when did i go from a girl eager to get up on the high ropes course, to a woman relishing a quiet house and a week of organizing closets?
when did this happen?
this week, all but the oldest child, are at summer camp. tyler and sarah were dropped off at a christian sports/wilderness camp in the north georgia mountains, while connor and bella are attending a sports/wilderness day camp at our church. except for the 16 year old, who comes and goes at her own pace, my house is empty from 9am to 4pm every day. i am pretty sure, since entering the realm of motherhood, i have never had a week quite like this. i certainly have never seen my house so quiet and calm and clean (oh yes, so wonderfully clean!)
the first day i scoured the kitchen from top to bottom, and when i came back into it an hour later -- it was still clean! i'm not kidding, the room was still spotless. can you even imagine? i stood there, mouth gaping and then slow smile spreading--oh the simple pleasures of summer children well-occupied.
this week, i have discovered some truth: summer camp isn't intended for kids...it is actually designed for parents needing to catch their breath. can i get an a-men? i had to fight the urge the first day to tidy up the whole house and then spend time just walking serenely around it, taking in its pristine state, basking in the unwrinkled beds and unsticky countertops. you think i'm strange? come and live in my home on a normal day, and then you'll know just why i might revel so oddly in a brief moment of serenity.
it's not that i haven't missed my children. i have! without fail, i've checked the camp website every evening for updated pictures of my boy and girl at sleep-away camp. i have delighted in their obvious fun, enormous smiles and muddy clothing. they are clearly having the time of their lives and i can't wait to pick them up this weekend and hear their stories. i know my sarah will talk non-stop, all the way home. and each day at 4pm, when it is time to pick up connor and bella, i am always excited to see them running towards me: faces flushed and energy spent, smelling of the outdoors and sunshine and sweat. i wasn't sure if bella could handle this all day camp thing -- but it's clear, she has adored being there. she is the tiniest camper by far, i've been told, the counselors all take turns carrying her around, like the camp mascot or babydoll. each morning when i wake her and tell her it is time to get ready for camp, she responds with a big "yes!" i guess she has handled it just fine. the first day on the way out the door, she stopped and said, "oh no, mom, i forgot my pajamas!" and she turned to run back inside. i burst out laughing and explained, "honey, you aren't sleeping at your camp. you don't need your jammies. you'll be home in time for dinner." not one bit of concern or worry from this kid -- day camp or sleep away camp, she's all in!
so what does a woman do when her house has emptied of children?
the night before they all left, i posted on facebook that i was waffling between two plans for my week alone. plan one: cleaning and organizing my entire house. plan two: emptying several cartons of ice cream while catching up on all the movies i've missed in the past five years. everyone who responded to my post, encouraged the ice cream and movie thing. my middle girl even told me if i did that she'd be very proud of me. but those of you who know me, know there is nothing i love more than puttering around in my house -- uninterrupted. i did watch puss and boots one night with connor and bella, but other than that fine film, i have forgone the call of ice cream and couch.
instead this week, i did some serious digging into the house -- my own version of wilderness camp. closets and cabinets and drawers -- oh my! i am amazed at what was unearthed -- perhaps appalled would be a better word. we have a lot of stuff. too much stuff, in fact. and so i've spent the week creating piles: throw-away, give-away, keep. i've done this room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer. music blasting and woman singing, i've moved with a mission around my home unhindered. most of the time i have enjoyed my little, self-imposed project. i've enjoyed not having to fight off kids who are certain they "couldn't-possibly-part-with-this-thing-a-ma-jig" (this thing which they haven't touched in a year). i've enjoyed the sense of accomplishment, the paring down, the purging, the utter orderliness of it all. though i have to admit, there have been moments at the end of the day, when i am a little weary of sorting game pieces and playing cards and legos and lint, and i find myself just staring crazily at it all and considering running an ad in the newspaper (or on facebook!) and announcing a big "cash and carry! - everything must go sale!" can you imagine rick coming home from his work week in minnesota and finding us sleeping on carpets, eating from take out cartons.
but my tears had less to do with the tangled extension cords and everything to do with our tangled lives. you see, as i was trying to fix this mess, i started to think about how much our family is tangled up in this place we call home. i started thinking about how woven we are into the fabric of our school and church and community. i started to think about how tangled up we are in the lives of people. and just like this box of extension cords, i wasn't sure how we'd ever unravel ourselves from the big knot of those we love. okay, perhaps i was just tired. perhaps it was the garage fumes getting to my silly head. perhaps i am stretching too far with this one, regardless of what this was, i sat there a big old tangled mess on my dirty garage floor with my box of many cords and my many, many tears.
but funny enough, God meets us even in the dirt and grime and mess of our garages. in the midst of all that , a tiny sliver of clarity found my brain, and i took the big old mess of interwoven extension cords and heaved them back into the box. why did i need to unravel them? i didn't. i did not. no, they were fine just the way they were and they could move with us in this very box without any unravelling taking place at all. and the same goes for our family. we don't have to unwind ourselves from this life. just because we are moving a 1000 miles away doesn't mean we have to unravel ourselves from the people we love. we can pack up the big old tangled mess of our relationships and take them with us. we can. God isn't asking us to sever, He is asking us to further sow. sow new friendships and new relationships. sow new seed, but all the while, continuing to grow with those we love. maybe sitting on my garage floor in the middle of extension cords, was a strange place to learn a lesson, but it was a good lesson to learn. and i am thankful even in my messiest places, God chooses to whisper His truth.
we aren't untethering, we are continuing. we aren't unravelling, we are reaching. we aren't extinguishing, we are extending. last week we met some new friends while in minnesota. my new friend, leslie, sent a picture of me with these ladies. attached to the photo she wrote, "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold." i was a girl scout many moons ago and i remember learning that little song. i was probably ten or so when i first heard those words, how could i have ever imagined what they would mean to me in all these many years of loving and leaving and meeting and growing with people. true words. beautiful words.
so this week, my kids were all off to wilderness camp. while they were up on the high ropes course, while they were out on the river, while they were in canoes and kayaks and rivers and lakes, their mother stayed home and cleaned out closets. but maybe, just maybe this is my own version of the high ropes course. i know what we are doing is an adventure. my survival skills will all be called upon in these next couple of months of uncharted territory. of course there will be some wild, wild wilderness out ahead-- i'm sure of it! but i am even more sure of the God who leads and whispers and makes a way in our (clean or messy, organized or disorganized, smooth or tangled) wilderness.
"behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." ~ isaiah 43:19
|charting their course down river|
|boys praying with counselors before their kayak trip|
|girls backpacking trip -- a grand adventure!|