A Moment of Silence and Prayer

In the very early hours I am awake ~ she’s on my mind and in my prayers again…still.

One year ago today a mom in Wisconsin waited to hear that her son, a Purdue student, was alright. There was a horrific stabbing in the engineering building and like me, she waited to hear her son was OK. I received the text from my daughter that she was OK, but the Wisconsin mom waited 5 hours only to hear her son was not. He had been the target. He had been killed.

I pictured the Wisconsin mom (her name is Mary) on the floor in utter and complete despair – there are not words to describe what she must have gone through in that moment, and the next, and the next. My heart has hurt for her all year, my prayers for her have been unceasing. I wrote a letter to her that week – unable to send it, it sat tucked in a notebook for eight months, though she never left my prayers.

In October, almost nine months later, I felt I could not ignore the promptings to reach out to her, so I re-wrote that letter, sat on it for more days and finally sent it. A month later I discovered a letter in my mailbox from her ~ tears welled in my eyes as I saw the return address ~ I never expected to hear back from her.

She wrote that she understood my hesitancy to reach out but was grateful that I did. She went on to tell me that she and her family were touched by the many residents of Indiana that have reached out to her family in kindness and sympathy, that as a group we continue to reach out to them even months after the horrible tragedy they have, and are still, suffering. (Good job residents of Indiana.)

I’m writing this post this morning with a heart to gather us as moms and dads from Indiana and beyond to pray for this mom and this dad, Mary and Jim. Let’s lift them and their sons, Erich and Nate, to the Lord. They’ve had a year we cannot begin to imagine – and today is a day they do not want to remember, yet it has come regardless.

Purdue will be holding a moment of silence at noon today as the Bell Tower rings 12 times. Let’s offer our own moments of silence in our own ways today in honor of Andrew and in prayer for his family. (Click here for the January 21 Exponent -Purdue’s paper.)

(I wrote about this one year ago here.)

Doing What Matters in 2015

As I consider this New Year before me, the words BIG and transitional come to mind.

In 2015:
•   Kyler will complete the program he has been in for over two years and return to our family the first part of the year. If I’m speaking honestly, for the first 18 months he was there, I was certain he would never return to our family, so his coming home is HUGE ~ and will be full of adjustments for all of us. The healing, trust and relationship he has been building with us is a blessing we did not think we would experience. This is good, good news.

•   I’m turning 50. What the heck.

•   Courtney, our first born, will graduate from college. (Whoop Whoop!)

•   A few weeks after that Erin, our baby graduates from high school.

•   There will be a graduation party in our backyard. Consider this your invitation since I’ll be so busy!  (Just kidding Erin, I’ll have time to make your graduation announcements special too…because it matters :)

•   Kevin and I will celebrate our 25th Anniversary.

•   We are selling our Fort Wayne home and moving to Marshall, Michigan. We’ve been apart for two years while Kevin started his new job and Erin finished her last two years of high school. Kevin and I will finally be living together again. Thank goodness.

•   After 16 years in Fort Wayne we will move away from our friends ~ many who are like family. We will leave our support system, our amazing community, our church. This is a BIG transition that I am not looking forward to making.

•   The baby will start college. After spending the last few nights watching old home movies, I am perplexed by how quickly these cherubs grew up and also a little sad; I miss those sweet voices and little hands; the messy house and chaos were so worth it. As we watched video after video I was surprised by how much I wish I could go back and do some things differently ~ a column for another week.

•   Sometime in all of this Courtney will begin her career as a Chemical Engineer and will likely move to a new city where we will help her get settled and ready to begin her next phase of life.

•   Zach will come home for the summer but leave again in the fall ~ continuing his education 10 hours away in Minnesota.

•   I will have to adjust to a new, small town. I trust it will be good, but I’m mindful that this has the potential to be difficult. At the same time, I’m also appreciative that this new small town offers our returning boy, who has been through much, a fresh start. This could a huge blessing being swirled into some hard stuff.

Before any of that happens, there is painting to do, a storage room to de-clutter, three attics to sort through, closets and cupboards to clean. Our Marshall home we purchased last summer is almost 100 years old (think teeny-tiny closets) and the square footage is about half the size of this home, so there is much to decide regarding what makes the move and what simply has to go. Ready or not I am going to have to attempt to live more simply. Something I will likely appreciate, but has the potential to be hard. I may write this year about having to go through the process of getting rid of things.

So the calendar feels swollen with much, the lists could fill a notebook, yet my heart is peaceful right now. I keep hearing this in my mind “Do what matters.” I hope this holds as my mantra for the year. There will be much to do in 2015 but I want to make sure I do what matters. Right now, my mother-in-law is here for the month, so what matters is coffee with her in the afternoon, yoga mats side by side as we try to make it through beginner yoga videos, conversations, lunches, puzzles, a game of bowling and tennis on the Wii, even just sitting together. I won’t get this time back so I don’t want to miss it while it’s here. So while she’s here, this is what matters.

I may have needed to write this column for me – so I have something to come back to when my mind gets cluttered, my heart begins to race and panic sets in. Sometimes the thing that will matter will be packing boxes – sometimes the thing that will matter will be sitting in the high school gym with a friend watching a basketball game. It will be clearing clutter and meeting for coffee. It will be both.

It’s going to be a big year, full of transition…may I be found doing what matters.

What’s going on for you this year that matters?

I could not send her

“I love Ava so much, mom. I just couldn’t do it…”

Ava's bornMelissa, our very close friend (really more family member than friend) had her first baby in August and we have all been over the moon in love since. We’ve loved Melissa for many years, my kids consider her more of a sister/aunt/friend. When she and I try to describe our relationship its like friend/sister/daughter. When she met her husband we felt like we all had to approve (and we did!) and when Melissa became pregnant we all knew something special was going to take our relationship to a new place. And she did – Ava arrived and we all flocked to the hospital to meet her, with Kevin even driving 90 minutes to come meet the little bundle of love within hours of her arrival.

Erin & AvaWe’ve had the joy of seeing Ava a lot since she was born and we have all fallen so in love with her. A few weeks ago Erin was rocking Ava and talking about loving her so much. She went on to talk about God loving Jesus even more. She looked at Ava and said “I love her too much, I couldn’t send her to earth to live, suffer and die that way. Even to save all mankind. I just couldn’t do it.”

So we talked about how much God must love us to have sent His son, the One He loves, to earth ~ knowing that many would reject him, that for some this suffering and death would be meaningless. Which took us back to looking at Ava…if you knew EVERYONE would come to the saving grace of Jesus, then could you do it? She still wasn’t sure. What about knowing for many her suffering and violent death would be meaningless. No, we were confident we couldn’t send her. It’s a love we cannot comprehend.

Nativity AvaA few weeks ago our church put on Breakfast in Bethlehem – it was beautiful, stirring, joyful and brought Christmas close. And guess who was baby Jesus? Yep…Ava. When Mary, holding Ava baby Jesus, and Joseph walked in the room and down the isle with their donkey, tears quickly dropped from my eyes…”This is a taste of it.” I thought. So innocent. Just a baby, here to save mankind. Then Erin, who was a tall shepherd tending to a little shepherd walked down the isle. When she stopped to bow and worship baby Jesus I was again overcome with a tiny morsel of the real story ~ just that week Erin had changed “baby Jesus” diaper, now she was bowing to “him” as her Lord.Shepherds Are these some of the things Mary pondered in her heart?

The Christmas story got real close and personal to us this year. Our hearts literally not comprehending this amazing love that cost so much. I’ve found myself seeking more the real meaning of Christmas and resting more in the peace of it all instead of the lists that I tend to create. None of that will make it Christmas ~ it’s a pure and simple scene I am gravitating toward. The story that makes Christmas real and has the potential to bring us all up real close and real personal to our Savior. Merry Christmas to you all.

Some of these photos were taken by myself, Melissa and Keepsake Portraits & Design

The Wisest Christmas Gift

With kids who truly lack for nothing,  we decided to do Christmas in a completely different way two years ago. Instead of shopping for presenTs we chose presenCe. We purchased plane tickets and signed a rental agreement for a house in Arizona. Courtney, Zach and Erin were 20, 18 and 15 years old when we told them time together was the best gift we could bestow on them for Christmas. We stayed home to attend Christmas Eve service, enjoyed our traditional late night feast of hors d’ourves, slept for a few hours and then early Christmas morning we left on a jet plane for warm weather, sunshine, a pool and seven glorious days together.

It felt a little risky, but it also felt a lot right.

To be transparent we did give a few small gifts, mostly stocking stuffers, but their biggest and most important gift was in the form of a simple but significant envelope ~ a letter letting them know they had each been gifted 5 Wisemen for 1 year. “Back in the day” families lived so much closer to each other making a way for natural influence and more opportunity for grandparents, aunts and uncles, even neighbors and friends to be very involved in the life of a family. With that missing today we came up with the idea of “wisemen” traveling with our kids for a year ~ keeping with our theme of presenCe instead of presenTs!

We wanted to give our kids voices that didn’t belong to us; voices that could be trusted and perspectives that were different. So we created a list of people we wanted to speak into our kids ~ specific voices for specific reasons. We wanted them to have wise friends and family who would spend a year talking to them about life and work experience, integrity, faith, character, struggles, triumphs and more. We know there is much to be discussed about relationships, friendships, social media, pressures, college, marriage, humility and strength. With our transient culture, the proliferation of social media (which promotes many good things but also some a significant amount of superficial sharing), with feeling like Christian faith is being attacked and mocked in the media, and inappropriate language and conversations being overheard on a daily basis at school and at college, we believed this was one way we could speak goodness, value, belief, faith, character, integrity and more into Courtney, Zach and Erin. We also thought this was an intentional way of bringing adults directly into their lives for real relationships.

Here’s the thing we also knew ~ people are busy, which is why we spread it out. We approached five people for Courtney, five for Zach and five for Erin. We asked them if they would consider entering the life of one of our kids in a very intentional manner over the course of the new year. We asked them if they would email, call, or meet for lunch or coffee 2 to 3 times during that year. With 5 people reaching out to each of them 2-3 times a year, that would be at least 10 to 15 conversations with other adults who cared about them. That my friends, is quite a gift.

Each of our kids received a specific person who could talk to them about their future careers, someone who would meet them where they were on their faith journey and walk with them.  They each received one extended family member, as well as one person who I felt was put on our hearts for each particular child. Lastly they each received the gift of a dear friend of mine who has been in our lives for many, many years, I chose her because as our kids were turning the corner of adulthood I wanted her voice to go with them, linked more directly to them instead of just through me. It was quite a year – there were lunches, very early morning coffee dates, Skype times, notes and cards in the mail, texts, conversations, mentoring, walks and more. As a parent it was incredible to watch other really good adults pour into our kids.

I told our kids I was writing this article and asked each of them what they took away from, or appreciated about, the year of the Wisemen. Zach, now 20, said he liked that it put mentors in his life, he said he got a lot out of things that he was taught, but his big takeaway was the importance of a mentor in his life. Courtney, now 22 appreciated knowing that people of influence in her life, people she thought highly of and looked up to, were thinking of her and had committed to guiding her. Erin, now 17, says “Having other adults cheer me on in life was meaningful. Also as a kid it can be hard to create relationships with adults, even though we want to, so it was beneficial to have a catalyst for these relationships that we could develop.”

The wisest Christmas gifts we ever gave was the gift of wise men and women to walk a little more intentionally alongside our kids. It seemed a good time to write this – as we scurry busily around during this season it’s good to be reminded that what we truly need most isn’t all the presenTs under the tree, it is the presenCe of others in our lives.

thankful and centered

Last night our family (at least the small remnant that still lives at home) went to a Gratitude Service at our church. I remember the first service like this we attended – it was held on the eve of Thanksgiving. A portion of the service was to sing songs of thanksgiving to God for who he is and all he had done. There were also open microphones set up in a few places and people got up slowly but surely to share what they were grateful for.

I remember thinking that the eve of Thanksgiving didn’t seem like the most convenient time to take a break and go to church, after all there were pies to ready and stuffing to make, among other many details. But sitting in a peaceful candlelit service reflecting on and thanking God for all he had provided suddenly felt right, natural, and centering to my soul. Last night as we sat in that gratitude service, my heart was pounding – the multitude of blessings I have to be grateful for is stunning. I felt overwhelmed as I slowed my thoughts to truly consider some very specific things for which I am thankful.

This is the time of year when it can seem like the whistle has blown and we’re off and running, running , running. Planning this and stressing over that. Shopping, wrapping, baking, counting the days – and not necessarily in the Advent season kind of way, more along the lines of “I’m running out of time and still have so much to do” kind of way. I’m intentionally going to take some time to just “be” even in the midst of all I will also need to “do” over these next 30+ days.

This week I am encouraging you and me to intentionally take some time (that we are sure we don’t have) to really pause. Take some time and space to feel the gratitude that already exists within us; sometimes I’m so busy fluttering around in this life that I find myself many times acknowledging but not really feeling gratitude. I felt it last night – and it centered me once more.

At some points this season may we each find ourselves centered and grounded while much (even the very hard stuff that we do not understand) swirls around us. May you and I make a way to speak our grateful thoughts out loud and express them to each other, as well as to the Lord.

The Prayer Pot

Inspired by my daughter Erin’s prayer box, I decided I would write down names and put them in a container to pull out and pray over, so I created a list of people as they came to my mind. I didn’t know what to use as my prayer box or basket so that paper simply got buried in a pile of papers on my counter. That pile was then transferred to a bigger pile on my dresser when I was “tidying up” one day.  Weeks later while sorting through some of those piles I came across the paper of names, so I typed and printed them, and cut them up into little strips. I settled on putting them in a little blue pot that I purchased to grow herbs this summer (which I also never did). And even then the little blue pot filled with names sat on top of my kitchen hutch for a few more weeks. Weeks in which I never dipped my hand into the pot – not pulling even one name.

Then one day I knew it was time to get this new way of praying  for others off the ground. One of the very first names I pulled happened to be the name of the person I love more than anyone. We had had a tough weekend and I wasn’t feeling so loving and gracious, so of course God would literally hand me his name. Here is how his name was handed to me ~ I had pulled two names that were stuck together and while I tried to rub them apart between my fingers, another name seemed to leap from the pot and land on the hutch. Interested and slightly amused, I dropped the two stuck names back in the pot and thought ‘This must be the person I am to pray for.’ It turned out to be my husband’s name. ‘Of course.’ I thought to myself. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. So I dropped my thoughts and ways and prayed for the man God gifted to me as my husband.

The next afternoon I was washing dishes and thinking of my sister-in-law. I was specifically thinking that I should be praying more for her kids. I prayed for them in that moment over the sink, and the next morning I ‘just happened’ to pull the slip with their three names on it. God was getting my attention. I pulled the name of my best friend’s daughter who had recently left for college, then I pulled that friend’s name the next day. Early one morning I pulled my youngest daughter’s name and when she came home from school said she had needed prayer so badly that day; she was amazed to discover I had pulled her name.

On and on it goes – I could tell so many stories of the names I have pulled.

Today was the one that took my breath away though. There is a mom I have never met, but who I think of often and pray for constantly. After months of neglecting the prompting that I believe God put in my heart to reach out to her, on Friday I finally sent her something in the mail. I have been whispering prayers all along the way that this is from God, that my reaching out is not intrusive, that I have perceived this nudging accurately, that it is of God, and not of me.

This morning it was her name I pulled from my prayer pot.
I have been at peace since, all doubts erased.

This prayer pot has been one of the most exciting prayer endeavors I have ever participated in ~I am eager each morning to see who I am to pray for.  I believe God has given me enough of a glimpse to understand that whomever I pull from that prayer pot, there is a reason to be engaged in prayer on behalf of that person (As if I had forgotten how much it matters to pray for others!) If I never get another glimpse of the intentionality that seems to be behind the placing of the names in my hand each morning, I have been reminded that praying for others really matters, and I will hold it as an honor to pray for others in this way that might seem so random, but clearly is not.

Thanks to my daughter for leading the way…

Ephesians 6:18 ~ And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Another gift in all of this is that despite my many shortcomings, delays, piles and whatnot, God still is using me. Broken and kinda messy, but still useful and loved.

The Dreaded Adoption Anniversary

Though I had been at it for four years, I could never get the celebration of the adoption right for our boy. I tried cooking his favorite meal ~ a tradition for birthdays in our family, that didn’t hit the mark. I tried baking cakes, he didn’t care. We tried keeping it low key, more of an acknowledgement than a celebration, to no avail. So each time I got nervous as that adoption anniversary rolled around, ‘How would I screw it up this year?’ I wondered. And to be totally honest, I also wondered why he was so resentful of living in a family that was so good to him, who loved him, cared for him, and provided the first safe place in his life.

This year was different.

We are now at the two year mark of him living away from us. At the 15 month point of the program he began a journey leading him more and more into healthy thinking, less destructive choices and he seemed to turn toward relationship with us. As the 5th anniversary of the adoption drew closer he began to bring it up, “October 8th is coming up.” he would proclaim. “My adoption anniversary is coming up.” His drawing our attention to this date was unchartered territory…‘Proceed with Caution’ my spirit seemed to say.

We had our weekly Skype session on the 5th anniversary of his adoption into our family. That day we had our first open, honest and mature conversation about why this date never felt very happy. Except it did on the day of the actual adoption ~ oh, what a happy day that was. Although in retrospect, maybe he truly wasn’t very happy that day. The truth is ~ although he gained a family who loved him and would be there for him, he also lost a lot that day too. And he was not quite 11 years old, how could he possibly understand all that may have been coursing through his mind and heart.

I remember being cognoscente of the losses ~ his mom, living with his siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Even if they weren’t healthy or safe, they were his. They had known him from the beginning. He had learned how to navigate daily through treacherous waters and had to learn where to put his feet.  I knew he also lost camping, country music, cooking that was familiar to his palate, even living out his given birth order ~ he was second oldest in a sibling group of five, now he was the youngest in a group of four. Somehow I just believed that the love, safety, consistency, stability, and community would be enough to offset those losses. I knew he lost a lot and I wished none of it ever had to be taken, a family being split was not in the original plan for the family. But wasn’t it good that he landed in a safe and loving place? He was likely too young, too immature, too damaged by his time on this earth to ever communicate all that was swirling around within him.

He was adopted at an age where he clearly understood who his mom was, craved her arms, her scent, her voice and laughter. He was old enough to know he didn’t want ME to be his mom, he wanted HER to be his mom. He wanted her to be his safe and secure place. He wanted his own family, not ours. Although in my mind I got it, I’m not sure even I could grasp the emotional enormity of it all…for either of us.

Anyway…October 8, 2014 he wanted to acknowledge his adoption. He reminded me of some of the things we had done for him, of which he told me were very nice, one thing I had even forgotten. After living in an environment with other boys who also had great struggles, issues and problems, and family styles, he went on to tell me he realized he was indeed lucky and blessed to call us his family. I didn’t feel over the moon with joy, I didn’t utter ‘Finally!’ in my soul, I just felt peace. Sweet, quiet peace.

This is our continuing adoption story. It’s beautiful, it’s messy, it’s evidence of the grace and faithfulness of God. And it’s beginning to turn the corner.

Not to be Mocked

All through the Skype session last week with our youngest and his therapist, these were the thoughts going through my mind ~ This isn’t going well. He’s disengaged. He doesn’t seem to care. He’s apathetic. He’s responding but with no conviction. This is where he spirals and sabotages progress. He’s so close to the next level, but could blow it this week. Oh my goodness, help me Jesus to help him see something new. It was an emotionally exhausting hour.

At the end of each session, he and I get 20 minutes alone to just talk. Most weeks, at some point I pull out my all-time favorite devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and read to him for that specific day. It’s bizarre so God-like how the days seem to match up perfectly each time I read to him from the book. So last week with nothing else to say during our alone time, I suggested we look at September 17th in the devotional and see what it says. It was once again amazing.

After an hour of speaking wisdom, asking questions, listening for clues – all to seemingly no avail – I read the devotion for that day and everything changed. He got it – he was being tempted by something that matched his disposition perfectly, and when he gained that understanding he independently put together a three-point plan to address that temptation for the coming week.

To reinforce his plan I put this on my Facebook: Prayers requested for the youngest who has a temptation before him. Praying for God to strengthen his hands, mind and heart for the very important work God has him on the wall doing. (Nehemiah 6) He identified a way out – may it be so.Thanks friends.

I squirmed when hitting “post”. I struggled when many friends from far and wide said they were praying, and when many more hit that “like” button, letting me know they were in it with us. What if he falls? What if he chooses the very thing that his disposition is vying for him to do. What if he steps in familiar ways that set him back?

We’ve been down this road so very many times with our boy. Pleading with God. Endlessly asking others to pray for him. Years of waiting and hoping and praying, and praying and praying. Was it even worth asking for prayers for this one – for this week – for this temptation? What if the temptation is just too great and the report is “Thanks for praying, but he fell.”? What would that say about God?

Ahhhhhh…and there it was. The question I had to answer. ‘What does that say about God?’ It didn’t take long for the question to become ‘What does this say about me?’ What is my disposition vying for me to do? Was it to rely on God’s performance in this situation? What if our boy fell? Would that change who God is?

These words floated through my mind ~ God cannot be mocked. (Galations 6:7) True. I believe that. Whichever way this week goes, whatever our boy chooses, God will not be mocked. Someone may be trying to mock my faith, but God will not be mocked. So I spent the week rooting myself in truth. God is faithful. God has provided – in too many ways to count, our boy will get there, even if he takes the   l o n g   way home. Pray matters, in Revelation 5:9 it says …Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. So yeah, really…prayers matter. God will not be mocked. I may or may not understand what unfolds this week, but this week will have no bearing on who God is. It will reveal parts of our boy, and parts of me will be revealed, but it changes God not. So it seems our son wasn’t the only one being tempted last week.

I had no idea what I would walk into today when the Skype session began. I wasn’t surprised to find our boy’s spirit somewhat downcast, but as we talked through the hour, it was all good news. During the past week he had taken no action that set him backwards. It sounded like he stayed on the wall and did his work. As we attempted to convey to him that he is doing such good work, he seemed unconvinced,  saying “It’s just going so slow.” Yep. It is. But it’s going. We have forward movement, stay on the wall, I encouraged…you’re doing it. I cried. He seemed to wipe some tears.

Moving forward when you’re used to backward can feel unnerving, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. We’re not sure just where to put our feet and its tempting to put them back in the old tracks that have paved the way to where we are. Last week he overcame the temptation that was thrown at him, this week – of course – there is a new one. Maybe it won’t beckon so large, maybe he’ll feel more comfortable traveling in this new terrain, but we’ll be reinforcing him with our prayers as he slowly moves toward the place he is supposed to be.

And whatever happens next week and the week after that, in my life and in yours, in triumphs and tragedies…God will not be mocked.
He is good.
All the time.

Living Under the Influence

I have a wonderful opportunity next week to speak to a group of mostly retired women and some men. Upon receiving the invitation I immediately wondered what could I possibly say to a group who should be speaking into me?! But once I accepted the engagement I was sure of my message ~ You still matter, your influence is needed and valuable.

In a world moving a thousand times faster than in my grandparents day, when we seem to know it all (or can find our answer in the blink of an eye), it might just be possible that the elders in our lives could feel marginalized. Some of us feel so busy we worry that a phone call to a friend might seem intrusive. (Plus why talk when we can text? Insert sarcasm.) So what might possibly run through our parents’ and grandparents’ minds when they think of us and want to reach out? I wonder if they skip the contact because they don’t want to “get in the way” of our day.

Great-Grandma & Erin June 2001I will always be grateful for, and never forget the year my husband’s 90-year-old grandmother lived with our family. One of the moments that influenced me greatly was the day she sat at the kitchen table and asked if I would sit down and have a cup of coffee with her. I remember it vividly — I said I would pour her a cup but that I didn’t have time to sit down. In my mind was I thinking, Can’t she see I’ve got a sandbox full of sand on my floor waiting to be swept and dishes piled in the sink, not to mention the need for a shower and a dinner plan?! I don’t recall what caused me to sit down with her, but I did. Thirteen years later I still remember the sunny day I choose to sit for that cup of coffee. I recall feeling peace overcome my soul and being grateful for the reminder that people matter more than lists and sand and dishes.

That year we shared many cups of coffee and I learned to slow down. There were so many afternoons I sat across from her asking her stories about her past, and writing many of them down. She had a baby — out of wedlock — all those years ago. Imagine how strong she had to be, back when they called those children a name I won’t write here. I learned about how children, in her family line, had been “farmed out.” If you have a great-grandma, ask her what that means; it was common in our history.

That year had some difficult times, but what I gained and how she influenced me will be with me forever.  I was taking care of her but in the end it turned out we were taking care of each other ~ it was an unexpected and everlasting gift.

When I go to speak next week to the ones who carry so many stories, a lot of history and maybe a little insecurity about how they fit into the bustling extended family of 2014, I want to bring your input too. I have created a quick 10 question survey that I would so grateful for you to take. I want to tell them (and show them data) that their influence matters.

You can take the survey here:     Thank you!

Please feel free to share this link – gathering as much input as possible would be amazing. :)

Leaving Them at College

Zach college 6On August 31, 2014 we left Zach at college. Ten hours away. Lots of people do it every single year. Many of you have done it, survived, and are no worse for the wear.

I’m in process…

Zach - U of MThere are few circumstances in life in which we can so acutely feel opposite  feelings simultaneously; this is one of them. I could not be more excited for Zach. This is the university he has wanted to attend for so long, delivering him to this campus was exciting!

But then hugging him one last time Sunday morning was one of the hardest things I’d done in a very long time. Ten hours is a long way away.

Family Support :)
Family Support :)

When he stayed at home his freshman year and attended Indiana-Purdue University near home I had to get used to him suddenly being around some of the days – in my space. It was different after years of a quiet house while they all went to school, but I adjusted and we found a comfortable rhythm. Now it’s very quiet once more and I’m adjusting again. I’m confident I’ll be comfortable in short order, that’s not exactly the hard part. The hard part is waiting for him to feel comfortable and connected all those miles away. He will. I know he will. But this is the hard part.

Zach - family shotSo it’s both ~ happy and hard. When I feel sad, I promise you it’s not that I want him here, he was ready, prepared and eager for his next phase.  It’s just that launching your kids out of the nest leaves most of us feeling empty inside for a spell. My sister called the morning of Day 1, before she called I had assessed how I was doing and the verdict was well. The sun was shining (a guaranteed spirit lifter) and I was ready to move through the day, but then she asked how I was doing and I burst into tears. Oh my goodness, that took even me by surprise.

Courtney joined the road trip to Minnesota
Courtney joined the road trip to Minnesota

There does exist a bit of a grieving period. I will never again be in this particular mothering phase with this particular child ~ the door is closing. The little guy who needed so much from me his first four years, who endeared himself to me with his adorable voice, scuffed cowboy boots, blue eyes, white-blond hair, whose love of a night-time song in the rocking chair, and whose miniature hand disappeared in mine, well…he’s growing up and suddenly one day my hand felt small in his.

I do realize he’s been growing all along, but trekking 600 miles across the midwest caused it to hit me in a new way. There have been so many “lasts” along this mothering journey ~ and there are times you become keenly aware that you didn’t even notice many of them as they came to pass. When did the last tea party happen with his sisters? Where are those cowboy boots, and when was the last time he held my hand as we walked to get ice-cream?

U of M with Minneapolis Skyline
U of M with Minneapolis skyline

Happy and hard. When the hard part washes over me, I tell myself this is part of the process, so step in and feel it. The happy, content, and proud part exists underneath all of what I am experiencing. We invested much into raising future adults after all, not children, and he keeps taking the next steps in that process. This does my heart good.

Saying good-bye to Emma was hard too.
Saying good-bye to Emma was hard too.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11
May the Lord bless and keep you Zach.