Summer, When the Thrill is Gone

Around May a combination of fatigue, expectation, and panic hits. The school year is coming to a close. Parties, field trips, award ceremonies mount up and I barely keep the schedule straight. 

Then, the weekday morning comes when I don’t have to wake anyone up, fix any lunches, or throw on half clean clothes to drive them to school.

That first morning of a relaxed schedule feels so good. It feels so good…for about 2 hours until kids are roaming the house restlessly looking for something to do. 180 days of scheduling and now…no schedule. It’s what they dreamed of so many mornings. No school! No schedule! Do what I want all day long! Livin’ the dream!

Except, the dream transitions to nightmare pretty quickly. Day one and I already heard the word BORED. I’m BORED, mom. Body thrown down hard on the couch which inches back under the weight of the boredom.

I quickly think of about 10 things that need to be done around the house. Despite boredom, none of the work I describe seems like the cure to them. No, I don’t want to take clean off my Lego shelf for new creations. I don’t want to pick up my room, transfer my dirty laundry to the washroom, or help make breakfast. 

But, I’m still bored.

It’s easy to mock these little souls in their struggle. All year they’ve wanted this and now they can’t figure out what to do. And! I’ve told them all year whenever they wanted to skip school that it’s not what it seems!

Did they listen? No! And who was right? Me!

They didn’t believe me and I want to point it out. Mom was right. Vindication!

But, kids are not so far from us adults. They express it more clearly and constantly, but it’s there in us, too. In me. My dream days of no commitments often turn into a frustrating search for significant rest. My idea of work and rest gets twisted, too.

Summer is stinkin’ hard for kids and moms alike! Some of my freedom is curtailed. I now must lead and direct the day, coaching my kids more constantly than I am used to doing. Conflicts happen and I must step in. Food must be fed and the dishwasher now gets loaded and unloaded one and a half times a day. I gotta get over it and embrace this special season, summer. The kids are home and I like my kids.

So, where do we go from here now that many weeks of summer loom in the near future? Well, for me the first step is to embrace the crucified life, accepting that it doesn’t get to be about me all the time. And, embracing the Spirit filled life, taking my sin and confessing it before the Lord, asking Him moment to moment for what I need to respond well to the new challenges.

The sermon I heard yesterday on leadership applied directly to my situation as a mom. Lead my kids spiritually. I can be a lot of different kinds of mom. The well-managed mom. The free range kid mom. The fun mom.

But, if I’m not a mom who leads both the soul and body of my child, I don’t think I’ll be all that God calls me to be.

So, some plans we instituted for summer pass muster. Kids need to do chores before they veg. Then, they don’t need to veg too long. Mom needs a pause in the middle of the day. Books are good and you will read over the summer.

But then, I feel that I must lead into the deeper issues of life. I want them to learn that work can be satisfying. Rest isn’t just the selfish pursuit of our own desires but a chance to fill up spiritually what leaks out over the course of our life in this world. And, recreation is a chance to embrace our God-given abilities and delight in His creation.

What an opportunity summer is to build into my kids lives!

I’m pretty sure, though, it will take reading and rereading my own thoughts to remind me…especially at 10 am when the word BORED has already entered the day despite dishes stacked in the sink and Nerf bullets scattered everywhere.

 

 

The Table

Each takes their plate and begins their trek down the long buffet loading up their plate, unable to fit all that’s available. Smiles, talking, laughter abound as one by one they finish. Walking away more because they can’t fit any more on the plate than because they are finished.img_4712

Each takes a place next to another on a bench that seems to always have room for more. No one saves a place for anyone else, no one jockies for position closest to the Provider of All. Content and at peace, there is no need for all know they are loved deeply, abundantly.

The family meal is diverse beyond imagination because everyone is adopted. Everyone came from a different table. Some use chopsticks, some use forks, some use bread, some use their hands, and some use only their right hand. All languages are spoken yet everyone seems to understand each other.

Love abounds and the conversation around the table celebrates the days events. Successes are shared without one upmanship. Failures are shared without smug looks. All is met with compassion, affection, and correction. No one is ashamed or embarrassed.

Before adoption, all came from other tables, more uncomfortable tables. Food at their former houses was sometimes locked up or there wasn’t any at all. Crusts dropped on the floor from the table and that was all there was. All devised a strategy to get a seat.

It was always better to be a certain color or have a certain ability in the former families.  Attention from the stewards in charge meant more provisions so it was sought at all cost, even the cost of another. Highlights of the day were shared at the expense of others. Praise for one was at the cost of praise for another. There was terrible fighting which never got resolved.

Even in the best families, there was lack of something. There was more order, more smiles, more peace which made it almost harder to recognize how much better the Provider’s offer of adoption was for them. Where things were smooth in their families compared to others, it seemed unnecessary to make a change and receive adoption.

For others, adoption was unbelievably good news. How could it be so easy? Just say yes? What was the catch? There must be a catch so they waited and prepared, trying to learn all the ways of the Provider’s family. They stood at the windows dressed up and ready but feeling too bad or unworthy to walk through the front door. They operated under what they had learned on the street–earn it, steal it, buy it.

There’s no free lunch.

Until a knock came from inside the front door, oddly. Usually, knocking came from the outside, but this one came from the inside, and someone was calling their name. Could it be that the door would open for them?

And then it did! The choice came to walk through…or not.

Most heard about the Invitation from the Father’s kids who couldn’t seem to stop talking about their new family. It could be really annoying to some. They talked about what their adoption was like, what it was like to learn a new family, to get used to new siblings with all their quirks and hurts, to blend into the Ultimate Blended Family.

It wasn’t perfect, yet, they said, but it would be one day. They were all excited about that day and it made a difference in today. There was always enough for today.

They shared how at some points, it was only the love of the Father that kept them from running away. The table wasn’t always like it was supposed to be yet.

Sometimes there was sibling rivalry. Sometimes siblings did jockey for a seat right next to the Provider only to have Him firmly correct them. There is a seat for anyone who accepts the invitation, He would almost roar. The correction was always right and fair and true. Instead of slinking off in shame, it was possible to receive it and know there was absolutely no love lost from the Father.

And no ridicule from the siblings…on a good day. Ridicule was met by just rebuke from the Father, another roar. Frightening like thunder, yet it also lit up the sky in a revealing sort of way. Noise and light, illumination, then order again.

Ones who had been at the table longer than others sometimes forgot about their first days in the family and had to be reminded. The reminders somehow freed them from a darkening that would slowly take place. It was easy to get used to the new family and forget how much better it was than the old. To forget the adoption. When reminded, they remembered and their lips loosened up and smiled again.

They began looking around again, and inviting again.

They remembered how wonderful it was to be part of the Family.

 

 

 

 

Stooping to Look Again

From four years ago….

I don’t like to wait. I try to find ways to avoid waiting. Call ahead. Go do something else and come back when the line is shorter. I especially don’t like to wait when I don’t know how long the wait will be. That’s what it feels like to be left, to wait for the unknown. When leaving, I think about the future, to what comes next. It’s exciting. When left, I think about the future, too, but what comes next? I know not.

The tomb scene in John spoke to my heart this week as I contemplate the departures of a few friends and teammates. Mary came to the tomb early and left late. She saw the men come and stoop to look inside and then they returned home. She, too, looked and saw emptiness inside, I suppose. The text doesn’t say specifically. She was left, so she thought, but she lingered anyway, weeping and waiting.

I don’t like to wait or to weep. I don’t like to be left.

But, then she stooped and looked again where others looked before and saw nothing. Amazing. Why did she look again? I don’t know but if I were her, why would I look again? I want to see. I want more. I want a different reality. Maybe I’d think that if I looked one more time, just once more before I left I could leave and go home and start to fill the emptiness on my own, sure that there was nothing left to wait for anymore. The act of stooping to look again is so full of faith.

She stooped and looked weeping and she saw angels…heard angels, spoke with angels!  She saw the Risen Christ, clung to Him, and He gave her a message to pass on.  For others who came and went, the tomb lay empty, just empty.  But for Mary, who waited and wept and stooped to look again, the empty tomb became a place of joy and comfort and hope and purpose.  The emptiness of feeling left by the Lord filled up with so much more.

So, I wait weeping more and more.  I stoop to look in the emptiness and wait for His explanation of the reality I feel so deeply.  He fills the emptiness more and more with the comfort, joy, and hope in His Word.  And, He challenges my view of reality.

I am not left.  I am not alone.  The emptiness of the tomb is the reality but the explanation for what my eyes see is far from empty.

Death with Death

On this Good Friday, two years after writing the following post, I still ponder the wonder of God’s gift through Jesus Christ. Death conquered by death and, then, on the third day, resurrection.

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It’s genius really. Infecting a deadly tumor with another deadly thing and seeing what happens.

60 minutes reported the news coming out of Duke University, and I smiled what I imagined a wry smile. My heart resonated. Fight death with death. The results look amazing. Polio is inciting the body to respond and in the process killing polio infected cancer cells.

A few people with deadly brain tumors are living longer than expected with this treatment. Tumors shrinking. The unstoppable growth is slowed, stopped, and reversed with an injection. A very precise, well-engineered, and tiny injection of a very small amount of polio into cancer cells and life results.

It’s as old as mankind. Brilliant, this discovery that is really an application of an old principle. Death is the antidote to death. It’s simply elegant and I wonder if everyone is sitting back and thinking, “of course it’s this way!”

With my father’s recent diagnosis of a brain tumor, we now know more about brain tumors than we ever wanted to know. What we know about my father’s brain tumor is that it is not the kind tested in this trial. We checked.

It is in more than one place. The tentacles and spiderweb-like appearance on the MRI mean one injection will not reach far enough. Death cannot overcome this tumor this time.

It hurts to long for an effective treatment and to sense that it is just around the corner. But, the corner is far enough away that the race to round it will DSC_0045not be fast enough for us. Others will benefit from the hard work of these scientists. We will not.

We are the ones, like Mary and Martha and so many others, recognizing that Jesus might have come sooner to put off death, but He didn’t this time. He didn’t for us. Why?

I’m left with His words, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die–ever. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.

 

 

Life in the Here and Now

I looked far ahead at the traffic light. How long will it be green!? Maybe I’ll make it. Brake lights flash in front of me and I step on the brakes hard realizing the car right in front of me is stopping. My heart beats faster in the wake of an accident avoided. An accident of my making.

The thought that travel time is a waste of time invades my subconscious. It’s unproductive and futile and the news agrees with me. I read about the 15 worst cities for traffic and noticed our college town is not among them, not that you’d know that by talking to the locals.DSC_0088

Sometimes I daydream about the future when time travel is a reality. What total lack of innovation prevents us from experiencing the wonderful technology of time travel? Why hasn’t someone figured this out yet, for heaven’s sake?

Yes, you’re getting it. I’m in a hurry. You see what’s coming if I don’t change my ways, right? A rear-ender. Me smashed up, the car ahead of me and the people in it smashed up while the cars way ahead of me keep going. Getting places faster becomes not getting there at all at the expense of damage to property and people. Not hard to connect those dots.

A quick and simple look at this habit tells me, and you most likely, that I have a problem accepting the laws of the universe like time and space. Hurry is the word and it creeps up on me until I notice how ridiculous and dangerously I act because I am rushing.

I don’t want to be here. I want to be up there so I look up there. I’m anxious to get places faster because I planned too much for my day. Or, maybe I didn’t plan too much, but I’ve bought into the production doctrine of mankind, a life defined by results.

I’m not the only one. I see it when I talk with students. College is a time of preparation for the future. Education is an investment in the rest of our lives and in college, the rest of our life is getting pretty close. What will I do when I graduate? What will I do this summer? Will I find a spouse? Will I have a roommate next year?

So much thinking is towards the future. It’s not true just in college. As a young mom I kept thinking about when diaper changes would be done, naps given up, kids gone to school…and a life of freedom! Well, that day is come. My kids don’t wear diapers (they would want me to be crystal clear on that point), take naps (unless they’ve been to a sleepover), and they attend school all day, all of them.

So, am I free? Not as much as I thought. The next thing keeps cropping up.

It is easy to think the next stage will be it, the time when things get easier, freer. But constantly thinking about the next thing, like the car farther ahead, takes my eyes off the now. As a young mom, that was adorable, slobbery babies sitting at my feet. My current life. My reality. My actual place in time and space.

It set me on a collision course when I didn’t bring my eyes back to the here and now. And, it strikes me as the same now in something as mundane as traffic. I am in a certain space and time. It is the space and time given to me by a perfect Creator God. I cannot change it and I must accept it or wreak havoc on myself and others.

Fortunately I haven’t rear ended anyone yet in my life as far as car accidents go. I hope I never do. I am certain I have as far as emotional carnage goes. Encountering me on a mission and in a hurry must be pretty tough.

Maybe you’re a college student trying to plan for life after college. That is appropriate. That is where you are right now. If you’re investing, you need to know what future you are investing in…just don’t miss out on the chances to be faithful to your present reality because you are looking so far ahead. The future will come and it will surely be different from what you planned. The present is here. The relationships you have are now and they are also your reality. Invest in them too.

Or, maybe you’re a mom and it helps to hear again that it will change. You won’t always be swapping diapers longing for conversation in a home marked by shrieking. Someday they will talk to you and you will talk to them and it will be wonderful! And, hard in a whole new way. Invest in the mom you want to be while mothering in the proving grounds of toddler hood. You can’t skip around these years without doing the hard work of learning dependence on the Lord and expect to be ready for what will come.

So, I’ve used 780 words to say, basically, embrace your current reality!

But, I say it mostly for me. I sure hope I can grow to recognize the actual speed of time, acting and resting in my current place whether it is 3 deep at a red light, or taking on the realities of 3 school aged children who need more than a rushed and distracted mom.

How do you struggle to live in the present? Do you have a story like my traffic story that opened your eyes to how you struggle to embrace your current situation?

 

 

Grief, the Uninvited Guest

For those who are mourning, here is a repost from a while back…

I have a guest these days. Grief is his name. I did not invite him, but he came and at the worst of times, too.

Grief is a strange beast.  Sometimes I don’t mind him very much and we sit with each other awhile. Other times, I mind him very much, especially when he surprises me in public. I’d prefer he just stay at my home. DSC_0150

I always hope he’ll follow the rules I lined out, but he doesn’t which annoys me. He rarely takes up the guest room but stays in odd places like the shelves of a cabinet, between the pages of a beloved book, or in the smells of familiar food. He’s often in my way when I’m trying to get things done.

He has some shockingly bad habits. He’s a nocturnal sort and has the gall to shake me awake in the night and, then, not let me go back to sleep! He stares me in the face upon waking some days which is a horrendous way to meet the day.

Kind friends come over expecting to meet him, and he is out for the moment. Things are like before, and it’s strange. Then, Grief barges in without knocking. We quickly lay a place setting for him. Then, he doesn’t use the proper utensils if he uses them at all!

If you caught a look at him, you’d know why. Grief is a foreigner. His customs are strange. Though I’ve befriended those with this same house guest, I learned little about how to host him myself. I’m not sure anything can acquaint one so well with grief except a house visit, which no one really wants. But, we all seem to get at some point in our lives.

I get the feeling grief means to stay for a long, long time-maybe forever. I don’t know how I feel about that. Some expect grief to behave, stay for a respectable amount of time, and then depart.  But, as I said, he hasn’t yet followed any rules, even the rules of hospitality.

I’m learning an odd comfort in grief’s companionship. It’d be nice if he paid some rent, though, or helped out a little with the chores. I’d prefer a kickback to the pain in the arse he is from time to time.

My close friends expect grief to stay far longer than I hope he does and seem to welcome him with much more grace than I can afford. I’m afraid grief means to put his name on the deed, and I’ll never be rid of him. I get the feeling that once he comes, he never completely leaves. I also see that others who host grief graciously are ones I respect. I long to learn how to host as they do.

There is one Friend who is with me every moment. He is well acquainted with my house guest having hosted grief himself for a long, long time. He is such a comfort and an excellent help with this added load.

I’m beginning to recognize when other people are hosting grief like I am. So many are these days. Sometimes they don’t want others to know, and hide their guest which I think is a shame. He is a tough one to manage, and I can’t imagine trying to do it alone. I guess I understand. Grief is not the most attractive.

Others host a grief that is so painful and soul crushing, I can only shed tears for how violently he invaded their home. I, too, am at a loss to know what to do with such shocking behavior.

I hope I will not run from my guest or scorn him or shut the door on him. He’s not the type that tolerates that well. In fact, I know he chases those down that try to escape him. He always catches up. It’s better, I hear, to just let him in.

My best Friend says there will be a day when grief will leave. When there are no houses with tears, sorrow, and pain. Everything my Friend says seems to come true, and I believe that day will come.

It’s a great comfort to anticipate such a world, a world without grief.  It helps me deal with today and Grief’s demands with a little more energy.

But, just a little.

Blood, The Color of Love

I reached up and opened a card. It looked promising. I read the inscription which dashed all my sentimental hopes. My only hope these days for meaningful inscriptions is a blank note and my own pen.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot wrong. Romance for romance sake. Elaborate, one-time displays of affection honored more than the constancy of daily warmth in the grind of life. Crude and scoffing cards meant to illicit laughter at the expense of respect.

But, it gets one thing right. The color of love is red.DSC_0039

Red is the color of blood, the color of oxygen infusing a liquid that brings life to the body. Red is the color of the dirt from which God created man in His image. God delighted in man. God loves humans. God loves you. God loves me.

Then, God loved enough to take on a body that pumped blood. After that, He loved enough to be tempted in every single temptation. He knows our pain, our sorrow, our sin. He took on all the hurt, pain, wrong, and disgusting perversion of every person on the planet and bled for it.

The color of love seeped through the pores of His skin and offered us release from death. We, the living dead, can be born from above.

Last year and again this year, I read the uproar about movies and porn and abuse, my heart aches and it was and is appropriate to grieve. Grey is what we get when we forget that love requires the unselfish giving of ourselves to another.

Grey is the color of death and death brings mourning…or it should.

But, red. Red is the color of life.