New Digs

Dear Readers,

You have been amazing. Really. I can’t get over your loyalty and genuine interest in following these Boy Mom stories for all these years. I am honored and humbled. Recently I received a hand-written note from a newly married, all-star college pitcher—warm-hearted friend of my son’s—who told me to “keep the blogs coming.” Case in point of my frequent astonishment as I become aware of the many faces of this growing family.

Speaking of family. Don’t worry. I’m not done writing about them. There will still be plenty of stories. Stories about this sweet-and-spicy Anderson clan and the God who saves us. Stories about me trying hard to be the brave mom of adulting young men. And of course, stories about this wild new season of being Nana. There will be plenty of stories. But just like it was time for us to move out of our Orchid Street house after twenty-three years of calling it home—it is time for me to move on from this five-year-old boymom domain to something bigger and hopefully better. My new address is sonyaleighanderson.com. I invite you to make your way over sometime soon, and BYOC. (“C” as in coffee, or chocolate, or if you’re my friend, Sheryl, chai tea.) Stop by often—and to make it official, I’d love to have you FOLLOW my site. This is one of the things I’ve been told is a big deal for us wanna-be-writers—having our very own family of email-list-followers.

Like Grandma Helen used to say, “Thanks a million.”

See you soon over at the new digs.

With Love,
Sonya

Last Post

August 2019 Family

(Family photo taken by Kiana. I love this crew.)

This is likely my last Boy Mom post. Five years I’ve been telling these stories, here. Stories of adoption, faith and family. Stories of five boys, now young men. And me, their mom. I started as Mommy Boy, a name Luke gave me when he was young. I loved this little nickname, and the significance of it. I love being the mom of boys.

I’m not done writing, nor parenting either, I suppose. Just moving. Again. Ironic. First packing our house of twenty-three years into the Big Blue Box. Now packing up posts from a season of life, and taking them with me to a new domain. A new website with a bit more space and organization. I’ll tell you more about that later, but for today, a last post. As Boy Mom.

Sunday morning, this past weekend, I grappled hard, over being a mom. First alone, in the townhouse basement, in private prayer. Then riding shotgun, silent, the twenty-five minutes with my husband to church. Name-tag in place, greeting families at the Resource Center. Heading to service. All the while grappling. Over being a mom.

Two married, three in college. An “empty-ish nest” season, whatever that means. This weekend it meant everyone home for a cousin’s wedding, sleeping over, brunch at Grammy’s, my current home. This growing family. And Maisy. Growing, too, taking her very first steps.

So. Sunday morning, I’m talking to God, grappling hard, and asking the question. Is there a way to do this well? This new season, and I’m realizing quickly, if I’m to keep pace with all this growing, I’ll need to do it, too. The growing.

My role here is changing. The Dad’s role, too, but different. They’ll still need Dad for help with finances, home repair. How to put in a sump pump. Dad will always be the best boat driver. Always, probably, be a decent-enough partner for a round of golf.

But what about Mom? (This is me grappling, not whining. There’s a big difference, and you’ll need to catch my tone.) I am, at the core of my being, by spiritual gift, occupation, and parenting, too—a teacher. Some moms work wonders in the kitchen. Like Grammy. This, I now see, is an exceptional gift, because it lasts through the ages. Like golf. But a teacher?

Of course, there are the grandkids. Little bodies ripe for story time, and learning ABC’s. Nature walks. Field trips. And I can hardly wait. But still. I’m not just Nana. I’ll still be Mom.

A few years ago, when Grant was in high school, we’d go together, before the sun came up, to Morning Prayer. A half dozen or so teens, fresh from mission trips, enough residual passion to make it out of bed at 5AM on weekday mornings, to go church. To pray. A miracle of sorts. And I remember this well. Walking circles with teens, barely awake, whispering prayers out loud. It was there in that sleepy circle it hit me. Gripped me. This prayer over boys and life and all the other things besides. God, I trust you. These four words, etched deep in my spirit, carving their path, making me—me. A whole season of parenting teens, saying yes to adoption. Hinged on this prayer, I must have prayed it a thousand times. “God, I trust you.”

“God, I trust you.” And Sunday morning it hits me again. At church. The Other Pastor Randy preaching, talking about Paul. Paul, the converted persecutor of followers of Jesus, transformed, turned missionary, 5AM zeal and then some. My friend, Randy, talks about Paul, and the lightbulb goes on. Two things, he says, are true. True about Paul, and they’ve been true for me, too. Even though, just lately, I’d forgotten, somehow.

Two things:
Paul, single-minded in his devotion to Jesus.
And Paul, living his fearless life.

Two things, true about Paul, and two things, I can say without boasting, true of me, for a season, too. I’d read a story in a magazine, not long ago, about a mom. A tragic, awful, story. But this mom knew Jesus, and she was fearless, and she reminded me. Of a former ME. I said this to Angie, sitting in dock chairs Thursday morning, out at the lake. “I used to be that kind of fearless.”

For a season. Not me by nature. By nature I’m scared as they come. No, not me at all, but Him. And because of Him, I was fearless. A whole season of parenting boys, and this one prayer never failed. “God, I trust you.”

And so. Sunday morning, I’m talking to God, grappling hard, and asking the question. Is there a way to do this well? This, being Mom to young adults, this new season. And it’s not the answer I expected. Not the answer I would have come to on my own. But it’s the answer HE gave me, and—It. Is. Perfect.

Perfect. This prayer that never fails, and I can be Fearless for a new season, because of THIS. God, I trust you. I do.

Falling In Love

Camp Sham

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

I fell in love with Jesus at Bible Camp when I was twelve.

I knew Him already. As long as I could remember. A little girl, singing in choirs, sitting next to my Daddy’s pinching fingers in a wooden church pew. He’d lost most of four fingers on his right hand in a factory press, making what was left perfect for getting a pigtailed toddler to quiet down for Pastor’s sermon. Not that he was unkind. My daddy or the pastor. Dad was a gentle man, and quiet, with the nicest blue eyes. My earliest recollection of the robed preacher who stood before us on Sunday mornings, was that he must look a little like God.

I knew what Jesus looked like. His picture hung in a Sunday School classroom, eyes sparkling, hugging children. Today we’d talk about how the artist must not have done his homework, didn’t take into account where those kids grew up, or Jesus either. Skin tones and sparkling eyes all the wrong colors. An unfortunate miss. And yet, what sticks with me is the love.

We were Lutheran. Baptized as infants, confirmed as teens. Vacation Bible school on folding chairs in a cool church basement every summer in between. We’d drink Kool-Aid out of Dixie cups, and watch filmstrips featuring woodland creatures retelling the parables of Jesus. Earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. I memorized liturgy and hymns on Sunday mornings, singing with gusto. My mom likes to tell the story about Amy Paulson standing next to me in Children’s Choir, fingers in her ears, looking at me when the song concluded, “You’z mixed me all up!”

By the time I was a fourth-grader, my legalistic tendencies had started taking some of the joy out of the singing. My public-school teacher was a guitar-playing Christian, and a man, and I loved him. He told us regularly he prayed for us. Taught us gospel tunes and folk ditties, accompanied by his oh-so-cool strings. And then one day Mr. Gilson introduced us innocent scholars to the unthinkable. Rock-and-Roll. Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog. GASP. I know. I’ll never forget. Fighting tears and trying not to think about how my Christian hero was singing the devil’s music. A couple of years later, Miss Amy Paulson, still outspoken, labeled me a Puritan, referencing my religious convictions.

And so the summer after the sixth grade when Mom signed me up to go to Lake Beauty Bible Camp with my Covenant friends—I already knew all about Jesus. I’d been a truly devoted follower from the womb, seemed like. But at camp, I fell in love.

Years later I would attend a Baptist college, and a handful of Evangelical churches. I’d be re-baptized in a lake in Illinois. And eventually I’d work on a church staff, teaching baptism classes myself. Time and again I’d be called on to give account of my own faith story. My Salvation Testimony. And I’d tell it this way. The summer I was twelve, I fell in love. No altar call. No sinner’s prayer. But something significant in the heart of a girl who knew and loved Jesus.

I’ve walked in this love all these years. As a teen, defending my faith in spite of a wee bit of persecution. As a young mom, leading my littles to trust in Jesus. With my husband, pursuing lives devoted to Christ. And then, in my 30’s—a transformation. Something happened. A lifetime of striving replaced by the most breathtaking grace. Which seemed like a mystery, after so many years of loving Him.

I’m in my fifties now, with adult children, learning to love and be loved in another season. This summer, speaking to kids at a Bible camp. Like coming full circle. Sharing my story. “I loved everything about camp that summer. I loved the people and the singing and the games and the crafts and the swimming and the smell of the pine trees. But mostly I loved Jesus.”

I was twelve years old when I fell in love…

Home: New Chapter

Lake Day

We did it. Last week. Twenty-three years of Orchid Street miscellany packed into a Big Blue Box and stored away. Childhood memories of five boys preserved in Rubbermaid tubs—and imaginations. One boy, once the youngest, now middle, sends a text from Colorado: I honestly can’t even think of a bad memory I had in that house…

And I text back: NO bad memories??!  Because, really. Let’s be honest.

Of course, I can probably relate. Forgetting the pain and remembering the joy—like childbirth, right? LOL. (Have you ever listened in on a group of women telling delivery room stories? Just saying.)

I drove past it yesterday. Our Orchid Street house. There was pink on the porch. A doll buggy, I think. Which made the whole thing seem rather final.

A few minutes later I sat in Cheryl’s three-season doing Bible study with once-neighbor-friends. Laurie and Sandy, Jean and Sharon. Barb, my former across-the-street neighbor, and realtor’s wife. Each of these gals twenty-plus years in the neighborhood, and ten-plus summers sharing stories of family and faith at Cheryl’s house. Jamie and Julie were there, too, brand new to all of it. Delightful women. And I can’t help thinking of the friendship ditty. Make new friends, and keep the old ones…  

I have no intentions of NOT keeping them, and I said as much. The first Monday evening of each month set aside for dinner with the gals, and I won’t be missing out. Laurie and I have a walk scheduled for the week after next, a run at the lakes as soon as Cheryl gets back from vacation.

Maybe I’m in denial, or maybe it’s just that everything seems so RIGHT. Moving in with my in-laws for the next several months while we build our place. Friday morning, last, I drove home from where I’d been speaking at camp while my family wrapped up the final details of the move without me. They’d been sending texts, sentimental, with sad-face emojis. Enough to get my stomach knotted for the drive back home. Home. And that, of course, was the conundrum. Was I going home?

By day’s end Kyle and I had our bed set up downstairs at his parents’ house, a matching chest of drawers, clothes neatly organized in our first ever walk-in closet. Both of us weary, me from hanging out with Trailblazers all week, and him from doing the heavy lifting. Our dog Maple, my father-in-law’s new best friend, curled up on the floor with a sigh. I’d been home for a total of six hours, and I could already say, it was.

Next day we left midmorning to head over to Brian’s to see the boys in their new space. Felipe’s apartment is still under construction. New bathroom finished except for installing a mirror. Kitchenette in need of food and flooring. Kyle tackled jack-hammering the old tile to make way for new faux-wood, while I took the boys and Sidney to Costco and Aldi for some power-shopping. Later I loaded up laundry for washing at Grammy’s, a washer and dryer still TBD at Brian’s, a good excuse for me to Mom these guys a little longer. Jimmy—who’s temporarily apartmenting until the start of college soccer in just a couple of weeks—let me lay on his new double bed, exceedingly more comfortable than the twin currently packed in the storage box. He thanked me for the grocery splurge, told me he loves me. Which of course, is exactly what I needed.

This weekend they’ll all be HOME, driving up from Iowa, flying in from Colorado. Here for a cousin’s wedding. Grammy has a storage room so big and so neat, it fits a double bed and a twin, with room to spare. We’ll be spread out, but together. Gathering around a table at Acapulco, a Twins game, a day at the lake. Green Lake, where Kyle and I have been spending our evenings, moving woodchips, mowing weeds, cutting logs for a firepit circle. A circle for family at our future home.

Crazy Okay

Sold

Inside my head, I’m crazy okay. Ridiculous. How thoughts can be chill in the middle of everything happening all at once. This week, submitting another proposal, prepping my talks for camp next week, packing the last few boxes, ready to load the Big Blue Box on the driveway outside. Every evening I connect Bluetooth, GOAT playlist on shuffle, Nils’ 170+ soul-care songs. Yesterday we chatted on speaker phone while I made dinner, me telling Nils how I’d exhausted his list, Spotify kicking in with one of its own, not nearly as good. “You listened to ALL 170?!” Well, maybe. I’ve packed a lot of boxes.

Twenty-three years on Orchid Street. Five kids and one dog, not counting husband. Making piles of whose-is-whose, and what’s-going-where. And all things considered, I’m crazy okay.

The crazy comes out in physical manifestations of involuntary responses. I’ve become a horrible passenger, backseat driver. Startling and gasping at minor infractions, perceived or otherwise. Knee-jerk reacting, hands flailing, husband claiming injury by fingernails to forearm flesh. Borderline madness, and I make it a matter of prayer one morning, ask God for healing. Which is when it hits me. This might be a warning-light on the proverbial dashboard. Perhaps I’m not as chill as I think.

The Jeep is back, parked on the street, after round-two of post-deer maintenance. A month or so ago, coming home from the lake at dusk, we knew to watch out. Previous trips successfully skirting the occasional herd. Unpredictable creatures. Hard to say who hit whom, Jeep faring better than Doe. Two weeks on a body-shop wait list, one week haggling insurance, mending seeable damage. Two days back in our possession, me saying from the start, something’s not quite right. A trip to the airport, Luke barely making it back to Andover, back into garage, the old girl’s steaming like mad, hissing something awful. Next day Kyle’s halfway back to the body shop, calling a for a tow. Radiator, of course. Back home again now.

Flashing lights on a dashboard. A previous pastor liked to remind us at staff meetings. Heed the warnings. A nerve in my neck, seizing up for the second time this week, debilitating for a few seconds, but I shake it off, get back to work. A jaw achy from nighttime clenching. But inside my head, I’m crazy okay.

The dog knows something’s up. You can see the skepticism in her body language, head down, tail drooping, watching her people scramble about, filling boxes. Man’s best friend is savvy enough to know changes are brewing. That, and she’s somehow managed to mangle her paw just this week, no idea how it happened. Jimmy’s scheduled today for his required doctor’s visit—pre-college/pre-soccer. Might as well throw in a trip to the vet, load up the Jeep for a swing through Goodwill.

But I’m crazy okay. We’re almost there; we’re going to make it. Just a few more boxes, and some heavy lifting. And then, Sunday, I’ll pack my own bags into the Rogue, leaving Jeep behind for hauling trailer loads of everything we’re taking with us to Grammy’s and Brian’s and the shed at the lake. The guys will finish out their final days on Orchid Street minus Mom. Crazy timing, to be sure, for my week at camp. But I’m feeling ready. Excited even.

I put finishing touches on a week’s worth of camp talks, telling nine- to eleven-year-olds God is the Hero of Your Story—and there’s no doubt I’d be sunk if He wasn’t. No other way to explain this crazy feeling that all of this is perfect timing, a perfect plan, His perfect provision, and when it’s all said and done this whole family, including the dog–will be CRAZY OKAY.

Like Mom

a_l-bridalparty_family-156

It’s my mom’s birthday today. She’s turning 75, but you’d never know it. According to my brother, Micah, “Mom doesn’t look old enough to be 65.” True enough. And—I must add—it’s one of the many nice benefits of being her daughter—this not looking old enough.

Last Sunday we got to see firsthand Luke pastoring at his church in Colorado Springs. He’s the youth pastor for a small congregation, so he gets to do a bit of everything—responsive reading, communion, and helping a special needs student recite a prayer. Blessed to be a blessing, and there’s nothing like seeing your grownup kids passing on faith. After the service two older ladies shook my hand saying, “You don’t look old enough to be Luke’s mom.” And also, “We really like your son.” I thanked them for the compliments, both.

Monday afternoon Kyle and I drove the last leg of our road trip back from Colorado, via Des Moines. I traveled with laptop open, listening to audio of four sessions of a writer’s class from a recent conference. Typing notes into a Word document, I caught a glimpse of hands, eerily familiar, but not my own. Narrow wrists, tan and weathered, veins slightly bulging, fingers long, and it’s not a keyboard, but garden produce scrubbed over running water in the kitchen sink. Small red scratches, nicks of whiteish scars, hers earned strawberry-picking, mine a miscellany of the week’s hiking.

I’m already thinking about Mom when Kyle says it. “You like being outdoors more than anyone I know.” A week spent staying at my daughter-in-law’s parents’ house in the Springs, and every chance I get I grab laptop or book for a quiet escape to their woodsy backyard. Twice during our visit the Fullers spotted black bear meandering through, but not on my watch, and thank goodness. Though plenty of deer.

And then, at the end of the week, two overnights with Nils at Glen Eyrie. Garden of the Gods meets private castle, sprawling estate. The first night at the Glen it thunder-stormed, and we ate our pizza under the old carriage house shelter with Nils’ new friend, Kurt, telling stories about boys growing up. Warm wind blew our napkins across the cobblestone pavement, and for a brief time we listened to hail ping on the metal roof above, but we were out of harm’s way, and cozy, in red-cushioned patio chairs.

The next day’s rain held out for Anderson boys to golf, while Ali joined Micah and me for a day of hiking. Beatrice, too, our newest grand-dog, who’d hiked her first ever (we think) 14er on the 4th of July. Now, two days later, we’re climbing the red rocks of the Glen, Micah trying to capture the breathtaking views on his iPhone, knowing it’ll never do it justice. Which it doesn’t, and which is why, next morning, I linger long as possible on the castle patio, one last outdoor breakfast before leaving for church. Long drive away from mountains to follow.

You like being outdoors more than anyone I know. I’m holding my husband’s hand and we’re making our way slowly, back up the hill from breakfast. And my very first thought is “Just like my mom…” This soul-deep love of mountain air, and a good hard hike. My mother’s daughter, all the way.

Our last night at the Glen, Nils pulled out his guitar and sang songs he’d written about Minnesota, being a kid, and growing up. Memory songs, meant to make a mom weepy. My heart was full. Is full. And this is her song, too. My mom’s song of finding faith, loving God, rewriting the story, passing it down.

And today is her birthday. Back home in Minnesota, we’ll spend her special day riding bikes down in Canon Falls, the day’s forecast 70’s and sunny. God’s throwing a party. My sister will join us, and Gina’s every bit her mother’s daughter, too. Twenty birthdays ago I doubt we would have seen it this way, but the years define us, and make us grateful.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

The Author

Thank you

There were four of us crowded around the sinks in the dormitory restroom when I said it. “I feel like a scared little girl, and God has been holding my hand the whole time.”

We arrived Tuesday, in time for dinner, Heather and me, and a handful of others, eager to settle in and get our bearings before full immersion the following day. The conference was Write-to-Publish, and I wasn’t certain I had either the right or the margin to be in attendance. Eventually realizing this was a common emotion for a-hundred-plus other unpublished writers sprawling sleepless in dorm room beds on the Wheaton campus.

But He was there, like always, faithful. And He was holding my hand.

It’s the only way to describe it. The first morning, sitting with Starbucks and Bible on a quiet bench, awake at first light with time to linger. I chose a Psalm with plenty of markings, underlined phrases, pencil heart drawn in a margin. Familiarity the very best balm for a time like this.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me (Psalm 16:7).

And He had. I remembered. I’d dreamed His counsel the night before, when He showed me how to pitch my first proposal. Two weeks earlier I’d found Cynthia Ruchti’s books in our church library, reading two, cover to cover. My first appointment with an agent, and I may as well have been meeting a friend.

By the end of day one I’d pitched two books and nearly drowned in the firehose of too much information, but I’d never been more sure of Jesus. His presence, and my need for Him.

Day two felt like two weeks, and people I met yesterday seemed like old friends. We gathered to worship, overwhelmed by the sweetest sense of the Spirit. Humility and love, and if this is what it’s like to be utterly dependent, I’ll take it. I penned my name on appointment sheets, but He’d already scheduled divine meetings over cafeteria meals and bathroom conversation. Later I’d sort through my stack of business cards and remember, fondly, stories of friends.

Friday dawned with sun and birdsong. And coffee. Every morning Heather drove the short distance to Starbucks for my latte and her hot chocolate. By day three I’d found my voice. Practiced my pitch a couple dozen times, officially and not. I came with two projects, but His leading was clear. I’d settled on one. The Covenant Story. The life-changing story of God’s covenant love through the pages of Scripture. The book of His heart, entrusted to me.

Saturday morning, we made our way to one last class. One more keynote session. By now I was maxed out and weary. Mentally exhausted. Heather and I skipped lunch and loaded her Jeep for the drive back home. I could sleep until tomorrow, but I knew it wasn’t fair to my generous driver. I did my best to stay awake and engage in post-conference conversation. Telling Heather, it’s ironic, her Fully Present to Win, a book about unplugging our families to be present to life. And here I am thinking if I’m ever going to publish a book, I’m going to need to step up my social media engagement and then some. Not at all sure I have what takes—or the desire to do it.

Voices I haven’t listened to in three long days, take advantage, vie for attention. Doubt and fatigue. Regret over appointments not made, classes I’m thinking I should have attended. Should have done this and didn’t do that. I’m on the verge of tears when I realize what’s happening, and I muster the strength for one more battle. you’re a liar, you creep. None of it’s true; He was holding my hand.

Back home I compile notes, make my list of next steps. People to thank. Friends to find on Facebook. Books by newly published authors to order on Amazon. The life story of a publisher-turned-friend to read before bed. A proposal to polish, and send out again. Still not sure what it means for me to be a writer. What it means to steward this gift He’s given. I just want to be faithful. He hears me say it, and I know I can trust Him. Because He’s the Author.

And the AUTHOR was holding my hand.