Monday, August 24, 2009

A "Magic Touch"

My sister-in-law, N, called yesterday afternoon to say she and her two youngest children were popping down to Richmond for the afternoon (they live bout 45 minutes away). It was an unexpected surprise and I was so grateful that this was one of those rare weekends with nothing on our schedule except what we felt like doing.

I still remember the year I helped my sister-in-law fix her hair for prom when she was in high school. Later, my daughter, 3 years old at the time, was a flower girl in her wedding. Even then N had a 'magic touch' with children as my daughter was not 'going along with the program' when it came time to walk down the aisle and N whispered some "magic words" to get her on track. To this day I don't know what N said to her, nor probably does either one of them remember, but Jen pulled it off like a pro!

It's been no great surprise then, that N has large family. She is a natural with children and I admire the way she and her husband have reared their boys (oldest one a freshman in college, youngest one in 7th grade) . . . and their precious daughter - 3 years old:-) The boys are polite and respectful (to us and to others). I'm sure they're typical siblings/children within the confines of their home:-) I'm a mom--I get that!

The thing I admire the most is how they have honored and allowed to develop each of their boys' individuality. They are as different as can be - one from the other. It's kind of ironic to me that N had four boys, and yet God prepared her for a house full of testosterone, because she has two older brothers - one 8 years older and one 10 years older. She was uniquely equipped in her childhood to parent all those boys!

We sat on the deck for a while, then moved inside when it got too hot. We talked about the pictures I have displayed in our living room and shared the memories of the events captured in many of the shots. It was such a sweet opportunity to share our family history with her children and pass on the stories of our shared life.

This morning I'm wondering where all those years have gone. I'm rejoicing, too, that we have had such full lives! She and we are truly blessed to have each other and our children and our memories to share.

The lyrics to one of Cat Steven's songs implore, "Teach your children well . . ." The Bible offers the same advice.

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV).

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 20:18-20 NIV)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on a Daughter Leaving Home

I wrote this six years ago as our daughter was preparing to leave for George Mason University. I pray you will be blessed by my sharing.

Desperation, Deliverance and other words that start with “D”

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NIV)

Desperation. Our oldest child, our only daughter, my friend, my sister, my heart will be leaving for college soon. It occurred to me in the wee hours of this morning that our family will be forever diminished by her absence. We have watched her foray out for a day trip here and there – a few hours at the beach; a few days keeping a house-sitting friend company – but never before have we had to prepare for her long term and ultimately permanent absence. Oh, she’ll be home for an occasional weekend. She’ll come home for winter break. But she won’t really be coming home. She’ll be coming to the place that used to be her life. Our home will soon become the place she visits while she’s waiting for the rest of her life.

And I am desperate. Desperate to tell her everything she will need to know to live without us. Desperate to keep her from the pain and sadness that is inevitably intermingled with success and joy from living in the world. Desperate to somehow impart the absolute and boundless love, admiration, pride and respect we have for her not only as our daughter, but as a fellow human being on this earth. Our loss as a nuclear family is the world’s gain—a strong, beautiful, brilliant and good member of the world community has sprung forth! And I am desperately grieving her impending departure.

I know that this kind of desperation is sinful. It demonstrates my lack of trust that God will enfold her with his love and protection. It proves that while I know He will always be with her to help her deal with the disappointments as well as the victories, I lack the will to allow Him alone to play that role. It shows my lack of confidence in myself and the job I did as a parent, mother, friend to my precious daughter. It is a desperation born of fear.

How can I reconcile this face of desperation with my belief that God is a good and loving God? How do I proceed from this point on, confident that God will continue to be, not only in the margins but at the core of my daughter’s life – and mine! My prayers for her safety and care continue to be lifted on high. My grief is over losing a part of me and my life that has been not only the margins, but the core. She will thrive. She will fall down. She will love and live and grow into the extraordinary human being that only God can envision. My hesitancy is only because I love her so much.

Perhaps sin is too strong a word? But my lack of confidence is not in her. Or in God. Not really. It is in the world. My desperation reminds me how absolutely and completely we must all rely on God to get us through the transitions in our lives. He is at the heart of every milestone, joyous or sad. He is the heart of every day of our lives.

My desperation reveals a stumbling block in my faith life. But mostly, it reveals how desperately I seek the face of God. How I long to know the answers to the burning questions I pose to Him every day in my prayers. Desperate to know my child will grow into the woman He has planned for her to become. Desperate to believe that I have done the best I could to help her on that journey.

And while I am certain it is not enough—has never been enough—I trust that God was there to fill in the margins when I was not wise enough or strong enough to do what needed to be done.

Post Script: 6 years later, our daughter is now 24 years old and a graduate of George Mason University. She has been happily married for 2 years to a wonderful young man we instantly considered our son.While we wish she and husband lived here in town, we're thrilled they are a mere 1.5 hrs away and we see them often.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shopping is Love

Shopping Pictures, Images and PhotosThis is not the title I had planned for this post, but when I found this picture online, I realized that yes, sometimes shopping is love. If you have a daughter you can especially understand how this can be so. But wait, I'm not talking about spending money (well that is involved, but that's not my point!)

I have recently made some important lifestyle changes, not the least of which includes eating healthfully, exercising and losing weight. My daughter, now in her 20's, has been an inspiration to me in this arena (and many others). She is beautiful and smart and yes, has matured into a woman I am glad to call my friend. I have recently lost 30 lbs. and so have had to buy some new clothes -- I really am talking NEED, not just want. She and I went out shopping this afternoon and I thought over and over "I am so blessed to have my daughter."

I am blessed, first to be her mom. Since the day she was born, we have had a connection that goes beyond mother and daughter. We are kindred spirits in so many ways -- like me, she was born an "old soul" and so we have pretty much "gotten each other" from the day she was born. She was not a perfect child, but I have no real complaints. I wasn't a perfect mom either, and she hasn't expressed too many issues about which I marred her for life:-)

Now, rewind about 10 years and I might have had a few complaints. I have memories that until today, were more vivid than I had thought I would want them to be. Picture this: A 13 year old girl and her best friend + back-to-school shopping + fitting room with not enough stalls + hundreds of other moms and teenage girls packed into a department store Jr.'s department.

I have memories of standing outside the dressing room, serving as a human clothes rack while pants, shirts, skirts, t-shirts and jeans were tried on, rejected, returned to me to go back to the rack and begin the process all over again in search of smaller, larger or different color clothing items. I'm talking hours. I don't think I complained about it a lot. I was a pretty patient mom, who may not have savored moments like those, but accepted that it went with the territory.

As I reflected back on those times this afternoon, a flood of other memories rushed back as well. I'm at a point in my life where I just don't know how much more blessed I can possibly feel. Yet, each day God reveals another blessing. Today, my daughter and I changed roles. She was the human clothes rack, making countless trips back and forth in search of a different size, style, color for her mom! She also provided me a tutorial on "never wear this" and "don't even think about buying something like that", as we breezed past racks of clothes until we found some style and fit that was at least acceptable:-) for me to try on. She was equally as patient as I recall being. She was even magnanimous - something I may not have achieved back then.

Full circle is what I was going for when I sat down to type this post - maybe even along the lines of the Circle of Life from the Lion King. My daughter can shop! She can dress, too! My daughter's pretty amazing and today I felt especially blessed to be her friend.

Not to mention that I have the beginnings of a brand new wardrobe - all of which was purchased from sales racks -- and using a store-ad coupon! That's my girl!!

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18 NIV).

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4 NIV).

"[Children and Parents ] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1 NIV)