Monthly Archives: August 2022

Staying Afloat


I returned home after dropping my daughter Riley off at college fully expecting grief to overwhelm me. I thought I would feel depressed and spend large amounts of time crying or in bed. Once I got home, though, a funny thing happened: I actually felt okay. Not that I didn’t miss her because I did. Driving away from her while we both cried was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But contrary to my expectations, I wasn’t devastated when I arrived home. I kept checking in with myself wondering why I felt alright and questioning whether I would falter at any moment. I expressed my bewilderment to my therapist who said she thought I’d made it through the hardest part. I honestly didn’t understand how or why I was making it without repeatedly falling apart.

During this entire time, before and after taking her to school, my friends kept checking in with me. They sent texts, left voice mails, commented on my Facebook posts. On Sunday at church, almost everyone asked how I was doing. A couple of my friend groups scheduled lunches to make sure I stayed busy. They even gave me gifts, sentimental reminders that they were here for me while Riley was away. 

Then, I got a text from a friend who said, “You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers friend!” And it dawned on me. All of the people who’d been thinking of me or praying for me were keeping me afloat. They were steering me toward a safe landing. They were God’s hands and feet when they reached out. They were God’s mouthpiece when they told me they would be there for me. They showed God’s love with their empathy and kindness. They followed God’s ways by surrounding me with light and friendship when I could’ve been overcome by darkness. 

I’ve heard people say they’ve “felt” other people’s prayers. I admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what people meant by that. Intellectually, I appreciated all of the prayers for me from others. But this time, in these circumstances, I actually felt buoyed by the compassion my friends demonstrated. I felt lighter and stronger and more capable of navigating these new waters.

I’m not saying I won’t encounter rough seas at any point of this journey, but I know now I can turn to any of those who offered help when I need them. They will row out to steady me and steer me away from the storms and the rocky shores. They’ll point me toward the beacon of God’s love just by being themselves. This is the gift of community.

I’m grateful for everyone who has taken a moment to think of me over the last few weeks. And I ask that they continue to send waves of positivity my way. I’ve learned how it feels to be held. I only hope that I can serve as a safe harbor in return someday. Thank you, Friends.

Bonded in the Nest


We’d packed up the van and were ready to leave for the airport to take Riley to college. Riley looked up at the bird nest in our garage and wondered when the pair of doves would have their baby. Just then she saw a pair of eyes peeking out from underneath the mother bird. Riley, Ben, Jed, and I hopped up on the edge of the van’s floorboard so we could see better. Mama bird didn’t like us being that close, so she flapped her wings and flew out of the garage. That was when we realized there were two baby birds. When I’d originally found the nest in the garage, there was only one egg. But now little sibling birds nestled side-by-side comfortable in the nest. Mama bird came back, and she and papa bird still take turns minding the nest. 

The discovery of two babies was made more special by the fact that we’d just witnessed Riley and her three brothers say goodbye to each other. Honestly, I think Ben and I expected the youngest Alex to be the most upset about her going away to school, so we were better prepared for his tears. We were caught off guard though by the strength of thirteen-year-old Clay’s emotions. His sobbing while he hugged Riley was absolutely gut wrenching. Thankfully, friends took Alex and Clay for fun and a sleepover, so they had distractions awaiting them. During this first part of the goodbye, Jed, our sixteen-year-old son, had remained stoic. I busied myself with some tedious activity in an effort to stop crying myself.  When I walked back into the family room, I saw Jed crying as he said his goodbye. That sent us all into a fresh round of tears. As hard as it was for Ben and I to leave Riley a few days later, watching our children bawl because they would miss one another may have been the most heart breaking part.

And yet, even while we were in the throes of those unbelievably difficult moments, I found myself thanking God for the gift of our family. Since having kids, I’ve always dreamed that they would be close. That someday we would be like those families in movies at the holidays when all of the children and their spouses and their kids gather together at their childhood home with mom and dad. When you watch the fighting and name calling and teasing that arises naturally between siblings living together every day, sometimes it’s hard to believe that the wish will come true. But on that day, in those tears, I became confident that their bond is solid and strong. I was full of gratitude for that scene that could’ve come from a movie.

The baby birds are getting bigger and now stretch their necks to watch us from their perch. It’s getting harder for mama and papa to sit on the nest with them inside. We’ve gotten attached to them and will miss them when they grow too big to stay. Just like we miss Riley. But I love that the baby birds have each other to share their early days. I hope and pray my children stick together through thick and thin well beyond their days in our cozy, crazy, beautiful nest.  

Propping Up the Past


My thirteen-year-old son Clay and I ran up to his school to pick up some supplies a couple of days before school started when we encountered a staff member who has worked there the entire time Clay has been in middle school. Afterward, I grumbled a bit to Clay, regurgitating my disappointments with some of the decisions this person has made. And when we got back home, my older son Jed piled on with his complaints. This is the beginning of my eighth year with a child at this school, and Jed was there both before and after the arrival of this person. We thought things were better before. Then, Clay said, “She seems nice. I think she just has a hard job.”  

Ouch! Clay put me in my place. I told him I would try to have a better attitude. I realized that perhaps Jed and I were not being fair because we were comparing this person to her predecessor whom we’d both liked a lot. All we could see were the ways this person didn’t perform like the previous person. And even though I stand by my conviction that carpool doesn’t work as well these days, I know I haven’t looked for the positive in this person. All I could see were the ways she didn’t measure up to the past in my perception. I didn’t give her a chance. And I probably omitted any of the former staff member’s foibles from my memory. 

We do that sometimes with people, places, and times. The past becomes nostalgic while the present becomes problematic in comparison. True, we can learn a lot from history, our own and that of our communities. If we dare to take a hard, truthful look at the past, we may avoid repeating the difficult parts. But if we merely glorify what has been without recalling the entirety of the past, the good and bad, we may get stuck in a past that never actually existed in the first place. All to the detriment of today.  

If we never give new people a chance because they are merely different, then we are doing ourselves a disservice. We may miss out on the good that others can provide. We need to give relationships with new people a chance on their own merit, not dismiss them out of hand because we are caught in the comparison trap. We can make an intentional effort to open our minds and hearts so that we experience the kindness, love, and positive traits of others who are new to our lives. 

And we should be careful how we talk about the past versus the present. Constantly repeating the shortcomings of someone who is new to a role as compared to the person who held it before is often an effort to pull others to our way of thinking. I was guilty of that in this circumstance because I was trying to influence Clay’s opinion. I didn’t even consciously think it through at the time, but I now know that I wanted Clay to feel the same way as me. Thankfully, Clay had enough insight to hold his ground and remain on the side of kindness. 

A day after Clay corrected my behavior, I encountered a similar situation. A new person in a role vacated by someone who’d been a favorite. But this time, I caught myself feeling edgy toward the new person. Instead of continuing to build up a wall to keep the new person out, I took a breath and asked the person to repeat her name. She said, “I’m new.” That’s right, new and altogether deserving of welcome. 

Leaving the Nest


A pair of doves has built a nest in our garage. We repeatedly tried to shoo them out until we realized they’d already managed to construct the nest and laid an egg. We then started to support them by leaving the garage open a crack and putting out a small bowl of water. They are vigilant. One of them is always sitting on the nest guarding and incubating the egg. 

When I was pregnant with each of my children, I felt such relief and excitement on the first day of the month in which they were due. We’d made it. The delivery date was in sight. All the months of waiting and worrying were about to pay off. The baby was about to arrive, and our family would change forever. Those memories came flooding back when the calendar rolled over to August 1 this year.  This month, my oldest child, and only daughter, Riley will start college over eight hundred miles away from home. The anticipation of her absence is hard at times. I now truly know the meaning of bittersweet.

I had a little meltdown the other day, and by little meltdown, I mean sobbing uncontrollably for about an hour. I was talking to my therapist when I realized that I’d been attempting to wall off my emotions. If I could avoid thinking about it, I could avoid the feelings.  But that’s not how emotions work – if we don’t let them out, they fester inside of us. When the wall finally came tumbling down, the tears and sadness rushed in with overwhelming force. I felt better after my crying episode. I’m not suggesting I won’t cry more because I know I will, but I think I moved a little closer to acceptance after that emotional release and the acknowledgement that I was in denial.   

While I’m sad Riley is leaving, I’m also proud of her. This is exactly what Ben and I raised her to do. All the waiting and worrying is about to pay off. Her launch date is in sight. She is ready. My girl is independent and disciplined. She worked so hard in high school in both academics and dance. Her potential is limitless. She is about to embark on an amazing adventure. And I need her to know that I am happy for her. That we are cheering for her. That we believe in her. I don’t want to hold her back in any way. I especially don’t want her worried about me. This is the right thing and the right time for her. 

Obviously, the dynamics of our home life will change as she ventures out on her own. Thankfully, I’ll still have my boys at home to keep me busy. Although I’m warning my friends, if I start making crude and off-color jokes on a regular basis after being surrounded by boys all the time, please take me on a girls’ night out. 

My bird friends are still waiting. After the bird hatches, they’ll have to raise the baby until it is mature enough to fly away. The metaphor is not lost on me. We’ve spent the last eighteen years on a similar journey. I can’t keep my daughter in my nest forever. Through the tears, I’ll celebrate her accomplishments and wait with anticipation to see all of the wonderful things she experiences. My baby is ready to fly, and I believe she will soar.