Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beneath the Busy Surface

We are quickly approaching a year without Tim. I guess in this time we've found our new normal. We are still in the process of some major changes (moving, Kellen leaving for school, new school for the other kids) but we are functioning. Life is busy and it pushes you along. Life with four kids at home is nonstop and drags you whether you want to come or not. We have found a new normal, but I am finding it is not a normal I like.

The kids and I have had some good times. We've made some special memories. It isn't like we are all miserable, yet it feels so hollow sometimes. If you knew us, you might say I was the nuts and bolts of this family while Tim was soul of it. He was the one who could hang out with the kids (or anyone for that matter,) and kept those communication lines open. He was the one that brought the pizzazz to my practical efficient way of thinking. We brought balance to each other, and this family feels horribly out of balance now.

I miss family meals. They still happen, but on your own meals are much more frequent. I hate that the older kids have had to step into so many more adult responsibilities, including listening to me try to weigh decisions. I feel like most of our structure and discipline has gone out the window. I miss the togetherness we had. It seems like we are all in our own little worlds doing our own things a lot of the time. I got a strange look when I expressed this to one of the kids. They said it is the same as it was before. Then I realized they were probably right, but before when they were off doing their own thing was when Tim and I were talking. I don't know what to do with myself in that time now.

And I have to admit that the undercurrent of dissatisfaction I've been feeling simply is loneliness.

I have amazing friends and family. I have four kids at home. I am rarely alone. Sometimes I wish I were alone more, but I am not talking about being around people. I am talking about intimacy, and I realize I've been looking to the wrong things to fill the gaping hole left by the loss of my best friend.

When my pain was fresh, sharp, and constant, it was easy to turn to the Lord. I was at my end. He was always there. Not that the pain was taken away, but under that pain there was a solid peace and joy.

The pain now is duller. It is easier to push away even when it is trying to stab me. I'm back on my feet a little again. And it is easier to fill my time with entertainment than to turn my heart to the Lord. That entertainment doesn't satisfy though, only numbs, a bit.

So many times the Bible talks about providing for widows, and I have been well provided for. Then it occurred to me a few weeks ago that in Christ that provision for widows means more than food on our table and a roof over our heads. That peace and the joy is still there. He doesn't change. I did.

I am like the Israelites in the wilderness forgetting the wonderful things He has done, turning my heart away, only to turn back when I "needed" Him. Then Psalm 78 was part of my reading today.

When He slew them, then they sought Him;
And they returned and sought earnestly for God.
35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
And they lied to Him with their tongue;
37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;
39 For He remembered that they were but flesh,
A breath that passes away and does not come again.
Psalm 78:34-39

Yep. Me. Thankfully He is compassionate and patient. He doesn't change.

This new normal may not be what I'd like it to be, but I do know where to turn to find that peace, rest, and joy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Things I Learned on Vacation

My nephew Miles is quite a remarkable young man. He and Kellen are very close in age and growing up spent a lot of time together. Miles has been in Florida for the last five years, and we haven't seen him much. He moved there with family, but chose to stay a couple of years ago when the rest of the family he lived with left Florida.

Though the details are different, his story is an echo of my dad's story. My dad also supported himself (with the help of friends) while finishing high school. The two even look alike.

My parents. I think dad was 20 here.
Miles and his girlfriend Danielle. He is 17 here I think.

Miles graduated June 3rd in the top 10% of his class. He is headed to Appalachian State to start classes this summer.

Sarasota High School class of 2016

Miles and Ashley after graduation was postponed for rain.
There is a state park not far from Sarasota called Cayo Costa.  My parents went camping there many times with foster children. My family and my brother Jake's family went with them a few times too, but Miles and Ashley never got to go. When my mom asked Miles what he wanted for graduation, he said he wanted to go to Cayo Costa.
So last week the kids and I, Mamaw, Ashley, and Ashley's boyfriend, Jarett loaded ourselves and a lot of stuff into two vehicles and headed toward Sarasota. We spent two nights there and attended Miles' outdoor graduation where we got completely soaked in a downpour. Then Miles and Danielle joined the caravan headed toward Cayo Costa.

The park is on a barrier island. It is beautiful and quiet. Accommodations are primitive, either in tents or in very basic cottages. No electric. Shared bath house. I always loved being there, but all our previous visits were in March. We learned a few things on this trip.

1. A 14 hour car ride with the family can be very relaxing and enjoyable when you have a teenager who likes to drive and the family dynamic is changed slightly by one family member riding with Mamaw.

2. When your family leans toward being food snobs, the cost of feeding them on the way could pay for a couple of plane tickets.

3. Florida in June is very different from Florida in March. The heat is oppressive, the storms severe, the bugs brutal, and the sun stronger than the sunscreen generously applied to our pale West Virginian skin.

4. I never want to camp in Florida in June again, or July, or August. Actually, I don't want to step foot in the state during the summer ever again.

5. It is possible to find a bit of fun and relaxation even when it is oppressively hot and the no swim flag is flying at the beach.

6. Time with family is worth it even if it isn't exactly what you hoped for.

I am glad we went and spent time with Miles. I am sure someday we will look back and laugh about the vacation where we sweat buckets while dodging rain and hostile bugs. Today is not that day, but someday, maybe.

Congratulations Miles! We are proud of you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

What a Month (or two!)

It is over. The crazy month of May has come and gone. What? You're telling me where almost half way through June now. How can that be?!

The whirlwind began mid April when Kellen visited three colleges on the East Coast in two weeks. Early May brought the closing on our new house, a sale at Aunt Hazels, and Nolan's sixth grade trip while Mamaw and the girls visited Aunt Nancy in Tennessee. Nolan and I had  a great time seeing some of the most beautiful and interesting places in West Virginia.

Nolan participated in The Bridge Designer Challenge, and won a 3D printer. Lydia attended homeschool prom. Kellen's class went on their senior trip and graduation was May 21st with a party the next day.

Graduation was a beautiful event. With a small class, Cross Lanes Christian is able to make graduation very personal. One tradition during the ceremony is a picture slide show. Students (or parents) pick a few pictures to show. During the slide show students present a rose to their parents in the crowd. Students record a personal statement that is played during their photos. I wish I had thought to take video, but I did get pictures, and have Kellen's written version of his statement.

First off, there’s no way my life would be anything close to what it is now without Cross Lanes. The people at Cross Lanes really helped me and my family over the last few years in more ways and more significantly than I can even begin to possibly say in the time allotted. Thank you. That being said, there are some things that need said. I want to thank Mrs. Hourani for offering an excess of sagely advice and indulging my love for math. Also, Mrs. Monk for being incredibly excited for me in everything I do.  Mrs. Keller for always laughing at my terrible puns in the morning announcements. The validation is important. And outside of school I really want to thank my Dad for being a wealth of life lessons, fun stories, musical trivia, and the best role model I could have possibly asked for. Also, I want to thank my Mom for you know, everything. You’ve been so ridiculously incredibly strong over the last year, managing to raise four children, change incomes, homeschool two kids, run a farm, move a house, deal with my insane amount of college papers and trips and costs and still manage to be a functional human being.

Kellen was also one of four valedictorians. Again, I failed to get video.

We made it. We the class of 2016 have finally, at last, made it through. Made it through our innocuous elementary years, our awkward middle school emo phases, and our final years high school. Our 4 years of preparation and building, our 4 years of culmination., it’s over. Now if you ask any of us right now, “Do you want to do all again?” We’d all say no. “We’re done, why would we want to go back to high school? You can ask our teachers,” They’d say, “We’ve been ready to finish for months now.”
    But let’s be honest, was it that bad? Not really. Not really at all. We’re sarcastic about it, cynical about it. I’m cynical about it. But I, and I can’t speak for anyone else on this stage, but I myself have come through my last four years undeniably better for my time at here at Cross Lanes. In one really striking example, I dress a lot better than I used to. No more fedoras and cargo shorts for me, thanks.
    But it all seriousness, my time here has been a positive one. It’s a human organization; it’s not perfect. But it is, in fact the people that made my last three years what it was. It’s the influences and the support. It’s teachers like Mrs. Hourani who work tirelessly and put forth an incredible amount of effort to not only teach, but to love and support every single student that passes through their classrooms. Take Mrs. Hourani specifically. She’s entirely positive in the face of discouragement. Last year, for instance, she single handedly secured AP accreditation for the school so we could take AP tests. Did she need to do that? Not at all. Was that her job? Hardly. But she still spent a ridiculously long time getting this accreditation just because she thought it was be the best for her students for her to get it. You know I once was 20 minutes late to class because I went to her room to give her a paper, and she spent half an hour talking to me and giving me advice about my math class, the school, her work, my work, my future, even my girlfriend. It’s stuff like that makes Cross Lanes worth it.
    It’s stuff like the incredible godly community of people that make up the parents and volunteers that work without urging, but just because they want to make things as good as they can be. It’s people like Dr. Ghareb, a one man marketing machine. It’s people like Mrs. and Mr. Brown who just took us on our senior trip. Do they have a senior graduating this year? Nope. It’s people like Mrs. Legg, who is basically what would happen if the terminator took up organizing school events.
    I’m sure most of you know that the last two years or so have been pretty yikes for my family. My Dad--his treatments, traveling, the reduced income, eventually his funeral, and all the complications that came with that-- was probably one of the hardest things that a family could go through. But when that happened, there was an awesome outflow of support and love and help and anything that could possibly be asked for from the community of Cross Lanes. People we barely knew gave incredibly and offered so much support. I’ll never forget that and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
    So my years here are done. They’re over with and it’s time to move on. I’m ready for that. But looking to the future I would hope that any of us, of this class, and especially me, would strive to meet and exceed the examples that we’ve been given. That we would examine ourselves, our school, and our futures and try to be a Mrs. Hourani, a Mrs. Legg, a Dr. Ghareeb, a Mrs. Monk, a Mr. Brown, a Jon Hoover, a Mrs. Estep, a Mr. Cooke, Mrs. Walker, a Billy Reynolds, a Ms. Wertz or any one of the prime examples we’ve been given. Let’s do this.

And all that (and more I didn't mention) still left us with a full week in May. We spent Memorial Day weekend getting things ready at the new house and the remaining days (I think there were two) packing for another graduation and trip, but that is June, and that the subject is for another post.