Sunday, July 23, 2017

fear, courage, and support on the high ropes

I have a kid who isn't a big fan of heights. It doesn't inspire terror, but it's not Isaac's favorite either. He has taken the walk of shame down the high dive a time or two in his life because it's just not his cup of tea. He and his sister arrived back home today from a week at camp. They do amazing things like white water raft on the Arkansas River, dance parties, skits based on biblical teachings with a strong dose of crazy and fun, hikes in the glorious surrounding mountains, and a high ropes course. Yep. High ropes course. He had the chance to do it last year and chose not to, but he really wanted to go for it this year. We'd talked about it, and I thought he'd probably do it, but there was also the possibility of a "walk of shame" once he got to the top.
white water rafting++
Our pastor spent the week at camp with the confirmation kids, so I got photographic proof that he did the high ropes course. I was so proud of him, especially after seeing the pictures because they do some freaky things up there! I could tell that it took some courage to do it. Once he was home, he told me the rest of the story.

The high ropes course is, obviously, about the challenge of high ropes, but is also a team building exercise. To that end, they go up in groups of four, two females and two males. Isaac said he enthusiastically chose to participate in the high ropes activity, saw it from the ground, and eagerly climbed the ladder. Of course, things look muuuuuuch higher from that angle, so he got a little nervous and second guessed his decision, but pulled it together and joined his group for safe, well-tethered, high ropes fun in the mountains 40 feet off the ground.
Smiles with a tinge of what the heck!
After the initial gut check, things were fine. Actually, things were very fun. . . right up until they weren't anymore. The snafu happened at the end of the course when the only way down is a zipline. There is a counselor there, plus two other people whose sole job is ropes course attendant. Isaac got to the zipline and was like, "nuh uh. nope." The other three people in his group went down. The group behind them went down. Eventually all other kids on the course had gone down, and still he sat. The director of the camp was down on the ground, but joined him up there once the other kids were done, keeping him calm, talking him through it, and encouraging him. His whole cabin was encouraging him and cheering for him. Eventually they had to head to lunch, and still he sat.
I think this part of the course is called islands. creepy!
When Audrey say her brother's cabin come back without her brother, she went over to his counselor to check on him. Hearing he was still at the ropes course, she asked her counselor for permission to go check on him. Granted permission, she ran over. She got there and shouted hello just as the camp director, who was standing behind Isaac, lifted him up, carefully held him over the edge, and let go. As soon as he was free of the ledge, Audrey saw Isaac beam with pride and enjoyment. It took an hour, literally, but he did it. With help and encouragement, he did it.

At our house, we talk about 20 seconds of courage. I have a few kids who are slow to warm to others. New situations intimidate them. We talk about how the initial leap of trying something new, talking to someone new, stepping out of your comfort zone is the most difficult, but after you take the leap, it's not so bad. In fact, it's usually enjoyable and exciting. Well, this particular situation required more than 20 seconds of courage, but it was certainly worth the wait. Isaac looks forward to doing it again next year now that he has the initial fear and success under his belt. As the camp director told him, "Once you do this, you'll feel like you can do anything."

Isaac and Audrey walked to the lunch area, and the kids from Isaac's cabin were still supporting and encouraging him by clapping and saying how glad they were that he did it. Man, I wish I could have seen that. My mama heart bursts that he was so supported and loved by his sister, his peers, his counselors, and everyone on the ropes course. There was no embarrassment or shame, only support and kindness.

I read the news, and I get smoke out of my ears angry at humanity. Thank God for the many reminders of the kindness and love of people. Those beautiful attributes were certainly on display at camp last week.

This little moment is a microcosm of life. We are never promised an easy life. We are promised a God who will provide our daily bread, who will provide people along the way to love and support us, and who will carry our burden when it becomes too much for us to carry alone. Isaac felt and experienced all of those things on the ropes course through the love and caring of God's people.


++All photos courtesy of our loving and welcoming pastor.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

how did I get here?

I loaded up the suburban with four kids and a big cooler full of lunch and backpacks laden with pencils, water bottles, and snacks and drove down the hill (which is mountain folks' way of saying we went down the mountain to Denver) to attend our 3-day practicum for Classical Conversations. Classical Conversations is the homeschool community that we attend each Monday and that serves as the basis for our home education. It is a great fit academically for our family, has enriched our lives with wonderful friends and mentors, and has brought us closer to each other and to our Christian faith. How's that for a win/win/win situation?

Anyway, we arrived at the church that was hosting our practicum, and we sunscreened before walking across the parking lot to the church. My big kids grabbed backpacks and walked ahead of me while the littlest fellow, who isn't all that little anymore, held my hand as we looked both ways for cars before running to catch up with the others. It seems that Asher's main purpose in life is to look adorable, crack us up, and attempt to keep up with the others. No joke!

Another anyway, because if there's a tangent, I'm following it, I walked up behind my big kids and I wondered how I got here. It was this quiet, introspective, surreal moment in a day  of busy as I quietly assessed my little, big life. That's such a loaded, confusing, nebulous question. . . how did I get here? How did I, a women's studies and English major who was never getting married and never having kids because I was going to graduate from college, join the Peace Corps, and live a nomadic life of service and/or become a professor, end up as a home educating, Suburban driving, lunch packing, shoe tying, hand holding while we look both ways and cross the street, sharer of books, teller of stories, family adventure seeker, and off-key and exuberant singer of random tunes? Where do those two seemingly divergent paths intersect?

And how did I, the women who actually did get married (really young!) and did have babies (four, in fact, because go big or go home, I guess), become a mother of kids that can pack their own lunches and backpacks and attend Logic Camp and perform skits they made up based on the fallacies they learned about in Camp? How do I have a boy that is almost tall enough to look me in the eyes? How do I have a girl that all of our friends with younger kids want to use as their babysitter? How do I have a boy about to go to a week at camp without his mama? How do I have a boy who wears his little green hiking backpack to Day Camp and plays with the kids all day and comes home telling me all about how "the grown ups are sooooo nice to me and none of the kids were mean."

This is my life. It is exactly 0% how I pictured it. Maybe even negative 374% how I expected it. But, you know what? It's just exactly how it's supposed to be. Teenage and early college DeNae could never ever EVER ever have known what was coming down the pike. I wouldn't have believed one iota of it if someone had read an accurate crystal ball of my life at 40. Most days, I still can't believe it.

It turns out I wasn't meant to travel the world to live and share my passions. At least not yet. Right now my place, my life, my calling is with these five people, two mutts, and a fat cat that I call family. God called me here, right here within these four walls of a fixer-upper in our little mountain town instead, and I'm gobsmacked, honored, and thrilled. I'm also in over my head, tired of cleaning the kitchen, and constantly reprioritizing so we aren't stretched too thin.

So, how did I get here? God brought me here. I believe this is the life God planned for me and brought me to, one unexpected fork in the road at a time. I won't pretend to have any idea what's coming next. Clearly my track record for accurately envisioning the future hovers around 0/24,498. Regardless of how I got here and how much it differs from my expectations, I am so ridiculously grateful that all paths led to this space in time with these people.