Easter Blues

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It’s been a long time since I’ve had a “Blue Christmas” or holiday as a single mom.  I thought I was “passed it” and prepared now after all of these years for some of the emotions that roll in around the holidays.  I have a pretty well stocked ’emotional tool box’ that I’ve pulled from since 2001 when my life took a big left turn due to divorce.

But, this past Easter weekend as I saw countless family Easter pictures and posts about “happy nests full of college kids” and “how crazy it was at Whole Foods” preparing for Sunday lunch, a few unexpected bolts of sadness hit me.  I’d prepared my heart for the fact that my oldest who is in college in California wouldn’t be able to be home, so I thought I was “good”.  I thought my youngest would be with me until we realized late in the week that we’d had a little mixup on the family calendar and he’d be at his dad’s.  Even though we worked it out and Benji met me at church on Sunday (where we shared in a great Easter service and had a nice lunch out together), Good Friday and Saturday were a bit funky for me.

As I saw pictures on facebook of young children with baskets on Easter egg hunts, I reminisced about the early years with my boys dying eggs, crazy hunts that turned into fights or tears and family photos trying to keep them from pinching each other or crying, I was sad.

Some of this was compounded by the fact that my 16 Hill cousins created a ‘secret’ facebook group and we’d all been posting pics and sharing memories of our childhoods and while it was fun, it was also bittersweet. Three of the six of my dad’s siblings are gone.  My dad’s been in heaven now for almost 10 years.  I saw some pictures of my parents that I’d never seen and pictures of my grandparents the way I remembered them.  My mom remarried a few years ago and now lives 6 hours away from me instead of 3.  This Easter weekend, she happened to be in Florida at her beach house with her new husband and his family.  While I’m happy for her, it creates a new frontier to navigate that I find folks rarely talk about.  It really affects the landscape when you’re an adult and your parent remarries late in life and moves to a new city.

Anyway, the weekend for me was full of a lot of emotions that I really didn’t expect or know exactly how to handle, other than to just feel them.

Feeling sadness is not something I’ve very good at.  For years, I was so deep in “survival mode” that I didn’t visit those places in my heart too often.  Now, that I’m back in the ‘land of the living’, I find that I have a lot of tears stored up in this 50 year old body that love to come pouring out whenever they find it necessary.  I’m comfortable with that in private but, I try not to embarrass Benji when tears pour down my face in public, like it did on Sunday during an especially moving letter that our pastor read.

All this to say, if you’re Easter was a “blue” one, you are not alone.  If yours was “picture perfect” with all of your loved ones and plenty of food on the table, but inside you were sad, you weren’t alone.  If you were “lucky enough” to truly have a peaceful day or weekend, I’m happy for you.  I find the folks who have the best ones are those who lower their expectations and see the time together regardless of what happens as a gift.

Still, even on the most glorious Easter, we’re still human and still broken… still longing for resurrection in our own lives….longing for everyone we love to be around the table.  One day we will behold Him, and we’ll be “as we long to be“.   No longer will we see through our foggy, tear-stained glasses.  I for one, can’t wait!

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I Will Always

At Stanford Fall 2013

At Stanford Fall 2013

I wrote this a few weeks ago for The Nashville Treehouse blog and thought I’d repost now that I have a better place to put it.  🙂

Recently, I saw someone’s post on facebook about a mother’s stages of “carrying her children” that caught my attention. I can’t remember it all, but it started with “carrying them in your belly” and it ended with the idea of “always carrying them in your heart”.

Last night, I had one of those times that comes to all mothers… where my heart was heavy with concern for my son. Not just because he’s on Spring Break (definitely a good time to pray!) , but because he’s navigating some tricky waters as an almost 21 year old young man. He’s a college student bombarded with all that comes to him at a very tough school, playing PAC12 football, living in a totally different world than he was raised in at his private Christian schools in Nashville Tennessee and everything else that young adults are faced with as they head into adulthood.

As I sat in my dark den late into the night praying for him, I asked God to remind me again of the promises I’ve held on to the past few years, that I’m sure I’ll hold on to for decades to come.

In the stillness, I heard those simple yet rich words echoing in my heart…. “do not be afraid“…. “fear not”…. “My peace passes all understanding” and many more familiar verses and truths. I heard enough to go to sleep in peace grateful for a God who sees and hears the prayers of a tired mama’s heart. This morning, I had countless “sacred echoes” that reminded me of His plans and purposes for my son … for his future, so I held tightly to the hope that filled my heart. As I sat in the dentist chair for 3 hours, I randomly landed on one of his favorite artist’s music and listened to some of his songs over and over again (grateful for a dentist who provides headphones that helps drown out the drill sounds!). I spent more time praying for him and asking God to speak to his heart as clearly as He speaks to mine. I wanted to find a way to let Graham know that I was praying for him, but I didn’t want to sound “preachy”.

I prayed for the words to text to Graham that would convey my love and care. I pushed SEND and was so grateful to get a text back that said “Thanks Mama. You always have that 6th sense with me. Love you.”

If Spring Break has worn you out or brought up fears for you with your teenagers or young adults, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to ask for His ‘unexplainable peace’. Whatever’s going on that has made your heart is heavy, I hope you’ll be encouraged by my sharing.

I will ALWAYS carry my sons in my heart, but I’m glad to know that One greater than me holds them in the palm of His hand.  My boys and I used to sing “the Lord is always with you, no matter what, no matter what“,  so I loved hearing from Graham that he was reminded recently that no matter where he goes or what he does, he can’t escape God’s presence.  I’m so grateful for every reminder that He really is ‘God with us‘… into the darkest night or in the deepest sea.  I’m hanging on to that too.  Peace to y’all today.

Today Show

Sweet Sunday Surprise

 

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Sunday Chorus concert Brentwood Academy

This past Sunday, I had one of those ‘unexpected mama moments’ when you wish you could freeze time. I was blindsided by my emotions as I sat at Benji’s school chorus concert. He led his choir in Paul Baloche’s well known worship song, “Open The Eyes of My Heart”. Benji had a life changing experience in Haiti this January on a winterim trip with his school, so he sang it in Creole and in English.

I knew he had the solo, but I had no idea how it would feel to watch him lead this song that I had sung countless times through the years as a worship leader myself. Since he could talk (and sing), Benji always sang his heart out in the car and at church, school, anywhere he could… very much like I did as a kid.

Some of my favorite moments from his childhood were hearing him sing praise songs while raising his little hand, as he had his own “church service” in the backseat of my car.

Sometimes, he would even chime in if he heard a lyric on the radio that didn’t fit his ‘preschool theology’. I remember one time when Sheryl Crow sang “I’m still the king of me” in one of her songs and he interrupted her song and said, “No, your not, God is!”

Benji  elementary school

Benji elementary school

Though he loved music, like a lot of kids in Nashville with parents in Christian music, Benji told me early on that he didn’t necessarily want to” follow in my footsteps into the Christian music scene”. He announced to me that he wanted to be a “hip hop/pop artist in mainstream music as a Christian”. Earlier it was “just rap”, but we’ve thankfully progressed from there.  He went on to say that “when he wasrich and famoushe’d give money to orphans in Russia”. (Side note—I’d visited orphanages in Russia around that time and he and Graham both begged me to bring home brothers for them, but as a single mom, I had to tell them that wasn’t something I could take on.)

For the past several years, I’ve supported Benji doing what his heart tells him to do with his music. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve had to trust God with a bigger plan than what Benji has or what I could have for him.   It helped that he promised me that “he talked to Jesus about it,  that he’d keep his lyrics clean and his pants pulled up”, but I also know the pitfalls of ANY genre in the music world, so I spent many nights praying for protection and wisdom for him and those of us helping to guide him.

It’s been a tough couple of years for him as he’s learned some things the hard way, but that’s a whole other story for another day….

Anyway, on Sunday, as soon as Benji opened his mouth to sing, a steady stream of tears poured down my face. I was so happy, so full of joy and gratitude, that I could barely handle it. I was trying to video him and trying not to embarrass him, since I was sitting on the front row. It was one of those moments as Mama that you see a little piece of the fruit of your labor and a glimpse into who your child has grown up to be.   To see the same little heart that used to sing at the top of his lungs in his car seat now singing as a 17-year-old young man was a truly priceless gift on an otherwise normal Sunday afternoon.

If you’re a Mama, you’ve probably had one of these moments where you get to “see” your child operating in their gifts and talents, as well as in their own unique personality. It truly is more precious than anything you can describe when they happen. Sometimes they’re in public and sometimes in private. When you see your child do something kind for a stranger or to a sibling, it’s pure healing oil for our “road weary” mama hearts.  Many of you saw the videos I posted earlier this week and sent so many kind words, so I wanted to share a little more in the hope that it encourages you today if you may be in the ‘hidden and dark places’ of the “growing” season with a son.

I don’t know what the future holds for Benji, but I do know that I can trust God to help him find his way. I’m grateful that several years ago when he dropped the “I want to be a rapper bomb on me” (before LeCrae and TobyMac showed you can do positive rap and hip hop), that I didn’t react out of my own desires for him.

I’m grateful for some of the brave folks in my world that told me not to limit what God had for Benji or to “put him in a box”. I found a way to trust Proverbs 22:6 that says “train up a child in the way he should go”, not necessarily the way “I think he needs to go”, but the way God uniquely designed him.  For my son to go into the world as his own “original version of himself” – bringing what only he can bring is what I believe I’m to train him for!

I may never see Benji led a worship song again, or it may be what he ultimately does for a career, I don’t have a blueprint for his life and calling. But, for me as his Mama and biggest fan, those 2 minutes and 30 seconds on Sunday, were a little taste of heaven and reminded me that God’s timing and plans are much better than mine.

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Here’s a little video snippet. Click here to watch.