Thursday, August 15, 2013

"But I'm Scared"

My heart hammered in my chest. Standing a few yards away, I watched two of the people I love most in the world: My husband and my daughter. White knuckling the double stroller handle where two more of the people I love most sat, I heard the words, “But I’m scared!”

My heart broke. I closed my eyes under my sunglasses as tears filled them. (Note: Dark sunglasses should be on every kindergarten mom’s back to school list…oh, the tears they hide…!)

My five-year-old daughter choked out the words through sobs. My husband tried to convince her to go through the school gate and walk to her kindergarten class. She stepped away from the gate. Daddy motioned for me to come up to talk to our daughter. Oh my…

Day four of kindergarten.

I whispered to our daughter. Held her. Felt her pain. Forced myself not to hold her hand and walk her back home…with me. Eventually, I had to walk away hearing my daughter continue to cry. Hiding behind the bushes, my husband and I waited till another teacher walked our daughter to her class. She was no longer crying.

I can’t say the same for myself.

This kindergarten week has been sooo much harder than I ever thought – for ME! Ha! My daughter has done incredibly well (until this morning, but I know that right now, three hours into her day, she is having a blast talking and playing with her new friends. Each day she doesn’t finish all her lunch because she’s talking to her friends! Ha! Yes, that’s my fun, social girl!)

School has changed our days completely. I haven’t figured out a system/schedule that works well for my younger sons in relation to dropping off/picking up Micayla from school. I know, it’s only day four. Still, my life has forever changed. In so many ways.

And I’m having a hard time adjusting.

I drop off my daughter at a brand spanking new place five days per week, six hours per day. I entrust her to the school and the administration and teachers they hire, hoping she is not only safe, but loved on and encouraged. And, you know what, I honestly believe the school does those things. I just don’t get to see it every minute. I can’t call my daughter on a cell phone and speak to her while she’s in school. I can’t walk to the next room and watch her coloring her table work pages or chatting with her new BFF (she calls this child her best friend because it’s the only other girl in her class whose name she knows!).

Sending my daughter to school requires faith. Faith in her teacher, administration, other teachers and staff, and, perhaps, even in the other students. It also requires faith from me to let her go, trusting she will still make the right choices even if/when others are not. Faith that I have instilled in her who God says she is: wonderfully made.

Kindergarten is so much more than shapes, colors, letters and numbers. It’s independence, an even bigger sense of freedom and maturity. It’s letting my precious little caterpillar become a butterfly. I have loved, LOVED her being in my safe cocoon at home with me each day. I miss it so much! Yet, deep down I think she’ll thrive in school. Right now, I think it’s best for her, even if I don’t feel like it’s best for me. I admit that I’m the first one at the pick-up gate (in fact, I was there 30 minutes early Monday…I thought maybe they’d get out early…haha (for real though, I did)!) and that I take my first deep breath of the day when I see her run toward me. I am jump-up-and-down-happy to see her at 2:50 each day.

I wonder if God feels the same…? How happy He must be when we run [back] into His arms – anytime. He lets us “go” make our own choices. All the while hoping we invite Him to go through life with us. He longs to love us, help us, give us good gifts and let us experience His good plans.

But before any of that can happen, He lets us “go.”

My experience is that letting go is the hardest thing to do…

So, tomorrow, if my daughter says “I’m scared” and I want to respond with “ME TOOOO!” maybe I should instead say “Do not fear, God is with you and He will help you.” Isaiah 41 promises that. It’s a promise for Micayla and me to hold tight to, now and always. We just have to have faith in Him to help and trust that He will.

Tomorrow is another opportunity for my faith to increase. Thank you, God???!!! No, really, thank you, God?!? (Ok, well, I’m getting there…!)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Journey to Kindergarten

We live about a mile from the elementary school where my daughter will begin kindergarten in less than...sigh...two weeks. Micayla (5), Luke (3) and I (along with 8 month old Timmy) have been practicing our means to get to school: biking vs. walking. I insist that it's healthy for us to transport ourselves to school sans a motorized vehicle.

Our journey is a comical one with comments like: "But I'm sweating!" and "You're doing great! Keep pumping your legs. Pedal, pedal!" and "Mommy! I didn't even crash my head on the fence this time [when I fell off my bike]!" and "My legs are tired..." and "We're almost there. Keep going!" and "We made it! I'm proud of you!" and "Can we go home now?"

I'm dripping sweat by the time we get to school. We stop at the back gate for a water, snack and story break before completing the second half of our roundtrip journey. It's a worthwhile endeavor, right?

It's teaching perseverance. Building endurance. Inspiring teamwork ("We need to stay together. Good job pedaling up the hill!"). Practicing listening skills and growing trust ("Stop at the stop sign."). All these important life skills just getting to kindergarten!

So, does this mean I can keep my baby girl home for another year? We will continue to bike or walk to school Monday-Friday, but I won't actually leave her there. Is that ok?

In less that two weeks, we will pass our daughter over to a teacher we do not yet know. Our firstborn will be entrusted to someone else's care for eight hours per day, five days a week. Our preparation for this is not merely walking or riding bikes to school, but spending that time praying for this teacher...and all the students, teachers and administrators at the school.

Because five years really has passed way too fast. Way. Too. Fast.

So, we will take our time getting to school, making memories as we go. Even if we are sweaty by the time we get there!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

VBS Thoughts

Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is often coupled with raised eyebrows and looks of panic as people remember the exhaustion associated with the loooong week. Are you smiling because you can relate? Yet, year after year, many of us continue to invest our time and energy into this endeavor.

I attended my first VBS during high school, where I helped kids with their daily crafts. At that time, I was brand-spanking-new to youth group. I did not know what "VBS" stood for and was too embarrassed to ask. I didn't attend church regularly as a child, so all the Bible stories were new to me...and I soaked them up like a sponge. VBS touched me for the first time when I was 16 years old. While VBS is not "planned" for teens, it certainly impacted my world. Not only did it introduce me to the story of Daniel in the Lions Den, it allowed me to experience people of all ages, men, women, teens, singles, marrieds, parents and grandparents...all working together. Countless moments of laughter, quiet helpfulness, endless love and sacrificial service. Yes, I thought, this VBS thing (whatever it stands for!) is pretty neat. I want to help with this again.

So I did!

I have been privileged to help with VBS for more than a decade. Yes, I did say privileged. That's honestly how I feel: I am lucky and honored to, perhaps, have a teeny-tiny part in the faith formation of children in my church and in my community. In fact, I venture to say that people who know Jesus should maintain that perspective every day! What?!? Did I just say we should have VBS year round?


I'm just saying we should, daily, be a refection of Jesus' character. The Jesus who said, "Let the children come to me." The Jesus who walked day and night (He must have been exhausted!) to meet people's needs, who stopped what He was doing to heal a woman who believed only He could heal her. The Jesus who, above all else, remained mindful of people's needs and met those needs...all to provide opportunities for people to believe He truly was (and is) the Son of God.

For all these reasons, VBS is worth it! Fellow VBS servants, "stand strong!" That was our theme this year: God helps us stand strong. He does. Each year will be unique from all the others -- new kids, new volunteers, new curriculum, new snacks, new stories and new crafts. But, one consistent thread, year after year, remains: God knows every single person involved in VBS and He wants everyone to know Him personally.

Stay the course, VBS workers! Stand strong! Invite others to join in on the fun. Include coffee and chocolate in the kitchen for boosts of energy. Whatever you do, always know that it's worth very, very worth it! You just never know who will be impacted...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Blogger - Summer Fun!

Blogging is new to me. Or, more accurately, blog writing is new to me. I've enjoyed reading blogs for years, but my reads were always anonymous...I never left comments or "liked" any articles. I began this blog a couple years ago. I made one post. Then, well, I guess I just kinda forgot about it. Well, I am newly revived! This blog stuff is really fun! Recently, I got to write an article for a parenting blog. Check it out here:
I don't know how to comment, or if you need to login to do so, but if you're able to comment, have at it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Photo Opp or Not

I recently heard a debate on whether Smartphones and pocket-size cameras, combined with social media, has caused us to live for the “perfect photo” instead of enjoy the moment, cherishing it for what it is. We have all been places where everyone around us – including us! – is holding our cellphone, snapping photos or videoing the moment. My daughter’s pre-k graduation and dance recital were prime examples. I sat in the front row at the PK graduation, proud as a blustering peacock (because my firstborn baby could not actually be wearing an adorable cap and gown, graduating PK and singing “We’re on our way to kindergarten…”!), iPhone in hand, videoing the entire production. The recital was much the same, but sweetness sang and danced to The Little Mermaid songs! I alternated between watching my daughter through the phone vs. actually looking directly at her. I am glad to have her first ever graduation and dance recital on video and snap shots to watch and reflect on in years to come, but did taking those videos cause me to sacrifice the moment? Cost me relishing her one and only PK graduation?

When have I been too preoccupied with the photo opp that I’ve missed the life opp?
I thoroughly engaged in both of those extraordinary occasions in my daughter's life. Truly, I did. BUT there have been times when I've missed out on the moment because I was too busy trying to document it. I don't want to miss out on today while trying to document for tomorrow. Just a few pictures is enough, then I'll put my phone away and, perhaps, take out a tissue to dab my eyes as a soft voice says, "Mommy, I'm ready for kindergarten." Oh my....! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jesus Cares...Do I?

The bright Florida sun warmed my skin as I nervously walked across the parking lot of the Sanford Crisis Pregnancy Center. It was a Monday morning and my first day as a volunteer. It was also the very first time I had ever been to the Center. 
What will I do? What if I don’t know how to answer the client’s questions? Will I be bored? Will I be overwhelmed? Will I cry with the clients or will I have the strength to comfort them? 
Thoughts liked these swarmed my mind as I made my way up the wooden walkway. Well, here we go, God. I turned the knob and opened the front door.
Inside, the bright blue walls seemed to personally welcome me. Debra looked up from her desk and greeted me with a smile. The sunlit room was filled with white wicker furniture and a large, oak-colored desk. Magazines neatly fanned atop the coffee table and a bucket of blocks was set in the corner. As I walked across the threshold of the doorway, my nervousness was replaced by anticipation and excitement.
“It’s great to see you!” Debra said as she stood from her desk. Debra had taught my volunteer training classes and though I had only met her a few times, she comforted me like the scent of my grandmother’s perfume. 
I followed Debra down a hallway to the tidy office of the Founder and Director, Andrea. After greeting me with a hug, Andrea squeezed my hand and told me how glad she was that I came, that I was willing to help at the Center. I did the only thing I could—I nodded, still in disbelief that a place like the Center even existed. 
Continuing the tour, I peeked into the counseling rooms, all of which were freshly painted in bright, comforting colors. Victorian chairs and couches, end tables, teddy bear figurines, and small televisions filled the rooms. I noticed Anne Geddes pictures scattered the walls, silk roses graced doorframes, and as we passed through the library and neared the kitchen, the scent of freshly brewed Santa’s White Christmas coffee filled the air.
Notes of encouragement—“We’re praying for you!” and “God loves you!”—were scattered throughout the small building. The library was filled with thousands of books, movies, brochures, magazines, and videos. “The Boutique” housed clothes, diapers, socks, hats, towels, blankets, and toys—all donations used to bless some of God’s littlest children. I felt God’s arms envelop me in His love as I stood in awe of my surroundings. How amazing it felt to stand in a building whose sole purpose was to honor God! 
In my time as a volunteer, I saw many women come into the Center each day. The women come from all different backgrounds—some wealthy, poor, white, black, Hispanic, married, single and teens. They were pregnant for the first time or the fifth time. They were happy to be pregnant; they were utterly shocked and terrified to be pregnant. Some spoke of their situation in detail, glad to have someone to talk to. Others merely wanted a pregnancy test and nothing more. Despite their difference, all these women had one thing in common: they needed help. The Center exists to provide that help. Volunteers befriend these women—we pray for, cry with, and share laughter with these women.
My first experience inside the Center will never be forgotten. It’s not that I cling to that precious memory for my own benefit. No, not at all. I cling to it because I know that if I can approach these women—as well as all people—with that same tender heart, then I can better serve them…better be Jesus to them. 
You see, the women who walk through the Center’s parking lot often have similar feelings to those which I had my first day—What will I do if I’m pregnant? What will my family think? Will they throw me out of my house? Will my boyfriend leave me? What if the people inside this Center don’t care? What if no one cares? 
Like a volunteer at the Pregnancy Center, will I be a volunteer for Jesus? Will I be a person who cares? That’s the kind of volunteers He’s looking for. God wants to use people who care about others because God cares about others. He cares about the tired grocery store cashier, the stoic police officer and the mischievous toddler. God cares about the person driving in front of you and the family next door. He cares about your mother, father, brother, sister, spouse and children. And, God cares about you! 
So, what will I do about it? How can I show someone—today!—that I care?