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.

Get in over your head….lessons from a hockey tournament

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? -T.S. Eliot

 

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I remember the very fist tryout. Zach was 9 years old and had just learned to skate. He did not know how to stop, or how to skate backwards. He barely knew how to stay upright.

 

We had told him he had to stick with it for the season if he signed up. He couldn’t quit in the middle. That very first tryout he was practically in tears when he realized the work involved, and when he compared himself to other kids who had been skating for years.

 

He stuck with it.

 

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His skating improved, and his joy came right along as well. He had to work hard to catch up with the other kids, and by the end of the season he was the most improved player on the team.

 

His team also won the championship that year.

 

 

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The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats. – Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

We just returned from the first tournament of his Senior year. The siblings loaded up in the truck and we made our way to Chicago. Arriving at 3:30am.

 

There were a bit of nerves involved in this preliminary tournament. Zach’s team had played a couple games locally…friendly games just to get a feel for the team dynamic. This, however, was a tournament up North. We love our hockey in Nashville, but we area also aware that our kids don’t grow up skating on outdoor ponds. The competition up North is always tougher.

 

And this was our first tournament of the season.

 

We lost the first game, 3-6.

 

The next day we lost the second game. 1-4.

 

Just a few hours later, back to the rink.

 

We lost. 0-3.

 

Three games, three losses.

 

Now, in at least one of those games our boys played pretty badly. They couldn’t pass well. They weren’t hitting. They were basically a bit timid and thrown off their game.

 

Sunday was the consolation game. Deciding who was 5th and who was 6th in the tournament. Who was the loser and who was the not-quite-losingest-loser.

 

We won. The boys played more like a team, and more like themselves. The game was still very tight, but we won 2-1.

 

We cheered and shouted and encouraged and told the refs they didn’t know what they were doing. (They never do, and we always know). We cheered as loudly as we had at the first game. The boys were all grins on the way out.

 

We could have played a tournament that didn’t demand so much travel and that we knew we could win. There are a lot of teams these boys could beat. Instead we went to Chicago and faced really talented, tough teams. Fast teams. There was discouragement after losing three games in two days.

 

What was the point?

 

Our coaches are wise.  They put us up against boys who challenged us and exposed our weaknesses. They made us fall apart a bit, they brought out emotions. We were sloppy and confused part of the time. Eventually, though, things began to gel a little more as a team and they won.

 

We were not the losingest losers.

 

 

Now, we have another tournament in a month in Northern Indiana. The competition will still be very tough. But we are a little wiser after this weekend. The coaches saw the weaknesses, and hopefully the kids saw their own weaknesses as well. We know more what to work on, and hopefully the next tournament will have more wins than losses.

 

Did you catch that quote at the top of the page? I’ll repeat it:

 

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? -T.S. Eliot

 

I really like that.

 

Sometimes, we need to be in a place where we are beyond our measure. Where we might be able to see our strengths pushed beyond what we expect. We might see ourselves do things we didn’t think we could do.

 

Life will provide us with ample opportunities to feel completely over our heads. I often find myself feeling inadequate. There are two reasons that is a really good thing…

 

First, we are forced to push ourselves. We are forced to think things through, to find solutions, to motivate and challenge ourselves.

 

Second, we find that God is truly made perfect in our weakness. We are reminded that even when we push through, even when we pull up all our talents and skills and strengths….there are things that will happen that simply leave us unequal to the task.

 

I can find my rocks to conquer, and they can bring me joy and confidence. Then the next moment I can find that I do not love well. There is a balance in this walk of faith between the strengths with which we have been gifted, and the work of God in our lives. The intersection of our struggles…physically and emotionally and spiritually…draw out our character, and give the room for a Creator God to continue his work in making us more than we could imagine.

 

Sometimes, because of insecurity or fear or embarrassment…or just plain weariness…we avoid situations that might be challenging. We don’t go to the retreat with all the men or women who may just have it far more together than ourselves. We don’t initiate that friendship with someone who is a bit different than ourselves because we aren’t sure how to engage. We don’t jump at the opportunity to do something really amazing because we are afraid of the outcome.

 

What if we went for it? What if we took on the tougher competition, the uncomfortable situation…what if we swallowed our fear or insecurity and trusted that God is at work for our good. What if when we did that we were able to love better, to understand more deeply and to see God work in ways we couldn’t have imagined?

 

Don’t be afraid of the tough situations. Even if the tough situation is as simple as figuring out how to get through the day and not be swallowed by stress and anxiety. Face them. Know they will expose your weakness some…but take that and allow God to be present in your weakness. He will show up.

 

You might walk out with joy at your hard work, with confidence for the next situation and not being the losingest-loser. (Sorry, but that really cracked me up this weekend).

 

I’m hopeful the next tournament has more wins than losses…but I’m more hopeful that these boys’ character is being formed. They are playing with heart even after three losses in a row. I hope they remember that when life gets difficult, and they don’t shirk from what will make them better.

 

In the meantime…I’ll keep shouting encouragement and cheering and yelling at the refs. One more season of this boy playing hockey…I bet I’ll learn another thing or two watching him.

 

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Becoming a Great Man…Happy Birthday, Nate

There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great. – G.K. Chesterton

 

15 years. (and in the following pic, his friend is doing thumbs down because it was just before we moved away.

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In so many ways, it seems that our Nate should be older. He carries himself as an older teen. He has a confidence and independence that is eager to be let loose…he is the first of our kids to pursue a job, completely on his own. And now I hear from his bosses how his work ethic is great and his attitude fantastic.

 

And yet, I turn around and can see that little boy so full of life. He has always felt things deeply.

 

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Now he is maturing before our eyes. The mischievous youngster who was always pulling pranks and coming up with new adventures is becoming the young man who is planning trips to Europe and college in New York.

 

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There are things about our Nate that have not changed, and that’s why the quote on the top is in bold…when you know Nate, you are impacted by being in relationship with him.

 

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He will challenge you. He will question why you think the way you do, or why you judge a person a certain way…and he will also know how to make you laugh and how to make you know you are loved. He is intentional and wise in his relationships.

 

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This boy, who always had the biggest laugh and the craziest stories, can read people better than most. He can tell if you are down, and he can tell when he is pushing buttons…sometimes just to continue pushing them. But he still has the biggest laugh, and he can completely delight in the antics of our cats or something silly on the internet.

 

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He loves life. He is all in. 

 

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Except when he is sleeping. Well, then he is all in to the sleeping and impossible to wake. He does everything with gusto.

 

He has plans, plans for making films and telling stories through them. He has places he wants to see, and he is learning the languages of those places so he can experience and see them to the best of his ability.

 

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15 years. The changes over the last few have been remarkable. He now is almost…maybe right at…as tall as his dad. He is lanky and strong and can stick his feet behind his head when he likes.

 

 

Nate is Nate. He is all these things combined to make this unique 15 year old who can bring delight and laughter and curiosity, and make you aware that life is grand and it is good to be alive.

 

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He has the possibility, and the ability to make those around him feel great. That is a special quality. I can’t wait to see how that character grows in the coming years. The awkwardness of the early teens is leaving, and the confidence and maturity of nearing adulthood is beginning to appear.

 

15 great years. More to come. More adventures. More mysteries. More making of movies and telling of stories. More laughter. More discovering what delights. More of life. Thankful that he will bring us all along for the ride.

 

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Happy Birthday, my Nate.

It’s not wasted time…

I really don’t have time to sit and just read, to sit and doodle in my bullet journal. 


I don’t have time to read just for pleasure…even if I come across things like this from Madeleine L’Engle:

If I am to be constant in loving and honoring my mother I must not lose sight of ‘ousia’. It’s a good word; it’s my new word. Last summer my word was ‘ontology’: the word about being. This summer I need to go a step further, to ‘ousia’, the essence of being, to that which is really real….


…I learn slowly, and always the hard way. Trying to be what I am not, and cannot be, is not only arrogant, it is stupid…


And This…


“I’m much more use to family and friends when I’m not physically and spiritually depleted than when I spend my energies as though they were unlimited. They are not. The time at the typewriter (!) and the time at the brook refresh me and put me into a more workable perspective.”


I have been attempting to write this blog post for about two weeks. 
I think.

I’ve actually lost track of time a bit…the last few weeks have just been a flurry of activity. I had pictured homeschool life as one of tranquility, with morning lessons on the couch, possibly with a fire in the fireplace. Children blissfully passing our book around and reading allowed, to the rapt attention of their siblings.

Ok, maybe I never went quite that far. But I really did think that it would be a peaceful existence. There would be less demands than a “regular” school life. Last year we put our house on the market in December and moved in January. That was not conducive to peaceful schooling. This year, I am just deeply aware of the errands and the busyness. 

My homeschool life feels a bit more like holding on to the tail of the tiger and hoping he doesn’t catch me. It has been chaotic and unpredictable. One child is working 15+ hours a week, but he doesn’t drive. One child has twice weekly soccer practices, while another has as many or more hockey practices. I have physical therapy appointments at least twice a week trying to manage a new onslaught of headaches. Annoying. Then there are Tutorials and church and …. 

I caught a friend the other day as we walked in to Tutorial for our younger kids and gave her a hard time for not responding to a text. She confessed to just being overwhelmed. And we connected in that moment…we all are feeling it a bit.

Life is busy. 

I have a tendency to think…”next week, I’ll find the rhythm. Next week I will be more organized and more on top of things.” Before I know it, next week has come and gone and looked a lot like last week. 

Dishes take awhile to get cleaned, and the laundry will forever be my nemesis. 

The kids are helping more, and that is good.

But there is a feeling of inadequacy that sneaks in on me, and I have a feeling it sneaks in on a lot of us. We see the good our friends put out there…they look put together and cheerful, and the anxiety that is just under the surface for us begins to come more forward. Our failures that morning are more glaring.

So…my answer is to go and drink good coffee, listen to good music, and doodle in my bullet journal. Pretending it is all put together with a nice flourish? Nah…but the sanity that comes to me in these few hours a week bring a peace to my chaos. 

The above quote from L’Engle comes from her book The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, which is her final journey with her mom and their experience of Alzheimer’s / Dementia. This is one of my favorite books, part of the Crosswicks Journals. Find them and read them. 
Preferably over coffee and with time taken away from demanding things.

We have to find who we are called to be, and we have to find a way to be comfortable in our skins and in our callings. And right now my calling includes laundry and dirty dishes and driving all around town in unpredicatable schedules.  Right now my calling is being the daughter of a mother who no longer remembers, or even is able to use language. Right now my ousia is being that daughter from a distance, and that is difficult…but it is also being a mother myself, and that is surprisingly a blessing. 

It is a blessing when I protect that core of ousia. These coffee breaks are not frivolous. They are life-sustaining. They are moments my brain is allowed to work the way it did before homeschool…and it informs how I homeschool. These moments give the space to feel what it is to be the daughter of a mother who no longer remembers, and to value all the more the memories I hold dear. They allow the space to write about those memories, maybe in a protest for the memories Mom no longer can share. 

That is part of this. The pace of life is frantic, and that does not leave room for truly being, and for remembering. There is a discipline to remembering. There is a discipline to just being. And when we make space to read those who are living well, we read things like this:


“My memory of Mother, which is the fullest memory of anybody living, is only fragmentary. I would like to believe that the creator I call God still remembers all of my mother, knows and cares for the ousia of her, and is still teaching her, and helping her to grow into the self he created her to be, her integrated, whole, redeemed self.”


If you are feeling fragmented and frantic and out of sorts today, know this…so am I. So are a lot of us. So take a breath, and remember that we do not walk this life in some demand for perfection on our own skills. We walk this life in an experience of growing and knowing in the care of a Creator who knows who we are. He knows who he is forming us to be, and how it all works together. 

So relax. Be prepared, and live with the best ability…but in the freedom that God is involved in all of it. That we have a core of identity we operate from well. Be still and know…know who God is and know who you are in Him. Take a breath. Doodle a bullet journal. Read something that truly speaks to you and makes your brain come to life. 

Then go wash those dishes with a bit more twinkle in your eye and joy in spirit.  And maybe invite that friend out for coffee who seems the most overwhelmed…and remind them of all of this as well.  (And while we are all trying not to be perfectionists…note that I misspelled September in my glorious Bullet Journal above!)

Mark the Time….

I sat in our Homeschool Tutorial’s walk-through the other night and was surprised at the catch in my throat as they announced the seniors. We have been talking about Zach’s senior year for some time, commenting on how amazed we are it is finally here. We have talked about all that needs to happen this year, all the details and all the good things. We have talked and talked and talked.

 

 

And then the headmaster began announcing the seniors by name and we all applauded and cheered as they stood. Zach is always last, alphabetically. Each student standing and being applauded sank in a little more…all of his friends. And then my boy. How is my boy a senior?!

 

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I was going to spend today trying to write some hints and advice about homeschool. I have some friends who are entering the “upper years” and thought I might have something to share.

 
And then I found this picture, and well…I decided to switch gears and just focus on this boy for today.

 

 

I have not done our “school pic” for this year, and I am realizing I have not been incredibly faithful in those through the years. But I do have a few.

 

 

They mark the time. They mark the growth. And when I see them they make me stop and look at that little man. The first born. The one who has born the brunt of our stumblings as parents, and has taught us so much.

 

 

We had no idea then what our school journey would look like on that first day of kindergarten. We were so excited about school uniforms and new backpacks!

 

My beautiful picture

 

Not every start of the school year was glorious.

 

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There were so many high moments, though. Zach attended a small Christian school from Kindergarten through 5th grade. He had some great friends, and learned so much. Looking back it feels like a lifetime ago, as we enter our sixth year of homeschool…these pictures of little boys in uniforms!

 

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These just make me smile. The life that was happening, and the boys they were becoming. The character that was being formed.

 

And Zach leading the pack.

 

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The reality of this being his last year of education under our roof is settling in.

 

When Zach was just a baby our pastor talked one Sunday about parenthood and shared his experiences. One thing stuck with us more than any other. He said he was weary of hearing parents constantly talk of dreading the teen years. He challenged us to speak with hope and excitement about the teen years, about our children growing and becoming their own identities and people.

 
Speaking with expectation that we would enjoy and delight in every phase.

 

 

And we have. We have loved seeing the people they are becoming, and relating on new levels with our children. It has truly been delightful.

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But we need these moments to pause. These milestones to look back and remember the tenderness and innocence. To remember the foundation that has been placed to bring them to this moment.

 

The brink of adulthood. Whew. The time really does pass in the blink of an eye. This seems like an apt time for one of the most used quotations on this blog…

 

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery 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.” 

-Buechner

 

I am hoping, praying….watching. Waiting to see that the seeds we have planted in this boy continue to bear fruit. The seeds of faith and of hope, of compassion, of determination. I am watching and always wondering if we have done enough.

 

Ready for a heavy quotation? This time Chesterton…

 

“Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not an education at all.”

 

Whether homeschool or private or public or some mix…we have these souls in our care for such a short time. The clock is ticking more loudly this morning for me. I am more aware that this will be a year of saying “the last time to…”.  The danger is to try and tick off all the checklist and cram in all the information.

 

I think…and we’ll see how it plays out…that it is more about living with wonder and pointing out how mysterious and amazing this world is. It is about constantly pointing to and reminding of the God who has created and who continues to participate in this amazing creation.

 

I think it is about reminding these in our care to be aware. To listen to their lives, as Buechner says.

 

One more year we have. One more year to pour in to this young man all the truth we can. Not just through our words. Through how he is loved, and how we live. One more year to live our faith before him. One more year for all the connections to begin to make sense and become more of a whole than a bunch of lessons.

 

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Whew. I still need to write the tips and ideas about homeschool this year. I still need to finish my bullet journal. I still need to do the last few details of registrations and tutorial requirements…but first I need to pause. To remember, and then to act with expectation and delight as we begin this next phase.

 

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Hopefully this will stick (one more Chesterton, I can’t resist!):

 

“What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.”