Monday, August 24, 2015

No pomp. Just a lot of circumstance.

My amazing trio started college without much fanfare -- without much pomp. But oh sweet mercy the circumstances were enough to wear us all out for months ahead!

Benjamin had Welcome Week activities all weekend last week. We heard amazing speakers -- really wonderful, I will have to eventually give my two cents on each college's parent/student activities but know that Belhaven set a high bar for all others -- and watched him get to know his new campus and make new friends. It was off to a great start!

Rainbows in the sky at Welcome Week were an good indicator that God has this!

We went to Spirit Night at Cate's new school, St. Andrew's, Sunday night. I was nervous about walking into something completely foreign to us -- we didn't know where to park even -- but a bright smiling little girl saw us walking into the courtyard and bounded up the stairs to embrace Cate! They had met once...friends for life!

I knew we were sailing into a week of firsts -- Cate's first day ever not home schooled; Benjamin's first day of college classes; and Mason and Claire's first days living on their campuses. I knew we were sailing into a week of lasts -- last meals together as a family for a while, last TV nights cuddled on the couch, last coffee runs and walks and more more more as my little family sends two of our crew to live on college campuses. 

I knew we were sailing into a week chocked full of last minute preparations -- we needed to paint the headboards we had assembled for Claire and her roommate's beds, we needed to do some last minute clothes shopping for all four, and we needed to pick up one or 50 more things for the dorm rooms, and pack. We needed to pack.

I knew it was a big big week.

But if you read this, then you are all too aware that the week did not go as planned. Not even close.

Sunday night as I felt my grasp -- my control -- slipping over the week as I literally could feel Cate's temperature rising and her ankle swelling we sang songs. She was in my bed as I desperately tried to ice her ankle and get her to sleep. I began singing all our favorite songs -- Camp Garaywa favorites of mine and now her's -- and though I was trying to get her to sleep, she began to sing along with me. So there we were at one o'clock in the morning singing camp songs of praise with an almost frantic undertone as we tried not to imagine what the morning might hold.

I asked her today if she remembered that. She did. It was a precious moment between us. Not something we planned. Not something I insisted on. Just a sweet moment where I did the only thing I could think to do to calm my daughter and myself. I sang praises.

So much has passed between now and then. Horrible blood draws -- many many blood draws -- and an MRI that showed the abscess in her ankle; and emergency surgery. There was the horrible realization that this awful infection had already reached her blood stream and she was sicker than we even knew. And then the night when we thought we were home free and she spiked a 104.6 fever instead having to be packed in ice as we worked to lower her temperature so that she would not have to go to the Intensive Care Unit.

Benjamin started college Wednesday. Cate came home from the hospital Friday afternoon. We moved Mason to Millsaps Friday morning. We moved Claire to Mississippi College Saturday morning.

Saying good-bye from her hospital bed.

And today, as we drove sweet Cate to her first day of fourth grade a week late, I thanked God. I thanked God for her hospitalization. I thanked God for the fact that much of our to-do list is still undone. I thanked Him that the parts that got done ONLY got done thanks to grandmothers who drove down to help out; and precious friends who brought clothes over and let Claire pick; sweet cousins who baked and cooked and held down the fort with my recovering girl while I moved college kids in. I thanked God for brand new friends who brought meals, for brand new teachers and headmasters and school chaplains who dropped everything and came to see Cate in the  hospital; I thanked God for old precious friends who stopped mid-activities to sit with us as we waited on test results and then again when the fever spiked and we were scared to death. I thanked God for the rally of prayer warriors near and far through Facebook friends and friends of friends!

And I thanked God that I didn't focus on the busy of the week. I didn't focus on the lists, lists, and lists of lasts. But rather, in our crisis, I was able to recognize that my precious family will always be one that does what needs to be done. We will rally and flex and change our schedules. We will insist as my sweet Claire did that a cute headboard is not the most important thing -- time together is far far more important. And we will hold on tight as the ride is rarely what we expect.

Today, as my crew are off in the world doing their thing I am trusting them to the one that promises:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3: 5-6

I hate to admit it but this was an important lesson for me. I have been in charge for the last few years. I ran the calendar -- I taught my four in our little home school, I planned their days, I planned their times off, I planned and planned and planned. And last week I learned that my days of planning need to be placed aside.

Oh, I might never understand the crazy that was our week last week. But if learned anything in the madness, it is that I need to let go and trust. So today, I thank God for reminding me to trust in Him to lead and guide and direct the paths of my three college students this year and of my precious Little Red. 

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Can you brighten the lights please?

Holding ice on my Little Red's ankle in the middle of the night, I was commanding the pain to leave this sweet baby's joint. Oh I knew it wouldn't obey. But sometimes, I think I can just will my children to NOT get sick; will myself to fight off a cold; and will all of our stomachs to resist mutant viruses.

Alas, my Mama authority had zero power over the pain that was keeping my baby girl awake and crying the night before her first day of school.

I had already tried bossing her around. You know, pleading with her about whether or not she was completely certain her ankle even hurt. Frantic for her not to limp to school on this her first day EVER to attend school that wasn't in our little home school room.

When I could tell it was swelling even under the ice bag, I began to beg God to take the pain away. Because in the moments between midnight and two in the morning, the worst thing I could fathom was baby girl limping into school, tired and exhausted.

Unfortunately at two, I began to fret that this was something else entirely. And by six in the morning, we knew she was sick.

At eight, I was still just heart-broken that she wouldn't go to the first day of school. I kept envisioning all the things she was missing out on.

And then, I pushed her around the hospital in a wheelchair for test after test before finally having to help her onto a surgical bed that was wheeled away from me for an emergency surgery to rid her body of an infection that has taken up residence in her ankle. She grew weaker as the day wore on and by the time she got onto the hospital bed there was no denying that she was hurting and very sick.

Suddenly missing the first day of school wasn't the worse thing. Suddenly, my perceptive changed completely.

And tonight, as I sit beside her hospital bed, I know that the infection was not just in her ankle joint but rather, she has an infection in her blood. I know that the IV antibiotics are going in and having some side affects but are prayerfully doing their job.

And I know what it means if they don't. And my perspective is all different and crazy and upside down from when my worst fear was missing the first day of fourth grade.

I still hate she is missing school. My heart is eager for her to join her class -- sweet young 4th graders who have sent her handmade cards, and had their mamas text me to send their wishes. But I am so thankful that the pain did not subside Sunday night and mask the only symptom of something horrible and harmful that was welling up inside her. I am thankful the pain stayed and prompted us to act rather than ignore. I am thankful that we acted fast, that we trusted our gut and our sweet Little Red.

And as I sit here, overtired and overwrought with to-do lists for the kids starting classes and moving into colleges this week (Benjamin starts classes tomorrow; Mason moves in Friday; Claire moves in Saturday!),  I can not help but wonder how many times I have willed something to go the way I wanted it to go with no clue of the bigger more important picture. How many times have I begged for an outcome that makes sense in my limited perspective, as God shook His head because He alone knows the big picture.

There is a scenic parkway that will be the fastest connection for Claire to get from my house to her school. We have test driven it and during the day it is breathtaking.  And at night...well, at night it is darker than dark. The first time I drove it since our move, I was alone and it was late. I can not remember driving in the dark in Phoenix. Ever. The sky is large and the city lights cover a wide wide expanse. Even if the strip I drove didn't have streetlights, the lights from the city would offer a night light. So you might imagine the momentary confusion of the utter pitch black darkness that is night on the Natchez Trace Parkway. I rubbed my eyes several times at first thinking I must be going blind right there. I could not for the life of me see beyond my car lights. Nothing. It was darker than I ever remember darkness.

I wanted my lights on bright but kept having to flick them down because a car would approach. I was barely halfway home before my head was aching, my temples were throbbing and my eyes were feeling so strained that I thought surely I must be doing permanent damage to my vision.

See I couldn't bear that all I could see was what my light beams illuminated. I didn't need to see more than that for driving and yet, I could not rest in relying on that alone. I struggled that night. I simply could not relinquish my NEED, my absolute NEED to see beyond the beam of light. I wanted more. What was happening two feet beyond the light for instance? What was happening in the woods to the side of the road? I needed more light. I needed more of the path visible. I NEEDED to see what was further ahead down the road.

Or so I thought.

I'm being honest here. I hate not seeing God's big plan in all of this. I lay awake last night trying to make it make sense. God, why am I not able to be home with my college-bound kids this their last week under my roof full-time? What in the world is the good of Cate missing the first week of school. Why why why am I not home to make sure Benjamin is ready for college classes tomorrow?

I am strong-willed and highly-opinionated. I like for things to go according to plan -- and more often than not it is MY plan I want things to adhere to. Tonight I have no control. My plan is a bust. I might as well be on the Natchez Trace with lights stuck on low beam.

Oh how thankful I am to know the ONE who can see all; the ONE who IS the light and promises to illuminate the path of my feet.

I can not promise not to fret again. And I can not promise not to want things to go according to my plan. But tonight I choose to be grateful that God's plan got us promptly to this hospital and got treatment for my baby. And because I am thankful for that, I must trust and be thankful in knowing that He also has a plan for the timing, for the taking care of all of us. He lights my path.

Even when I am traveling down the darker-than-dark Trace.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I might need pom-poms.

The orientation leaders were lined up on the steps to the chapel cheering with each student who passed through their tunnel of enthusiasm. The tone was welcoming. The atmosphere was electric with excitement and welcome and cheer.

And we were working to get a side entrance door -- one that didn't have stairs -- to open.

Benjamin's spirits weren't dampened. Not a bit. But I couldn't help but turn a pouty face to my husband and say, "I want him to have the rah rah. He deserves the rah rah too."

Deep deep pouty-face sigh.

I promise the pouty was short-lived. The president stopped to shake Benjamin's hand and meet Wade and I. Were all our needs being met, he inquired. Of course. I said. His staff has been fabulous.

And that is the absolute truth. I could not have hand-picked a more lovely team of professors, administrators and students for this, Benjamin's first year of college. I am so excited about his major that I may beg them to let me take classes too. And if you are looking for me and can't find me, I am probably sitting in a rocking chair enjoying the breathtakingly sweet campus. I am so so excited for him.

And as we sit here on this cusp of all things changing -- Benjamin starts first. Mason moves in Friday and then Claire on Saturday. I was probably -- most definitely -- hyper-emotional today. But man, oh man, I want the Rah Rah for Benjamin. I want him to be able to walk up the stairs on that college campus. I want him to be able to move in to a dorm room without me having to move heaven and earth. I would even deal with the emotions of the "Family Farewell" that is marked on my Welcome Week app (did you know these amazing colleges have apps??) for tomorrow.

Really.  I would be serving up cake for a full-on pity party right now except for two things:

Dr. Parrott, president of Belhaven spoke about the mission of his university, "To Serve, Not to be Served."  And oh there was conviction there. Suddenly, my dream for Benjamin to have the "Rah Rah" seems to be less important than Benjamin actually being the Rah Rah for other students. Ah. Yes.

And as always, the main reason I won't wallow: Benjamin, himself. He is super-excited about his classes, his department, his major. He actually thinks having this first year to get adjusted to campus and his classes while living at home, is a perfect plan. He can wait until next year to jump through the necessary hoops to live on campus, he says. He absolutely thinks this is ideal.

My blasted paradigm. My blasted pouty face. My amazing kid. He teaches me something every day.

Carol - The Blessings Counter