Category Archives: motherhood

God’s Involved

Do you ever reflect on the ways God’s shown up in your life? Stuff that is beyond coincidence. Stuff that isn’t the big story, like being healed from a life-threatening disease, but is still only explained by His interaction with your life?

Today I reflect on the year 2002. A homeschooling mamma, I taught part time at a Christian Enrichment school for homeschoolers. My class, Mindboggling Missionaries, was primarily wiggly boys. I wanted to capture their imagination, touch their spirit, and give them heroes to immaculate. Missionaries. It was an easy topic to sustain with endless opportunities for creative learning. The Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson provided the base and the boys, my assistant teacher, and I soon traveled to exotic and distant lands. We played games, made crafts, and ate foods from these cultures. (Rule one when dealing with squirrely boys before lunch is food!) Together we learned about ordinary people who did extraordinary things when lives where surrendered to God. (I found out later those elementary boys took bets on have far Miss Paula would get into glass before the story of these heroes brought her to tears. lol) Oh the people we studied!  Prince Kaboo. Martin Luther. Gladys Aylward. Adoniram Judson!

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Adoniram Judson Picture taken from this site, where you can also read his story

Adoniram Judson.

 

One of the first American missionaries and the first to bring the gospel to Burma.

He’s the one who broke my heart.

As I taught about Adoniram’s life, which was wrought with suffering, I secretly cried out to God. My spirit understood that even one life changed for eternity was “mindbogglingly” more important than I could understand. But as I read of his loss of three children and his wife, of the cruelty he endured while in prison, I wondered. Those first six years in Burma were especially hard, and at the end of them he had only one Burmese convert.

“Was it worth it?” I cried silently. His story haunted me.

About this time, through a strange string of circumstances, I learned a Burmese refugee, Dah Doh, lived only five minutes from me. I decided to visit her in hopes she might talk to our class about Burma. As I walked down the dark hallway to her apartment, I wondered if I would find a Buddha outside her door.

The Burmese woman graciously invited me inside. She fed me traditional food, and within minutes I discovered she had a rich and vibrant faith in Jesus, a faith that helped her survive years in a horrible refugee camp in Thailand after she escaped the cruel government of Myanmar, which is what the conquering army renamed Burma.

“I’m teaching about Adoniram Judson,” I said. “Have you heard of him?”

Dah Doh’s eyes lit with joy, and she grabbed an old cassette tape. When she pushed play on the worn tape player, the voices of children singing in Burmese filled the air. She translated the words of a hymn into English. I don’t remember her exact translation, but I googled what I remembered and found this Burmese hymn that seems close:

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Brushing tears from my eyes, I understood.

Before me, almost 200 years later, stood the fruit of Adoniram’s sacrifice. Dah Doh explained that most of her people, the Karen, were Christians because of the missionary work of Adoniram Judson in the early-mid 1800s.

What a glorious answer God gave to my broken-hearted cry! He could have simply led me to statistics about the wonderful success of Adoniram’s ministry toward the end of his life, but instead the Lord showed me how Adoniram’s willingness to continue to serve, despite intense suffering, left a legacy that still survives, nearly two centuries later.

Inge Sargent and Shan prince Sao Ky Seng

Prince Sao Ky Seng and Princess Inge Sargent. Photo from this site.

Dah Doh came to my class, and the children loved her. She captured their attention as she talked of her beloved homeland.

 

Dah Doh (and God!) had another surprise for us. Dah Doh knew Princess Inge, who was once married to the Prince of Burma. Inge met Prince Sao Kya Seng when they both attended Colorado University in Boulder. When they married and she returned with him to his native land, she didn’t know he was the Shan Prince until brightly colored ships greeted them in the harbor. The prince and princess served the people with an eye to their good. The prince gave his rice fields to the farmers who cared for them and sought ways to strengthen the economy. Inge taught nutrition, established a birthing clinic, and built a trilingual school. They had two daughters and were happy in their work on behalf of their people and country. But Prince Sao Kya Seng’s leaning toward democracy upset the army, and he was killed during a coo. Princess Inge eventually escaped with her two daughters. She hid her identity, taught high school German, and eventually remarried. But she couldn’t stop thinking of the plight of her people. She began to tell her story and to raise awareness for the plight of the Burmese people. (You can read more about them here and here.)

Princess Inge came to our class. We were all so excited! She talked of Burma and the needs of the Burmese people. We were so moved, the children took up a collection.

I started this post thinking about God-moments. I’ve often pondered this one. My heart is tender when I think of how thoroughly He answered the aching (even accusing) questions of this young mamma’s heart. Passion floods as I think about how He turned that teaching moment for ME into an incredible experience for those I taught.

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.                                                                                   ~ Adoniram Judson

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Get Soul Scents: Bloom for Free!

FREE May 14 – May 17

In honor of moms everywhere!

This third in the Soul Scents series of devotionals leads us from struggle to acknowledging the blessing of Immanuel in our lives. Paula courageously shares the raw and intimate moments of her own struggles in the valley of the shadow of death. Incredibly, hopefully, she leads us day by day into His Light, teaching us how to walk hand in hand with God at our side.   ~Susan Irene Fox

God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I . . . found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” . . . . Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing. . . . I highly recommend this devotional to anyone who needs a reminder that God is beyond good.  ~ Amazon Customer

rsz_pmapprov3-01In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. The week-day readings include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

I hope you enjoy this free gift!

Blessing to Your Home From Mine,

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PS One of my Mother’s Day celebrations this year is the joy of our son Stephen’s recent graduation from Fort Lewis College. God is good and has done amazing things in his life! When he graduated high school, I wrote a piece about how he’d overcome great odds. Stephen’s college graduation was also a high day. That little boy who struggled with speech and learning to read graduated Summa Cum Laude! (If you have a struggling learner, you might want to check out that article, which includes links to resources.) He’s already started his first full-time job. He’s using his adventure education degree to serve at a camp where he will be assistant to the director of adventure activities. (If you’d like to support him in prayer or finances, email me, and I’ll have him send you more information.) Happy Mother’s Day to each of you moms reading today–I hope you enjoy your free gift!

Announcing the Winners!

It’s really fun how the drawing turned out! Empty-Nest Man won the book, The Joy of joy of letting goLetting Go: Releasing Your Teens into Real Life in the Big World! If the series on releasing our children to adulthood blessed you, I believe you’ll be blessed by his new blog. And as crazy as this seems that Empty Nest Man won the book on empty nest, I promise it was not rigged. I wrote out each name on paper and drew two. He was drawn first, and He chose his book!

Winner of the Colors of Hope inspirational coloring book is Lacey!

Her comment asked a question: Your devotional time sounds both joyous and thought-provoking, Paula. Just out of curiosity…not that it really matters, except for preference…do you use colored pencils, or crayons? My daughter has 17155194_10154303091171723_2711020159173082596_nbeen ill, and I bought a new box of over 100 crayon’s for her. Fresh, new crayons with a crayon sharpener included. There’s something special about using a new crayon or recently sharpened pencil.

My answer to Lacey was: I’ve been using markers or colored pencils, but that may be because I have pencils to sharpen but not fresh new crayons! I think that would be a great question for Lisa, though! 

So I contacted the expert, Lisa Samson who said:

Colored pencils would work better for the book. There are smaller spaces that would be hard to access with crayons. Although, there are some pages that would work just fine with crayon because they have been designed for people of all skills!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the drawings. I hope to do more in the future! Stay tuned!

The Joy of Letting Go 4

I believe how we navigate empty nest plays a huge role in how free our adult children will be to flourish in life.

This week Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, shared wisdom and grace for joy of letting goparents like myself who navigate the challenges of transitioning to empty nest. I took extra time with what began as a short interview because this issue dovetails with my own passion to see people free to flourish, and these formative years can set our children on a path of freedom where they can grow and expand—or hold them back.

Find the joy in letting go isn’t always an easy process for me, yet I know how I navigate this long season of rotating doors and releasing my children into adulthood has powerful impact on them, on myself, and on how our family will function in the future. I’ve also learned that how I walk this out deeply affects how joyful or painful my son or daughter’s journey into adulthood is. I realize it hurts my teens and young adults when they have to fight for the very freedoms they should be offered as they mature. At the same time if I give freedom without responsibility, I set them up for failure. For me, one of faith’s greatest journeys is to step back and release my children in God’s capable hands when the temptation is to hover a little too closely.

In my opinion there are few things more difficult to navigate than knowing when and how to give our children the wings they need to fly free to flourish in life. I appreciate Vicki taking the time to help my readers and myself more deeply process these important issues. (Past blog interviews interviews include the process of letting gohow our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college, and a parent’s role around a child’s identity and decision-making.)

I mentioned in the first blog of this interview series that a hardback copy of The Joy of Letting Go arrived in my mailbox the week of our oldest son’s wedding. Though I was privileged to read an advanced copy of the book and to offer my endorsement some weeks ago, re-reading selections at just that special time was a balm. (Thank you, Vicki!)

It’s interesting that during this time my son Seth was searching for the perfect song for our mother-son dance at his and Amanda’s wedding.

25He couldn’t find a song he liked, and his bride-to-be came to the rescue. She sent him several ideas, but her favorite was Mark Harris’s, “Find Your Wings.” Seth told me later he immediately knew it was the song he wanted, but that he didn’t want to influence me, so he sent me several links and asked my opinion.

When I listened to this song, I was alone in the car and free to sob–which I did! It said every single thing I wanted to say to my son as I freely offered him to the beautiful young women who now holds first place in his heart.

I’ve included the song with this last post about releasing our children into adulthood. I hope you are blessed as deeply as I was.

 

 

 

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To close our time with Vicki, I asked her to share a selection from her book that would most say what she wanted to say to us today. Thank you, Vicki!

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

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Day 6

Don’t cry because you are leaving; smile because you were there.

Dr. Seuss

The image is still so strong. Every weekday for months, my five-year-old baby boy stood at the window of his preschool with both hands on the glass crying for me to stay. I couldn’t. I had to go to work—as a teacher I had about thirty more children waiting for me to show up. I endured the daily exercise of letting go that school year in the most excruciating way. In my mind I see the palm print of his small hand on the glass moments after his teacher enticed him away from the window. It imprinted on my heart in ways that followed us both through the next twenty years.

Fast forward five years later when our children were transitioning back into the public schools after being homeschooled for four years. I walked this same boy to his fifth grade classroom stopping just short of the door. After only a moment’s hesitation, he slipped into the brightly decorated room with the stealth of a ninja. He didn’t look back, but I lingered.

I sat in the parking lot for an hour trying to decide if I should stay—just in case—or go and let him be. Parent drop-off had ended and I was alone in the lot. I could see his classroom window from where I sat. I realized what I was waiting for—his hand print on the glass.

Thirteen years later we stood—my head only reaching his shoulders—with a jam-packed moving van and the dog nestled safely in the car that would follow. I couldn’t believe it was time to go—again. A mist-like rain covered us like dew and I felt hurried in this goodbye. How many times had I said goodbye? More times than I’ve recounted here to be sure. Why is it that each time feels like the last time?

After a tear-filled hug of this now fully grown and fully able young man, I saw through the car window clearly for the first time. In a last ditch effort, I wondered once more, should I stay or should I go? But he was fine. And it was time. We pulled out of the parking lot, and I watched him through the car window, with my hand pressed against the glass, as we now moved one mile at a time 2000 miles away.

One goodbye at a time.

Thought Poke

Letting go is a cumulative process. We have had so much practice up to the point of departure. Instead of remembering all the times you were parted, remember all the times that you were there.

~Vicki Caruana

Friends, I (Paula) wish many blessing to each sweet momma (or dad!) whose own journey into empty nest includes those tears that are joy and grief mingled.

Don’t forget! Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Blessings,

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The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:

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“Our hearts are always connected to our children, whether they are four or forty. In these fifty-two devotions, Vicki Caruana beautifully shows us that cutting the apron strings doesn’t mean cutting the heart strings. This journey of letting go can be life-giving – for you and for your children.”
Jill Savage, founder of Hearts at Home
     and author of No More Perfect Marriages

The Joy of Letting Go 3 (Influencing Destiny)

Today’s interview with Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, probes the issues around our role in our children’s future and identity. (Past interviews interviews include the process of letting go and how our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college.)

Vicki, The Joy of Letting Go offers 52 daily readings that help parents by offering grace and wisdom in the letting go process. I loved the title of Day 5, “Alma Mother.” The wisdom of that particular reading is something I hold dear. One of my most passionate beliefs is that only God has the right to shape someone’s destiny. I don’t mean that parents/spouses/friends don’t get to give positive input; I mean that in the end, God and the person get to choose his or her path and destiny. You quote Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life” (NIV).

The psalmist is talking about God, not his mother (lol!). It’s really hard not to constantly think Momma knows best, but I know that even when I do have a “better” way for my child, it’s his or her life not mine.  And sometimes God is orchestrating something very different than I would. You wrote, “Sometimes what you think is the best choice may not be the right choice. We need to allow our kids to tell us they don’t like peas so they don’t have to resort to hiding them under their mashed potatoes.”

What are some warning signs that we’ve fallen into the “momma knows best” trap?

Well, momma does know best! It’s funny. . . I’ve spent a lot of time promoting that parents know their kids better than anyone else and can and should be their greatest advocates. As a teacher I know this is true. But I also know that we tiptoe (or should) around being an advocate without being an adversary. There are times when going to bat for your child is warranted, while at other times it will only delay their development into independent and responsible adults. There is a tug of war always being waged. It began when they were about three years old and said to us “I do it by myself!” They’ve been telling us in so many words that they know what they want and would like the chance to make their own decisions. When we fall into the trap of basically sending them away with just a pat on their sweet little heads as if to say, “Oh, aren’t you just the cutest?” and disregard the assertion of authority over their own lives, we foster one of two responses. They’ll either hide their peas under the mashed potatoes or they will throw their peas at you in a food fight!  Many of our kids may not be developmentally ready to confront us and assert their independence. But don’t mistake their compliance with agreement. Eventually they will find a way to live their lives on their own terms; it may not be in a positive life-giving way if we silence their disagreement.

One of your daily reading is entitled, “Lord , Shut My Mouth!” Talk a little bit about the danger of our words (and unspoken attitudes!) in the letting go process.

It is said that silence means agreement, but the silent treatment conveys just the opposite. So it isn’t always a matter of keeping your mouth shut about what we think about our children’s decisions; it’s about being discerning about the power our words or our silence has on our children’s confidence. I picture walking hand in hand with our son – Chip on one side and me on the other – and we hold on tight and if we come to a puddle on our path, we lift our son up and over it. That only works when they’re two to five years old. After that, they’re too big to lift up over that puddle. I can walk side by side with our son and point out the puddle, but it’s up to him to step over or around it. If he doesn’t pay attention, he’s going to find himself ankle deep in muddy water. Do I say “I told you so”? Do I belittle his lackluster efforts to avoid the puddle? No. I myself step around the puddle before us and keep walking. When he catches up, he’s learned that he needs to watch where he steps.

In that same entry you talk about how sometimes it is good to speak wise words, but even in this how sometimes they will fall on deaf ears. How can one know when to speak and when to be silent?

Knowing when to speak and knowing when to be silent is very individual. Each situation, each child-parent relationship requires its own discernment. I still believe in the litmus test that if there is danger for a child’s mind, body, or soul you must speak up. But if it is a matter of preferences, likes and dislikes, then my opinion is let it go. All of this may fly out the window if our kids come directly to us for advice. Once they do that, the door opens and I guess so does my mouth!

You talk about the very real angst of watching our children make decisions we know will bring them pain. Is it our job to protect from pain?

Angst – yes, that’s the perfect word for this experience! I’m not convinced it’s my job to protect them from pain. I do believe it’s my job to keep them safe. As our children grow into their own “firsthand faith”, they will learn, just as we have, that suffering – and with it often pain – is part of our perfecting; it’s part of our good and God’s good purposes. Admittedly, watching my sons make decisions I suspect will bring them pain brings me straight to my knees! Maybe that’s where God wanted me all along.

What about decisions that seem contrary to how we raised them? How can we wisely navigate this situation?

This is happening to all of us – I doubt any of us can escape it in one form or another. I recognize that it can be disappointing, discouraging, and maybe embarrassing. After all, how often do we post on Facebook that our son no longer goes to church or that our daughter has dropped out of college? We don’t or if we do, we’re really looking for sympathy from our friends.  Those realities are benign compared to what is really going on in the lives of parents of teens and young adults. Again I compare this to our relationship with God. How often do we stray from how He raised us? He is so set on relationship with us that He chooses to love and to remain steadfast with arms wide open even as we run around like our yellow lab, Bella, after a squirrel in our backyard. Make home a safe place always to come home to and remain steadfast. That way, when our children run in a zigzag after that squirrel, they still know they can come back to you because they can rely on you being right where they left you – with arms wide open.

Friends, I find myself constantly on my knees asking the LORD to guide my adult children and to show me when to speak and when to be silent. Perhaps that’s why today’s questions with Vicki were especially meaningful to me. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did! We’ll have one more interview with Vicki on Friday. Looking forward to sharing an excerpt from her book!

Don’t forget: Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Until Friday,

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The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:frannie.jpg

“Vicki lovingly mixes her sense of humor, wisdom, and insights together in such a way that I know my friends will love this devotional as much as I do. Even though my own children are forty, thirty-eight, and thirty-seven, and I have a grandson in the Air Force, the challenge to find joy in the letting go remains. This devotional helps moms of all ages do just that. I’ll be picking up multiple copies as gifts.”
Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love

 

The Joy of Letting Go 2 (College Transitions)

Welcome to Day 2 of the series of interviews with Vicki Caruana, mom, college educator, and author of the new book, The Joy of Letting. (Click here for Day 1.)

Today we explore how a parent’s approach to letting go can help–or hinder–their child’s college success.

Sending a child off to college is no small feat. Our oldest son, Seth, started at community college and then transferred to CSU in Fort Collins, living in the dorms, then back home for the summer, then moving into an apartment. On the SAME DAY his younger brother and I loaded the van with IMAG0049his stuff to drive him to his first apartment, my husband helped our middle son, Stephen, load up the car to head to Fort Lewis College in Durango.

That week there was a lot of teasing mom as my young men caught me crying and wrapped a strong arm around my shoulder while I said repeatedly, “It’s okay for me to be sad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to go. You are doing exactly the right thing!”

I did receive validation when my dry-eyed husband admitted that he cried a lot of the six-hour drive home after dropping Stephen off!

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My three young men

Somehow we survived. Last spring Seth graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine, and this spring Stephen graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Adventure Education.

I gotta admit, though, that I find the constant transitions of college exhausting. You drop them off (or watch them drive away) and then cry until you can dry your tears. Just when you get used to not cooking for the masses and the house staying clean–just when the  quiet grows less invasive, winter break is around the corner. You are wild with excitement. Cook up a storm. Welcome your children home. Only to have them leave and the house be too quiet again in January.

This cycle continues for years. *sigh*

Jerry and I have had exactly two weeks of no one but us living here in our most recent transition, but even now our youngest is considering moving back home in a few months to save money while he goes to college. Honestly? I love my son and will adore having him here if that is what he chooses, but my heart is tired of the revolving doors of the empty nest process. The transitions are easier than they were the first time, but it still feels like someone is playing tennis with my heart. I think I’m actually (finally) looking forward to the doors opening only when they want to come for a visit.

So, Vicki, as an assistant professor you observe students whose parents’ approach to the letting go process deeply affects the student’s college success. Could you share some positive approaches that help our children succeed in this difficult transition?

Teaching at the college level, I see first-hand how parents approach letting go of their newly minted adult children. I realize that not every 18 or 19 year old is at the same level of maturity when they arrive on campus, so possibly a parent’s approach to letting them go may match that level of maturity. But I’ve also seen students struggle to pry their parents’ hands off of their new found independence. I’ve also seen students crying in the hallway over being incredibly homesick. Like the story I told about Nikki in my book, it’s important that we remember that our presence should not be required in order for (1) our kids’ well-being, and (2) our own well-being. I admit that I desperately miss our now grown sons. I also admit that I really wish they’d move to NY so we could all be together again. I know my mom wished the same thing for her and her children. But I didn’t know how much my mom wished for that until after she died. She not only allowed us to pursue our lives where and when we needed; she did not press her needs ahead of our own – as much as I’m sure she wanted to. I feel that same pressure now. As much as I want our boys close, I won’t let them think I can’t have a happy life unless they are by my side. I focus on supporting them without dictating to them how and where they should live their lives. Not an easy thing to do, but the opposite would be life-sucking instead of life-giving.

What are some things we might do out of good intent that actually holds them back?

Funny you should ask this right now – as I sit here at my computer searching for jobs for our youngest son as I know he is looking to make a change. To be honest, I’m looking here in NY hoping that if I find just the right job for him, he will move here! But I will also tell you that this is an exercise for me that he will not hear about (unless you tell him!). If I do all the research for my kids on a problem they have to solve, then whatever solution appears they will not be invested in. They will then wait on me to do the research in the future and rely on the solution I present. They become passive participants in their own lives. There is a difference between teaching our kids HOW to do something and doing it for them. Whether it’s that science fair project or preparing their resume or applying for college or even challenging a grade with a professor in college (which you really shouldn’t do), you hold them back from being their own advocates. So, I will NOT send my son the three really cool jobs I just found for him right here in my neck of the woods. I will NOT! 😉

You mention that the Journal of Adolescence reported higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life in college students. It indicated this is a result of our emerging adults having limited opportunities to practice and develop important skills for becoming self-reliant adults. What are some practical things we can do to help our progeny become self-reliant?

College turns out not to be what many of our kids expected it to be. It’s much harder, more isolating, and more challenging than they thought it would be. Many of us have spent a lot of time orchestrating our children’s different spheres of existence. If we ran too much interference in their schooling – most notably their completion of work and projects or challenging grades they earned – then they don’t have those skills when they go to college. If we determined where and with whom they socialized – then they will have trouble finding friends on their own. And if we ensured that they were engaged in activities in which they were guaranteed success, then the challenges at the college level will be both overwhelming and devastating to their identities. Although “But I’ve always gotten A’s” is a common reaction, it won’t change the direct correlation between how hard they work and the grades they earn in college. We need to give our kids opportunities to navigate these waters on their own – in their swimming pool at home before they head out into open waters.

For a lot of us sending our children to college there is a disconnect between our children’s need for some financial support and their need for independence. How do we as parents help our children make the transition to financial dependence without setting them up for failure?

The college financial conundrum! First, let me say that the fact we have this problem is actually a good thing. What I mean by that is that for those of us who do have money to financially support our children for college means we are ourselves doing well. That being said, I am not an advocate for “everyone should go to college.” Not just because it may be cost prohibitive, but because it may not be the right “fit” for every child. A college degree does not equate a job, or a good paying job at that. We have many students who are not academically ready for college, yet are accepted because our society (beginning with No Child Left Behind in the 90s) pedaled the every child should go to college agenda. That aside, life is more expensive for our kids than it was for us. It is harder and harder for a young adult to move out on his own and afford what that entails. Personally, we’re still paying our youngest cell phone bill. The goal, as we’ve spelled it out for him, is that he needs to be financially independent before he decides to marry. He needs to be able to care for himself and pay his own bills before he becomes responsible for someone else. The transition to financial independence begins with us, parents. Passing the baton onto our children so they can run the last leg of their race is important – after all, they’re the ones who will cross that finish line.

Hi Friends, hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am. Join us on Wednesday for some deep questions around our role in our child’s identity and future.

Here’s a treat for you! Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!

Until Then,

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The Joy of Letting Go is available now from:

The Joy of Letting Go 1

 

joy of letting goIsn’t timing interesting? This book came in the mail during wedding week at my house! I’d already read an advanced copy, but I took a break from the bustle of preparation to allow myself a little self care and re-read portions of The Joy of Letting Go*.  I gotta tell you, I love how the author, Vicki Caruana, weaves wisdom with grace. There’s much to be learned in this 52 days of devotional reading, but there is also a healing balm from another mom who understands the angst—and the joy—of the empty nest process.

And it is a process.

I think before it happened to me I thought empty nest was an event. One day our home would be just hubby and me. But I’ve been in and out of the intense goodbyes since 2009 when my oldest graduated highsarah mouths off lol school. Since then we’ve released each of our four children to their own lives, one—or sometimes several—at a time. It didn’t matter if the house was completely empty or if one or more children still called it home, it hurt–and was joyful–every time.

Our oldest son was the first to move out of state, back in 2011, to play competitive hockey on a youth league. Eventually he returned home, only to leave again for 13178674_10208670205207590_4987123835346093213_ncollege. Recently he moved in for a few months during the transition between college and his March wedding.

There was great joy in helping him move into the beautiful apartment he and his bride now share, but even after all the times I’ve said goodbye to this particular child, I found myself weepy as we packed up the boxes. Inside was a jumbled mess of cheering him on, feeling pride for this huge step of maturity he was taking, being glad to get back to just hubby and me at home—and yet grieving once again.

When the wedding day actually arrived, peace and joy defined my emotions. 19My heart delights in my new daughter, and I celebrated! But even that was not without many tears, tears that are hard to define. Tears full of joy and pride. Tears of transition.

 

Empty nest is not an event.

It’s a process.

If you’re a mom with kids between the ages of 17 and 27, I bet you know what I’m talking about.

I hope the next few blog posts will encourage you, validate you, and sprinkle wisdom into your letting go process. I’m excited to share my friend Vicki with all of you. Vicki, a mom and college educator, has a lot to offer us.

Thank you, Vicki, for taking the time to write a powerful book that helps moms like me as we attempt to give our children wings cheerfully, while still wiping the tears. I’m looking forward to digging in a little deeper.  Let’s jump right in!

In your book you say that letting go is a cumulative process. Can you expand on this?

I realized, especially now as I look back, that we’ve been letting go of our boys since the day they were born. The moment my husband, Chip, cut the umbilical cord we had begun the process of letting go. We should be grateful that it is a cumulative process and not a one-time event. Little by little is so much better than all at once. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. All the skills needed for a child to independently and with confident balance to ride a bike are fostered well before that solo ride.

There’s a quote at the beginning of one of the daily readings that says, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened” (Often attributed to Dr. Seuss). I find myself experiencing great joy and tears at the same time. Can you talk a little about natural emotion and how to keep processing the joy of letting go without denying the grief?

Experiencing great joy and tears at the same time is a uniquely human emotional response. Think “tears of joy” – those particular tears are a mix of happiness of your child’s accomplishment and sadness that they didn’t need you to accomplish it. It is not a paradox; it is a healthy, life-giving response. It is also part of living in the moment and not lamenting over the past or being anxious about the future. We can hold both joy and sadness in our hands with equal weight.

I loved this sentence in Day 3 of your book: “When deciding how and when to let go or at least loosen your grip, make sure your decision is based on what they can and can’t handle and not on what you can and can’t handle.” Why is this important?

From my experience as a mom and as an educator who works with families of college age students, I see this happen all the time. I remember when our first son was learning to drive. Although I was more available to be the one to practice driving with him, I just couldn’t. I get anxious enough when Chip is driving, let alone when a 16 year old is driving! I remember thinking that I needed to be sure that my own anxiety didn’t stain our son’s confidence to drive like the blueberry stain I couldn’t get off of a favorite blouse and can no longer wear. Some stains can be coaxed out of the fabric, but others are permanent.

You challenge readers with the following: “Where are you on the countdown to the big launch? Look for ways to green-light progress and not stop the clock.” Could you give my readers a few green-light suggestions?

Everyone’s “launch day” is a little different. Remember how we talked about this as a process and not an event, but there are some moments along the way that you can claim as green-light moments on this journey. Consider the different ages and stages of your kids right now as you read this. Whether they are four or fourteen or even twenty-four, there are times when you can say “yes” and let them do something by themselves when you’re natural instinct might be to say “no.” At four, they can walk to the curb and put the mail in the mailbox – by themselves (as you watch from the front door). At fourteen, they might be able to travel with someone other than their own family (maybe on a school or church sponsored trip). And at twenty-four, they can and should be making their own doctors’ appointments and filing their own tax returns (without your help or prodding – although I’m still struggling with NOT reminding our youngest about his tax return even at the writing of this post!). Look for the green-light moments. You may see them right now as either yellow (for caution) or red (for stop) moments; but unless they are against the rules, we can choose to change them from yellow or red to green. If we’re going to be life-giving in our letting go, we have to remember that “green means go.”

What are some things we might unwittingly do that stops the clock in our children’s progress of independence?

There are a couple of ways we might unwittingly stop the clock in our children’s progress toward independence. First we make them the focus of our happiness and well-being above all else. Although I believe that being Christopher and Charles’ mom is the most important and most satisfying job I’ve ever had, if the goal is to work yourself out of a job when raising children, then this can be a problem. No one likes being out of work – ask my husband, Chip. Admittedly, for many women being a mom is our identity and when that identity is threatened we move to protect it. Those moves can stop our children’s progress toward independence. Also, we might find ourselves letting go too soon. In some circumstances it is too early to let go. We may find ourselves pushing our kids forward into adulthood because either we’re proud of their early accomplishments and believe in the sooner is better attitude, or we get caught up in the excitement of what comes next and push them into situations for which they’re just not ready. You may have been a great swimmer and loved the water by the time you were ten, but that doesn’t mean your child is or will be. If we push them into the pool believing they’ll naturally learn to swim before they’re ready, then they might instead become afraid of the water and decide to remain on the shore for the foreseeable future.

Thank you, Vicki!

Friends, we’re just getting started with this topic. The interview with Vicky about the joy of letting our children go grew as I asked more and more probing questions. Next week, we’ll have several posts picking Vicki’s brain about releasing well. On Monday we talk specifically about releasing our children to the college journey.

Until Monday,

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*The Joy of Letting Go is on sale today at CBD