Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Grace, England and Growing Up

So Grace is in England. If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you already know this.  And due to my inability to suffer in silence, you also know that sending her off on the trip of her dreams was both personally thrilling and maternally traumatic.  My baby!

When we returned from the airport, I wrote this on Facebook - "I just watched my daughter navigate a labyrinth of ticket scanners, preteen hockey players from the Czech republic, airport security and a weepy couple blowing kisses to each other as they parted. I knew that this was the parental paradox. We realize that we have somehow managed to do it right when our children are able to walk away from us, in freedom and strength and love. She's holding onto God's hand now, not mine. And I am thrilled. And proud. And a little broken. But in a good way."   

The wonderful and odd thing about seeing Grace off was that I wasn't worried.  I knew that she'd be safer in the air than she is, say, walking down our stairs or riding in a car on the 401.  I trust her judgement, her wisdom, her insight into people, her knowledge and faith in God. I wasn't worried about her safety.

My daughter was taking a major step of independence, and I knew that when she returned, she would be different.  We say, they will always be our babies, but the reality is that our relationships with our children change as they grow into adulthood. They have to. If we keep treating our children like, well, children, we will either cripple them or push them away.  We have to see the maturity and depth as it builds up and flows from our young people. We have to acknowledge and honour it in them, because in most cases, it is hard-won. It is not easy growing up. It hurts. It's scary. It's hard. And when our children go through everything they need to in order to get to where they need to be, we as parents had better be there cheering them on, because it was not an easy journey for them.

More than anyone else in Grace's life, I know what she went through to get to the place where she was able to get on that plane.  And I applaud her for it. I celebrate her strength and faith. I honour her perseverance and courage, and her willingness to humble herself and seek God for help when her feeble resources run out. And I know that when she comes home, the fruit of all of that work will be ripening in her. She will not be the same. And I rejoice in that. And weep, because the bittersweet truth of it all is that in order to have a healthy, strong, loving relationship with the young woman who will be returning from England in a month, I have to say good-bye to baby Grace....and toddler Grace....and kid Grace and pre-teen Grace and adolescent Grace.

I will do it, because it is right, and good, and what both Grace and I need. While I am doing it, though, all of this dreadful, painful, healthy letting go, I will find myself adopting the slightly confused, wondrous, wounded and proud demeanor of all parents of young adults.  You've seen them.  They tear up at odd moments.  They carry pictures in their wallets and whip them out with the least encouragement, of graduations and engagement parties and brides and grooms and babies.  They ask questions like, when did this happen? How did they grow up so fast? Where did my baby go?  And then they laugh softly, not expecting answers because there are none. No one knows where our babies went.  We'll never understand how our kids got so smart, or accomplished, or strong, or faithful, or brave.  We'll always wonder where the years went, and we'll never figure it out.  We'll marvel the fact that joy and pain can exist together so eloquently in our hearts.

 There are moments along our journey as parents of young adults that grant us grace in the midst of our loss.  Today, while collecting clothes for laundry, I found out where all of our socks have been hiding. On the floor under Grace's bed.  There had to have been at least 10 pairs, plus the customary assorted singles.  We've been wearing mismatched socks for weeks.  I told her about it on Facebook. She blamed the Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc, with feline disdain, refused to comment.  I reveled in a brief glimpse of my baby.  I am still needed.  I remain Mom, "she who finds that which is lost."

It's not much, but I'll take it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

For the past couple of years, I've written Valentine's Day posts mostly focused on how incredible God's love for us is, and how we can choose to love others regardless of what does or doesn't end up in our mailboxes or vases.  This year, I am engaged to be married to a really special man, and we did send lots of love across the miles to each other - using the internet of course, because apparently our respective postal services missed the memo that Valentine's Day cards and gifts are supposed to arrive on or before February 14th!

Still, God's love ruled.  I've been thinking a lot about the way God sees me, how He feels about me when He looks at me, whether He ever grows weary of my feeble efforts to please Him.  Last week I spoke to a small group of young people at an Ashes Arise get together in Ormstown, and my message centred around the parable of the prodigal son.  There is no denying that Jesus was trying to help the people listening, religious leaders as well as those living their lives without God, that their Father God is madly, extravagantly, passionately in love with them.  When we look at people and situations through eyes of love, we see things differently than we normally would.

This brings me to Brian. Because I have learned over the past year, that in many ways, he sees me differently than I have ever seen myself, or have been seen by others.  My gift to Brian was a series of glamour shots that I took at home. Grace curled my hair, I smeared a bit of make up on and did my best to take some pictures that would show how special he makes me feel.  Pictures are an important part of the long distance relationship experience.  We have sent each other pages and pages (and pages and pages) of emails and messages, but the pictures add something that cannot be expressed in print.  Pictures of our children, our homes, our activities, the weather, ourselves...they help us feel close to each other, and included in each others' lives.

In the beginning, the whole picture thing was a struggle for me. I don't like pictures of myself.  My theory has been that I am one of those people who looks better in motion, that I don't take good pictures.  I have also always had a bit of an ugly duckling complex.  I have never been able to see myself as attractive.

Consequently, my first few "selfies" to Brian had me looking a little "deer-in-headlightish."  I was looking at some of my later pictures once, and said to Grace that I looked like I was tired in all of them, compared to the earlier ones. She informed me that I just looked relaxed in the later ones. that's what relaxed looks like.  As I kept taking the pictures, and seeing Brian's response to them, I have begun to feel more and more comfortable. I've even started enjoying the process.

Hence, the glamour shots for his Valentine's Day present.  For the first time in my life, I had fun taking pictures of myself.  Of course, the years of fundamentalist church teaching is having a bit of an effect, and I feel squirmy inside, actually enjoying taking pictures of myself. I mean, really!  Our faith, though, is about truth, and when I look at these pictures, and listen to Brian maintain that this is the way I look to him all the time, I have to stop and think about what is really true.  Is this what love sees when it looks at me?  If so, why have I been cringing at every glance in the mirror, for all of these years?

These pictures are of a woman who is loved, and cherished, and cared for, a woman who has been made strong through Christ in the face of her abject weakness.  This is what acceptance looks like in me, what peace, joy, love and comfort look like. This is the best that a webcam, a piece of black lace cloth, a huge, red heart pillow and a loved woman can come up with.  This is love.

Most importantly, it is what happens when we allow God to love others through us. Brian's love for me is an extension of God's love, just as mine is, for him.  That makes it true.  And because it is true, it lets us see ourselves as we really are.  It's not all good, because we are not all good. But God's love has an amazing way of maintaining His passion and power and grace in the face of our "not goodness."  And it is that grace, that glorious undeserved love, that births in us a longing to be more, out of love, not fear. Out of His riches, not our poverty. Out of His compassion, not the enemy's scorn.

For me, Valentine's day will always be about God's love.  I am grateful, and thrilled that the man I am about to marry feels the same, and that his Valentine's day morning email contained this line - "My dear Kelly even though we can not be together on this day to celebrate the love we share we can both examine our lives for our love for the LORD and see that HE is the true meaning of celebration of the love we share." 

Now...Canada Post...I need to have a word with you...

Monday, February 3, 2014

A note about houses and dreams

I spent the day in a painful IC fog,  had to euthanize one of Grace's ratties (Hammy was a sweetheart and there's a story here. Details will follow in an upcoming post) and then went to work at 4pm, so I didn't get a chance to post this until now, at midnight, but something really neat happened this morning.

I woke up at the tail end of a dream that was taking place in Brian's home in Massachusetts. Which is a significant thing, for me.  I don't generally think of myself as someone who gets attached to places, but in my dream world, location is everything.

When I was a teen-ager, the farm house that I grew up in burned down. We weren't living there, my parents were divorced and I lived with my mom in a duplex in Ormstown. My dad had renovated one of the outbuildings on the farm into a smaller house, and was living in that. So when we visited him, which was often, we stayed there too. The big house was empty when it burned, and it was pretty much completely destroyed.

The farmhouse was very much a character in my childhood story. For years after it burned down, every dream that I remember having took place in that house. The geographical location could be anywhere, the people involved were varied, and the story lines were typical dream-type stuff. But the house was always a presence in my dreams. It still is, to a lesser extent, to this day.

The same is true for the duplex in Ormstown, although not with the same frequency. I always thought that the persistent presence of the farmhouse in my dreams was a way of keeping it in memory, as it doesn't exist anymore. The Ormstown place became a much more common scene for my dreams after my mother died, two years ago, and that was really more about going back to where she was, keeping her memory alive.

Lately, both of my childhood homes have been frequently cropping up in my dream world. No big surprise there. I am preparing to leave this place, this valley, the only home that I have ever known.

Which is what makes it so nice to have Brian's house serve as a back drop to my dream last night. I don't remember details.  I think there may have been pizza involved.  And Christmas lights.  The basic weird dream stuff.  It feels really positive, though.  After all, it's not just any house that gets to be the backdrop for my dream land story lines.  Just the important ones. The ones that matter. The ones that are home.

I'm not going to analyse the death out of this.  Okay, I'm tempted. But I'm trying really hard not to.

It's just neat, that's all. And as the start to a day that involved mind-numbing fatigue, crippling abdominal pain  and the death of a family pet, I'll take all the neat I can get.
My Zimbio