Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Used to Disappointment

Last week, I wrote about allowing my son to have adventures. The day that I posted, he was getting ready for a trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with the junior high group, which he is brand new to. He was so excited! As nervous as I was about the possibility of him getting lost, ending up on a much-scarier-than-expected ride, or not having a friend to hang out with, I was proud of him for wanting to go even though he didn't know anyone. He couldn't wait to ride his first big roller coaster and I couldn't wait to hear about how much fun he had. I had a feeling that this week's post would include a story about his day; I just didn't expect that story to be about learning to handle disappointment.

I should have known that something was wrong when we pulled into the parking lot and didn't see a group of kids and parents. We assumed they were in the room where junior high group meets, but when we walked in, we only found two girls waiting. Their mom walked in a few minutes after we did, looking confused.

"Where is everyone?" She pulled out her phone to call one of the other moms.

Ten minutes and three phone calls later, we found out that the trip had been canceled. Apparently it had been announced the night before at a meeting that Nate hadn't started attending yet and the other family missed, and on a parent e-mail that I had signed up for but never started receiving for some reason. We walked back to the car in shock.

I probably don't need to say that Nathan was deeply disappointed. He didn't burst into tears and have a fit over it, but the dejection was written all over his sweet face. He had been looking forward to the trip all week. I was devastated for him. But in all the sadness, I marveled over how maturely Nathan handled the let down. He moped around for a while, (Who wouldn't? My parents and wanted to mope, too.) told me repeatedly how sad he was, and declared Thursday a bad day, but he refused to get mad at those in charge, to the point of standing up for them when we expressed frustration. When his cousins came over to cheer him up, he had a good time with them.

Later in the day, a thought hit me, and I couldn't decide whether to feel good or sad about it: Nathan's reaction reminded me that he is a kid who has learned to handle disappointment because he has experienced a lot of it recently. Without spilling all the details, he has endured more loss, unwanted change, sadness, and disappointment than an 11-year-old should know about. He knows from experience that the most exciting plans can fall through at the last minute, that life doesn't always go our way, and that people let us down. As much as I wanted to weep over the knowledge that he learned so much of this by seeing it first-hand, it reminded me of the growth that comes from living through devastating days that we thought would end our world but didn't. At the same time, I prayed that he hadn't grown too used to disappointment, so much so that he would start to expect it.

I don't want him to think like I do sometimes, going around with a I'm really excited, so when is the whole thing going to fall apart? outlook on life.

Since his more-mature-than-some-adults response, I have been praying that God will reward it with a better-than-he-could-imagine surprise or experience--something to remind him that while life does include disappointments, it is also full of wonderful things.  

How well do you handle disappointment? How has experience shaped how you respond to it, or what you expect out of life?    

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ready for New Adventures

This is my son Nathan at age three. (All together now: "Awww!")

A friend was directing a production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and asked if Nate could be an extra and sing in the angel choir. I could have turned her down. He was so young! In fact, he was the littlest member of the cast. What if he got stage fright at the last minute? What if he missed his cue to go out on stage? What if he halo fell off? But I didn't want him to miss out on this chance at stardom, and he answered with an enthusiastic, "Yeah!" when I asked if he wanted to be in Miss Kim's play, so I let him do it. I'm so glad I did. He had a wonderful time and did a great job. And at the risk of sounding like a gushing mom, he looked SO CUTE!!!

This is Nathan at age eleven. He has grown quite a bit as you can see, and he is about to step out into some new adventures.

Tomorrow, he is going to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, not with me, not with his grandparents or cousins, but with the junior high group from church. I was tempted to say no when he told me about the activity. He just joined the junior high group, and we barely know the leaders and kids. Once again, the mommy in me was saying, "He is so young!" As a soon-to-be sixth-grader, he could possibly be the youngest kid in the group. What if he gets talked into going on a ride that terrifies him? What if he gets separated from his group? What if he is the only one without a friend? But just like with the play, I don't want him to miss out and he REALLY wants to go, so I'm setting my anxieties aside and encouraging him to have a great time.

I consider it a practice run for mid-August when he goes to camp with a friend from Reno for a week. As excited as I am for him, my mommy fears have been revving up lately. What if he gets homesick? What if he gets sick or hurt? What if something upsetting happens? Once again, I know I need to focus on all that is exciting and wonderful, keep my worries to myself, and send him off knowing he needs to do things like go away to camp for a week without mom hovering. (For those of you who are saying to yourself, "Wait, he is eleven and just now going to the boardwalk with a group that doesn't include you? And is this really his first trip to sleep-over camp? What kind of helicoptor parent are you? Let's just say that after several crazy years, we are catching up on some experiences.)

All of this is reminding me that being a good mom includes letting my sons do things even when I'm not sure if I am . . . I mean they are ready, even if letting them do it means battling a lot of what-ifs. Each adventure provides more practice in trusting God to take care of them when I'm not looking. Each, "Sure, that sounds like fun" gives them a little more confidence. And even if one of my fears does come true, those will hopefully become opportunities to learn and grow.

So, have fun, Nate the Great! I am so thankful that you are the kind of boy who wants to put yourself out there and try things--the kind of boy who isn't afraid of a little adventure. 


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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Proof that I'm a Genius

See this picture? The one golf tee remaining in the Peg Jump game is proof that I am a genius. It says so right on the wooden triangle--"One peg = "Wow, genius!" I have waiting my entire life to solve this puzzle. (Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration considering that I didn't start playing the game until I bought one while on vacation at age ten.) For a girl whose kindergarten teacher responded to her inability to learn colors with "Maybe she's just dumb," this was a very exciting day. There is only one problem with getting down to one peg: unless you took notes while playing that perfect game, or decide to cheat by looking up the solution online, the chances of acheiving greatness a second time are pretty slim.

Over the weekend, I played this game over and over again, and the best I could hope for was two pegs, which the instructions call "Above average." Not bad, but "'Wow,' Genius!" felt so much better. A few times I ended up with three, earning a "So-so." And then there were the moments when four pegs stared up at me, which the game-makers consider "Pretty bad." The longer I played only to realize that I'd set a standard for myself that I might never measure up to again, the more I fought a sense of failure. What had I done differently on that glorious Saturday afternoon?

Yes, I know it is just a game, but it was amazing how quickly I bought into the message that earning a "So-so," or heaven forbid a "Pretty bad" meant I was no longer a genius, as if that wooden triangle with ten golf tees stuck into it measured my intelligence. I have come a long way in my battle with wrapping my identity and value up in the wrong things, but this obsession with the Peg Jump reminded me how easy it is to slip back into old patterns of connecting it to achievements and what others think of or say about me. It also drove home the destructive nature of this trap--that when I allow success, opinions, or whatever that desired thing is to make or break how I feel, it is very difficult to enjoy triumphs, relationships, and the joys of life, because there is always a standard to fear not measuring up to.

At least this time, I was able to see the silliness it in all, set that crazy game down, and refuse to let the words on a piece of wood label me. Maybe it's time to do the same in a few other areas.

What about you? What have you allowed to make or break your sense of value lately? What is God teaching you about who you are in Him?    


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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rethinking Hospitality

At about 8:30 last night, my heart jumped with a sudden sense of panic that I'd forgotten to post on my blog. Instead of wallowing in self-loathing for flaking out, I accepted that I had a legitimate reason for forgetting, and simply put it off for a day, so here I am.

Yesterday, I started a four-week class on Christian hospitality titled "A Meal with Jesus." I must confess that I wondered if some would consider the class a strange choice for me right now. I knew I wanted to take it, but my current living situation doesn't make it possible for me to invite friends over for dinner or extend a "My door is open to you any time" invitation. But the desire to take it never lifted, so I decided it must be for me after all. Since a friend of mine was teaching it, I knew ahead of time that we would be focusing on letting go of the pressure-filled idea of entertaining and learn what it meant to welcome and serve people like Jesus did. Maybe this time of transition when life feels the furthest from typical would be a good time to consider how I might extend Christ-like hospitality on an everyday basis and plan ahead for what I want my home to look like in the future. Within the first fifteen minutes of the class, I knew I was in the right place.

The first lesson basically focused on how we welcome people, and the times when someone else's willingness to extend hospitality to us--not by doing anything elaborate but by just being kind--has made a huge difference.

As I listened and shared my own experiences, the side of me that loves people, loved to cook and bake, and never wants anyone to feel unwelcome woke up. Memories of the many times when a friend's hospitality turned my day around stirred my desire to do the same for others, and it felt so incredibly refreshing to know that doing this didn't need to include a big production. Even today, as I reflect on what I learned and think of times when friends showed me hospitality, I realize that it doesn't take much at all.

I think of the friend in Reno who, when she heard my teary voice over the phone after I'd dropped my son off at school, said, "Come on over." When she opened the door, her hair was often still wet from her morning shower, but she invited me in, served me a cup of coffee, took me out to the back deck if the weather was nice, and just chatted with me for a while. Sometimes I spent the entire time unloading, but more often that part of the conversation lasted only a few minutes and we moved on to other topics. I always went home feeling better, not because she served me home-baked muffins on a fancy plate, but because she invited me in to relax and share what prompted me to call her.

I think of the couple who invited my youngest son over for Easter. She loves to cook and entertain, so everything was beautiful and perfect, but that didn't mean nearly as much to me as her desire to have us in her home so we wouldn't spend an already difficult holiday alone.

Finally, I thought of the sweet friend who taught the class and responded to an obvious need to talk with, "Let's go get coffee right now." No matter what she had on her agenda for the afternoon, or how tired she might have been after planning and teaching, she practiced what we'd discussed that morning by simply being available.

So for this week, my goal is to be like these people--to love in a biblical way by being welcoming, sensitive to needs, and willing to set something aside long enough to show someone that they are worth my time.

When has someone shown you this type of hospitality? How might God want you to do the same for others? 

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

"The Best Week Ever"

Here is a picture of our famous cabin:

Isn't it cute?

Mom, Dad, Kristy and her kids, and Nate and I are still coming down from what we all agreed was one of the best weeks we have ever spent at the cabin. We went from one weather extreme to another (rain on Days 1 and 2 then ending our week in the 100's), but decided in advance not to let rain or heat spoil our fun. It was one of those weeks when we just enjoyed being there away from work, the constant pressure to be on the computer, and reality in general. On those two rainy days, we enjoyed the relaxation of hunkering down (I don't think I have ever used the term hunker before) with beads, Shrinky Dinks and Play Dough. When we went fishing, each kid caught at least one fish. We met a cousin for dinner, took our traditional trips to Columbia, Cover's Apple Ranch and The Sugar Shack, played Ping Pong, rode the train in Jamestown for Mom's birthday, played mini golf, watched the original version of The Parent Trap for the hundredth time, and discovered a great ice cream and lunch shop with the coolest name in the world--Here's the Scoop--that has probably been in Jamestown forever but was new to us. We loved it so much that we ate there twice. It was one of those weeks that we didn't want to end and still feel refreshed for taking.

It continues to amaze me how God can use the same old cabin to enrich our lives year after year. It doesn't matter if we do the same stuff, discover new treasures, or get a lovely combination of both; it's our special spot, filled with memories where we are also creating fresh ones. We are all determined to go back at least one more time this summer, but if last week is all we get, I will be satisfied, because it was perfect.

Now, I will take this opportunity to share a few highlights as promised. (Don't you just love looking at other people's vacation photos, featuring people we don't know and places you didn't experience? Oh, I know, there's nothin' better.)

 Rainy Day Crafts

Fresh from Cover's - The Best Pie in the Universe 

Nate the Great, my handsome boy

(Nathan (aka Nate), Haley, Kai, Devon)

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Proof that I was on the trip too

Who will be next to write in the cabin journal? 

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