Planes are crossing in the skies and we are waving to our kids through the clouds from little rounded-corner windows.
That is how I described this season of moving hearts to a friend of mine.
Transitions are part of life for you and your family. Whether it is your child moving up to the next grade in school, leaving for college, coming home for the summer, getting married, or moving cross-country for a job, change is coming, and along with it opporunities for growth and adventure, for roots and wings.
In the span of about 30 days, three of our four grown kids are making big moves to new homes.
Our oldest son and his family are moving to Georgia, our oldest daughter and her family are moving from Texas back to Oregon, and our youngest daughter and her husband are moving across town. It’s enough to make my head spin and my heart skip a beat.
They are all big people now so they are doing the planning, packing and logistics of moving on their own. Mike and I are there to help with the kids (Pete the Cat, anyone?), unpack boxes, and see their new lives unfold a bit in a new hometown. We are trying not to over-help.
All of this moving got me thinking about the art of moving. I am not talking about the science of it: U-hauls, PODS, and trailers, boxes, packing and labeling, and all of the coordinated timing. Those are the moving parts. I am thinking of the moving hearts.
During the last thirty days, I realized a few things about my mama heart during times of change, some practical and some spiritual.
Say goodbye to people and places you love.
Done well, saying goodbye is difficult and it can start the tears. But tears are cathartic, washing out some of the sadness of moving and making room for joy and adventure. In the chaos of boxes, they met friends at parks and splashpads. It may seem dorky to walk the halls of your empty home saying goodbye, but it is good for the soul to acknowledge the place that sheltered you.
Find a few favorites spots in your new hometown.
For us that usually means local coffee, ice cream, pizza, parks, and farmer’s markets.
Worship together at a local church.
We found a vibrant liturgical church in a Dollar Tree shopping center.
Acknowledge the stress, upheaval, and need for grace.
We said out loud how well they were handling all of the surprises, delays and out-of-sorts feelings. Genuine words of encouragement are always a balm. We also prayed for the time when the upheaval might get the best of them. We tried to accept that all of our hearts need grace to rearrange around tearful goodbyes and awkward hellos.
Claim the adventure, growth, and nearness of God.
We saw fireflies! No matter how much we might miss their faces, we told them, “What an adventure!”. Moves are a great opportunity for growth and seeing God meet us in the midst of upheaval. We have to rest on the character of our God. He will be near in this near place.
Leverage technology for staying connected.
We feel connected by the little everyday things of life. When we weren't together in the same place, either by video, Insta-stories, or Facetime, we got to see trips to museums, aquariums, parks, and popsicle-making, along with baby girl’s first wave, and our favorite baby game, “So big!”
Bears and Birds
Sometimes I can think of myself as a mama bear, teaching and protecting my little cubs. But since that image involves standing tall and roaring, and maybe a few claws, it might be more helpful to think of ourselves as mama birds, building a cozy nest that we eventually push our birdies out of as they learn to fly.
That view helped me teach our kids one independent skill every summer until they flew off to university. Along with swimming, bike riding and plenty of free time, we spent our summers learning things inside the house in small steps like making dessert, planning meals and cooking dinner, as well as outside the house like watering plants, planting gardens, and mowing the lawn. We were learning steps of independence out in the world too, starting with Vacation Bible School, moving to day camp to overnight camp to week-long camp, and finally, Young Life work crew.
When our children started leaving home for college, I always thought of the process of leaving and coming home similar to migrating birds who fly away for the winter and return home for the summer season. Every time they left and returned, there was a rearranging that occurred in both mama bird and birdie. It happened practically in schedules and rhythms of home (hello wake-up times and dinner times), and emotionally in each of our hearts (hello clashing feelings of loving togetherness and needing space).
It turns out, these years were preparation for even bigger moves later in life just like the ones we’re in now.
I read this recently from Henri Nouwen in his book "Discernment",
“(Jean Vanier) described the hands that gently encircle a wounded bird
as being also open to allow movement and freedom to fly.”
I stopped and circled that for my own mama bird heart. Maybe it helps you, too.
Henri was talking about finding his calling within Rembrandt’s famous painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. The father’s hand on the son’s back are actually one male and one female to express both sides of love - holding and letting go.
In truth, whether our children come and go in rebellion or as a natural part of life, we each need a bit of both hands for unconditional love.
“One says, “I’ve got you and I hold you safe because I love you
and I’ll never be apart from you. Don’t be afraid.”
The other says, “ Go my child, find your way, make mistakes, learn,
suffer, grow, and become whom you need to be. Don’t be afraid.
You are free and I am always near.””
Like Jake tells Melanie Carmichael in Sweet Home Alabama, "You can have roots and wings, Mel." Tell yourself. Tell your kids.
We can do this mama birds!
a mama bird prayer
dear jesus – you hold me close with an open hand. you let me fly.
help me give my children roots and wings. may I give freedom a little at a time, and all the way even when they fall before catching air.