Happy Mother’s Day, Julie—Enjoy The Next Weeks In A French Mt. Chalet On Your Own
Happy Mother’s Day, Julie—Enjoy the next weeks in a French Mt. chalet on your own.
Talk about the 11th hour! Julie managed to get her Visa at 1:50pm yesterday. An hour later she was at Cape Town International—in fulfillment of a dream born a decade before, when she’d said to me, “When I turn 40, I am going to France to walk in the vineyards, to speak bad French, to drink wine, and to eat at the bakeries—with or without you.”
I whipped Julie off the shelf, you see. She was 21 when we tied the knot. She had not planned on marrying young. She certainly did not want to marry a pastor. And she hadn’t really thought about having kids, nor how many. In fact, I still remember her at age 19, popping in to the church office, asking for someone to pray for her: having been the head girl of her school, and the youngest ever person to graduate from Red and Yellow, and with flying colours, she had to decide quickly whether to launch her career in advertising in Cape Town or London. I had no idea at the time how much that decision would impact my life. I am so glad she stayed—6 months later we’d fall in love, and we’d be married 18 months after that.
How did I manage to get her to marry me so young? To be honest, I had help from above. I still remember her saying, “I didn’t plan any of this for my life—but what are you supposed to do when you know that you know that God has brought you your partner earlier than you planned?” If it all felt too soon for Julie, it felt too late for me. I was desperate to meet my partner in my very early 20s already. But God had spoken to me at the time to be patient, assuring me that I was not ready for my partner, nor she for me. Only afterwards did I understand why: my soul mate was in junior high at the time!
But goodness, when my waiting was done, my partner arrived baked all the way through. What a remarkable friend, worker, wife, pastor, mother she has been. She has poured her life out tirelessly and bravely, putting loved ones first again and again. For example, despite being a surfer, I knew better than to plan for a honeymoon by the sea. What a thrill, then, that she suggested we honeymoon on a surf island in Indonesia. Since then, almost every holiday destination has been partially chosen based on my surfing “needs”—even though the coast is not her thing.
By the time she was 30, she’d already birthed 3 kids, worked full-time with the shortest of maternity leaves, moved into our second house, helped to lead a large church, and planted another large one with me—and she was utterly spent. That’s when she set her eyes on an eventual “break” in France.
Well, yesterday she climbed on a plane—and left the six of us to embark to the other hemisphere. Her previous record of being away from the kids is 3 days—this trip is 3 weeks. If all goes to plan, she will walk the streets of Paris with a childhood friend for a few days, then bus off on her own to a chalet near a mountain village, and for the rest of the time, do … whatever she wants to.
Having been dragged along by the clock—10 or more daily work deadlines and the mental load of a ridiculous number of drop-off / pick-up times—she has taken no watch. Having written about an article a day, for twenty years, presenting herself as an expert in 100s of subjects, she has no work scheduled.
How has she coped with having 5 kids, a husband who hit bottom emotionally in the middle of it all, and being the main breadwinner for the last 2 years?
She hasn’t really.
Though I’ve got better at genuine gender equality in the home, the entire run has broken her again and again. She’d whimper at times, “I don’t have the luxury of burning out—but I am burnt out.” In the midst of all this, I have watched her soldier on, become her own person, find her own voice, hold on to her faith, and multiply day after day the few fish and bread-loaves she had left in herself to care for and guide so many of us.
Most mindblowing to me—she has held to her commitment to do something for herself, by pulling this high-altitude adventure seemingly out of thin air. To afford it, she worked one or two all-nighters per week for the last few months. This trip may be God’s gift to her, but it is also something she has earned.
My prayer, today, is that not only will this be a time of beauty and comfort, rest and joy for her, but it will mark the end of an elongated season of giving out more of herself than is humanly possible, and will usher in a new era of being able to care for herself, first. Like the mother who is instructed by the flight attendant to put the air mask on her own face first, Julie so needs this deep, deep breath of Alpine air, and, when she returns, a lifestyle that sustainably allows more air in her lungs more of the time. God has already answered—at the last moment!—our prayer for her Visa, so I am sure he will answer this one, too.
We’re with her vicariously—my kids are even trying to speak French to each other. However, just one day in, we are already missing her madly. At bedtime, the youngest cried for an hour, mumbling tear-drenched syllables (which happens to be the French version of the word) “Maman … maman!”
At 4:47 this morning she sent me a pic of herself in transit at the Dubai airport, and also this message: “Tell Ivy and Sam that I have just ordered them tuc today”—somehow this item had evaded her when she created the 15 page small print doc for me, a materialization of her crazy mental load, detailing daily instructions for the entire time she is away.
Happy Mother’s Day Julie. I know other husbands say this of their wives, too, but I think my saying it may be the absolute truth—you are the best woman, wife and mother in the world.
Also published on Medium.