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Stealing Lilacs

This blog post has been a long time in coming. It was months ago when the lilacs were in bloom that it began to bud in my heart. I don’t own a lilac bush. Someday when I own a home it’s on my list. I grew up in a home where there were 2 lilac bushes. I remember cutting some early in the morning, wrapping the stems in wet paper towels and bring bunches to my elementary school teachers. As a side note I can’t imagine I thought this up on my own and believe I must have been copying one of my fellow schoolmates.

What happens though when you’re an adult, don’t own a lilac tree and love fresh cut lilacs in your home? What happens when your dear neighbor in her 90’s who lives in her own lilac-less apartment loves lilacs as well? It’s clear you must find and acquire enough to spread the aroma through not one but two apartments. So each spring I set out to my usual locations to see if the lilacs are plentiful. There is a spot where I need to walk ½ a mile down a path and bend the upper branches down to retrieve the lilacs reaching for the sun. A town park down the road has planted a few bushes in the last few years. I assist the town in pruning. A few miles away there is a home with at least 50 feet worth of lilac bushes planted like a fence between their yard and the sidewalk. I believe the sidewalk is public property and therefore so are the lilacs. A new location was found this year on what I thought was a state park, since that time I’m still debating if it is private property. I feel a little strange about the next location, a cemetery. But I go and prune a bit there as well. Each time, especially at the cemetery, I step back to see if I have taken too much and each time there seems to be plenty and the bunches in my hand don’t make a difference to the bush but only to me. At the cemetery I wonder who loved lilacs so much to have a bush planted for them.

I talked with my dear neighbor Gini about the lilacs once. I admitted to her that it took me some scouting and possibly even some stealing. She didn’t want me to steal but the joy she received from the lilacs was worth it. It makes me wonder why anyone would plant flowers and not want to share them. This year I only had to steal lilacs for one. I thought of Gini the entire time. Though I have always wanted a lilac bush mine will be planted in her honor.

 

Charity Water Birthday

In September I turned 40.  For my birthday it was easy to acknowledge that I don’t need or want for anything materially.  Yet, I’ll be honest, I do like gifts.  I enjoy it when someone chooses a personal gift for me.  It is not about the size or cost of the gift but really the thought.   A collectible item found at a yard sale, a picture, book, recipe, a new piece of sports equipment, etc., I love them all.  Yet again there was nothing I needed or wanted so I thought why not ask friends and family to give to an organization that is on the front lines of working to solve the water crisis in the world.  Having travelled to places in the world where clean water is an issue this seemed right.  It’s always bothered me on trips that I drink clean water because I can afford it while others go without.  So I raised funds toward clean water through Charity Water

 

 

What happened was that each time my email alerted me to a new donation there was incredible joy.  What I found that friends and family far and wide joined in celebrating my birthday in a different way, in a way that was deeply personal to me.   Each donation was as precious as a collectible item, a picture, book, personal recipe or  piece of sports equipment.  Each made me smile when I thought of both the good that the donation would make to help bring clean water, but also the relationship I had with that person.  What especially touched me was that a few of the young woman I have had the pleasure of knowing in their high school years through church joined in helping me celebrating my 40th.   As young leaders they understand this water crisis and want to do something about it.  Thank You Charity Water for your birthday present to me!

Friends in Dallas

The Catalyst Conference in Dallas this past week was my stomping ground. It was a fire hose of teaching that was amazing. The worship was moving, centering and refreshing. More on what I am learning through this experience later…it will take a while to unpack. The remainder of my time in Texas was spent with friends who have two young adult daughters. I have known these young women since they were in elementary and middle school and this coming year both will be in college. I am friends with their parents yet I also spent time with only them. They spilled to me a few of the challenges they have faced over the past year. I was a bit surprised how open they were as we haven’t seen each other in a few years. Really listening to the challenges of young adulthood is not to be taken lightly as they don’t always talk freely. They shared about their perspectives on family life and interactions with friends. Being close to their parents and also talking with them about the girls I found myself pondering the complexity of family life. Here I was listening to the stories of two different generations and I wanted to weave them together as I believe they all want the same things – both closeness and openness. They are not quite there right now, though I have hope knowing the foundation upon which this family has been built upon.

I found myself wanting to spend more time with these young women. As they talked with me and appeared to share with me openly and honestly I kept thinking I wish that they had not moved away and I could have mentored them. One young woman has a determination and emotional intensity that are strengths. Her sister has a quick wit and personality that is refreshing. I learned from them as they shared about music and culture. It was further confirmation that I love the “transitional years”, the decisions to be made during these years and the importance of discovering who you are created to be. As I thought of these young women I kept thinking how much potential they have and need to hear from adults other than their parents. Don’t get me wrong, they have loving and caring parents who want the best for them. Yet young adults need other mentors in their lives and I am continually thankful and humbled at the mentors and friends I have who are older and wiser and speak into my life. I have been thinking a great deal about adoption and foster care in the past years and the step(s) I want to take in this direction. Though I love mentoring I must remember that this is not the primary role I will play as a parent and it is essential to allow others to have this role in a child’s life.

My take aways from my time with friends in Dallas are:

I don’t want to miss out on recognizing that I really do enjoy mentoring transitional age kids (15-25) though I have sometimes denied it. I’m not quite sure why I deny it, or think I don’t relate to young adults sometimes, I just do. (I need to get over it)

Though I love working with transitional kids and envision myself having them in my home in the future, I don’t want to miss that it will be important they have mentors outside of my home as well, who can continue pour into their lives in other ways.

Writing Gini

My neighbor and more importantly close friend and mentor is 95. Generally she has been in good health, but she’s 95! She’s an amazing woman who has a depth to her relationships, both with others and God, that is remarkable. I visited with her in the hospital yesterday as there has been concern with her blood pressure. When I arrived she was watching 60 Minutes and had books surrounding her to pass the time. Her well-worn Bible was on her bed tucked next to a book by Henri Nouwen on reflections of Life and Death. I should add there was a fiction book on Cleopatra as well which happens to be the name of her cat. Gini makes me smile. She emails, googles, writes, reads, studies, listens, asks great questions, and prays. I know she prays a great deal for me which is humbling. We have talked about death, her death, and how she is ready to spend eternity with Christ. She said to me one day that she would prefer not to live to 100. She’s ready for the next step in eternity, to have new surroundings.

Gini is a woman of incredible depth whose life has not been easy yet she has allowed it to deepen her understanding of God and how to reach out to others. Gini was an only child, and had a brief marriage but did not have any children. However her life is full of people and there is a loosely jointed group of friends who look after some of her needs. She’s had a full life living many places on the East Coast, then heading to Colorado, Switzerland, and London. When she visited Egypt I believe she was 92. There were 90 people at her 90th party and it was an honor to be invited. Each of us has had deep rich powerful conversations with Gini as she is thinks deeply about her faith and how to encourage others on their journeys. Though she didn’t have children she plays the role of mother, grandmother, and cherished friend to so many.

Yesterday before I left we prayed together as we often do. Tears come to my eyes even thinking of how tender it is each time we pray. From her hospital bed she prayed for me about the anxieties, joys, and hopes of my heart. We hadn’t talked about them last night yet she knows them from the years of our friendship. I can’t quite imagine living in this house without her. Our friendship has evolved to the point where I let myself in a couple of times a week to check on her and do my laundry. Yet it is her checking on my heart with care and concern and directing us both back to Christ. On my 40 for 40 list is writing a letter to Gini – I don’t want to miss writing that letter.

One last note… Gini asked me once how I came to live in this house, in the apartment above hers. I reminded her of what she had said to me previously. “I prayed for a single Christian woman to move in.” Your prayer was answered Gini and so was mine as I have consistently prayed to have amazing mentors in my life. How God weaves lives together is beyond comprehension.

Teaching Skills for Life

The young adults I work with as a social worker have endured some tough challenges. Today was a day in which I realized though I don’t want to miss out on life and what God has for me I am humbled this is what I can ponder. I don’t feel like I am floundering to figure out how to manage my day to day life.  Much of the day to day “life skills” have come quite easily to me.  Most often my parents didn’t explicitly teach specific skills I would need for adulthood.  However through their stability and being available always to ask questions this allowed me move into the world of adulthood with more confidence than anxiety. Because of this I believe I have more energy to ponder deeper questions and also work on answering them for myself.   Does that make sense?  If you are just trying to figure out how to navigate the daily challenges of life such as laundry, grocery shopping, banking, how to register for a class, etc. the deeper questions in life – your goals, faith, values, etc. are important but most often put on the back burner.   

I have a great advantage as well when I get a bit stuck, my parents continue to be a call away.  They still answer questions that I would rather ask my Mom or Dad then Google. “Mom, how do I make the gravy thicker?” “Dad, what type of stain do you think I should use on this project?”

In contrast all of the young adults I’ve talked with this week have significant developmental areas they have missed out on. Today I met with the 21 year old that missed out on a stable family, has been bounced from residential school program to residential school program.  Tons of money spent to help him manage and overcome his emotional/behavioral needs yet despite it he missed out on so much that he can’t pass the tests to graduate high school. Even a basic GED program would be a stretch for him. Another very smart young woman who was raised by her grandmother shared she isn’t sure when she is pumping gas how to know when her gas tank is full. It’s a silly thing, super easy to learn, but knowing that’s a skill most often that would be taught by a parent saddens my heart. There are lots of moments in her life she has needed a parent, and not a grandparent, to guide her through. Another 18 year old young woman today asked me if she could get money to spend at the mall when we go to social security (to work on her benefits) tomorrow. She wasn’t aware that social security is not a bank, doesn’t hand out checks at the counter, cash, or anything else that might help her go shopping at the mall. She doesn’t really understand why she doesn’t have money but also has shared she really doesn’t know how to count change when she does have it. We’ve been working a lot with her on being an adult as she was told that she can’t return home (some challenging family dynamics which can be explained best by imagining Cinderella like step-mother). She proudly told me that she was in her new (supported) living situation for 2 hours alone “and nothing happened” and “I was safe.” This has happened before with young adults I work with, they have never spent time alone, and it’s a skill they need to learn as they’ve missed it.

Today I am grateful that I have not missed out on learning skills I can in turn pass on to the young adults I work with. Though it saddens me that they have missed out I am humbled that I can offer some stability when they feel they are floundering… I don’t want to miss out on teaching skills that will help them be successful adults and give them space to ponder deeper questions of life and faith.

A site I often use to find resources for young adults – resources for young adults, often geared for those aging out of the foster care system: http://www.caseylifeskills.org/