This boy…part two. Broken bones and immense pride

Okay, so I shared in part one of this story that our boy had an amazing opportunity to explore his delights of language and Asian culture. He had a fantastic time, and was scheduled to remain with this group through the end of August.

And then he fell. A simple accident, carrying something and hit a wet patch where stone met wood. We don’t know exactly how he hit, but he broke his humerus into four pieces.

We received the call at about 4am our time on a Sunday morning. They had actually tried twice already to get us…once when the bone broke, once at the hospital. Now they were back at the hotel and preparing to drive him to the airport, a three hour drive, to send him home.

We started scrambling to find a flight for me. A fourteen hour flight. We worked with our international insurance. He was feeling pretty good, but he looked a little wide eyed. He was still grinning, though.

Then our insurance team got a look at the x-ray. Hold everything, they told us. Put him on that plane and his arm will begin to swell. There are nerves and arteries involved. They would have to divert the plane and there would be a very real possibility of having to amputate that arm.

Well. That got our attention.

That’s one of those moments when you realize you have very little control over very real situations in your life. There was truly nothing we could do in that moment to help our boy. We could flutter around and talk to insurance. We could make plans. We could arrange things…but none of it was going to do anything to mend those bones that needed immediate attention.

What did we do? We relied on those who knew things better than we did. We relied on the international travel insurance. We relied on the hospital they directed us to, and we we so thankful for the amazing team there. They called for immediate surgery.

And we prayed. And we called all our friends to pray. And then we prayed some more.

And this was not a desperate act with no hope. This was not a wish thrown out to the cosmos.

We prayed to the God who created our boy to be immensely independent. We prayed to the God who stirred the desires for travel and for experiencing other cultures. We prayed to the God who knew our boy intimately better than we did.

We prayed to the God who orchestrated this whole trip, and who knew the entire time we were giggling and planning and oohing and ahhing over his sill grin…the whole time, that this was part of the agenda.

We prayed, and then we trusted.

We did debate bringing him home early, and we did debate my flying out to get him. Then he said he wanted to stay, and we trusted some more.

And the boy went through the whole thing with an amazing maturity and humility. We received nothing but words of compliment for how he carried himself. He was still grinning. He still got to see the country, even though he did not get to continue with the English language lessons.

He made memories. He saw amazing things. He met amazing people.

I prayed before he went that he would encounter Jesus in ways that could only happen on this trip. I prayed that he would know Jesus better, and would know the giftings Jesus had given him when he came out of this. I prayed that he would grow in confidence.

I hope that has all come true. I know that he is coming home after having walked through his first international trip, his first broken bone and his first surgery. He did it on his own. Kinda. He was surrounded by wonderful people, and he was lifted in prayer by an amazing network back home.

Steve and I learned a whole new level of praying. And we learned when really difficult things happen, and I know this is actually fairly minor compared to what some of our friends have navigated, God shows up. This is new territory for us…sending our kids away from us and watching them navigate life. This was a bit of baptism by fire. But we’re on the other side of it, and I’m back sitting here in Chicago waiting for the boy to come through customs.

I wonder what the next adventure will be.

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This boy…part one. Delight and gifting, and….Asia

This boy. Since he was the smallest of boys, he has been independent.

Fiercely.

He did not want to be rocked and cuddled to sleep; he wanted simply to be laid down and he would take care of the getting to sleep bit.

He wanted only the minimal instruction in conquering new abilities. Riding a bike without training wheels took no time as he got the concept and then was off ripping down the street with a buddy, laughing loudly and making up stories.

And probably filming.

At fourteen he went off and found a job. The first option, Baskin Robbins, was a nod to a lifetime dream of being an ice cream taster. He found that the staff wasn’t very responsive, so he turned his attention to Culver’s. Think burger version of Chic-fil-A. Secured the job, and employee of the month on his second month. With no help from us.

This boy’s mind is filled with stories and adventures and ideas. He is so quick to understand something, when he is interested. His first love has been movies. He loves watching them and for a season we thought he might be interested in acting. Until stage fright made the acting less than enjoyable and he turned his attention more to the making of the films. He has a series he has done with a cousin over seven years or so. Five episodes a year. They have a website, a plot, character development, drama, great editing and humor. He would probably kill me if I attached the link.

Language has taken ahold of his attention in the last few years. French he is comfortable with, Italian he began teaching himself and some others, until he became bored and picked up Korean.

He loves Asian culture right now. Korean culture. Not so interested in Nashville culture.

So when a family friend called and invited this boy to go to Asia for the month of August, he was all in.

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We have grown familiar with the knowledge that this boy probably won’t live in our city for his whole life. He is too curious, to independent. He is going to travel, and he is going to see the world. And he very well may find a place far away that he loves. We are familiar with the knowledge, but since he is only 15 we have not completely accepted the knowledge.

So.

A friend, who may be a grown up version of our Nate, encouraged me not to say no from fear. If there was a legitimate reason to say no, that’s fine. If, however, the no rising up in your throat like a lump because, well, it’s Asia, then maybe let that “no” go.

First international trip. With folks he has never met before, and just a knowledge of stories of the friend who invited him. We said yes…but we were with our worries.

So. I flew the boy to Chicago on July 31st. We met this friend known only from stories, and I almost took Nate on home with me on August 1. Instead, I handed him off to the care of our friend, and his friends, and the great care of God.

And I did not cry in front of him.

We watched diligently the path of his flight, and were thrilled when all the members of the team arrived. He was headed to help out some who were teaching English in two camps.

Languages and Asian culture. Is God not delightful in how he stirs our interest and then plops something like this in our lap?

Several years ago, we sent Nate to a sleep away camp for a week. The older boy had gone, lots of friends went, and we thought it would be great. We poured over pictures the camp posted every day for a glimpse of the boy. We questioned and doubted when we saw him standing with arms folded, away from the group. We worried.

This felt somewhat the same, except for that 14 hour flight of distance.

We poured over every picture he sent.

The pictures emphasized how far away he was. How different the culture and the faces.

They emphasized how he was doing something so big, so completely different than he had ever done. He had never worked with kids. He had never helped teach English.

It was so different…and yet, the joy we saw in every picture made us so happy. No folded arms. No standing at a distance. Just a big silly grin in every. Single. Picture.

He was right where he was supposed to be, and the gifting so God had placed in him…the things that delighted him and sparked that enthusiastic learning…they were shining through. The reports we heard back were awesome. He was engaged, and loving it…and we were so happy!

Eleven days in and we thought how awesome it was that he still had a whole different camp to help with in a different city, and then on to six days of sightseeing!!

Experiencing a different culture is awesome in any way we can get there, but to get to spend a whole month in a different place really allows such a deep understanding. So awesome. We were totally excited!!

God had been so good to orchestrate all of this.

And then. Well, things changed.

And that’s a great place to pause. Yep, that is a broken arm. Broken humerus in fact. Broken into four pieces and requiring emergency surgery. . A 14 hour flight away.

That’s not the focus for the moment.

For the moment, the focus is the fact that God is stirring things in our kids…things that are probably deeper and greater than we can imagine.

Right now, Steve and I are in that strange transition from orchestrating and directing and shepherding our children, to more of an observing and praying and advising role.

With the oldest at college, and now this adventure with Nate, we are realizing that the role of parent is so completely immersed in loving fiercely and guiding and engaging…only with the goal of a separation and a lessening of the need for us.

I know, I know….we are still needed. We are still engaged and we are still loving fiercely. However, our dependence on God to do the more intimate direction and protection has come in to very sharp focus very quickly for us.

I have to confess, the sheer speed of this transition has been a little dizzying.

Suddenly, I look at these boys and I do not see children I need to protect and worry over. I see young men who are beginning to be aware that God has equipped them and directed them and is going to use them. I see the bit of fear, and I see the bit of anxiety…but my word have I been struck by the delight and the joy as they step out.

So, with our littles still in our care, let’s keep pouring in and loving fiercely and engaging. Let us keep praying for those delights to be directed by God and for Him to begin equipping and preparing. Because, my friends, in the blink of an eye we will be struck by the character and the strength and the joy these children of ours have developed. We will be struck that we are sending young men and women to go bring a hope and love and courage to a world that is so in need of hope and loving and courage.

Even if the direction takes them across the ocean, or just a few hours away. Even if. God is working and when He is and we give the freedom for them to step out…we’ll see the joy in their big silly grins.

It wont be without challenges though….so follow me on to the next post and part two.

Spaghetti For Breakfast: Sustaining Moments

I’ve been up since 2am. Trying to navigate a challenge involving one of the kids off on an adventure. I promise to tell about that soon, but not quite yet.

I can tell you this boy and his independence will teach Steve and I more about relying on God than many things we have experienced. We have learned to pray and trust and realize that ultimately these kids are God’s and He has plans we can’t even imagine.

 

Sometimes that education is  bit exhausting, emotionally and physically.

 

Like navigating challenges at 2am. After being awakened at midnight as well.

 

My response?

 

Spaghetti for breakfast at 5:30am.

 

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Now, I love spaghetti, but there is a deeper reason for turning to spaghetti for breakfast this morning.

 

When I was growing up my middle brother used to come home from dates and make spaghetti late at night. I would lay awake and wait for him to come home, then follow him to the kitchen and wait while he made spaghetti and eat with him. I honestly don’t know how many times this happened…as our minds play with our memories, it may have only been once or it may have been dozens of times. Regardless, it left an imprint on my brain.

 

Rarely do I make spaghetti without thinking of my brother. And sometimes, when a day has been especially challenging, a plate of spaghetti can bring a sense of comfort. A moment of sustaining.

 

I like what Madeleine L’Engle says about how we carry with us each age we have been:

 

“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.” 

 

We all know that there are tragedies many have lived through, and those continue to impact them as adults. There are moments of childhood which leave a mark that one would rather forget.

 

But there are moments which leave a mark, a memory…something that gives us strength. A fragrance or a moment of music can spark the emotion from childhood, from adolescence, and can bring strength. Spaghetti for breakfast. Comfort. Reminder that I have a foundation which is sufficient for the challenges of today.

 

 

So in our days as Moms and Dads, as brothers and sisters…remember today that we are creating these moments for those around us. We are giving them tools, we are giving them reminders…we are giving them comfort and strength for the future when they may need it the most. Rituals and rhythms which might spark the knowledge of a strong foundation.

 

I have a feeling Maddie and Sam will have some connection to the theme song from Great British Baking Show.

 

Today, though, as I finish off the spaghetti, I want to think of how to be intentional about creating these moments. I want to be more consistent with them. Life has been moving so quickly, I feel as though I have been holding the tiger by the tail. Time to slow that down.  Time to make the room to do something out of the ordinary. Time to craft a tool the kids can rely on in the future.

 

One other note. The kid that is off on an adventure is actually off with the middle brother mentioned above’s best friend. Confused? Well, this best friend has cared for my boy with diligence and kindness that is the fruit of a deep gratitude.

 

There have been bumps in the adventure they are on, challenges that were not expected. They have navigated them well, but again and again this friend has said that he is thrilled to be able to care for our boy because of the times my brother and parents cared for him. There is a foundation of kindness in that relationship of 38 years which is reaping a benefit for my teen.

 

So. Be kind. Establish some rituals and moments our kids can turn to for comfort and strength and reminders. And remember that the kindness we offer to those around us may come back in completely unexpected ways to be a blessing. Isn’t the crazy connections of life grand? Isn’t it just like there is a creative God who surprises us constantly in how our lives are connected with those around us?

 

Now. Go find your version of spaghetti for breakfast and be encouraged, comforted…blessed. You have the tools you need for today.

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning into Dancing…We Need Them Both

One week has passed since we dropped the boy at college. One week of him finding his way around a new campus, sleeping in a room that is not quite his yet, finding his own meals and making new friends.

 

One week has passed and there is still a heaviness for me when I walk to the basement and realize for the hundredth time that day his absence is going to only be more felt with passing days.

 

One week has passed and I am delighted by the excitement in his voice over meeting new people he has found connection with, and over the small victories in navigating this new adulting.

 

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One week has passed and I have had to bite my tongue when he is overwhelmed and not try to fix it for him. One week has passed and my heart has broken at the fear of a little boy breaking through the cracks of manhood he is experiencing.

 

One week has passed, and I have realized that there are several friends walking this path right with me. We are joyous in our children walking in this next step of their journeys…and yet we are filled with a hollowness at the absence of these people who have been the stuff of our daily lives for eighteen years.

 

I realized as well the other day that while we have laughed at our sorrow, or commiserated over the difficulty of letting our children go, we maybe have not learned to mourn well.  We joke about our sorrow, but we need to give that sorrow its proper moment.

 

Here’s the catch….learning to mourn well something that is good and right and filled with celebration. 

 

I remember when I married Steve, and I was stunned that there was a deep sorrow in me just the day before the wedding. Not a regret, and definitely not a questioning, but a sorrow that the identity I had for 27 years was about to change. Complete with my name changing. No one had warned me about that. No one had told me to give myself the space to let that previous station in life a proper farewell so I could wholly, and joyfully, embrace this next station.

 

I fumbled through more or less effectively, and twenty-two years later I’m quite pleased with this new station.

 

Still. I think in our joviality about being sad, our jokes at our tears, especially on social media, reveal we are feeling that contradiction.

 

We have raised these children with the goal of their adulthood. Their fully independent, fully joyful, fully confident separation from our direction. I know we still have a role, and I rely on my Dad still to this day as a parent. I seek his wisdom and I value his encouragement…but what a different relationship it is from thirty years ago when I left for college.

 

Now I’m on the parental side of that change.

 

So how do we navigate this? And I have to give a disclaimer here…we have several friends and acquaintances who have navigated true tragedy recently. True sorrow, true mourning and deep grief. That is not what I’m addressing here. I do not want to make light of those moments of gut wrenching sorrow which becomes more of a state, as C.S. Lewis says, than a process.

 

This is different. What I’m on about here is the good things in life. Marriage, birth of children, and the growth of those children to the point of separation. We still need to give ourselves the space and grace for some mourning.

 

“I realized that healing begins with our taking our pain out of its diabolic isolation and seeing that whatever we suffer, we suffer it in communion with all of humanity, and yes, all of creation. In so doing, we become participants in the great battle against the powers of darkness. Our little lives participate in something larger.” Nouwen

 

We are right smack in the middle of lots of others experiencing the same thing. Some, legitimately, are thrilled that their kids have left for college. Some are really, truly ready…but most of us are dealing with some sorrow.

 

That sorrow is not evil, and it is not weakness. It means we have loved this child well for 18 years and now they are transitioning to a position of not needing us in the same way. And part of that transition is separation. That physical absence of their laugh and their questions and their simply ‘being there’ has an impact.

 

And that impact…it should be to draw us closer to God as we navigate how to parent in this new situation. That impact should be delight in what He is doing in their lives, and awareness of the adults they are becoming.

 

“I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him. I will be less likely to see my pains as interruptions to my plans and more able to see them as the means for God to make me ready to receive him. I let Christ live near my hurts and distractions.” – Nouwen

 

But here’s the thing:  I’m not sure we can adequately make room for rejoicing until we have mourned what we are losing. Every new chapter means that something has closed, some role or event or identity has shifted and become something new. I think we need to give ourselves the space to mourn. And in that space…which hopefully is not a lengthy time…we meet God in a new way as well. Our vulnerability in times of mourning, even mourning small or good things, leaves us open to meet God differently. As Nouwen says above, we begin to see these pains, or transitions I might add, as a means for God to meet us.

 

The world is full of dark shadows to be sure, both the world without and the world within, and the road we’ve set off on is long and hard and often hard to find, but the word is trust. Trust the deepest intuitions of your own heart, trust the source of your own truest gladness, trust the road, trust him. And praise him too. Praise him for all we leave behind us in our traveling. Praise him for all we lose that lightens our feet, for all that the long road of the years bears off like a river. Praise him for stillness in the wake of pain. But praise him too for the knowledge that what’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and that all the dark there ever was, set next to the light, would scarcely fill a cup. – Buechner

 

In the midst of our mourning, in the midst of our sorrow, even if we fill somewhat silly or as if this is not something to mourn, we need to learn to praise God. I love the above quotation from Buechner. It speaks so deeply to true deep mourning, and also to this intermittent and even lighter mourning we experience.

 

So to all my friends walking this week and catching yourselves filled with tears and emotion. Let them come! Let the tears fall and let the emotion come. We need to allow those emotions their moment, so that we can fully rejoice and delight in the new station of being parents of adults.

 

 

Remember Psalm 30? I know…sending a kid to college is not quite the equivalence of the dedication of a temple after years of deliverance by God. But still. Weeping may endure…but a joy comes!  Cry a good cry and then be ready to be a cheer leader for your kiddo, and rejoice with them as they navigate their new role.

 

 

Weeping may endure for a night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

The boy. Transitions and Tears.

Last night we dropped the oldest at college. Well. First I took the youngest to 3rd grade orientation. The middle boy is off on a grand adventure which will have to wait to be told. The youngest boy spent the day in the humidity and heat of the south lugging things up to the 4th floor college door room with Dad.

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So we “dropped” the boy at college after a full day of outfitting the room, making runs to Target, and figuring out details.

 
The departure was abrupt. I knew early on it was going to be difficult. I didn’t anticipate it being abrupt. Dinner was at 6 and we weren’t invited…just the students and the dean. So we had to let him hug us quickly and run to meet friends and make it on time. And we were left standing in his dorm room. I hadn’t quite pictured the transition like that.

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I also had not anticipated that the weeks leading up to this moment would be some of the most stressful we have ever encountered, all things not part of this college adventure. We were distracted. And exhausted. Wednesday night it hit me like a wall. He was leaving. Really leaving…and this constant, calm presence that had been part of my rhythm for 18 years was going to be gone.

 

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And I didn’t get to write the letter I wanted to tuck away somewhere in his things. Yes, I know that’s sappy, but I deal with emotions through writing and needed to leave him my words.

So, guess what, buddy…they are going here. Sometimes the keyboard is more cathartic than the pen. 

You are so very ready for this moment, even though you may not really know it.  There are some great letters out there to Freshman. They remind their kids to do their laundry, to clean the toilet and to not get drunk. They are reminding their kids that this is an amazing time in their lives. They are reminding them they love them. And all those things are true…but I have a few more.

 

First. Be alive in these moments. Take them in. There is going to be so much activity, so many conversations, and so much life. Be intentional. Be present. Pay attention. In those things God is there…

“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly. . . . If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

You knew I had to start with Buechner.  Pay attention. Take note of your life. I left you a new Moleskin journal. Fill it up. Even just with stupid stuff. Write about who you met on these first days. Write about how you are feeling. Write. It is not just to have to look back on, it is to process and slow down and think about your days.

These days are going to be so full. Terrifying, and good, and daunting, and amazing. You are going to have the whole spectrum of feelings. ( I resisted the whole Buechner quote of Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.  See what I did there?)

Find the things that bring you delight and absolutely delight in them!

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Second. Take care of yourself.

Buechner again:

“Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your friend in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, trying to understand, comfort, and strengthen yourself.” 

This. Take care of yourself. And remind yourself of those who have poured life into you for 18 years. You have such a strong foundation. You’ve been taught to work hard, to laugh even harder, and to think well. You have been taught to believe. Remember those lessons. You can tackle anything that comes your way. Remind yourself of the men who have taught you through the simplest things.

 

You have the tools for this life.

 

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Encourage yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Challenge yourself when you feel lazy. And rest. You have a great dorm room to find some peace and silence and rest. Pay attention to what you need emotionally and physically.

Third. Work out your faith, and make it yours.

“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

Yes. More Buechner. And more truth. You are going to have questions. You are going to encounter people and God in ways you never have. Your faith is going to become more yours than ever before. This is all good. Don’t be afraid of the doubts. Don’t ignore them. Wrestle with them, and pray and think. Remind yourself of the truths you know, of the experiences you have had and of the testimonies of God you have witnessed in our family. Pray. Read. Think.

Pray. Everywhere you go. Talk to your God. Tell Him everything.

“I have no idea who to sit with at lunch, I’m lonely and afraid.”

“I am so completely stoked to be here.”

“I am completely overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next.”

 
Everything. Everything. Everything. Pray without ceasing. He is there and He wants to hear it.  Pray.

 

Fourth. Note who you are becoming. 

“Daybreak is a never-ending glory; getting out of bed is a never ending nuisance.” – Chesterton

Yep. Had to have Chesterton. Don’t get bored. That seems to be the underlying theme I am getting to here. The details of the day are going to be making you a man. They have been for 18 years. Now you get to chose the details. You get to chose the influences and the situations. These are the formings of who you will be, what you will build on this foundation you have.

 

“Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.”  -Buechner

Have so much fun. Learn so many amazing things. But think well about where you go, and who you allow to truly know you. Before you get out of bed, think of who you are and you want to be. Be intentional, my boy, don’t just be carried along.

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And remember that we are so proud of who you are becoming. You have quite the cheering section.

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Fifth. Be kind.

 

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.” -Chesterton

All these folks doing this life with you right now are full of all the same emotions. Pay attention to them. Find the ones who really need a friend and be a friend. Find the ones who you can really connect with and grapple with life, and hold them close. Be kind always. Even when you have to be strong or confrontational. You can still be kind.

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That’s it, my boy. And yes, I’ll still call you my boy. It’s yours now. The foundation is there, and we are still here. There’s a transition that happened in that last hug, though. You get to decide now on the directions and the details. We get to cheer and to support rather than to plan.

 

And I am so excited. Granted, I will probably cry a bit this weekend. But this has been our goal. To see you becoming a man who has character and integrity and faith. A man who can laugh and play and can also think deeply and weep and pray. You are becoming that man and we couldn’t be more proud. This is going to be fantastic.

 

Oh, and two last things. We still have to watch Something the Lord Made and Life is Beautiful, so come home eventually to watch them.

 

And. Last thing. I hid two $50 bills in your belongings. Have fun finding them.

 

 

Sorrow Sent by God…

 

Whew. Sometimes the weight of sorrow surprises me.

 

I came online today, logged in to the blog, and tried to translate some recent thoughts to coherent words.

 

I made a very quick trip home about a month ago. I wanted to see Mom, and the rest of the family. There is a lingering homesickness that strikes sometimes, even when you moved away from home 24 years ago. Even when you have lived away from home longer than you actually lived at home.

 

That homesickness is amplified when you grew up in a place as unique as New Mexico, where the skies have a special shade of blue and nothing else will take care of the craving for red and green chile.

 

And it is amplified even more when one key, elemental, powerful force of your life is slowly inching her way toward eternity.

 

We all are, I know, but Mom is in her own way. She is holding her place physically here in our presence, while most of her is somewhere else. Her thoughts, her words, her connection…it has become hidden. Her laughter.

 

Her smile remains, and the twinkle in her eye.

 

I sat down and tried to put words to this nagging feeling, this sorrow, that has been present for years. I have several friends who continue down this road and I wanted to share something that would encourage…or at least remind that we are not alone.

 

 

And then this came up in memories on FaceBook…a picture from ten years ago.

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And the sorrow settled upon me.

 

An acute sorrow with this picture of a more clear minded person. A person who was able to interact and who still knew in some way.

 

There is a sense where mourning is set aside with a long disease like this. I don’t know what it would be like  if it was a long disease where her mind was present, but I know on this journey we simply cannot be sad all the time…it is exhausting.

 

I think of Mom as this place holder…this bookmark in life. Or maybe a pause button is more appropriate. She is present and not…and we continue with life, and yet we don’t. My brothers and my dad are more impacted by this, obviously than I am, as the rhythm of their days is dictated by her meals and her life.  But she causes this pause in life, she reminds us that she is still here, and yet she also reminds us of all we have lost.

 

She reminds us that we are broken. That sorrow is lingering around the edges of our joy. Sorrow because things are not as we know they should be. Sorrow because we long for something else.

 

G.K. Chesterton has a poem where he suggests that sorrow is used by God to bring us back to attention to the divine, to the eternal…

 

Sorrow

At last, at even, to my hearth I hark,
Still faithful to my sorrow. And inside
Even I and all my old magnanimous pride
Are broken down before her in the dark.

Sorrow’s bare arm about my neck doth strain,
Sorrow doth lift me to her living mouth
And whispers, fierce and loving like the South,
Saying, “Dear Pilgrim, have you come again?

“Whether you walked by wastes of upland green,
Whether you walked by wastes of ocean blue,
Have you not felt me step by step with you,
A thing that was both certain and unseen?

“Or haply is it ended? haply you,
Conquering and wholly cured of loving me,
Are but a wavering lover who would be
Off with the old love ere he take the new?”

But, seeing my head did but in silence sink
Before her ruthless irony and strong.
She gave me then that dreadful kiss to drink
That is the bitter spring of art and song.

Then with strange gentleness she said, “I choose
To be thine only, thine in all ways; yes,
Thy daughter and thy sister and thy muse,
Thy wife and thine immortal ancestress.

“Feed not thy hate against my rule and rod,
For I am very clean, my son, and sane,
Because I bring all brave hearts back to God,
In my embraces being born again.”

Thus spoke she low and rocked me like a child,
And as I stared at her, as stunned awhile,
On her stern face there fell more slow and mild
The splendour of a supernatural smile.

 

 

 

Sorrow is appropriate. The words are gone and the understanding is gone, but her presence remains. In the same moment it reminds us that this world is broken and it is painful, and because we know in our being that it should be otherwise, sorrow sparks hope that things will ultimately be put right.

 

The rest of my day was shadowed, though, as that picture intensified the sorrow. And maybe that is what I was to write about after all: it is okay to be strikingly sad that those we love dearly no longer know us, and no longer can speak to us. It is okay to take time in the long journey of a set-aside mourning to mourn with tears and acute sorrow when God allows sorrow’s stern face to bring us back to know our need for Him.

 

I think we all carry a sorrow with us that is part of this broken world, and sometimes God uses this acute sorrow to allow a true mourning that cleanses us. A good cry can be tremendously healing, so we can sit back up and be present in the midst of this broken world and bring hope.

 

So for today, if you took a picture of us together, I may not mirror her quite as I did in the picture above. Her expression has relaxed as her knowledge of me has slipped. If you ask how she is I won’t know quite how to answer…I wonder what whispers God is telling her that we cannot know.

 

 

And for those who are on this same journey…take heart. You are truly not alone, and God is moving even through this. Lean in to the sorrow and hear God’s heart. Do not try to ignore it or overcome. Allow the moments of deep mourning, and be reminded of the hope that all will be made well.

 

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The Last Game….

That was hard.

 

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Our final weekend of youth hockey. Our final weekend of loading everyone up, with all his gear, and trundling off to the ice rink. Steve and I knew this would be tough, that it was the first of the big “lasts” of this year.

 

And it was tough. We won three games and came to the Championship so excited about how the weekend had gone, and yet feeling the weight of this last game. This final game ended up not only in a loss, but in a sour loss. Bad calls, missed moments. The loss shadowed the three victories.

 

So this morning I watch my boy walking around with his head hanging a bit, with a sorrow in his voice. I know, it’s just sports…but, well, it isn’t.

 

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Somewhere around 700 hours at the rink, more than 300 games played. Steve and I were either sitting on cold bleachers or one of us watching via Periscope. Every game.

 

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Stinky gear. Moments of frustration and tossing gear at the truck more than in the back. Moments of shouted anger and shouted delight. Our truck has 230,000 miles, and a great number of them could be allotted to hockey transport. This game about a little rubber puck, a stick and some skates has set a rhythm to our lives for nearly ten years.

 

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We have learned the great delight of cheering for our boy. We have learned the companionship of standing in the stands, or in the freezing cold, with other parents and making ourselves look foolish as we gasp and cheer and shout and moan.

 

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We have watched a child learn to skate. Learn to handle a puck. Learn to shoot. Learn to defend. Learn to skate faster. Learn to hit. Learn to take a hit. Learn to shoot harder. Learn to skate even faster. Backward. Learn to take a deep breath and defend against guys much bigger…but not back down. Learn to take responsibility for his role on the team. Learn the discipline of showing up to practice when it is fun, and when it is not. Learning the meaning of skating suicides.

 

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Learning to value something so much that when it ends sourly it makes you want to cry. Or punch something. We have watched a little boy grow and mature with the help of just a game. With the help of coaches who cared and teammates who pushed him. That is quite a foundation to leap from high school to the next adventure…quite a lot a little rubber puck and a stick can accomplish.

 

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So, Zach.  Today, be mad enough to punch something. Preferably inanimate. Be sad enough, and disappointed enough, to cry, even if you have to do that in the shower. Be glad that you had something for all your youth to care enough about that it sparks deep emotions.

 

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Experience those emotions. Don’t ignore them. They are part of the best of this story.  Today that loss is heavy. You feel the responsibility as part of the team, and the sourness for the things out of your control which were unfair. There is nothing easy about leaving on a loss.

 

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But Know This: Your dad and I loved watching you skate. We loved watching you do something you loved. It brought us great delight. Know that that delight is just a glimpse of the delight of God in you as you walk and move and become the man He has created you to be from before we knew you.

 

Know this, that  we have watched every game you played, and we never got bored. We were as excited when the puck dropped last night as we were when you stumbled on the ice the first time. Last night was as fresh and engaging as your very first game…and we feel the loss with you.

 

 

Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow remember the wins. Tomorrow take the time to relish all the joy this sport has brought you. Tomorrow think about how you played your best games this last weekend, with probably your best game ever that very last game. You went out playing hard and with all you had.

 

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Tomorrow think about how you can appreciate watching a game in a completely different way because you know the feeling of the ice beneath your skates.

 

Tomorrow think of all the folks who came to watch you play, who cheered you do something you loved.

 

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And now is that moment when I get to use my favorite Frederick Buechner quotation once again:

 

“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly. . . . If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” – Frederick Buechner

 

And this…the ubiquitous quotation usually attributed to Dr Suess (even though it’s not really for sure he said it, but it sure fits!)

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” –

Dr Suess or someone much like him.

 

 

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Well done 74.