Monday, August 26, 2013

Stretched Before Us

It is the end of August and we are holding desperately to the last days of summer.  We sat by the fire last night and in the twilight and flickering fire, I studied these three faces of ours.  I couldn’t take my eyes off Kayla.  Freckled face, long hair spilling down her shoulders, eyes fixed on a book, legs curled up into the chair.  At eight years old I ponder that in a mere ten years, she could be spreading her wings for the first time.  I can’t bear the thought; I look up to the stars, squinting to see the first ones appear.

I remember my own childhood – it seems – in snapshots…sledding down a hill in preschool, a yarn and burlap sewing project in kindergarten, making ice cream in second grade, relearning to hold a pencil in fourth grade, confirmation class in eighth grade.  In between those times were summer – somehow rolled together into hours of living outside, riding my bike, listening to rain under the metal awning.  When I ponder it all, the years mesh together into this rapid playing silent movie a lifetime ago.  

Today friends dropped their kids off at college for the first time – realizing that their years of preparing come down to this moment.  Letting them go free – hours from home, in undiscovered places.  I remember leaving home – I recall the mixed emotions of new found freedom, homesickness, anxiety, and looking forward to this new, strange life away from home.

Others said good-bye to twenty-something kids, driving cross country to new homes.  Miles of space and time opening into a chasm of separation.  It seems that as I look through my friends, I see the same road stretched before me – one that my own children are walking down since they left my womb – one where they slowly move away from me.  

I glance back at Kayla’s sweet face; she is smiling over her book – adventures found in her imagination.  I’m praying that I get this right – that they will remember these days with me.  I hope that in our hunting for green things in the spring, and discovering crickets in the summer, reading books near silent snow falling in winter that I have taught them how to view the world in wonder.  I’m overwhelmed by this ache rising in me that somehow grows stronger each year – discomfort realizing that I have such limited time.  And how am I using that time?  

I was a terrible babysitter growing up, but despite that, I had a few regulars.  When I think back to those days, I remember the kids, but I don’t remember experiences or bonding with them. I remember watching TV or cleaning the kitchen – I never took the time to really get to know them.  In my early teen mind, I was just there to watch over them, but somehow not become involved.  I’m sure that I was the sitter they didn’t like.
I can’t help but thinking that there is a little bit of that teen babysitter left in me…that I don’t cultivate memories, but perform tasks instead.  This thought tugs at my heart making me realize that every action I choose while the kids are still with me is a chance to say yes or no to them.  I look at our days and I’m afraid to admit that in saying yes to chores and checklists that I unwittingly am saying no to them.  

Another day goes by and I see the twisting turning path leading them away from me and I know that every shred of me wants to do something drastic, but drastic measures are not needed.  Small, everyday changes need to be embraced…more yesses and less noes.  Only one week until school starts.  What kind of memories can we create in one week?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reflections on the M-14 Overpass

Driving home tonight on this familiar stretch of road I’m tempted to give into the highway hypnosis…allowing my car to go into autopilot…to ignore the journey to home.  But as I begin to crest the M-14 overpass, I’m struck by the memories that overtake me of this ordinary stretch of pavement.  Sheryl Crow sings that “every day is a winding road…I get a little bit closer” and every time I hear that song, I am sure that life is preparing to change drastically.  

As I crest this apex of concrete, all four seasons flash in my mind recalling 17 years of driving this road every day.  Winter’s blinding unearthly white, spring’s deluge clouding my view, summer’s much too orange brightness, and fall’s blustery winds blasting my car. Night moon rising on my left, sunset in glorious splendor on my right.  

My car hugs the road, crowning the overpass, embracing this well-worn path.  I’ve often ignored the route from one place inching closer to the next and I realize that these last few years have always been about the drive, the road, the seasons changing outside, that cityscape sunset best seen from the top of the M-14 overpass. 
There is beauty in the driving, discovery in the delay.  I am finally enjoying the journey…this road of life.  I’m okay with not knowing what I’m getting closer to because I can celebrate the way I’m getting there. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sounds of Summer

The last couple of weeks have been agreeable and cool enough to have the air conditioning off and windows open.  I love this time of year – mid August – sounds throughout the day and night – creaking crickets, chirping birds, clicking bugs.  These outside sounds enhance the rhythm of our days inside and about.  These sounds remind me of moving into our much-too-suburbia home years ago.  We were floored by how many crickets we heard that first night – soft ones, noisy ones and the one we were sure was living right outside our window gracing us in vibrant serenade.

I was pondering this morning that I have never spent so many days outside as I have this year, playing, reading, running, eating, gazing, and smelling the smoky goodness of a fire.  Outside is the essence of summer.  I recall the baby bunny and blue heron I saw this morning when running, but it is the heavy, steamy smell of dew and the rhythmic thudding of my feet on the pavement that put it all together. Sights and smells and sounds woven into this summer symphony carrying me on.  

The other day we sat under trees at Independence Lake talking.  Before the park became busy and loud, I could hear those familiar echoes from home paired with the soft waves and rippling water in front of us.  As much as these sights of summer serenity bring me peace, it is the sounds that link each day and experience together into a seamless season of outside brought in, inside brought out.

I think of the years I spent too much time inside working, closed windows deafening the sounds, HVAC drowning out the life right outside. I am grateful for everyday that I am here, listening, living alongside these beautiful gifts of wonder that God has given us all.
Some days I crave the quiet, but when winter’s silent snow falls, I will wish for the crickets, the long crisp call of blue jays, tweet of robins and long to relive these summer days and nights.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

When God Changes Our Plans

The last few weeks have been taxing.  Kids have been sick, the weather has been stinky and I’ve had my fair share of waiting on things unmanageable and unrestrained. 

I’m a planner and when plans go askew due to forces out of my control, I become undone.  In the past, this moved me to anger, discomfort and utter frustration.  While today, I still deal with those same feelings, I’ve learned that having three kids and staying home lends itself to a certain percentage of uncertainty.

Circumstances have caused us to stay at home quite a bit over the last week.  I don’t mind being home in general – it’s my job really – the physical aspect of being home is not a serious issue to me.  What I’ve struggled with is getting through the illnesses and changes and asking myself, “Why do we need to get through this?  Why us?  Why another derailment – especially so close to the last one?”  

A wise friend asked me recently, “Why does God want you home, Jen?”  I couldn’t answer the question.  But doesn’t God know best?  If these interruptions are what have forced us to stay home and embrace the serenity (if you want to call it that) of this gift of home and the resources we have, then maybe that is fine.  

We had one of the best weekends I can recall in a long time – all because we had to stay home and enjoy each other’s company.  The kids spent both days outside nearly all day.  I sat on the deck and drank iced coffee and read.  Jerry and I conversed.  We ate every dinner outside.  Without trying, we made the best of the change in our plans and somehow we are better for it.  

While I don’t always like it, I’ve come to realize that when God changes our plans it is always for our good.  From the simple, but mind blowing leaving the house too late and realizing that you would have been in that serious car accident, to the weighty life-changing pregnancy that you weren’t sure about.  And now you look at your sweet daughter and realize that life wouldn’t be this rich, crazy, bundle of goodness without her.  

We go kicking and screaming when our plans change, but if we can find the gratitude and lose the attitude, God always shows us that his ways are so much better.   

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Yesterday was such a great day.  I’m humbled and honored that so many of my family and friends were here to celebrate this milestone birthday with me.  I laughed and cried and enjoyed myself immensely.  I couldn’t ask for a better day.

This morning was spent with the last remnant of family before everyone headed their separate ways.  As they pulled away, I was overcome with grief and sadness.  I can’t explain it – darkness settled over me.  I wasn’t quite right for a couple of hours.  It seems that this heaviness sought me out and grabbed me before I could fight it off. 

I suppose after any important event, it is only natural to come down after the high.  But when I look back at how I felt earlier today, I’m almost embarrassed.  There was just no getting out of that place without tears, mourning, grief.  I know, I know – there are much bigger problems in this world than the post-party-I-can-cry-if-I-want-to-sob fest I let myself have and you are exactly right.  But if you look at your own life, you have been there too – even if you didn’t want to admit it.  The post-graduation-wedding-big vacation-post birth letdown has happened to you.  We grieve what is over – if only for a moment, so that we can focus on the next step – even if that step is unknown, undefined, or unfathomable.  

I let the heaviness win for part of this day, but I’m grateful to Jerry for forcing me to snap out of it.  We sat outside and watched the clouds go by.  We opened up the house for fresh air, we listened to crickets in the middle of the day and most importantly, we enjoyed each other’s company.  It seems I needed this quiet time to regain my perspective to blow out the cobwebs of negativity, to re-center my view. 

Tomorrow is a new day.  I plan to get up early, go running, and continue this journey to wherever God takes me.