Milestones

Annie burst into the bar exclaiming, “What IS this place?”

“It’s the best little wine bar you’ve ever stepped foot in, but tonight it’s also a karaoke bar!” came my response.

Without a glance at the menu, she ordered a sauvignon blanc and a song list. Her two friends, obviously indulging Annie’s whim, didn’t even want water.

Annie danced in the heart of the bar. And when she sang, she did so as badly as you might imagine—off-key and off-tempo—and with so much joy we all laughed along.

She told stories, and laughed at her “L.A. friends, who think they’re really something, but they’re missing out,” danced some more, and completely whooped it up. She brought the party.

Before she left she asked for one more song, a special song she sang to her kids as they grew up: Que Será, Será. I smiled, because my mom had sung it to me, too.

I couldn’t have told you Doris Day sang it originally, but I knew the words:

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be

When Annie got to the third verse, tears filled my eyes:

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be

While I haven’t sung this song to my own children, in my own way I encourage them to have faith, that God knows the plans we don’t. I regularly repeat to them another of my mother’s lessons: “You do your best and let God do the rest.”

What will be, will be…

C19 finished one year at the only college he ever wanted to attend, and it didn’t go the way any of us had hoped. He gave up what he had thought would be his dream major and came home. He’ll work and attend community college as he pursues whatever will be next for him.

Q14 graduated middle school last week. We are so proud of his tenacity, because this so-smart kid can’t seem to figure out how to “do school” well. And yet, he loves school. He enjoys his friends. He adores band. He has a curious intellect and genuinely wants to learn. And learn he does, he just doesn’t perform accordingly. Our frustration increases as no teacher or learning specialist we’ve met so far has been able to determine why, or how to help him.

And yet, these young men are all caught up in the fabulous work of becoming. C19 matured so much in his first year of college. He advocated on his own behalf in several situations. He sought healthy outlets for stress. He joined a sports club and made friends. He determined who he didn’t want to be as much as who he might like to be.

Q14 composed his first piece of music. He went on a nine-day trip to Europe with peers and teachers; and he endured a migraine in a foreign country with as much grace and peace as one could possibly have under the circumstances. And the weekend following graduation he was thrilled to go on his first backpacking trip.

So we sing: que será, será, whatever will be, will be. Because God only knows what will be. And still we trust that these kids, with their gifts and talents and challenges, with their twists and turns on life’s roads, will be just fine.

 

[photo credit: Steve Bartis]

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Travel Bug

My parents took me to London when I was thirteen years old. Real estate clients/friends of theirs held a wedding reception in London; my dad flew for Pan American Airlines; off we went.

As the daughter of an airline captain, this certainly wasn’t my first trip. Yet London captured my heart. Before we returned home, I declared my intentions to my parents: “I will come back here and study during college!”

So I did. It was every bit as wonderful as I remembered–and then some. Our ‘home base’ for the trip was Hengrave Hall–then run by nuns, now apparently a premiere UK wedding venue–in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk County. I was 21. At 21, my dad was in the Air Force, stationed in Bury St. Edmunds. Life is funny that way.

At thirteen years old, C19 fulfilled a life goal of traveling to Costa Rica with students and teachers from his middle school. The kid had been clamoring to go to Costa Rica since he read a picture book about the rain forest at age four–how many of us get to check off bucket list items at such a young age? Having experienced my own life-changing trip at his age, how could I say no? 

Through the almost daily emails we received from his teacher (“Your son keeps trying to touch the animals!”), we knew he was having a great time. And his trip led to us spending Guy’s sabbatical summer in Costa Rica as a family.

Today we dropped Q13 at San Francisco International Airport, entrusting him to the care of three middle school teachers and three parent chaperones as they travel to Europe. Specifically, London, Normandy, and Paris. That’s right: I was thirteen when I first visited London, and my thirteen-year-old son will be in London for Easter weekend.

This parenting gig gets easier and harder, all at the same time. A mom with whom I’d never spoken before got teary as she reflected on letting her oldest child venture out: “But you’ve done this before…!” Yes, I have done this before. A few times, actually.

Still, I have had sleepless nights recently. Technicolor stress dreams work through my out-of-control feelings, my fears of letting my youngest leave my nest. Tossing-and-turning and oh-just-get-up-already! nights, just to make lists rather than pointlessly swat at the bitey-itchy mosquitoes to-do’s that buzz my brain.

True to character, he would not could not settle down to pack until the night before, when we discovered that of course he had lost one shoe from his pair of sneakers (in his locked PE locker?) and his new rain jacket (not sure when he even wore it?), a replacement for the identical rain jacket he lost last season. I can only imagine what he might lose along the way, and I’m so grateful the chaperones have hold of his passport.

Last night he went to bed with a book he’s read previously, a ‘familiar friend’ to calm him. This morning he admitted he read until 3 am, caught up in the story, surely, but also…anxious.

Of course he is. As am I. But he’s also ready for this adventure, including the misadventures that create travel memories. Travel at a young age changed my life, which affects my inclination to allow my kids to follow travel bugs down their own winding paths. Their travels have, in turn, changed not only them but also me.

I can’t wait to hear his stories. I can’t wait to see how this trip might lead to more. I know he just left, but I can’t wait to get him in my arms again. Even though that will mean letting go…again.

 

ACK the Crazy of Parenting Teens

A friend posted a link to an article entitled, “WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT PARENTING TEENAGERS? I’M LOST AF.”

Before I even read the article (a great article) I had my response:
Because teens don’t want us telling their stories. Because we don’t want to mess up their lives any more by sharing with the world the stupid stuff they do. Because colleges/employers search the Internet before accepting/hiring. Because we don’t want the judgment of other adults who will look askance or, worse, tell us our kids would behave better if only we were better parents. Reasons aside, I do write about parenting teens on my blog: milagromama.wordpress.com

I started blogging in part because I spotted the hole in the Mommy Blog community. Mommy bloggers tend to have littles, not teens. At a writing conference, I asked advice of a respected blogger who told me she wished she’d begun her blog anonymously, that she had not posted her kids’ names or beautiful faces.

I asked my kids: Could I write my stories about our life together? Not tell their stories—they have their own stories to tell—but mine? I promised not to use their names or faces.

Without hesitation, they both gave me a big thumbs up. The younger one matter-of-factly stated: “Mom, you’re a writer. I can’t believe you don’t already have a blog.”

After reading the blog post this morning, I picked up my Bible. Funny: today’s reading came from Luke 2, when teenage Jesus ditches his parents’ caravan from the Passover festival in Jerusalem to sleepy old Nazareth to instead spend days in the Temple. At first his parents don’t miss him, but when they do, they’re frantic. I imagine Mary bursting into tears at the sight of him, and falling further apart when Jesus just doesn’t get why they’re upset. And then the narrator comments: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52).

Can’t you imagine Mary and Joseph, chatting over a late-night oil lamp-lit glass of Cabernet: Sheesh, everyone thinks he’s so great, and he is, of course he is, I love him so much, absolutely to pieces, but I just don’t know what to do with him!

If I think raising my own teenagers is difficult, how entirely confusing it must have been to be responsible for raising the Son of God!

As Renegade Mama wrote:
Parenting a teenager is the hardest, loneliest, most emotionally trying phase I’ve ever experienced as a mother, and by far puts the biggest strain on my marriage, and our family as a whole…. and this is the part that makes the whole thing so excruciating: They are these soaring, powerful creatures who you look at sometimes and cannot believe they’ve grown so strong, so whole, so complete in themselves.

I felt like a total loser in the early childhood phase of parenting. Exhausted beyond measure, setting timers to get me—and them—through the next fifteen minutes of whatever boring—to me, or them—activity we had engaged in, I thought I might lose my mind.

Some days I still feel like I’m losing my mind, though the circumstances have changed and the stakes are so much higher. While I love watching my boys grow, developing personalities and interests and friendships, while I love seeing the incredible, gifted, unique human beings they have become and are becoming, some days I’d give anything to be able to pick up the cranky-butt and plop him in a crib for nap time.

My husband and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in a couple of months. We’re still going strong, but I will say that we’ve had our biggest ever fights over parenting teens.

With younger kids, there were regularly-scheduled pack play dates, all the moms (and available dads) with kids of various ages meeting at the school or park or someone’s home for a spontaneous gathering, often a potluck. That doesn’t work so well when the kids age into different social circles and have more of their own commitments.

Friends with younger kids have said, “I can’t relate to what you’re going through” aka, “Let’s change the subject.” Other friendships strained as friends with younger kids couldn’t understand why, as kids got older and one might think moms should have increased freedom, instead my priorities shifted and I had to be home all the time during off-school hours for the random moment when the kids might feel like talking.

Somehow, Big Kid’s peers have always seemed to be perfect, compliant children. Those kids never hit, or bit, or ran circles around—and obviously, knocked into—the littles (of the same age) who weren’t yet stable walkers. They never talked out of turn in class or wreaked havoc for Sunday school teachers and Scout leaders. Or, you know, worse. Because, teens.

Maybe they didn’t, maybe they did. Maybe their parents a) didn’t know or b) wouldn’t talk about it. When I talked about it (because we work hard to foster a relationship in which our kids tell us the truth, ugly as it sometimes may be), I received looks of pity, shame, even anger. Which made me want to talk less. And increased the loneliness.

Renegade Mama asks why we aren’t supporting the hell out of parents of teenagers. We should be. I try. Lord knows I need it, as do others. But we won’t get anywhere if we’re trying to hide our fears, our disappointments, our own and our kids’ imperfections. We won’t be receptive of nor forthcoming with support if we’re pretending.

These teens, they’re like unicorns: mythical, beautiful, colorful, magical. Parenting them can be maddening beyond belief, and as magical as they are. They spook easily, but I bet we’ll catch more of their majestic colors if we, as parents, stop spooking so easily.

Parents of teens, if you’re down to tell the truth, I’m here for you. We need each other. Let’s do this!

More!

I am my mother’s daughter. In some ways, I look like her. In so many others, I think like her or act like her. Even some of the ways I am not like her have been influenced by my relationship with her. I learned from her to share her vision for what is good and meaningful and worthy in life.

Recently, I introduced Q13 to a friend. As we stood side-by-side, she remarked, “Oh, I see the resemblance…”

His response didn’t miss a beat: “Yah, but she’s not a natural blonde!” (I am so!)

He may look like me, but his quick and quirky sense of humor is all his own.

Still, he is my child and bears more than physical characteristics from our relationship: our homebody-contentment, our appreciation for good music, our joy in helping others. Just as my relationship with my mom molded my life, my relationship with my son shapes who he is and how he lives.

I am also God’s child, and I sure hope there are some solid family resemblances: I hope I love big like He does, serve like He does, create like He does, share joy like He does.

This week I saw a video that resonates deep in my being. You can’t help but laugh at the sweetness! Dad and baby are both clearly into not just the beatboxing but also each other. Each time Dad stops Baby asks for “More!” More beatboxing, sure, and more togetherness, more fun and laughter, more joy and love.

This video makes me wonder: Do I enjoy my relationship with my Daddy God? Do I take time to notice–and revel in–the fun and wonder and laughter and love He wants to share with me? To exclaim, “More! More!”?

Walk in Love
Week 6: Children of God
1 John 2:28-3:10

Connect
In what ways do you resemble your parents?

Study
Read aloud 1 John 2:28-3:10.
What response should God’s children have when Jesus returns (v28)?
Why does “the world” not recognize God’s children (3:1)?
Why did Jesus “appear” (vv5, 8)? What does that mean for His children?
How does John contrast those who sin with those who do right (vv4-10)?
Does John mean that God’s children cannot/will not ever sin again? Explain.

Live
What have you done this week to “continue in Him”?
How do you feel when you think of Jesus’ return, and why?
What does being God’s child mean to you? How is that title evidence of God’s love?How do you resemble your Father God? How would you like to grow in resemblance?
Do you think others recognize you as a child of God? How so?
How can being God’s child motivate you to right living?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray that God’s love will overflow your lives and keep you from sin.

What’s Your Name? 1 John 2:2-17

Naming our big dog wasn’t difficult. We met her on a Wednesday and when we picked her up on Friday, our big kid declared: “Her name is Izzy.” We all agreed.

Naming our puppy? Not the same story. Oh for sure, C19 named him in seconds, but the rest of us took weeks to agree. We made a long list. We tried each out. We discussed and debated. Big Kid persisted, and the rest of us caved. Jasper it is.

But he’s also earned a handful of nicknames. Rascal, because he’s a curious, playful puppy. Dapper Japper, because he wore a plaid bow tie throughout the Christmas season and looked oh so dapper. Stinky, and Baby Dog, for obvious reasons.

My parents, Mom especially, gave me a bunch of nicknames. My baby brother couldn’t say my name, so Sisi (pronounced “SeeSee”), which sounds like my given name, is still in play. Others, I’m not even sure how to spell–Sivereno or Sisiliana–my parents making long my short name. My 80’s era camp name was Lambchops, because my white-blonde permed hair looked like lamb’s wool; my high school band nickname was Huggy Bear, because friends said I dropped my backpack every few steps to hug a friend.

Cute at the time, I’m grateful to have outgrown some of those nicknames. I’m hopeful Baby Dog will outgrow some of his as well (Stinky, especially).

Nicknames grow out of experience and relationship. When I call my kids by their full names (first, middle, last)–names I love, given with intention to children I love–I might do so out of exasperation. But when I call them Buddy or Lovebug, it’s true to our relationships. Lovebug may sound babyish, but even with teen boys I can hope they won’t outgrow those terms of endearment.

Some cultures wait to formally name a child until the child reveals his/her character. It seems we nickname based on character.

Our actions reveal our character. So perhaps our nicknames also influence our actions.

I still respond to SiSi because those who call me SiSi have known me from forever. They knew and loved me in good and bad and through it all. When I call my kid Buddy, he hears me calling him to make good choices to be his best self. He is my Buddy, and he knows I’m his biggest fan, asking him to live into his best.

The names we call each other make a difference. The name itself can call us forward.

So when John refers to Dear Children, or Fathers, or Young Men, it matters. Dear Children=all of us loved by God, whose sins have been forgiven, who can truly call God Father. The love relationship is mutual, complete, fulfilled. Fathers=those who have a lifetime of faith. Not just men (gratefully, not just men!, but using language of old, when masculine terms applied equally to women), but all those of a certain age and stage in life. Those who have weathered storms and held steady in faith. And Young Men=those young in life and faith (again, not exclusively male), whose youth fills them with vigor and verve to take risks for God.

The nicknames mean something. They directly connect with the message for those groups/individuals. But going forward, the message to all is the same: stay strong. Live into who you are, the best of who you are, and so remain strong in faith. Because the world will do its best to beat you, but you–in God’s strength, living into the terms of endearment God has for you–can be stronger than the strongest temptation.

Walk in Love
Week 4: The World’s Allure
1 John 2:12-17

Connect
Share a nickname you’ve earned and how you got it.

Study
Read aloud 1 John 2:12-17.
To whom does John write, and what does he say to each (vv12-14)?
What reasons do God’s people have to not love the world (vv15-17)?
What does love for the world look like according to John? What might it look like today?

Live
What does it mean to you personally to know God as Father? To know Him “from the beginning”? To be strong to overcome evil? Which description best fits you and which would you like to grow into?
How can God’s Word strengthen you to resist temptation?
How does your identity as a believer influence your behavior?
What gifts do younger and older believers have to offer each other?
What, if any, hostile threats do you perceive in the world? How do you manage them?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to fill you with love for Him that crowds out the world’s distractions.

Advent Week 2 – Anticipating the King

My family will attest: I enjoy having people over. I enjoy cooking and serving and spending time with friends in the comfort of my own home.

My family will also attest: In the last hour before company arrives, more often than not I transform into a dragon.

I could blame the family but, truth, it’s me. I’m a mess. I lack the gene for good organizational systematizing and tidying. Even at my home’s cleanest, you can still find stacks of things to be filed or sorted. I hope you can ignore them as well as I do.

Show up day or night, and I will gladly welcome you in and bite my tongue trying not to apologize for this mess. Because apologies only draw attention, and you didn’t come over to admire my housekeeping.

The more comfortable I am with you, the more comfortable I will be letting you see my mess. If it’s your first time over or we haven’t been friends very long, if you’re Bono or Jen Hatmaker (or if I know you’re an interior designer or neat-freak), I’m going to fire-breathe more fiercely at the piles. Or hide them more carefully–laundry baskets full of all the desk contents stashed in the garage? Don’t peek!

I don’t think Jesus really cares all that much about the piles on my desk or in my closets, except as they reflect the chaos in my soul. I think He cares a lot about what’s going on in there, though. And sadly, I’m often as messy on the inside as the outside.

Last week I had a cool opportunity to work serving food/drink at an event celebrating people using their gifts, resources and experiences to make the Bay Area a better place to live. Their projects ranged from early childhood literacy, to offering dignity (and food) to homeless people, to services for those in abusive relationships or seniors who desire to age in place, and sailing the Bay with at-risk teens and police officers.

I got teary with inspiration, and wondered, What do I do to make my community a better place? Sure, I volunteer here and there. I do my best to be a good neighbor. I try to love my family well. It adds up to something, but is that enough?

Making our communities a better place to live, noticing those who make our communities a better place, seems to be a great way to anticipate the King. So I’ve been pondering and praying, evaluating my activities and noticing others’.

Yesterday we took Tween with us to run some errands. He was a good sport about it, and I gave him an appreciative hug. As we waited to exit the crowded Costco parking lot, a guy sat on the curb, snuggling his dog, and holding a sign indicating that they were homeless.

Not my proudest moment: I turned my face.

My proudest moment: My kiddo didn’t.

He said, “Hey, can I get out? I want to give that man the $2 in my wallet.”

He grabbed his money and the door handle as I choked back tears. I watched the man’s face as he earnestly looked my boy in the eyes and thanked him for the help.

Tween got back in the car, lamenting that the line of cars hadn’t been longer so he could have spent more time talking to the man and petting his dog.

Another not-proud moment: As we drove away, I realized I had $4 in my purse. I hadn’t given it to the man who truly needed it, but I immediately handed it to my surprised son.

I wanted him to understand that sometimes when you give, you get more in return than you’d have expected. He received genuine thanks from the man, and he received more money than he’d given away. And I got another lesson in how much I have to learn about anticipating the King.

Week 2 – Anticipating the King

 Read and light two candles (purple): The first candle represents the Child of the Virgin. The second candle represents the King.

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

Read: We plan appropriately when we expect company, picking up the house and preparing refreshments. When we anticipate the arrival of someone important, we might also brush up on discussion topics or customs which will make our guest feel more comfortable. So too as we anticipate the Root of Jesse, the coming King, we clean up our hearts and faithfully commit ourselves to His righteous ways.

Pray: We anticipate the coming of our King Jesus and pray in His name, Amen.

 

Monday 1 Samuel 8:6-7 How can you honor God as your king today?
Tuesday Psalm 24:8 What battle do you need the King to fight for you?
Wednesday Psalm 145:10-13 What mighty acts has your King done for you?
Thursday Isaiah 6:1-5 Draw a picture of this scene and talk to God about it as you draw.
Friday Mark 1:14-15 How would you explain the good news of God’s kingdom?Saturday 1 Timothy 1:17 What other words could you use to describe your King?

Advent 1 – Preparing for the Child

Having babies didn’t come easily for us. Before each of our two successful pregnancies, we endured months of waiting and praying, regular heartache, and celebrations of the births of many babies to family and friends. Our boys arrived almost six and eleven years into our marriage, definitely not on our timeline.

In both cases, we prepared for their conception and their births. I committed myself to overall health and wellness and, once pregnancy took, we also prepared our home and our lives.

Our first baby arrived on his due date, just before Christmas, just as I had finished writing a paper for graduate school (or so I thought…I had to rewrite all the end notes because, as it turns out, writing end notes during labor is not particularly effective). Our second baby threw us a serious curve ball when he arrived five weeks early, mid-term of my last graduate school course.

You can buy a crib, clothes, and all the equipment. You can decorate a room and baby-proof a house. You can read all the books and blogs. But can any parent ever adequately prepare for how a baby will forever change their life?

The arrival of a child will change your life in ways you’ve never imagined.

Even after they arrive, it seems you never stop preparing room for your children. My kids are now in college and the tail-end of middle school, and I’m still preparing for who they are now and helping them towards who they will become. As we do life together, they also shape me.

In Advent we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Could anyone have imagined the truth of how the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah would change the world? Could we imagine how He would change our lives, at first glance and daily from then on? Can we imagine even yet what His second-coming will be like?

Immanuel, God with us. Let’s prepare for His birth, and strap in for the wonderful wild ride of life with Him.

Week 1 – Preparing for the Child
December 3-9

Read and light the first candle (middle purple candle): The first candle represents the Child of the Virgin.

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read Scripture: Isaiah 7:10-17

Read: Parents actively work to prepare for their child’s birth. They visit the doctor, assemble a crib, purchase and wash clothes and fill a nursery, all in anticipation of the child’s arrival. Similarly, in Advent we prepare not only our homes but our hearts for the birth of a Child. While some, like Ahaz, will reject God’s sign, we joyfully wait for God to fulfill His promise.

Pray: Father God, prepare in our hearts room for your Son. In the name of Immanuel we wait and pray, Amen.

Monday 1 Kings 8:56-58 Pray that God will make you aware of His presence with you.
Tuesday 2 Chronicles 13:12 How does God lead you?
Wednesday Psalm 46:1-3, 7 How can God’s presence with you free you from fear?
Thursday Ephesians 1:4-6 What difference does it make in your life that God chose you to be His child?
Friday 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 Is there a hard-to-love person in your life? Ask God to increase your love.
Saturday Jude 24-25 When has God kept you from stumbling?