Thursday, June 09, 2022

An Ode to Being Older

Most mornings my coffee brews while I catch up with a couple of old friends who live in other states via an app called Marco Polo. We send each other video monologues with headlines/prayer requests from our daily lives and it serves as an important touchpoint/ongoing conversation among friends of 30 years. 

When we started this practice 4-5 years ago, we frequently commented on our less-than-stellar selfie faces when we turned on the camera. As time has gone on we seem to have gotten more comfortable and most mornings my videos are filmed early, as I am brewing my coffee before makeup, hair brushing, or even a shower. 

I think this practice of sharing my heart in selfie mode has been an interesting exercise in embracing the full accurate picture of my age. For every line, spot and sag I see in my reflection I am finding peace, humility, and insight in my words (which are an overflow of my heart). The same aging process that has reduced my collagen has increased my faith. 

In my 20s and 30s I often felt as if I were playing house, only pretending to be the grown-up my responsibilities indicated I ought to be. Here in my late 40s, there is no denying it. I recently walked through a difficult season in a relationship. As it has been worked through, with mutual patience, grace, and honesty, the refrain I have had on repeat is how good it is to be an adult. Adult circumstances aren't easier, but they are more manageable. 

Adults can say what they mean and mean what they say. Adults have enough life experience to not expect perfection--and an ability to give the grace and forgiveness they desire to receive. Adults can listen and not just speak. 

As I am parenting young adults, I am reminded that one of the greatest gifts I can give is an example. So while I plan to continue with some of my youthful aesthetic regimens, I am renewing my focus on embracing the ying and the yang of aging. And today? I am feeling grateful for the gifts of being "old."

Friday, June 03, 2022

Confessions of a New Senior Mom

Watching the class ahead of us over the last month was a little overwhelming, and apparently, I am not alone. Talking to other rising Senior mamas is electric. The emotion under all our actions is palpable, even if we can't name it.

I am a planner with a real bent toward control. I can easily fall victim to the one-time-only anxiety as a Mama of multiples. This is my one shot. I have got to be on top of things.

As a personal coping mechanism, I composed a Google Doc of all the dates I am aware of for next year and a month-by-month to-do list of the actions I need to take, appointments to be made, and reservations to be secured. It was already three types pages long--in May! I felt prepared and paced until I talked to other Moms. 

Oh, what is that phrase about comparison? Such. A. Thief. The blissful peace of preparation (and maybe even the illusion of control) was ripped away and I felt behind. Egads! (Side note: I love that the official definition of Egads is expressing surprise, anger, or affirmation because I feel all those things--plus the embarrassment that I should be more mature than to feel those things!)

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit and my husband are excellent settlers of my anxieties. 

After a couple of episodes of panic, I thought about what really matters--and it is not the "perfect" X, Y or Z. It is that I provide a settled and peaceful place for my three Seniors who are about to ride the roller coaster of emotions involved in college applications, big future decisions, friendships separated by miles, living independently, etc. 

What if my desire to plan and list and do in order to 'not miss a thing' was actually the reason I missed the ordinary moments that make this phase of life so sweet? What if my panic over what's coming prevented me from enjoying what's now?

Frankly, as a planner, some degree of advance preparation is necessary on my part to feel that peace. This is the way I am wired. But I must remain on guard that this does not become a place for comparison. Everybody is managing their own stuff. And a lot of Senior mamas are dealing with their own flood of emotions in addition to those of the other hearts in their home. I want to be an encourager to the fellow Mamas I am crossing the finish line with, not a competitor. There is no prize for who does this best. 

So, I am actively working to reorient. I am praying the downtime of Summer while all my people are away on their camp employment adventures will allow me space to prepare my heart and my Spirit for what is to come for the journey. I am fighting the tide of carefully curated. I am praying for the perspective that a picture-perfect ending is not the goal.  

I know it is going to be a constant wrestling match with my anxious flesh, so I am writing this for accountability. 

And if it involves a checklist or two, so be it ;-)

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Power of...

I graduated from high school 30 years ago, a spunky teenager who frequently had more energy than sense. Although I checked the boxes of a 'good girl,' I drove like a maniac and my mouth sometimes got me in trouble. (Both things are true to a lesser degree at 47.)  

My career aspiration from the age of 12-19 was to be behind the desk on television reporting the news. I was heading to the University of Alabama as a Telecommunications and Film major having shadowed people at our local news station. My friend Jill and I were even the morning co-anchors for our school's Channel One daily announcements broadcast.

Somewhere in that experience, I got out of bounds. I have racked my brain (and even asked Jill) for the story. Neither of us can remember the specifics, but nonetheless, I abused my position in a way that landed me in the Principal's Office. And even though I don't recall the details I absolutely remember my punishment--a lengthy essay on "The Power of the Microphone."

In the last few years of social media craziness, I have reflected on the difference it might have made for everyone to be assigned that essay. But it was a powerful punishment for someone like me who loves to communicate--and was pursuing that field as a career. Even after switching gears professionally and wearing many hats since, the lesson about harnessing my tongue and the power of influence remains. 

Thirty years later, as a parent of teenagers, what I am now struck by is what happened after I was disciplined. 

At our high school graduation, our principal Dr. F bestowed his award--the "True Viking" Principal's Award. As he spoke of the recipient, my ears perked when he emphasized "the power of the microphone." I could not believe it when he called my name. I was stunned to be honored after being 'in trouble,' but Dr. F. wasn't rewarding perfection. He chose to award a young person willing to learn and grow.

I wasn't canceled for a mistake, I was disciplined. There were consequences, but all were done in an instructive and restorative way. As a result, I don't think back on that experience with shame--I don't even remember what I did! Three decades later, I see it as it was, a powerful building block for the places God was going to place me and use me in the future. 

So while many of the certificates and statues handed out annually in May are discarded or tucked away in boxes--the lesson from mine was so powerful that it has gone with me into adulthood and parenting. 

Today my physical award (a clock) sits high on a shelf in my study, but I have been thinking a lot about how to apply the principles to the way I view the inevitable stumbles of the young adults in my sphere of influence--especially as we embark on the increased freedom and responsibility 18-year-olds bear. I needed to reflect on this as I prepare for the stage to come. Grace is more powerful than shame. Instructive can be more beneficial than punitive.

And of course, I wanted to share because I believe in the power of the microphone (and grace).

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Junior Spring

May 2022 || Our trio turns 18 in a few weeks and we have one year to go until graduation. 

It seems fitting that the season is Spring and I am surrounded by sunshine and pleasant days full of evidence of new life and growth. Rather than extreme sadness or anxiety, I am truly feeling the excitement of all that is to come. 

The last month has seen a flurry of college visits and each time we have walked on a campus I have enjoyed 'trying on' some version of what life might be like for my people if they attended that school. Of course I have no crystal ball, but the promise and potential of each place serves as a reminder that there are many paths they could take. I feel like a child at Christmas, waiting for the time for gifts to be unwrapped.

In the meantime, I am watching our trio each rise to the occasion in their own way. My expectations of what defines being 'ready' for launch are shifting and becoming more refined. I can also sense our young people want to listen a bit more now that the reality of living away from us becomes more clear. 

This weekend has allowed us to spend true quality time together as a family and I am really enjoying each of my people right now at this age. I don't just love them, I like them a lot. My husband said our focus for the next year should be to savor---and I am leaning into that challenge. 

I read a quote last week about how raising older teens was like starting the last chapter of a book you love--you can't wait to see how it turns out, but you aren't ready for it to be over. 

I couldn't have said it better. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Of course you are tired. Keep going.

We are in the midst of track season with Kate. She primarily is a distance runner, but sometimes participates in the 4x800 relay.

No matter how many races I have seen, the relay gets me every time. Runners push their bodies to the limits as they carry the baton for their leg, individually contributing their best to the team score, and then the focus shifts to the runner awaiting the handoff. There is anticipation, positioning, and movement. Sometimes it appears seamless, other times awkward, as the two runners try to match their speeds for a brief moment of connection. 

It takes true technique to secure a smooth handoff and despite all the practice, there is the occasional slip or miss that produces a loud clanging, a sympathetic crowd reaction, and a shift in the anticipated outcome of the race. 

I was thinking about all of this today because I have spoken to six different parents in 24 hours who are in the thick of teen parenting. We all feel this same sense of anticipation, excitement, and exhaustion as we try to finish this portion of our race well and hand off the baton of daily responsibility for these almost-adult lives. 

What I didn't understand until I experienced this phase is that there is not a single moment of release. Instead, we are performing this hand-off over and over again as we are passing our teens the responsibility for their academics, social lives, finances, health, and all other manner of choices. Sometimes we are more in sync than others. And THIS is the part of teen parenting that is exhausting.

I heard a seasoned Mom recently say, "I am really not worried about the outcome. I truly trust God with that. I just want to know I did my part well." Isn't that the cry of a faithful heart? 

So how do we do this part well? I think the attitudes of our hearts are a huge part. Much of the rest, ironically, came from one of the many online lists I saw of proper baton handoff techniques. I couldn't help but giggle when I read these seven steps in a ten-step list.

  • One carries the baton.
  • Adjustments are made as they approach the handoff.
  • The runners share the baton.
  • Communication is vital.
  • Release when the baton is firmly in the next runner's hand.
  • Do not slow down until the baton is passed. 

And the last one made me laugh out loud...

  • Stay in your lane.

As always, so much easier to pontificate than to practice, but I couldn't help but share this metaphor God used to speak to my heart.

My runner taught me another important lesson recently. When I asked her how she ran so many miles without pain she replied, "I don't. After 2-3 miles my body starts to hurt a little but I tell myself 'of course you hurt, you've run a long way,' and then I keep running." 

That, my friends, will preach. 

"Let us run with patience the race marked out before us." -Hebrews 12:1b

Thursday, March 17, 2022

A Prayer of Release

A friend sent this to me recently and I have re-read it daily. I decided to record it here for easy access (and in case it blesses anybody else!) I tried to find a source, and it appears it was taken from a 30-year-old book called Prayer Portions by Sylvia Gunter.  What a reminder that through the decades humans have struggled with the same root desires! 

The person who texted it to me referred to it as a Declaration of Release. Even the title convicts me to loosen my grip in faith and trust. May we trust the Lord to keep that which we already committed Him at the time of their baptism/dedication! ("...I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day." 2 Timothy 1:12)

"Because Jesus Christ is my Lord, 
I free you from my anxiety, fears, and control.
I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you the way that is right for you, the way of love, joy, peace, and all that salvation includes. 
I place you at God’s throne of grace. 
I cannot force my will on you. 
I cannot live your life for you. 
I give you to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
As much as I love you, God loves you more. 
Your life today is totally in His hands, and I trust Him with it. 
I release you from my expectations, I place you on open palms to the Lord. 
I give you my blessings. 
I let you go, in His love." 

It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phi 2:13, 1:6).

Friday, March 04, 2022

In the Tension of Intentionality

"The thing is, for parents like us who have been so intentional, we can't forget that we also have to  intentionally let go."

My friend's words stopped me in my tracks. 

This is exactly where I am. Even though I had three humans on the same day within minutes of one another, there have always been differences--physically, emotionally, socially. They are individuals. Of course, each will be on their own timeline for development! And a lesson my pride keeps having to be reminded of is that this is merely one leg of a lifetime journey. There is not a prize for speed. 

Lately, I have fallen prey to a pressured timeline. Our chosen social and academic environment compounded by my task-oriented nature has me feeling the real pressure of a ticking clock. Over and over my head and heart remind me: 14 months until graduation. 

The peace I have felt regarding God's faithfulness to complete this work and my ability to shepherd/steward/manage is crumbling under the weight of my anxiety. Like the story of the emperor's new clothes, the closer we get the more naked I feel. It is NOT a good feeling. I desire to do well, but how do you measure 'well' when you are referring to in-process human beings and your own scrambled heart?

So, my friend's words keep coming back--letting go is also an act of intentionality. It is the job.

The rate, the speed, the degree--all of these decisions (because they are individually based, NOT according to a manmade calendar) keep me humbly on my knees and/or awake at night ;-). 

This is the job: To stay in the tension, prayerfully. To be consistent, but not formulaic. Loving, listening, and learning. Letting the Lord set the pace of my letting go.