Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Auld Lang Syne

     It's the last day of 2013 and I've so been enjoying not having to wake up at o'dark thirty or having to be on the go or on the road or just on. We've been having a wonderful Christmastime and I am not in any hurry for this break to be over.
       I really wasn't in any hurry for summer 2013 to be over. August was such a can we just stop the clock and be in this season right here for more than the fleeting moments it was feeling like? My two kids were rising Seniors . . . one in college and one in high school . . . and while my head was telling me that they are both on the brink of the new and exciting adventures that are exactly what we've been investing years and days and moments preparing them for, my heart was doing the 'this year begins the season when things will never be the same again' flip flop thing that Moms have been arguing with time over forever.
       Our summer family vacation took us back to a favorite spot, Ocean City New Jersey, in a sweet little bungalow within walking distance from the beach. I could have just stopped time right there and then. So many traditions created over so many summers there - from the lazy sun soaking hours to the crazy boogie boarding waves, night Monopoly marathons, bike riding mornings to strolling the boardwalk at night, eating pizza or protecting our fries from the far too brazen seagulls, riding the giant ferris wheel or the Scrambler, playing mini golf or skeeball and laughing about funny moments or special memories from the days when a curly headed little boy or a ponytailed little girl skipped alongside us, knee high or waist high or sleepily nodding off in the stroller. Smiling about the sweet memories. Thankful the days of cranky toddler meltdowns are over and these two tall long limbed siblings tote their own boogie boards and chairs and towels rather than us schlepping every single piece of baby and beach equipment known to mankind back and forth from home to house to beach to house to beach to house to . . . wait . . . as soon as we leave the Shore it will be time to schlep every single piece of technology, storage units and sports equipment known to college studentkind from house to car to dorm room to car to dorm room to car to . . .  So, some things never end.
       Yet the week at the Shore did. And with it came the end of the summer and the beginning of two Senior years. Senior years that will usher in a new season of life. Senior years that I am trying to remember to both celebrate and grieve all the 'lasts'. The last first day of school. The last moving in to dorm (on one campus at least). The last shopping trip for the Homecoming dress. The last fall Jazz Ensemble concert. The last Candlelight Concert. Sigh.
      And because my mother-in-law is selling the family farm, the last post Thanksgiving dinner sitting around the table compiling Christmas shopping lists, the last heading out even before o'dark thirty to enjoy what's been a traditional sister in law and eventually daughters and nieces in tow great black Friday together, the last cousins packing into the big room all the way upstairs, the last cutting down another beautiful Shellenberger grown Christmas tree . . .
     And in the midst of these two senior year goings on, we were up to our eyeballs with all things Beauty and the Beast. For of course, it wasn't enough for us to do our favorite show for our last mother daughter team middle school musical together. We had decided to also submit our show for a main stage performance at the PA State Thespian Conference 6 weeks before our usual school performance time. Now that its over I can happily say that my 'darling idiots' pulled off a fantastic performance receiving many compliments from the audience of mostly high school students and their directors. Every time in the months leading up to the Conference that I panicked over something I was sure would never come together God met me with someone or something to meet that need, as if to say, "Don't worry. I've got this." And I simply don't let myself think too long about the fact that unless I tie her up and gag her instead of sending her off to college, this show is quite possibly the last one my daughter and I will create together.
     This pouring your life into roots and wings for these little people who insist on growing up is indeed so very bittersweet. While I am very excited to see what God has for my son and my daughter, I often wonder if I have done my job well enough, if I have taught them everything I should have. I do not miss the 2 a.m. feedings, changing diapers or the battle of wills with toddlers who could dig their heels in deep. I smile remembering a hand so little it held mine by wrapping all fingers around my extended one as we walked out to the mailbox. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk and basketball in the driveway. Training wheels and Hot Wheels and in a heartbeat 4 wheels on a little red car parked in the driveway for what might be the last Christmas Break home for this many days. Who knows where that little red car will be parked next year? How far away will the church be smart enough to hire this tall, curly headed man with the heart for God and relating with His young people?
     I know this is what raising children is all about - preparing them as best as we possibly can, for their own lives in their own homes in their own corner of the world. And no I really wouldn't want them to spend the rest of their lives with us, in their rooms or the proverbial basement apartment. I remember how excited I was for my first teaching job and my first apartment. To be out on my own, learning how to put into practice what I'd spent years growing up to become. I wouldn't want this urge in my mother's heart to keep them here, at home, in this family life that we've been weaving together to prevent them from having their chance to stretch their wings and fly. To become all that God has always meant them to be from the instant their lives began.
      So I'll do my best to savor both the everyday moments and the major, memorable lasts and see if maybe, just maybe, pushing down on the top of my perched on the edge of the nest beloved children's heads, maybe just maybe, it will slow down their growing up just a bit.
       Just don't blink.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FOR A REASON

     Once upon a time  in July oh, some,well let's just say several years ago, a young, single 5th grade teacher heard God's tug on her heart to leave the wonderful little Christian school where she loved teaching, full of beloved students and families and colleagues and a Headmaster who there will never be a match for, to fly halfway around the world to the island nation of the Philippines where another class of 5th graders was waiting for her to teach them. Their parents were missionaries and she'd packed up as much of her life as she could into 2 suitcases, a carry on and a guitar case to spend the next 2 years teaching them fractions and history and prepositional phrases and how to be the kind of top of the elementary school heap who would be kind and caring. She directed musicals and dressed up like a Franzonian genie or a Giant Cockroach and laughed and loved and sang with her kids and found that the parents of her students were extremely appreciative of all the faculty who made carrying out what God had called them to possible.

                            




















   
 After traveling for 21 hours and through 12 time zones, she was met at the airport by a wonderful old Camp Sandy Cove pal who had been teaching at Faith for 3 years and was welcoming the new 5th grade teacher to share her house. She gave the new teacher eyes that were open to embrace the adventure of living in her new tropical home on the other side of the world and was the perfect housemate and friend to begin this new adventure with.















                                           








And before she was even in the country 24 hours, she met another teacher who was throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator to see if it was done and knew she'd found a kindred spirit.


The cockroaches were big, the humidity was intense, the traffic was crazy . . . but the students were delightful (one class even honored her by inviting her back years later to speak at graduation) and the friendships became keepers for life.
                                   

         My new spaghetti throwing friend came to visit this July, all the way from Seattle Washington. Somehow we've managed to get together at least every 5 years or so since those motorcycle riding, jeepney hopping, papaya eating, swimming lesson teaching, Skeet and Roachie days and we always pick right back up where we left off - which means lots of laughing, lots of stories, lots of heart to heart late night talks. Our kids consider themselves cousins and were all sad that they weren't part of the reunion this time around.

   
     Her roommate came down from NY with her husband and two youngest kids and after sweating our way around Philly in weather that felt down right Manila-like, we drove out to Lancaster the next day to visit my roommate for the four of us hadn't been all together at the same time for many years.
 It was one of those short but sweet visits to quickly catch up as much as possible on how we'd been, how our kids had grown and how much we treasured the memories from our time at Faith Academy.
 
       Somewhere in the midst of all this reunionizing, we got "Skeet" (aka Georgann, my Washingtonian friend and the costumed Mosquito half to my Cockroach, "Roachie") addicted to Wawa. We'd gotten her hooked on cheesesteaks on previous visits but now the one from the land of Starbucks was in her glory having Wawa coffee!! No one in my family was going to complain about a daily excursion to Wawa "for Aunt Georgann" of course. : )      
                                                                                 

   If you know me, you know I like to laugh, but Georg is one of those friends that I really love to laugh with! Everyone should have a friend like her, if for no other reason than spending that much time laughing together and enjoying life that fully has to both burn calories and increase your longevity!!
                                                    
      A few days after our sad farewell back at the airport, I was in the front row of the Family Circle of the Academy of Music with about 30 of my "darling idiots" (drama kids) and many of their Moms to see the Broadway touring show of WICKED. Oh my, oh my, oh my. My third time seeing it and I still get goosebumps and I still absolutely love that show.
                                                                      
     That night in itself needs it's own post, but the timeliness of the lyrics to the now iconic song, "For Good",  that always makes my heart swell with memories of so many different people God has blessed me with over the years was underscored once again.
          
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good


It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from it's mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

Because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

      The community at Faith that I was blessed to serve alongside of and share such a unique adventure with most definitely left their handprint on my heart. But it was not just the friends, the colleagues, the parents . . . my students have their own indelible mark on my heart. And if we were still back in the 80s when I was teaching them, it would take a tremendous amount of time and energy (although well spent energy) to keep in touch. But thanks to the wonder of modern technology, I"ve been able to reconnect with so many of them through Facebook and now get to see them raising their own kids and sending them off to their first days of school. The Faith community is a unique one and it is also a transient one. Relationships can grow to be so close and then must deal with the pain of so many goodbyes when furlough/home service or return to home countries for various reasons occurs. Some are there for the long haul as career missionaries and some, like myself, serve for just a few years. Again, another whole post - but just recently a very cool picture was posted on FB that just made me smile as I recognized 4 beautiful faces from my very first class at Faith Academy.                                                                                                                                            
       I knew that each one was now back in the Philippines (two of them teaching at Faith!) but when I saw them all together and read the post about their recognizing how God had brought them full circle from their days when their own parents were serving as missionaries to today as they now continue that legacy back where it started, at the same time I was looking at their 'grown up' faces I could see so clearly their ten year old selves looking up at me, the new teacher who had flown halfway around the world to teach them. God used me to leave my handprint on their heart and He certainly used them to leave theirs on mine.
      It's just been that kind of summer with lots of chances to be reminded of how God brings people into our lives for a reason, from my camp reunion and reconnecting with so many amazing women from days way back when at a place we loved so very much, to my beloved niece's wedding and the wonderful family I married into, to the privilege of serving with an army of volunteers, some teen actors who it can't possibly time to be waving off to college and my own wonderful son at Kid Fest, to a weekend in the Poconos with our faithful and got your back small group,  to my 'darling idiots' who now head off to high school, to some amazing picking up where we left off friends who God brought together from our half a world away roots.  
      I have been changed because of each and every one of them and not just this summer but for every day after it. I'm so thankful for how God weaves the threads of His children all throughout our numbered days, using them to make such a difference with their "handprint on our hearts".

                  . . .  because I knew you,
                              because I knew you, 
                                    because I knew you, 
                                          I have been changed for good.