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.

 

B9B5D8A9-996B-455F-B105-F26E162DA059

 

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.

Advertisements

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.

zach5

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.

Zach Simon

 

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.

 

IMG_2405

 

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!

IMG_8230

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.

 

i-P3fK4Jq-X3

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.

52556871_10156992251285419_4819801265800216576_o

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

i-mgFvLDL-X4

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.

IMG_9030

 

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.

 

 

The Last Game….

That was hard.

 

IMG_3373

 

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.

 

IMG_0394

 

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.

 

IMG_2755

 

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.

 

lineup

 

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.

 

IMG_5734

 

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.

 

giants

 

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.

 

IMG_2714

 

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.

 

tying skate

 

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.

 

zachpic

 

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.

 

2016 Champions

 

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.

 

52556871_10156992251285419_4819801265800216576_o

 

52115641_10156987499340419_8615911610768162816_o

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.

 

 

IMG_3748

 

 

Well done 74.

Horrors and Sacred Cookies

I started to write the last night. I had thoughts in mind, things stirring in my heart, but no time to get them down on paper.

I planned to sit today and enjoy a cup of coffee, giving time and space to these thoughts and grabbing a chance to write here on the blog again.

Then I woke and heard the news this morning. 


Heartbreaking, overwhelming news
.  

 I thought about what had sparked my desire to return to writing.

A cookie. 

Yep.

And then I realized what I wanted to write last night was exactly what I needed to write this morning. 

That cookie, and my eating it, is a sacred act.

You see, I ate that cookie to hold a memory my mother cannot hold any more. The memory that she loved macadamia nut cookies. The memory of things that brought delight and a moment of splurge. I could do the same with a Payday candy bar. That cookie is sweet in a deep way…because it holds the reality of a broken world, of a woman who delighted in good things, and memories. 

That’s a lot for a cookie.

We need those sacred moments. Walking through the grocery store and catching sight of something which can bring you up short. Allowing the pain of what is lost, and the delight of what has been, to mingle in the act of eating a cookie. 

That is sacred.

So what does it have to do with today?

Mom’s Dementia, the horror of Las Vegas last night…they force our awareness of the broken state of our world. We know this, of course, but sometimes we are struck forcefully by how fragile we are, and how desperately in need of rescue.

We have to watch in the midst for grace, for humor and for rescue. We have to carry on. (Yes, I’m listening to Rich Mullins at the moment). There will be moments the brokenness is so raw it will break our hearts.

There will be moments we need to weep. Moments we need to see those around us and their pain…and in those moments we need to be so thankful for those we can turn to for comfort and grace.

“The mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop for love, but it does not stop for death and grief, either.” – Wendell Berry

There will be new memories, and there will be another sunrise and another sunset. I like very much, however, what Berry says here:

New grief, when it came, you could feel filling the air. It took up all the room there was. The place itself, the whole place, became a reminder of the absence of the hurt or the dead or the missing one. I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and grieve alike endure.”

Time helps. 

We carry on. The next sunrise helps us. But then we see something or hear something and our breath is taken away afresh. 

But we will dance again.

We will laugh again.

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Buechner

I know…probably the tenth time I have used that quote.  Maybe Buechner can say that because of this…

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be r I g, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4

So. A cookie and a tragedy and a mother who cannot remember. They are all tied together because of a God who sees, who knows and who will one day set things right. Today, let’s find the sacred around us, let’s comfort those who weep, and let’s carry on. Grace upon grace for those around us today.

I do not understand…but I hope.

Indeed the Book of Job avowedly only answers mystery with mystery. Job is comforted with riddles; but he is comforted. Herein is indeed a type, in the sense of a prophecy, of things speaking with authority. For when he who doubts can only say, ‘I do not understand,’ it is true that he who knows can only reply or repeat ‘You do not understand.’ And under that rebuke there is always a sudden hope in the heart; and the sense of something that would be worth understanding.  — G.K. Chesterton

 

There has been so much dialog lately about strong women. Worthwhile dialog. Conversation happening between women I consider strong, and women I respect. Underlying all of it I cannot help but think of the woman who instantly comes to mind when I think of a strong woman.

 

Grant me a little grace on this post. I am not in the mood to define for you what strength in a woman should be, or how we should exercise our rights. In this moment, late at night on January 25, I am not interested in marches or or name calling. I am not interested in the vulgarity of a president, or the necessity of standing in solidarity.

 

Right now, I am thinking of a woman standing in her bathrobe just inside the the door of a bus. Remember the old buses with the door that had the handle the driver had to pull to close the door? She was standing just inside and the driver was pulling that handle for all she was worth, trying her best to slam that door on this woman. Didn’t work. Bathrobe. Coffee in hand, and rant about to begin.

 

I don’t remember what this substitute bus driver had done that so ticked off my mom, but it was a doozy. I remember coming home and telling her after the first day about our ride. I remember being upset, and I remember coming out that morning and watching my mother explain things in no uncertain terms. The bus rides were much better the rest of that week.

 

That was my mother. Strong woman.

momdad

I remember so many situations when she walked in a room and filled it with her presence. She was elegant, intelligent and incredibly witty. She had a flair and charisma that drew people to her and a generosity of spirit and kindness which made her friendships last for years.

 

She had a wit and a humor that could absolutely leave you rolling on the floor laughing, or stop you in your tracks if you were out of line.

grandmasammy4

 

Today was her 81st birthday.

 

So, why the Chesterton quotation? Because, I do not understand.

CadeGrandma

It is not that I think we deserve any great grace or dispensation from a disease, or that because she was strong she should have been spared. It is simply that today is her birthday and it continues to break my heart that she is lost to us in her mind.

 

That the strong woman walks with a shuffle and hums her songs now without a tune, with lyrics made of words strung nonsensically together. She has not known us for some time. We have been on this journey of Dementia for nearly ten years. My brothers and my Dad walk it with an intimacy and strength I admire beyond words, while I watch more from a distance.

photo

I do not understand why we have to lose her to this dark place in her mind. I do not understand why she does not know her granddaughter carries not only her name, but the set of her jaw when she is determined, and the quickness of her mind and her wit.

 

IMG_1720

 

Maddie Bday9

I do not understand, and God does not explain. He responds, “You are right, you do not understand.”

 

This is broken, and while it is broken there is still purpose. There is still wonder in the midst of the brokenness, and even here in the midst of this heartbreak, He is present and continues to work.

 

I don’t like it. I wish she could come to the phone and hear us wish her a happy birthday. I wish she could know. But still, I know that there is hope. I lean in on days like today and long for heaven. I long for the healing of the One who can make all things whole. The One who can make all things right, and Who can bring rest in the midst of all this chaos.

 

I remember late on Monday night I think it was, maybe Tuesday nights, listening to the tapping of the typewriter. Mom was the teacher for BibleStudy Fellowship in our city, and she would be typing her lecture.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap….and then that Whhhiiiirrr, SNAP! as she hit return.

 

Late at night, thoughts flowing. I inherited that from her, along with her strength and few other things. The setting of my jaw, for instance, when I’m really ticked off.

 

It’s almost midnight, but I will get this post in before your birthday is done. We need to hear about hope in these days. We need to be reminded…that even though we don’t understand, there is reason to trust and to hope. Not in man, but in God who has time and again proved Himself faithful. It is not easy, and some days we do it through tears, but we hope.

 

Happy 81st, Mom. I trust somehow you knew all the flowers that filled the house were for you.

IMG_0799

“”Let the sea roar, and all that fills it, let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy,”” says David (1 Chron.16:32-33). And shall is the verb of hope. Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us. Then the trees of the wood shall sing for joy as already they sing a little even now sometimes when the wind is in them and as underneath their singing our own hearts too already sing a little sometimes at this holy hope we have.

The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping. Praise him.” -Buechner

Lessons Learned from Sending the Boy to Camp. Stop the Chatter.

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ”

Frederick Buechner

Last week the middle boy went to camp. The first time he has been away from us that long…five nights.

We immediately felt his absence when we drove away from the camp, leaving him in a cabin of rowdy boys and wondering what the week would hold.

I remember going to camp, I remember that uncertain feeling and also the excitement. The meals, the laughter, the games. The deep emotional talks.  What would his experience be?

The difference between when I went to camp and now is this: constant updates.

We watched the camp’s FaceBook page and Instagram religiously. They posted hundreds of pictures. Daily. 998 pictures by the end.

We saw our boy in 18 pictures. He is actually in 28 by the end…but that includes the cabin group photos and things from the last day.

18 pictures. 

He is smiling in exactly 4. 

Mostly he is standing with his arms folded and that look of concern. Instantly identifiable, and instantly bringing back all those moments I felt insecure in group situations. You know, like last month or last year or thirty years ago. We all know that feeling.

The husband and I were praying fervently. Speculating. Wondering if we should text and ask the youth leader if he was okay. Hoping for a picture of him with his arm around a buddy. Finally, the last night I had a headache and came downstairs at 1am. New pictures were loaded and there was one with him arms around his cabin mates at the worship time.

Thank you, Lord. He is not alone, he is not completely miserable.

I did text the youth leader who told me the boy had been quiet, but didn’t seem upset. Quiet is unusual for this one.

So, we continued to speculate. The brothers were pretty convinced along with us that the week had been a let down. We all wondered what we would hear when we went to pick him up.

Can you guess?

Yep, he had a great time. Not phenomenal, and there were moments of homesickness…but he wants to go back next year. I showed him the pictures and he laughed. He kept pointing out pictures of laughter and group activities where he was just out of the frame. We just couldn’t quite see the whole picture. Our vision was narrowed and limited and we ran with only what we could see.

We fervently wanted to protect and manage his life. We prayed, but we prayed with advice to God. We chattered continually about the situation, and our chatter went along the lines of all the things that could be wrong.

Did you read the quotation from Buechner above? Here, I’ll post it again:

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ”

We have to remember that God sees the whole picture. He knows the whole story, and we can trust that. Our vision is limited, and it is not good to make continual judgments based on limited understanding.

Even of our own lives.

So, stop the chatter for awhile today. Stop running and questioning and determining the hundred outcomes you think will happen.

Be still and know that He is God.

It takes some time, it takes practice…discipline. Still ourselves and quiet our chatter. Realize the astonishing thought that our lives are God’s business. There is rest in that thought.

A Little Hard Work is Required.

Maddie 3

 

 

This is the face of a little girl in a little pain, and a little frustration. This is the face of a little girl after her first swim lesson.

 

The lesson ended in tears and the exclamation that she never wanted to swim again.

 

“They made me put my face in the water. I had water in my nose and I couldn’t keep it out.”

Despair.

 

And the toes. Do you remember when you were little and swam and scraped your toes on the bottom of the pool? Do you remember those little sores, the little raw circles on the bottom of your toes?

 

Yep. All ten toes now have waterproof bandaids.

 

As we walked away from the lesson, tears still dripping down her cheeks, I told her,

 

“Sometimes we have to do a little hard work and something not too fun so we can have lots of fun in the end.”

 

She’s almost four. She has no idea what I mean…not really.

 

I meant it, though, even in the simplicity of swimming lessons. This life of ours requires discipline, it requires sacrifice and it requires some not too fun things all done with the hope of success and growth.

 

Sometimes we have to set aside the fun activity to complete the necessary activity. In the end the things that are not as fun can give us room for other things: taking care of the household chores leaves us a space where we can relax and rest, taking the time for study enriches our brains and sets the stage for creativity and imagination and curiosity.

 

Sometimes we have to put to death our flesh in order to see the Spirit come alive.

 

Sometimes we have to do the hard work before we see the growth.

 

But, to be honest, there are days (weeks? months? years?) where it feels as though everything is the hard work and nothing is enjoyment or growth. That is when we have to listen well; we have to pay attention.

 

 

“Listen to your life. Listen to what happens to you because it is through what happens to you that God speaks . . . It’s in language that’s not always easy to decipher, but it’s there, powerfully, memorably, unforgettably.”

Frederick Buechner

Even today. Even in the difficult times and the joyful times…God is speaking.

Even when we give advice to four year olds when we really are talking to ourselves.

The next day? She jumped in the water and came up laughing. She was the first one in line for the slide, even though it meant going deep under the water for her. She came up with joy and had already forgotten the tears. After the second day the exclamation was, “When can we do this again!”