It’s not enough to want things.

I have a list of things I want.  I want to run a marathon.  I want people to listen to me.  I want to be a writer.  I want to make a difference in the world.

Well, neat.  What do those things even mean?  It’s not enough just to want something, you have to do things to make those dreams come true. Have you ever heard that cute little saying, “a goal is just a dream with a deadline”?  It’s true.  You can dream and dream and dream but until you start making plans regarding those dreams they are just fluffy little clouds of expectation.

Some of the things I want are easier to make plans around than others.  For example, I want to run a marathon.  Here’s the plan: I am going to run the Eugene Marathon this coming May.  I have a training plan which will start on December 28.  I have a plan for that weekend.  I just don’t know what I’m going to wear yet.  That will come.  There.  My dream has a deadline.

So, what are your dreams?  How can you turn them in to goals?

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On decisions, trade offs and taking the leap (or not)

I was offered a job today.  Doesn’t that just turn your head?  Today I had an interview. I walked in to an office and talked about myself.  In my memory of it I wasn’t even very coherent but it must have worked out because about 5 minutes after I walked out of the office I was called with a job offer.

It feels good to be wanted.  It felt good to sit in that room and talk about things and have a couple of people listen to me like I knew what I was talking about and might have something interesting to contribute to their workplace.  So when I was called with the job offer, I was tempted to accept right then and there, without even ever talking to my family about it.   But I didn’t accept.

So I’ve had some time to think about it.  And the truth is, there are some trade offs.  There are trade offs with any job.  No matter what, I would give something up in order to gain something.  So you have to look at what you are giving up and what you would be gaining and see if the trade offs make sense.  And I’m not the only one giving things up.  What would my kids be giving up?  What would they be gaining?  Giving things up isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just something to consider.

So if I took the job my children would have to get to school earlier and they would have to go to some kind of childcare situation for a bit after school. They would lose the comfort of knowing that I am minutes away from them at all times (this makes a big difference to my daughter).  They would lose out on having a mom who comes to school events and parties and other activities.  They would lose out on walking to and from school with me.  Their more leisurely morning routine would become much more regulated.

Would my children gain anything?  It’s hard to see anything tangible that they would gain, at least from their point of view.  I like to think that they might gain a different view of their mother, but what kid really thinks about that?  They may gain some independence but, really, they will gain that independence soon enough anyway.  So for them it’s hard to measure gains.

I would lose some things too.  I would lose my freedom to grocery shop during the day, to run without really impacting the rest of the family, to organize my life the way I want it.  I would lose the opportunity to join my husband at middle of the week conferences or whisk the kids out of school for an extra long weekend.  I’m sure there are other things too.

And what would I gain?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I hope a sense of purpose, of accomplishing something worthwhile.  A little extra money but, honestly, it is a very little.  I guess in thinking about some of these things I have to conclude that I might be selling myself short.  I was offered a job today but, honestly, why wouldn’t they offer me that job?  I am way over-qualified for it.  I don’t care about job titles or even money, really.  But I worry that the job isn’t enough.  I worry that I will be bored, that it will be too much policing of computer usage or checking out of AV equipment and not enough actual information skill building.

I guess the only way to know if it’s the right job is to take the leap.  But I’m not sure I’m going to.  I was pretty excited right after I was offered the job. But I don’t feel so excited now.  I feel unsure about how to make it work in our lives and how to keep things going in a way that feels right for all of us.  I’m not sure that job fits with life right now.

So I will probably call and reject the job offer in the morning.  And maybe I won’t go to work for a long time.  I’m guessing I’ll keep looking, because who knows what is around the corner.  Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll wake up in 12 years with a 20 year old graduate degree that’s never really been used.  But I guess that’s life.  And who knows what tomorrow brings.

The day is long and the house is quiet.

First day of kindergarten!

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Today my Patrick started Kindergarten. Helen, who is in 3rd grade, started school yesterday but our school does a staggered start for Kindergarten. So yesterday Patrick stayed home and, believe me, he did not love being left behind.

This morning he woke up much earlier than I had hoped, got dressed right away and then struggled to eat his breakfast (because he is not much of a breakfast eater. But that is a story for another time). And he was ready to go before 7 am. When we finally headed out the door, Patrick ran far ahead of Helen and I. He was just so excited.

We got to school and there was no holding my hand and checking things out, like there had been when Helen went to Kindergarten. Patrick ran right up to his class, looked back, and said, “okay, mom, you should go.” School hadn’t actually started so I waited a minute or so, to make sure he had someone to play with and just to see that he was really settled but it didn’t take long and then I left. It’s pretty easy to tell what Patrick needs and at that moment he needed me to show him that I knew he could do this. And I do know it. And I’m excited that he is so excited. He’s going to have a great year.

I came home and the day is long and the house is quiet. Today it seems like a novelty. I went for a run (and quickly realized that there is a reason I usually run early in the morning, it’s August, people, and hot). When I came back from my run I took my bike to town to get the mail. I took a long shower, did a few chores, and read for a while. But it’s not even noon, the school day is not half over, and I don’t want to waste all this time.

Today is a precious rest and I’m enjoying it. Tomorrow Patrick won’t have school again (I told you, it’s a staggered start) and then we have the long Labor Day weekend. But it’s time for me to be purposeful about my time. It’s that same question: “what’s next?” I have projects and plans already, of course, but I continue to have a feeling of being on the cusp of something new. And I want my eyes to be open to what that is.

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On new steps and growing up

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Helen on her bike.

 

 

Last night one of my daughter’s friends came to the door and asked if Helen could ride her bike to the park with him and I was forced to make an important parenting decision on the spot.  It seems like that’s how these things always happen.

 

Helen is almost 8. She is responsible and kind and becoming more and more independent.  And I have to stop myself from keeping her within arm’s reach at all times.  So last night I had to decide whether to say, “no, she can’t go to the park without an adult” (which is what I wanted to say) and “Helen, do you want to go to the park with Sean?”

Helen was, of course, more than ready for this milestone.  In fact, she was ridiculously excited. I told her she could go and told her when she had to be back.  I put my watch on her wrist (obviously if this is going to become a regular thing she’ll have to have her own watch) and I sent her on her way.

And I stood at the window watching for her for the whole 30 minutes I said she could be gone (because we start small around here).  I was a nervous wreck, not because I don’t trust her or thought she wouldn’t be okay, just because having her out of my sight is still hard for me. I’m guessing it will get harder before it gets easier.

The truth is, she needs to be out of my sight.  It seems like she flourishes when I’m not hovering over her, protecting her from every possible mishap.  She needs me to move away from her at the playground, because that’s when she really gets stronger on the monkey bars.  She needs me to stop holding her up in the pool, because that’s when she develops confidence that, yes, she CAN swim.  She needs to make her own choices and figure out who she is.  And I love watching her do those things.

I want to protect her from every possible hurt and pain.  But when I look back at my life, I realize that some of the hurts and pains are thing things that have taught me the most important lessons. Lessons about life, about myself and, most importantly, about God.  I don’t want to protect her from those lessons.  So I pray.   I pray that her lessons won’t be too difficult.  I pray that her mistakes won’t be devastating.  And I pray, most of all, that God will keep drawing her to Him.  Because I know she’s safe with Him.

It’s the middle that’s the toughest

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I love the beginning of a run. Truth is, beginnings are always fun.  You are full of excitement, full of plans, full of energy.  At the start of a run I have to hold myself back sometimes, because I know there are miles ahead of me and I can’t give everything I have right away, I have to save something for the middle miles.  Because the miles in the middle are the most difficult.

This came to me on my run this morning.  Honestly, I almost didn’t go.  My alarm went off at 5 am and I got up and saw that it was pouring down rain and windy and going back to bed sounded so good.  But I was already awake and, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have gone back to sleep and my kids were going to be up in 30 minutes and, and, and.  So I went.  And from the moment I was out the door I felt awesome.  Really, the first 3 miles ticked off like nothing and I just kept going.  But after about 3.5 I came back to reality and remembered that Chris needed to go to work and I needed to get back home.  So I found a good place to loop back to the house.

And I was confronted with a giant hill. Something about that hill combined with my realization that I needed to get home so my husband could go to work and the fact that I had 4 miles to get there suddenly made me feel like I was barely moving.  Minutes before I had felt like I was flying down the road but at that moment of turn around, even though my actual pace was essentially the same, I started feeling like I was barely moving faster than a walk.  Because the middle section is hard.

I feel like this applies to almost everything. At the beginning of the school year everything is wonderful! Your kid has new clothes! Her teacher is great! He has made so many new friends!  Learning is fun!  But then, around about January, it’s all so much work and the homework and the new friends stopped talking to me and my teacher is mean.  By the time the end of school rolls around, though, it’s all we have to stay in touch over the summer and you’re my favorite teacher ever and good memories.  Because you persevered through the hard stuff and received the reward of a job well done.

I think it applies to marriage too, although I think there are several beginning-middle-end cycles in marriage.  You get married and it’s so wonderful and he’s so sweet and his quirks are just so cute.  And then you realize that you have to live with this guy every single day and sometimes he doesn’t seem so wonderful or sweet and those quirks are actually kind of annoying.  But you press on past these growing pains and settle in to something comfortable and lovely, until the next cycle starts!

I guess there is a kind of high that comes with the beginning of things.  Everything is so new and exciting.  But new and exciting becomes old and mundane.  And it’s in that middle section, when confronted with the old and mundane, that you have to make the choice.  Are you going to stick with this old and mundane thing, even though it seems hard and boring?  Or are you going to give up and go looking for something new and exciting?

Because, sure, new and exciting is fun.  But it’s not great.  Great is the end of the run, when you’ve enjoyed the new and exciting and when you’ve worked through the difficult parts.  The end of the run is the best part. Sure, you are tired and you’ve given a lot of yourself to this run.  But you are also stronger, a lot stronger.  And ready to take on the next thing.  Beginnings are exciting, the middle is tough and may require discipline, but the end is the reward.  Keep fighting for that reward.

 

Because sometimes I feel like he’s missing it.

Tonight my son graduated from Preschool.  It’s amazing how fast time goes by.  It’s funny, actually.  Sometimes I feel like the day will never end.  Other times I look up and wonder how it is possible that this baby that was born yesterday will be registering for Kindergarten tomorrow.  And my daughter wants “high heels” and lip gloss, giggles with her friends about boys and seems to grow before my very eyes.  The truth is, time is flying by and sometimes I think my husband is missing it.

Like I said, tonight was Preschool graduation.  It seems silly, in a way.  I mean, what are they graduating from?  But it’s a big deal for my son and a real milestone.  Next year he heads to the big school and it won’t all be singing and finger painting.  My husband decided to try to go to a meeting before the program started so he told Patrick he’d meet him there.  And he was there, I’ll give him that. But his meeting was still going on so very shortly after the program was over he left again.  So he missed the good parts, the parts where our son talked about his day and his favorite things about Preschool.  The parts that don’t happen during an official program but happen instead when he’s putting on his pajamas and getting tucked into bed.

We’ve also been talking about what kind of after-harvest vacation we’ll take this year.  Already we are leaving the planning to much later than I would prefer but at least he’s talking about it.  I would have liked to plan it out a year ago but Chris is hesitant to do that usually. So we’re talking about it now.  But he doesn’t want to commit to dates.  Instead, he says, “why don’t we just fit it in as soon as harvest is over.”  But the problem is that just makes me feel like we’re something he just “fits in” to his life. 

I feel like these are the years.  Helen is almost 8, Patrick is 5.  I realize that they are still young but soon, so soon, they will be pre-teens and then teens, kids with so many other things in their lives.  Kids with summer camps and jobs and other things taking their attention.  These are the years we really get.  And these are the summers they will remember.  Because when I think of great family vacations I think of road trips and camping trips when I was 7-8-9-10…before my summers became about hanging out with my friends and boyfriends and all the other things.  These are the years and I feel like he’s missing them.

Can I tell you the truth?  Sometimes, when I’m thinking about the “what’s next” questions, I’m thinking about the quiet years that are coming.  The years when it will just be me rattling around in this big old house.  And if my husband can’t make plans and take time for his children, he likely won’t be taking time for me.  So what will I be doing then?  Maybe my “what’s next” questions aren’t as much about what to do next year when the kids are both in school full time as they are about what happens when they spread their wings and fly out of my little nest.  

Because it’s just not fair

Today one of my husband’s best high school friends, a man who was a groomsman in our wedding is going to a funeral.  And it’s not just any funeral, it’s a funeral for his wife.  That’s right, his lovely young wife, only 30 years old, died of heart failure a couple of weeks ago.  Due to complications stemming from a childhood battle with cancer she needed a heart/lung transplant but her health wasn’t deemed good enough to get her on the list.  So for the last several months a husband was forced to sit by and watch his wife die.  It’s just not fair.

In my email inbox this morning there was an update email about the cancer battle of a young mom in my community, someone I’ve gone to Bible studies with, someone who I see at the pool in the summer and library storytime during the school year.  She has two beautiful daughters, ages 9 and 2 and her doctor just gave her 2-3 months to live and hospice has been called in.  It is so unfair.

3 1/2 years ago my very own precious sister, only 32 years old, wife of a man who loved her, mother of two beautiful girls ages 8 and 10, died in a car accident on a snowy December night. She had so much left to do.  It was very, very unfair.

There is nothing to say in response to things like these.  There is nothing that can take away the pain, nothing that will make the left behind husbands and children, friends and family feel better.  There are no words and sometimes, believe me, silence is better than anything you could possibly say in a time like this.

But I also like to remember that Jesus knows about things like this.  And not just in that “Oh, God knows everything you think” kind of airy way that we sometimes respond to people.  No, Hebrews 4:15 assures us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”  The high priest that the author of Hebrews is talking about is Jesus.  Jesus knows about things like this because he experienced things like this.

When I was thinking about Jesus’ experience of unfair things I thought about John the Baptist.  Here was a man completely dedicated to following God’s will for his life.  The Bible said that he lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey but we also know that his father was a priest and his mother was a descendant of the line of Aaron.  So we can assume that John’s family had some status and probably some wealth.  But John chose to leave all of that, even to leave the high expectations of the circumstances of his birth to live in the wilderness and eat bugs.  This was following God all-out.  Then he preaches to crowds and he preaches hard things, not just “God’s gonna bless you” sermons but “You brood of vipers” type sermons. But for all of this faithfulness and following God, what does John get?  Beheaded.  That’s right, a pretty girl asked for his head, literally.  It was just not fair.

The Bible says that Jesus, when hearing about John’s death, retreated to a solitary place.  Or, at least, he tried to.  But the crowds followed him and the disciples needed him and the Pharisees challenged him.  Jesus knew about the unfairness of life.  And he knew, I’m sure, about the insensitive things people say in the face of a tragedy like that (because, surely, with all the people around Him after John’s death, someone said something stupid.)

I guess what matters to me about all of this is that life just isn’t fair.  But Jesus knows all about that, He has experienced it and He is there to hold on to through all the unfairness.