Dreams

GrantsGraduation-16

Grant graduated from Bethel University on Saturday. And as any mom of a graduate will tell you, this is a bittersweet day. The culmination of 17 or so years of hard work. The reward of the same in tuition payments. Our celebration of completion is sincere in all ways. He made it – and so did we. Hurray!

And yet. It went so fast. This phrase is passed from the lips of one mom to the next. Bittersweet, to be sure – which is what I expected. The normal emotion of being a mom and seeing an era come to an end. I’d been weepy already for a couple of weeks, anticipating. And the truth is, by the time the big day finally arrived I was ready. Mostly.

But then something happened I wasn’t expecting, and it had less to do with my son’s story, and more to do with my own. And the surprise of it lingers with me still.

This was supposed to be my graduation, too.

I had forgotten, almost. How I had started my own Bethel journey just after Grant started his. How my graduation from the seminary, and Grant’s from the college would have culminated together. Two graduations in one weekend. Mother and son. I remember thinking how sweet it would be.

It hit me just before he walked the stage. This flood of emotion, not just for my firstborn, moving on. But for my own story, incomplete.

Or not.

And what do I do with that?

A year and a half ago I made a choice. Something that had been my dream for years was put on hold for a different dream. And I’d be lying to say I’ve made peace with it completely. It’s hard, and it stings. I feel the loss.

But – God, I trust you. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I trust you. I do. I trust you with dreams incomplete, and I trust you with dreams unexpected. I trust you with stories, still being written. You see what I don’t, and your plans are better. By far. 

I can admit this, at least. That first dream was all about me. Something I hoped to achieve for myself. Something I wanted to do for me. And this second dream is God’s alone. Bringing hope to somebody else. Living for something beyond myself.

The first dream I could accomplish in my own strength. And I was. It was part of the joy – my own success. The second dream fleshes out all my weakness and leaves me dependent on Him. And there’s joy in that, too.

Another thing I’ll confess. I’m learning more by far in my current classroom. Like it or not. He’s teaching me things I’d have never known.

There are pictures on Facebook of my seminary classmates, grinning in cap and gown. It could have been me. But it’s not. For now. Maybe someday. Maybe not. God knows, and I trust him.

Responsibility

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I’ve said it so many times in so many ways. My biggest challenge during this season of parenting is living in the tension between trust and responsibility. I wrestle this out every day, and at the end of the day I’m still not sure. Am I getting it right? Am I making progress?

Responsibility is in my DNA. Literally, if StrengthsFinder has a say. It’s one of my top five, and for all my life a blessing and a curse. I’m compelled to do things right, for better or for worse. And I’ll confess it now – responsibility can look just a teensy bit like control.

And yet it’s my strength. Go figure.

So here I am, swimming in the deep end of the mom-pool. Doing things I’ve never done before, facing things I’ve never faced before. Responsible thoughts wake me up in the morning, and follow me to bed at night. And I know. Our strengths can be our weaknesses, and isn’t that the truth.

So I let go. I give it to God. I defer to my husband. I release and relent. And for a few short seconds I’m free. Until the questions creep back in.

What is my role? Is letting go wise? Am I being a good parent? And the question it really comes down to is this. Which responsibilities belong to God… and which belong to me?

Can you see my dilemma?

Let me illustrate. With bikes. BMX. New bikes purchased for boys, their dreams come true. And I find out quick they are less concerned with transportation, and more concerned with tricks. I get it. But what I didn’t get was why those nice safe brakes included with the bikes were getting in the way. Not cool. Apparently what a mom doesn’t get, a dad is quick to understand, and it was no problem for him – stripping those bikes of their brakes. So that’s what we have. Feet for stopping, Fred Flintstone style. And boys taking off for stores and friends and who know where with tricked out bikes and no brakes. And I’m telling you now, my responsible strength is screaming to be heard and no one is listening.

God, I trust you. And I trust my husband. Right? Is now a good time to trust?

Goodness. Praying without ceasing has never been easier, and I guess that’s good. The past couple of mornings I’ve been waking up early, before my alarm, and I’m already talking to God. Giving it over. Giving him my list. My responsibilities. Letting him take it, and begging for wisdom. Provision. And he gives it. All day. Every day.

I’ve started to keep a simple journal, with two columns. Yesterday’s manna. Today’s requests. It helps me let go, and helps me remember. Keeping track of his answers anchors my trust.

Today I include a verse, and outline it bold. Psalm 118:7 says this:

Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. 

And for today, that’s enough.

Revision

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I received the text from Grant a couple of weeks ago. Re|Vision Church. We have ourselves a winner. A new name for a new church, and all of us celebrated. Love it! I texted back. And I did.

They started out with a different name, but after several months issues arose. The name was already being used; it might be a bad association; there might be trouble. And so it was back to the drawing board, racking brains and long conversations to come up with something new, and fast.

Re|Vision. As soon as we heard it all of us knew, it was perfect. God-given. A revision of a name for a fresh vision of church, and a re-vision of life for all of us.

And every day, these days, I’m revisioning.

Last Saturday Grant played his last ever college baseball game. It wasn’t what any of us wanted. Bethel’s best ever season ended two weeks too soon with a disappointing performance in the playoffs. Dreams of going out in a flash of glory snuffed out. And it was over.

I took it hard. It’s only baseball. I think it was Grant who actually said it, and of course, it’s true. How many times have I uttered those words in the past sixteen or so years? But still. It’s been so good. So fun. Exceptionally so. And now it’s over.

I’ll feel it again on Sunday. Grant’s last at Constance. Leading worship upstairs with two of his brothers for their final hurrah. And I know in my head. It’s far from over. He’s moving on to bigger and better. But not here. Not now. Not the same.

And a week after that. Graduation.

All these lasts. And I wonder if Grant even notices, or if it’s only a mom who feels the ache. Sorrow and Joy. Indeed.

There’s always hope in revision. Otherwise why bother, right? We revise for the sake of something better. We recast vision for a bigger dream, a grander plan.

And I’m all in. Really I am. This is where God is leading, the vision he’s casting, and it’s good. Way good.

What more could a mom want, really? This boy of mine has known favor in grand portions. Opportunities to sing and play and lead. Worship as work. Doors wide open for more. All of it good beyond imagining.

And he’s getting married, too, which is more than just icing on the cake, but the cake itself. Marrying a girl whose vision for God and vision for life are everything we could have dreamed and more. These two will revision together in all the right ways. Doing life and church with eyes fixed on the One who holds every grand plan.

They’re His.

His kids. His beloved. His handiwork. From the beginning of time, His vision.

Fortress

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Years ago I claimed this Proverb for our family and had it painted on the inside wall over our front door. Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for their children it will be a refuge. Our boys were young, and we were into castles and knights. Luke especially. His bedroom was castle-themed, as was one of the biggest birthday parties we’ve ever thrown. Luke was turning five and a cardboard fortress dominated the front yard where we posed for a family photo. Later I framed the picture and hung it in the entryway near the verse on the wall.

The proverb was fitting. It was the just the story I hoped our home would tell.

Years passed and the walls of our boy-home were desperate for paint. We upgraded from scuffed butter to low-maintenance chocolate, and in so doing were forced to cover over the verse on the wall. I always meant to re-post it there over the door, but alas. Good intentions in a busy life.

Since coming home in January that proverb has again been on my mind. Whoever fears the Lord. A secure fortress. A refuge. And isn’t this exactly our dream for boys – then and now?

I mentioned my wish to my daughter-to-be, and she jumped at the chance. The girl is a genius with fonts and paint, and Grant, too, likes to create. Together they crafted a new version of our fortress sign. Unveiled on Mother’s Day, and it’s perfect.

Just a day or so ago we had an interesting discussion with one of our boys. A genuine spiritual conversation and an honest look at the state of a soul, and we were grateful. Finally we’re beginning to understand the beliefs and the fears of these boys we call sons. And their fears are real, but not necessary rooted in truth. Too many scary movies and who knows what else. In time we hope to see fears of the dark replaced by the Fear of the Lord. The only fear that leads to peace.

The same proverb in a different translation states it another way. Those who fear the Lord are secure; and He will be a refuge for their children. I like it that way, too. The Lord as our refuge, the One whom we fear.

Tonight it rains and one of the boys asks about storms. They’re leery of Minnesota weather, another credit to online media. We stay inside where we’re warm and dry, and boys settle in to do homework. I pray a silent prayer for hearts and minds, and I trust the proverb, once again hanging over my door. For now we are parents fearing the Lord for the sake of our children, who need refuge in Him, and with us. A secure fortress for body and soul.

God, in your time. Renew minds. Rebuild beliefs. Replace fears. And make our home such a fortress.

Amen.

Black Day?

A morning conversation…

Jimmy: Mom, today is “black”?

Mom: I don’t think so. We’re supposed to wear orange at the baseball game tonight. 

(A few minutes later.) 

Felipe: Mom, today is “black”?

Mom: I haven’t heard anything about black today. Just orange for the baseball game. Maybe you should ask Nils.

(A few minutes later.)

Felipe: Nils, today is “black”?

Nils: Yep, it’s a block day. Use your Wednesday schedule and go to science first hour. 

AH-HA.

A few days ago one boy wanted to know the difference between keys and kiss. Slight difference in sound. Big difference in meaning. Of course sometimes the kiss is the key. But even at that.

The amazing thing is how easy it’s getting. Just over four months, and communication is almost flowing. We have our moments, but mostly they make us laugh. Most times we find a way to say the things we really need to say.

At school, too. One boy, the social one, is just about as connected as any English-speaking kid. We watch in amazement as he manages to get his posse of friends to follow his lead. Playing catch with a baseball, kicking around the soccer ball, buying Mountain Dews.

Last night after homework the computers were being used, as usual, for social connection. I checked in with one who was simultaneously messaging girls from school and having a Spanish conversation with an old friend. They think we don’t know about their connections with the past, but we’re not that easily fooled. Dude, you’re talking in Spanish and someone is talking back. I know it’s not YouTube. But the fact is, hanging on to the past doesn’t seem to be keeping the boy from learning the language or making new friends.

Someone told us conversational language takes two years to master, academic language four to five. And four to five years is a long time, especially for a boy just two years from college, with high aspirations. The first college he mentioned was Harvard. But that was before spring break in Florida, and now he’s thinking further south.

So we’ll see.

In the meantime God continues to amaze us. A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend at the grocery store. Eloise and I used to sing together at church. The youngest of her five left for college this year, and Eloise went back to school, too. A master’s degree in ESL. She’s looking for kids to tutor. No kidding! We met at Caribou this week, and mapped out a plan for the summer. And there is no question in my mind this was God-orchestrated, one-hundred percent. This woman has sent her own offspring to prestigious universities all over the country, and she knows what it takes. Two years to get a bright young boy ready for higher learning? No problem.

This morning before school the social kid told Dad about his evening plans. Something about after baseball and hanging out with the cute girl who lives down the street. And Dad bought it. Really? Well…

Dad. Just kidding.