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?

 

Three Ways to Choose Woohoo’s

I shared last week that my One Word for 2014 is LIFE (as in “Choose Life!”).  

I think LIFE is a really great One Word. (Woohoo for me!) I think it’s at the root of following Jesus.  I’m not saying my One Word is better than yours!  Noooooo!  That would be soooo foolish.  Like watching a Bachelorette marathon and eating a bag of Oreos foolish.

I love all the One Word’s you’ve shared here that you are prayerfully living into this year.  (If you want in on the fun look here or here and add your Word in the comments!).  But I also think that a case can be made that whatever word you’ve chosen, it’s about choosing life – the capital “L” life that God made us for.

Ok, I know some of you are reading this in California, or Bali, or Singapore.  The palm trees are swaying and you call a day of sweet warm sun and tropical flowers “Tuesday”.  Your Word may seem easy and your burden light.  You may have a hard time relating to a picture like the one below, but it exists.  Trust me.  I know it too well. 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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Dark Days

This is my view as I write at 5:45 a.m.

photo-66Trouble is I’d have much the same view at 7 a.m., or 4:30 p.m.  It’s just that time of year when everything goes frozen and dark and silent.  It’s a living picture of Advent – that time of waiting in darkness for the Light of the World to appear.

As I write I’m wondering how many people reading this feel like they’re waiting for something.  Longing.  And how many feel like they are in a time of deep darkness when they can’t see anything that makes sense.  Fuzzy outlines, but nothing sure.

Darkness and longing.

Ever heard of night blindness?  

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Thanksgiving

Fall in Minnesota is like Mardi Gras.

Actually I don’t know that for sure because I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but Fall is a huge event.  A blazing last hurrah before THE DEPRIVATION of light and color and warmth for a long, long, time.  Sounds like Mardi Gras to me.

When we left Minneapolis two weeks ago for Africa, the firey autumnal luster was fading but leaves were valiantly clinging to branches, reluctant to give up the fight and die for the long, long, long frozen season of dark.

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Spoiler alert: they failed in their efforts.

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Now, we return to the black crooked limbs silhouetted against a gray November sky.  The leaves have lost the battle and lay cold on the ground. Twinkle lights try to replace the glow of harvest color and there’s a tug-o-war going on between those who want to start the Christmas carols now and those who don’t want to leap over Thanksgiving straight to the 24 hour holiday sales of the day after. Continue reading

Two Phrases to Frame the Music of our Days

My husband, John, has gotten into the habit of listening to the Brandenburg concertos as he spends time with the Lord in the morning.

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The other day we were sitting at Starbucks together and he said, “Did you know that a lot of people talk about how Bach put ‘SDG’ – ‘Sola Dei Gloria’ at the end of his compositions meaning ‘to God alone be the glory’.

But most people don’t know that he also put ‘JJ’ – ‘Jesu, Jusa’ – ‘Jesus, help me’, at the beginning of each composition.” Continue reading

First Days

Today (Tuesday) is the first day of school in my neighborhood.  The leaves are sounding a little different – a little drier as the breeze ruffles through, and already they’re giving up their valiant effort to hang on.  The green of summer is surrendering to autumnal shades.

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Change.  Sometimes we fight it.  Sometimes we embrace it, like these two little girls ready for school.

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As I jogged past the kids and parents gathered on each street corner, I paused to wave and yell “Happy first day of school!”

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I thought back to all our first days as a family.  Sure, the marking first days of school when we had “adopted” family members, Sue and Heather over for dinner (always homemade chicken pot pie) to hear a recap of every high and low, every “he said, she said” of K and M’s six hours at school.  But there have also been first days of new jobs, first days of marriage, first days of grad school, first days in a new home or apartment for each of us.  New seasons.

And each first day means there’s been a last day.  A last day of summer.  A last day of being single.  The last day in a familiar city that’s been home.

As I jogged and reflected, I was reminded of two things.

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Waiting at Gate C6, C9, E10, H5…

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports this past week.  And this was not a happy thing.

It’s not like I was going someplace exotic like Bora Bora, or ran into Mumford and Sons on their way to the Grammys.

With the mega snowstorm that hit plus, normal mechanical stuff, It was just a matter of multiple delayed flights where each update means a gate change and a later departure.

And so it meant sitting.

And waiting.  Hours and hours of waiting.

Years ago John and I heard a motivational speaker who, in these situations used the refrain “You can cancel my flight, but you can’t cancel my day!” 

That sounds so…positive!  So cheery.  So empowering. 

But it’s just an annoying quote when your life is about being productive and on the go and you’re sitting in an airport, missing the event you’re scheduled for, or waiting to get home and your husband texts that line to you.  Are you with me?

When your plans are upended and you feel upended like Charlie Brown, once more having the football snatched away just as he was kicking, and you’re out of control, how do you control what you can – your attitude?

I’d like to be super spiritual and tell you all the Scripture that came to mind, but here’s how it went.

First I tried the practice of thanksgiving.  I was very thankful they aborted the first take off of one of my flights half-way down the runway, throwing on the brakes when an emergency light came on.  Safety is always good in my book.

And I was thankful for the cute little girl in the terminal with the Tinkerbell peeking out of her backpack.  And then I was pretty much done with thankfulness (with apologies to Anne Voskamp :)).  Still unproductive and waiting…

Next I tried praying while unclenching my hands, letting go of my need for power and control.  Very unproductive and still waiting (but it felt like the right thing to do)

Then, I tried to see Jesus.  To be present and aware of passengers around me who I might encourage. But every head was down, every eye seemed to be glued to Iphones while mine was dead (This was not on my “things I’m thankful for” list!).

Lastly I tried to smile.  I had just heard about a new study out that shows that smiling affects your attitude, reduces stress, and increases heart health.  Sounded good to me.

I tried, but I felt kind of like a Stepford Wife, plastic and robotic.  And I think people wondered if I was a little “off” shall we say.  I was unproductive, still waiting, and my mouth muscles hurt.

In the end I bought a Chik-fil-A sandwich and a People magazine.

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I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough?

Maybe, we need to relax and remember God’s ok with unproductive.  Having Chik-fil-A and a little Sabbath at Gate C6 was not a bad thing.

How do you handle interruptions to your plans and out-of-controledness?

When You See it and When You Don’t

Our daughter Maggie got engaged last weekend.

We exclaim, “Oh, yes!”  We can clearly see God’s faithfulness, His provision, His plan.  And we sing, like it’s New Year’s Eve, with confetti and streamers and hugs

Great is Thy faithfulness O God our Father.”

Two new babies were born to friends this week.  And we sing

“Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.”

A delightful surprise package of gifts appeared on our back step.

Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides.”

A dear friend was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer.  And it’s hard to see, but we try to sing

“Strength for today…”

The homeless guys still show up on our corner every day, and we have loved ones who are still prodigals, and others who are single, or childless and don’t want to be.  We want to sing a lovely future into their lives.

 “and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other.  Our voices waver a bit…

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.”

Years ago we took the girls on a family vacation to Colorado.  They were little and excited.  It was the first time they would see the mountains.

But Maggie couldn’t.  She kept saying, “I.  Do.  Not.  See. Them!”

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