Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Wheaton Trip

I just returned from my first and only college trip with my son.  What a great trip!  We did  sign him up to visit Bethel, a local Christian College he got into, but all we did was go to a brief parent q&a and leave.  We did not visit the school with him and even he did not take part in the entire experience.  But this week Jake and I traveled to Wheaton, IL to visit Wheaton College.  I have to admit that secretly in the back of my mind I have wanted Jake to attend Wheaton since he was a little boy.  I didn't know much about the school except that it has a great reputation for pumping out Christian leaders, it was hard to get into, a big deal to attend if you are in the Christian circles and it is expensive.  With those details in my mind I was afraid to really hope, dream, encourage Wheaton too much.  As an impressed teacher told Jake when he found out Jake got into Wheaton, it is the "Christian College Harvard".

Apparently I talked it up enough or it has a good enough reputation on its own that Jake decided to apply.  I didn't even dare consider that he would get in.  But then he did!  We were all so excited.

As proud as Jake is to have gotten in, Wheaton isn't his number one choice.  He was on his way to Northeastern in Boston (His girlfriend is at MIT).  Or so he thought...

He was interested enough that he conviced me it was worth my time and money to drive down and visit Wheaton.  I decided that the opportunity to spend 7 hours down and 7 more back with him in a car was worth the experience even if the school was a bust.  So off we went with low expectations but lots of enthusiasm on Thursday morning.

After a wonderful and blessed drive down where we covered the gammit of topics, we arrived on campus a couple hours before the program and just got a cup of coffee and hung out in the student center.  We walked over at 4pm and while I won't bore you with every detail of the trip I will say that I don't know if I have ever seen God's hand in so many ways in a 2 day period before.  Wonderful people, great connections, every question answered and opportunities we didn't even know we could want presented to us.

Highlights include:

  • Talking to the Education department head who used to teach at Jake's high school and had just come to Wheaton from several years at a school in Boston and was planning to visit the church we have a connection to down there on Sunday.  He was able to talk up Northeastern while then telling Jake why Wheaton was better.

  • Walking up to the ROTC guy who recognized Jake's name because he had been looking at his file that afternoon. Then talking with a second year cadet who answered all this mother's questions and really sold the Wheaton ROTC experience well.

  • Ending the visit with a trip to just meet the wrestling coach hoping there would be any opportunity for a kid with limited wrestling experience but lots of enthusiasm to be part of the program.  Findng out that the program is in a building phase and every kid who comes out gets on the team.  Then talking to a wrestler that is also in ROTC.

Wheaton pretty much hit every point on Jake's list and then some.  The two words I told Jake I felt were what I most liked about the school and Jake agreed are, "Mentoring" and "Community".  The professors don't just teach but every person we met teacher, coach, ROTC all used the word mentor.  They see themselves as more than just information givers but are looking at the student as a whole and helping them be fully prepared for life after college.  And life after college is more than just a career.  The students all were clearly part of a community and were bonded within.

This mama left feeling very satisfied both by the visit and by conversations we had about possible financial aid and ROTC scholarship opportunities still available for Jake.  And my favorite future college student admited that his trip this week to Northeastern has competition he did not anticipate.  He is going to have to take the visit much more seriously.

So now I am home not sure if I am on a high or if I should just move straight into fret and panic over the trip to Boston this week.  I feel as his parent I have every right to share what I think he should do and I assure you he knows it is Wheaton and not Boston.  To be clear, if he chooses Northeastern I will become its biggest fan because my favorite freshman will be attending in the fall.  But I want him at Wheaton and I think God is leading him there.  Unfortunately, I can't make that decision for him.  Jake has to make the choice, hear God's call, live with the decision.

So as I sit here on Saturday afternoon trying to solve a problem that won't be solved today and control a trip I can't control.  I am learning patience.  I am learning trust, of God and my son.  I am reminding myself that I didn't expect God to work as he did in the trip to Wheaton and He was amazing.  So why wouldn't He do the same with the trip to Northeastern?  I am praying for clarity and ease of decision.  I don't know what will happen next but I am assured that whether Jake ends up in Boston or Wheaton God will be there with him.

In the mean time:  Go Wheaton!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Enjoying my personal Garden of Eden

I  have been thinking lately about Adam and Eve.  They lived in the garden of Eden and had their pick of any tree and fruit in the garden except one.  So what did they spend their time thinking and worrying about?  Yep, the one tree.  Not the beautiful Garden of Eden they lived in, not the beauty of their surroundings or the joy of being able to literally walk with God.  They focused on what they did not have.  Satan stepped in and took advantage of the situation.

I can't stop thinking about how this applies to my life.  How often I focus on the one tree I don't have rather than enjoying the fact that I have an entire garden.  We want what we don't have and we don't appreciate what we do have.

Case in point:  As I am writing this Isabelle is complaining to John about the fact that we only dyed our Easter eggs one way and she wishes we could have tried many other ways.  John asked her if she had fun dying our eggs and she said yes.  Then he asked her if she would rather dye eggs every way possible or have fun.

I have read a lot about gratitude lately.  I have mentioned Ann Voskamp's blog and book here before.  She took up a challenge to write down 1,000 things she is thankful for and hasn't stopped.  I saw one book written by John Kralik whose life was changed by writing thank you notes: 365 Thank Yous: How a year of simple Gratitude changed my life.  Neither of their lives are better than the rest of ours but the shift in thinking from problem to gratitude has given them greater joy and peace in the circumstances.

On the days when  I focus on the blessings of my day I tend to feel better and get more done than I do on the days I focus on what I don't like or don't have.  I am at peace, blessed beyond measure.  My life is full of "gifts" as Ann would call them.  The gifts God gives us every day, all day, if we just open our eyes to see them.

So I have decided to come up with a list of 100 things I am thankful for in my job by the end of the month.  My desire to quit my job and be more present in my family life is very much my forbidden tree.  It is the thing that is keeping me from seeing and enjoying the beautiful garden I live in.  So far I am up to 31 things.  The first 25 came quite quickly.  And each day I am trying to see something else I can add to the list.  Like Wednesday when I had a training that went through lunch so they bought us lunch.  Free lunch, how great is that?  I could have seen the forbidden tree, no lunch break, but instead focused on the garden and the blessing.

Take notice of your garden of Eden today and stop worrying about the forbidden tree.  God is taking care of that.

1 Chronicles 16:34

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Isabelle turns 7

Isabelle turned 7 last month.  We did celebrate it but barely.  I wanted to have a party for her friends but I had to let that go a week or so before, I just didn't have the money or energy for such a thing. (yet another complaint! I am so over myself!)  Then my cousin called to ask if I wanted to combine Isabelle's family party with her daughter's party a week later.  At first I wanted to say no because I wanted to have a party for Isabelle.  I do love throwing parties.  But I quickly realized what a blessing this request was and accepted.  And it was a wonderful combined party.  Good times were had by all.

The big day.  We reached a new stage of Jake's life where he actually went and bought her a gift with is own money AND it was a good gift.  A little dragon pillow pet.  Very exciting.
We gave her almost everything on her list as nothing cost more than $10.  Lots of craft and painting supplies.

John made this lovely cake, she requested angel food, for her birthday.  We did decide to invite my brother's family bowling with us for her birthday but I didn't even think to bring the camera.  They wouldn't let us bring homemade food into the bowling alley (if I had bought the cake we could have eaten it there.) So we drove over to the mall and ate it in the nearly deserted food court after bowling.  There was a table full of couples around our parents age and they were all excited to see us there eating cake for Isabelle's birthday.  One of them came over and gave her a dollar and another a quarter for the candy machines.  I bought $1 Dairy Queen ice cream cones for all the kids and it really turned out to be better than eating it at the bowling alley.

The family party.  Here is the birthday princess on her gift opening throne.

Jake wrestling with his little cousin.  Knowing how much Jake loved when older boys would give him attention, it is a joy to see him play with his cousins.

The birthday girls:  Anaka and Isabelle

Oops there is always something you forget.  Nobody bought candles!  Angie found 4 in her cupboard so Anaka got 2 for being 2 and Isabelle graciously agreed to let 2 candles symbolize 7.

Anaka wasn't quite sure how this blowing thing worked so Isabelle gave her a little help.

Happy Birthday to my sweet and wonderful 7 year old girl!  You are a blessing everyday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wrestling Letter

I know I did a whole post with pictures of wrestling already so this is just a post with picture of him actually receiving his letter.

It seems like I should have a few more words to go with this post so here goes.  You know how people will sometimes comment in a negative way about parents living vicariously through their children?  I realize in practice that can go wrong and be a bad thing but as I sat with the idea of Jake's letter afterward I felt a little like I was living vicariously  through my son.  Like all the things I wished I had done in high school but didn't know how to or didn't have the confidence to, he is doing.  I love watching my son do things I never would have done and seeing what it is like from this side of the high school experience.

I suppose there are people out there who felt like high school was great, they did it all right and they want their children to have the exact same experience they had.  Good for them.  For the rest of us I think we want to see our children do more, experience more, be more.  I didn't just want Jake to get better grades than me, be more athletic than me, achieve more, getting into better colleges, have a better social life.  I wanted Jake to pursue his passions, believe he could do anything he wanted and not be afraid to reach for them, to just enjoy himself in that uninhibited way you can enjoy yourself as a child before the responsibilities of adulthood come along.  If while pursuing his passions opportunities to achieve came along I wanted him to learn to reach for the top and not settle for good enough.

What has been fun about helping Jake reach higher and achieve is that it has taught me a lot about myself.  I see in him the same excuses and weaknesses I see in myself.  As I have pushed him I have learned to push myself.  And as I have seen him believe and achieve I am learning to believe in myself and believe I can achieve success in my endeavors.

So yes, I am living vicariously through my son and I could not be prouder of both of us.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Pictures

How many times can I complain about working in one year?  Many.  Well I am so close to having experienced every phase of the year while working full time.  One of the last things I did before coming up with this crazy life changing plan was to celebrate Easter.  The day after my mom and I loaded up her little convertible for the 4 day drive back to MN and on the road God planted this life changing idea in my head.

SO, this year I didn't get out a single Easter decoration. Did not dig out any reserection eggs, did not pull out my stations of the cross booklet, did not give up anything for lent, did not read any children's books to Isabelle about Easter. Not even the lame Dora one that is all about the colors of the eggs with no message at all about Christ. And I am bummed because I have the book, "parable of the Easter Lilly" and I have always been amazed by the fact that the little girl gets up early on Easter morning to pick fresh flowers for the breakfast table and sees the special lily. No flowers are ever blooming on Easter morning in Minnesota. Except this year when they are! So I really wanted to read that book to Isabelle in anticipation of blooming flowers on Easter. But I didn't.  Still we managed to go to 2 of the 3 Holy Week services at our church and each one was a wonderful blessing.  As was the beautiful Easter morning service.  I praise God because even when I don't do anything but show up his sacrifice has sanctified me for eternity.

Not an Easter Lily but still a pretty exciting sight on Easter morning.

I had totally forgotten about dying eggs until Isabelle came home from the neighbors where she had helped them do thiers.  So we managed to squeeze it in Saturday afternoon before the Easter Vigil, Jake was already at the church.

And I managed to sneak off to the store for some Easter basket goodies on Saturday morning.  I spent way too much time in the Christian bookstore contemplating my options but it was enjoyable.  I always put a devotional in my kids baskets.  This year Jake told me he doesn't really like traditional devotional books so I got him a bible commentary instead so he can do his own research.

Also, I hid them the night before as usual.  When Isabelle was little I would just set the basket next to a chair or something and she would come upon it.  I figured she was old enough to actually search this year and so I hid it a little better than usual.  She was totally confused when after a cursury scan of the room she didn't see it.  Apparently I needed to step up my hiding a few years ago.  And even thought I told Jake what room his was in it still took him a while to find it.  I stuck it in with a pile of toys and although it was somewhat in plain sight there is so much visual stimulation it was hard to distinguish.  For some reason making basket hiding a challenge thrills me every year.

After church we met my brother's family for brunch.

Isabelle and Sofie 

Mike and Julia, neither really wanted thier picture taken but better to smile than be stuck with a bad picture.

Caleb, aka the bottomless pit, ate more than the rest of the kids combined but managed to be just the right age to still eat free.

The charming Lilia

Baby Gloria, not particularly excited here but once she got a little sugar in her system she smiled and chatted away.

My boys finishing off a couple more plates of food.  It is a buffet after all.  EAT UP boys, I am not serving dinner. 

There was a corner next to our table the kids couldn't disturb anyone and they stood there playing rock, paper, scissors and then going through Sofie's reserection eggs while we finished off the meal.  Then as we were paying the bill and getting ready to leave they all ran back for one more plate of food.

After the meal we walked a block down to the lake for some family pictures.  It was a bit bright and I am not thrilled with my squinting face, even though I felt like I had my eyes WIDE open.  Otherwise it is a pretty good picture.  I let my stylist darken my hair last week and now that the initial shock of not coming home blond is wearing off I think I like it.

Then we tried to get my brother's family to sit for a picture.  It takes a few shots,

but I think we got something worth posting somewhere in there.

Happy Easter.  He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Picture Posts

I haven't had much in the way of deep thoughts lately.  At least nothing I am prepared to share but I finally took the camera out recently so I thought I would thrill you all this week with a few photo story posts.

For this one I thought I would just post a few random ones for no reason:

4th of July waiting for the fire works.  Dreaming of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Randomly ran into a good friend at fireworks.  Apparently we have been going to the same fireworks show for years and this was the first time we ever ran into each other.  Small world.

A rare sight (unfortunately) but always fun to see her reading in bed.

Self portrait

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I can do it!

I enjoyed my 30's.  I grew, matured, lived life and saw dreams come true.

My sister spent her 30's having babies, raising toddlers and gaining weight.  She has been telling us for the past few years that her 40's are going to be her decade to pull it all together.  I thought that sounded exciting and was looking forward to further growth in this next decade.

I started my 40's feeling pretty good.  Well, I ended my 30's feeling pretty good.  I did a triathlon a few months before my birthday thinking it would launch me into my 40's on a positive, you can do anything, note.  Yet somehow so far the 40's have not exactly been all I dreamed they would be.

6 months after my birthday I found my entire life tossed up like a salad.  With John back in school and me back working a low paying, dead end job it seems more like returning to our 20's than moving towards further maturity and adventure.

And my body is not all about this aging either.  At first I just had one whiskerish hair that would occasionally grow on my chin.  It was a charming mark of age I was ready to embrace.  It could be easily plucked when it appeared but now they seem to be multiplying!  My once smooth, lovely back is now covered in age spots and, gasp, acne.  And my emotions are a crazy roller coaster ride that I have a suspicion will end with me killing someone.  I am also pretty sure that, as my hair color is a few weeks over due for a refresher, I am seeing gray hairs glisten in the bathroom mirror.  And while I can still see perfectly, let's face it, I am on a rapid downhill slide toward cheaters and cataract.


It is all about attitude.  And I need to change mine!

While I would never want to actually re-live my 20's, I have often thought about how much better it would be if I had the wisdom of age while going through it.  Opportunity! I AM re-living my 20's in some ways, supporting my husband while he is in school, with the maturity and wisdom of the 40's.  I don't have the kind of free time I had at 20 but I know better how to use the time I do have.  I don't have to waste my time feeling discontent, wishing for something to change, hanging out with people who don't value me.  I have developed a solid friendship circle, I know what I want, I know what I need to do to get it and I have seen success in my life enough to believe I can achieve anything I put my mind to.

With John in school my 40's are going to be about career building.  Not job having.   Not simply working to work but, building a Career.  My career.  These will be my working years but I am going to work on my own terms and my potential is only limited by ME.  John will be in school for the next several years learning a new set of skills for the next stage of his career.  But, the past 17 years I have been learning the skills I need to begin my own career.

New attitude about the 40's:  I can do anything!

Year 1 (40): the plan.
Year 2 (41): the reorganization
Year 3 (42): let the games begin!

I am definitely still in Year 2, I am 7 months away from my birthday.  But it was a year ago this month that I was in Florida helping my mom get ready to pack up and leave her winter home for Minnesota.  And it was the 4 days in the car driving home that I was able to really think about our life and where we were going.  And I hatched this crazy plan for John to go back to school and me to go back to work full time.  A year later we have totally re-organized our life, we have a vision for where we are going and how we will get there.  With the distractions of the life I lived as a stay-at-home mom gone I am ready for the next stage of this career building decade.

20 years ago we couldn't have done it.  This is the life and the choices of 2 people who know themselves, know what they want and know how to get it.  And those are things you don't have in your 20's.

Lest we forget and think I can do this on my own:

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength" Phil 4:13

I read that verse when I was baptized at 18.  I could not have imagined the life I would go forward to lead but, I knew then, as now, that as long as God was by my side I could do anything He asked me to.