eight : twenty three

It’s 8:23 p.m. And I am done with the day. It started out lovely enough, but then, parenting. Roughest day we’ve had in a very long while. Lots of frustration, lots of tears, some despairing thoughts that threaten no hope of things getting better. MY GOODNESS, the will can be strong. How does one child have that much argument in them?

… (crickets)

Annnnd…that’s all I’ve got. Thought I might work some more things out in words, but, alas, no. I’ve had some wine. I’ve had (more than) some chocolate. I’ve prayed. Shed some tears. And now, my bed. My big, soft, cushy bed. Here in the eight o’clock hour. I’d love to have it in me to lose myself in a movie, but, nope. Bed. And hope for good sleep and much better hours tomorrow. Certainly, there will be more chocolate. Likely in coffee, first thing, in a few short hours.

And let us not grow weary of doing good. Neither the woman in me who struggles with hope (pray for that woman,) nor the woman in me who knows Who it is that not only brings tomorrow, but is also already there.

night bugs and community

 

I tried to go to bed an hour and a half ago. It didn’t work out.

I will admit to being a woman easily startled in the night. When walking around downstairs whilst the rest of my family sleeps, I can convince myself that I saw something out of the corner of my eye or that the sound of the house creaking/settling was something sinister. I would prefer to not be walking about the house in the middle of the night. But, if I can’t sleep, sometimes I simply have to change my surroundings. So I land downstairs and make my way to my favorite spot chill. It’s where I find myself tonight. I get that the light from the computer screen is counterproductive to my efforts to induce sleepiness. However, some nights, it’s just what it is and I need to write a little something.

It wasn’t a banner evening in the parenting life I live. It was stressful and unsettling, and beautiful and redemptive. All at once. It was one of the bigger conversations we’ve had with one of our children, confessions on both sides that we are works in process and there are big life lessons to be learned from some recent experiences we’ve had both separately and together. Necessary words, thoughts and lessons, growth to be had. And we are so thankful for it all.

But, though I am thankful, I am worn out. And have a little bit of a latent stress reaction to the situation, so, here I sit instead of sleeping in my bed. And I am reflecting on how you might think you’re alone — waiting for the house to creak or the shadow to catch your eye — there are others up at this time of the day (night) too. And they’re looking for loved ones to commune with in the late hours that are filled with big struggles or emotions. I opened Facebook when I got to my chair. And I read recent posts by my friends: there was sleeplessness due to rain, anger at the state of our country, longing for comfort and relief from grief at the loss of a loved one. And mingled in was the post from a mom friend who laid on the floor next to her daughter’s bed when asked at bedtime, and a photo of her daughter’s tiny hand in her own as the little one fell asleep. Life is full and everyone is somewhere tonight living out a story that is all their own, yet shared. And oftentimes it is m e s s y . And sometimes unbearable, or confusing, or threatens to overwhelm. Or, so bittersweet it brings tears. And reading through real-time responses and interactions between dear friends going through the mess of life, navigating their way through the weeds that can sometimes block the path they are looking for, I was reminded that the world is smaller than it can feel. And in sharing in the life struggles of friends — simple fellowship and a few words amongst friends in what can be lonely hours — can lessen my own burdens as I share in their life experiences. We are part of a larger story and there is every hour give and take, ebb and flow.

And there are night bugs. The incredible yard full of crickets. They are the soundtrack tonight. They are the warm reminder that the God of all creation is at work. A vibrant chorus that surrounds me. Voices reaching out to one another in the night, in the dark. Community. And I am glad I gave up my earlier quest for sleep, because sometimes, it can wait.

summer morning

Summer mornings don’t get much more lovely than this. Well, by my estimation. It’s bright, sunny…the air is warm and getting warmer, but there is an incredible cool breeze. I appreciate cool breezes — warm ones make me dizzy. My children are chasing each other, laughing, through sun-filtered grass. And I am drinking the loveliest Moonlight Jasmine tea that tastes just like the scent of the fields of my childhood summers.

Not every hour in my day will be like this. Soon there will be sibling squabbles, dishes, decluttering, and more laundry. But for now, I will enjoy the summer bliss. Here I go….

wings

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I love butterflies. They are one of my favorite things to photograph, because most of the time there is great color to be had not only on the butterfly, but also in what surrounds them in the photo as well. They love color, and so do I. It works out. My daughter was with me when I was photographing these butterflies the other day. We chatted a little about their eating habits, as well as why some of them have frayed wings. Then we found one that had big spots, and we talked about what we remembered learning about them last year in science, and how their spots can be a defense mechanism that scares birds away. They’re so fragile, yet so resilient and remarkable.

Speaking of fragile. In twelve hours, my daughter will be leaving the house for her first-ever sleep away camp experience. She’s been counting down since Day 49. I would often hear her asking Siri how many days were left until July 6th. Sometimes Siri would oblige and help her in her countdown, and sometimes Siri thought she was asking how how many trees we had in our yard, and she would have to do the math on her own. Either way, it was very important to know how much longer she had to wait, and it always seemed like the day was never. going. to. come. It seemed like we had so many days in between then and now. But, it was really all an illusion, because, well, here it is.

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Due to other traveling plans, we had to wait until this very last day before camp to actually pack her things. I did all the laundry before our trip, ordered just the right size bags, bought sheets for camp. I was on top of the things that mattered. Printing and reprinting the packing list, then the revised packing list. She could not wait to get packing this morning. We gathered everything, spread it out on her bed, organized the kits. It was good. She desperately wanted to be the one to cross off the items on the list (maybe told me so three or so times) so I obliged.  <— That may not seem like any sort of a concession to a sane person, but to the List Maker and those that understand the obsession that is list making, it is. It’s an act of love and sacrifice. *ahem* We settled on the larger of the two new bags so she wouldn’t have any trouble repacking when things were no longer folded and were, instead, shoved into the large laundry bag that was, for now, so neatly packed into the pile. I might also add here that it is incredibly challenging for the serial over packer to minimally pack a child for camp. Especially one that has never been out of your care for five whole days before. Thank goodness they changed the snack rule, because I would have been up every night wondering if she was getting enough to eat. Her bag is well stocked. 

We piled the things, check marked the list, zipped the zippers, and moved the bags to the foyer. We felt accomplished. And she has carried on with her day, randomly giving me the countdown now in hours. But, my biggest accomplishment hasn’t come yet. Mine comes tomorrow morning when I hug her goodbye, tell her I love her, and send her off to a camp four hours from her bedroom. Four hours from the kitchen where I prepare her food and chat with her for hours in a day. Four hours from me, for five days. But, deep down, in the more settled recesses of my heart, I know the truth — this is what we do as parents. This is what we prepare them for. We help them grow, send them off on new adventures…we help them spread their wings. But the truth is, this is also me growing. In sending her off to camp, to be in the care of others for days, I am spreading my wings as well. This is new to me, as it is for her. There are fears and concerns and all sorts of “what ifs” rolling around both our heads. In my more insecure moments, I’m tempted to think that my more shaky and sad emotions surrounding this are unreasonable. That I should just listen to friends whose children have gone away to camp in years past, those that say it will all be fine, and it will all be just fine. Reasonably, I know they are right, and it’s true: she will be fine. She will have a lovely time and I will likely look back on this and smile (with a small shake of my head) at my worries. But the thing is, I don’t want to forget this season. I don’t want to forget the countdown these past 49 days and the concerns I’ve had. I don’t want to forget because, someday, dear friends of mine, whose children are younger than my own, will be facing a similar countdown and I do not want to minimize their feelings, minimize the reality of what they are going through. I don’t want to tell them that it will all be fine, because that’s not what many are looking for when they share that they’re stressed about their child going away to camp. The reality is this: Parting ways is hard. Goodbyes are hard. Longer goodbyes are harder still. Letting go is hard. 

There is a letting go when the nursing ends. There is a letting go when the baby is first left in the church nursery. There is a letting go when preschool is upon them and they drive away for those few hours that first day. There is a letting go when they stay at Grandma & Grandpa’s house for a night. And, there is a letting go in this first as well. And I have come to a good place here — a place where it is absolutely okay for me to feel the tears coming as I think about that bus driving her away, her climbing into bed at night in a cabin that is not her home, her taking care of all the things that I have worked so hard to help her learn to take of over the years. She is so ready for the responsibilities. And I have told her so. I wouldn’t have signed her up for such a trip as this if she hadn’t earned it through having gained our trust. I can’t deny her this just because it hurts my heart to let her go.

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There will always be firsts, as there have been since her birth. This is a big one for me. Maybe not for every parent, but it is for me. I will say it without shame or worry that others would think I’m being too sensitive or overreacting. I love caring for her, and she is with me so much. I will miss her company in my hours. But, we have helped her grow wings in this first decade of her life. And it is my prayer that God will protect those wings and expand them even more in this time that she is away. She is graceful in life as these butterflies are. She is vibrant and colorful and joyful. As she heads off into the new and unfamiliar, I pray that we would both remember that God is with her and He goes before her. He will care for her in this first. As He will in this first for me. May our wings prove lovelier and stronger for it. And may they be a shade of comfort for those in our lives whose “firsts” are yet to come. Because, indeed, the struggle is real and necessary and beautiful.

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not so nerves of steel

 

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You know, some days are all smiles & laughter, backyard bouquets & Pinterest gems, sunshine & success. Other days? Other days are like today. Ones pretty much the opposite of the aforementioned. Sure, we DID listen to a couple Sparkle Stories and discover the local jazz station on the radio. There was some phonics & math. But overall, it was flat. out. hard. The kind of day that would make you question whether or not you were really truly (for REAL) cut out for this parenting thing, if you could, in fact, find your way out of the dense fog that had overtaken your brain and left you with barely cohesive fragments of thought that could have no hope of posing such a question, let alone answering it. The kind of day that lays waste to peace and threatens you with the fear of a repeat performance tomorrow. Days like this can wear you down and try to steal your hope. I’m not feeling crazy hopeful or cheery tonight. Not always easy to admit, but it’s where I’m at. Pretty darned tired, actually. Feeling rather directionless and quite unmotivated at bedtime (children’s, not my own) I wandered around the kitchen and finally found myself loading the dishwasher and doing a huge mess of hand-washables. Then I made chocolate ice cream and molten lava cakes, and whipped up some mint ice cream too, just in case. But then none of it sounded good at all. So, there it sat.

I ended up in the glider in the corner of my bedroom, you know, finally letting the tears come. I’m accustomed to looking for the beauty and the beloved around me. The sound of the cars going by on the street is lovely, as is the shadow of a branch on my window, silhouetted by a neighbor’s back porch light. The ever moving and changing shapes on my armoire, created by the headlights of the passing cars. The somewhat lulling sound of the heat racing through the vents. And when your nerves are raw, everything is visceral. Tonight, that’s a good thing. I find myself drawn to the flameless candle in a glass jar across the room from me. It springs to life every night around 8:00. There is something even warmer and endearing about it tonight. It reminds me of all sorts of happy, and I’m grateful. Thankful for something to focus on, to see the beauty in at the end of a day that one might call forgettable, if it weren’t at all so.

Needing to dig deep for solace tonight. Somewhere deep down, under the layers of frustration, fear, and discouragement (which can, indeed, take hold sometimes) roars the truth that God works ALL things for the good of those He’s called, and He never wastes pain. He promises rest to all who are weary and burdened, they need but come. Praying in the quiet darkness (which is never truly dark) that God would bring rest to those in this household, renew our strength & encourage, (grow us,) and bring new mercies with the morning. Missing my loved ones as they sleep; always strangely desperate for them on the nights following days filled with strife. Even in my need for solitude, still my heart stretches and my arms ache for them.

Parenting. *shakes head* The struggle is REAL.

Thankful for the working out that comes with 26 letters arranged & formed, and a space of my own carved out on the Internet, in which to wrestle, heave, and sigh.

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exit the hummingbirds

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I noticed this afternoon that the hummingbird feeder was fairly full of nectar. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized it had been days since it needed cleaning and refilling. I caught myself being purposeful to watch for the little birds as the day went on, but, I never saw them come. The weather took a solid turn this week, and autumn has truly arrived. (YES!) The winds today were cold and quite gusty, and the skies were a dark grey. Still, it was beautiful. We put on a couple of layers here in the house just to be able to keep the back door and windows open. We all appreciate the cooler autumn temps, and know that the days of free-flowing cross breezes through our home are numbered. So, layers it was. My daughter is a mini me, and longs for similar things as I on cloudy days like today — candles, jazz, hot chocolate. Beautiful fresh air. It’s nice to have the camaraderie between us, to share and enjoy the days as the seasons shift and the sun sleeps earlier each night. Sometimes I think the five-year old might be on board as well; he adds to the atmosphere by running for the instrument basket, grabbing some bongos or a harmonica (or, a tiny Mickey Mouse guitar) and adding his own rhythm and roll to the music we are enjoying. They’re good times. But, the changes bring changes. We will miss the hummingbirds. I mean, I’m glad they headed some place warmer and have hopes that they will return in seven months or so. I had never actually seen one until just a few years ago. Now we have become accustomed to seeing them all day, everyday, throughout the summer. It surprises me, but they come rain or shine. They return repeatedly to feed, and we marvel at their teeny feet and how they hover. Occasionally we see them fly into one of our trees and we can track them to a branch. Once, about a week ago, one landed on the metal ring around the feeder and rested there for a short spell. How I wished I could have photographed that! *sigh* It was a sad realization today, seeing all that nectar left in the bowl — our friends have moved on. I so love to care for them. They are such a wonderful source of beauty and enjoyment in our yard each summer during the growing season. And when they come again, my children will have grown some more. My mini me will likely be more like me in some ways, and more her own person in many others. The five-year old might have greater appreciation for jazz, but will likely still be playing loud and crazy songs on his tiny guitar. Seasons changing, winds blowing, babies growing. The hummingbirds bid adieu and the rhythm keeps going. A day in the life….

wrestling with freedom

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I get very excited at this time of year for many reasons. I so look forward to the changing seasons. This particular time of year brings my favorite, autumn. And right now, there are school supplies everywhere! *sigh* I love school supplies. Pencils, paper, glue, erasers, binders, crayons, pencil pouches, folders, (and day planners!) …they just make my heart beat faster. Speaking of supplies, a close cousin of the school supplies is office supplies. My favorite thing to play as a child was Office. Papers, pens, stamps, clips, corded phones, message pads, calendars….To this day I love to go into office supply stores, and rarely leave without more than I went in to get. Because, pens…But I digress. Another reason I look forward to this time of year is the routine it brings. Out of the “free for all” of summer, into the schedule of the school year. I’ve come to realize in more recent years that, although I love the freedom that summer brings, I don’t thrive in it. I am more of a list maker kind of girl. I like knowing what I need to get done and then devise a plan for how it’s going to happen. (And I write it all down with fabulous, colorful, fine-tipped pens.) But, the rebel in me really, really loves her freedom. I like being able to choose how I’m going to orchestrate my day, based on, well, how I’m feeling that day. [This might be a good time to mention that I highly value authenticity. I like to know who I’m dealing with when it comes to other people, and I appreciate the freedom to speak genuinely about who I am and the struggles I have in my own life.] <— That being said, I’m just laying it out there with what I said in the sentence prior to the “ahem” brackets. It’s just true. I don’t believe that there is much good that can come from that kind of daily living, but I like to think I can find my way around it all and come out on top. So, as I’ve wrestled with this for years, now… enter my five year old. We’ve been going through a rough season with him. We’ve had these seasons in their different forms throughout the years that he has lived outside my body, but this one has brought more tears from me than I can recall the other ones bringing. As I lay in bed one morning after a particularly difficult evening prior, and found myself afraid of the day ahead, something came to me. Our roughest times have come just this summer. And what really changed for him this summer was routine. Or, rather, lack of a routine. I’ve always agreed that children thrive on routine — things go more smoothly when they know what to expect. But we really let that fly out the window this summer. He went from everyday at school in kindergarten prep, to “Ah, well, we’ll just see how the day goes.” And it occurred to me that perhaps what I have just been hoping was “a season” with him that we would weather and see pass by, really might be, in some part, my doing. Or, at least I could have helped the season pass in better form had I realized that what he really needed was the security of more of a schedule. So, as I sit here in my corner chair, watching the skies turn a glorious pale peach, and the cicadas are building up intensity in the trees to say goodnight to the first day of September, and my family has headed out for an evening walk, I am somewhat encouraged at the thought that as autumn approaches and the days get shorter, so shortens the leash of summer’s freedom. But, I suppose it should read, “freedom.” Because the way I handled this summer’s “freedom” brought bondage to fear — fear that we had already failed our son and were really going to struggle to help him get back on a good path. Yes, I know he’s only five. But as mothers, don’t we so often live and die in the hour? Sometime the minute? Thinking it is just.  never.  going.  to.  get.  better.  When life gets hard, and you’re afraid to get out of bed because you’re afraid of the battles you’re facing that day with your five year old.  The extracurricular activities are set, school starts in a week and a half, and with these things come daily lists of things to accomplish, a dry erase calendar telling us where to be and when, and the weight of responsibility that, in truth, actually seems more like a set of wings that I have had on a wish list for a long time. Or, at least the past couple months.