Senior Moments

Conventional definition of a “senior moment” includes forgetfulness brought about by age. I have a new definition.

Senior Moment: n. random incidents of crying brought about by the fact your child is graduating from high school (also applicable to college).

I’m always proud of her. We’ve had our moments of frustration, sure. But when I look at how far she has come, how she has changed and all that she’s accomplished, all I can think is, “Wow. That went fast.” And that knot shows up in my stomach, which moves to my throat. Sometimes the knot stays small, and sometimes it grows and escapes from my tear ducts.

Then the disjointed worries come. Can she handle college? Did I do okay? Is she scarred for life because of something I didn’t do? How much is Asperger’s going to get in the way of everything? How much should I get involved? She’s my daughter, but she’ll be a college student.

I’ve come to realize though that she no longer struggles to the point where I need to “fix” anything. Thank God, she trusts me and will tell me if she’s got a problem and asks what she should do. She doesn’t need or want me to fix it, just point her in the right direction.

Pass me a tissue.

She hugs me good bye and hello.

Pass another tissue, please.

She asks me to proofread her papers.

Yeah, I’m still shocked at that one.

Last month, she asked me to proofread the copy of her testimony for our church’s Youth Sunday worship service. The teens run the service, and some of the seniors speak and deliver a testimony in keeping with the theme. A Bible verse is connected with the testimony as well.

The theme is Diamonds, referring to a worship experience the youth had during a weekend mission trip to Chicago. My daughter and I talked about what diamonds go through to become diamonds: pressure, heat, stress. But we also talked about how the diamonds don’t come out of the ground faceted and sparkly.

It takes a craftsman to make that happen.

She took the idea and worked with it. And a few days later, she gave me the rough draft for thoughts and suggestions.

I read it and I cried.

There’s very little that I edited, because I wanted it to be genuine. She’s not a zircon, after all. She’s a diamond. And not all diamonds are perfect, but they’re still beautiful.

She wound up speaking at all three services. Speaking in front of 150 to 400 people at a time is a big step out of her comfort zone. Doing it three times? That’s dancing into new territory.

Her main topic was weathering her parents’ divorce. But she also talked about how people with Asperger’s don’t weather change well. These were the pressures forming a diamond…along with school, the usual stresses of high school socializing, and trying to find a new normal.

You can hear it in her own words. And as was read at the beginning, her support scripture was Jeremiah 29:11-12…”For I know the plans I have for you…”

Now she’s all registered for college. I am shocked at how fast 18 years went by. I still carry a mother’s fears in my heart…did I do okay? I have my senior moments…I mean, I cried when I picked up her graduation cake at the market. I apologized to the person working in the bakery. She just smiled and said, “I get it. Been there.”

I’m not sure why I started this post. Parents, hug your kids. They have trusted us for a long time and they still can. But we need to trust them too, and reassure them that if they stumble, we’ll help them through. There are plans in place that we cannot see. Plans for a hope and a future.

A Thanksgiving Parade of Blessings

I started Thanksgiving with a Facebook post thanking God and my mom for being the two ever-present forces in my life over the last year, which has been year of change to say the least. It set off a cascade of thoughts about everything I’m thankful for because of or in spite of all the changes. I thought about the “little things” that weren’t so little to my mind, heart and spirit.

  • My friend of almost-a-lifetime, Wayne, took a day off and drove for three hours to hang out with me and do nothing more than have a three-hour lunch in a Mexican restaurant, then drive three hours home.
  • My eldest child will be 18 this week and will graduate from high school in the spring. One of her college application essays focused on how she considers being “on The Spectrum” not a disability, but a blessing.
  • My youngest child, all of 11, loves to do and to go and to experience. This year, she learned to swim. Because I can’t, I had a heart attack every time the instructor took the kids into the 10-foot end of the pool. May she be the explorer that I struggled to be.
  • My professional partner-in-creativity Caryn, with her amazing artistic talent, I am grateful for simply because I get to work with her. Ditto for all of the other terrific people on staff at Epworth United Methodist Church who teach the children, lead the youth, run the office, arrange for classes, balance the books, answer the phones, and nurture the spirits.
  • Being diagnosed with situational depression and anxiety might seem like a strange thing for which to be grateful, but it was the gift of empathy. I kept my head above water enough to recognize the problem, to assess how I felt without judging, to be willing to talk to someone, and to know that eventually I would be okay. And I recognize that there are many people who cannot keep their heads above water, who fight for emotional air, and who are not okay. I have been given a taste of it; I am not drowning in it. The experience calls me to those with invisible injuries, emotional injuries, internal brokenness.
  • I am thankful for the friends who understood when I cancelled plans at the last minute because the anxiety was too much, and I’m thankful they still love me.
  • A wrong turn in a hospital corridor…total God moment.
  • I was given the gift of holding the hand of a dying friend. She opened her eyes, smiled at me, and said “thank you”.
  • Two years almost to the day since God called me to ordained ministry, I was accepted to Methodist Theological School of Ohio. I’ll begin working on my Master of Divinity next fall.
  • My eldest child (see above) has been accepted to one university, and has an application pending at another. She will start her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice when I start my MDiv.
  • I spent my 46th birthday away from home. After hanging out with my awesome cousin and his fabulous wife on Friday night, I attended the Write in the Country writing retreat at The Red Maple Inn on Saturday. That night, I had dinner with five amazing women writers at a bistro we stumbled across in the wilds of Geauga County. We reconvened for more laughs over a big, homemade country breakfast the next morning. In spite of car trouble that kept me panicky for the 3 hour drive home, I would not have traded that weekend for anything. I laughed, ate, slept, learned, and inhaled radiant fall color and sunshine.

We often think about the tangibles – food, clothing, shelter, etc – that we are thankful for during Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, and other celebratory holidays. What are intangibles for which you give thanks this year? What moments and experiences left you changed?

 

Living Ecclesiastes

Yesterday we said “happy trails” to our senior pastor of eight years and to his family as they moved on Alley in Spainto their next congregation. This isn’t unusual in the United Methodist Church, and it’s part of the gig when you are called to be an ordained pastor. Itinerancy is part of the package. This does not, however, make it any easier on any of the parties involved. There’s still a sense of loss, uncertainty, and a bit of chaos as the transition takes place. But we were all determined to make his final Sunday with us emblematic of the previous eight years.

Sunday also happened to be Scripture by Heart Sunday, when the Biblical storytelling team presents scripture from heart and from the spirit versus reading it directly from The Book. As I practiced, prayed, and worked with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and 14-15, I recognized my life echoing in the verses. In praying the verses, telling them aloud to an empty room, they stung…pressing on places in my heart I’d rather not think about. But like any medicine, it hurts when first applied to the wound, but after a few minutes there is relief.

Relief in the form of tears.

I’ve cried just about daily for the last few months. I felt myself at a crossroads but surrounded by fog on all sides. All the tears I banished for several years leaked out a little at a time. I’d allow myself time to shed just enough to keep the dam from bursting all together, and then I’d say “suck it up” and move on. But as I walked with Ecclesiastes, around and around ten well-known verses, I reached a watershed.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”

Everything is finite. Change is a given. We just hope that the “good stuff” has a good long season, and that the “bad stuff” is fleeting. Everything has its time…sometimes it’s to give us strength through respite, to extract us from a toxic environment, or to provide us with the right people and situations to help us thrive and fulfill God’s plan for us. Some seasons are painful and confusing, but serve a purpose, even though we are too busy cursing the situation and struggling to find a way through it.

“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted…”

At first, I think of literal, physical birth and death, planting and harvesting. But I also see it as the birth and death of love, relationships, notions, ideas, and a definition of average or normal. The “normal” I’d been trying to live – perfectionism, self-critical, trying to do it all and do it brilliantly – caught up with me. The seeds of expectation I’d planted for myself grew into thorny vines of depression and anxiety. In the death of the old ways and the old me, I’m praying for a lighter path and a brighter direction.

“A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…”

Don’t worry – no blood will be shed in the remaking of this life. Though I will admit to wanting to slap the taste out of someone’s mouth a couple of times. I have to kill the weeds. It’s like The Devil’s Snare in the Harry Potter movies. “If you struggle, it will only kill you faster,” Hermione said. But the weed hates sunlight. I am actively working to rid myself of toxic ideas and relationships, and allowing myself time to heal. I’m learning to say “no”. Breaking down old habits and rebuilding new ones is a tedious, draining process.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”

A friend of more than 20 years recently said to me, “As long as I’ve known you, no matter what life has flung at you, you have remained strong, resilient, and positive. You are still that person.” In the last few months, I’ve seen a lot of change, including the end of a marriage and the departure of friends and mentors at a time when I craved stability. There is nothing I could have done to prevent these things, but pretending it doesn’t hurt only keeps the wounds open. Weeping and mourning I’ve got a handle on. Grief and I are old frenemies. But I am inherently someone who laughs and dances. I know that’s the real me. She’s in here somewhere.

“A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”

Farmers clear away stones from the field before planting, or maybe you check the lawn for stones before mowing. They are obstacles. What are your obstacles to living an authentic life – the one God planned for you from the beginning? Wrong thinking? Depleting lifestyle? Fear? I think sometimes He places obstacles there for our own strengthening and growth in wisdom. We have to learn to recognize the obstacles and move them. There may be ideas and people you want to embrace…proceed with caution.

“A time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away…”

Did you ever lose something and spend hours trying to find it again, and hours more fretting about where it could be? Maybe it’s meant to stay lost. Maybe you don’t really need it. Did you ever cling to something out of nostalgia, obsession, or desperation? Maybe throwing it away is the first of several leaps of faith. We all need to declutter sometimes.

“A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”

Do you repair it, or do you shred it completely and start over? The physical act of tearing something can be liberating – old love letters, photos, a journal. Carefully disassembling something, however, gives you the chance to reassemble it into something new, like taking apart an old dress and using the fabric for quilts and pillows. I struggle with silence. One of my great “faults” is keeping silent, often because I don’t want to rock the boat. I’d rather suck it up and keep the peace. Peace comes at a price, though. Anxiety, frustration, anger, depression. On the flip side, keeping silent also allows you to hear things that others may not.

“A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace…”

I hate the way I feel. I hate being at war with the way I feel. I hate myself for having all of these unsavory feelings because this is NOT who I am. This is the first time I have experienced this level of anger. I hope it’s the last. It’s time for peace and it’s time for love. That peace comes from forgiveness. I’ve been trying for a year to forgive “seventy times seventy times”…but I think the forgiveness is going the wrong way. Maybe it needs to go inward instead of outward. “Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself and free up that space in your head and your heart and your soul. That’s valuable real estate.” I know that I want to be in love with my life again…not just functioning, but living and loving every day.

“I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.”

Those are verses 14 and 15 from Ecclesiastes 3. If we back up a bit to verse 11, it reads, “He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Yep. That’s a tough one. We are aware of the passage of time and we want to know what’s ahead but we can’t see it, and it’s not our job to know. I think/worry about who I’m going to be in another year or five years or ten years…what kind of parent will I be, what does forgiveness feel like, if I change will I still be me? I just read somewhere recently that dwelling in the past poisons the present and keeps us from our promised futures.

Present becomes past in the blink of an eye. The future arrives just as quickly. “God seeks out what has gone by?” Why would God seek out the past?

It’s interesting to look at the different translations of that last verse. The English Standard Version (ESV) says “God seeks what has been driven away”. TheĀ  New International Version (NIV): “God will call the past to account”. The New Living Translation (NLT): “…because God makes the same things happen over and over again.” The Common English Bible (CEB): “And God looks after what is driven away.”

This wrestling match, this storm, this dark night of the soul – whatever you want to call it – is messy, ugly, painful, frustrating, exhausting, and so many other things. I know there is a brighter side. God grant me patience for the journey.