New Chapters of a Favorite Book

It’s been eight years since I wrote these words about our first one leaving the nest for college. It’s that time of year for many of you so I thought I’d drop these words here today. I’d LOVE to hear about your experience of leaving your son or daughter at college ~ leave a comment to share ❤

Original post August 31, 2010
It’s time to report that everything did not change on August 14, 2010.

If I felt everything changed the day she left for kindergarten, then surely everything really would change the day Courtney, our first born, left for college. The sadness I discovered when she climbed onto the bus for elementary school surely would not compare to the grief I would walk into as she left for college.

I remember the first time the new feelings hit me. It was the spring break of her junior year; she and I were at the college for a visit. The day was sunny and exciting, how fun it was to be doing this with her! My parents had not taken me on any college visits, so this was new territory and I felt so blessed to offer her this experience. Then I glanced at her walking beside me and my chest suddenly felt tight and slightly crushed. It came out of nowhere; my throat constricted, my eyes welled up and the first wave of a grief-like feeling crashed into me.

Those feelings hit at random times over the sixteen months, but waves came more frequently those last few weeks before the move. One day while on the patio by myself a big one hit out of nowhere, it  felt like my heart skipped a few beats and I had a sharp intake of breath, tears sprang to my eyes and I felt deep sadness wash over me. Not sure what to do with these new feelings, I intentionally spent little time thinking of the upcoming moving day. But the calendar kept moving toward it.

The day we moved Courtney was beautiful and the college had the whole freshman moving day thing figured out. There was an unmistakable air of excitement. We got almost everything up in one trip, laughed so hard as she and I tried to figure out how to make the lofted bed! Even as I helped, I tried to stand back as she figured out where to put her items in her tiny space (so hard for a mom who loves to organize). It came to be time for lunch, then we met her lovely roommate, went off for a Target run, back to the dorm for last touches and then the good-byes. She was excited, comfortable, and confident. She had dinner plans with Katie, her friend since second grade, and I was feeling stronger than expected.

 

Then her baby sister wrapped her arms around her neck and about broke in two. Oh, oh, oh, ohhhhh…tears sprang to my eyes. . .but unexpectedly grief stayed at bay. Her big 6’2″ little brother wrapped his arms around her – practically engulfing her. I felt such a pride swelling within me at these sibling relationships; we did it, we helped this trio cultivate strong love and deep bonds. And grief stayed at bay.

Even when her dad pulled her in for a hug I was okay. When I wrapped myself around her I just knew in my deepest parts that she would be fine. I was not saying good-bye, as I wiped tears I understood I was saying hello to this amazingly, wonderful young adult daughter of mine, and new chapters were about to unfold.

I credit God with granting me strength for those moments and the ones that followed. The drive home was quiet as Erin & Zach took in the new dynamic that would unfold at home as the three musketeers became the two amigos. It was good for me to be one who was strong and confident in the knowledge that we would all be not just okay, but indeed we would all be good.
To be sure…I miss her in this house. I miss her in my daily life.I wonder about her more times than I could count in a day. And in all of that, it’s still good. We parented toward this. She is making friends, being responsible, becoming independent. Everything did not change, but many things did and will. But it’s rather like discovering your favorite book didn’t end, there were many more chapters captured in volume two. . .and you just discovered volume two. . .and you can’t wait to see where the story goes.
(August 31, 2018…this one who blazed the trail graduated, got her first job and 401K. She moved to Naperville, IL and is currently living and working New Orleans, LA. Being a mom is an incredible adventure and we are more resilient, elastic and brave than we think we might be, so be encouraged moms (and dads) everywhere – we can do this!)

A Second a Day, Summer 2015

I have the honor of having my daughter, Courtney as guest a writer today…

This past summer was a huge one – I graduated college, spent some much appreciated time with friends and family, watched a baby start to grow into her engaging and hilarious personality, started a CAREER in engineering (that still sounds weird), parted ways with someone I really care about, moved to a new town, helped my family prepare to move out of my childhood home, and a couple days into June, learned how to properly orient phone videos.

A few days after graduation, I realized I wanted to capture this transitional period as a way to remind myself to be present in the moment, instead of worrying about what the next few weeks and months were going to bring. I started taking little clips of videos every day, inspired by those “second every day” videos you see every now and then. It’s not the traditional second-a-day video, although there are representations from each day over the 3 month period I chose to record. Some days have several video segments dedicated to them; each video is approximately 1.5 seconds long. You would be surprised how much more can happen in half a second, and how much more emotion can be captured.
     This project allowed me to both step back and lean into moments with the people I care about, and the moments I had to myself. A lot of the time, taking these clips gave me the same warm feeling you get when you stop for a second in the middle of an evening with friends and quietly watch the people you love enjoy themselves. It also allowed me to actively look for little moments in each day I wanted to record; this was a great exercise in gratefulness. I noticed things about the people around me; how my sister tilts her head back every time she smiles in surprise, how my grandma’s face lights up when she’s speaking to a loved one. Part of the way through the summer, I started editing, and noticed that my dad was in very few videos. My parents spent two years living in separate houses after he got a new job to make things easier on my younger siblings, who were finishing high school and attending a local college, and he was working during the week while I spent a lot of weekends away. Realizing that we spend a small amount of time together made me more appreciate and aware of the time that we do have, for which I am grateful.
     Finally, during the making of this video I noticed two things about time; how quickly it goes, and how much of it I pretend is inconsequential. I almost always have my eyes forward on an event I’m excited about and I’ve often been guilty of having a countdown going to wish away days until it gets here. One example that presented itself this summer were visits to my then-boyfriend, who lived a few hours away, but also came in the form of visits to friends, apartment hunting, and vacations. Watching the videos back, I was surprised at how much time was between those events, and how quickly they went when they did come. It made me realize that counting down until the next big thing has a way of making you cheat yourself out of the time you have right in front of you. Having visible reminders of the in-between days made me realize that they’re not really in-between at all; those days are what make up most of my life. I’m thankful that I liked what I saw in those days. I’m not perfectly reformed yet, but I’m doing my best to consciously enjoy those days now.
     In conclusion, I loved this summer. It was fun, it was exciting, it was scary, it was at times sad and hard. I got to see a lot of the people that mean the most to me. I had to say goodbye to people, places, and entire chapters, and I got to welcome a whole new part of life. I’m glad I have the opportunity to look back upon it, literally.
You can see the video here.

The Baby is at College and I’m on the Couch

Zach and Erin Aug 2015We took the baby to college.
The baby.
To college.

Curiously it was not as hard as I had expected. Maybe it was because I’ve done it twice before, or because she’s attending the university from which her sister just graduated, or because when it came down to goodbye she had a hard time, which propelled me into “strong” mode. Whatever the reason, I was caught off guard by the relative ease of the day and the absence of tears on the drive home.

Then ‘the day after’ happened and I was caught off guard again. The quiet of the house, the knowledge that she wouldn’t come bursting through the door with lots to talk about, the new reality that she wouldn’t snuggle up to me at the end of the day left me feeling empty.

Though the ‘To Do’ list is longer than ever with our move just around the corner, by mid afternoon I cleared my evening calendar and by six o’clock I was the couch with a blanket and pillow and stayed there until it was time to climb into my bed.

This sending to college causes emotional confusion. I’m over the moon to receive the texts that include “having a blast”, “happy!” & “making connections!” I’m so proud of her and confident she is ready, and believe it’s going to be a fantastic year. AND at the same time it’s difficult to take in the emptiness that weighs down my heart, the change is so abrupt. So for the second night I found myself climbing onto the couch, and sinking into the quiet and comfort it offers. My internal GPS is whispering that I’m off course and it’s trying to find it’s way. I suspect I am recalibrating to this new season, and the couch has offered a place to park and wait.

I read the article I was the sun, and the kids were my planets. Beverly Beckham described exactly what I am feeling. Exactly. If you have sent a child to college then read that article. Seriously. I felt less alone and less confused. I sent it to my husband, giving him the words I could not string together.

When I was first pregnant I spent incredible amounts of time on the couch, my body had a really hard time with the pregnancies, so when I read these lines — To grow a child, a body changes. It needs more sleep. It rejects food it used to like. It expands and it adapts. To let go of a child, a body changes, too. It sighs and it cries and it feels weightless and heavy at the same time.

When I read those words I understood; my body, that holds my mind, my soul and my heart needs a little recovery time. This is just part of the process. And it’s all going to be OK.

I find that each phase my kids enter becomes my favorite – I’m confident that is the direction I am heading.

We’ll get there, fellow momma’s traveling this road…we’ll get there.

A Bin and a Prayer

While grabbing a book from the coffee table recently, I knocked my daughter’s book on the floor and out spilled little slips of paper from within. Written on the slips of paper were the names of people ~ friends and peers from school, as well as kids and adults from church, camp and more. I knew instantly these names had come from the bin. Let me explain…

Original Prayer Box Erin has been praying for others for as long as I can remember. When she was about 10 years old I really became aware of her dedication and discipline to pray; she had converted a Valentine’s candy box into a prayer box and in it she had placed both names and categories of people for whom she was praying. (I found myself sometimes telling you I’d pray for you and then forgetting – not nearly as dedicated as my 10 year old!) Erin had (and still has) a particular burden on her heart for soldiers, as well as the vulnerable ~ she had slips of paper in that box that included “foster kids” and “unsung heros”. At 10 years old I discovered she was also more diligent then I was to pray for the leaders of our church when I saw their names inside her box as well.

Today Erin is quickly moving towards being 17 years-old and the spilled slips of paper is evidence that she is still praying for those around her. Over Christmas she told me that her prayer box was very full so she was going to make a prayer bin instead, and so she has. It’s already almost full of names of those she prays for – names of friends and peers, even names those who have slighted her or hurt her feelings. There are kids she teaches in Sunday school, adults who serve alongside her at church, pastors and their families, soldiers – both named and unnamed, kids she has been a counselor for at summer camp, married couples within our circle, kids who are loners, popular and more. I am humbled as I consider her heart and passion for praying for others. She is my example.

So today I followed her lead and have created my own prayer box. I put in my own slips of paper with names that came to my mind, and like Erin, I will continue to add people to my box as life goes on. Also like Erin, I will weekly pull names out of my box and pray for their needs  – both known and unknown.

Thanks, Erin for leading the way on this important spiritual discipline.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18

A Girl and her Prayer Box

I am working on a column about how my 16 year-old daughter leads me by her quiet example. Before I share that column it seemed important to give you some history, so I’m taking you back almost five years to show you the place where it all began. The column below first appeared in April of 2009:

April 26, 2009

A Daughter, a Prayer Box & Soldiers

Parts of today’s post are taken from a journal entry written April 17, 2009:

I am on a plane headed to Florida to meet my sister-in-law and I am sitting next to a young combat soldier named Kevin. He is headed back to Iraq to continue his second tour of duty. He was home for R&R; he gets fifteen days…once a year. He says he wasn’t exactly ready to go back, but alas here he is on the plane headed back to complete his duty. What an honor to be placed next to him. This is the second time in a row I have been placed next to a soldier on a plane.

On my last flight his name was Wendall. He was sitting in front of me, I tapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for his service, I then asked him if there was a way to pray for him.

My boldness is inspired by my youngest daughter, Erin, who is 11. One day about a year ago I found a 191 heart box on her dresser. It had been given to her with candy as its contents, but when I opened it this day the contents were sweeter than anything I could have imagined. It was filled with little strips of paper with names on them. Her candy box had become a prayer box. “Soldiers”, “Pastor Stan”, “Unsung Heroes”, “Foster kids” and more…at her tender age, how does she know to pray for leaders, soldiers, and so many others?

I told Wendall about this box, he told me to tell Erin he appreciated the prayers and would pass this on to his friends in Iraq. He asked for us to pray for his safety.

So here I am on a plane again and it is another soldier who sits down next to me. How honored to be placed yet again next to someone who serves on my behalf. I am excited to tell Erin I get to tell  another soldier that he is covered in prayer as he serves.

I learn he joined the army to get out of a tough neighborhood. He didn’t want to go the way so many around him were. The army has been good for him he says, but he is anxious to finish his time (2 more years) and start school. His first tour was in Baghdad and he says it was rough, he saw things he won’t soon forget. This current tour is in northern Iraq and its pretty peaceful. I learn his family is his mom and his sister. He says his mom cries whenever they say goodbye. I can only imagine.

He is sleeping, as curled up as he can be and his head is against the window. He looks so young, he is 22, I am 44, he could be my son. I think of my son, who is 14 and already growing into a man sized body, what if this were my son leaving for Iraq? I think of this soldier’s mom and I find myself praying over his mind, his body, his heart and his soul, may all be protected as he serves our country. May God’s peace fall upon him in great and abiding ways.

When he wakes up, I learn he has a six hour layover in Atlanta, I have felt in my spirit to give him some money for lunch and dinner. How awkward, how will I do that, I wonder? The plane is landing and I know I will regret it if I don’t listen to what I believe is the Holy Spirit. I turn to him and try to hand him some money, telling him I would like to buy him his meals today. “No thanks ma’am” he says very politely. “Please let me do this for you.” “No thank you ma’am.” he says again. I looked him square in the eye and said “Erin would want me to do this for you.” he looked down…took the money and said “Tell Erin I said thanks.”

192 Thank you Erin for being so big in your prayers, for your inspiration, for making me bold on your behalf. Thanks for being the kind of kid who would want to buy a soldier a meal – I know in my heart this is indeed what you would have wanted.

And be safe Kevin, we’re praying for you and your comrades.

You can click here to read about how another soldier’s name made it into Erin’s prayer box in 2011. And here for the one that made it into the box in 2013.

A Very Sweet 16

This sight makes my heart happy. The table and chairs are empty now, but just a few minutes ago they held eighteen girls all here to celebrate Erin turning Sweet 16.


Ten years ago, when she was six, she wanted a tea party with triangle sandwiches and pop in a tea pot. She asked her friends to wear dresses and she provided hats, gloves and boas for the luncheon.

 


This year she wanted a sit down dinner with her favorite pasta dish and homemade bread. She again requested that her friends come in dresses to her birthday dinner – and they all did. This year she also requested no gifts, she really, really just wanted her friend groups to come together and have fun for one evening, that was the gift she wanted. How did she so quickly get so mature?

At some point after dinner, dresses were exchanged for shorts and t-shirts and the whole gaggle of them ran off in bare feet on a scavenger hunt. Each group started with a birthday candle and were to knock on doors and “trade up”. The group that came back with the best trade would win. The girls had so much fun, and now we have a chair and ottoman sitting in our front yard! Who gave them that?!

It is now late and little candles light the table that they have gathered around once more, and I hear laughter. So. much. laughter. It makes my heart happy. I see girls with heads together on the trampoline, girls at the table playing some sort of word game, my husband getting a fire started. I see a little girl in a wide brimmed hat and while gloves, and I hear burping as she and her friends drink too much pop, and then laughing! So. much. laughing.

This mom thing…it just makes my heart happy.

Friday Funny

My friend Janna writes One Tired Momma over here. Each week she writes a post titled Wednesday Wit. You should read her blog, it’s really good. I thought of her weekly Wednesday Wit posts when, while sorting and simplifying, I came across a copy of an email I had sent to my family back in 2002; Erin was 4 years old. I have a few more of these little gems that I found so I will post these for a few weeks on Fridays.

My kids are now 20, 18 and 15, its hard to remember when they were so little and the sweet and funny things they said and did. It’s been a treasure for my kids to hear their own words and see their personalities through little writings of mine that we are finding…Moms of young children, write down some of what your kids are saying now. Trust me on this, you will be blessed beyond measure down the road by taking the time to do this now. Even if you’re not organized about it, someday you will be going through a box, or a file, or a drawer and will time travel back to when they were small – except there will be no whining or sticky hands this time around.

Here is what it said:

Erin: Mom, dinosaurs are un-pooped, right?
Me: Un-pooped??
Erin: Yeah…umm…un-stinked.
Me: Do you mean extinct?
Erin: Yeah, are they?

See you next Friday for another one!

 

 

Crisis – I Lost My Phone!!

Guest Blogging today is my daughter Courtney. She sent this post to me months ago and it kept getting lost within my in-box…today it has been found. (The post, not the phone.)

On my first day back on campus for my junior year at Purdue, the unthinkable happened… I lost my phone. I had met up with a friend to catch up and drink some bubble tea by the clock tower, and at some point had received a text asking what I was doing later that night. I responded, set my phone down, finished up tea, and walked back to my apartment. Halfway back, I realized that the miniature computer I had only had since last October was not in my purse… or my pockets… and when I walked back to the bench we had been sitting on, I found that it wasn’t there either. I tried to text the friend I had been hanging out with, only to remember that was nearly impossible without a phone.

I traced my steps a few times and said a silent prayer of thanks that I already had dinner plans, so when I arrived at the restaurant I had my friends call my phone and leave a voicemail. “Wait… you need my password to get into my voicemail. WAIT… you need my tracer passcode to get into my phone.” I remotely installed apps for lost phones, set a screen telling anyone who found my phone to call my mom at her number, forced my phone to send me pictures and sound bytes of its location, tried to use GPS (the radius of its potential location was 1856 meters. Thanks, phone), and went on several recon missions until the battery’s inevitable death. For days after I frequented the campus’s lost and found locations and checked the activity online, but all my efforts were fruitless, and remained fruitless for the next two weeks, until I got a SIM card for my high school flip phone. But during those two long weeks, something crazy happened.

I survived the experience.

The thing I was most worried about was becoming a social recluse. How do you make plans without a phone? But I found something encouraging – when my friends wanted to see me or were making group plans, they made the effort to reach me on Facebook or texted the people they thought I would be with to make sure I was still getting included. After a two-day-long withdrawal period, it was even kind of nice not having a phone in my pocket all the time, and I found I was able to focus for longer periods of time on a single thing. The drawback was I did get a little Facebook addicted, but when I wasn’t around a computer that wasn’t really a problem.

Thanks to my incredible parents (who dealt with two weeks of intermittent online chatting, as my computer mic was also broken, taking Skype convos out of the picture) I do have a functioning phone now, and I would absolutely choose having a phone over not having a phone (just being honest). But it was nice to get a little taste of a life unwired; it allowed me to see that I didn’t need to be constantly connected, and the friendships I had were meaningful enough that my friends put a little bit of extra effort into including me. I do feel as though phones and iPads and all this social connecting all the time has driven us a little up the wall, and the confirmation that I could survive without it all was good, as I really do sometimes wonder. It’s something good to keep in mind as we go through our lives in this culture – you can survive without a constant connection!

Walking Unaware within God’s Plan

Erin came home from school today and shared a little slice of her life. It’s a sweet story of Erin’s heart and God’s hand. It causes me to recall this verse: “…Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16. I asked if she would consider sharing it here to encourage others. Here she is….

Hey everyone! It’s Erin, Sheri’s youngest daughter, and I am guest blogging on my mom’s blog today.

At my high school, I’m involved with a peer tutoring program. In the program, the peer tutors (grades 10-12) are in the freshmen study hall classes simply to be available to the freshmen if they need any help or have any questions. We also receive notes from teachers with specific students and subjects to work with.

There was one student I was given to work with repeatedly on missing assignments. For some reason, I found myself drawn to this student. I really wanted him to succeed and turn in all his work and to raise his grade. I knew he was perfectly capable of this, because he was receiving A’s on all of his tests, but wasn’t turning in any assignments. This at least made my job a little easier, because he at least knew the material, but just wasn’t doing the work.

I continued working with this student, reminding him to do his work, walking him down to his teacher’s room to pick up lost assignments, and sitting down with him to begin working on assignments. I felt like all the work I was doing was not having any affect on him. I wanted him to turn in his work and succeed so badly, but I knew I could only do so much and he had to do the rest. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

After three weeks of constant reminders and working with this student, we finally walked down to his teacher’s room and he turned in one of the missing assignments. This felt like a huge victory for me. Though we had turned in one assignment, there were still quite a few to turn in, so we began working again.

Other things came up in the class, and I didn’t have a chance to sit down and work with this student for a week or two. Finally today, I saw him playing video games on his computer, so I asked him if he had any missing assignments to work on. We checked his grades, and found about five or six missing assignments. He found one assignment in his backpack that was already completed, so we walked it down to his teacher.

On the way there, I asked him how his Thanksgiving was. I intended it to be small talk to fill up the silence as we walked through hallway, but God had a different plan for the question. I soon found out that the student I’ve been working with is a “foster kid” (his description). And it turns out, I know a thing or two about foster care. I told him that I had a foster brother that we ended up adopting. I don’t know what it’s like to be in foster care, but now he can at least know that I’m not completely oblivious to his situation, and I do understand a few things.

I knew that I was drawn to this student for a reason. It took me almost a full semester to figure out part of the reason, but now I’m beginning to understand. I don’t know God’s full plan, but I don’t need to know the whole thing to be a part of it. Maybe I’m just in this student’s life for a semester to help him through this semester and then it’s over. Or maybe, with God, I’ll be able to make a bigger impact on him. I’ll show him that someone else cares and wants him to do his best. And maybe this whole thing isn’t about the student all. Maybe it’s God’s way to show me a piece of his plan for me. I want to major in education and recently I’ve thought about beginning after school programs for struggling students when I’m a teacher someday. This could have been God’s way to introduce me to part of his plan. But once again, I don’t really know, and I really don’t need to know God’s whole plan to be a part of it.

~Erin

Cross Country Meets Make Me Cry

Seriously, they do. It’s always at the end of the meets, and it’s always the kids in last place that make me cry. And the coaches…the coaches contribute to my tears too.

Erin is in her second year of running cross country for our high school, but in her first season that girl came in last place for her team. every. single. race. Not last in the race, but last for her team. (But here’s the thing, she also “won” every single time. That girl set a personal record each and every race – the whole season – I’ll write more about her later.) Here’s the other thing, her coach was always on the course – urging her on. I would have expected her to be off with the varsity runners, congratulating them on their races, but no – she was always waiting for Erin – her last place runner.

That got me every time. But what makes me choke up at each and every race is the runners that literally come in last in the race. And…well, their coaches.

Let me set the scene…

The first runners sprint to the finish, you wonder how they have anything left in them, but suddenly they do and it’s amazing. Then the middle runners come in and that’s exciting as you see them jostle for position right to the finish line. Then you wait….and wait…and wait…several (or most) people wander away, anxious to find and congratulate their runners, but of course a few parents still have kids on the course…somewhere.

The first race of this year really got me. Our school had a runner still on the course, so Kevin, Courtney and I waited for him, along with one other family waiting for their runner from a different school. Finally, here comes a runner, and I realize one of the people waiting off by himself wasn’t family, it was his coach. And then he is running alongside his runner – off the course – but running, yelling encouragement to him, telling him to lift those legs and use those arms, and we see the runner respond. I’m chocked up. Then our runner comes around the corner, and there are our two coaches whom I hadn’t seen before – yelling encouragement to him. (Tears spring to my eyes.)

I am convinced this is the stuff that matters in life, and I get to watch it each week of the cross country season.

A few weeks later at another race, we again waited for that last runner  – along with lots of other people – finally he came to that last stretch before the finish line and the crowd that is left erupts…clapping and yelling to him. Tears spring to my eyes again.

I don’t usually know the last runner, it doesn’t matter who they are, or what school they are from, what matters is they stuck with it, they persevered, they didn’t give up, they finished the race.

I think it probably takes more mental energy and even emotional strength to stay in the race when you know you are the last runner. I know I am as proud of the kid who comes in last as impressed as I am by the kid who comes in first.

Last year Erin told me the cool thing about running in the back part of the pack is that everyone helps everyone. You run together and if someone breaks away you tell them “Good job”, encouraging them as they go on ahead of you – even if you don’t know their name, even if they don’t go to your school. Oh, that we could all be like the runners at the back of the pack.
There are just so many lessons to be captured in cross country.