To the Mama Feeling All the Feels of Back to School

The other day I dropped a glass jar of raspberry jam on my toe. I hunched between the open fridge and the island as tears welled and slid down my cheeks. My son heard me shout, “Ouch!” through the garage door and he raced in. “Are you O.K.?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure you’re O.K.?” Kyle asked, unconvinced by my shaky answer.

“Yes. Thank you,” I blubbered. His green eyes penetrated mine with compassion.

“Let’s go play,” his friend said, clearly ready to move on.

“I hope you feel better,” Kyle offered. They quickly raced back to their flashlight game.

I stood there for a good long while and wept. The jam jar opened up an inner flood of unexpressed emotions.

Kids going back to school is bittersweet.  Every year, I feel it deeply, for days. This sharp pain of letting go hits me hard. I hope the jar won’t shatter: the glass of my heart, the yearning I have to be with them in the kitchen spreading jam on buttered bread, eating together.

I long to know what is going on with them—that connectedness, togetherness welling up, but a great distance seems to pulls them out into the world.

Will they remember the love in this kitchen?

Faced with my throbbing toe, I picked up the sticky jar and remembered watching my daughter ride her bike to middle school for the first time last year—she revelled in it. As hard as it was, I loved giving her wings.

These emotions we moms feel is natural and good. An honest cry over what will never be again is absolutely necessary. What is confusing is the simultaneous feeling of “Yippee!” for a return to routine, good work, and a chance to go to the bathroom by ourselves.

To the mom who is feeling a strange cocktail of happy-sad relief laced with longing:

Your love carries them through seventh hour, recess, and the rest of their lives.

Cry over the jam jar landing smack on your toe.

Feel all the feels, mama. Grieve for what you are losing: summer, freedom, innocence, and lemonade stands.

Then pick up that jar and open it. Butter the bread. Spread the red contents of your heart on top. Have a good cry or a “Thank you, Jesus,” moment. No need to explain. Whatever you’re feeling, I know it gets better.

Love always hits hard, especially when it’s in a glass jar full of seeds, sticky and sweet.

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My Place Is Here—For Now

//It used to be people would dig the seed of themselves into earth, wherever they landed on this swirling gas ball. Place was a wall, a shelter, a home they built onto for a lifetime. The ground beneath them where their shoots took root was their entire world day upon day. This plot of terra firma perhaps the nutrients to the wood of their own cradle and the blanket wrapping up their own body at death.

Who are we when place has transformed into a breeze, or an email? We capture it in a breath, hit Send, and move on with life.

My husband and I bantered this out the other night. I see home as people. He longs for the place we will stay for a set period of time. I’ve never had a permanent home persay because our family moved nearly every four years. This was the pattern. This is what we did. I adapted. I moved.//

Because rooted places never seem to take to the plant of me, I learned to carry my sense of place in lonelier landscapes: in the what was to be of future pursuits, in friendships hoped for and sometimes found, in food, spirit, and experience. Here I could move on without being disappointed. Here I found hope in the what could be.

It’s true, society is more transient than ever. I am a product of this constant motion: a child at heart who finds home is more people than place. I’ve adapted and taken my roots out of the ground and extended them as arms to other displaced friends, for whatever time we have each other.

I love this world and every place it will take me. Yes, I long for home and hearth, identity and community, as people did of old. Sometimes at night, I walk out on the deck and stand upon my two strong legs under stars. I lift my eyes to a fixed point of light and know, like you may know too, my place is with God. Here is good, for now.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a creative community of writers taking the weekly challenge to write for five minutes on one word. Join us!

(// Indicates the beginning and end of five minutes.)

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Retreat from the World, Come Home Your True Self

Retreats are my jam. Here’s why. Recently I stole away for 3 days to a little retreat center just 30 minutes from my house with writers from Five Minute Friday. Our aim was to do three things: rejuvenate our souls, make in-person connections with online friends, and invigorate our writing lives with more Jesus.

Getting away for that long is a sacrifice. Days before the gathering, one retreat member asked us to pray. Plan A for childcare had fallen through. There were day-long plane trips and sweaty arrivals (thank you, 100 degree outdoor sauna!) The pre-prep hustle is actual, but a retreat from the real world is essential.Tweet This

Some of arrived struggling with major transitions: moves, job changes, and life choices. Some of us were exhausted and stuck. A few of us needed God to help us to trust ourselves, Him, and other people. I desired to step into the unknown of sharing my story in creative ways. I also felt the push to listen more than I talked.

We talked and wrote, sang and napped, learned from each other’s experiences and ate chocolate. Most importantly, we were ourselves. Maybe it was the anticipation of an inspiring experience or because we already knew each other as virtual blogging acquaintances, but we felt safe. We were comfortable enough to show our scared, excited, over-achieving, under-achieving, amped up, and slightly task-addicted hearts. In this space of honest longing for connection, our caring, goofy, adventurous, shy, and lovely selves shown through.

It was beautiful, my friends.

That’s what retreating does: away from the busy world beckoning us to do it all and be everything to everyone, we have freedom to wipe off the makeup of self-protection and be our true selves.

Shutting out the world is such a healthy practice. Sometimes we need to think a whole uninterrupted thought for more than two minutes! It’s also good to stop trying so hard to be understood and listen attentively. I always fight this in myself: the urge to talk to everyone (extrovert) versus my introspective listening self which loves to observe and take it all in. I did both. Not overthinking it was bliss. I was simply me. I said what I thought and felt in the moment, and it was good.

From this rooted place, I was able to serve, listen, and receive. Beautiful conversations bloomed. My roommate and I encouraged one another with deep, honest struggles of faith and family. Over pizza at my favorite restaurant, a fellow poet and I shared how we fight and fail to be intentional in our communities. The last night a few of us sat in a gazebo and watched a lightning storm. I love what my new friend Alice William wrote on her Instagram,

“…We watched the heavens declare

The magnificent handiwork of God

One spark here. One spark there

The lightning filled the sky

And left a fragment of it’s spark in our hearts

 

The heavens declared the glory of God

And under the gazebo

Our hearts ignited with love for Him

And for each other….”

We all came needing something: a place to be heard, a passion reignited, or renewed trust in fellow sisters. We opened ourselves wide to one another. Lightning hit ground all around us, metaphorically and physically, catching fire to a remembrance burning in our bones: we are women with One Voice.

The retreat attendee with childcare issues? As a group, we prayed. She found a sitter and came. Next to me, she snapped photos of the lightning too. Before she drove home across Kansas, she asked me to pray for calm skies. Later she texted, “I am about 90 minutes from home. And definitely looking forward to a quiet morning tomorrow…P.S. The drive has been storm free!” I imagine her sitting the next morning, retreating in the quiet of her home to pray, just a few moments before the kid chaos ensues. She gets up from her seat with Strength and Peace, her true self.

This too is my story, and retreats are my jam.

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Five Summer Flicks That Inspire Courage and Compassion

//We love true stories. My kids, my hubs, and me. There’s nothing like gathering around the TV with popcorn on a Friday night and being inspired with an inspiring tale of overcoming. When we watch stories of courage and compassion, we open up a dialogue of how to live this way in real life. These are stories of flesh and blood greatness: surmounting hardship, prejudice, and socially-contrived boundaries. They deepen our belief that we can indeed do great things to make the world a beautiful, better place.

Movies do this like no other.

My 8-year old son and 12-year old daughter give the first four of these a thumbs up. The last one is on our list this summer. All true stories, all PG, which is hard to find these days!  //

Five Flicks with Fabulous True Stories

1.McFarland USA: a California coach moves his family to a rural Hispanic farming community. Facing cultural boundaries and an unpromising future for his students, he tries to make a better life for them and his own family by starting a track team.

2. Soul Surfer: young surfer Bethany Hamilton loses her arm in a shark attack and faces the daunting challenge of relearning how to do get back on the board and do what she loves.

3. Hidden Figures: a group of African-American women mathematicians working for NASA help the U.S. space program make strides in the cosmos and humanity.

4.We Bought a Zoo: a widower invests his entire financial future into a small, failing zoo. With his kids and new animal staff, he tries to bring it back to life.

5.The Eagle Huntress: a documentary about a young Mongolian girl who attempts to become the first female eagle huntress in 13 generations.

These movies are suites for ages 8+. However, as with all media, use your personal discretion to determine what is right for your family. Pluggedin.com and Commonsensemedia.com are great resources.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a community of speedy-fingered and highly creative faith writers. We write for five minutes on one word. This week was INSPIRE.  P.S. My kids are home this summer, so I don’t do anything in just five minutes. I try though.

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Inviting Peace into Summer’s Wilderness

There is a peace that comes after vacation, after three continents, after plane, train, boat, and car. After seeing all we can see of the world, so big, and us so small. There is a peace that I control very little. It’s a relief, I tell you.

I do not control my children. I can try, but I don’t. I do not control my husband. I can try, but we all know how that ends! I do not control delayed flights, gate changes, long lines, or traffic from Hades. I have no influence over city-wide parties almost locking us out of a parking garage for 24 hours! Little ‘ole me does not bear weight upon the arrival of my own President’s arrival changing our travel plans. I absolutely cannot make the day longer or shorter, change the outcome to suit me, or miraculously make our rolly luggage appear on the other side of a Venice bridge with a million steps.

What I can do is invite peace. The kind acknowledging limits and the freedom of focusing on what I can do. Peace comes in being honest: this is what I hoped for,  but this is what happened. Peace is rooted in reality and has faith in provision. So what happened made me feel this. Is that true? And I will choose to trust.

Where does my help come from? It does not come from myself. It comes from soaking my life in God’s ways.

One of our last days in Israel, we drove through the desert, which in Biblical times was the proverbial wilderness. In the wilderness, it’s a big dust bowl of mountain, sand, and dirt. Canyons of rock and sand shift with the wind and once a year onslaught of water. Deep dried up rivers shape the landscape, determine the placement of roads, towns, and industry.

There is a certain uncertainty there, a flexibility and acceptance of the unexpected. We drove into a po-dunk town named after Israel’s founder: Midreshet-Ben Gurion. Using trusty Google coordinates, we drove into a random neighborhood and tried to find our B&B. We parked in front of a house with a retro green door. Kids on rollerblades and hockey sticks raced past on the sidewalk. “This is not it,” we said. This cannot be it. We drove around for another half hour, trying to find a phone signal, and trying to figure out why no one was in a hurry. Adults and kids alike walked slowly by. Bikes everywhere in these run down dust covered homes. Like a bowl of sawdust had been dumped on a Floridian retirement village. That was the color.

We drove and finally got to the outskirts of town next to a run down warehouse and a chain link fence. As we sat there, the phone finally reached the British B&B owner. He informed us the green door had been it. He told us he was coaching those kids with hockey sticks in the desert. That we were there and we just hadn’t known it.

As he navigated us back to the green door, we realized all the buildings and coordinates couldn’t help us find this ramshackle home that was the spitting image of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The owners 10 year old daughter checked us into our bungalow with a coy pond (under construction) in the courtyard. We had entered a strange paradise owned by people who knew the uncertainty of life in the desert, which is indeed, the wilderness.

Sometimes summer feels like wilderness: no schedule, no control, no rhythm, no expectancy. Just when you get in a groove, something changes, you go on vacation, the air conditioning breaks, or you realize you have very little time to write any more.

So you invite the peace, the peace that is the canyon of colors a few yards away from the green door. The dawn of a welcoming college town that is in no hurry, because it knows God gives and He takes away. He provides a way for a beautiful peace to supplant the control we cling to like sand.

Just follow the green door.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s givingMatthew 6:30 MSG

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When Comfort Calls (a poem)

//Laying on my white bed, I listened to the voicemail.

A friend talking sense and love and reason,

Things I couldn’t keep gathered in my own arms today.

I kept dropping them, like trying to hold a laundry load of socks

Me, tripping over them, as I climbed stairs,

All. Day. Long.

Some days the chemicals in my brain misfire, swirling in a strange cocktail of overanalysis.

My body responds in tension and pain

And the mystery of being a woman turns me inside out

Like a wrinkly shirt, arms knotted together, front button holes clinging to the wrong buttons.//

Her words were a balm to my wounded spirit, spread three feet in the air,

Maybe it was the blue of my bedroom walls,

But suddenly I was floating in the clearest blue pool

On my back, a girl again.

I closed my eyes and felt warm sun on my nose, wet hair swirling round my ears,

I leaned back, laughing,

When I opened my eyes, my dad was lifting my weightless body up and out of the water

And he threw me in a great arc.

I made a splash,

Went completely under,

Wet-faced with comfort.

She kept talking.

I laughed, crying,

Knowing I’d have to replay the message later

To hear what it was she said.

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community. This week our one-word writing prompt is COMFORT.

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