Tag Archives: motherhood

Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Why Does Empty Nest Last So Long?

Blueberry wholewheat pancakes for Dad, Stephen, and me. Chocolate chips melting in Sam and20140630_084216 Seth’s. Even after Dad left for work we lingered at the table. They teased me for offering hot drinks from the Keurig. Said I always pushed it on them these days. I’ll never understand why the men of this family can’t fully appreciate the joy of a steaming cuppa.

Seth needed to get on the road, but still we lingered. Stephen commented on how it would be Thanksgiving before he had time at home again. Sam said he needed just a little bro time before everyone scattered, so the three of them donned tennis shoes and played football in the cul-de-sac like they used to when they were little.

I didn’t watch, but my ear was tuned to their return, the creak of the screen door, the deep voices bantering about their “perfect” plays.

All three of them teased me about the food we loaded into Seth’s ancient red car, but it will save him grocery money, and I have plenty to share. Seth tells me it’s enough. No more. But he’s been on his own long enough to see the value in dollar signs.

Healthy food. At least that I can give.

I don’t know where I got the idea that empty nest was a one time event. That once the last left everything hurt for a while and got better.

It’s not an event. It’s a season of marathons. The first leaves, and it hurts. Then the next and next, and they all hurt. And then before someone else leaves one comes back, but not to stay. And when you just get used to the latest transition, there is another. Sometimes one moves out the week (or day!) another moves in.

Then suddenly the house is empty.

I was excited beyond reason to pick Stephen up from college a few weeks ago. A mom anticipates with such fervor! But soon he leaves for his summer job, which ends the day before his fall job at the college starts.

Thanksgiving break is an eternity away.

Fleeting. Every moment flies abroad. You can’t hold on so you try to live inside the moments. To fully embrace the treasured gifts of time.

But as the moments flee you are caught inside, reeling, turning, turning, turning inside time’s bubble. And you have to find a way out.

To set your feet in the new now.

Lounging in the family room, daughter and husband reluctant to leave despite their exhaustion. But it’s hard to leave when we’re all there.

It’s so rare we are all there.

family shotIt is difficult to be productive. A few times last week before Sam’s graduation I got that feeling I had right after Bernice died, when the energy inside is suddenly gone and you can do nothing but sit for a while and stare at the walls.

Everyone acts like I should be fine because the youngest will live at home another year to take advantage of free local college.

But he is a revolving door, to work, school, friends, activities. This homeschooling momma isn’t needed for academics or much else, her input more interference than help as he steps into manhood.

And when they are all gone, whether for a day or a semester, the house is quiet.

So quiet.

Jesus whispers that He doesn’t want me to think of it like I’m alone. That I’m never really alone.

But I miss the Jesus arms that hugged me through the arms of my sons, the Jesus eyes that met mine through those big green ones of my daughter.

Sometimes I wonder if hubby will ever get home from work. His Jesus arms heal, too.

I want them to go. To grow up healthy without their mommy hanging onto them. I want them to20131228_112151 fly free and conquer their worlds. To find meaningful relationship and grow into adults and new families of their own.

I want to conquer my world, too, this new world where they don’t need much from me. Where I have expanded space to pursue my dreams.

But that, too, is slower, harder than I thought it would be.

At least so far.

Sometimes it’s actually fun when hubby is home. We find we can do whatever we want. Two. Without responsibility to anyone else. The kids call us teenagers when we curl up in our own bed, hooked on a Netflix series they wouldn’t watch.

But while hubby works that pesky quiet invades. It’s not just in the walls it’s roaring in my head and in my heart.

I’ve given myself permission to grieve. Maybe it’s time I give myself permission to stop grieving.

But I’m not sure I know how.

A Momma’s Heart for Her Graduate

1As a little boy you told me, “I’ll always want you to hug me, Mom.” You were frustrated because your big brother had just said I hugged him too much. Not only were you concerned my feelings had been hurt, but you couldn’t imagine not wanting hugs.

I said I wouldn’t hold you to the promise once you were 11 or 13. But you never changed. That sweet little boy who loved his momma’s hugs let me hug him through those insecure preteen years. Even in front of friends you’d hug me good-bye. You were never too cool for love.

Recently as you watched (and grieved) your older siblings leave the nest, you promised to hug me at least once a day. It was your remedy for my tears, I think. And you’ve kept your word. You’ve always been good at loving, Sam–and letting others love you, too. Some people have to learn to love, to say kind words, to hug, to lovingly tease, but not you. You make loving look easy.

20140718_165152Your faith, too, seems as natural to you as breathing. I’m sure during the hard times you were like anyone else, questioning the pain. Two hip surgeries and the struggle to return to your passion as an athlete tested it for sure, as did the times money was tight, and we didn’t know how to give you what you needed. But I don’t remember you having deep questions or anger. Mostly I remember you speaking faith to me when I struggled with my own. Fear would close in on me. I’d wrestle with God, reminding Him of the needs I couldn’t meet. Then you’d waltz in with your natural smile, put your arm around me, and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has this.” It makes me grin to remember the twinkle in your eye when God would solve the problem, and you’d say, “I told you everything would be okay.”

It’s delightful to see you hit a home run, write a creative story, or earn academic awards, but it’s your passion for God and people, your faith, your love, that bring me the most joy. Your favorite time of the week is volunteering in kids’ ministry at church. I love that you’re considering this as a career. I love that you chose to raise money to go on a mission’s trip this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about everything God does in and through you.11083920_10153255545128179_7517803830470359130_n

This year you have truly stepped into a new place, successfully completing two semesters at college while still in high school, working an insane amount of hours at your new job, and keeping up with a demanding varsity baseball schedule. I worried and fussed about all the demands upon you, but I shouldn’t have. You handled it. There were times you were exhausted. I wanted you to quit work or at least ask for time off, but you persevered, building a savings account and enjoying paying your own way. Just another part of manhood you’re stepping into. I’m proud of you. Of your perseverance, hard work, and determination.

As I prayed about this special day, this day when you are honored as a high school graduate, I asked the Lord what 10He saw. My pen flowed across journal pages thinking about how you bring such joy and love into this world. How you notice beauty. Offering uplifting words. (It’s a good thing you also have your daddy’s ornery streak and quick humor to help balance all that sweetness!) Love making people happy. I felt like the Lord told me to let you love life and help other love it and not impose upon you my hyper-active need to work and succeed. That you would be one of the lucky ones who could be productive without having to first get stressed out. That’s pretty cool. He also reminded me that you are becoming a wonderful communicator. I can’t wait to see where that goes.

Then He brought three men from the Bible to mind, all communicators. The first is your namesake, Samuel. Like Samuel you have been learning to discern God’s Voice from a young age, and like Samuel God will increasingly speak to you, and you will be able to share hope and wisdom with others as you listen to what God says and speak when He nudges you to speak.

The second one who came to mind was King David. Like you, he was a worshiper. He was passionate about God and God’s people. He noticed and celebrated beauty. He was creative. Somehow David was a fierce and manly warrior while maintaining a tender heart that produced the Psalms, some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. You have a heart like David, and the Lord is making you a strong, mighty man while protecting that heart that bring Him and others such joy.

The last name I wrote in my journal was Paul, again your namesake. Paul was passionate about God’s grace. His understanding of grace continues to affect how we see God and ourselves over 2,000 years later. Though one of the most powerful leaders of the new church, Paul struggled with a weakness. He asked God three times to simply take it away, but God told him to look to Him, that His grace would be sufficient for him. Like Paul you are passionate about grace. You long to see yourself as God sees you and to help others see themselves the way God sees them. Like Paul you have weakness (don’t we all?), and God said this was okay, that your struggles help you look to Him and rely upon Him in ways you wouldn’t without them.

As I finished my prayer time yesterday I felt the Lord remind me that David was the youngest of his brothers. As the youngest I know you sometimes struggled to find your own place. You had three awesome older siblings you looked up to. You wanted to excel as each of them had. In life. In character. It had to be hard sometimes to forge your own path. You loved them so much and wanted to be yourself even as you wanted to be like them. But you have succeeded, my son. You have stepped into manhood uniquely you even as you share many of the same traits I love about Samuel Moldenhauerthem. And as I prayed yesterday I feel the Lord gave me a promise for you, that He has seen your heart, and He is pleased. That though you are the youngest, like King David you will not be overlooked. He is raising you up to be a man of influence who will impact this world for good.

And so I release you to it, Sam. With pride. Joy. Confidence. I know His plans for you are good, and like God, I trust your heart.

Gift Upon Gift

Gift upon Gift.1 musical-notes-symbols-pc57zyxcB

Joy upon Joy.

After I posted last Wednesday something beautiful happened. I got an email offering me a JOB singing WORSHIP music. There are few things I enjoy more than singing, and no singing I love more than music that focuses me on God.

You know, Jesus tells those He cares about not to worry. But that post on Wednesday was related to worry. Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story, but this is not the right time. Anyway, here I am stuffing my emotions and eating my emotions, and not ready to talk to God about my emotions. I mean I know I need to pray, but it was just one of those times I didn’t feel like talking.

So in the middle of all this angst the call comes for this job I applied for. The worship pastor hires me to sing in the church choir. He needs a section leader type who can help carry the sound. I’m thrilled. I mean, really? I’ve been asking God for a little extra income knowing I am not supposed to take a full-time job because He’s asked me to enter more fully into the writing and speaking He asked me to do. For years I’ve also told Him I miss singing. So there He is, LOVE in ACTION, giving me a job that feels like play.

The worship pastor says he knows it is late notice, but I’d be welcome to come early for the church dinner and a lenten service. Now because of this big thing in my life I was trying not to worry about I’d decided about 3 pm to put on my jammies and lose myself in one of my favorite BBC mini-series. Instead I’m putting on makeup and rushing out the door. The soup and salad is wonderful, the people precious and welcoming.

Then the service begins.

I’m not overly familiar with liturgical worship or church calendar, but have sung a lot of high church music over the years in choirs and as a music minor in college. The service was only 30 minutes and a gentle, simple time of reflection. Peace washed over me in the words sung in the liturgy.

God is in control.

He sees.

The pastor encourages us to write out a prayer and place it at one of the crosses at the front of the room. I lay my burden down.

No emotional processing, crying,  or hours of journal writing (which is often my MO). Instead a simple laying down. Trusting.

“Sorry I’ve blown you off all day, Lord,” I whisper.

I feel His gentle answer. He understands a momma’s heart. He knows sometimes it’s just too deep for words. He’s not offended. He knows I couldn’t talk about it yet.

He removes all guilt. He doesn’t comment on my emotional eating or how I should know better. He doesn’t chastise me in any way. That’s simply not His character.

His character is to love even when I don’t open myself up to that love.

Even though I couldn’t seem to formulate a prayer, He answered the wordless prayer of my heart. He set it all up, my Sweet, Sweet, God. Pouring peace and joy in unexpected ways.

He soothed the deep waters of this little momma and made it all okay.

How I love Him.

Until next time,

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The Quandary

I can’t write.

This is a lie.

This I know.

I have written, and I will write.

But I find myself afraid to start.

Wasting time.

It’s almost as if now that the house has emptied so that I can fully pursue my dreams I have become paralyzed.

I didn’t expect this. Have longed for freedom to pursue the dreams beyond motherhood.

The time is now.

Instead of seizing the day I seize the vacuum cleaner, the telephone, the dirty dishes.

I run errands.

Sometimes I curl up on the couch and cry.

Sometimes I play.

The Christmas break was chaotic and full. Noise rang from these now quiet rooms.

I cooked and cooked and baked and talked and scheduled who got the cars and who didn’t.

Then they went back to college, to apartments and dorm rooms and classrooms.

One at a time they entered their world, leaving me to mine.

I’ve given myself permission to be quiet. To grieve. To regroup.

I think I read 7 books in four days when Stephen left.

The other day I cleaned yard clutter neglected for 25 years.

But I was created to write.

I’ve dreamed of space to write.

To produce more than the four novels completed in the midst of child-rearing.

I’ve worked hard. Served others. Learned my craft.

It’s time.

To write deeper, stronger, more beautiful.

Even here. To be more consistent.

But even here I am afraid. Afraid to start again lest I neglect the pouring forth.

I want to write.

I need to write.

Please pray I can write.

A Sacred Space

His voice broke as he hugged his son.

Emotion from my steady-Eddy.

“I’m proud of you,” he says. Then he is wrapped in the long arms of the teenager who now towers above his dad. A manly bear-hug.

Our son’s face softens, his smile one of pure delight.

IMAG0234It seems funny to me–how this moment, this thing that once raised our eyebrow–today provides a sacred place.

He is only seventeen and needed our signature.

When he first asked for a tattoo for his birthday, I gave the party-line answer. “A decision this permanent should be made when you can sign for yourself. One more year.”IMAG0241

Then I tipped the scale the other way with my question, “What do you want and why?”

“A tattoo of the wristband they gave the men at church. It’ll be a reminder that I choose God and am determined to be a man of integrity.”

“That’s really cool, Sam.’ My resistance faded. “Maybe we should talk to dad.”

And so today we stood together in a giant hug, the three of us wrapped in the hallowed spaces of a tattoo shop.

And hubby’s voice shook just a little as he looked into this baby boy’s eyes and declared his pride in the man before him.

Another boy becoming.

Another young man finding his own way with faith and temptation and questions and answers all in the context of seeking relationship with the Creator.IMAG0237

Across the room sat David, getting the same tattoo, standing (figuratively) shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam. A brother thing from this newest sibling, this gift of marriage.

Our daughter divided her time between these two of her men, watching the artists at work. Solidarity flowed between all five of us.

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David’s new tattoo is placed below the tattoo that says, “love.” He and Sarah got them while they were dating, on the night they went to a concert to raise money for, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a non-profit dedicated to helping the hurting.

The old Christian box Jerry and I lived in didn’t have room for these sacred moments.

But this new freedom of seeking God, not a cultural mindset, allows for such expression.

Today a simple band of black and red reminds these men who they are and Whose they are.

Someday Another will declare Who He is, “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”*

Riding with Sam as we drove home I said, “I’m so happy.”

His grin was wide. “Why?”

“I think because I feel your joy, and it overwhelms me.”

In reflection I know it was all of that and more. A Dad loving his son. A son knowing he is accepted. A mom watching the youngest take another step into the fullness of who he is.

A man forming before my eyes.

The delight in freedom.

Freedom to be who we are and to express it.

Until Next Time,

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*Revelation 19:16

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go (Again)

IMAG0129The house is empty except for me.

After all the bustle, all the people, all of the cooking and feeding and talking, I am exhausted.

But more than that, the Mommy heart once again has to say goodbye.

I awoke to my youngest son rushing out the door for his first “real” job. My husband left before that. The other boys (men, really) drove away yesterday to face the grind of a semester end and finals week. My daughter is with her husband.

The only sound I hear is the gentle hum of my laptop.

It would be easier to say goodbye if my boys had looked eager to leave. My oldest worked on a major paper until the minute he drove away, his stress levels palpable. My middle son is farther from home, too far for a quick weekend visit. He is where God has called him, (I know this!) but he is lonely. He said one of the things he missed most was an environment where spiritual conversations happen. That it is very dry where he is.

That it was hard to go back.

I suppose the tears slipping from my eyes have dual prompts. I miss him terribly, but I also cry for him, for the path he now walks, mostly alone.

Never alone. Because I have given him to the One who never leaves or forsakes.

But beyond the reach of Momma’s arms.

But never beyond the reach of Momma’s prayers.

Whew.

And so I’ll keep praying.

A friend told me, “Transitioning from under the wings of God at one’s parents’ house can be hard as children emerge into adulthood. It’s taking what was safe and “belonged” to mom and/or dad and making it your own, then trying to integrate it into the bold-faced truth of life. It’s almost like they have to learn how to walk again. A lot of the times they slip and fall or, if they’re tired of the bumps and bruises, decide to try another path. But God IS faithful and promises us this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This is right. It is so right–the moving out and beyond. I want them to be established. Independent. Strong.

My son can’t see his growth yet, but I do. He is emerging, growing into the skin of manhood he long ago donned. The foundation–for good or not, I pray for good–is laid. And now he builds.

Not me and dad.

Each child now adult chooses which bricks will make the man or woman.

I can no longer control. I can no longer choose for them.

Even my advice must be offered sparingly and with prayerful timing. Some personalities receive it more quickly than others.

It is my job to be wise about when and what I share with them. If I give them the freedom to be adults, they allow me the advice-giving. If I push too hard, their ears close.

Which is as it should be.

Really, it is not my life to build. I no longer pour the concrete, frame the structure.

It is their turn.

I survive this because they are not alone. The One who watches and sees, the One who promises to complete that which He started, is overseeing the process. And while my children still choose, there is a hand upon theirs helping them lift the right bricks. There is a whisper in their hearts directing their choices.

Thankfully, those kids have a lot of wisdom.

Still, there will be days they turn from the whisper, pick up a brick unsuited, nail the wrong board. But He will be there then, too. He is overseer. He will see the structure is solid.

And I will pray.

I will call out to the only One who can be with them forever. The only one who cares more than their dad and I do. The only One who makes any of us stand strong.

I hope the bricks I would not choose for them will be far and few between, but I will not despair when they come. Because all is never lost. I entrusted each of these precious children into the hands of the Faithful One when I could still cradle them in my arms. I entrust them to Him now.

He never falters.

He never wrings his hands wondering what to do.

He never gives up.

He always loves and builds.

He promised to finish the good work He started.

In me.

In them.

And so I’ll cry a little. Pray a lot.

And learn to let go.