Friday, June 29, 2012

Chickies in the Nest

We left home at 6am on Wednesday to pick up our camper.  Oh the JOY I felt as we pulled into town and I knew that I would lay eyes on my girl within minutes!  We drove into camp and I saw hundreds of girls sitting in front of the dining hall, but we were directed to go back to the cabins so we could park and gather their belongings.
The kids and I got out and walked around cabin D and all the while my eyes were roving the distance, watching for her.  We chatted with parents and siblings and laughed but I was only partially involved in the conversations because I wanted to see my daughter and the suspense was just about more than I could take.  I was so anxious to see what this month had done for her and within her.
And then there she was, running and smiling and laughing because of COURSE Mom was taking pictures and she didn't know I was bringing everyone with me and they were all just so excited to be together...

Together.  What a beautiful word.  What a sweet feeling to see all my babes hugging and laughing and ribbing each other again.  She proudly introduced her family to her friends and happily swung the little ones around and hoisted them up for piggy back rides.  We loaded up her things and walked back for one last look, one last goodbye.
Hugs for camp BFF's and counselors and smiles and promises to write soon and "see you next year!" and we were on the way home.


The stories she has been telling...I could fill a library!  The good and the great and the not-so-much because there was a bully who got sent home after the first week but OH it was just so FUN, Mom!  The maturity that moved in as my daughter learned that most girls really are sweet and that the bully who hurt her heart when she was seven  is NOT the norm and that she really is brave and smart and the life of the party because they were all just so happy she was there.  Community.  She experienced true Christian community and the safety it brings.  Yes, this month has been wonderful for her, and healing.

The songs and the chants and the traditions of camp have given her a sense of belonging, a realization that there is so much to experience in life and she is SO glad she pushed through the homesickness and just enjoyed the days...enjoyed the friends and the wonderful busyness of camp.

After we got back into town, we celebrated at our favorite Mexican restaurant and things got a bit in, my kids started fighting.

So as normal set in, I decided to reinforce the boundaries before the bickering got out of control:

"Ok guys, the chaos is not fun and I want it to stop now.  Do you all understand me?  Keep your hands to yourself and quit bugging each other!"

Katie burst into tears...
"I missed you all so much!"

Oh my sweet girl.

"Did you miss me yelling at you?"


And we all laughed because it was just so normal again with her home.

Later that evening, as I took down her braids (oh my, was that ever traumatic after a MONTH) she got teary again.  She missed camp.  She was so glad to be home, but she missed camp too and she was obviously just so conflicted.  It reminds me of the post-Christmas letdown...what do I do NOW?

She was so emotional and keyed up and I wrapped my arms around my almost 11 year old and nuzzled her cheek..."Baby, you just need to have a good cry.  You have had a lot of emotion going on and it has to get out somehow.  Crying is a healthy way to let it out...just let it go."

And she did.  She sobbed for a minute or two and then she felt better...just like every girl does after a good, cleansing cry.

She has been so loving, holding my hand and telling me she loves me and complimenting my clothes, my hair, basically showing me in every way possible that she missed me...missed us all.    She has chattered non-stop and sang every single camp song from the month, even the "top secret" tribe songs, (don't ask me to tell you the lyrics...I am sworn to secrecy!) and already decided who she will request as cabin-mates next year while trying to convince DJ and Gracie they they would also LOVE camp and should go next year, too!

Then, last night as we ate dinner, she asked if she could pray.  We said yes, of course, and she stood beside the table like they do at camp and sang the Doxology...

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen."

The sweetness of her voice melted my heart.  The love she has developed for these old traditions and songs make me smile.  She has learned so much about God, about life and relationships, and about herself in the month away.  And she said it all when, out of habit, she raised her hand at the table to request a napkin.  We all chuckled and she said,

"I am not changing my lifestyle just because I am home!"

So I guess we will all be living a bit of camp life for a while.  That is perfectly fine with me!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boy Joy

The water glistened under the heat of the sun.  Reflections dancing as boys cast into the lake, hopeful but not really.
The man at the bait shop had said the best time to fish is early morning and dusk and, well, it was now the heat of the day and not even the perch were tempted.
A school of minnows jumped about in the distance...maybe something is stirring them up?
A lure flew that direction just in case.


DJ took the rod and his face lit up with excitement.  This fish was a fighter and was not going to be taken easily!  The rod bent and creaked with the strain.  My boy's 12 year old muscles tightened and held as he pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled and Aunt M who has fished her whole life and knows all about this stuff talked him through.

The line made circles in the water as the fish took it all over the cove.   Slowly, slowly, DJ eased it closer to the dock as he pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled.  Finally it was close enough to scoop up into the net and everyone gasped as a big, striped bass was lugged onto the platform and heaved under the strain.

In the absence of a scale, we guessed it was between 3-5 pounds!  Or maybe 6?  You know how fish tales go...they get bigger with the telling!

And then the feat of all feats...this mama who recruits her hubby to squash bugs and deal with dead critters brought to the back porch by the dogs took the fish by the lips (yes, I am convinced fish have lips) and helped worked that hook out.  DJ was breathless with excitement and truly could NOT believe I was in the middle of this...this high adventure and the pinnacle of boyhood.

Breathless...yes.  And smiling...oh that smile!  That smile of pure abandon and joy and wow I can do this and the feeling of suddenly becoming a man because I fought the battle and I won and look at the size of this thing!

Pictures snap and Aunt M excitedly tells him to hold the fish out as far as he can to make it look bigger.  We all laugh and he does and this day is just so, so good.

This discovery.  This realization that my son who I have to remind to turn off the TV and put down the remote and read, this insight into his heart as we near the teen years and I was nervous, it is a gift.
He came home filled up...outdoors and lake and tubing and fishing and driving a real boat for the first time...they filled him.  Swiss Army knives and a kayak taken way out onto the calm and glassy lake where he put the oar down and sat, just sat and looked and listened and this is what I believe happened in that moment:  
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

My son was quiet.  There was no TV, no artificial entertainment, no distraction.  And in the quiet and surrounded by creation God was able to speak into his heart.  As he floated on the surface of the lake alone, he took it all in and he was changed.  He was alive and God was near.

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Psalm 19:1

A new passion is ignited.  A new excitement.  The mention of a lake or fishing or the retelling of the big one and the jokes about the "stick fish" (we had a few of those!) fuel the light in his eyes and I now know that we must make this a priority for the sake of his heart.  I know because, as we drove home, my son spoke from the abundance of his heart...

"Mom, I love you."

"I love you, too."  Keep your eyes on the road, don't get all mushy and ruin the moment.  Just let it be.

"That was a great week."

"Yes, it sure was,"  I said.

"That was the most fun we've ever had."

That was the most fun we've ever had...We have been to Disney World and California and Six Flags and stayed in great hotels with pools and basketball courts and great restaurants.  But this...a week of being filthy and hot and swimming in the lake and eating sandwiches in the boat and catching an 8 pound fish (*wink wink*)...this was the most fun we've ever had!
Yes, sweet boy, it was.  And get your pole ready because we are going fishing on Thursday.
This time with Katie, because she comes home from camp tomorrow!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Forward Focus

In the everyday of life I so easily lose focus.
But God is so patient with me.
In the busy I too quickly put Him off, make Him wait.
And He does.
Summer has been so busy...busier than I had expected or wanted.  Sometimes I feel drained and useless and "God are you really using me or am I just spinning my wheels?"
He is so patient with me.
Plans were made to participate in the local Relay for Life.  A team was organized in memory of my dear friend and sister in Christ who went Home just last year at the age of 40.
I just turned 40.
I have been so busy, but I needed to do this for her, for her mama and her sister and her kids who miss her so much.

Tonight we gathered and the mood was light.  I received the biggest hug of my life from her mama who was so glad to see us glad to see the women who were touched and changed forever by knowing her daughter.  We laughed and we caught up on life and the past year and we watched kids play among the tents.  It was a fun evening.

Gracie and Mari wanted to collect the colorful beads being handed out by the various booths, so we walked the Relay.  We chatted with friends and really didn't think about why we were there so much until the music began...the music for the Survivor Lap.

Completely against my will and unexpectedly a lump rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes as I remembered.  The last time I was here I was with her and she was a survivor.  She walked that lap proudly with her mama and her sister, head held high and the smile of hope on her face.

She would go Home just 8 months later.

I watched teenage girls weep for someone I've never met and I wondered if they had also lost a mama...and I prayed for their hearts.
My heart broke and yet, from deep in my spirit came a rejoicing.

Why?  Because I know where she is.  I know that she smiled as she went Home and that in the weeks and  months before she was radiant with Joy despite the suffering.  I know, and therefore I rejoice.

Last week my husband and I watched the movie "The End of the Spear" which is about the group of missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador in the 1950's.  I knew the generalities of their story but the movie literally rocked my world.  Later my husband would read about it here and the visual created by the movie combined with Steve Saint's description of what the tribesmen saw as the missionaries were dying have stuck vividly in my mind.  Here is what he wrote:

Mincaye and Kimo confirmed that they heard the singing and saw what Dawa seems to describe as angels along the ridge above Palm Beach. Dyuwi verified hearing the strange music, though he describes what he saw more like lights, moving around and shining, a sky full of jungle beetles similar to fireflies with a light that is brighter and doesn't blink.

I just kept thinking, "This is why she smiled!  This is what she saw, and sees, and we will all see one day!  "

God has given us the accounts to help remind us that YES Heaven is real and YES He is here and YES it will be worth it all!

How does anyone survive without Jesus?  How does anyone bear loss and hurt and disappointment and exhaustion and illness without the CROSS of Jesus standing before us declaring it is finished and HE IS RISEN and we can trust with abandon?

What a sweet reunion we had today.  Friends and family remembering through smiles and tears and choosing to trust Him when we really don't understand...looking forward to Heaven and the promise of no more death, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more more orphans and no more cancer.  Someday we will see and our vision will be clear.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.  Psalm 116:15

I am so grateful today for this reminder to stay focused, to not let the everyday dim my vision or cause my sight to blur.  Let Him decide what is important and the rest will just have to wait.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matt. 6:33

Yes, the rest will just have to wait.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sprinklers and Screams

Three beautiful brown babies dance in the driveway as the sprinkler spits and sprays and they laugh.
I sit at my desk immersed in paperwork, signing up a 6th grader, a 5th grader, a 2nd grader and two Kindergarteners with the umbrella school for our next homeschool year.
I smile at their happy sounds drifting into the house.
Suddenly, an unexpected clap of thunder shakes the entire neighborhood and my mind immediately braces for what is next!
Three ear-splitting screams of terror and the wet splatter of feet in the kitchen as they breathlessly skid to a stop in front of me and declare "that was scary!"  I laugh and go outside to turn off the water...

and would you know they had the presence of mind to turn it off before running into the house?

These are the same kids who leave the hose running in their Barbie pool because they need to go potty, or go dig, or go for a walk...
or breathe.

I am shocked.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thoughts from a mama who misses her girl

The letters are coming.  Sometimes one, sometimes four.  In the midst of our busyness at home, the visitors and guests and how did Summer end up this crazy fun I stalk the mailbox.
I miss her.
The first letters lightened my heart:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Everyone is so nice here!  Everyone is showing me the ropes, especially Sadie.  Me and her became camp BFF's right after you left then the others shortly followed!

Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you?  I'm amazing!

Then time began to pass and there was a thunderstorm that lasted all night.  Like every little girl, thunder is scary at night.  Especially when you are in a cabin without your mama.

I missed you so bad I cried last night but all of us did.  

I comforted myself with the mental image of 10 girls having a good, healthy cry because they were homesick and two 19 year old counselors getting schooled in the emotions of a cabin full of tweens.   I admit I had a little chuckle over that!

Another letter arrived in her signature scrawl, the one that gets bigger and messier the happier she is:
It is good weather.  I just got your letter today and I can't believe Drew hasn't lost his tooth yet!  I made 2 new friends.  Tell everyone I said I LOVE THEM!

Letters to her little sister, Gracie and big brother, DJ...letters telling how she cried when she got their letters because it made her happy.  Letters to Daddy and a father's day card because she wanted to be sure it got here in time so she sent it a week early.

I wrote to tell her Drew lost that tooth, and sent a picture so she could see.

Dear Mom and Dad,
I am great!  Tell Drew I am soooooo happy for him!  I have ridden the horses 2 times now and they asked me if I do competitive riding at home!!  I love you SOOOOO much!

The joy in her words lightened my heart.  To know she is living so full and feeling like she belongs in that group of sweet girls is answer to prayer.  Then this:

Dear Family,
Hi!  How are you?  I am not great.  I have not felt good but no one knows.  
I loved those pictures and drawings you sent me!  Gracie looked beautiful in her costume!  I only need one more strip of stamps.
P.S.  I did get to do Archery.
P.P.S.  I'm not good at it.

Oh my sweet girl.  This made me cry and laugh and pray more fiercely.   I don't know why she is not feeling well, but I suspect it is a combination of exhaustion and homesickness.  I know her.  She is probably being roused in the night by the sounds of nature all around.  I know how often she just needs to sit close and be near.  And this is that time in her life where that can't happen.  This is that time where I have to truly lift her up to God who loves her perfectly and let Him hold her and reassure her.

And this is that time where I have to tell her that I would probably stink at Archery too.

But I still think she is amazing.
I wrote her a long letter last night telling her just that, reminding her that she is in great hands and that the days are going quickly.
Only 15 left.
I encouraged her to smile and love and enjoy and trust Him.
And I prayed in my sleep, because that's what mamas do when their chickies are not in the nest.

I miss her so.
Lord, please be tangible to her today.  She needs it.
I need it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glory and Grace

The lights came on and her pink costume sparkled like a thousand stars.
The dance began.
Her eyes darted back and forth, nervously searching, but her feet continued to step and plie and turn.

Then that moment where I leaned out to my left, into the aisle...just three rows back.  I willed her to see me.
And she did.
Her face lit up and that smile...
oh, how that smile shone.

Her eyes fixed on her daddy and me and she danced her heart out to that song that makes me cry, especially considering I had just returned from dropping Katie off at camp:

When I love I give it all I've got
Like my mother does
When I'm scared, I bow my head and pray
Like my mother does

When I feel weak and unpretty
I know I'm beautiful and strong
Because I see myself like my mother does
(Like My Mother Does by Lauren Alaina)

I grinned all goofy and proud and held back the tears so I could focus on my beautiful ballerina girl in the spotlight.  I snapped pictures and smiled hard and nodded as she remembered the hard parts.

You've got it, baby.  You're doing it just right!

Another song.
She worshiped Him with her dance, singing out loud the lyrics:

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice for the love that He has given us all.
Children of God, by the blood of His Son, we have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God...
(Children of God by Third Day)

More performances followed, each one sweet and beautiful and full of modesty and grace.  No booty shaking or belly buttons or false eyelashes on these girls.  No way.

Then the finale, rousing and energetic and jumping tutus waving streamers:

From every nation and every tongue
From generation to generation
We worship you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
We worship you for who you are.
We worship you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
We worship you for who you are
And You are Good.
(You are Good by Lakewood)

Cheers and applause and of course a standing ovation as the ballerinas bowed and grinned and giggled.  Daddies and siblings rushed the stage with flowers and little girls paused amidst hugs and roses to hear how wonderful they were and how proud we are of them.  In the chaos the lights still shone and the sequins sparkled almost as much as their happy smiles.

Gracie, at this point, had been performing for almost 6 hours between the two back-to-back performances. We had wondered how she would like it...would she want to stick with dance next year?
"Oh yes, I LOVED it!"  she gushed.
Well of course she did...if anyone was ever meant to wear a tutu, it is my Gracie girl!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I left a piece of my heart in Alabama

We rented a cabin in the woods with friends, a place to spend the night before.

Girl time.

Dinner in a small town, a late night of watching wedding shows and laughing, and we turned in.

The girls were restless.

The mamas were, too.

Katie slept with me, admonishing me to keep to my side of the bed and I better not snore!

She tossed and she turned and finally she settled,
with her hand in mine.

All night long she lay close, holding my hand, placing it under her cheek as she slept, and I prayed.

The sun rose and I watched her sleep.  That face that I nuzzled as an infant, that used to smell like lavender baby lotion and formula.  Those cheeks that were once so soft.  The eyelashes gracing her cheeks, exactly like they did when she was just days old and sleeping in my arms.

Oh, how do I let her go?  How did I ever think she was ready to be away from me for a month?  She is only ten...what were we thinking?

Then her eyes fluttered open and she smiled all happy and excitement.  She jumped out of bed and looked at the clock to see exactly how many minutes she had to wait before we left and do we have to eat breakfast because I'm not hungry and oh I'm so excited and I wonder if I'll get the bed I want and who will be in my cabin and when do you plan on leaving, Mom?

Deep breath.

Must.  Stay.  Calm.

Must.  Not.  Cry.

Breakfast and the slowly ticking clock and the sudden panic of lost keys but we found them and then we were on our way.

Her face was alight.

Traffic jam of 300 girls and their parents trying to unload all the stuff they would need for a month away and we lugged that tuquoise trunk into her cabin and she got the bed she wanted.  She set it up just right and posed proudly with a nervous smile.  Her counselors were all smiles and warmth and love and now I love them like they were mine and I took a picture to look at as I pray.

Because nothing brings a mama to her knees like her chick leaving the nest and testing those fragile wings.

We had cookies on the lawn and Katie stuck by my side, needing nearness as the farewell approached.  But then I looked up and she had walked away.

She stood amongst a group of girls smiling and laughing and I froze the moment in time.  I stepped back a little to frame it in my memory just right and I praised Him who allowed me to see her do this, to see her brave and courageous determination to push aside insecurity and walk up to them.

Conversations and laughter later we went back to her cabin for one last look.

It was time.

Must.  Not  Cry.

I hugged her hard and kissed her harder on those cheeks that were once so soft and told her this hug had to be hard so it would last the month.
"I'll write you every day, Mom."
"No, you won't, and that is ok."  I smiled.  "But I will write you!  I love you so much.  Daddy and I are so proud of you and you are going to have such a great time!  Don't worry, ok?  Everyone is going to be fine.  Missing you doesn't mean you have done something wrong, it just means they love you, ok?"

"I love you, mama."
"I love you, too."

The head counselor, (God bless her.  We had been standing there chatting and remembering when we met and how and talking about our girls) she took that perfect moment and gently said "Katie, do you want to show me your bed?"


And off they walked.  But one last look back was needed.  She turned and smiled that brave smile and whispered "I love you."  And I did the same and blew her a dozen kisses and they were gone.

My friend and I got into the car with miraculously dry eyes and high fived at the miracle of it all, and drove away.  As we left, Jennifer met us at the gate and asked sweetly, "How are y'all doing."

"Fine, we are fine," we said.

She laughed and leaned against the door of the car.
"You are all, 'fine...can't you see we are talking through clenched teeth and trying not to cry?  Why you gotta do me like that, huh?  Why you gotta go and ask how we are??'"

And we all laughed the laugh of tension releasing and left assured that our girls are in the best of hands.

And we stopped and got Diet Cokes and Mint M&M's because it made us feel better.

And I didn't cry until this morning when I woke up and I was here and she is there and at this moment she is worshiping Jesus on the rocks by the river.

She will be home in 24 days.  I hope it goes fast for me, but oh, I hope this is life-changing and life-affirming for her.  I hope this brings her to a place with Him that she could have never otherwise been.  I hope this prepares her for the teen years by casting aside the insecurities that threaten our girls and making her keenly aware of how able she is to do all things through Him who truly gives her strength.

These are my hopes, and these are my fervent prayers.