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.” 

 

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Join the club…and wave.

I am driving my husband’s Jeep today. One of my favorite things about driving the Jeep is the wave…each Jeep heading my way causes me to prepare. Hands on the wheel. Fingers ready. Glancing to see if the driver is looking…and Jeep wave!

Woohoo! Most of the time, the other drive waves, or at least does that hip-cool one-or-two-finger raised kind of wave.

I am in the club

Actually, a friend who has a coffee shop is having a Jeep rally today and I wish I could be there. Literally hundreds of folks showing up just because they all have Jeeps. To wave and acknowledge they are all in the club.

It got me thinking, though. What if we could recognize something in the folks we see through the day, what if we could see we are in a club of a different sort?

That weary looking woman you just passed on the interstate…she is coming back from visiting a parent in the nursing home. She is heartbroken because she can no longer care for them at home. The other person dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or some other illness. The parent who is dealing with a seriously sick child…what if you could see at a glance they had something in common with you. And you could give them a quick wave, a quick raise of your fingers to acknowledge you are in it too, that you understand.

Or maybe not even so dramatic. Maybe just that mom in the grocery line with the not-so-healthy food who is just worn out and could not come up with a meal plan for the night and is doing her best, but feeling overwhelmed. Yep, I think all of us moms could wave to her at some point.

Or maybe the young man who is about to enter college and wondering how he will measure up and if he is ready. Anyone waving to him? Or the young girl who is hoping she is pretty enough and smart enough. Yep, we can go on and on and on in the list, and there are countless ways we can relate.

Here’s the thing. We are all broken. We are all insecure. We are all overwhelmed and a bit fearful at times, just as we are all confident and joyful and filled with wonder at other times. We are all in this club of being human. How great would it be, though, if in that moment when things look a little fearsome if someone caught your eye and waved.



I see you. I relate. I’m overwhelmed too…but hang in there. There’s hope. 




Maybe it is a little bit of this….not just acting as though all is well. 

Allowing a little of our struggle to leak through sometimes. I’m reading Hannah Coulter from Wendell Berry right now and this caught me today, as she talked about people answering “fine” when they are asked how they are in a community walking through grief during the war…

There is always some shame and fear in this, I think, shame for the terrible selfishness and loneliness of grief, and fear of the difference between your grief and anybody else’s. But this is a kind of courtesy too and a kind of honesty, an unwillingness to act as if loss and grief and suffering are extraordinary. And there is something else: an honoring of the solitude in which the grief you have to bear will have to be borne. Should you fall on your neighbor’s shoulder and weep in the midst of work?  Should you go to the store with tears on your face? No. You are fine. 




 (Here’s the key part…pay attention…)

And yet the comfort somehow gets passed around: a few words that are never forgotten, a note in the mail, a look, a touch, a pat, a hug, a kind of waiting with, a kind of standing by, to the end. Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and a common longing:

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore.”


Loss and grief and suffering are not extraordinary, but that does not mean they are an easy burden. We do often bear them in solitude, but how deep is the consolation when a hand of understanding is placed on your shoulder? I have had moments when the floodgates are open and tears come flowing just because someone asked a question.

There is so much burden around us these days. There is joy, and I like to focus more on the joy. I post lots of pictures of my kids smiling and laughing and enjoying life on Instagram…and it is not fake. We enjoy life. But there is burden and there is grief. And there are days that someone simply waving from a Jeep can make me feel more human and less alone.

Tomorrow most of us will fellowship somewhere with other believers. Look around. Catch someone’s eye. Wave. Remind them that they are not alone, that we are in this club of life together and that we all bear griefs and sufferings and burdens in solitude, but that comfort can get passed around. We don’t even have to know the details.  Maybe when we are a little more honest that the burdens are there, we can sing with a little more longing for the day all the burdens will be lifted. 

Be Braver Than You Think You Can Be

I haven’t written in a very long time.

 

Birthday posts, yes. Delighting in the growth month by month and year by year of the kids, the somehow slow and yet lightning-fast passing of time around here. Marking their imprint on our lives. I love writing those posts.

 

I do not write about politics, mostly because there are so many folks who are filling that space and I think that conversation happens better over a cup of coffee for me.

 

Mostly what I have written about in the articles here on this blog has been the journey with Mom. The experience of watching a loved one slip before our eyes from a vibrant and dynamic, brilliant human being to someone who no longer knows us and ultimately no longer knows anything really.  That is not a fun documentation…and for the last few years it has been more of a pause than a documentation.

 

We have been on this journey now for almost ten years I would guess. In the beginning there were lots of questions from friends and lots to share. There were lots of changes.

 

“Does she remember you?”

 

“Does she know where she is?”

 

“Does she know your Dad?”

 

There were markers, things we could distinguish and know we still had some touch with mom. Now, those markers are gone. She sits in her chair lost in a world we simply can’t know and she has been there for a couple years. She has not known us for quite some time. I asked the kids the other day when they thought she last had known them and my 14 year old said he wasn’t sure she had ever known him.

 

That was hard to hear.

 

She has never known Maddie in a way that touched her…I remember pulling up when Maddie was three weeks old and going to hand her to Mom. Mom immediately handed her to Dad. She didn’t want to hold her, wanting instead to hold her notebook. That was a drastic change.

 

A marker, you could say.

 

She always, always loved babies. And especially her grandbabies. For her not to hold her grandbaby was a bit shocking. But she didn’t know her, and that notebook at that moment held her thoughts for her and was far more important. It was where she tried to hold on to reality. I can’t even imagine how important that notebook was.

 

So, now, the questions don’t come very often because the answer is the same. She hasn’t known me for years. There is not a question to ask about that any more. She can’t speak…she says words, but they don’t make any sense. So, no question for friends to ask there. The conversation becomes more stilted and the blog posts become a bit repetitive.

Maybe.

 
So, what is there to write about? 

 

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Her eyes still twinkle when someone sits down. She still smiles. And she seems to enjoy dessert still. She hums sometimes and she seems to enjoy being outside. She responds sometimes to the conversations around her by perking up a bit. She seems to be aware.

 

She still draws people around her, even without being able to know them.

 

She is still here. 

 

In some way. Even though she cannot remember, she causes us to remember and she still is present in our family. She still is the matriarch and she still reminds us of all that she has been.

 

I was drawn back to this blog because I had just visited and been with Mom, but also because I’ve had probably seven conversations over the last month with people who are beginning this journey. Their parents are slipping.

 

And that is terrifying.

 

Let it be.

 

It should terrify us, and it should break our hearts and it should make us mourn. Let it. Weep. Find the space and the time and the ability to mourn in these early stages, in the middle stages, and in all the stages to mourn.

 

But hear this….it is a long journey. You cannot mourn the entire time. You will exhaust yourself. Find those moments to mourn, and then continue on.

 

Find things you can laugh about, because there will be plenty.

 

Like the time Mom hid all my bras while I was in the shower preparing for a lunch with a pastor. She was quite good at hiding things!!

 

Find things you can tell them, again and again and again and again. It will be frustrating that they ask the same question…but eventually they will not ask any more. Hang in there.

 

Find things that you can remember for them. Tell them stories and keep telling them. Love them well. Let them see you and hear you and feel you while they know even a hint of who you are. You are telling yourself those stories again and again, and that is worthwhile.

 

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  -Madeleine L’Engle

 

This is no easy journey. I guess that is the main thing I came back to these pages to say…to my friends who are on the start of the journey, and even friends well in to the experience of watching our parents slip away from us.

This is not easy.

It is piercingly painful.

There is a sadness that will settle upon you as you are aware of the brokenness of our world, right next to you.

Here is the hope, though:  there is grace in this, as there is grace in all of life. God will meet you in surprising ways and you will be more than you thought you could be. You will serve your parent or your spouse or your grandparent in ways you didn’t think you could. Those of us experiencing this from a distance…it is different. Maybe that is a post for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven years of glitter, messiness and delight!

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Seven.

 

There are less glimpses of the toddling little girl who brought giggles to her brothers, and more glimpses of a young girl full of wit and enthusiasm. You are changing before our eyes.

 

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You were the surprise we never knew we needed. God knew. He knew we needed a little more drama, a little more laughter. He knew we needed someone in the mix of the household who delights in pink and is able to switch between ninja moves and ballerina moves seamlessly.

 

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God knew we needed on in the house who insists on snuggles and hugs. Insists. And one who hugs tightly and fiercely.

 

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You, my dear, have made us slow down at just the right moments. Slow down to hear your stories. Slow down to look at something that catches your eye. Slow down to read a book. Slow down to snuggle.

 

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You have also taught us to delight more. To laugh with abandon and to embrace being ridiculously silly. You have brought light and laughter into what we thought was already a home filled with laughter and joy…you showed us how much more there could be.

 

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You are growing up, though. Like I said…right before our eyes.

 

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Indulge us, though, as we relish seven years littered with glitter and fairies, with made-up stories and snuggles. Indulge us as we hold on to the littlest of the family and are not too eager for her to grow beyond childhood.

 

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Keep being silly and keeping your brothers guessing.

 

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Keep feeling everything deeply. Cry when you need to. Shout when something makes you angry. Laugh ferociously when something delights you.

 

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Skin your knees. Get muddy. Make some messes. We need you to keep us from being too uptight.

 

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Happy Seventh, Birthday dear girl.

 

 

We are so thankful for you!!!

 

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Let’s make this next year the best yet!!!!

 

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Seventeen.

17.

 

Seventeen.

 

Amazing how seventeen years can go by in the blink of an eye. You brought us into parenthood, and now we are on the brink of seeing you enter manhood. Thankful for this one more year of not-quite on your own, this one more year of you at home and still a kid.

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You have lived in five different houses now (if we count that condo in Kentucky), and two countries.

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You have played countless hours of hockey, only after a short stint with gymnastics. You have learned to love music and books, movies and the stars.

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And food. That too.

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You have learned to seek God and wrestle with who He is and what it means to follow Him.

 

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Consistently you have been a calm presence in our life. There has always been a maturity and ease about you, and a humor that comes at just the right moment.

 

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Now that you are more man than boy, we could not be more proud.

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We have loved every minute of watching you grow, of coming to this point.

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You are strong, so intelligent, mature and at ease with being you. What a great moment in your life. So much is open to you in the coming months, and we know it means greater independence for you and our time to step back and allow you the space to step out. We are still your biggest fans. We love watching the hockey, we love hearing about what inspires you. We love seeing you grow.

 

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Every stage has been awesome. Can’t wait to see this next unfold…

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I have to throw a Buechner quotation in, just for good measure:

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us.”

 

Enjoy this last year of “childhood”. We know you are going to do wonderful and good things in the coming year…there is so much yet to see and do in your life. We love you!

 

 

Happy 17!

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12 Years of Sammy

12 years old.

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It’s funny, but in many ways it seems you should be older. It seems you should already be a teenager. You carry yourself with a maturity that teases us, until you break out in an imitation of the Carlton dance or start to laugh so hard you snort. Then we see the glimpses of the child still in you.

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And that is a good and delightful thing.

 

You have always had a joy about you, as well as compassion. You are moved by pain and happiness in others. You pay attention. Don’t ever let that be quieted…it is one of your best traits and something we cannot simply teach you. God has gifted you with a compassionate spirit.

 

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12 years of Sammy.

 

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We have watched countless soccer games in all types of weather. Watched you play with confidence, and watched your teammates laugh at your antics and humor.

 

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download (1)We have listened as you played piano with delight and talent (and yes we need to get that new piano ASAP!).

 

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We have listened to you play hours upon hours of XBox, but I won’t post a picture of that. Even in that your enthusiasm and laughter are evident. And sometimes your frustration and anger, but only sometimes.

 

You have matured so much this year, in both your personality and your look. It’s pretty amazing, really. You have blossomed in our new settings of tutorials and the new house. I love seeing the friendships you have begun this year solidify. I love seeing that others see that something special about you…the way your eyes twinkle when you laugh and smile, the way you look at things just a little differently.

 

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Keep delighting in stories. Keep that competitive spirit matched with the compassionate spirit. Keep asking questions and wondering about things. Especially God.

 

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12 years of Sammy. You have added a wonderful dimension to our lives. Keep letting the child in you delight and entertain us. Keep letting your maturity grow and deepen. Keep loving those around you well. Keep paying attention. You are at that wonderful stage of childhood with just the glimpses of the man you will become. Those glimpses show us a man we will be very proud of, but let’s enjoy childhood a little longer!

 

Happy Birthday, my boy! Enjoy your day, enjoy your parties, enjoy those whose lives you have touched as we all celebrate you!

 

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Conquering Rocks!

Ok, first thing you need to know is that I don’t really hike. I am going to tell you about a hike I took today, but in comparison to the hikes my brother takes….well, this was closer to a stroll. 

A stroll with a big giant rock in the middle of it, and a sheer drop to a lake. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

Usually my Mondays look like this:

A ‘good cup’ of coffee at a good coffee shop with a good book. I spend most of the day reading and setting up calendars.  
Sitting.

Second thing you need to know: I am 47 and so much heavier than I would like. I am frustrated by my lack of energy and by my extra weight…but I like sitting around coffee shops more than gyms.


Not today, though. It is that moment when change is in the air. 




Literally. We dropped about twenty degrees and about a gazillion percent in humidity. The sky was a little different and the leaves are just beginning to think about changing (be quiet, Northern friends).

I searched for a trail to hike. Mind you, I searched for an ‘easy’ trail to hike.
And I found a cool app that showed me a whole bunch of trails…and I picked one and went!

Looks pretty easy, huh? Stick with me.
I am so glad I did this!

My soul needed this, I believe, more than my body. My soul has felt sluggish and heavy and frustrated. Even though God has been doing some amazing things (more on that hopefully soon!)…my spirit has been tired.

So I went for a walk.

I was practically skipping along..literally…when I ran into this:

You can’t really tell from this picture, but one side of the rock drops into trees, and the other is a sheer drop to the lake. Turns out the lake was a quarry.
I stood on the top of the rock and didn’t really think about taking pictures. I though it would not be great to fall, and it would not be great to simply go back the way I came.
And then I thought, “I’m Fred’s daughter and I can get down this.” See, my 84 year old Dad just took a ‘drive’ over Northern New Mexican mountains which resulted in some hunters on an ATV asking where on earth he came from. When I asked one of my brothers if they were ok with Dad making the drive, they responded, “If we all got stuck on the mountain, Dad would probably get down first.”
My Dad is a problem solver, and I am his daughter. My rock was not exactly a mountain, but to a plump nearly-50 year old it was a problem. I especially didn’t want to lose my glasses or phone!
I went slow, I payed attention to where I could hold on, and I made it over the rock. And then I got to enjoy the views from up high.

I skipped the rest of the way down and ran into some people who had come the other way…not over the top. They glanced at the lake for quite literally 45 seconds. 
“Nice.”
I took it in with the challenge of the rock behind me.

“Beautiful.”

It was a short walk from there back to the car, but I noticed one little side trail up a steep hill. Of course I took it, silly.

And I found this:


What’s the lesson? C’mon…you can guess, but I will tell you anyway.

My Father is also a problem solver. My spirit is weary, and there is a creation filled with wonder to refresh me. My confidence is low, so there is a rock just challenging enough that conquering it gives me a joy and spring in my step.

My sin cripples me and separates me from God. He solves the problem with a cross and resurrection and forgiveness before I knew what I needed.

I think I am going to take more walks. Maybe I will even look up a ‘moderate’ difficulty one!!