Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing pains.

We are beginning my trio's fifth week of college. There have been exams, papers, fraternity rushes, senate elections, theater auditions and a couple visits home for quick hugs and laundry.

And to be honest, there have been some hurdles, some obstacles, some deep deep sighing that sometimes the good road is the hard road.

Benjamin took his college career by storm. He boldly drove into auditions for the semester's theater production with an awesome monologue and no trepidation. He rolled right into callbacks with the same attitude and secured a part in an original production of one of his favorite professors called, "Ghosts of Mississippi." It will be performed outdoors, around campus, near Halloween! How awesome is that?

His next week ended on a rough note when he drove his wheelchair off a curb (details here) but he went right along with battered and bruised feet and only missed the one class he was driving to when the accident happened.

Benjamin visiting Mason's dorm room at Millsaps!

Still, the trauma has left its marks and he is more hesitant to traverse from the top of campus to the bottom of campus without me. I fretted that his peers would think less of him for this but no one seems to mind in the least.  I have even made some darling young friends as I hang out on campus while I wait to take him down the hill. And my heart says that we are taking giant leaps in so many areas, it is ok to go slowly in others. Even if -- oh hear me loudly -- that is not what I thought his first semester in college would look like.

Because the pattern of me wanting him to follow my paradigm is forever my shortcoming.

Leaving Belhaven's orientation the rainbow was a great reminder of Who is in control!

Mason did not enter college quietly either. In his four weeks, he has run for Senate (and WON!), rushed (go Lamba Chi Alpha!),  and begun volunteering in an inner city kindergarten classroom -- not to mention written several papers and  taken several tests. I got a text from him earlier today that said he was not feeling well. I told him his body needed rest. His reply: "Rest. That's funny."

Mason doesn't operate under my paradigms any more than his brother does. But he does operate under his own. And in our house, his Cerebral Palsy looks so mild by comparison to Benjamin that I think he forgets most of the time that he has huge obstacles to overcome. And as his Mother, I simultaneously am cheering for him until I my voice is gone and wanting to wrap him up and make him take a nap and rest. Fortunately for him, he is living on campus, so neither my cheering or my blanket-wrapping needs are able to embarrass him too terribly. Fortunately for me, his campus is near and I can grab a quick coffee date every now and then to catch up and do my best to encourage and support him in a non-embarrassing way!

On campus at Milksops for the Riverside Rumble -- the football game between the boys' two schools!

Claire is in the midst of rush for the social tribes at her school. She is making sweet friends and has already plugged into a local church's special needs ministry. Her heart is thrilled to be surrounded by so many people who are like-minded with a heart for missions, and even special needs children...and Spanish!

Move in day -- we were stuck in the parking lot waiting our turn for a very long time! It was a great time to giggle, cry and work through the emotions of the day!

Her campus is the furthest away and of course her needs aren't physical so I can't force myself on her as often. But bless that girl, she texts faithfully and shares her day with me. Yesterday, she came home after her volunteer work at church to have a belated birthday dinner for Dad. She decided to stay the night. We stole a minute together this morning to have a quick coffee -- literally ten far-too-short minutes together -- and just be. I miss my girl so much but am so delighted by the way she is blossoming into exactly who God wants her to be.

Saying good-bye to her sister who had JUST been discharged from the hospital.

We are being defined right now by growing pains -- not just my college kids, but myself, my husband and Little Red included. We are learning new roles, and adapting to a new home, new job, new schools and did I mention new roles? 

My Quiet Time recently was through the First 5 app on my phone (you should try it!). It included a description of the Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. Lisa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries said the olive tree must have both the harsh desert winds and the refreshing winds from the Mediterranean Sea in order to bear fruit. She suggests that for our lives to be fruitful, we need the harsh winds and the refreshing winds to blow over our lives. Oh I take encouragement from that. 

I am thankful for the desert winds. I am thankful for the refreshing winds. Use them all to make me fruitful, O God. 

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More pictures. Less yelling. Please.

I am the woman that cries standing in line to vote. I wear red, white and blue and I usually hum the Star-Spangled Banner. I have cherished the right. I value the sacrifices many have made to give me that right. I am proud to be an American.

But I have to say that having said all of that...nothing kills my joy like election season since the birth of social media.

We have moved around the country over and over again for school/training/jobs. We spent 10 years in the desert as far from "home" as I could ever imagine. And I homeschooled for six of those years which can be translated as I spent very little time with other adults outside of my home from six years.

Hear me. I LOVE the fact that Facebook was invented and allowed me to connect with my dear ones far and near -- friends made as we journeyed from training ground to training ground and even from one side of the Valley of the Sun to the other. In the middle of my long days of teaching my amazing wonderful children, I counted on a brief look at FB on my phone to connect with even just ONE other adult and know I wasn't alone. It kept me sane...well, it kept me from going completely crazy.

Face to face time always trumps computer to face, but, oh dear ones, this computer thing has been a gift. I have connected, reconnected, celebrated births, prayed for illnesses and watched my darling friends' children grow and blossom all from the beauty of this media. I have cried with, smiled with and celebrated with so many because we aren't in what I describe to my children as the dark ages anymore. For years, we moved and the cost of phone calls prohibited remaining in close contact. But this instant photo-album, status posting thing closed the door on all of that. Praise the Lord.

Right up until it stopped being about catching up, engaging in the lives of each other and supporting one another -- and became about posting links that berate each other, statuses proclaiming the harshest of opinions, and memes that slam those who oppose your views.

Honestly, I would make my children wash their mouths out for half of what is posted and make the other half sit in a corner for trumping up lies -- or at the most half-truths.

Seriously, enough.

I want to see your kids' going back to school pictures. I need to know how I can pray for you. I want to know what scholarship you kiddo received and which school is lucky enough to snatch him up!

Really, if you want to have coffee and discuss your views -- like views, differing views, views that just strike you as funny -- call me. I am a woman who thinks and reads and at 40-something realizes she always has much to learn. IF we are in relationship -- do you get me? I don't want you yelling at me one-sidedly. I don't want you be-rating me without ever hearing my opinion. And I don't want you to think that just because you post it on social media you are NOT attacking anyone and everyone with a different view. You are. And you are not going to change my opinions on presidential candidates that way. You are not going to convince me that you are right about your agenda that way.

So please, can we stop. Can we work toward relationship building where maybe, just maybe, we garner enough respect for one another that I am willing to listen to you and you are willing to listen to me?

Because listening to each other, building relationships with each other, that my friends is the true way to make a difference.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, September 4, 2015

Crunchy grass and a ready-to-snap Mama.

My grass is crunchy. I have crunchy, dried up, dying in the August-in-Mississippi heat grass. Yuck. I have watched for the sprinklers to come up and on. Nothing.  In June and early July it wasn't an issue, we had an afternoon shower almost daily. It was lovely. Then it stopped. And nothing. Just crunchy grass.

And so I began to worry but then that became horribly insignificant in light of the very real and very significant health issues affecting my little family. 

But this week as the calendar turned to September and as life calmed down for me a bit, my crunchy grass began to irritate me in ways that you might not understand unless you have lived in the desert for 10 years and desperately want nice soft non-crunchy grass under your feet. So I did what I decided I had to do. I began to drag a hose out and park a manual sprinkler in the yard, set a timer and move the stupid thing to hit a different area.

After several days of no doubt seeing me lug the sprinkler and hose out to the front yard this week, my sweet neighbor sent me a text yesterday -- "Um, Carol, don't you have a sprinkler system?" 

Well, hello, I would have thought so but have you SEEN my crunchy grass????

Sweet neighbor told me where her control box is located and I went barreling out to the garage to move boxes. 

Turns out, we DO in fact have a sprinkler system. One controlled by a box in the small garage that I do not use. And one the previous owners had turned off. The spring grass had overgrown the sprinkler heads in the yard and the straw delivery I had requested the week BEFORE we moved in had covered the ones in my flower beds. 

Now y'all, I know this is a stupid first-world problem. I know that crunchy grass is not the end of the world. And I know I should just pat myself on the back for conserving water or something such as that. But really, I had been dragging that hose all over God's crunchy green earth and I had built-in sprinklers?  Really?

It was almost too much...or maybe the problem is Carol is poised to snap in two pieces like the crunchy grass after two weeks of her trio in college....or maybe the move has gotten to me....or maybe it is post-traumatic-stress after the two hospitalizations this month.

Whatever the reason, I sat down and cried. Like a baby. Dear hubby asked what was wrong, "It is too much," I mumbled. Completely perplexed he assured me the sprinklers were working fine and the yard would be ok.

He is right. The yard will be. And me too. I will be. I am not just yet. I feel like my personality is flat. Not very me. I know it is because I do not have my groove yet in this new city or in this new season. I am at once super proud of my kids and selfishly wanting them to be back in my nest as littles who require my assistance. I am at once surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world and yet not in a rhythm with them yet. And did I mention my grass is crunchy?

Today, sweet Little Red played the Xylophone for chapel at her sweet little school. At her insistence, Mason let us swing by his college and he went to hear her (Yes, bless his heart, he had a morning he could sleep in but instead got up extra early for Cate!). We sat in that little gym as the students proceeded in, with Cate's class as the choir. We sang and prayed and listened to the sweetest prayer requests for children's daddies, friends and fish. And of course, we heard our sweet girl make her musical debut!

As we walked back to the car, Mason and I discussed the beauty of the morning. Just 30 minutes really. Thirty minutes where the world seemed a better place, where hope seemed to fill the future. Where when Chaplain Annie closed with "The Lord be with you," a gym-filled with young children responded, "And also with you." I have to tell you, everything seemed right in the world.

The crunchy grass will be ok. And this Mama will find her groove in this new season of life. And my four kiddos will make their way. And you can count on the fact that I will tell you all about it.

The Lord be with you, dear friends.

Carol - The Blessings Counter