Our family is off to the lake and the woods on vacation this week. Where there’s no Internet. So I’m sharing five of my favorite posts from the last couple years while I’m gone. I hope they’ll be favorites for you too. Wishing you watermelon afternoons and sand between the toes.

When I board the plane and see her and the toddler in my row the first thing I think is, “Thank goodness I wasn’t rude or irritable when I saw them earlier in the restroom.” Because we will be close companions now for the next hour and a half.

She’s juggling all those adorable baby rolls and bags of toys and tricks to keep him occupied when I slide into the seat next to them. I can feel she’s nervous and I’m so happy to be able to smile when he throws a toy at my leg and say, “It’s OK; I have three.”

Three. How did this happen? How did I become the mother of three children? I always find it the most remarkable when I’m not with them. When I’m seeing that number through someone else’s eyes. She smiles relief and I know we’re partners now for the next 90 minutes hovering over the wide open spaces between DC and Chicago.

She is patient and keeps up a running, quiet narrative to keep him distracted. She rocks him with her whole self and the plane rocks them both.

It’s a wonder this art of wrapping oneself around a tiny human being to give them food, comfort, warmth, security.

The sun beats unrelenting against the closed shutters and the small baby beats big fists at the back of the chair and wails the frustration of the bored, tired.

She entertains. She laughs. She tickles. We feed him snacks and each other encouragement because this is the way of mothers everywhere. We know. We know on that deep, been up since 2am feeling, what it’s like to hold teething babes and rock colicky infants and still break into wide smiles when they grin all goofy gums at us.

We know the rock and the rhyme and the rhythm of this strange dance that is parenthood.

We rock and roll babes in the crook of tired arms on crowded airplanes because it’s our calling and our gift. Yes, gift. The hard and the sleepless and the sometimes almost excruciating joy – it is all a gift that if we don’t pause and appreciate will slip through our fingers like so many loads of laundry lost in the swirling, whirly gig of repetitive busy that can weigh a mother down.

But when I sit in that plane in that seat next to a young mom and her one-year-old I can’t help but admire her at work. Because this is her work and her vocation and to see her in action is to appreciate the God that designed this living parable of why He would willingly sacrifice His whole self for us. There it is– the choice to give comfort, to feed, to nurture even when the recipient is unwilling and unappreciative.

And when he passes out, sweaty head curled into her shoulder, I wonder if any of the other passengers realize what went on here in row 18. If they know that this young mom is in the thick of her work day and what an artist she is when she brings all her patience and love to bear on a baby oblivious to the effort it costs.

I silently, inwardly applaud her.

Surely there is a standing ovation somewhere – if not in the aisles of this plane – then out there in the heavens that we’re passing through.