August 29, 2014

The First Days

The first days of school have already come and gone.  My big boy is officially a Kindergartener and so far his biggest complaint is that he has to sit criss-cross-applesauce on the floor sometimes and it hurts his legs.  He has had a couple of rough days this week adjusting to early mornings and a day full of activity.  And saying goodbye is still the hardest part, though today was finally a successful tear-less arrival at school.
Also, no one ever tells you about the horror that is the after-school pick-up line.  Even I cried the first day.  You might too if it took you 45 minutes to pick up your son and you had no way of telling him that you were there.  It was a good thing I had balloons and candy waiting for him in the backseat because he was quite anxious and frustrated that he had to wait so long - and I couldn't say that I blamed him.

This whole week I have felt the pangs of change and growth and newness.  With Tommy starting school, our usual schedule and the familiarity of a comfortable routine is now a thing of the past.  A new routine is replacing the old one and we are having to roll with the punches and take everything day by day to see what works for us.  With Todd's unpredictable work schedule, doing dinner and baths and bedtimes all alone a few nights a week feels more exhausting than it did before.  I'm having to pay closer attention to my limits and boundaries and remember that I can't do it all.  Which is why I have laundry strewn about my bedroom and dirty dishes that are literally piled up in the sink.

This morning on my way to work, I watched the sun rise through the trees and brilliantly break through the clouds all lit up in turquoise and amber.  And in that, I found the silver lining of my new and very early work schedule.  Those sunrises - it's as if God is smiling right at me and wishing me a good morning and a reminder that He is with me and remembers me.

September is around the corner already.  Sadly, it doesn't mean a lovely cool-off for autumn in my part of the world, but it does always usher in the changing of seasons in my life.  There are things I am doing and preparing for that feel big and I am seeing where every year brings more of the something I didn't have in me the year before.  That thing is what I'm hoping Tommy will discover in himself as he learns to get out of the car without being walked in by daddy and as he faces new things that feel hard and uncomfortable.

I continue my love/hate relationship with change.  Looking forward to the places I grow and bend in the midst of it all and fighting through the hard days.  Remembering that courage is feeling scared, but doing it anyway.  And waiting for autumn, the promise to harvest all that I have been diligently sewing.

August 22, 2014

A Letter for my Kindergartener

Dear Tommy,

Kindergarten is days away, and at the moment I feel as though I'm bracing myself to send you off to war rather than down the street where you'll be up to your elbows in glue and yarn and and writing your letters and showing everyone else how you already know how to count to 100.  To say I'm a mess is an understatement.

I knew I would be emotional when this day came, but I really didn't know why or what for.  My mom used to be teary eyed and sappy every year when the first day of school arrived.  I would roll my eyes when she wanted a picture and I thought she was kind of riduculous for crying because I wasn't sad or scared even - it was just school.  What was the big deal?  I never asked her about her tears, but if she were alive now, I would.  I'm curious what they were about.  I would want to know what was going through her heart and mind as she sent me off every year in my new clothes and fresh supply of pencils and notebook paper.

There were tears for you last night - I wept.  Oh did I weep.  I cried because it feels like these five years have flown by and I'm afraid I missed something.  I'm afraid I missed too many opportunities to play with you and I'm afraid that I didn't tell you I loved you enough or taught you all that you needed to know before I sent you off to school.  I'm afraid I missed you or I missed something and I haven't adequately prepared you for this new 13 year-long adventure.

But I cried mostly because I am scared.  I cried because of the things that could happen, of the things you might hear or see.  I cried because I want to protect your precious heart from the cruelties and the harsh people of the world.  I cried because I remember some of the hard things about school.  How I never felt like I belonged, how I was left out.  How I was picked last for kickball every single time, how I always felt like a nobody.  And the one time I hid in the bathroom the entire lunch period because I had no one to sit with and hiding in the bathroom stall felt less embarassing than sitting alone in the cafeteria.

Going to school is all parting of growing up, and I know that.  There are so many lessons to be learned - and not just about long division or grammar.  But about people and kindness and hard work and friendship and respect and teamwork and learning who we are, even if it's spending 45 minutes in a bathroom stall wondering why you don't have the guts to sit by yourself and read a book or something.  There are so many things that I know I could never teach you all on my own because you have to live and experience them all for yourself.  I know everything will shape and grow you, but it's the harder things I dread.  The lies that will come from kids at school or the things you might be exposed to that are harmful.  If I found out you had been bullied or picked on, I can imagine myself coming undone wanting to fight for you.  I care so very deeply about your heart and I wish I could protect it from ever feeling hurt by anyone.

I realized last night as I sobbed and went through a box of tissues, that I don't fully trust Jesus with your heart.  I think I still have a hard time trusting Him with my own because He allows us to be hurt and wounded and broken.  And while I have realized it's in those places I've come to need Him the most and it has shaped who I am now, I don't know how I am supposed to watch you get hurt when the time comes.  And I know that it will - it's supposed to.  I guess this is the part of parenting that is absolutely gut-wrenching because I have to hold more loosely to you than ever before.  As you continue to grow up, I know that I will have to always be letting you go piece by piece.  I have to trust that Jesus will meet you in the places that you need Him most.  I have to trust that everything that happens in and around you will be worked together for good like He promises.

There is nothing I desire more for you than to know Jesus - really, truly, deeply know Him.  And while I want you to be well-liked and successful and enjoy school, I want you to know Him more than I want any of that for you too.  Those are hard words to write.  They are true, but they are hard.

As I think about Monday and dropping you off for your very first day of school with your Spiderman backpack and your Star Wars lunch box, I couldn't be more proud of who you are and who you have already grown to be.  You are kind and smart and tender-hearted and silly and adventurous.  You are my firstborn and perhaps I will always see you as this little bundle of perfection, the child I prayed for and who made me a mommy.

Maybe my mom's tears were about the same thing as mine are for you.  I think she was proud of me too.  I think she was amazed at how fast time was flying by and how quickly her baby was growing up.  I think she cried because she knew she had missed me and missed a lot of somethings and she couldn't go back in time and do it all over.  Maybe she was scared too of all I would feel or hear or see and she hated that she couldn't protect me from any of it.

You may never read this or you may be a grown man before this finds you, but I just wanted you to know all of this.  How proud I am of you.  How scared I am. How much I love you and wish I could protect you from every awful thing.  And how hard it is for me to trust Jesus with your heart, even though I know that He does the best job of anyone when it comes to our hearts.

I know you're going to rock this school thing.  Go be you, son.  Be the kind, amazing, boy that you are.  Make everyone laugh and show everyone how smart you are.  Help others and don't leave anyone alone at the lunch table.  Be brave and have fun and do your very best.  I will always, always, be so very proud of you - no matter what.


August 14, 2014

A Family Gathering

We stood around the kitchen island, the last of the pizza getting cold, laughing and talking.  It was as if we were trying to find things to keep talking about about so this day, these moments, this precious time we had shared together wouldn't end.  I found myself in the familiar place of trying to remember everything about the moment I was in.  The light in the kitchen, the sound of my Auntie's laugh, the smile on my dad's face.  Everything, right down to the three pieces of uneaten pizza and leftover birthday cake from the day's earlier celebrations, was logged into my memory of this day I had spent with loved ones.  I didn't want to forget a single second of it.

I almost felt frantic about needing to record and document the day with pictures and videos, feeling a desperation to keep the memories safe and close and alive with me after this day was long gone.  I blew up my Instagram and Facebook and cell phone and camera with everything I could.  I wanted to keep it all and remember it all and hold it all.  Because it was all glorious and all beautiful and all wonderful and I was so hoping that it would be.

Over the years, I've learned how important memories are to me - creating them, remembering them, holding them safe.  After all, memories are all I really have left of my mother and it's from that wounded place, I live and I mother.  I've discovered that it's because of this, I take pictures and keep a blog and try to memorize moments because I want to give something I didn't have to my boys.  If something were to ever happen to me, I would want them to see, tangibly see, that they were loved, and to know who I was.  I guess because I've lived so much of my adult life doubting her love for me and hungering to have known her more deeply, it's something I don't want my children to have to bear.  I guess I don't want them to have to hurt like I've had to hurt and maybe as parents, that's all we ever want for our kids. 

This particular Saturday was one for the record books. It was a monumental occasion.  And my memory-keeping went into overdrive.

Our entire family was all together for one single day.  It was a grand family reunion that included a special time with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins who all flew in from Minnesta to see us.  I spent much of the week with them myself, but for one single day, every uncle and cousin and great-grandchild was present under one roof.  Something that hasn't happened in our family in over seven years.

As we sat around singing together while my dad and Uncle Brad strummed on guitars, I was overwhelmed with tears in the beauty of the moment.  All of us present, being near one another, worshiping God through song. In a single moment I sat there feeling very aware of my mother's absence, the pain of the past I carry with me, the longings I hold, the tension and dynamics of our combined relationships as a family, and the glory of this very minute I was in.  Sometimes, I feel so heavy with all that my heart is awake to feel - the beauty and the pain, the glory and the sorrow, the weight of enormous ambivalence. But it's all there to feel and I've learned not to ignore or even be afraid of the things that gnaw at me, but welcome them in and embrace them.  I feel the feelings and let them go.  And with all of us present that day, there was much to feel.

Mostly, our day together reminded me of days gone by.  Memories from years ago of togetherness and fullness of love and family.  I remember my childhood being full of many large family gatherings that included singing and eating and celebrating and just how good it felt to be and laugh and play together.  Perhaps I romanticize some of those memories and bits and pieces of my youth, but there were those bits and pieces that were very, very good.  Those bits, those pieces - they will always be true.  They happened and I remember them.

As we said our goodbyes that evening, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the very last time we would ever be able to make a gathering like this happen again.  If we waited another seven years before we were together, would my Grandparents still be alive? Would everyone still live close by?  Who might move away?  My Aunt and Uncle are moving to Iraq next month to pastor a church there (yes, you did read that correctly).  With all of us knowing what is happening in that part of the world right now, most of us hugged their necks goodbye with desperate hope that we would see them again.  My sister leaves next week to start school in Santa Fe.  Another cousin is off for college.  With marriage and children and jobs and health and how crazy it is to follow Jesus sometimes, none of us can know where life or death or God will take any of us in the coming months or years. 

As we all trickled out the door that night, I said goodbye to my family, but I also said goodbye to our togetherness.  As it very well could be the last of the gatherings with everyone present.

Our time together is now a memory  A beautiful moment we shared and one that I will hold in my heart for a very long time.  Being all together again sounded like a dozen harmonies and from-the-gut-laughter.  And it was as sweet and soft as the tears that fell down my Grammy's beautiful, aging cheeks. 

August 4, 2014

Family Beach Trip

The beach has always been my most favorite place in the world, so when I think of vacationing, I think of sand and ocean and water and being poolside in the sunshine.  I grew up going to the coast with my family almost every summer and those memories are some of the sweetest that I have.  I wanted to give my boys some of the same memories.

Last week, we drove down to Port Aransas and stayed for the week.  Seeing as it was our first vacation in six years and our first as a family, we quickly discovered that going on vacation with children feels much different.  Like when they wake up at 7:00am, and one needs a nap and the other would rather watch Star Wars than build a sandcastle.  There is no sleeping in or late dinners or long walks on the beach at night. But there was plenty of playtime and snuggles and jumping on our bed in the morning.  It was nice to have nothing to do other than enjoy our boys and be together. The week came with it's disappointments, but it came with fun memories too.  Jacob wasn't crazy about the beach, but Tommy seemed to enjoy it.  Tommy hates the pool for some reason and Jacob doesn't want to get out of it.  It's almost as if they have two parents who are just as opposite as they are.

Me?  I could stay outside all day.  Nothing is more relaxing than sitting by the ocean listening to wave after wave come to shore or by the pool with a good book and an ice-cold drink.

The week was full of adventure, relaxing and playtime.  We went swimming and built sandcastles.  We ate ice-cream and sno-cones and had the best shrimp at ever at Snoopy's.  We sat on the shore and watched the waves.  We played with our friends who got to join us for some of the time.  We watched sea turtles and dolphins go in and out of the bay at the Marina.  We walked on the boardwalk and even saw a real pirate ship. 

Our time together was sweet and much needed.  And like any vacation, it was good to get away and it was very good to come home too. 




Our summer beach trip is now behind us and summer is coming to an end already.  We are buying school supplies and readying ourselves for Kindergarten and new routines and getting back into the swing of regular life and ministry and the every day we are used to. 

Thankful for memories.  How I treasure them, especially the sweetest ones.