and checking out all the “silly trees” and hoping to see some coyotes. But, as we started the car, the strange smell coming from the car that we had endured for the last hour of our drive in became unbearable. The fact that we were in the middle of the desert and very far from home helped us decide that maybe we better just turn around and head home. We could enjoy the scenic drive out of the park and certainly the kids would fall asleep soon as it was already time for their naps.
It was about this time that Aaron began to cry. And cry and cry and cry. The poor guy had not been out of his carseat all day at this point, and I am sure his little body was going crazy! Mercy had the chance to run around with Doug a little bit, so she was better off. So Aaron cried which made Mercy start to whine, and I told Mercy not to cry or she would scare off the coyotes. That got her quiet fast but then when Aaron kept crying she got so upset at him and started shouting at him to stop scaring away the coyotes. At this point my anxiety over the car, my disappointment over not getting to play at the park, and my frustration with Aaron’s crying was pushing me over the edge.
We got out of the park and started making our way back to the 10 with Aaron still screaming in the back. I told Doug that we needed to stop at a McDonalds with a play area and let him run around for a while before the long drive home. So the first McD’s we saw, we pulled in and if this was not the epitome of the day’s failures…kids dressed and ready for rocks and sun stuck inside a garish plastic structure that they could not even enter because they were too small. We were consigned to running laps up and down the length of the building chasing a bunch of balloons that a sweet mother of FIVE (watching her made me feel a bit better) gave to us. It was the happiest the kids had been all day.
I could pretty easily draw some parallels here between our “well-conceived project” and what can happen in even the best-intentioned church-plant efforts. Let’s just say that sometimes, in spite of your best efforts and strategies and even your faithfulness, your day at Joshua Tree can turn into an afternoon at McDonalds.
We finally got home after a very long drive, much of it in three-day weekend traffic. Mercy never did sleep the entire ride, and Aaron resumed his screaming after a short nap. It was brutal. And it turns out our car battery was basically trying to explode. By the time we pulled into our driveway the sulfur smell was absolutely excruciating, and Doug almost passed out after lifting the hood. So today, Doug is coming home early to go get a new battery and take the car in to our mechanic. We have some repairs that we have been postponing that we just simply need to have done. And now, who knows what will be added. As always, it will require money that we don’t have.
When we got married, our dear pastor from Portland exhorted us to do three things, the last of which was to struggle. His exhortation was biblical, and it has been a true word to us. And on days like today, those white-dress memories of standing there, filled with so much hope and happiness, and knowing that God was with us and would continue to be, help me keep going.