Embracing A New Season

She isn’t at her post. An almost-fifth-grader is there instead – holding the familiar neon yellow flag while Madison chats carefree with friends.

SafetyPatrolRain

It’s odd. This other girl crossing kids at Madison’s post. Standing where SHE used to stand – for weeks on end. For a moment, my mind flashes to those rainy days in the neon poncho. In those moments it felt like safety patrol would drag on forever. Wipers swishing back and forth as I waited in the car for her to finish her post.

But, it didn’t actually drag on forever. Nothing ever does. And now, here we are. She has passed her post on to another. The baton has changed hands in the Holden relay. Because our girl is moving on to another leg of the race.

Six years I’ve been watching her walk that pavement and go through those doors.

In two days she’ll do it for the last time. My Mad will say goodbye to our beloved elementary school. We’re just moments away from having another middle schooler. She’s ready. It’s time. We all feel it and know that it’s a good thing.

Life seasons.

One comes to a close. Another begins. This is the rhythm of life as we know it. As far back as King Solomon… “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

There is something both beautiful and achey about it all at the same time. My heart senses it and I try to embrace both the beauty and the ache. To let them both settle over me. I don’t want to chase either one away.

Until Wednesday when we “clap out” her class. And I cry. Then I’ll want to clobber the ache.

I’m just sayin.

Summertime Reading

If you’ve known me very long at all, you know I love reading. I’m a sucker for a good book. Fiction, non-fiction. It doesn’t matter. Just books. I’ll bring stacks of them home from the library. And my goodreads account has a pretty full “to-read” shelf.

Rick and I both read quite a bit. One of our favorite mantras is “readers are leaders.” Our poor kids. {wink}

But, honestly, it is something we’ve worked to pass on to our kids. We knew media would try to steal their minds away so we started to read to them when they were too tiny to understand us. And, we just never stopped. Especially in the summers. Summer just lends itself to the imagination, doesn’t it?!?!

Join me today over at The Better Mom where I offer some of our tips for summer reading success.

 

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

The In-Between: Navigating the Middle School Years

He’s growing up. I watch him from the window there. Playing football in the yard with a buddy. He doesn’t know I’m there so I linger for a while. I can’t get over how he is growing and changing. These middle school years are a mystery to me – I don’t know how any of us survived them.


To be honest, our whole family feels the weight of it with him. On the one hand I still see a child; on the other I see a man in the making. These are the in-between years. The picture that Rick has crafted and often comes to mind for me is a young knight in training – his arsenal in the making but him still clumsy with the various weapons. So, here he is stumbling around our backyard with a sword that is hard to wield because it’s still too big for him. Of course, in our case the weapons he hones are not swords, but issues of faith, character and gifting. These are the munitions he will take with him out into the world.

I see him growing stronger and more capable with each passing week. But, I can see so tangibly that he is pulled between two phases.

The cords to his childhood are fraying a bit but they hang on. Legos still call to him from the basement. His allowance still burns a hole in his pocket until he blows it on candy. The fun-factor often trumps just about everything else when it comes to making a decision. His go-to joke still involves bodily functions.

Meanwhile I see the ties to a future man becoming stronger. For example, at some point, his prayer life shifted a bit and his primary request from God is no longer just that “we’d have fun today.” Instead, he prays that he’d honor God today, no matter what. Or there was the other day when we were watching a NFL game and I asked him about the pink socks/gloves that many of the players are wearing. “Well, it’s supposed to be about breast cancer, Mom. But I think for a lot of these guys, it’s really about them. Drawing attention to themselves because it’s the cool thing to do now. I wonder how many of them really care about cancer.” It was such clear insight into the human nature that it sort of stunned me, actually. Then there is the lawn job that he held down all summer and his voluntary decision to give MORE than 10 percent of his earnings to God’s work in this world. (FYI: We use 10 percent as a standard baseline for giving and saving. So that’s what we require the kids to do right now.)

It’s a tenuous time – this pull between two phases. For him and for us!! Because he’s so mature at times, his still-youthful immaturity surprises and frustrates me. And his intensity multiplies all of it – the good and the not-so-good. His intensity has always multiplied everything – since he was a babe taking his first steps at nine-months-old. He has kept me on my toes ever since.

But, as I stood there at the window, I realized that, by God’s grace, I truly like what I see unfolding. I like who he is right now and I’m really excited about the man I see in the making. And, you know what? That’s a pretty good reason to linger at the window a little longer.

To whisper thanks and to ask for more grace.

A Season for Dying {Lessons from The Black-Eyed Susan}

The Black-Eyed Susans are dying. They’ve spent themselves.

Now they prepare for a new season. They’ll lie still and quiet under the heavy blanket of snow this winter. But they’ll be back next Spring, inching back out of the ground when it’s safe – in greater number and strength they’ll come.

Come summer they’re sure to burst forth again, filling the long side of our house with life. This is the way of things. Sure as sure.

I always take a picture of them in their glory. Right about July. They make me smile there – tall and proud with their deep yellow petals and their big black center.

This year, though, I missed my July photo. We were so busy that I barely stopped to notice them there.

Ironically, I was struck instead by their beauty in a different season. This one. Right now, as they lay dying. I didn’t notice it before but there is another kind of beauty in them at this stage. It’s a stark kind of beauty. One that comes after the glory.

Because they have spent themselves for something wonderful.

They are depleted and exhausted by their summer effort. Their proud stems are bending over and most of their petals have dropped. A few hang on… reminders of the glory.

There is something beautiful about that dying. Something that stirs in my soul as I contemplate the shriveled leaves and the scattered petals.

So strong is our longing for the glory, that sometimes I think we miss the beauty of this. Jesus didn’t. He knew that the dying had its own kind of splendor. In speaking of His own pending death He said this: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

We’re not so sure about this. In his short piece on repentance, William Willimon said it this way: “Whatever the Gospel means, we tell ourselves, it could not mean death. Love, divine or human, could never exact something so costly.”

Could it really mean that Jesus bids me come and die? And that there is really some beauty in that? A glory of its own?

In the agony of having my petals stripped clean by a rebellious child or a selfish friend, there is beauty? When I pour myself out for my kids and I have nothing left but shriveled leaves and a blackened nub? When I am bent low by the harsh winds of this world and insensitive demands of others? When no one even notices me? Beauty? There?

Jesus says there is. Will we believe Him? Will we come and die,  laying our own desires aside? Spending our days serving others? Giving instead of buying? Going instead of relaxing? Sacrificing instead of indulging? Submitting instead of demanding?

And after we have been spent, what then? Will we yield to Winter and wait for Spring to call forth new life from the very ground where the spent petals lay?

Nature echoes it. The Black-Eyed Susans attest to this truth. Spend yourself and see, they say.

Will you?

Staying Involved at School

I’ve been a public school mommy for seven years now. When Rick & I first made our decision to go this route and educate our kids in the public schools, we knew we’d want to be involved in their education every step along the way. As far as we were concerned, the education of our kids started and stopped with us. But, overseeing their education when they’re away from you for six hours a day is easier said than done. It takes perspective, time, and energy.

mommy blogs Come with me over to The Better Mom where I’m taking part in a back-to-school series. You’ll find me sharing a little bit more about our perspective on schooling and some practical examples of ways to get directly involved in your child’s education…

 

How to Anticipate the School Year: Learn Football

I have a confession to make – though I have (sort of) watched football with friends and family for years, I (ahem) have no real idea what anyone but the QB and the kicker actually DO.

Oh, I know they’re all important and that they all have jobs that need done well. I know that some guys are defense and some guys are offense. I know that when a Buckeye takes the football into Michigan’s endzone, it’s time to hoot and holler and do “OH-IO.”

Yada, yada, yada. Give me a little credit here. I get the basic gist of the game. But, ask me the difference between the cornerbacks, the linebackers, the safety and the defensive tackle and you MIGHT just get a blank stare. I mean, hypothetically speaking; of course.

I believe, in fact, that this is the case for many other women. I suspect that most of us throw tailgate parties because we like to make snacks, not because we care THAT much about football. For the most part, I’m fine with this scenario. I mean, when I stand before the Lord at the end of time, I don’t think He’s going to quiz me on my understanding of the linebacker position. So, no biggie, right?

Right.

Unless, of course, your son is trying to make first string defense for his school’s 7th grade football team. (Ha, come on ladies. Did you even know that all of the above mentioned positions are on defense? Honestly?)

So, the first order of business for me in anticipating a new school year: learn about football. Why? Because Caleb has discovered that I don’t really know what he’s talking about when he comes home rambling about how coach tried him out at linebacker. How did he make this discovery? Because I followed his rambling by asking if he was disappointed that coach was trying him out on offense.

“Ummm… mom, I said he had me at linebacker.” Silent contemplation for a sec. “You don’t really know what I’m talking about, do you?” BUSTED.  So stinkin’ busted.

So, he took me on a date to a local coffee shop and explained the whole thing to me. I like going to coffee shops with my boy. So I listened. Like really listened. Because what’s important to him needs to be important to me.

Football Defense 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Defense Lesson 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Defense Lesson 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Defense Lesson 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was hard-core about it too. Visual aids and the whole nine yeards. He’d explain for a few minutes and then, “OK, mom, so now tell me what I just said.” And in the end, he quized me on the whole thing. Can I brag and tell you I was doing pretty well? Until he threw in the “monster.” What the heck does the monster do? I’ve never even heard of the monster… until now. You might want to know that the monster hangs back with the linebackers. On the strong side. But, he’s not a linebacker. He’s a monster. Then again, you might NOT want to know these things. Unless, of course, you have a 7th grade son who wants to be a defensive tackle. (Not a monster, more’s the pity. I thought monster sounded pretty cool. Wouldn’t you think all the boys would WANT to be the monster? But, I digress…)

If your boy is trying out for defensive tackle… well, then you want to be ready. Because if you pass the quiz, you get this:

Football Defense Lesson 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, THAT my mom-friends, makes learning football worth it. Dang, I’ll learn the playbook if I need to.

Anticipating a New School Year

What is it about a new school year that always feels so… hopeful?!?!

The fresh school supplies? I mean, who doesn’t love a brand new notebook with its crisp, white pages just shouting for you to fill them with hopes and dreams and creative story? And the new pens. Is there anything more fabulous than a good pen? Or a perfectly sharpened box of new Crayolas? No matter how hard you try, you cannot sharpen them quite the same way as when they are a brand new box. And they look so lovely in their box. All lined up and waiting. (I think I have an issue. Yes, I’m a new supply addict.) This year we discovered rhinestone-studded scissors and Madison is in love.

Or maybe it’s the return to routine? The freedom of summer is refreshing and fun but it just feels better to get back to rhythm. Expectations and deadlines are good for us, I think. Summer doesn’t really lend itself to that as much.

Maybe the anticipation of new adventures? New books to read. History to be explored. Experiments to try. Works of art to create. Learning is a grand adventure – our kids know this even though they pretend to hate it.

Or perhaps it’s the fresh start? Since there is a person in my house who would like a do-over on some of his sixth grade decisions, I am particularly familiar with this one. {wink} All of us like a chance to put lessons learned into action. In many ways, a new school year is a blank slate.   

So, what is it about a new school year that always feels so… hopeful?!?!

For me, I think it’s a mixture of all of the above. The first day of school is more like January 1. It’s my time for new resolutions and hopes.

This summer has been a particularly busy one for us and August comes to me with a mixture of emotions.

I’ve gone supply shopping. Football practices have begun. The kids have clothes and backpacks and lunchboxes for a new school year. I’ve gone through the school calendar and added the dates to my Outlook, mapping out the year. I’ve been working on a new schedule to make my own days more productive. By the typical measures, we’re ready.

But are we? Really? What if the preparation of our hearts is more important than new Crayolas or even (gasp) rhinestone-studded scissors? Will you join me this week as I countdown to a new school year and take time to reflect.

How about you? How are you as the new school year approaches?

School-Talk Etiquette

mommy blogsHave you ever been in one of those awkward conversations where you realize you and your friend have divergent views? I have. Especially now that I’m a mom. Moms can be pretty passionate about their parenting choices.

Schooling is an especially hot topic. I’ve seen my fair share of carnage from school conversations. I’ve had my feelings hurt. And probably been the hurter of feelings.

So, what can we do? I’m writing about it over at The Better Mom today. I’d love it if you’d follow me over and even chime in on your perspectives!

Sending Your Child to Africa

mommy blogsSometimes life comes at you pretty fast, doesn’t it? When I stood (trying not to embarrass my son with my weepiness) at our elementary school for the 5th grade “Clap Out” earlier this Spring, I knew sending Caleb off to the middle school would be a big step.

 Little did I know it at the time, that’s not the only place I’d be sending Caleb this year. In less than a week he’ll be in another country on the other side of the globe without me! How does this tender-hearted momma feel about that?

 Come find out over at The Better Mom where I am blogging today…

New Adventures=Together Moments

Hot-Air BalloonMadison and I tried a new adventure last weekend: The Ravenna Balloon A-Fair. I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio for most of my life and Ravenna isn’t very far. But, I had just never gone to this hot-air balloon festival before. I thought it was pretty cool. In fact, I’m discovering lots of things about Northeast Ohio that are pretty cool.

Hot-Air BalloonsAfter growing up here and going to college here, I can remember being pretty eager to leave. I don’t know why, really. I guess it just felt sort of lame to stay in the same place. When I married Rick, I did leave for awhile. I really thought we’d never come back. But, here we are. Caleb was just 1 when we returned. He’s 12 now. You do the math. I think we’re here to stay – at least until I find a great reason to live in Ireland. (The Ireland I imagine, anyway.) 

I’ll be honest, the thing I love most about being back is my family. It’s a treat to live so near my two sisters and their families. I also love that I’m five minutes from my aging grandparents and that my kids know them and enjoy going to their home. (Have I ever told you how much I love my Grammy? You’d love her too. Because she’s great.)

So there’s my family. And, of course, my friends. I have some pretty precious people in my life here.

But, I’m also finding that it’s a fun place to live. Hence, the Balloon A-Fair. We had a blast watching all of those big balloons fill-up and take off. We even splurged and shared a funnel cake as we lay on our blanket and looked into the big, blue sky. As we finagled for the pieces with the most powdered sugar, I looked over at my little girl and just savored being there with her. It was just a single slice of life but we were experiencing something new together. And there was great delight in that.

As I reflected more on the last year, it occurred to me that our family has had several simple, but fun, moments just like this as we explore the area. A trip to a goat farm, hikes in the Cuyahoga Valley and climbing on parts of the old canal locks, farmer’s markets, lambing time at a farm in the Valley, art galleries, local festivals, etc… This is actually a pretty cool place to live and there are some neat adventures to be had. Who knew? Maybe Ohio really is the heart of it all. {wink}

How about you? When was the last time you ventured out and tried something new? Any ideas for Fall adventures?

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