Thursday, August 18, 2016

bittersweet

Nearly 18 years ago we brought our girl home from the hospital. She disrupted our comfortable life in every way possible. When she leaves for college next week, she'll do so again.

It's written all over her face: she's ready!
I have waxed poetic about how quickly the time has passed. It's true these are the days of bittersweet. Watching my girl chomping at the bit, so excited about what this next part of her life will hold is incredibly sweet. Understanding that this part of parenting is over and how far I missed the mark is bitter indeed.

Syler Thomas writes, Raising children must be more about growing them as disciples than about our experience as their parents. His words cause me to examine the past 18 years. I cannot keep count of the moments that raising my daughter was about me - my expectations, my plans, my image, my happiness. How often did I earnestly seek God's expectations, God's plans, God's image, God's happiness? I squandered many opportunities. Knowing that pierces my heart.

This is the sadness that tugs at me, more than the myriad of supplies and furnishings that have slowly overtaken the guest room. I read posts from mothers of college-bound children detailing their heartache, and I feel guilty. Our child-worshiping culture demands that we shed an ocean of tears to prove our loss, but as of yet I have been unable to comply. The blaze of anticipation in my girl's eyes dries almost every tear that threatens to spill forth from my own. I will miss her, it's true. Perhaps I haven't begun to fathom how much.

Yet I know that although this part of my parenting is done, I am still a mother. The ears that listened acutely for hunger cries in the middle of the night still listen. The eyes that carefully watched as she explored her surroundings still watch. The arms that snuggled her close stand ready to do the same. I find that I'm excited for this unknown future. I will have more opportunities to disciple my girl, albeit in a different way than before. It will be new and unfamiliar, and we will certainly wrestle through it. But we have made it through nights of colic, years of shift work, middle-school drama, and high school disappointments; we know how to survive.

After more than five years of marriage, my husband and I adjusted to having a third person in our home. Now, we will adjust to her absence. It may be more difficult, but God will give more grace.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

an evening ritual

The unbearable, energy-draining heat

The non-stop political banter and back-biting

The rapid pace of online debates

The reality of my girl leaving home in less than four weeks

Unexpected family health issues

The combination of them can be exhausting. Despite my fatigue, my brain sometimes insists on performing mental gymnastics at bedtime. In these instances sleep evades me or, if it comes, is fitful. The next day I am on edge, more weary and more sensitive than the day before.

I have finally put the merry-go-round behind me with the comfort of an evening ritual. I wrap the last 30 minutes of each day in beauty and truth.

I set my Pandora station to Yo-Yo Ma Radio, pick up my stack of books and crawl into bed.

First, I read soothing prose. This is not the time for an exciting, keep-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat read. I deliberately seek a calming, rhythmic pace.  Wendell Berry is a favorite choice.

Afterwards, I spend a few moments with the wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Heart. Her straight-forward, unwavering faith in God sharpens me and shifts my focus from the things of this world.

Finally, I read a Psalm. Other Scripture may challenge me, give me much to ponder, or encourage me, but the Psalms quiet me. I find my brain filled with praise as I drift off to sleep.

It's still unbelievably hot. Politicians still anger me. Online debates still sadden me. My girl is still leaving and someone I love is still hurting. The circumstances of my life haven't changed, but my ability to face them has. And that has made all the difference.

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
~Philippians 4:-8




Monday, July 11, 2016

doing

Tears pooled in my eyes as I listened. I didn't know the man at the podium, but I was utterly surprised when he shared his testimony of God's faithfulness. I never would have suspected that he would choose to work with teenagers. He didn't look the part.

But once he started speaking, his passion for older children and teens became evident. His love for the Gospel and sharing it with others was tangible.

His words took me back to the time in my life when loving others and sharing the Gospel was part of me.  When serving was important. Has it really been seven years?


Not your typical North American soup kitchen
Seven years since my eyes were opened...

to the poverty that cripples much of our world

to the depths of pain unknown in my comfortable life

to the despair of those without the hope of the Gospel

to the fact that there are families who feel blessed to live in ramshackle accommodations roughly equivalent to the size of my bedroom

to the smiling faces of children who thought a piece of penny candy was worth a pound of gold

I thought I would be changed forever. That I wouldn't be able to return to the ignorance and apathy that marked my typical American life.

Slowly, I found my way back. I don't even know when. I only know I have been firmly and happily ensconsed here for quite a while, content to read my Bible and commentaries. Quick to listen, slow to action.

And so I find myself  examining, wrestling, praying...and hoping that soon I will find myself doing.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
- James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

lost


I lost her infant and toddler years.

They are a blur of diapers and sleepless nights. A terminally ill father-in-law. Balancing home and work. All bear equal blame. I would tiptoe into her room at night - oh, so careful not to wake her - and peer into the crib, determined to memorize every sweet line in her face. I knew I would never forget. I was wrong.

I lost her preschool years.

On-going health issues and a number of surgeries stole them from me. I was so focused on building a new home that her first day of kindergarten sprung upon me like a jack-in-the-box. I heard the music and I knew it was coming, but I was still startled by its appearance.




 
I lost her elementary school years.

They are hidden among the ball practices and dance classes, homework, and church activities. We lived in 4-week increments of shift rotation - planning "girl time", trying our best not to wake Daddy, and looking forward to that one precious weekend each month when all three of us could be together.





 I lost her middle school years.

Somewhere in the chaos of a husband losing his job, his returning to college, his finding a job, then Mama's passing...well, they are gone. I've searched the recesses of my brain, hoping to find some traces of their existence. They are faint at best.


I lost her high school years.

She learned to play field hockey and to drive, became comfortable with who she is, and discovered her passion for medicine. Preparations for college consumed all of us, as we waited to see what the Lord had in store. In two days - TWO DAYS! - she will turn that tassel and high school will be finished.


And just like that, her childhood blew away.