What to do when School Starts

As I write this it’s almost Labor day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about you Moms with kids of every age starting back to school – thinking about transitions and All Of The Feelings.

It’s the end of August and I’m “up north”.  This is my view.

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Don’t hate me, but I can breathe deep and enjoy this lake air (and the mocha John just brought me, thank you very much) without being interrupted by an 8 year old who wants to play UNO. or a 12 year old who wants me to take them on a jet-ski, or a toddler who can’t find his Thomas the Tank pez dispenser (and all the drama that comes with).

I love this season of life and the freedom it gives me, don’t get me wrong.  But this – this time of transition from Summer to Fall is also a time of grieving for me.  I miss the back-to-school shopping and the exciting beginning of all of the THINGS for the new year.  I miss “bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils”, the season of hands-on parenting with all the family traditions and night time prayers and snuggled up in jammies story reading.  I miss our first day of school chicken pot pie dinner, and I miss the annual measuring of our girls.

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Moms I know you.  I’ve been you.  Most of you are a little schizophrenic at this point.  You tackled summer with gusto, doing the strawberry picking and the zoo visits and fishing pole baiting memory-making, but you’re just so over summer now.  You’re ready to take a break from your role as Camp Director of all the Fun Outings in the Universe.

You’re thrilled about taking the FIRST DAY pictures, making the special FIRST DAY breakfast, and walking the kids to the bus stop.

But then??  Then, you’re all about running inside, collapsing back against the door of your house and exhaling with a “Praise Jesus I’ve made it through another summer without inflicting bodily harm on my kids (bless their hearts)!”  There may even be a little Hallelujah-Chorus-humming going on (don’t deny it).

That’s good!  You’re doing great.  You really are.  And you should celebrate!

I get it.  I’ve been there.  But can I make a little suggestion?  A tweak to your celebration?

Sometime today when the kids are out the door to pre-school or high school or college, (or their job because the empty nest may be a myth), take a minute in the stillness after the “get ’em out the door storm” and look around you.  Even walk through your quiet house. Look for signs of growth in your kids and in your family.  And thank God.  

Maybe it’s a picture of one of your kids learning to horseback ride on a family vacation, or the first chapter book your grade-schooler read this summer, or a Scripture verse you memorized.  Take time to mark the moment.

In our hurry up culture we may FB post it or Instagram or Tweet a moment, but I wonder how often we truly sit in an experience with thanksgiving.

You’ve been faithful to show up and nurture your tribe of yahoos all summer and they’ve grown.  So have you.

God has been faithful to show up and equip you and grow the whole lot of you.

Well done!

“He who began a good work in you (and your kids) will be faithful to complete it” through every season.

So maybe a little “Yay God!” party at the dinner table?  Perhaps ask each person to share a way that they feel they’ve grown this summer.

Are your kids back in school?  How are you feeling during this season?  What do you do to mark the transition?

 

5 Questions About…Disappointment with God

Conrad family-40Emily and her husband Steve are dear friends of ours. I had the delight of working with Steve in ministry and traveling with him in Congo before he knew Emily.  Then, John and I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony together!  This remarkable young couple inspire me with their faith and authenticity.  It’s an honor to walk alongside them on their journey!  I asked Emily 5 Questionsbecause I knew she’d be honest and reflect from a heart seeking God.

1.  Over the past year and a half you’ve had an experience that has been deeply painful and disappointing.  Can you describe what happened?

In early 2013, my husband and I got the green light to travel to Congo to meet and pick up the little girl and little boy that we were in the process of adopting. We had spent 13 months previously preparing our home and our family for the addition of 2 more little ones, a little girl 18 months old and a boy 2 ½ years old. Although we knew it would be crazy to have 4 little kids in our home, we felt that adoption was always supposed to be a part of our family’s story and felt that it was a desire that God had placed in our hearts.

We had been prepared for the fact that the little boy we were adopting might be a little older than what we had originally been told, perhaps 6-9 months, however, when we met him in Congo he was clearly at least 6 ½ and was a very angry, emotionally fraught child, quite prone to physically aggressive outbursts. Continue reading

Voices

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and if you are reading this, chances are you’ve resisted the urge to rise before dawn and scrape and claw through Walmart for the “best deals of the season”. (#walmartfights is trending on Twitter.)

You’ve said “no” to Black Friday, or perhaps you’re still just in a turkey coma and are calling it “contemplation”.  You’re reflecting on yesterday, or you still may be with family navigating dysfunctional dynamics feeling as tense as Jack Bauer defusing a bomb with 3 seconds left.

You may be with family members whose voices can strengthen you, reminding you of your inestimable value (like my mom, and basically everyone I’m related to does), or stab you in the back like the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones.

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Last week I wrote about the power of words and the Word as we move into the holidays when there’s more emotion, more stress, more people, more…family.  So today, on Fearless Friday I thought I’d just post this video that’s a reminder of Whose voice is the most important to hear from.

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The Simpsons, the Cleavers, the Holidays, and the Bible

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:

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But reality can often look like this:

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And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

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Fearless Friday and My Brother

It’s Fearless Friday in our One Word year!  Catch up and join us!

You may think you have the best family in the history of the universe, but you don’t.

I do.

I know I don’t deserve it.  I don’t recycle enough and I can be petty and selfish and I sometimes pray for things like losing weight when many are starving, and there’s a lot of other bad stuff I’m not going to tell you about.

The only thing I can attribute my family to is grace.  Period.  But there you have it.  Yes, we have our own set of crazy, but I’m still convinced my family is the best.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that straight, I want to introduce you to one of my two wonderful brothers.  I like to call him “Baby David” and he calls me “Sweet Sis” and he is one of the kindest, most godly men I know.  He’s on the right below, washing dishes at Thanksgiving with John.

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Last Friday he wrote me such an encouraging note in response to the One Word post.  He, like so many of you, will text or email, or FB message me with these incredibly rich insights that others don’t get to see unless they’re in the comment section here on the blog.  So I asked David if I could post some of the words from his email and he graciously said “yes.”  Here’s what he wrote:

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3 Questions to Ask When Community is Hard

Three months ago daughters Katy and Maggie moved into an apartment in D.C.
Together.
And so far both of them are still alive.
Here’s a sign I gave them when they moved in (Can you tell we had a hard time hanging it?)

How does this affect you, you might ask?

Well if you have ever lived with a roomate,
or worked with a boss,
or married a spouse,
or served on a committee
with a person that’s the exact opposite of you,
you know that living in community can be as ugly as putting Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi in a room together.
Recently they collaborated to write up their experience.  Maybe you can relate to their story of community and share some of what you’ve learned in your experience.

Have you ever taken the Meyers Briggs test? Where you answer a bunch of questions, and at the end you’re assigned four letters that make up the basics of your personality?
4 powerful letters that tell someone all they need to know about how you’d respond…

If strangers showed up at your door inviting you to a costume party,

Or if you had to decide under pressure, which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb,

Or whether you’d say “Suck it up.” or “You poor, poor baby!” if someone told you their hamster died.

Well in our family, the 4 letters that sum up Maggie are exactly the opposite of the 4 letters that sum me (Katy) up.

In spite of being opposites, while growing up, the two of us were inseparable.  Walking to and from elementary school together, taking (voluntary) trips up to the local library to stock up on Sherlock Holmes books to read aloud to one another in the privacy of the latest edition of our ever-improving fort.  We’d rally the neighborhood kids for night games and home made video productions, snow forts and magic shows.  We were a dream team.

But then, something happened. I think professionals call it “puberty”. We turned into the worst versions of ourselves, camping out on the far edges of our opposite personalities. Things that were cute about Maggie became shallow and annoying. My attitude went from an indulgent older sister to, frankly, a superior jerk. Those halves on Meyer’s Briggs became like some sort of bizarre science class punnett square exercise gone wrong.

In our case, it took about 6 years apart and the advent of gchat to start a new season of communicating. Rather than the cutting remarks and dismissive sarcasm, we began to speak with each other as people, rather than sisters.  Each of us slowly slid towards the center of that personality chart, first recognizing our weaknesses, then working to develop into more balanced people.  It sounds quite nice and simple in that sentence, but some of this “realization” came through heated phone calls and the occasional adopting of our high school personalities.  AKA our “worst selves.”

Now, years later, here we are, co-inhabiting a 900 square foot apartment in the heart of our nation’s capital.  Had you told us 5 years ago that this would be our living situation, we would have thought you were a lunatic.  Surprisingly, it is going quite well.  There have been a few flare ups where we’ve seen those high school selves resurface, and it’s embarrassing.  But we’re truly enjoying one another’s company, the sharing of friend groups, being invited to the same parties, and attending the same church for the first time in years.  We find ourselves working to carve out “sister time” and we’ve seen this time become increasingly more meaningful.  As we earn one another’s respect, we are better able to speak into each other’s lives.

The bottom line is that when we allow the other person’s strengths to threaten us we’re our worst selves.  But when we move towards each other in humility, ready to learn from the other’s strengths, and seek help in the areas where we’re weak, we thrive.
When I can sincerely say, “Maggie, what would you do in this social situation?” where I feel unsure, and she can sincerely ask “Katy, what bus should I get from U Street to get home? or Who is Christine Legard and why do we care about her?” we both benefit.

What I’ve learned from watching Katy and Maggie grow as they live in community is to ask questions.  When I’m in situations where the emotion seems to rumble in my stomach and travel to my face and threaten to come out of my mouth in unwise words I’m trying to ask:

1.  What am I afraid of?  Really.

2.  What can I learn from this person?

3.  What questions should I ask to gain better understanding?

What collaborative, or community building situations are the most challenging to you?  When do you feel most threatened?  What is helpful?