We’re living with exam stress in our house these days. It’s that time of year. And it does nothing – or little – to tell my kids I remember what it was like. All the studying, the cramped hands, late nights, deep breaths and knowing/never-quite-knowing it will be alright. Of course, I remember all that. I still have those dreams. Those doubts. But the kids don’t quite believe me. I’m not sure I believed my mother either.
This is bound to be a stressful time, and maybe more so because of the pandemic. For the last two years in our district, high school exams were first disrupted, then cancelled in waves. New plans were made, and then newer ones. Everything kept changing. Now, for the first time in a long time, the old routines are starting again. The sports hall is filled with desks and chairs, and the timetable has been set. And our high school students are wide-eyed and worried.
A stolen day
The weather isn’t helping. The heat has come early and that’s another worry, of course. But this weekend, as we sat on the cusp of the first full week of exams, we decided to make the most of it. After lunch, the Spouse and I exchanged glances, checked the tide times, and announced we were all needed on the beach. It was time for surprise ice cream to refocus the eyes.
The water was far too cold to swim in, but we took off our shoes anyway and felt the sand under our feet. The sky was magnificently blue above us, and this felt like a stolen day, snatched up from the summer that’s still stretching on ahead.
After a while, we sat down on the sun-warmed stones and watched the waves. Our eldest pulled out a sketch book as our middle kid climbed on the rocks, balancing with his bare feet and looking for fossils. Our youngest set about gathering armfuls of dried seaweed on a hundred small journeys away from me and back, and I made him a crown.
A little bit of play and peace is good for the heart and head, but the day felt like more than that. We felt surrounded by good metaphors: seaweed for buoyancy, ice cream for sweetness, and sea-tossed, sun-warmed stones for strength, perseverance and grace. These are all part of the same work, these good gifts that come from the hands of the Creator.
That afternoon, it was good to remember that worry and work are only going to get us so far. Jesus was good at reminding his friends of that. And, when they were overwhelmed, he met them on a beach and reminded them how wonderfully abundant the world could be. I pray that through these simple, playful family days, he can teach my own kids the same wisdom, and they, too, can feel held, called and surrounded by grace.
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