My Oldest Son is Home for a Visit

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An Ignatian approach to Letting my Sons Grow

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

To those of you who have ever followed the suggestion to take a difficult life transition and pray over it: Have you ever done just that, only to be left with the feeling of being even more exposed and mixed up than when you sat down with your (now luke warm) coffee?

That’s what happened for me just now.
Morgan and Theo gift

Rather than the familiar: “golly gee, thanks God, that was a nice little hug” type of reflection, I ended up with an unwound ball of yarn pile of emotions. I started with an Ignatian reflection by Maryanne Rouse (Creighton University, College of Business) and followed her suggestion to imagine I am a part of the first reading in today’s Catholic Lectionary.

Here is what she wrote:

Can you imagine–40 days of face to face conversation with God? That is the experience of Moses, according to today’s First Reading. We don’t know who was speaking more of the time–God or Moses? The conversation transpired behind a closed tent. What we are told is that at the end of this time, Moses comes out with the “words of the covenant,” the Ten Commandments in hand.

This First Reading cries out to be addressed with Ignatian Contemplation prayer, that is, the form of prayer that Ignatius did not invent, but popularized in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagination is a key tool.

To enter into this form of prayer, you need to set aside thoughts that you are not imaginative, that God cannot speak to you through this tool as God does through other tools, e.g. thought, feelings, senses, to name a few.

First, read the entire text, Exodus 33: 7-11; 34: 5-9. 28. Next place yourself in the scene: What do you see? What can you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Maybe not so much to taste in this story, though you may be aware that this entire time, Moses neither ate nor drank anything.

Then rewind the story in your mind after inserting yourself into it. When I have prayed this, I have found myself taking the part of a serving girl, totally left out of the action and not happy… Next step: what might God want to say to me through my place in this story?

I tried imagining myself as several different people – I was Moses, the wife of Moses, a pregnant mom, a too old to be pregnant mom…no matter how I read it though…I was a mom, and my son was going off to try to understand what instructions God was giving him.

Behind my closed eyes, no matter how my imagination sliced and diced the scenes, these plans involved travel for him and none for me. For days on end there would be no communication with my son the pilgrim. By allowing myself to imagine this as the time of Moses and young Joshua (an assistant to Moses) a good old-fashioned pile of letters wasn’t even coming forth.

It was me, a dusty tent, and a bunch of stars with no answers while the rest of the campsite snorted and snored the night away.

This all happened in ten minutes of prayer. Fertile imaginations are not necessarily something to envy if you struggle to let your mind wander.

After making some Eggos for our 11 year old, I went back at the reflection for another five minutes or so. It was like the maddening experience I’m having with one of our computers: we turn it on, it boots up, then boots itself back down…then, brrrzzsssuuuppt beePbEEp…it boots back up in an endless loop without ever actually starting up.

Same images, same tears, same not knowing where my kid is or what Moses is telling him to go off and do with his life.

Internet access denied, quick and easy answers unattainable.

On one hand, I didn’t need 30 minutes of tearful prayer to know that I am having trouble coping with the fact that my son, the one whose personality tends to mimic mine, is looking at colleges that are eight hours away. As in, he is waking up this morning in a hotel with his dad and is right now on campus with energetic and brilliant tour guides. As I sit here and type, a young Jesuit scholar is chirping away about how great life became as soon as he left his weeping mother, and for the first time in his boring life, he discovered the depths of his being and mind in the hallowed halls of the University of ForgetToCallHome.

I’m exaggerating. I could not be more excited for this kid. He is bored. He has been bored in school for a very long time, and I’ve been saying forever that college will be his time to shine and let that intellect of his go hog-wild.

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning. If you too are feeling jagged emotions that are about letting go, I’d recommend a beautiful song by Kate Rusby called “Underneath the Stars”.

It is making me feel better able to sit with the unknown. What choice do we have anyway?

Forgiveness Friday: Feeling Safe as a Parent

My brother on his first day of school.

Those of us who are parents of children old enough to be involved in group performance can relate, I hope, to the feeling of comfort I had yesterday at a school event.

I’ve had the feeling of overwhelming pride wash over me at sport events, science fairs, plays and during other big events. I also have had this experience during low keyed, but just as important interactions like on the playground or while overhearing a cute conversation with friends.

But, churchy kind of gal that I am, not much knocks me out emotionally more than seeing them wrapped up in something religious.

I’ve done some serious pondering about this today, and here is what I’ve come up with:

Pardon my French, but parenting is scary shit.

A friend said it well in an email exchange among four of us who are gritting our teeth with our beloved teens,

Rooted in fear for me is the NEED to control him

so he’ll be ok and then

I’ll be ok.

For me, the opposite is love and trust.

How many award ceremonies, playground scuffles, sports games, sideline kerfuffles, and painful kid scenarios that I want to snuffle have I been through?

A lot!

And how many more are ahead of me?

More than that.

So, when yet another friend responded to a crazed mom email I sent, she had this as one of her suggestions to survive the rough patches:

This suggestion is really hard because it does involve ceding some of that control – is to

make sure that each kid has at least one other trusted adult in their life that they can talk to and be real with other than the parents.

An aunt, uncle, mentor, pastor, coach – someone safe, responsible and with good values but someone that the kid also likes and connects with. Then, really trust that said person will carry some of the water during the times when your kid doesn’t want to confide in

or even be civil to you.

I wonder if there is a way to mix those words into my lavender hand cream and just spread it around, oh, pretty much my whole body.

We

don’t

have

to

do

“this”

alone!

This takes me back to the massive lump in my throat during a big school mass yesterday. For me, it was because having help with keeping my sons safe has a different level of meaning at a sports banquet than at mass. Both are important, but again, churchy girl that I am, I had a sense of relief yesterday when I could see from a distance that my ten year old was singing away. When this one sings, he does it with heart and soul.

So, seeing him experience that kind of joy made me feel safe.

Only a few years ago my two oldest sons served Easter Mass together for the first time in what had been a divisive couple of years for their relationship. So, while seeing them together on the alter as servers, competing like usual to out do each other,

I felt safe.

And you know what?

Pardon my French again, but without the occasional fifteen seconds of feeling overwhelmed with trust that my children are safe, will be safe, and they are being safe, parenting would only be scary shit.

All shall be well,

and all shall be well,

and all manner of things shall be well.

~ Julian of Norwich