“And just like that…”

It’s so interesting how our minds work. I had a horrible nightmare last night..well, technically it was extremely early this morning…and woke to my 15-year-old dog barfing his guts out at the foot of my bed (luckily into his dog bed itself). To tell the truth, it was almost worse than the nightmare. Reality can do that to you, every once in a while. Your mind has you reeling and you’re breaking out in a cold sweat, thinking life is pretty bad, and then your dog throws up at your feet. And this morning, it was so very dark. It was black as night, which is why I was so confused.  It’s just week one of Daylight Savings Time – I really dislike the time change – and I am exhausted. Not only that, it is pitch black at 6:30am. So I had to find my way to a light to see what I was dealing with. Meanwhile, I was sweating over my nightmare and not fully aware of what was happening. And to be honest yet again, I think dealing with a sick dog is preferable to my dream, in many ways. In this particular case, once I was fully awake, I would much rather deal with my sick dog.

You see, in my dreams, I lost one of my sons. He snapped; he became someone he never was, nor anyone I had raised him to be. He exhibited behavior I had never expected of him. I was begging him. I was yelling at him. I was losing him and there was nothing I could do to stop his decisions. In my dream, I was cowering in my closet, crying and inconsolable. I think losing a child to poor choices is probably the worst thing I can imagine. I know people who have children who have struggled with addictions and who have served time in prison, or who have been admitted to rehab over and over again. I have seen families split apart who have not returned to a cohesive unit. And I have seen the pain in a parent’s eyes over their lost children.

And I cannot help but think of the world, and our country, right now. It feels like we are turning our backs on God. We have walked away from the basics of our faith. We have allowed the world in, so much so, that we have forgotten God. We have chosen to live life as we choose, away from His Word for us.

In the Ladder of Divine Ascent (the Icon depicted above) St.John Climacus exhorts us to pay attention. If you look at the icon you can see how decisions are affecting the eternity of those climbing. There are many ways in which we can see how, as a culture, we have chosen the world over its creator. The creation has become the master of the creator. It is usurped and upside down. And it can only lead to disaster. It can lead to each of us falling off the “Ladder of Divine Ascent,” our own pathway to heaven.

I read an article today by a young woman who was raised by her German grandmother. Her grandmother warned her that war was coming to us. As a young girl, her grandmother had tried to warn her own family in Germany, prior to World War 1, of an upcoming war, but none of them listened to her. So she fled to America via Ellis Island. She saw the “writing on the wall” (Daniel 5).  And she raised her children and grandchildren to be aware of the world – the history, culture, and markers that signal disaster is coming. And she believes we are, once again, headed for international disaster. Quite often, I feel that God needs a 2×4 to get my attention; I see these markers and yet I disdain them and blow them off. This dream, which was making me extremely upset, was stopped by my dog, before I could take the imagery further. Why did I dream about my son like that? I think it is because I realized his entire school experience, the sum total of all my years of schooling my children, is due to our homeschool by May 1st. The final grades for his last year of homeschooling. And that is so very close. As in 6 weeks close. As in my entire brood will have graduated from High School and be making their way into the world. And it scares me. For a variety of reasons. My babies are all adults. All of them. And here I sit.

You know, God experienced the “empty nest” syndrome, too. He had to expel Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. As a parent, we sometimes have to make those tough calls. Of course, God knew that He was setting mankind on the pathway back to Him. He granted us free will, which allows us to follow or reject Him. Our children have free will. Eve was easily tempted by an apple, because of her free will, and the demonic presence whispering in her ear. She then infected Adam with the need to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, the one plant the Lord asked them to not eat. Isn’t that how it goes? What we are told we cannot have, we want all the more??  God gives us ample opportunities to choose Him. He allows us the opportunity to experience what the world has to offer. He allows us to feel sated by the world. To our “in the moment” minds; to our “if it feels good do it” mentality; to our “it will be fine, you will see” logic, we choose the pathway that is easier, wider, simpler. Being a follower of God, of Christ, is the single, most difficult thing I have ever chosen to do. But I cannot deny the pull of my heart; that emptiness that no amount of anything in this world fills, but God. The fear of my son making poor choices for his life? Isn’t that the fear all parents share? Most especially our God? He saw how our poor choices mounted, again and again. And He sent us His Son, to lead us each to salvation. Each of us. I can worry all I want about my kids; in fact, I always will. I may have sleepless nights until my eternal sleep, worrying about my children and grandchildren. Because as a parent, we never, ever stop worrying.

Once again, God has directed us to Him through the gift of Lent. He never stops worrying about us. I will never stop worrying about my family, or my friends. It’s part of who I am, as a woman, and as a mother. Each year, we are given a wonderful opportunity to re-direct our lives away from this crazy, inviting, world and direct ourselves towards God. We have this chance for more prayer, for reflection, for a metanoia of the heart, mind and soul. So even if this world is careening out of control, we firmly stand on the Rock, the Church. We have our faith to ground us, prepare us, to set a wall around our hearts. We don’t know when things will occur. And we need to always stay prepared. God has our best interests at heart as the Creator of all of us. He will never stop welcoming us Home to Him. And that one thing helps me sleep at night, and helps keep most nightmares at bay.

I know my kids are growing up and moving on. I know it. It’s just hard to deal with it some days. But facing these fears, in the light of day, and the Light of Christ, gives me strength. And just like that….

“…you can’t stop my shine…”

Telling me to get my sh*t together now I got my sh*t together, yeah,
Now I made it through the weather better days are gon’ get better
I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out, I’m moving on,
I’m so sorry but it’s over now the pain is gone,

I’m putting On my Shades to cover up my eyes,
I’m jumping in my ride, I’m heading out tonight,
I’m solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo.

I’m feeling like a star, you can’t stop my shine, I’m loving cloud nine, my head’s in the sky.
I’m solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo.
I’m riding solo, I’m riding solo, solo. (Jason Derulo)

boys.sad.

I can hear the music to that song, and all it’s lyrics, coming through the bathroom door as my son showers and sings. It is only 7:30 a.m. and my homeschooled 17-year-old is not only up and out of bed, we have already spoken, he’s fed his dogs, and is showering. Because today, my son is once again, single. Today is break-up day. This is not my first rodeo, as this is my youngest child. I have lived through heartache with my older sons. I recall their momentous announcements to me when they met their wives, “I met her mom. This is THE ONE. I just KNOW it.” Ahhh…young love!

As the mother of sons, I have tried to raise them to be honorable young men. I have told them this: Start praying for your wife now (while you are teens). She is growing up, just like you are. You may even be friends already. Pray that she is safe and is treated with love and respect by the boys she dates. Pray that she will come to you and fall in love, want to marry you, and want to be the mother to your children. Pray that her values and beliefs align with yours. Pray every day for her. And for the girls in your life, girls you may date before you meet your future wife, treat them like you wanted me to have been treated by the boys I knew before your dad. Treat them like you want your future wife and mother of your children to have been treated. Let them know how much you respect them. Treat them like Joseph treated the Blessed Theotokos before, and after, they were married. Pray for all the girls that come into your life, because they will be someone’s wife and someone’s mother someday. Take each person and treat them as special as you can, with respect and honor. And pray for them. Always.

I really do not like dating. Courting is more aligned with what I would like to see happen, at a reasonable age (mid-20s sounds good to me). Recently it was reiterated to me that there are many, many styles of homeschooling. It does not mean the same thing to everyone who does it. And you cannot make assumptions about families who homeschool. Even if they are in your homeschool “group.” Some parents choose to homeschool purely for the academic advantage it provides for their children. Some homeschool because they move around a lot (military for example) or because they have weird schedules and travel a lot. Some people skip the moral and character development opportunities along the way, the lessons available when you are with your kids all day. For me, I wanted to raise good, honest men who loved their families and were men of character. If they gained a wonderful education, that was a bonus to me. Raising people of character is rough stuff, and was one of our main motivators when we opted to teach our sons at home. But, you should see my gray hairs!

sunset grandpa

As young men near 18, they start to look to being on their own. College, career are on the near horizon. They feel more mature and grown up. They sometimes challenge everyone and everything because they are “feeling their oats” and want to prove themselves to be men. I was sort of like that, too, even as a daughter. I had lots to prove to my British immigrant family, because I was raised here, and in America, we think differently. Ha-Ha! Once I learned things, I loved to spout my knowledge to my parents and grandparents. My paternal grandpa was a reddish-blonde, strong minded, strong-willed, short Scotsman. I annoyed him in my opinions about pretty much everything. We could not discuss baseball, unless it was to admire his LA Dodgers. We could not discuss religion or politics, or unions. And I loved pushing his buttons! Ha-Ha. I loved him so much, but he was borderline abrasive, as he was easily angered. It was like hugging sandpaper sometimes. His heart was, once he let you see it, soft and pure and he loved his family with a fierceness I admired. He always told me to love deeply, to hang on, and not let go, no matter what. And he told me how much he loved my grandma and that he had loved her around the world, as their jobs, economy, and family took them to many places. So many times he told me how much he loved her. And I have never forgotten his wisdom, his rough and calloused hands holding mine, and his sweet hugs and kisses.

And today, as my son was lamenting his break-up through his loud music, I recalled my dating history, my teen years, and my grandpa. I was never given the talk about dating versus courting by either of my parents. I learned about boys from boys. Not the best way, but there you have it. My parents never gave me expectations about dating or being serious with a boy, about sex, or getting married. It just was not talked about within our family dynamics. As a child of the 60s and 70s, we discussed drugs and alcohol a lot. But not boys, dating, sex, or marriage. As a mother, I wanted to share things with my sons that were not shared with me, to be honest with them, and to let them see life from a female perspective. I wanted to share my grandpa’s love of family and how important it was to hang on to our family, no matter what. I hope I have succeeded. My daughters-in-law have been blessings to my older sons, and our family. We are blessed with beautiful grandchildren, with the hopes of more of them (they have such cute kids!). And my youngest is no different. Being home alone with me most of the time, I have tried to be honest with him in regards to relationships, love, dating, premarital sex, diseases, and using the “L” word with girls (LOVE!!). I wish I could take his pain away. And I wish I could assist him more in his choices. But this kid is different. He is his own man. He is what you would call “stoic,” keeping everything “close to the vest.” When we get a glimpse, we all fall more in love with him, because he is an incredible young man. His smile and laughter can light up a room. And when he hurts, it hurts me.

“I have lots of friends, mom, and they’ve got my back.” Well, you do, son and I am glad. And I think it is so important to listen to our friends, to those who know us best. When dating or courting, the person should be welcomed into your groups and enlarge them and make them better. They should not cause you to separate or splinter off on your own – they should definitely not isolate you from friends, family, or your faith.

Neil Sedaka wrote a great song years ago, “Breaking up is hard to do:

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
Cause breaking up is hard to do
Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we’ve been through
And breaking up is hard to do

I remember playing that over and over again when my heart was breaking in High School. And I thought of my son. Things seem to move much quicker these days and many of us could see the “crash and burn” coming, but didn’t know the exact timing. When things don’t fit, they don’t work. “Square peg, round hole.” His oldest brother spent lots of time sharing dating wisdom, and perhaps a little too much information, but nonetheless he shared his love for his brother, with his brother. I am glad they can do that. His middle brother and his wife also shared their opinions with him, and their time, during their recent visit with us up here in the Last Frontier. It was blessed timing.

I am so happy with how he is dealing – loud music and all. He is off, weight lifting with his football team, preparing for his senior year. He is keeping busy and chatting with friends a lot. And we are all praying for him and his future. Seventeen seems so old when you are seventeen. From my perspective, it seems like the blink of an eye, and so young. My dad used to tell me that even though he looked older, he was still 17 on the inside. I used to laugh at that. He will be 90 in December, I am staring down 60, and my son is 17. Time has flown. And some things never change. Hearts and break-up days….they are still the same.

bandaged heart