If This Is What Happens When Your Kid Leaves Home For College…

I really thought I was over it.

I mean, I miss her. And as the weekend progressed, I started to realize that she wasn’t coming back for a while. So I kept busy. I haven’t cried since the day we left her in her dorm room and drove away. I’ve been a little sad, but not tearful.

We’ve talked twice. She’s having a great time.

And then today, I log into Facebook and see this thing that she’s posted, tagging a few folks along the way. I read what my 18-year old daughter wrote and I realized that she’s reached a point in adulthood where she’s ready to write her own story.

More than anything, I have wanted to hand my kids a good life. For a long time, I thought that a “good life” was one free of pain and heartache, filled with their hearts’ desires and nothing but happy days. That hasn’t been the case, and I suspect that for any parent who is honest, we know that we screw up nearly as much as we get right. The miracle is that they survive, and that sometimes they even thrive. They get their own shot at life, their own ride, and the unbelievable privilege of choosing for themselves. I’m glad that though the reality of our life – of my life and my parenting – has been incredibly messy, even ugly at times, that she is able to embrace that reality and live.

So here’s my girl’s story. I love the writing prompt; I have done it myself, years ago. But today I’m handed the opportunity to see my own life from a different perspective, through the eyes of a little red-headed girl who is seizing life by the tail and jumping in. She writes well, and she makes me cry; tears of gratitude, for a life well-lived and grace greater than all my sin.

And for the honor of being mom to one amazing kid.

Where I’m From
by Shannon

This is one of the things we did at orientation this week, I just added a little to mine.

I’m from a place where music doesn’t just play; it lives and breathes.

I’m from Joshua and Fort Worth Texas, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Powhatan, Virginia.

I’m from walking to the pool everyday in the summer and leaving notes in a secret place outside my friend’s window.

I’m from playing make-believe in the tree house and the creek to being slammed into reality by beer bottles breaking.

I’m from family traditions of seeing a movie every Thanksgiving and all the kids sleeping in the same room Christmas Eve.

I’m from being at church from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon.

I’m from hiding being the façade of perfection.

I’m from all three promises being broken.

I’m from a broken family: divorce, depression, sexual abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, and cancer.

I’m from giving grace, and always receiving it from a Great and Loving God.

I’m from Grandpa saying “Always give it %110,” to Grandma saying, “your Grandpa’s had a stroke.”

I’m from six years of inside jokes.

I’m from five kids and three bedrooms.

I’m from “You are the music in meeeee,” to “Into Marvelous Light I’m running,” to “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, stop right there”.

I’m from the Fake House and Fake Thanksgiving.

I’m from sitting out in the car talking for an hour after small group.

I’m from sixteen-hour car rides there and back one weekend a month.

I’m from packing up the car and going to the greatest place on earth, Emerald Isle, every summer.

I’m from packing up the car to move out of the house while my dad is in another state.

I’m from running straight to the beach the minute we get out of the car.

I’m from playing soccer every weekend for thirteen years.

I’m from four wonderful parents, even if it took a few tears and fears to get there.

I’m from having someone always want to hold my hand.

I’m from eating my Aunt Barbara’s homegrown tomatoes and drinking her sweet tea.

I’m from stopping at King’s every time we drive down to EI.

I’m from swimming in Auntie Kay’s pool and having to use the outhouse because we weren’t allowed inside when we were wet.

I’m from too many sleepovers to count.

I’m from driving to Pennsylvania to cut down our own tree from the farm my mom used to work at, to that tree falling off the roof of the car on the way back.

I’m from letting my cousin Emily do my hair and makeup, and listening to the crazy things Levi says.

I’m from a house that always has extra people in it.

I’m from becoming extremely close to boys who become brothers, to losing them when they go down the wrong path again.

I’m from burgers at Grandma’s on Saturday nights and mom’s breakfast goulash on Sunday nights.

I’m from “Oh, you’re one of the Brawley’s?”

I’m from trying to get out of church early enough to beat the crowds at El Cerro Azul.

I’m from a close church family that is just as important to me as my own.

I’m from hearing “I love you” everyday for over two years.

I’m from having a youth pastor I can tell anything to.

I’m from mission trips every summer.

I’m from not being able to forgive for four years, and finding peace when I did.

I’m from both parents remarrying in two years.

I’m from the camera always flashing.

I’m from deliberating between wanting to see him and not wanting to spend another weekend crying.

I’m from babysitting every week and becoming close with all of the families.

I’m from running across the street just to talk to Shelly for a little while and play with the girls.

I’m from bonfires taller than trees in the backyard.

I’m from playing cops and robbers around the church and climbing every tree I could find.

I’m from playing school, starting the first day of summer.

I’m from reading in my bed until 3 in the morning.

I’m from going to Bruster’s at 10 pm and not leaving Sheetz until 1 am

I’m from a family that has a lot of problems, a lot of dysfunction, a lot of chaos, a lot of stress, and an incredible amount of love.

Do The Next Right Thing

Up late, uninterested in sleep. In spite of the fact that I’m sleepy.

I think the 8:30 PM iced skinny vanilla latte has something to do with it. Look, look, look! I’m AWAKE!!!

I had a great evening being creative. In fact, the entire day felt like a creative success. I had to work from home today due to car issues (since resolved). Usually, if the kids are home my work productivity is fairly limited. Today I was intentional about some focused time with David (conversation over Fruit Loops and a game of Uno, in which I was crushed) and we had a good day. Apparently Fruit Loops + Uno + plus comfy clothes + a work station that includes the couch and a coffee table = creative productivity.

Tonight I got to sing. I wasn’t in charge – I simply tried to fulfill somebody else’s vision. I put on a different hat and it felt good. It was healthy. I feel more balanced.

It’s good to receive that. Makes me think about the need to give it, too. Last week I was immersed in these words: Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.  

I want to live like that. Too often it seems to be an overwhelming impossibility. There is just too much to do, too many opportunities. Too many chances to fail.

But I read these words today, and I offered them to a friend and then realized that I needed them as much (or more) than she did. In the face of Too Much To Do, a long list of chores and seemingly overwhelming circumstances, just do the next right thing.

That sounds manageable, doesn’t it? Let’s try it.

Do the next right thing.

Syd’s Birthday Party

Syd turned 16 a few weeks ago. It was in the middle of CYT camp and the Leadership Summit. We didn’t do much to celebrate.

But in our family, 16 is a big deal. We’ve celebrated with pretty awesome gifts for the other girls’ 16th celebrations. There was a surprise visit from a friend we flew in from Cleveland…a laptop…but what to do for Sydni? Although we had no definitive plans, a few things were in the works.

Her dream had always been to go to New York City with her sisters, hoping to see a Broadway show and shop. But Shannon’s about to leave for school and Sarah has school and work to consider, so I knew that couldn’t happen right now. Instead, I decided to try to organize something for Syd, my mom and I. Plans were made for a whirlwind visit to NYC and tickets to Billy Elliot, but some of that fell through and it just seemed that we wouldn’t be able to work it out.

Syd called me last Monday to ask if she could plan a party for Sunday evening. I was on staff retreat; I agreed, asked her to work out the details and she got on it. She made a guest list, invited everybody, planned a menu and a shopping list and promised to clean the house. And everything came together just as planned. Her friends are a great mix of CYT folks, PCC people and PHS friends. The party was a perfect blend.

They ate, they played outside, they played music. They ate some more. They sang “Happy Birthday”, and can you imagine a bunch of theatre majors and worship leaders on that chorus? It was brilliant.

I watched them, and I marveled at what marvelous people I know because of my kids. They are funny and smart and quick-witted and kind. They indulge David as he runs around trying to engage with “the big kids”. They converse casually and they talk about movie plots and their futures.

They sing. Oh, they sing. They beat on the coffee table to create rhythms. They play guitar, and they pass it around and listen to one another.

They played a worship song, “How He Loves”. A whole room full, singing…I felt privileged, as a parent – the odd one out – singing along. Eyes closed, listening and singing – I had an authentic experience of worship as real as anything I encounter in church. I walked to the kitchen and Syd came in a few minutes later. “Only at one of our parties – worship music at my birthday party!” For a moment I thought she was upset. “Are you okay with that?” I asked. Her face lit up. “It’s AWEOME!”

It was such a terrific evening. All the kids were here. Dana and Lonnie were here. It felt like family.

Oh, and the struggle to figure out a gift? It came together. We scrapped the plans for the New York trip and went in a different direction.

The shrieks and screams when she opened it were worth every penny. It was, in a word, awesome.

I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either. In fact, it wasn’t my idea. But I’m happy to share in the credit.

For what it’s worth, I love my husband. And Syd loves her stepdad.

For more info on The Best Gift Ever, click here.

Snapshots From My Day

We’re working hard today; Syd’s having a party tomorrow to celebrate her 16th birthday (better late than never) so she and the boys are cleaning like crazy, and I’m trying to catch up from being away for a week. Apparently I have the magic touch with the washing machine, as it’s been anxiously awaiting my return. So it could – you know – wash the clothes. Because they’ve been piling up on the floor in front of the machine for, apparently, about a week.

I’m on the fourth load so far.

I am NOT complaining – a lot of good stuff goes on around here. With three college students (one of whom is about to move out for the first time in a few days), seven people total, tons of friends and family and jobs and all that – we manage to keep it together fairly well. And as Syd said this morning, “Hey – we know how to clean a house.”  Every once in a while, it’s good to have a day to catch up.

Today is that day. We needed it.

Just thought I’d share a few random shots of the things that go on around here, as I take a short break:

If you consider that the “day” officially starts, as some cultures believe, at the setting of the sun, then I started my day with music. It’s great that Tony had time to relax and kick back and just play for a while. I love to hear him “noodling” and he had about two hours of it last night. Sometimes I’m a bit overwhelmed by how much really good music lives in this house…

Cleaning out closets and listening to podcasts of This American Life, I hung out in my room today. While I was working on the dresser, I kept seeing this great photo of my friends Bob and Jeanne from our wedding (look, Bob – you guys are in our bedroom day and night! What a treat!) Bob’s in the fight of his life with a nasty opponent; today was a very good day for him, and Tony got an early morning call to come over for a visit today. I pray for this guy and his wife daily, and try to process the vulnerability of letting friendship grow to such depths. They hurt: we hurt. It is sometimes a difficult way to live, but I’m coming to see that it’s worth the risk. I’ve lived behind the ramparts of false security for far too long.

It occurs to me that a mid-August Saturday crammed full of chores and cleaning is not such a bad thing. I’ve a lot for which to be thankful.

So I am.

You can pray for Bob and Jeanne. Please do.