“Big Transitions” has been the name of the game around here the past few weeks…
launching our oldest son to college
welcoming our Chinese exchange student back, tossing him into our busy family life, then sending him off to college too
preparing our other two sons for their return to middle school and high school
Throw in ongoing AC problems for a sweltering month, persistent internet malfunctions and a significant health diagnosis for a parent, and it has been a downright whirlwind.
As we’ve celebrated the Lasts of the Summer and stepped into the First inklings of Fall, I’ve been trying to hunker down and just breathe.
I’ve journaled and I’ve taken some fervently brisk walks around the neighborhood in an effort to soothe the restless yammerings inside my head.
Here’s a few things I’ve sifted out:
~ ~ Acknowledge all the shifting feelings. Edit later.
I told a friend recently I felt like a human pinball machine, ricocheting off one thing after another, alarms and dings constantly beeping around me.
Although I felt like I was managing pretty well with the expectedparts of multiple transitions, I realized I was “emotionally leaky” when unexpected challenges arose again and again.
I might have been the tearfully quiet woman on the phone, trying not to sob out loud when the air conditioning company informed me that they would NOT be able to work us into their schedule the night before an event at my house!
Acknowledge the wide mix of feelings and their varying intensity as you’re caught up in a time of upheaval, yet give yourself grace to sift through them later.
~ ~ Savor one moment at a time
It’s hard to have your feet in two worlds at one time.
Absorbing the current moment with both feet solidly planted in the Now helps you focus and soak in the atmosphere around you and connect with the person beside you.
Rootbeer floats on a hot afternoon with your favorite middle schooler is a double treat!
Then you take a deep breath and step forward into the next moment.
~ ~ Keep it Simple
Pray over the small details in a health crisis and identify snatches of gratitude along the way (e.g. timeliness of reports, an extra kindness of the receptionist, or the gesture of a physician providing his own cell phone number to you.)
Tackle the little things that you can accomplish during a whirlwind season of change. Match up the single socks floating around the laundry room. Clean out the refrigerator. Get your car washed. Lie back in that hammock a few minutes and allow the perspective shift to settle into your bones. Chase the Quiet in the midst of the chaos.
The long-term Big Picture can feel overwhelming. Keep focused on the tangibles of today rather than wallowing in the haze of tomorrow’s worries.
When my permit-only son drove me around on errands, I felt more grounded because my attention was on him and his experience…like watching the odometer roll 123,456 miles as he drove over the bridge to his cross country practice!
Times of crisis don’t have to steal our joy. We can lean into each other to appreciate these little moments shared in this particular season.
~ ~ Release
As parents we can’t hold too tightly to our children. We have to release them when they’re ready to spread their wings. As we celebrate each milestone, our momma’s hearts soar. Yet when we see them take flight, it’s a tender time for all of us. Embrace it all!
As we prepared for our firstborn to head off to college, I kept focusing on the simple phrase #launchwell to ground me during the flurry of sorting, packing, and loading.
As we neared the Countdown, I had a heightened awareness of Lasts with our son in our daily family life. Our last time at church together as a family. Our last meal together. Each day poignantly echoed the reality impending upon us. His spot at the dinner table would be empty. The light tread of his feet down the stairs would be absent.
I had to recognize that many of our Lasts transformed quickly into his Firsts. Our Release became his time to Shine.
Big Transitions are messy and emotional yet they transform us in remarkable ways we cannot glimpse yet. We press on, standing firm in our faith. We move forward, knowing we are not alone.
“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Are you familiar with the phrase, the liturgy of the ordinary?
How much do we pay attention to the daily practices that absorb our time and skew our perspective simply through their mundane repetition?
As I picked up my groceries the other day, I had a startling reminder that we can experience more joy and connectedness in our daily hustle, sowing seeds a little along the way, rather than resigning ourselves to the drudgery of repetitive chores or errands.
I pulled up into slot #7 & called the pick-up number to notify them of my arrival. Someone answered and yelled into the phone, “WALMART GROCERY PICKUP!” I was so startled I almost dropped the phone, noticing that I already had ringing in my ear from the loud screech.
Almost immediately, the voice on the other end of the line began to apologize, laughing nervously. I asked, “Is this Tanya?“ It was my turn to surprise her because I recognized her voice. “Uh, yeah” she replied somewhat sheepishly. I told her my name and she began laughing, saying “Oh, it’s you! I’m SO sorry! I’ll be right out!”
Typically I don’t call the number. I usually activate the app as I’m leaving my house to warn them of my impending arrival. In fact, I had never talked to Tanya on the phone before.
How did I know it was her?
Instinctively, I knew it was herbecause the two of us have been part of each other’s Liturgy of the Ordinary.
As part of her job, she rolls out my grocery order, informs me of substitutions, and cheerfully loads my groceries in the back of my well-lived-in cargo area. As part of my Momjob, I’m frequently in the waiting zone, rolling down my window and squiggling my autograph on her order phone.
Tanya and I have chatted over the course of the last few months as our mundane duties have bumped us together more often than I’d like to admit. (A household of teenaged appetites is my excuse for such frequent visits, not poor menu planning…surely not!)
We have become familiar with one another, often sharing a knowing smile of “here we go again!” as we move through our well-choreographed grocery dance.
What began as an ordinary Monday grocery pick-up this week turned into laughter and connection, giving us both a boost of positive energy to resume our rote routines. She hugged me spontaneously and said something along the lines of “Thanks for always being so great! You’re awesome!”
As I drove home with my grocery bags jostling each other, I was lighter in spirit and grateful for a little unexpected sparkle in my day.
The mundane task of putting all the food away and preparing the next meal still loomed, but my perspective shift was noticeably clearer.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us.” Psalms 90:17
By the way, if you don’t know about grocery store pick-ups, do it! I wish it had been available when my kiddos were younger and in carseats… a game-changer, for sure!
Now, go discover the Sparkle in your Ordinary day, my friend!
Who remembers those long summer road trips when you were a kid, squished in beside your siblings and marking out your territory with imaginary lines? What memories are sharpest for you? What senses were most heightened?
We rattled around in the backseat without seatbelts (gasp!) & looked forward to an ice cold Orange Crush from a pop machine at a gas station somewhere along the way. We often had to stop to clarify directions to supplement our well-worn, wrinkled state map that never seemed to fold back into its original shape. If we missed a turn, we could drive for miles completely unaware of our error because we didn’t have a computerized voice perkily “re-calculating” for us.
Recently, we logged hundreds of miles on a family vacation. At the end of a busy day of touristing, we squished in tight into our hotel room each evening. Our boys had their nightly discussion re: who was sharing the foldout couch and who was bunking on the floor.
Somewhere in the midst of traveling, we are reminded about our nucleus as a family. We make frequent eye contact as we’re plotting our course for the day. We track one another through noisy crowds. We squish in closely together in various modes of public transportation. During all these bumps and nudges, we’re reminded of our belongingness in this rugged little family of ours.
We amuse ourselves waiting in lines by messing with each other, cracking jokes that don’t make any sense to those around us.
We smooth out each other’s rough edges and finish each other’s sentences.
Although we’re out exploring new territory and mingling among strangers, we’re drawn back to one another to circle up for the next transition.
We move on together as a pack.
My husband and I are not big fans of selfies…and certainly don’t have “the knack” for taking them, especially if we’re trying to capture some scenic background, too. Something happens, though, when we huddle in together, squishing in to fit all of our faces into that little square. We claim each other. We recognize ourselves in each other’s expressions and features.
We identify as a unit, a lifelong team. We validate our sense of belonging to one another. We catch a glimpse of who we are together in this snap of time. This is Family.
In this moment, this isUs.We reconnect in ways on trips that we don’t in our everyday routine. We aren’t distracted by our daily chores and pressing schedules. We focus in on one another.
As parents trailing along behind our children, we see with fresh eyes the ways they have grown since our last vacation. We observe how they assert themselves in new situations.
Independence lurks at this one’s fingertips and we feel a click of confirmation that he is ready to launch. I’m reminded that we have to hold him loosely, allowing him to stretch forward toward his new adventures.
Summer vacations are full of potential and opportunity. It’s a time to explore and be curious, lingering over new discoveries.
We can be carefree and silly with one another as we share new experiences.
We play frisbee in different parks and walk miles on unfamiliar streets, soaking in the sights and sounds.
We cultivate as many family memories as we can into these precious summer moments, unifying together for the long haul of our family story. . . SQUISHING IN for all we’re worth!
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
Summer has its own rhythm and we just sail along with it the best we can . . . enjoying family vacations, “dutifully” following packing checklists for kids’ various camps, having lazy dinners out on the patio…letting each day unfold in its unique way.
Our Quiet Times might slip into a different timeslot as we try to get outside chores down in the early morning hours before the heat of the day.
We might snatch some devotional time during the afternoon lull when everyone has soaked up enough sun or we may experiment with late devotions when everyone is settled in for the night.
Dinner time may be a little different also. We eat later and “planning” is looser, typically more laidback. We might have more snack suppers or concoct some simple meals from what we find in the fridge. Breakfast dinners are always a win-win around here!
Occasionally, we’ll be motivated to do some batch cooking and stockpile some family favorites (i.e. chicken packets) that we can pull out at the end of a long summer day.
I don’t know about you, but it takes me a little while to ease in to a summer rhythm, letting go of the patterns that have nudged us along during the school year. Each week has a different flavor, depending on who might be visiting us or which one of the kids might be away at a camp. “Adaptability” is key. (at least that’s what I keep reminding myself when things are feeling a bit off-kilter)
So, we might be a little more sporadic sharing posts or offering workshops during this season. We’re allowing ourselves to “go with the flow” and give ourselves some margin for some spontaneous get-togethers along the way.
We’re all familiar with the preschool song about twinkling stars in the dark sky… “how I wonder what you are…”
As we’re careening to the end of school, the long stretch of summer prompts us all to wondera bit more than usual.
WONDER – to think or speculate curiously
My youngest peppers me with questions when we’re out together, asking how things work or pointing out advertising anomalies that don’t make common sense on the surface.
I often stumble through my responses and together we generate a lot of hypotheses, sometimes mutually agreeing to consult Syri in hopes that her lofty British accent will produce a more educated guess.
I love my son’s quirky observations and perpetual curiosity.
WoNdER – to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel
Summer road trips offer families a chance to veer off the beaten path and see some unusual things.
We didn’t necessarily have to understand WHY someone would create such oddities, but we did enjoy wandering about in awe of seeing typical objects accumulated and displayed in some extreme ways.
wonDeR – to doubt
As Moms, we frequently second-guess our day-to-day interactions with our children. We wonder if we’re doing enough. We wonder if we’re doing too much…
Whenever I’m unsettled about a particular interaction with one of my kiddos, I like to process through it on a walk. I’ll even choose a different path to stimulate my thinking.
I typically can glean some perspective that I didn’t have in the moment. I may realize I need to readjust my expectations or expand the timeframe involved.
The symmetry of nature soothes me as I explore my personal reactions and the unique personality of the child involved. When I see a flower blooming that has just reached its peak, it’s a gentle reminder that my children are blossoming at their own rates as well. Each one is in a different developmental season and I have to nurture in patient, subtle ways, mindful of timing and spacing.
WONder – a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, tinged with admiration
Sometimes a milestone highlights a child’s growth that’s been occurring all along, but is poignantly brought to our present attention in a formal rite of passage.
Our breath catches as we see our child cross the stage at graduation. As he is swept up in a week-long chain of celebratory events and inundated by sweet cards of validation from friends, family, and former teachers, something shifts between parent and child.
The child’s effort and determination emerges as the primary focus and our parenting role fades away, providing a backdrop for him to truly shine.
wonder – a miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon
Each experience we’ve woven into our child’s life culminates in a unique blend of teenaged flair.
From the rainy kindergarten zoo field trips to numerous play sessions at the park, and all those family vacations, each contributes to a lifetime sense of curiosity.
It’s fun to see teens begin to seek out adventures on their own, perhaps participating in an overseas exchange program or a church mission trip.
Each new experience stirs up WONDER about other cultures and broadens their outlook a little wider.
As we teeter on the edge of summer, we have the opportunity to ponder a little longer, to question a little deeper… and to marvel at this season of our family’s life a little more intentionally.
To my graduating son, I look at YOU in Wonder.
I will always treasure our shared history fondly, tuck you into my heart tightly, and hold your future loosely.