Home for the Summer

Home for the weekend

Before Courtney returned home for the summer, after being away at college, we were warned that we were probably in for a rough “re-entry” period. I can definitely see some potential land mines in reuniting back in the family home after living independently for almost a year, but I am really happy to report that we had an amazing summer.

I have heard (and can see) that summers, as well as spring and winter breaks, have the potential to leave everyone feeling a little disheartened and disappointed, but this was not our story. I’m not saying we did everything perfect, and I’m not going to tell you to do what we did, I’m just saying I believe we had a great summer because we each did some things with some thought and on purpose.

Courtney and I will write a four part series on things we each did intentionally that contributed not only to our summer, but to our relationship.

Join us here on Thursday for the first post on this topic!


Girls Only!

The other week was for girls only. Zach was serving as a counselor at our middle school church camp, Kyler was at the camp as a camper, and Kevin was in Colorado for work for the week. That left Courtney, Erin and I home alone, and together, all week ~ it was a rare and wonderful time!

Courtney has a full time internship, so she was gone during the days, and Erin did a little babysitting, but we did enjoy some fun and focused girl time together. We enjoyed watching Erin play softball during tournament week. There was one game I could not go to but Courtney was there and cheered Erin on – she was especially loud (“Great try, Erin!!!!”) when the woman next to her complained about a dropped catch. Love that.

One night we went out to a late dinner, then ice-cream, and when we got home we watched a movie and all slept in the basement! (I didn’t sleep so well as the dog seemed very confused about my sleeping down there; she kept trying to wake me up all night!)

One evening Erin went out with her softball team after a game, so Courtney and I went to DeBrands for ice-cream (you can read about Summer Weight here!) I loved my conversation with her that evening. Erin and I also trekked to Shipshewana one day; our time together was so much fun.

We went for walks, and really just simply enjoyed each other the whole week. One night we laughed so hard, we all cried. That was really good.

It was a week of living simply. No worries about dinner (I never cooked), no various schedules or plans to keep track of, we did what we wanted, when we wanted. It was wonderful.

Summer Church Camp…

The counselors Erin Served alongside

…it’s something every kid should experience. I really believe this. Erin just returned from spending six days (or 117 hours!) with kids in grades three through six. Courtney led the way for our family in this area, she was the first of our children to transition from camper to counselor. She gave some time each summer to be a counselor for elementary school kids, then middle school kids, and two years she even served at both camps – back to back!

Before long, Zach was old enough to be a counselor and took the same path; elementary one year, middle school the next. This year Erin wasn’t quite old enough to be a counselor at the elementary camp, but she was old enough to be a counselor in training. (This meant she was assigned as an extra counselor to a cabin, but didn’t sleep in the cabin and needed to be flexible to help other cabin groups as needed.)

Messy Games

Counselors give A LOT. When its hot, (and it was in the 100’s this past week) everyone wants to complain. Not only do counselors not complain, they lead the way in finding the “awesomeness” in sweltering weather! They engage, play, swim, sing, dance, pray, get messy, get eaten by mosquitoes, laugh, eat, develop heat rash, encourage, talk with, guide and lead kids, with almost no time off (one hour a day, and most used part of that hour to shower) And, I’m just gonna be honest here, most kids are a delight, some are not. But counselors find ways to take delight in every kid. I’m talking  e v e r y  kid.

The “Blob”

If you sent your kid to camp, you know they talked the WHOLE way home! Well, guess what, mine did too. Erin talked all about “her girls”. She talked a lot about one in particular. She talked about how sweet this girl was, how they encouraged her to do some of the “scary” stuff, like the Blob, the zip line, and HUGE swing.

She told us that this girl had so many stories to tell, and she listened to each and every one of them. Erin truly enjoyed talking to her all week, she said, this girl just had so much to say! At one point the girl thanked Erin for listening to her and apologized for talking so much; she said she didn’t want to waste Erin’s time. Erin replied, “You’re not wasting my time! This is why I’m here.” She thanked Erin and told her that every time they talked, Erin made her feel special. So, yes, my daughter, that is why you were there. Well done, good and faithful counselor.

Teaching & worship time

Erin ended up with another group who needed her help one evening and one girl was sad about something. She was sitting next to Erin during teaching and worship time and put her head on Erin’s shoulder. Then she nestled in a little closer as tears ran down her cheeks. Erin put her arm around her, then the girl put both her arms around Erin and started crying. (Now tears ran down Erin’s face.) This girl was simply missing her dad as knew he was leaving for two weeks while she was at camp. But Erin was there to hold her in that sadness. She said she felt honored to be there. Honored. She was glad that group had needed her that particular evening.

Amazing, exhausted, dedicated counselors

How many times have I dismissed something my kids needed from me? Comfort, time to listen to a story, time to play and swim and pray and dance and more. We all do, none of us can meet every need of each of our children. This is just one more reason to send our kids to camp. There are counselors there to do all of that and more with a mission and a focus. And they show up to do all of that with each and every child who arrives at camp. I know this. Remember, I have three kids that have been counselors and I know many of the youth from our church who come to these camps year after year.

Erin came home with a rash on her belly, back and thighs, laundry that smells terrible and she is exhausted. She also came home a stronger leader, a more equipped counselor, more confident and is even bolder in her own faith.

Today I saw this posted one her Facebook: “At camp I prayed with a girl as she accepted Jesus for the first time. From that moment on every other thing that week was totally worth it…God is amazing!”

God is amazing. I’m so proud of you Erin.

Look for me to write here soon about Zach’s 
time as a middle school counselor this summer…

God Places Another Soldier in the Prayer Box

Three flights, that’s what it took to get from my home in Indiana to Bismarck, North Dakota for an American Mothers engagement. As I sat in Minneapolis waiting for my next flight, I noticed a soldier standing near talking to another passenger. Oh, there he is. I thought to myself. I had forgotten about the soldier that I was likely to meet, but when I saw him I was not surprised. (If you don’t know what I am talking about check out the links below.) I was sure when we boarded that he would be seated next or near to me, but he wasn’t, and to be perfectly honest, I forgot about him.

As I waited and waited for my luggage in Bismarck, it became clear that it wasn’t going to arrive on the carousel. I wasn’t the only one, there were two of us without luggage; me and the soldier. Of course.

So I chuckled inside and walked over to him. “We don’t know each other, but I have a thirteen year old daughter who has a heart  to pray for soldiers. Each time I travel, there is a soldier on my plane, it’s my job to get his name so she can add him to her prayer box and pray for him.” I discovered his name is G. Cave and that he is leaving in August for one year in Afghanistan. He has a wife and six children and he said he would greatly appreciate prayers. Mission accomplished.

I wondered out loud if my bag had arrived earlier because of a missed flight I had due to a delay. He said that wouldn’t be his case but walked with me anyway as I went to the counter to ask. Both of our bags were brought to us right away and off we went on our separate ways.
Believe what you want, but I believe his name is supposed to be in the prayer box, and God did what He did to make sure that happened. I am amazed as God continues to put soldiers in my path, and that He has placed this ministry of prayer upon the heart of my child. Be safe G. Cave, you and your family are being prayed for in our home.

A Daughter, a Prayer Box & Soldiers (April 2009) & Soldiers in the Prayer Box (February 2011)

Pizza with a Purpose

When Courtney was a high school freshman, my friend Barb gave me some great advice. Courtney had become part of a group of girls that ended up in our basement often. I wondered what to do with these girls ~ wanting to embrace them without hovering. Barb said, “Feed them.”

She went on to tell me to feed them something a little special, something they maybe don’t normally get. Her speciality was home-made milkshakes. Not many people make those anymore so when she broke out the blender the girls at her house felt special.

My speciality became homemade pizza. They loved it, so I made it often. I remember the evening of her junior year prom I made a pizza for after the prom, another family ended up hosting the group of kids at their house but Courtney stopped home and grabbed that pizza to take with her. I would have loved to have had the group here, but I was delighted that a part of me went with her to the other house.

She is now a college freshman, and few weeks ago she traveled to visit her friends for a weekend at their college. I received a text while she was there that said they said they missed my pizza. It made me smile. I replied that I would make it for them over Christmas break.

Tonight my basement is full of girls home from college…along with pans of homemade pizza. I love that the simple act of making pizza impacted them. As moms, sometimes we don’t know if we are doing things that matter, or if anyone even notices. But I think it does and sometimes they do. These girls would be here even without my pizza, it was Courtney’s invitation and presence that brought them here tonight, but something simple that I did to serve them mattered. I like that. Thanks Barb.

New Chapters

Its 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 she left for college. The sadness I remember feeling when she left for elementary school surely could not compare to the grief I would feel as she left for college.

I remember the first time it hit me. It was spring break of her junior year. She and I were at the college for a visit. The day was sunny, beautiful and rather exciting. I remember thinking how fun it was to be doing this with her; my parents had not taken me on college visits and I was feeling blessed by the experience.

Then I glanced at her walking beside me and my chest suddenly felt crushed. It came out of nowhere. My throat constricted, my eyes welled up and the first wave of grief crashed into me.
It hit at random times over the sixteen months. The 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. I felt like my heart skipped a few beats and I had a sharp intake of breath, tears sprang to my eyes and I felt consumed as grief washed over me.

With that as my backdrop, I spent little time thinking of the upcoming moving day. The calendar just kept us moving toward it, and then rather quickly it was here. The day we moved her was beautiful; sunny and hot. 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 hard as she and I tried to figure out how to make this 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. Then it was time for lunch, then time to meet her lovely roommate and saying a quick hi to her family, off for a Target run, back for last touches and then good-byes.

She was as excited, comfortable, and confident as you could expect. She had dinner plans with Katie, her friend since second grade, and her El Salvador traveling partner. It was good. I was feeling stronger than I expected.

Then her baby sister wrapped her arms around her neck and about broke in two. Oh, oh. Tears sprang to my eyes. . .but grief stayed at bay.

Her 6’2″ brother wrapped his arms around her – practically engulfing her. Pride at these sibling relationships swelled within me. . .and grief stayed at bay.

Even when her dad pulled her in for a hug. . .grief stayed at bay. When I wrapped myself around her I knew in my deepest parts that she would be fine. I was not saying good-bye. I wiped a few tears and knew 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 for awhile as these siblings took in the new dynamic that would unfold as these 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 okay, that 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, its still good. We parented toward this. She is making friends, being responsible, becoming independent.

Everything did not change, many things did and will. But its kind of like finding out your favorite book didn’t end, there were many more chapters captured in volume two. . .and you just discovered volume two. . .and you cant wait to see where the story goes. . .

(For those of you wondering, yes we have 4 children. We did make some fun arrangements for the youngest to be home where he could experience a successful day and not cause disruption which could have been avoided. Sometimes a mom just has to make decisions like that.)

Hold On…

It is a big weekend. My daughter, Courtney, turns 18 today! Her commencement ceremony is Saturday and her graduation party will be Sunday. With much to do during this time, my mother-in-law has been in town most of the week to lend a hand. The other night while we were all in the living room enjoying some time together, Courtney crawled into the chair with me and laid her head across my lap. It was a moment to take in.

I was suddenly keenly aware of a few things: One was how peaceful, and even proud, I felt to have the relationship that we do at this stage that she would snuggle in like that. Another was that even as I stroked her hair I could see her little girl face just under the surface of her almost adult one. And then I looked at my husband and glanced at his mother sitting across the room and wondered how many more moments I will have like this with my child. When will she simply sit across the room from me?

Who knew there would come a time when the simple act of holding my daughter could mean so much and affect me so deeply. I don’t recall thinking, this is the last time I will bathe her, wash her hair, push her on the swing or hold her in my lap to read her a book. Those lasts just happened while I was unaware.
It is a busy, busy time in our family right now, but being cognizant of moments like this is what will help make the transition we are about to make a little easier…for we are in transition, and I am about to move a little further out on this parenting thing, but for now I will hold on where I am today with eyes wide open.