Thursday, August 22, 2013

life is moving along...can you let my heart know?

so I feel all dramatic and over-emotional and sensitive (or wimpy...whichever term you prefer...) and tender (my mom's word for this one is "fluff"...i'm sure I've blogged about it

our oldest left for a year of missionary work on the fifth of this month.  that's seventeen days ago for those playing along...


he's in Wisconsin right now.  he was in Minnesota until the eighteenth (which happened to be his nineteenth birthday...not that i'm looking for sympathy that my first child's nineteenth birthday was spent away...i'm really not...well, not a lot of sympathy...a little would be fine, I guess...if you insist).

he is spending a year growing in and witnessing to his faith in God. 

first of all, I never...may I repeat...NEVER thought i'd have a child who would do something like this.  one time, when my second born (who was a very good people kind of kid) was two years old, I made the comment, in the presence of a very catholic woman (just felt the need to let you know that) that I thought because he was so good with people, he may end up either a priest or a politician.  now, before I share her response, let me tell you, this was a pretty novel thing to fall out of my mouth.  I've never considered how priests became priests....what kind of families raised priests...i'd never even considered what kind of kids priests were as children because it just always seemed to me that priests were always they got there was a mystery.  the fact that most of them seem to come from other countries might've played a little into that.  anyway, this woman...this very catholic woman (did I mention that?) responded...rather emphatically..."don't EVER say that again.  you do not want your son to be a priest.  it is the loneliest life ever."  and I promptly left musings or jokes or whatever that comment was out of my conversation (and mind) from then on.

until now.  it crosses my mind occasionally.  like when my sons say, "mom, you realize we might not give you grandchildren."  and I say, "that's fine.  i'm not raising you for the grandkids.  seriously, it's ok.  i'm a kid magnet."  and then they say, "well, because we might be priests."  and I say, "oh, ok.  let me know if that's what you decide."  because really, I have no idea what the proper response is to that stuff. 

yes, i'm catholic.  yes, I've taken my kids to mass most sundays of their lives, made sure they took their sacraments.  frankly, I didn't even become catholic until 1998.  and I did it because my husband was catholic.  so when he told me, two years later that he wasn't sure if he believed in God, well, I was pissed.  really pissed.  I believe my response was something like, "I got on this bus because you were going to drive it.  what the hell do you mean you're thinking about getting off?!?!"  and at that point, I just took over making sure my kids had a spiritual life...of some sort.  because I wasn't raised particularly religious (most of my biblical knowledge came from the musical jesus Christ superstar and was later supplemented by joseph and the amazing Technicolor dreamcoat, which, by the way, made me the most knowledgeable kid in my youth group growing up about the life of jesus...just sayin).  but I have always believed in the good in the world, the good in people, and hope.  I don't know why, but I have always had hope.  silly, sentimental, tender, wishful, optimistic hope.

so I did things like take my kids in the yard, have them break a stick, then put a bunch of sticks together and see how hard that was to break compared to the single stick.  I told them to stick together...with family, with be strong.  I told them to let single sticks into their groups to be stronger.  I told them it was good to stand for what you believed in, but that seriously, if it was good, there were probably others to stand with and that I would always stand with them, even if they were wrong, because love is like that.  (of course, I've torn them a few new ones in private...but I guess that's just how I am...integrity and dignity and all that rot.)

so I fashioned together this sort of hippie, catholic, Christian, hope-centered spirituality for them.  and tried not to be mad at my husband.  (a priest actually helped me out with that...said my husband had to reject his parent's faith and find his own, yada yada yada...I was grateful)

and we moved along.  we moved out here and looked for a church, but didn't find one we felt like we fit at.  then my oldest (it's always that first born that takes the bull by the horns) chose our church.  because the music at the teen mass was good.  and we found our home.  I started working with the teens, he started singing in the choir, reading at mass, got confirmed, went to a catholic school, the second got involved, I started teaching cce...we are quite involved, to tell the truth.

and in that time, I've started examining my faith.  reading the writings of my church.  which are quite beautiful, despite what you hear come out of the mouths of some of its members.  I started getting comfortable.  I now have devout catholic friends, as well as the rest of my friends I've had my whole life.  and they've mixed a few times at various parties and things.  and enjoyed each others' company, as best I can tell.  (my sister's been a most excellent lesbian-ambassador for my sheltered catholic friends...they "just feel love from her"...which is kind of hard not to laugh out loud when they tell me that--given the reaction i'm pretty sure my sister would have if she knew that was what they were feeling from her--but I think God is pretty amazing and, well, it just makes sense even if it is kind of hilarious...have I mentioned how much I love my sister?)

and now my son is away.  being a missionary for the next year.  (it's really just til may, but that's practically a year, so since I've been honest here, let's just give me the right to call it a heart appreciates it)

he texted us pretty regularly the first two weeks.  very revealing texts like "good night :) I love you guys :)".  oh, was that too sarcastic?  I don't mean to be sarcastic.  it was hard getting such little texts, but it was also good.  it meant he was alive, able to text....these are good check points when your child leaves home and is so many states away and you really have no idea what they're doing.  we did get a call.  it was...weird.  his voice was funny.  he didn't seem to have a lot to say.  I really didn't know what all to say either.  he talked to all of his brothers and when he told me good-bye, I was pretty sure he was crying.  it was not the most uplifting moment.  but that same night, the musicians (which he is one of) live streamed individual performances, and he chose to perform "watershed" by the indigo girls.  which made his dad and I cry.  well, I bawled.  I won't say his dad bawled...but the tears were pretty free.  it made me feel like he was okay.  he looked at the camera a lot.  he said hi to us at the beginning.  and at the end, he said "I love you, mama."  it made me feel like he missed us, but he was glad to "see" us and he was okay.  so I made the brave decision not to call the missionary ministry and demand they send my homesick nineteen year old home.  see how brave I was?

we've spoken to him one other time.  he sounded much better.  tired.  emotional.  overwhelmed.  but good.  he's surrounded himself with this huge team of missionary-wannabes.  they're in training for five weeks to become real-life missionaries.  I know who he was when I sent him.  I know what he was doing before I sent him.  I don't imagine most missionaries spent hours on computer games or listening to music or gloving or at the movies or watching the walking dead (although he did mention that a lot of the missionary-wannabes were fans of the walking dead...which I suppose is appropriate...they're trying to revitalize and renew, right?  there's a connection there somewhere...). 

anyway, my point is that jesus calls us to die to pick up the cross and follow him.  I think most Christians approach this from different angles, gentle angles, as we live our regular lives.  I think my oldest (and all of the other missionaries-in-training) are hitting this work head on.  they are laying down all of their regular comforts...computers, friends, family, free time, social lives as most of us know them, as well as any identity they may have tied in to those things...and getting to the heart of who God is and who God calls them to be.  and this makes me proud, it makes me scared, it makes me grateful and anxious and awed and worn out.  and maybe a few others i'm not listing.

mothers don't like to see their kids hurt.  neither do fathers, as best I can tell.  and we know he is hurting.  we know he is confronting things in himself that are hard.  I could maybe even name a few I might wish i'd helped him through before he left.  but this is a test of our faith as much as it is a test of his.  I know he's affirmed it before he even began the test.  I know he had the prize in mind...a prize I hadn't even really considered, to be honest...before he even left.  I don't think it makes the journey any easier, but I do think he has a faith in the destination that will get him there.  and I have faith, too.  but what I am left with is wondering how to walk that faith now that this journey has begun.  I know he will come back changed.  but he has a program to guide him through his journey.  we, on the other hand...the parents, the brothers (oh, how his brothers miss him) and the sister (her, not so much)...we don't have a program.  but we will be changed.  there is no mistaking that.

and this is where the hippie, soul-ster, touchy-feely, instinctual mama flouders a bit.

I know this is not about me.  well, the my life part of my life is about me.  but I know this isn't ALL about me.  yet I do want to guide my kids, my family well.  i am still working through the feelings of all of this still...the realizations, the insights, the praying and the talking about it.  it's hard.  who can you talk to when you're working through this?  the jesus-y friends just smile and tell you it's in God's hands...which i know, but i still want to cry and cuss and drink a few (ten) beers and maybe wallow a minute.  and the non-jesus-y friends don't know what to say about all the jesus and God and dying to yourself stuff, although most of them are willing to drink lots of beer with me.

so I've been writing.  which means not a lot of blogging.  which apparently leads to marathon blogs.  i'm just struggling at doing this (which I suppose is the way it's meant to be done, but it doesn't lessen the struggle to know that, you know?).  because nothing in my life was consciously lived to prepare me for this part of the journey.  but, because i believe in God's kindness and wisdom and mercy, it would seem everything in my life was lived to prepare me for this part of the journey.  and that, dear friends, is where my work is...  now, let me go finish my beer...


1 comment:

jigsaw words said...

i love you. i love your writing and need to read it more often. how do you find the time to write? and i laughed outloud at your lesbian ambassador sister....:)

love you, but i already said that....