Thursday, January 13, 2022

Reorienting

As Instagram became a more popular app, my longer-form blogging here suddenly became micro-blogging there. This busy Mama rejoiced as Chatbooks allowed my memories to be automatically printed, bound, and shipped each time I reach 60 posts--and in the short term my 'documenting family life for posterity' box was checked. 

Now that my children are old enough to drive and handle more of their own daily responsibilities, I am catching my breath. In doing so I have started to realize the gaps of the quick 'insta' posting. Much like a person who changes their diet from fast, cheap, and easy eating to slower, heartier, more nutritious meals, I am learning to digest

As my focus shifts away from instantly posting a thought to the world and towards more thoughtful reflection (and because there isn't always a snazzy photo to accompany the things God is really teaching me) I am interested in wading back into these blogging waters. We shall see if it sticks!

A quick list of recent reads and listens that are most influencing my reflection right now:

1. The Wisdom Pyramid by Brett McCracken:  I started this in November and have been slowly working my way through because it demands digestion. His words are clear and wise--and countercultural. If you are sometimes an audible listening, this is one I recommend you get a hard copy to mark up. So many solid points. I cannot recommend it enough.


2. I removed the Instagram app icon from my phone. I still have the application and check it a few times a day--but I learned by doing this with Facebook and Twitter a couple of years ago how drastically it reduces your lost time to simply make yourself have to type the app name instead of a simple click. That couple of seconds it takes to type the name are often all I need to pause and ask myself if there's a better use of my time. I am not anti-social media--I just want to keep it in its proper place and I had gotten out of balance. Turns out, guardrails are my friend! The time I spend mindlessly scrolling the app have been drastically reduced.

And can I admit something? It turns out I like people in my real life much better than online images--real face-to-face conversations and phone calls make me feel far more connected and known than glimpses into curated highlights ever did. 

Also, the algorithms had gotten VERY good at spotting my taste. I am certain reducing those direct ads has saved me money! ;-)

 

3. Memorizing Romans 12. I confess I haven't worked on Scripture memory in a very long time. Slowly working through a passage one verse at a time has filled my mind with new perspective. So many phrases floating around my head, straight from Scripture that come to mind throughout my daily life. Always a good thing.


4. My small group read and discussed Jeannie Cunnion's Don't Miss Out in the Fall and plans to dive into Never Alone (also by Jeannie) next. Both of these resources have been excellent reminders that it is not up to me to control every outcome. 

I am truly learning how to reorient my achiever, checklist, efficiency mindset to be more focused on trusting the work of the Lord and joining Him where He is. I am significant, but He is sovereign. 

The tendency here at the end of the "parenting them under your roof" phase can be frenetic--like contestants on a cooking show dashing against the clock to throw on garnishes. You can only do so much to cover. I do not want that to be the focus of our last 18 months together--and for my personality type, that means constantly dying to my tendencies.

As I heard Jeannie say on the Raising Boys and Girls podcast: "Lay down what God hasn't asked you to carry so you can thrive in what He has."

So, here it is, a public proclamation that I am trying. ;-)


Saturday, November 20, 2021

From a Mama in the Stands

Last night our high school’s football team won a thrilling game in the state playoffs. As I was looking through my photos this morning, this one struck me: Our kicker standing alone on the sidelines with the field goal in the background. The score was 7-6. Our team was one point behind after our son’s point-after attempt bounced off the upright.

I took this picture as my Mama heart was in the stands watching, praying, and hoping. This is so often the role of a parent of an emerging adult--the hearts we have shepherded for so many years are now increasingly out of our reach in key moments as we are relegated to the audience, crowd, sideline, or stands.

It occurred to me last night that even if I had known the perfect encouraging words to say, I had no way to get them in my son’s ear. I was watching and hoping that the voices he COULD hear--coaches, teammates, and his own inner voice would suffice. The momentary feelings were strong and real, but there was a lot of game left to play. (Isn’t that a life metaphor that will preach?)

This moment of pulling away passed quickly. He told me later he just needed time to clear his head. I watched as he “reset” and coaches and teammates wandered over with supportive handshakes. He moved back into the pack and the team pulled through with strong play by so many kids. Our fella even had two more successful scoring attempts.

Ryland has had a terrific kicking season, and yet, there have been misses. As a kicker’s parent I have been reminded that life is quite the roller coaster if we allow the transitory drama of day-to-day circumstances to become our score of life.

Next week we will play another round and I will rejoice at the opportunity my young man is having to try, fail, succeed, learn, and grow. I will continue to pray for the voices speaking into his heart--especially in the times when mine is relegated to just one more of the crowd.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Homecoming 2021


Twenty years ago this February before I had learned the concept of mindfulness, my friend Liz cornered me in my Bridal dressing room. She put an Altoid in my mouth, straightened up a few errant parts of my ensemble, and said something to the effect of "This is going to be a whirlwind. You have to intentionally take moments to just look around and take pictures with your heart. You will be glad you did."  

That advice has carried me through not only a wedding day but decades of life since then. It is a sermon I keep preaching to myself--especially as my children age and I know this chapter is coming to a close. I feel this practice is largely why I started blogging/Instagramming. 

Pause. Notice. Savor. Seal the moment. Sometimes with an actual photo, but at the very least in my heart.

This weekend was FULL of those snapshots. 


Friday night's football game felt like a scene from a movie. The weather was perfectly comfortable Fall crisp. It was our first home game in a month. Covid has relinquished its grip on our region to the point that things felt like old normal again. There were familiar faces, family, and friends that have become family. As I looked around I felt so tenderly grateful for the life God has built for us here (as transplants) and the dozens of people we have literally raised our children alongside. 

My senses were heightened to the sounds, smells, and sights. The game was action-packed and came down to the last minute. The student section was lively and involved like a professional soccer game. I knew that I would relive the night in my heart for years to come. 


Our kicker performed with poise. Our mascot was full of energy and patience for the throngs of little people following him around. Our girl was gracious and beautiful as she served on Homecoming Court.  

I was keyed up until early morning, full of the joyful emotion of being parents to Upper Classmen--and fun of these days. It was a nice change from where I sometimes get stuck in the anxiety, pressure, and ticking clock until launch.

After a few hours of sleep, Saturday was an absolute zoo! Our teens had duties at school with a 5k race, giving Alumni tours, and rehearsal for a play that opens this weekend. Meanwhile, Ryland & I were setting up to host a dinner for 17 kids with other parents and an afterparty at a separate location in addition to hair, make-up, flowers, etc for our three and their dates. In the midst of all the frenzy, as I was miles from my home rushing to pick something up, I found a cat asleep in my back seat. (He had climbed in while I was loading party supplies in my driveway!)

Despite the last-minute stress of wearing contacts, hand-tying bowties, and accidental sportcoat swaps, we all made it out the door on time. 

The kids' sweet dates were each just right--and there was no drama and lots of fun and laughter. 

Of course, the combination of milestone events and hormones led me to some deep thinking alone in my car as I buzzed around Saturday afternoon. 

What was the point of all this hoopla? Were we overdoing it? Perhaps. But these once-a-year events are important tools for teaching the finer points of social graces--formal dates, dressing up, nice dinners.  (Especially after the last 19 months of Covid!) 

After so many years of teaching them independence, it is fun to find things our teenagers could do themselves, but we choose to do for them simply because we won't be able to much longer. The preparations felt like a "get to" not a "have to." It was fun to be involved. 

I hope the home-making before the home-leaving will make the future home-comings so sweet-- returning to the place of such great memories and love. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Notes From the Trenches: The Summer of Seventeen

A quick note today from a grateful heart.

The early parenting years were largely about survival. The middle full of adventure, humility, and revelation. These last couple of at-home years remain to be seen...but this Summer has been providing glimpses that fill me with joy and wonder. 

I don't want to speak too soon. I am well aware that life takes twists and turns. Undoubtedly, we still face chapters of tragedy and triumph, joy and pain. But I don't want my fear of those future chapters to prevent a pause to savor the sweetness of right now. So, today I am writing this for myself. 

I am finally (mostly) finding peace and joy in my role as the Pit Crew. As these young people are dashing in and out from sports, jobs, camps, and social outings I am here. My role is feeding, clothing, reminding, listening, and otherwise providing rest from the last adventure and equipping for the next. I still have plenty of my own responsibilities and interests, but the ministry of availability is beginning to feel as rewarding as my prior obsession with productivity. 

And by the grace of God, the Cinderella feeling that once tinged these roles has dissipated and I am relishing the chance to show love to my people in practical ways. Their independence is still my goal, but being a soft place to land--a spot they want to come home to--is a gift. 

What fun to watch the young adults emerge from these children! They need space and grace. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to provide both.

Seventeen, I like you so. 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Breezy

My heart and mind are still coming to grips with the fact that our trio turned 17 last month. 

Perhaps it is true of all parents, or maybe enhanced because we are typically celebrating a new age during the last week of school, but we tend to make significant adjustments to rules and responsibilities each May. 

Although they are only a year away from the 18th birthday milestone associated with adulthood, redshirting them in Kindergarten gave us the gift of an extra year with them in our home. Because I am a person driven by responsibility, the heat is on to make the most of EVERY OPPORTUNITY. (All caps are to emphasize the pressure I feel from myself in this regard.)

So now, the countdown is 24 months--the first three of which are during the loose days of Summer combined with the freedom of driving. I want to do well with what I have been entrusted with, but could someone please give me a handbook for each one? 

I read somewhere that the posture of a teen parent's heart should be "breezy" and haven't stopped giggling about it since. Many adjectives could be used to describe me, but this word wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list. I am, however, committed to trying. 

I know these are the days when our teens should be learning independence. I would much rather them take some risks while they are under our daily influence and have a soft place to land--but after 17 years of schedules and structure, it is a hard habit to break.

So, daily I wrestle (and often in the darkness of late night/early morning too) with how and when to lighten up, while still coaching and teaching specifically to where each teen is developmentally. (Are you exhausted yet just reading this?)

My kitchen nook is covered in sticky notes bearing quotes about surrendering control to my Sovereign Father--but the struggle is real in my heart. 

Kate, a wonderful young lady who happens to be quite messy, was the recipient of one of my first attempts at fewer rules and more responsibility. I breezily announced that I was no longer going to police the cleanliness of her room, but that meant I wouldn't be picking up the dirty clothes either. I braced for impact.

"Oh, thank goodness!" she replied, "you do that for yourself, Mom. It doesn't bother me." 

Yikes. Ouch. Wow. And also? She's right.

With teens coming and going all Summer to various overnight camps and retreats, this is the time to let some things go--but it isn't my nature and is taking a renewed faith that God is growing them up and into the people He has always planned. It is time for me to lay down the self-imposed nitpicky pressure and lean into the few heart-focused issues God has impressed upon my heart.

When it comes to the role I play, I love this reminder from Jeannie Cunnion: 

"I am significant, but God is Sovereign."

Now pardon me while I return to structuring my life to be more breezy. ;-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Dormancy

While my Northwest Georgia home has escaped the icy deep freeze wreaking havoc on other Southern states, it is still a cool 21 degrees this morning. My schedule is quite light due to the Pandemic. My adolescents are all at school after a 4 day weekend. Our two dogs are sleeping soundly at my feet and I am in my quiet house with only a soundtrack of a softly swishing dishwasher.

My task list today includes lots of laborious tax preparation, so I am procrastinating by thinking about the changes the last 11 months have brought to my life. 

I am curious how we will define this chapter in retrospect. 

As I stare out my kitchen window at the barren branches of Winter trees, the word that seems to be rattling around in my brain this morning is dormancy. (Of course, this led me down a rabbit trail of researching middle school science facts I had long forgotten about what really happens during a period that mostly feels like a pause.)

I will spare you the whole lesson, but what struck me was the two types of dormancy: Predictive, which happens in anticipation of adverse conditions and consequential, which results from adverse conditions. As a parent of triplet teenagers during this last crazy year, I think I have experienced a double dose of dormancy caused by both the anticipation of challenges (driving, dating, college readiness, etc.) and the actual circumstances of living through 2020-21 (Covid, politics, culture wars, etc.) 

I have always heard that parenting teenagers is the loneliest stage of motherhood, but doing so when usual outlets for meaningful face-to-face connection are missing adds a whole different layer. Additionally, my ability to process our challenges out loud through writing has been stifled by my desire to protect my people's stories. The last thing an adolescent needs in their tenuous growth phase is hyper analysis and play-by-play reports or veiled references on the Internet.

Add to this mix that I have a few political takes that don't fit neatly in any box and the result is feeling quite alien and increasingly unknown. The reality is that I am a communicator. I don't know how to 'be' in relationships when I can't be totally authentic. I despise the illusion of connection that happens when people cannot talk about what is really on their minds--so I have been in retreat mode. The upshot to this has been a deepening of trust with my teens, more partnership with my spouse, and increased reliance on and intimacy with the Lord. 

As I reflected on all this today, I was drawn to the words of poet David Whyte:

"Withdrawal can be the very best way of stepping forward and done well, a beautiful freeing act of mercy and as an art form, underestimated in this time of constant action and engagement... Withdrawal is often not what it looks like - a disappearance - no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again...

...We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice, our life as a sudden, emphatic statement, one we can recognize as our own and one from which now, we have absolutely no wish to withdraw."

-‘WITHDRAWAL’ From CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte

It seems appropriate that I am writing this on Ash Wednesday, as Lent represents the 40 days of fasting and prayer during which Jesus prepared for the next season of his ministry. 

And this is why dormancy is such a hopeful word for me today--because it isn't permanent. Dormancy is a necessary phase in a healthy growth cycle. Even more exciting is the reminder of what follows dormancy--explosive growth and blooms of new life. 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Friday, January 08, 2021

Where do we go from here?

In 2021 I am a white, middle-aged, doctor’s wife living an hour outside Atlanta, but I spent the first part of my life in rural Alabama. I had many colorful experiences growing up, including serving beer at a cockfight during an elementary school slumber party in a doublewide trailer.

I’ve walked through extended family struggles with domestic violence, suicide attempts, death from AIDS, drunk driving, adultery, addiction, abortion, transgenderism, and teen pregnancy (Half of that before I was old enough to drive a car).

I am a politically Independent, cradle-to-grave pro-life voter in a deeply red part of the country.


I am a Jesus follower who does not believe God needs a politician to save anything.


I am a member of (and live adjacent to) a Country Club and spend hours each week advocating for my undereducated and economically disadvantaged neighbors who live less than a block away.


My inner circle includes black people, white people, doctors, business owners, and struggling single mothers.


I have simultaneously served as a foster parent, deeply entrenched in lives of addiction and poverty, and a private school parent-teacher organization president. 


You may have followed me on social media for years and not know these things. I share all this as a reminder that most human beings are far more multi-dimensional than your initial assessment or their online persona.


I also offer this backstory today as a context for the deep concern I have, in my everyday life, for all kinds of people. And while most of us are still processing the many lessons of this period in history, I realized something today that the last 10 months have solidified for me.


My friends from all walks of life do not feel heard. This is frustrating and exhausting. You don’t have to look much further than the toddler having a tantrum to see where that leads. 


When my children were younger I frequently had to remind them what a difference their tone made in my ability to really hear what they had to say. Now that they are teenagers, we still sometimes have these talks. Whininess, entitlement, blind spots, hard truths, hunger, exhaustion, hypocrisy--real or perceived--all impact our ability to listen with understanding, as opposed to wanting to teach each other a lesson. 


As adults that share a society, we cannot continue to just step over the people having tantrums and go about our business.  We have to pause and help each other find our words. 


Adults know they cannot win every time--and I don’t think most people expect to, as long as they feel there are people in leadership listening and working towards a common good. Unfortunately, it is no longer clear what COMMON good looks like. 


When everything becomes win or lose, all of life feels like war. Conversation shuts down because it doesn’t feel productive. So, frustrated people march, yell, protest and then retreat to their echo chambers where they are fired up and refueled for the next big fight--but nothing happens, except increased divisiveness. 


We cannot move forward in this cycle of fearing what is different. We have to humble ourselves and start trying to listen to each other again...not through shouts, but through honest sharing of our fear and need. Less they and more we. 


I am praying and processing what this looks like in my own sphere of influence. How do we enter into mutually respectful conversations (during a Pandemic) with friends, family, and neighbors where defensiveness is soothed by loving and productive curiosity? How do we start to trust each other again? 


I believe we are seeing the fruit of a lot of things that don’t work: depersonalizing people, swiftly judging and putting labels on others, and making everything a fight. 


We must get our conversations off of screens and back in real life, where humanity is more recognizable and the tone can be heard in the context of relationships. 


It will be painful, slow, and cost all of us something...but the profit will be progress, peace, and a true living out of our faith as we love one another in sacrificial and meaningful ways.