Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A New Normal

Last week we dropped both boys off at their new college campuses. It was a whirlwind. My husband and son Ryland left Georgia Monday evening and drove to Jackson, Mississippi for the night. The next day they completed their drive to Ft. Worth, Texas. I stayed behind to wrap up loose packing ends with Parker then flew out to join them early Wednesday morning. 

After an efficient TCU move-in day and a requisite trip to Walmart for last-minute items (mostly snacks), my husband and I spent the night in a DFW airport hotel. Thursday morning our flight departed at 7:30. Upon arrival in Atlanta we quickly gathered our bags--including one with very suspect items like zip ties, garbage bags, a mallet, and duct tape--and drove home to Rome. Two hours later we were on the road to Nashville, Tennessee with Parker. We had breakfast in Texas, lunch in Georgia, and dinner in Tennessee!

Parker's move and drop-off were upbeat and smooth. So much so, we canceled that night's hotel stay and returned home earlier than expected. 

Both schools have clearly put a lot of thought into the move-in experience and had many opportunities for the new students to meet others and get acclimated in a positive way. 

Sunday we travelled over to Birmingham to meet Kate's new roommate and her parents for the first time. It was nice to get to know each other a bit before the craziness of move-in day.

It is a quiet week as we finalize preparations for Kate's relocation this weekend--and so far it really just feels like my boys are away at new camps. I anticipate a lot more emotion when the nest is truly empty and life returns to 'normal' in a new way. 

A Fall without football games and cross-country meets is hard to imagine--but our calendars are full of weekend travel, parents' weekends, and middle-aged adventure. It still seems surreal that this chapter of our lives has ended--but I have great peace. 

One thing my husband and I continue to remind one another is that our kids have heard everything they can hear from us. That is not to say they listened or obeyed, but we have said all the things. Now time and maturity must do their work.

When they were nine months old we baptized them--publicly acknowledging our belief that they belong to the Lord and had only been entrusted to us. This is the season for putting that belief to the test. They are His. He has plans. We desire to trust, pray, encourage and counsel (when asked). We recommit them back into His Hands. A new normal indeed.   

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Different Kind of Pregnancy

Spring is always a time of remembrance for me. I start walking back through the timeline of the last 1/3 of my pregnancy. Bedrest in March, first at home, then in the hospital. The entire months of April & May were inpatient at Northside Hospital. The delivery in late May, the ICU for me for 1 week, 5 weeks of NICU...a July release.

All of this occurred 19 years ago, and yet the rhythm and timing today is strangely similar. Waiting with anticipation for college decisions here in March. Hopeful, concerned, and trying to make sense of bad news mixed with good. Instead of weekly ultrasounds on Tuesdays, we have decisions in portals on Fridays. Information that will shape and change our lives, but yet we have no real control over what is happening internally. We simply wait to be told.

We deliver in May--then into the world as infants and now as baby adults.

So here in March I start to feel the contractions. The babies are getting crowded. There is the urge to push--but questions linger about their readiness. Anxiety lurks about how radically all our lives will change.  The difference? My ability to be present and wide awake in it now. I am not ill and on the sidelines, honestly concerned I may not survive to see them grow up. Those prayers were answered. Praise the Lord, for that.

There is a perspective I lacked before. God is sovereign. He can be trusted. His Will be done. I couldn't help but think about Romans 8. I particularly love the plain-speak of the Message translation.

19-21 Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

Three versions of delivery--2004, 2023, and God's eternal way--and in all three, my heart is very much involved. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

What Really Matters?

Like many parents before me, I have found the challenge of handing over the reins to my young adults emotionally challenging. Too much to fast, too little too late--it all depends on the child and the situation. 

Early this Fall as I started processing the ending of this chapter of parenthood and the beginning of another, I became a bit Ecclesiastical. In my exhaustion and cynicism I wondered if intentional parenting doesn't guarantee a result, what has all our investment been for? The temptation for a person who has long believed that everything matters is to swing wildly to the other side. What if nothing matters? 

I had the privilege over the last couple of weeks to read my Seniors' college admission essays. It has been a gift to read how they define themselves--especially what moments from their adolescence they determined to be transformative. Frankly, the big memories I tried to engineer aren't their watershed moments. Instead, it has been the more mundane, organic moments they cite as formative. 

So, I have arrived at this: You don't get to know in advance what matters down the road. 

Parenting, it seems, is a lot like throwing mud against the wall. Some sticks, but you can't predict what. So we sling love, hurl encouragement, and fling opportunities against the sturdy wall of our secure bond. Then, we wait to see what stays. 

Thanks to my blog hobby, I have my own version of some of my children's essay topics. Unsuprisingly, my perspective in the moment differs slightly from their recollection years later. A nod to Ecclesiastes 3: 11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work God has done from beginning to end. "

These blog posts reveal my own sanctification in the process of my children's formation. As a result, I can say with confidence that none of it is meaningless. God is always at work in the "unadorned pots of our everyday lives" (2 Corinthians 4:7)

To Him be the Glory!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Packing Their Bags

Perhaps because of the demands of my husband's career, we learned early that getting far away and off the grid was the best way to truly relax together. Travel has become a part of our family DNA.

When our children were younger, I did all the packing. As they got into upper elementary school, I would give them a fairly specific list and they would select items accordingly. In high school this evolved into me asking them what they thought they needed for the trip. I might give general reminders and feedback, but they learned to evaluate the activities, weather and length of trip to decide what they needed. Because journeys are unpredictable, there are times when we miss the mark. I am thinking of many sweatshirts, swimsuits, and shoes through the years that have been purchased at our destinations.

As I brainstormed Christmas gift list ideas last week, I thought about the bags my young adults would need. I don't yet know their destinations. Will they be mostly driving home from school or flying? Will they land in places where they might hike on weekends or settle into an urban environment? I can't predict what types of bags they will need just yet, nor do I fully understand what they will practically need to put inside them.

When we elected to give our kids a redshirt Kindergarten year, I started calling this 18-year-old Senior year our 'victory lap.' Little did I know it would actually contain its share of hard lessons that sometimes feel more like defeat. 

As I was discussing this with a friend recently she said "It's all going in their adulthood bag. These are the lessons they will carry with them. Aren't you glad they are happening when you are still close enough to really coach?"

Much like the destination, the challenges they will face in their journeys remain unknown. An encouraging older Mom friend urged me to view the lessons they are learning this year as essentials they will need in their emotional/social/spiritual bags. Especially the difficult ones. 

Another important point was made by my husband recently when I was in a tizzy about something that had barely affected one of my children. As I talked through how it triggered something from my own high school experience he wisely and lovingly reminded me, "That's your stuff. They have enough of their own. Don't ask them to carry yours too."


So here we are, doing the work of packing bags for adventures and destinations unknown to us, but already fully covered by the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Our Training Wheel Summer

Twelve years ago we made the decision to "redshirt" our children by having them repeat Kindergarten as they changed schools. We did this for many reasons including their prematurity, early Summer birthdays, mixed genders, small stature, and our general observation that while we knew a handful of people who wished they had given their children the gift of an extra year at home, we didn't know any who regretted doing so.

This Spring, as similarly-aged students were preparing for high school graduation, I found myself full of gratitude that we had another year. I felt strongly this Summer was going to be instrumental in giving our freshly minted 18-year-olds opportunities to experience independence, maturity, and space.  

Kate & Ryland were hired as counselors at the camps in Mentone, Alabama & Black Mountain, North Carolina where they spent their childhood Summers. Parker decided to serve on the Work Crew (doing outdoor maintenance and sound tech) at a Young Life camp in Brevard, North Carolina. By the end of July, all should return with 5-8 weeks of out-of-the-nest experience under their belts.

Meanwhile, my husband and I have been practicing a new normal herein the nest--where we eat smaller meals in a quieter house with much less frenzied schedules. We have been referring to this time as our "training wheel Summer." 

As my people start returning in the next two weeks, I want to be intentional about honoring all we have learned. I am praying about exactly what that looks like, but I am convinced the first two steps are being mindful about it and putting it down on paper. 

I have been making lists of things we need to cover when they return...from college applications to high school Summer work and haircuts and sports practices in between. I am hoping to have a couple of individual meetings with each one to debrief when they return and reinstate weekly family meetings as the Fall begins. 

But I am posting this as a pause to honor the gift of this victory lap...as the training wheels are loosened and we remain a soft place to land. I hope we can start to deliberately transition from chaperone to coach/consultant--and hope our kiddos will have grace for us as we learn to ride on two wheels too!

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 ;-)