Friday, August 02, 2013

Resting in...

What a wonderful, insightful, sweet couple of weeks it has been.

I haven't made time for blog entries, mainly because we have been busy, but I promised myself I must blog tonight.  Last post was over a week ago, with Matthew home and the rest of the crew off at church camp.  Though we didn't really do anything special while Matt was home alone, we had several late nights of conversation, and many hours spent side by side working quietly together as I completed learning plans for the coming school year and Matt worked on a little math, a little literature, and installed his autoCAD course.  By the end of the week, we were all ready for a bit more noise around here, and even the fact that the laundry had remained caught up wasn't all that enticing any longer.

We traveled over to the Denver area with friends in tow, as we were going to have a treat and take the kids to Water World after we picked them up from camp.  Dominick remained behind to work while we hit the road.  When we arrived at La Foret on Saturday morning, we had to go in three different directions to collect all four kids.  Matthew was greeted with a couple of bear hugs and tears by his counselor from last year, who was incredibly thoughtful in her comments about all the kids.  It is always a gift to any parent to hear that their children have been appreciated by others.  This time it was Angela in tears as we left to round up Kenny and Joshua.

As we all piled in the Big Van (AKA:  Jorge), all four kids started talking at once, and I had a hard time tracking all that was being said.  Observations and comments I noted were:

1)  For once, Kenny didn't cry when he left.  He loved every moment of it, but he didn't feel as meloncholy upon leaving this year.
2)  Angela was deeply effected and cried.  She told me that she hadn't even tried to connect much with anyone this year, and she was glad there were others there who didn't tug at her much, as this year it was about her faith life.  She said she was so intrigued by what many kids shared about their perspectives on God and other spiritual matters, that she really hadn't wanted the distraction.  Her time at camp definitely brought her new understanding, and she said,"I know I always say this every year, but this was the best year ever!  How can it keep getting better?"
3)  Olesya was quieter about her camp experience, though she spoke a lot about a boy who was not very kind and "messed up".  He was fine with her, but she was concerned about why he felt the need to act out so much.
4)  Joshua had an experience with the labyrinth that was profound, and faith changing. He will carry it with him always, and we had a long conversation about it after we arrived back home.  It was the most he has ever spoken about God and his beliefs.  He is a very concrete, tangible thinker but he "gets" God.  We spoke about his abandonment and our relationship being a way God reached out to him.  Josh said he now felt a little safer and a little more secure after his camp experience this year, that he could feel God with him and that helped a lot.

There was so much more, and I am kicking myself for not getting to a computer and typing it, because I lost the essence of it all...and I don't like that.

The major theme, though, was clear.  Angela, Kenny and Olesya all talked at length about how sad it was that so many of the kids in their camp had very difficult relationships with their parents, and that a number of kids actually said they were very unhappy in their families for a wide variety of reasons.  There was talk about feeling unloved, pushed aside, and being invisible to their family members.  Kenny said, "It was so sad, Mom, and I wished they all could live in our family for even a little while.  I never realized how true it is when you tell us that not every family is like ours.  I just thought it was because we are sort of silly and have fun, but a lot of kids have awful relationships with their moms and dads."  Angela was most bothered by it and talked about it several times over the course of the weekend.  She wanted to know why it was so hard for families to be open with one another and show love.  She asked if things would get better as the kids grew older, or if their families would always be separate.  Olesya chimed in that there was a lot of sadness in some of the kids, and that she thought they were too young to be so sad.

Another theme was one that surprised all three of the older kids, and that was how many kids said that camp was the only place they felt they could truly be their selves, and that they almost always felt they had to pretend to be someone different at school and at home.  None of the three could understand that very well, as they are not often in situations where they can't be authentically who they are.  That bothered them to think there were so many kids who had to walk around pretending to be something they weren't.

I tried my best to keep up with the conversation the entire way back to Denver, but it was hard staying tuned in to each one of them as they went on and on about their adventures for the week. We arrived at the water park, where we all spent several hours with our friends enjoying the cool attractions, and even the moms and grandmas got in on the act.

The richest part of the weekend for me was the simplest.  At the end of the day, we returned to the  Super 8, where eleven of us then crowded into our hotel room where we had laid out a smorgasbord of cold cuts, tortillas, lettuce, crackers and whatever else we had left.  As the harsh late afternoon sun gave way to the golden glow of early summer evening, we sat there munching and laughing, as we told "Our Most Embarrassing Moment" stories among those we love.  Though we were shy a couple of other dear young ones, there in that tiny hotel room with ugly bed coverings and no space to walk, there was total acceptance of who we all are.  A grandma, two moms, and eight kids...and among them African American/Caucasian/Asian/Hispanic...and not a single person in the room noting anything unusual about it.  We laughed, and even the adults got in on the stories as we shared our own very human moments in the presence of our kids.

It may not be anyone else's idea of heaven, but it sure was mine.  Giggles, grins and graham crackers.  Older kids nurturing younger ones, adult friends treasuring time together.  God was present...I always sense God in these seemingly very ordinary day to day events, and I am so grateful not to miss that.

The weekend was a surprisingly emotional one for me, personally.  I don't think I can explain it well, but as we rushed home to get back to church in time for all these same kids to put on a play for our evening worship service...a play about the power of community and sharing resources...I was filled with a connection to the Spirit I haven't felt in oh-so-long.  God has blessed us greatly, this little family of ours.  Looking in my rear view mirror during the long drive, listening to some of my favorite music that speaks to of family, of commitment, and the healing power of abiding love, it was hard not to sob openly as I saw my children, so content and changed by their camp experience.  I realized I am at a very solid place in my life right now, with a husband who is a one-of-a-kind guy, friends whose love is deep and complete, and children who are gradually healing from the hurts of their past. My soul was filled to the brim, and that has carried through this week.

I have returned to a special place in my heart, returning to a familiar warmth and glow that comes from living in immense gratitude for all I have never deserved.  The past year or so was filled with a lot of sorrow and struggle, and I think my heart broke a little as we watched our church life change, our children continue to battle learning challenges, and I accepted roles that were not well suited for me but accepted them because jobs needed to get done. I have learned a lot about myself the past couple of months, and about where my personal "sweet spot" is.  I don't quite have it all figured out yet, but I am growing closer to being a wiser Cindy.

I have learned that I am quite comfortable with "not knowing" and uncertainty, something I never would have been able to say about myself 10 years ago.  I have discovered that in doing things I am not good at, I am actually learning a lot because knowing what we do not want to do/can't do well is just as important as discovering exactly what we ARE good at and DO want to do. We often discount our experiences that are "failure-ish" instead of regarding them as helpful information.  I have also seen more clearly that my life, as it stands now, is awesome in its own unflashy way.  I have grown ever more grateful for the sacrifices my husband makes for us all, if that is even possible because I have always been so astounded by what he is willing to do, but it is like a vein deep below the surface of the earth these days, a vein not of gold, but flowing with love.

Someone recently told me I live in a house of Old Souls, and I heartily agree.  It is a surprise to run into a single young person in a group who would be labelled "Old Soul", and yet here I sit, surrounded by them.  When I dreamed of a family and the children we might one day have, it is interesting to note that I never asked God for attractive kids or gifted kids.  Instead, I asked that my life never grow weary or dull, and that though I thought I could somehow handle kids with learning challenges, I knew would have a desperately hard time connecting with kids who were not capable of going to deep places.

As I recall the kinds of conversations I have had the past 3 weeks or so as camp now recedes, clearly God heard my plea and filled my life with the most interesting people who could fill that desire of my heart, and who would eventually carry our last name.  As a bonus, God has continued to have folks cross our path who are nurturing, accepting, gracious, and whose gifts have changed our all our lives in dramatic ways.  Our kids would not be who they are without our "village".  Neither would Dominick or I.

It's time to get off this thing and head off to bed.  We have young house guests tonight who need to be returned early in the day.  I pray for these siblings with us this day.  We don't know them well, but they have suffered tremendous, ongoing losses and yet still are very gentle, kind kids.  The world can be a harsh, cold place.  It is up to us to create safe and soft landing spots...even temporary ones...for all we meet.  So, so many have done that for our family time and time again.  And now if I don't stop writing, my emotions will once again overtake me, and make it hard to go to sleep.

Resting well in gratitude this night...

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