Magic

inhomenewborn-9

kianagrantphotography.com

I’m a bit obsessed with Ben Rector’s newest album. Not since Crowder’s A Collision, released in 2005, have I willingly listened to the same set of songs again and again without getting tired. And I don’t know what it is… Or maybe I do.

I think I listened to it first with Nils during our drive to Des Moines to see Miss Maisy. Magic was released the week she was born, and I do remember Kyle asking me if I’d heard the title song. We were feeling the magic for sure, just thinking about our new little grand-girl. And it was Grant and Kiana who told us it was Ben’s baby Jane he’d been writing about in at least a couple of the songs.

So this morning I chose Magic for my morning run, thinking I’d need something to keep me going a bit longer, since I’d missed Saturday’s workout with Cheryl and Casey, and we’re supposed to be training for the 10-mile this fall. And it worked, too. Just under 45-minutes to the final track and my favorite song.

The first several tunes took me through my normal route, Legacy and back, a loop around the neighborhood and past the Round Barn. Every song a bit of nostalgia, and I remember how Nils says his younger buddies have been hating on Rector for those 80’s instrumentals and his throw-back lyrics. I googled Rector’s age, found out he’s 30-something, surprised he’s so young.

And so I’m working up a good sweat on a humid morning thinking about Kyle and me driving the coast of California on more than one work trip back in the day. Remembering childhood friends and my boys as babies and we were kids back then, thinkin’ we would live forever… 

I run past my house and around the block up to Round Lake and back, wondering how much further I should go, but it’s Wherever You Are and I wonder if Ben’s thinking about his sweet baby Jane someday. My kids say no. Not every song is about him, he just writes for all of us, and no kidding. And except for the first verse about some gal named Jenny, this is me and all five of my boys and wherever you are, even if it’s Iowa… 

I’ve gone back past Jean’s house, coming up Orchid Street for the second time, and Ben’s singing about boxes of old CDs. I’m thinking about how this weekend I cleaned the shelves in my library at home, filling up boxes with old books. And I’d run across binders full of notes from writing a Bible study and writing that book, still unpublished, and for a minute the song was about me, until it wasn’t. Because he’s singing about the old days and guys making music together and I’d long forgotten how it feels to chase a dream, and all of a sudden I’m remembering this mom dream about my boys, three in the same state, and – As for the rest, I bet they’re teachers or pastors now… And I remind myself to send the text as soon as I get back. GUYS! DON’T FORGET WHILE YOU’RE DOWN THERE TO MAKE MUSIC TOGETHER.*

By now I’m wondering how many songs are left ‘til the last one, this run over and then some, and maybe I should just skip to the end. But I hear the first few lyrics, and the tears start coming, and this one’s a prayer, for one boy especially, this peace with where I am now.  

I slow-sprint the last block past home, cool-down walking and finally. Love Like This. Grant’s song, and Kiana’s. And I’m teary again remembering how they told their story about the NICU and Maisy, the first time they heard it. My son, a new dad, and he asks me later. How does he do it? 

It’s the way you’re smilin’ at me, it’s in the way you hold my hand
It’s the way I’ve watched you change me from a boy into a man
It’s a million things about you, and I don’t know what it is
But I have never known a love like this

* Now back home, showered for work, and I just had to write it. A bit more than a text. Because the truth is, I just think of you sometimes.

Work

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Tuesday morning Angie and I bring coffee to the lake. It’s been a while since we’ve been together, her summer busy with four young kids, her husband working extra hours, but finally things are settling down. So we wake early and dress in layers for a hazy morning, and it feels like fall. We drink up peace as we savor lattes and the priceless gift of catching up.

I tell her about Maisy and boys, and planning a wedding, and she talks about her own baby Willow catching frogs, and her hair is blond and long. Angie points at me as she says it. Yes, hair. So I tell her about two days before, just Kyle and me, sitting here at the lake. At the picnic table up on the hill, eating lunch from McDonald’s, and we talk about money. Not enough for what we have coming, tuition and cars and weddings and such. We’ll need to make changes, and I think without saying, the salon and cleaning, the first luxuries to go.

We talk, too, about my work at church, and how my husband wondered briefly about a more lucrative job. My own thoughts lately in the opposite direction, more time for writing, enjoying grandchildren, too. And I tell Angie it was God’s way of showing me how I love where I am, where He’s got me right now. To be honest, the job I have is a dream come true.

Our time ends too soon and we fold up chairs, hike up the hill and back to our cars. It’s my first time driving the route from lake to church, and I imagine a future with this commute. A beautiful drive with time for reflecting, and the next day I’m doing rush hour on Kyle’s route from south of the city. And there’s no question at all which direction I’d choose.

Thirty-five minutes (I time it) for my trip to work, and it’s staff training day with a special speaker. We’re five minutes into our morning session and I’m texting my husband, “You should be here, too.” It’s Tiffany giving our presentation, an adoptive mom, and she talks about trauma. So Kyle packs his computer and before I know it he’s slipped in and settled at the back of the room. And this, too, feels like God’s orchestration and perfect timing. Just what we need on so many levels.

And then lunch comes and it’s staff recognition, and Kyle’s there, too. It might be me, I whisper, not sure, but maybe. Ten years this August I first came on staff. And then, sure enough, Pastor Sean comes up to read his comments, a tribute he’s crafted, and yes, it’s for me. He talks about Martha and Mary, one sister sitting with Jesus, just like a disciple. Mary listening at the feet of her teacher, and Sean says to me it’s how I think of you, too. I tell him later, and truly I mean it, the most meaningful blessing I’ve maybe ever received. And the new book, too, a gift he’s chosen with the help of my husband – “No, I don’t have it” – both guys are all grins.

The very next day it’s me joining Kyle for his own anniversary, our celebrations coinciding back-to-back. THIRTY YEARS at Aon, still Hewitt to me. Since before we were married in two different states, this company has been our bread and butter, and still I stumble whenever they ask it. What does he do? An Actuary, I say, something about benefits and numbers and he’s good at math. It’s been three decades already, so Andi asks me for family pictures, she plans this big party for Kyle and three others, asks all the guys what’s their favorite dessert? Orange push-ups for Kyle, and his buddy gets beer.

Later we’re walking Maple and it’s a warm summer evening. We talk about our jobs and anniversaries and the gift of work. You seem different. My husband senses the change in my spirit. And it’s true. This season of so many transitions, it’s been something of a struggle, but just now it feels like everything’s new.

The next morning I wake again early for time on my porch, and my soul is happy. I talk to God about work and family and the changes ahead. A new budget, even, and I don’t even mind. I’m excited to do it. I pick up my new book, and I start to read.

The Next Thing

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(Jimmy’s senior photo shoot by kianagrantphotography.com)

Tuesday was a hard day. Monday I endured bravely the driving away and the change of the seasons. But I still get to enjoy a month of summer. Soccer practice starting this week for Jimmy and school starting Monday, but I’m defiant, hanging on tight to the season I love. It’s a three-hour evening practice, Kyle and me in an empty house, so we go to the lake, and I say it again. One more month before summer ends.

But the next morning is hard and I’m not sure why, with a million reasons. It’s staff meeting and staff prayer, and I’m muddled at one and weepy at the other, and I wonder if maybe I’m losing my mind. I say as much to Kyle, telling him how twice in one morning I’d forgotten names of people I know, and if this continues I should see a doctor. And then later two different people talk about transitions and stress and chances are good this is normal crazy.

Wednesday morning we’re on the porch swing, side-by-side, talking to each other and then to God. Kyle says something about identity, last Sunday’s sermon, and he admits it’s true. There’s a change at school, and he might not be coaching, not sure where he fits in ministry, either. Our nest isn’t empty, yet boys independent –except when they’re not. I tell him, too, about my own work lately, and how I’ve been wondering. A job once new, like giving birth, then years of creating and watching it grow. But just lately it feels a bit like an adulting child, redefining my role.

It’s just a hard season to know who we are.

And then it’s Thursday and my day is full, but I wake early for prayer and a run. I read about angels in bookends of scripture. Genesis and Revelation both in one morning, and I ask it of God, could you give me this, too? A voice from heaven with clear direction. I sure could use it. I tie my shoes and head out for my run.

And that’s when He does it. Answers my prayer through a podcast sermon, and it’s not an angel but it’s close enough. It’s Andy Stanley, Kyle’s download, the first title I see. Pack Your Bags Part Two: Praying Ahead. I hit play because it feels like the Spirit, not even thinking I should start with Part One.

“How do you prepare for the changes ahead?” This podcast preacher asks the question. Then he makes a long list, and everything’s on it. Kids in college and aging parents. Change in address and change in vocation. Grandkids and marriage and empty nest. All of it. There. And he asks it again. “How do you prepare for an uncertain future?” I’m running and listening, intent on his answer. But not at all expecting what he actually says.

Of all the answers he could have given, like a real live visit from an angel prophet. God himself in this podcast message. The one thing needed so you’re sure to be ready…

“Find out every day what it means to love.”

Stunned. I can hardly believe it. This is the answer? Prepare for tomorrow by loving today? I’m laughing and crying as I jog my way home.

There’s no way around it. This holy vocation. For today and tomorrow and into the future. This LOVE commission is my ONLY calling. It’s all He’s giving. This answer. Clear.

I know what to do. For today. I love.

Leaving

UNI Bound

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. This packing up and moving out and saying good-bye. It’s the same thing every fall, and summers, too, for that matter. But no. Every change of season everything changes one more time and I’m never quite ready.

This time it’s double-whammy. Last week it was Luke packing a trailer once-and-for-all, and today it’s Nils setting out on the same stretch of highway. His Dad and I circle the boy on a too-hot driveway to bless and pray. He’s got one last stop at church to collect some forgotten musical something, and I hurry to blow-dry, hoping I might arrive at work while he’s still waiting. But no. I search the road the whole way there, the parking lot, too, for his bright-blue Jetta. And church feels empty, full of people, because these past years I’ve worked with one son or another, my oldest three, and this year they’ll be three in Iowa. (Three guys and three gals, in the months to come.)

Iowa. I shake my head, telling Barb in the lady’s room, and goodness. If anyone knows what it’s like to send them off and welcome them home it’s Barb. All those years on a mission field with family, grown children now, grands, and great-grands, all over the globe and here at home, too. And still she always listens like this story is new, all compassion, though she’s been there and done that, and could tell me as much, but she doesn’t.

This week Jimmy’s an only child, three at dinner, and we’ll have salmon tonight, his favorite. And then Thursday will come, and we’ll do it again. This time, Sidney. Jimmy’s girlfriend since just after the prom, the gym-teacher’s daughter, college-bound. And we all know St. Bonnie is only an hour away, but still it’s an hour. (Iowa’s four, everyone says it like this. At least it’s just four. And you don’t really know how only it is, four hours or one, until you’ve lived it. Just saying.) So Thursday it’s Sidney, and I’ve been down this road, too, plenty of times. Starting out cautious about a particular girl, until you realize you’ve grown awfully fond, might just like to keep her. But you’ve been here and done this and you’re stern with your heart and it pays to be careful.

So this morning I’m sitting on my porch-swing, reading my Bible, while Nils starts to load his car. I’m in Genesis and it’s a love story about Abraham’s servant finding a bride for Isaac, the miracle son. And he finds Rebekah, a miracle, too, and her parents ask this legitimate question. Can she stay ten more days before she leaves us? It’s all they’re asking. Ten days. Before she moves across country and she leaves her family to marry this guy. But no. The servant just wolfs down his dinner and loads up his camels and away he takes her in the dead of night. Too bad for the mom as she waves her good-bye.

Sigh.

Truth be told, I’m telling this story sadder than it is. (Mine, not Rebekah’s. That one is a bit more tragic.) Because the truth of the matter is Friday follows Thursday and we’ll follow good-bye with another hello. Maisy and her parents, in town for the weekend. Felipe home the week after that. Luke and Nils back for Labor Day break. The very next week the whole gang together for a NEEDTOBREATHE concert here in the city. And so. There’s that.

Just before Nils closed the door of his Jetta, packed and ready, I leaned into the car for one last snuggle. See you soon. This mom’s favorite way of saying good-bye.

UNI Bound 2

Credible

Pops & Maisy

It was just three of us sitting at the fire Wednesday night. Luke’s friends on their way back to the city, and parents savoring a few more minutes with an adulting boy. Clouds and mist concealed the setting sun, but not the evening glow of dusk over water. My favorite hour at the lake. Luke’s lanky frame straddled an old bench, intended for the dock, long left to rust in the lakeside brush. And it’s from there he asked his cheeky question. The one about moms and is there some kind of convention where you all get together to discuss potential dangers?

Sassy kid.

We’d been each of us toasting one last marshmallow and Luke caught his on fire. He’d flung that flaming stick to blow it out and I unwisely repeated something I’d heard someone say about the dangers of fiery mallows, and of course I knew as soon as I said it…

Oh shucks. First a mom and now a grandma, and it’s the very thing I’ve been pondering these past few weeks. Thinking about Maisy and who-knows-how-many potential grands, and me not just a nana, but a teacher at heart. And I don’t want to ruin it. Don’t want to lose this chance to pass on wisdom and all that goes with it, and yet I have this feeling. It’s not so easy as one might think.

Earlier Wednesday on our way to the lake we’d had this discussion. Luke talking about tendencies of the more mature generations, and he warns his dad to avoid being a certain kind of old man. You know. The world is ending and everything’s evil under the sun. And I admit, too, my aversion to the stereotypical older female. Pick-a-little, talk-a-little, cheep cheep cheep… to quote a ditty from a classic song.

And then Luke said something else, and I think this time he nailed it. He talked about his Pop, and how he always repeats a particular story. Not a story about political figures or the state of the world, but one where he tells of his own beginning. How as a young man God captured his heart through a church and girl. He was living out east, going to school, I think. And this guy invited him to attend a service on a Sunday morning, and it was the last thing I wanted to do but I couldn’t say no. Which is how he found Jesus, or Jesus found him, and either way, it changed the whole thing. So he writes this letter to a gal back home who’s been waiting for God to save the boy, and of course the girl is Grammy. And this becomes the rest of the story, our story, too, and Luke’s.

And then it was yesterday after church when we loaded Jeep and trailer and Luke’s old Mazda, moving day and Iowa bound. Our boy set out first, charting the course, his dad and I trailing a few miles behind. And right out of the gate Kyle starts talking about the morning sermon, and his own salvation, and I think I’ve known God since the day I was born. I remind him of Luke and how these are the stories we need to grow old telling. Our kids need to hear them and the grandkids, too. And we’ve got four hours to kill before Luke’s apartment, so I suggest we practice. If we tell them enough maybe they’ll stick when our memories start fading.

I fell in love with Jesus the summer I was twelve…