Category Archives: conversations with my kids

Visitors

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Yesterday we had such a delightful surprise in our home. It really was quite small and didn’t cost a penny, but delightful nonetheless.

We had a couple from our church who had just purchased ice cream down the street from our house decide that instead of just sitting in a parking lot eating their ice cream…they would come down and see what we were up to, just drop in and say hi.

We ended up visiting for at least an hour around our sunroom table and it was honestly quite a God moment in my family’s life. They had no way of knowing that but I recognized it and so did my kids.

My girls had been kind of struggling this week in various ways with feeling like they don’t belong. That might be a homeschooling issue…but honestly, I think it’s more a high school/teenager issue. They are really good listeners but often in a group don’t actually talk. They’re content to listen to other people have conversation, except that then once it’s done they feel like they were on the edges the whole time…because, they were, and it’s not very satisfying.

None of this is unusual, I remember feeling the same way at their age. Not wanting the pressure to have to come up with something of interest to say and yet wanting to be seen as an interesting person to be with. It’s a common feeling for many people.

So…when this couple just stopped in and we sat down and visited it was a really lovely thing to have conversation together that was unscripted, unplanned, and just see where the conversation would lead. It started out with me doing a lot of the talking from my family, but over the visit, the girls started to warm up and share some of their story, what’s been going on in their lives lately. It was kind of like watching a flower bloom all within the space of an hour or two.

This couple had no way of knowing that was going on…they just decided it was worth the effort and far more interesting to go say hi to someone they know rather than just sitting by themselves in a parking lot or a car.

Such a small thing. I often read how we’re losing face to face contact with each other because of social media, email, etc. Sometimes I discount the issue, as in, well at least I’m staying in touch with people over distance that I normally wouldn’t have any contact with. But…last night I realized that face to face contact is so, so important. It’s not the same as a quick status post and a clicked like.

We got to know so much more about this couple as we sat at the table, we talked about their high school experiences, vacations we’ve taken, house remodeling projects, youth group experiences, teeth, church, parenting, future hopes, etc. Lauren showed the fashions that she’s been putting together on Polyvore, a computer program that she likes to use. My girls and I felt like we mattered and that this couple would want to get to know us and would want us to know them better. Isn’t that a big part of what love is? Knowing and being known…I think so.

Later, I realized that Lydia could’ve spent the night with friends at the local high school football game and I apologized for not being aware of it. She said…”But mom, then I would’ve missed out on the visit from the couple that stopped in to see us.” The visit that was just meant to say hello meant that much to her that she would’ve rather been there for it than go with friends to a football game.

My conclusion is this. We have no idea the power that we hold in loving one another well. We have no idea what happens when we just drop in on people, or make some small effort to get to know them better. I know this couple had no idea that it would be a big deal to us…but it was. Most of us are fairly lonely people. The idea of hospitality has gotten thrown out the window. Most of us don’t go to each other’s houses much these days. And I could’ve freaked out because my house wasn’t really neat and clean when they came. But I didn’t even care. It was just so good to visit with people.

Most of us struggle feeling like we belong. Or that anybody notices us or cares about our life. We have this strange mix of wanting to keep to ourselves and protect ourselves and at the same time we really want somebody to care enough to ask or express concern. We want somebody to take notice of us. We’ve become so used to not being known that it’s rare when we feel known, even with people who we are around on a weekly basis for years. How well do you know people at your church? Really…

Our church has been focused this summer on forming deeper community. I’m preaching on it tomorrow. I have to say, I think the message is more relevant than ever. I don’t think it’s just teenage girls who struggle feeling connected and noticed…I think regardless of age, many of us in a group still feel lonely.

I told the girls after our visitors left…we need to do more of that kind of thing, just popping in on people, taking the risk to say hello and just seeing what might happen. We need to share not only the gospel…but our lives.

Yesterday it was ice cream and a visit in our sunroom at the table. Nothing special and yet very sacred.

Not every change is easy or glorious…

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I’ve been on top of the world lately. You can probably tell by my writing. I’m feeling creative, trying new things, having amazing amounts of freedom, all the stuff I’ve wanted for a long, long time. I have no desire to sleep in…I’ve got things to do that I feel passionate about and make me feel alive. I can tell I’m a whole new person and I like what I see.

That being said, I don’t want to make it sound like everything is perfect and there are no changes that are hard.

Today was the first day of school in our town. Honestly…it felt like pure delight to have nothing to do with it. I felt free as a bird. So free…that I scrapped my plans for the day and decided to take my girls on a mystery field trip. Just last night my oldest and I had been talking about not feeling noticed, loved, special, etc. and so I thought that I would take the girls on a field trip in the great outdoors. We headed to the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. I can’t help but see the intricate design of flowers and sit in the Japanese Garden at complete peace and think of God and how much He loves me. It’s my way of becoming one with the world I guess. I’m not sure it has the same effect on my girls, but I figured they would be game to go on a field trip rather than do school work. And days like today are a big reason why we started homeschooling in July. I wanted to feel that we had freedom to up and do something different without feeling like we were behind.

For me…the first day of school, going out to breakfast with my kids and heading into St. Louis seemed divine.

I’m not sure it had the same effect for them. Lydia has friends at high school who were starting the high school experience today for the first time and I know she felt that she was missing out. Not quite sure on what she was missing out on, but still a sense of missing out. Because I’ve been to high school and lived it I stupidly tried to reassure her that she really wasn’t missing out on much. That reasoning didn’t quite work out.

Lauren homeschooled last year so this is her second year. Last year she was even home by herself so this year is at least a little more social for her with Lydia and I at home. She has experienced high school life. I remember it well. School all day and the homework all evening…repeat. She had no life. At least that’s what I felt when she was in school.  She didn’t have any close friendships or clubs or groups she belonged to. But I think today she was wondering…maybe by now as an upper classmen if she maybe wouldn’t have a friend by now. I have no idea. Maybe she would’ve…maybe not.

My girls do get together with other people their age. Just Sunday night Lydia had a friend over for a sleepover. They go to youth group weekly. They’re friends with a girl in their restore group that is their age. They are regularly around friends…but that whole social deal is an issue.

They grow weary of explaining why they’re homeschooling. I know why people ask and so do they…but still they grow weary of it.

Homeschooling has many pluses. Freedom, flexibility, no distraction, have to be at the top of the list in my opinion…but no plan is perfect. Lauren today was telling me about the fact that this is the year she would get a class ring if she was in school. Ok…first, we could still go out and get a ring…but if it’s not related with a school that might be a little odd, but I’m open. Second…my class ring that was all so important was worn for two years in high school and then has sat in a jewelry box for the past 25 years. It’s one of those things where I can see that it’s not a big deal, but to a junior I guess it seems like it is. And Prom…well she could actually still go if she wants. Homeschooled kids can go to school events. They can go to sporting events, musicals, heck they can even go and be part of extracurriculars like band and choir if we made those meeting times as part of our schedule. But…I guess it probably feels strange to not go to school there and then just show up to an event like that.

It’s easy for me to discount these things…I left high school in 1988 and honestly have never looked back. I’ve never gone to a reunion. Never really cared to. I see old pictures of people and I can barely remember names. I can’t imagine showing up at a reunion trying to remember who people actually are.

But for my girls right now they have a different view. One that I’m trying to respect. It’s not so much that they want to bail on homeschooling as far as I know. But it’s the reality that no situation is completely perfect. Welcome to real life.

For them…I think today was hard. Putting us together in the car was probably not a great plan as I blissfully enjoyed every minute of freedom and they weren’t quite sure how they felt.

I’m trying to give them time and space. Trying not to force my experiences on them. Too easy to make their issues sound trite and unimportant. Too easy to make sweeping generalizations that gloss over the loss they feel. No matter what we choose there is some loss. It’s reality. I sense it in the reality that I’m out of the loop with my coworkers. And when and if I go back, I’ll really be out of the loop. For me right now that’s a loss I’m willing to live with because of the flip side.

Anyway…I just wanted to be real with you. Yes I’m blissed about being free. Yes I am completely glad that we’ve made the decision to homeschool and be on sabbatical. Yes for the most part my girls are glad to be homeschooling…but they do have some second thoughts, some loss to deal with, some changes that they aren’t quite sure about. I’m just trying to give them time to deal with it in their own way.

I hope what will happen is that they will start to really nurture some great creativity in their lives. I would absolutely love to see Lauren write a book this year about Daisy her cat. I know it sounds dorky…but if you knew Lauren and her cat you would understand. I hope to get the girls amazing cameras this year and see them do some amazing photography. I hope they will develop musically through lessons, playing at church and their own experimentation at home. I hope to see them take leadership roles in our Restore Group and in youth group. I hope to see them write and make art and music and exercise and have some really healthy life giving stuff going on.

But I must also remember…they’re 14 and 16. I’m challenged to make sure they have enough social interaction as teenagers need at that age.

So…good field trip today, at least for me. And we’ll just see how this year plays out. I’m taking the gamble that our decision will have more advantages than disadvantages. No situation is perfect. Time will tell.

Have a little faith…

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As you might now we are in the process of painting an enclosed front porch on my house this weekend. My girls who are 14 and 16 wanted to help. They’re old enough…no reason why they shouldn’t except my need to control I guess. I went ahead and painted the ceiling and all of the trim. Those are the hardest parts and I knew if they were done the other parts would feel easier.

So right now my youngest is using a roller painting the floor of the porch while my oldest is painting with a brush the bottom half of the wall. I sat there for awhile and monitored and gave helpful tips. I thought they were helpful…my girls, probably not so much. I finally decided it was time for me to leave the porch, go get my cup of coffee and write this post instead of being the head chief painter. It was an easy decision after my youngest said “Mom…you have no faith in me.” That was after one of my helpful tips.

Hmmm….interesting statement to make. Immediately I sorted through my mind and wondered, is this true, is this even partly true? Maybe.

I like to think that I’m just trying to prevent my girls from making the same mistakes I’ve made…even when it comes to stuff like painting apparently, but really…it could be some lack of faith as well.

What’s more important…painting perfection or the fact that my girls whenever they visit my house someday as adults will remember that they helped paint it on this lovely August day? I even know the answer to that one.

Yes…they need to be open to suggestion and help. We all have to be, even as adults. Only fools don’t take correction. But…I’ve also got to let go and trust that they can handle themselves.

I’ve been known to still do the occasional pep talk on behavior or manners before we go somewhere. Surely, my kids know by now how to behave. I must start having more faith in them.

This is the tricky thing about raising teens who are fast going to be adults. If Lauren my oldest is old enough to drive by herself than she surely doesn’t need to be reminded to say please and thank you and how to paint a wall.

Parenting teenagers is a tricky balance of letting go and holding on loosely.

I knew when my youngest made the statement today of me having no faith in her I was clearly holding on too tightly. I’m hoping this is a season in my life when I can start to transition more and more to having faith and letting go.

Which would also mean me letting go of the idea of my kids making no mistakes or not having to ever struggle.

I’ve got to trust that whatever comes at this point they will work through it, mistakes and all. Today it’s some brush strokes and drops of paint…it could easily be something far larger. Time for me to have some faith. No reason in the world why I shouldn’t have more.

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