Monthly Archives: January 2014

Overwhelmed …

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It’s Sunday. That means I’m not usually on social media in the morning (except “Postsecret,” of course … ).

So today, when I finally got on my computer, I found this on my page:

Gina, I LOVE that you are a visionary parent. I love seeing/reading how you help your children navigate into adulthood, fulfilling their dreams, even though it means they are far away. How blessed they are to have your love and support and encouragement and help as they establish themselves. It encourages me to keep in mind a bigger picture for my boys. It’s one thing for me to tell them they can be and do anything they want, it’s a whole other thing for me to believe in them enough to help them gain experiences that will open doors for them. Thanks for being an example of what a Godly mother does to be a visionary parent.

I didn’t know what to say. My friend, Candice is an amazing woman in her own right. She and her husband are raising three beautiful boys while they both work, are avid runners, camp, enjoy a full life –and an occasionally cake ball, but that’s another story…I see this young family in the midst and throws of life with little kids, and I remember what it was like.

I’m not going to lie. “Visionary parenting” was never in my vocabulary when the kids were little. Most days I was like most moms … happy to get a shower, get them dressed, fed and keep them from killing one another. We did make some intentional choices, it’s true. My biggest one was to NOT do many things I had seen my parents do (or to do those things they didn’t). My folks were great, don’t get me wrong. But I did take from them some very definite ideas about the kind of parent I wanted to be.

I do remember a lot of sacrifices. Even today, I still wonder if some of the choices I made were right. Should I have home schooled them? Did they “miss out” on good stuff? Should I have worked more? Taught them more? Made them more (or less) self-reliant? I remember reading somewhere that, “Behind every great kids is a mother sure she screwed them up.” Yes … I see that hand in the mirror.

Looking back, I have to admit there was some intentionality in place. Who we surrounded our kids with (because they all need other adults than their parents). What opportunities we made happen for them (travel …camp … trips… lessons). What classes we studied … what books we read … and the constant, never-ceasing dialogue that I’m quite sure they got tired of (probably still).

And yes … telling them anything was possible. Giving them a sense of their place in the bigger world picture. Helping them know the universe wasn’t about them … but reminding them of a sure and definite purpose they had. Trying to help them never doubt they were here for something bigger … maybe not grandiose, but important none-the-less.

I can’t even formulate the words that would let you know how proud I am of the people my kids are. And it’s not about the cool stuff they do. Or the way they are self-reliant and prepared for the “real world,” whatever that means. Yeah, all that is important — cool. They are all brilliant and gifted in different ways. They are all seeking God’s direction in their lives. That’s great, don’t get me wrong.

But the thing I love most about my kids are that, while I might have been a “visionary parent,” they have this innate ability to make me know I couldn’t have done anything more important with my life. I see that most, when it’s just the six (now seven!) of us, sitting around, laughing, being stupid. Or when the three oldest graciously bring “significant others” into our family and I stand back and am so proud of the choices in friends and partners they have made. Or when it’s just me and one of them … and they pour out their hearts and dreams and their own visions for where they are going.

It’s priceless, my friends.

So today, I will rejoice in the beautiful complement my friend has paid me. I will turn the praise back to my husband, my support system, and my God. They are all equal partners in this journey. And I will look forward with eager anticipation as to “whatever” will come next for my kids and I. And … I will quietly be overwhelmed at the goodness in my life.

Turn the page …

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I have a birthday coming up. I’m NOT going to say exactly how old I’ll be, because most days (with a good color job) I can pass for younger … but let’s just say it’s a “major” milestone … and zero years have not been traditionally good to me.

But this one’s going to be different.

I was thinking today about my last zero birthday. We had just survived what was perhaps the most traumatic time in our lives. Actually, on my birthday, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to yet survive. We had been moved from a job we’d loved for 10 years, a beautiful house, and a church congregation we had grown up with and loved into a quaint but cold and leaky little rental (provided for by some very generous friends). Christmas that year had been made possible by some other extremely generous friends. We were without work, without moorings, and I was personally  without much hope.

I had been left numb. I still had my loving husband … but he was distant and depressed and fighting his own demons at the time. I had my four beautiful children … but they were young, and they had been my priority throughout the tough times, so while they “knew” something was wrong, I tried my hardest to make their transition as smooth as I could. That meant holding back most things the best I could, and attempting to keep their lives “normal.” I had fabulous friends who tried their best to support and love us, but their lives continued on, somewhat disrupted, but they held hope in what was to come.

I tried. I tried to find something to hope in. But I felt (right or wrong) abandoned by my family, my friends and my God. People tried to help. But no one else lived in that house, and in my head. I took a job I hated to help support the family — a job that compromised my own children and my time with them. They were often left to fend for themselves, because neither of their parents were capable of truly being “there” for them.

It was a dark time.

And now, looking at another zero birthday, I am happy to say I’ve turned the page. Turned quite a few, to be honest.

My “little” kids are now big … one married, one in college, one a senior and the last in high school. And I’ve picked up another one! We are now in a community where the people are broken and imperfect, but my God they know how to love, and laugh, and live authentically alongside us. I’ve stopped trying to “be” something I can never obtain, and work daily on being who I am. I have a stray cat who makes his home with us, and he is a great comfort many days. I cook … I love to cook. I love good coffee, and building into the lives of amazing “kids” that are my children’ friends, and a special group of young career men and women that challenge me and push me to not get old. I write, but not books (not yet, anyway). I take pictures that make people happy, and let them remember important events in their lives, and that chronicle our lives in living color. I learn … this is my year to learn Italian, to sew aprons, to craft more and perhaps even embark on a new career.

And I have people in my life that have made it rich, and full and stand in the face of my statement 10 years ago that I was “done making friends” and heartily laugh. And I join them, because I was so very wrong.

I’ll celebrate this zero year with my feet on foreign ground. My husband and I are headed to China to see our oldest and his beautiful wife. We’re going to eat street food, experience the ancient quiet of a Buddhist temple, and stand in Tiananmen Square, soaking in the history. I’ll miss my other three, to be sure. But the opportunity to personally drink in one of the oldest cultures in the world draws me even against my apprehensions and fears.

It’s been a long, hard week among the members of my community. Sad passings — relatives, spouses, livelihoods — and I know people who are reeling and hurting and I hurt alongside of them.

I want to tell them so badly to not lose hope. I want them to know that life will never be the same … but life will go on. I want to stand beside them as their grieve, but also reassure them that eventually, they will be able to “turn the page” as well and look forward to whatever comes next. I want to tell them these things because I know.

I know because I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to drag myself through dark day after dark day. To want to run, to give up, to just stop. But they shouldn’t. They can’t. Because each day … each year … brings a new chance, a new opportunity … a new page.

 

 

New Year

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I love this holiday! Everything is possible … even the improbably is possible every January 1st. Last year was good … full of ups and downs and joy and sorrow. Like most years. But different.

The word for 2013 was “transitions.” I had my first-born graduate from college … and acquired my first daughter-in-law! My first two move away from home … my third begin his senior year and my last begin high school. My first child and his wife became the first in our family to live overseas (in China).  My elderly dad settled in for what will be the remainder of his life with us.

I’ve wrestled with who I am … nothing new for 2013, mind you, but I could physically feel a shift this year, like when you are standing still and the entire world slides a bit under you. It wasn’t like standing in the ocean, when all the sand is sucked from under your feet and you’re not sure if you’ll be standing for long. No, this was a slide into a new paradigm. All this wrestling and contemplation has left me different. Better, I think. I guess we’ll see.

What’ll 2014 hold? Last year went out wrought with tragedy for many people we love. Sadness visited more than one home we care deeply for, and it drove home for me the shortness of life … the importance of each and every moment. In the quiet week that is between Christmas and New Year, we had time of respite … while our kids were dispersed, my DH and I spent a lot of time just … being. It doesn’t happen very often. I treasured those times, know the crazy will be at our doorstop in no time at all.

I’m learning to hold moments close … I think my word for 2014 will be “savor”. The food, the moments, the laughs and yes, even the tears and melancholy because those times serve as contrast for the good. I want to savor the lives that intersect mine … I want to savor new experiences, new foods, new hobbies and new lessons. I want to hold those times close, let them flow over me so that I can take them in and treasure them.

Happy new year, friends and family! Like you’ve seen, it’s a gift of potential and possibilities. Don’t squander it.