A Separate Life: Thoughts About an Empty Nest

About nineteen years ago, I had a revelation. My youngest son was newly born, and my husband watched him so I could take my first outdoor walk postpartum. I loved my walks. In fact, these walks became a lifeline. I’d taken many of them while pregnant, my son along with me, as he grew inside, safe and warm.

On this day (husband watching newborn son) I was thoughtful as I approached my favorite, nature-laden destination. And I realized, rather suddenly:

“He is starting his life apart from me. This is the first time he has not been with me on my walk.”

It was a strange thought, but interesting,  and not necessarily sad. It represented a beginning. I knew this change was good and right for him, and for me. But I did mourn just a tiny bit, because it also represented an ending, and it illustrated the relentless passing of time.

Life is like that, isn’t it? There is bitter with the sweet.

Yesterday morning, I had a similar revelation, and one that bore more weight. We got home late the night before from dropping the same son off at college, several states away. We noticed the quiet house as we dropped our bags in the mudroom, but we were unpacking, finishing up a podcast, grabbing some dinner. And we were tired, so we fell into bed.

But the next morning, I woke early, and before my husband, which is what happens every day. I haven’t needed an alarm in years. And as I dressed for the day, the quiet grew louder. I ignored the silence, and pushed it aside, diving into my morning routines. But before I left the room where I dressed, realization elbowed its way forward to stand before me and stare me in the face:

“He is not at basketball practice. He is not at church. And he will not be home later.”

Always, when the house was this quiet, he would be home in a few hours. I froze as the thought sunk in, and then, I slumped down to sit on the edge of our bathtub, held my head in my hands, and cried. I thought about how he is no longer part of our daily routines, like waking up in the mornings, eating meals, and watching TV. He has been a good companion, and at that thought, I cried even harder. I’d been so busy for months helping him get ready to go that I hadn’t had time to think about it.

You see, I’ve been a mother since I was 19 years-old. I’ve homeschooled my six children for the past 26 years. And this feels like a strange, new world.

But just as I realized all those years ago, and even as I cried in that bathroom, I also knew that this is good and right and best for all of us. And just like all those years ago, this is a beginning, even though it feels more like an ending. And if it’s love, it’s not about me at all, is it?

In my humanity, more than anything, I want it all to be about me. It’s one of my greatest struggles.

Someone very wise once explained to me that love is about what is right and best for the other person, not necessarily what we or even they want. Yes, my son did want to go to college and play basketball, but I would be serving myself if I held him back, even with my tears. I would be doing myself a favor, and not doing him one.

And if I truly love him, I will do him a favor, and dry my tears. I will get up off the tub edge, put my grown-up clothes on, rejoice for him, encourage him, and support him in any way I can.

Don’t get me wrong:  there’s absolutely nothing wrong with grieving. There’s just something wrong with staying there. So, I’ve decided I’m not.

We have five other children, his nearest sibling being eight years older, and they all felt his leaving profoundly, right along with us. He was their little guy as much as ours, and many of them changed his diapers. But they love him, too, so if they cried, I never knew about it, and neither will he.

We’re all standing on the sideline, cheering him on. As Christians, we have no excuse to do anything else.

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“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13, NIV)

17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us.

(1 John 4:17-19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I Play Pokemon Go

I am not a millennial, to say the least, nor am I in the other age group that loves Pokemon Go (children). My 57th birthday is this October, and I’ve never really gamed before, so if you’re wondering why I play the new game that’s taking over the world, this post is for you.

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It all started innocently. My 18-year-old son likes to keep me abreast of what’s going on. I’m grateful.

Here is how the original Pokemon Go convo went down:

Son:  Have you heard of Pokemon Go?

Me:  Nope.

Son: Nintendo’s stock is already up 10%, and it’s only been out a week. It’s done more in that week for youth fitness than Michelle Obama’s fitness initiative did in two presidential terms. You should play.

Me:  Why would I do that?

Son: Because it’s fun, Mom.

Now, when he said the word “fun,” he was speaking my love language, and I was already downloading Pokemon Go.

That was then. This is now: I’m at level 14 and I just evolved an Eevee into a level 922 Vaporeon, which caused me to squeal, which my friends didn’t understand at all. I took over two gyms this morning after my jog, all by myself.

I also got to have the following amazing conversation with my grandson:

Grandson: Mimi! I just reached level 5 and I caught a Scyther right at my front door!

Me: Are you SERIOUS?

Grandson:  Yes!  Mimi…can we come over later and play Pokemon Go with you? I joined Team Mystic so we can fight at the same gyms.

Be still, my heart.

Since then, my 18-year old and I have been out after dark walking around local parks together, catching every Pokemon we could find, along with half of the population in our little town. We actually met people and had conversations. My thirty-something daughter and I hit the local walking trails in her town in the beautiful evening light yesterday, her babies in a stroller in front, stopping now and then to join forces in battle at an opposing team’s gym. And I’ve logged an average of well over 10,000 steps per day on my Fitbit since this thing began, going Pokemon hunting when I might possibly have been parked in front of the TV.

Generally speaking, I like to stretch myself by learning new things and getting outside of my comfort zone. I think that’s important as I get older. If I’m ever going to be part of change in this world, I can’t be afraid of it. Also, I like to understand what my children and grandchildren are interested in, so I can better relate to them. My goal is to be a positive prophetic voice in their lives, and I can’t do that if I don’t know much about them.

So there you have it–some reasons why I play Pokemon Go. And to quote a certain tallish 18-year old, “You should play.”

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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United We Stand

Heavenly Father, write my words…

Loss of life and the noise of the crowd has exhausted me lately, and I’ve spent some time draped over furniture, face down, weeping, and praying. And weeping…with usual life routines standing neglected, all round me.

Back in the noisy crowd at our town’s football games, and years ago, the cheerleaders did a cool bit that went like this, with some great, old-school choreography:

“United we stand/divided we fall/the mighty lions/will conquer all.”

I could probably still do this cheer if some of you want to join me, and I’ll direct, if I can stand at the back.

After some clapping, stiff-arm moving and change in positions, the cheer ends with:  “GO. FIGHT. WIN.”

Long before my high school days, divide-and-conquer was a tactic used to defeat people and gain power. I recently and quite accidentally caught this quality piece of journalism on PBS one night while channel surfing:

The Secret History of ISIS

Oh, to be a reporter for someone doing such solid work…

One thing I found interesting about ISIS tactics is that, according to this report, they purposely find an area of instability and move in, doing brutal harm to fellow Muslims, if necessary, to cause a civil war.

Lately, a war of words via media, social and otherwise, has me shaking my head and crying more. And a literal war, with bullets, seems to have seeped onto our streets.

This is me with my sister Mekeisha in 2013. We had just flown into Baltimore for a bucket-list trip to Philly, DC and New York City. The reason we refer to one another as “sister” when we are obviously not biological sisters is a story deep and personal to us. The trite and short explanation is that we are sisters-in-Christ. But the story goes far beyond that. We’ve done life together, and our families are connected now in one of those beautiful human relationships that is the heartbeat of this otherwise miserable existence in a broken world.


I do not have permission to share a photo of another close connection, via my church family. He is a detective with the Dallas police department. He and his wife will never know the God story behind the way in which they touched our lives, and how He, the Almighty God, stitched those seemingly-small events into the fabric of our son’s future and other things. It is an intricate tale, deep and personal to me.

I love these people with a love that makes it feel like someone is violently ripping my guts out when bad happens to them. And something bad just happened to both of them.

#blacklivesmatter. And our black neighbors, friends, loved ones and fellow citizens need to hear us say that right now.

#bluelivesmatter. And our law-enforcement neighbors, friends, loved ones and fellow-citizens need to hear us say that right now.

I just said it. I proudly hashtag it. It goes without saying that all lives matter, and I won’t hashtag that.

And yes, I put one in bold over the other, because I’m white.

People of the United States of America, I say openly to you now that I refuse to be pitted against any of you. It’s not about me, and what I think, or feel or fear, or don’t understand. It’s not even about what happens to me. I ignore all of that, and I lock elbows with all of you, and I stand, planted firmly on the rock of Jesus Christ.

He’s the Answer, the Key, to everything.

Change starts with me. From there, I plan to start at my back door and do all that I can to make this world better in any way I can, no matter how small.

God, help me. God help us.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12, ESV

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your Best Friend Is a Different Color

There is a beautiful story about this photo, taken on April 20, 2012 in a Texas wheat field:

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Random phone photo I happened to snap after the story happened.

That’s my teenager (Timothy), next to his best friend (Gavin) and his little brother (Gabriel), who are wearing matching tee shirts. How they met, and how our families became friends, is a story for another day, and it involves providential circumstance.

Today’s story illustrates this scripture:

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
    you, Lord, have called forth your praise?”

(Matthew 21:16, NIV)

Here is the story:  Gavin and Timothy played basketball on the same team for years, and Gabriel played on another team in the same homeschool basketball program. We often carpooled during those days, and this day was my turn to transport the boys. Gavin and Gabriel attend a Christian school run by their family, and the school’s principal is their grandfather, who is a delightful and Godly pastor famous for saying, “Bless your bones,” among other things. In the above photo, Gavin and Gabriel are wearing tee shirts from their school.

As we often did during our treks, we made a pit stop at a convenience store on that April day. The three boys went in for snacks, while I gassed up the car. When they got back into the car, and we went on our way, I listened to the following conversation:

(All were chattering and laughing, munching and slurping, when Gabriel commanded the conversation to tell us something.)

Gabriel: Ms. Stephanie, we introduced ourselves to the clerk as brothers!”

(More giggles, chatter, munching and slurping, when suddenly, Gabriel froze, and turned to Gavin.)

Gabriel: Wait a minute!  Gavin, the clerk is going to know we weren’t brothers, because Timothy doesn’t have a tee shirt!”

(Silence for a moment…)

Gavin:  I have a feeling, Gabriel, that there were other ways the clerk could tell.

Timothy and I didn’t say anything. I don’t know what Tim was thinking, but I can tell you what I was thinking, and my eyes misted up and I battled a sizable lump in my throat. I was thinking how Gabriel’s view should be everyone’s view, but it’s not. I was thinking how beautiful what he said was. I was thinking of the above scripture. And I was ashamed at the racism that still exists, and yes, even my part in that, whether I realized it or not, and whether it showed or not.

Fellow humans, we have a lot of work to do. And no one can do it for us. We have to do it ourselves. Fellow Christians with pale skin, we need to get on our knees, face the truth, make no excuses, and work on this with the Creator and Father of all, who said these words:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

(Galatians 3: 26-28, NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already started my work on this issue. It keeps me busy. And I have my friends, and now my just-like-family, who happen to have dark skin, to thank for that.

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Snapchat Tutorial (for old people)

I’m still having fun with Snapchat.

That is an actual snap that I sent to my daughter, who replied to ask how I did the writing. But she is a semi pro who has passed tips along to me, too.

One day, beside my daughter’s name, Snapchat said that we were *best friends*. There is a baby’s face beside everyone else’s name. This made me smile.

And one day, next to my daughter’s name, there appeared fire. 🔥

Whoa.

My daughter and I were discussing this and other phenomena via Snapchat when the teenager came home. Coming up the back steps, he saw me through the window, phone facing him.

“Oh, your’re Snapchatting,” said the teenager.  “Cool!”

(They don’t want to be spied on, but I suspect they spy on us.)

“And I see you’re on a hot streak with Lauren. Nice,” he added with a smile. And he nonchalantly walked up the stairs.

So that’s what the fire means. Smarty pants.

I immediately explained to my daughter, and I sent her a snap something like this:


I can’t post the actual snap, since I didn’t  save it. I now have at least that much sense. 🙄

Translation: once you send the snap, unless you save it, it goes bye-bye.

So, there you have it: my first Snapchat tutorial. All you noobs take notice. You now know some basics, plus what a hot streak is.

SMH

(Shaking my head. Do I have to drag you people into the 21st century?)

Now, don’t let me intimidate you with all of my technical  knowledge. I got most of it from Google and an 18 year old. And I made some embarrassing mistakes along the way.

Next time, maybe I’ll show you how to use Bitmoji.

Byeeeeeee. 👋

Note: the teenager admits he only knows what a hot streak is by Googling. I mean, while we’re being real. 
Translation: We’re all in this together.

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Technology (Oopsie)

Well, that didn’t take long.


Snapchat is dangerous. And that’s what I get for posting that arrogant last blog.

I sent a Snapchat to my daughter yesterday morning from a hotel bathroom. Doesn’t this sound shady already? I took an unflattering video of my poor hubbs in the doorway. I said to my daughter, “I’m dangerous on Snapchat. There’s no telling what I’ll accidentally send to whomever.”

And it’s true. The evil isn’t in the thing. The evil is in me.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past 48 hours:

  • Social media is a black hole.
  • There are about a bazillion ways for me to be to be led astray there.
  • I need to be more adept at using Snapchat before I tap one more key in that app.
  • Videos and photos from Snapchat are saved to your camera roll. 😳

(Well, they are when you don’t know what you’re doing. 😂)

Yes, my clan keeps it squeaky clean on social media. But Snapchat gives a false sense of privacy. And I still would not want those no-makeup, bathroom shots to get misplaced while traveling through all those servers, even if they are fully clothed.

So…

After purging my camera roll of all those um, Snapchat things, I have a new sense of respect for the peace, quiet and safety of life unplugged.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I still use technology. But I’m going to strengthen my fences a little. 

And I’m going to remember the message from this song:

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Technology

Due to technology, I am blogging while riding in a car near the outskirts of Dallas.


Thank you, technology. I like that.

I am 56 years old. I’ve heard other people’s opinions about technology, and I’ve had a few myself. But as I change, my opinions change. It’s a good thing…a growing thing.

It’s like other growing things in my life. Good things. Things that stretch me and teach me. Make me better. But if I listed some of those things, you might not think they were good at all. 😄

But they are, and that’s the real point of this blog.

As for technology, since I know all things work together for my good (that’s in the Bible somewhere), and that sometimes, those things don’t feel good to my human nature, here is my policy regarding technology, and other things that might feel outside of my box:

  • I don’t like change, but sometimes, (erm) often, I need it. 
  • I should handle all things as unto God, and not to men. (That’s in the Bible somewhere, too.)
  • The evil is not in the thing. (Credit here to an excellent, classic read for Christian parents of teens: Age of Opportunity, by Paul David Tripp)
  • I use technology, and I make myself do the hard work of learning how without asking someone else for help. (Secret tip: Google 🤐)

All that said, I’ve been having fun on this drive playing around with Snapchat. My kids, family and other BFFs are my Snapchat friends. We keep it squeaky clean. I just posted my first real Snapchat story. I did it without any help.

And I have a feeling of accomplishment. 

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