Maps, phones, ipads, internet, pad of paper, pens, compass and maybe a sexton tool were all used in the planning of the 2014 Smith Summer vacation. It had to be awesome. It had to be perfect. It had to be done. All but one of us realizes what is coming in November and this was our way of saying “Goodbye” to our family as we know it. (Quick background if you don’t know: my wife of 16 years is expecting our fourth child. That brings the quiver of children to two girls Hannah, 9; Sadie, 7 and two boys: Israel, 2 and Ezra, TBB...to be born.) This was to be the greatest and last trip as ‘this Smith Family.’
Once we decided it would be a short vacation to the DFW area, My wife and I conducted many conversations in preparations for this momentous occasion: What is the proper placement of hotel? Should the hotel pool be indoor or outdoor? Are those fancy Texas waffles there for the kids? What are the right enriching activities that we should do? Only fun or squeeze some learning activities in also? Do we include the children in our decisions?
The time came, the plans were made, and the fun began. We found the hotel to be located the perfect distance away and, yes the Texas waffles were there. Convincing the two year old that it was special to have his “own room” in the hotel was a stroke of genius by the wife. The boy loved the closet floor.
Each and everyday was full of memories, surprises, and focused on letting the kids have one more memory before Ezra joins us. A wonderful afternoon/evening at Six Flags Over Texas started the fun. There was arcade time for the #1 offspring, a dinner in Rainforest Cafe for the #2, Build-A-Bear for #1 & #2, train ride for #3 and lots of swimming for #1, #2, & #3. Even an exciting documentary about man eating crocidiles and snakes for #1.
The trip was great success, measured by the fact #2, known lovingly as “The Question” among those who travel with her, was asleep ten minutes into the ride home. Ah...the ride home.
DFW to San Antonio. Four hours, five depending on the bladder and eating desires of my children. As we are just leaving the back roads of getting from Mansfield to the I-35 conduit to our house, #3 asked the question all parents wait patiently to hear: “Are we there yet?” The answer is simple, Israel. “No we are not there. Only four hours to go.”
The question….”Are we there yet?” There are different degrees of understanding time by each of my children. For my oldest, four hours means the same distance to her grandmother’s house in Abilene; it means starting four to six books and finishing two to three of them. For the second born, it means two “real” movies on the DVD player or a bunch of “little” movies. For Israel, four hours means...well nothing.
After answering this question a couple of times during the first thirty minutes on the ride home, I vowed not to get frustrated by a two year old who has just been strapped to a chair like he is headed to the moon, desiring for the freedom he has had for the past five days. Then on that super highway of people racing to and fro from North and South Texas it happened. A theological adjustment by a simple thought place in my head by my Heavenly Father: “How do you think I feel when you ask me?”
Time, experienced by all, viewed differently by wisdom. The girls are developing a sense and understanding of time because of the life they have led. Israel, who cannot count to ten, how could he understand time? My wife and I have been around for closing in on four decades, so we get time. Don’t we? Time is how we judge the day, the birthdays, the time we are here.
My repetitive questions to my Father about “How much longer? What is taking so long? Are we there yet?” are a direct correlation to my son asking his father. The one who lives in time asking the one who lives outside of time is as silly as trying to explain the trip home to Israel: After Hillsboro is Waco, then North Austin and hopefully only an hour later South Austin and then San Marcos, New Braunfels, and home.
In a blink of an eye, it became clear. Israel was asking because he wanted to know and understand. I ask because I want to know and understand. Israel cannot understand everything right now. I cannot understand the full answer right now.
So, what I am to do? Follow the lead of my son. Stay “strapped in” to the direction the Lord is taking me, be willing to continue to ask questions and accept the answers giving. Keep moving down the road, knowing that one day the answer to “Are we there yet?” will “Yes”....the Ultimate Yes.