“…let it go, let it go…”

Frozen

Unless you are completely separated from children, or live in a country without Disney movies, those words above connotate a certain reaction. For most of us with, at least, grandchildren, we know those words are from a Disney movie called, “Frozen.” And many of us wish it would hurry up and just be gone! But when it comes to our children, not so much.

We are down to our last child living at home. And he does not consider himself a child, but rather, a young adult. My middle child reminded me that both he and his older brother are married men, with children of their own (which is precisely why I know about that Frozen movie) and that his brother will be 30 in October. I responded with, “Thanks.” Ha-Ha! This past week, Cinderella came out on DVD. Some movies are meant to be seen in a theater, whereas some can wait for the DVD release (cannot wait for the new Star Wars – definitely a theater movie!). I took my teenager, along with some friends, to see Cinderella in 3-D IMAX. There were just two boys in our adventure, and they were both more excited for the candy/popcorn and the 3-D glasses than the movie, but the other mom and I loved it. To me, it was so worth it to go to the theater. I loved that movie. And I bought it the day it came out. Why? It made me feel good. Her dress (the blue one) was so gorgeous. The backstory of her parents and family – and their love for one another! I loved the special effects with the mice and lizards. Her fairy godmother was hilarious. The scene when the king dies, but he and his son have that “needed” conversation about love. I loved that movie. There were some meaningful and poignant moments in it, which balanced the lovey-dovey parts boys would naturally hate. And this past Friday night, I made my two men watch it with me over dinner. My husband loved it. Yay! Mom win! It was not a war movie, or a sports movie, or a disaster/end-of-the-world, fantasy epic. That’s a win in a house of men. (My dog and cat are the only other females in my house). My teen sat next to me and as the movie ended, he said, “Please tell me you are not crying about Cinderella.” I, of course, was! Ha-Ha! Love a happy ending! (And that dress!!!).

lily-james-1024

But also this weekend, something epic happened. My youngest son had his first date – as in a car with a girl – to a movie – date. And this mom freaked out a little bit. It was just another step in the letting go process of parenting. And those steps can hurt sometimes, especially when you know it is the last time you have to experience a “first date.” As a homeschooling mom, it was nothing at all like the last time I taught Geometry! For that, I did the happy dance! I taught Geometry to three kids, and I had to suffer through it myself. Ms. Fogler. I swear she hated me, and hated teaching, and hated Geometry. It did nothing for my math career. So for me, the last time through Geometry was not a sad thing. This year, I am going through my last year of Algebra II and I must say I am preparing my happy dance. Way ahead of time, I know, but nonetheless, I am preparing. I am not a math person (Cathy, I love you and am so proud of you for having a PhD in Math… someone has to do that, but it is just not me!). There are things we go through as parents that we are not sad about not having to do again (give birth, change diapers, clean up barf, potty train… it is quite a list and this is just part of it). But there are some things that are monstrously difficult to wade through, over and over again. And the last time is especially momentous. The First Date fits the bill on that one.

In this day and age of rampant sex everywhere, wading through courting/dating is a heavy responsibility. And it is nothing to be taken lightly, nor in my opinion, is it a subject to be discussed in school. This is a family decision. And even though I have raised several, each son is different in how they feel about it and how they choose to experience it. Both of my older sons dated sporadically. They had more friends who were girls than girlfriends. Which is fine by me. And they both knew the moment they met their wives and they were done dating anyone else. And I tried so hard to instill in my boys a love of women in the sense of respecting and loving me, and the model for all women, the Theotokos; the Mother of God.

I always have insisted the boys treat each girl in their company as someone’s future wife and mother. Would they have wanted me to be treated the way they are treating that girl? Would they have wanted their wives to be treated that way? The mother of their children? Friends of theirs who were female – did they appreciate how their friends were being treated by other boys? How did it make them feel? How was the Mother of God treated? From Scripture, we know that some in her home village kept their distance because she was pregnant out of wedlock; they actually shunned her. Joseph took her as his wife to protect her, and to honor her, and because an ANGEL, a real ANGEL, appeared to him and instructed him to do so. He knew that GOD wanted him to be with Mary, and he never doubted it, for a moment. And the ANGELS continued to care for the Holy Family, once again instructing Joseph to flee when the Christ Child was in danger. He trusted God with his decision to marry Mary. I want my sons to trust God in their decision making processes, as well.

360 Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1879 Oil Painting by Luc-Olivier Merson

I love this painting and have used it in posts before. It shows Mary and Christ resting on the Sphinx, with Joseph on the ground, as a guard. “The Flight Into Egypt.”  I love so much about this painting. The stillness and peace within that vast desert is conveyed through color and lack of light, except from Christ, Himself. I love that both Mary and Joseph slumber in peace, even with the Divine Light still glowing brightly.  That is what I have hoped for all my children, that they can rest in the Divine Light of Christ.

Letting go a little at a time begins to happen just after birth when we, as mothers, have to let someone else hold our child, who we have kept safe within our womb for the past nine months (or so). And we continue to let go, in steps, often quite literally, as our children grow and walk away. I remember letting my eldest walk into a parochial school kindergarten. I knew the nuns were there and his teacher was amazing. I had complete trust he would be safe, but I still cried – my son ran into class, never looking back. Yeah, that’s typical of my almost-30-year old! Running towards his future! I distinctly remember my chat with our middle son as he prepared to attend school for the first time. (Ironically it was a class with Cathy, who I mentioned above. She was his math teacher and eventually became a dear friend). And after I dropped him off, I cried. He was off to a high school, and not with me. My life has been a series of moments of letting go. Death in our family, friends who have died, and friends along the way we have lost contact with, and my children beginning to have a life separate from mine. They are making memories of which I share no part. It has been hard in many ways, and yet seems right in so many others. As our children merge their childhoods into adulthood, letting go becomes more severe in the sense that the steps are larger. This past summer, our youngest flew across the country to a summer camp – alone. He had to change planes in 4 major airports, and then catch a bus for the camp itself. Last year he attended the same camp, but with a friend. This year he was alone. I was a wreck. Once the camp confirmed he was there, I was finally able to breathe. It was a long journey, for us both. When our eldest went off to war, he took part of me with him. I never slept very well until he was on American soil, once and for all. He doesn’t realize it, but I shed the same sort of tears when he left for basic training as I did when he walked into kindergarten. Dropping my middle son off at college, thousands of miles from home was devastating and exciting, all mixed together. And as each child takes their momentous steps away from home, we all die a little. We mourn their babyhood, and we rejoice at their maturity. Seeing my sons parent their own children is an indescribable joy and part of this whole parenting and letting go process. Parenting is not for wimps or fraidy-cats. This is serious stuff. And it doesn’t stop, even when they are married with children of their own.  I recall my grandfather telling my dad, on his 60th birthday, “Well, son, I guess I can stop worrying about you now.” We all sort of laughed, but as I get closer to 60 myself, I totally understand my grandpa’s statement. My grandfather was 86 at the time, and I think I can see myself worried over my children another 20 years or so!

So, today as I chatted with my son about his date, we laughed and we were both happy. I think he felt good about himself. I know he was proud he paid for it all out of his hoarding abilities. (That kid always has more money on him than I do!). He introduced us to his date and we all chatted a little last night. It was good. They first attended youth group at Church together, which I think is a great place/way to meet someone and get to know them. My husband and I share a strong faith and I know it has been the glue for many years, in our family. I am learning to let go – just like the song admonishes me. My older kids tease me that it’s okay and he will be fine, etc. I know that. But that last one out of the nest is rough. I am looking forward to our empty nest time, though, as we have never known marriage without children (yes, honeymoon baby!) and we have lots of places we want to go and see. So life is getting more exciting, even as we hit our golden years. I hope my kids know I never intentionally held them back, but rather, held their hands until they let mine go.

hands

“..that which we live…”

Abba AseniosI have been accused of being chatty…a chatterbox, someone who talks a lot, verbose, loud-mouthed…you get the picture.  Recently I was accused of being tense, even of creating tension.  I take exception to most of these titles and I wanted to share why…because it caused me pain and I had to reflect on this.  Hence, the post!

When I was younger, I was a real gabber, often speaking because of the joy of it, without anything of merit to really say.  I have always loved talking.  Quite often, I have had people not want to read emails or answer their phones because they just don’t have the time to chat with me, or read my long emails.  I tend to write as much as I like to speak, because it is a way to communicate. And I have been told since I was quite young that I should be a writer. Quite often I feel like I do have a lot to share, and a very limited audience.  Hmmmm….dichotomy.

St Ambrose

I personally feel that I have completely changed from being a chatterbox.  I may write a lot of words, but readers have the choice to stop reading the written word; it is much harder to walk away from someone in a one-on-one conversation, or to get off a phone call that is getting too long.  I have worked hard at practicing Holy Silence throughout my days, as well as choosing to speak less and listen more.  I contemplate more, speak less.

We recently, as many of you know, relocated a great distance from our familiar turf.  In the past three years, we have relocated more than 3,500 miles from our home in Southern California.  For someone who loved to chat, being that far away from close friends took a toll.  It is, in part, the reason I have become a person of fewer words; there’s been no one to talk to.

Being a wife is being a partner, a helpmeet, a better half, a friend.  These roles are supreme, coming before motherhood, in my perspective. If my husband and I are not united firmly in our commitment to one another, the family falls apart.  And so I have tried to be there for my husband, supporting him in everything he does, and everywhere he opts to move us.  We make these choices as a team, so he does not arbitrarily move us to another state.  We talk, we confer, we pray, we contemplate, we weigh and ponder, muse and discuss some more before we choose to do anything.  But ultimately, the choice lays with my husband, as he is the head of this family.  And I support him 100%.  Being accused of being tense and creating tension in the home really got to me.  I see myself as the peacemaker, the one who smooths the ruffled feathers, calms the fears, and bolsters sagging egos; I do not see myself as the “pot-stirrer” in our family.  And so this accusation really hit me today.  And I contemplated it while browsing the grocery store aisles, looking for bargains and fresh broccoli.

Intent to reply

We are who we are. Sometimes we are completely different than the people we were in childhood.  Sometimes we are just taller or older than that awkward kid we once were, with all the awkwardness intact.  Maturity does not necessarily come with age; sometimes all we are is older.  We have people come into our lives in many ways and circumstances.  They have a perception of us and they cling to it.  Years of living apart, both in mileage and life experience, can bring a certain expectation; that they assume you are who you once were…and perhaps therein lies the misconception.

I have been holding it together pretty well, I thought, keeping my frayed nerves under control; my worries buried deep in the wounds of Our Savior.  I read a tale about St. Christopher the other day. He was a huge man and used to carry people across this deep and treacherous stream.  He saw himself as strong and a protector. He was asked by a man to carry him across this treacherous stream and as St. Christopher waded further into the water, the man got heavier and heavier.  He asked the man about it and He explained that He was the Lord; His weight was so great because of the burden of our sins He carried.  St. Christopher offered to carry the weight of our sins, and Our Lord, across that stream.  He is a Saint; we are not, although it is our goal, to become Saints. We are not meant, however, to be St. Christophers, or Christ-bearers. It is the opposite; Christ bears our burdens.  And I firmly believe that. I firmly believe that, as Mark Hart the Bible Geek coined, “God’s got this.”  And I know that if I did not have Christ to lean on and cling to, I would have sunk in that treacherous stream of life long ago. I also learned to honestly, and truly, give to God what He can handle, and what I cannot handle, without Him.

I believe that anyone can change.  And that once we do, it is up to us to share that change with others.  We are to bear Christ, but in our hearts, not on our backs. Being a Christian is a freeing thing.  It comes with responsibility and some rules, but it frees us from so much burden, it is eternally worth it.  I thrive in my faith and prefer that to floundering in the world. I think those who accuse me of being certain ways, after having known me for their entire lives, should take a step back and really see what is happening.  Perhaps they would catch a glimpse of the Divine in action; of the Holy Spirit working in our lives; of the immense trust we have placed in God to bring us to this place.  There will always be tension, especially since we’ve taken this immense risk and are worried sleepless about mounting bills and the lack of income.  But there should also be evidence of trust in God; that our lives are in His hands.   If that is not apparent, or is lacking, that is a fault on my part.  I can believe what I want, but I need to be what I believe. My beliefs need to be who I am…and that should be visible to everyone.

Gerontissa Gabrielia