Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sad Goodbyes, Good Hospitality

We managed to check only 3 bags!      Hugging his "wheels" goodbye.
Gladness and sadness are emotional extremes that I did not really know could happen simultaneously. Or maybe they really can't.  Maybe together they just make for a moment by moment roller coaster ride of the heart. Either way, I know I have felt them both, and seemingly at the same moments, in the last couple of weeks. Sending the oldest off to college is both the happiest and saddest thing that has ever happened to me.  To us, actually.  Together Robert and I have thrilled over the community, the academics, the opportunities, the fellowship, and the warmth (and I don't mean the Texas temperatures!) of Baylor.  And together we have dissolved into tears talking about him and praying for him back here at home.  This is much harder than I ever imagined, and much better than I ever imagined, too.
A generous welcome goody-bag, an exuberant move-in crew, and God's Word to greet us.
We got to Dallas late, since I had to teach all day.  So late, in fact, that they gave our very inexpensive rental car to someone else, and they were totally out of other cars as well. Fortunately, there is always a company willing to rent you a car even at 10pm.  Tip: Instead of walking up to the counter and trying to rent a car on the spot, use your phone or computer to book one online from the airport terminal and THEN go the counter to claim your reservation! We learned this the hard, and very expensive way.

Tired and very hungry, we opted for the Wendy's drive through ~ bun-less burgers and fries.  It was not the best decision, but we were kind of desperate and I nixed the drive-two-miles-down-the-road-to-IHOP-sit-down-and-wait option.  We had to be up and out of the hotel by 7am in order to make Kory's 9am move-in time, and it was already 11pm! I was accused of being a party-pooper.

We made it to Waco at exactly 9am, followed the move-in signs to his dorm, and were greeted by 30 or so students in matching t-shirts, clapping as we pulled up, and shouting "Welcome to Baylor!" They warmly greeted us, introduced themselves, and immediately began unloading Kory's bags from our SUV, taking them two flights up to his new room. A welcome goody-bag awaited Kory from one of his mentors in the Leadership LLC (Living-Learning Center), as well as Scripture written out on the LLC agreement. Kory applied to be a part of this learning community after we attended a workshop about it at orientation.  Through it, he will get a minor in Leadership, mentor a child in the Waco Public School District, and have countless other opportunities to grow as leader by interacting with leaders in all different fields.  It also allows for a scholarship AND a suite-style dorm rather than a community-style bath.
Home away from home
Since he only packed three bags consisting of mostly clothes and shoes, we had quite a lot of shopping to do.  It's too bad we couldn't do the shopping before being greeted by the move-in crew, because we DID have to carry all of this and MORE up to his room over the next couple of days...

Good thing my dad showed up with his suburban.  Our car wouldn't transport it all!
 Aunt Melinda was free for the day, so she joined us for the shopping adventures, as did my dad.  You should have seen us with two shopping carts at both Wal-Mart and Target. 2 shopping carts + 5 people up and down the aisles.  Yes, we were THAT family.  Bed Bath & Beyond only required one shopping cart, but as you can see it was overflowing.

(Please forgive all of these tedious details!  This is as much for my love of archiving as for your enjoyment and and insider's view. I suppose aspiring parents of college students might be interested, though?)
Dorm room transformation! 
 I have to tell you that it was so wonderful to spend two days with Kory getting him settled into his new room and home away from home. It definitely satisfied something in this Mama's heart to do that and not be rushed.  Even when Kory had obligations on campus and for his Leadership program, Robert and I enjoyed going out and having lunch or dinner together and then grabbing a few more items from the various dorm-room-shopping-and-packing lists we had. One morning we even went for a run from our hotel and all the way around the campus seeing the various campus buildings, the marching band out practicing, and lots of other "welcome week" preparations.  It was so comforting to see his new surroundings and get a feel for the place for a couple of days.

And maybe the icing on this cake-of-comfort I was experiencing was this:
Meeting Judge Starr
 On our first day there, and after doing most of Kory's dorm room preparations, we decided to walk across campus to the Starbucks in the library. (Biggest Starbucks on any college campus is what I hear!)  As we walked back to the dorm to meet my dad, we were stopped by this man who welcomed us and came over to introduce himself.  He turned out to be Judge Ken Starr ~ the president of Baylor. (You might also remember him from the investigations he carried out during the Clinton Administration and the impeachment that led to!) He spent about 15 minutes with us, learning our names and where we were from.  When he found out that we were from Amherst, MA, he told us a story about a recent visit he had from a Williams College (Amherst College's biggest rival just down the road from here) professor. The man had marveled at the kindness of the faculty, staff, and students, and commented over and over at the friendly, loving interactions he witnessed between students and faculty. After a couple of days he came to Judge Starr and said he had figured it out. "It must be the 'faith-thing'," he said.  President Starr assured him it was.

He asked what had taken us to Amherst, and when Robert said that we had come 14 years ago to plant a church, he stopped, walked toward Robert and with both hands grabbed Robert's hand and said very sincerely, "Thank you for doing that." Then he came to me, looked me straight in the eye, grabbed my hands tight, and said the same thing.

He had his assistant (who took our picture) write down the name of our church as well as my email, so that I could send him the photos I had taken.  She emailed me within two hours, saying how much she and Judge Starr enjoyed meeting us, and to please have Kory contact her if there was ever anything he needed.  Comforting indeed.

We talked a bit more about a mutual friend ~ Ian McCaw ~ who had come to Baylor 10 years ago as the Athletic Director after serving as Athletic Director at UMass here in Amherst.  We had been so sad to see the McCaws leave, but he was thrilled to have him at Baylor.  He couldn't say enough about the gracious, humble attitude of Ian, but the report was certainly no surprise to us!
Boots, bears, and gluten free buns!
 We visited the bookstore right before the President's Picnic which is where we knew we would be saying our goodbyes.  I had to take a picture of these boots and text it to my dad who knows the owner/founder of the Game-Day Boot Co.  I really think it's time for my dad to get a pair of these, but he'll have to make room in his UT Longhorn heart in order to sport any Baylor gear.  He balked when we gave him a Baylor Dri-Fit Nike workout shirt and "Baylor Grandpa" mug for Father's day, since we happened to be with him that day this summer while in town for Baylor's orientation.  I think he's coming around...

After the bookstore, we stopped by to see the bears ~Judge Joy and Judge Lady.

When we arrived at the picnic, we found Kory who had already eaten an amazing BBQ meal complete with a gluten free bun. (Baylor is one of the top ranked schools for accommodating the GF lifestyle!) He was surrounded by friends he had met at Line Camp earlier that summer, and he introduced us to each one.  Since we had to drive back to Dallas that night, we decided to skip the long lines for food and leave him in the company of friends with a fun night ahead.
A final goodbye. (And yes, I now have to wear glasses.  Bifocals to be exact.  Doesn't that just "go" with being old enough to have a child in college?  Sigh...)
After hugs and "I love yous," Robert and I walked to the parking lot.  We had been heartily encouraged NOT to have our child walk to the car with us for a long emotional goodbye by some very wise Baylor Parent Orientation Presenters, and I'm glad we took their advice.  I was totally fine until we got in the car and Robert grabbed my hands to pray for Kory.  We committed him to the Lord and asked for his protection and blessing through tears of sadness, grief, gratitude and gladness.  Hardest, best thing we've ever done.

I cried through a beautiful breakfast at the Dallas Sheraton at the Galleria (Thank you, Pedro, for the incredible accommodations!)  the next morning, and again as the plane took off to take me back home without my firstborn, and again as we crawled back into our own bed that night.  I did not realize how hard it would be to send off into adulthood this kid whom I birthed, snuggled with a cup of milk after every nap, taught to read and write, add and subtract, write an essay, decline Latin nouns, and helped to build countless intricate Lego sets.  The one who always tucked in his shirts and wore a watch, a knife and a belt every day until he became a teenager. The one who followed all the rules, and read World War II books over and over and every single Hardy Boys novel. The one who loves his friends and traveling and talking about Jesus and is just generally happy, positive, and delightful to be around.

But I also began to think of the few sets of parents we know personally who have recently buried their firstborn children due to illness or accident or suicide.  It struck me how they would certainly give anything to do the thing I had just done.  And so, while the tears of some small form of grief still fall at times, I thank God for the incredible privilege of sending a happy, healthy, godly son off to college, and into his future and God's calling on his life.

This excerpt from Henri Nouwen on "hospitality" was sent to me by our dear friend, Gregory, and it has been such a source of encouragement and truth in the last few days:

Yes, I want to be a good host to all my guests ~ most importantly of all my own children, and letting them go is one of the best ways I can do that.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Majesty in Maine

These were some of our first glimpses of Acadia National Park upon arriving and driving down the park loop road. It was Robert's fourth, my third, and Kory's second time to be there, and we wanted to share it with Cooper and Kayla this summer ~ all of us together before saying goodbye to Kory in a week.
We also got to enjoy the beauty of Maine with long-time, dear friends!  We camped in the park for 3 nights with my friend Izckra, her kiddos, and her grandmother.  We even camped halfway there in Freeport, ME.  I do enjoy camping, but four nights is PLENTY.

Camp food is one of the best parts of camping: bacon for breakfast tacos (see the bacon chefs below), bacon to go with pancakes, bacon grease in foil packets to cook meats and veggies over the campfire.  Somehow I was able to gain five pounds on this HIGHLY active vacation, and I don't think it was the bacon that did it.  Pretty sure it was the s'mores, the tortillas filled with marshmallows, bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate chips and then roasted over hot coals, and the ice cream outings. Oh, well.  It was fun while it lasted!
There was lots of climbing around on the rocky shore and watching the lobster boats pull in their haul.

There were beautiful (and treacherous!) hikes, bike rides on carriage trails, and swims in lakes and the ocean.

When we reached the peak of "Beehive", we sat down to eat our packed lunches, and Robert read all of Psalm 8 to us...

Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes 
You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

...and we all shared the ways the name of the Lord was made majestic in the creation around us, and what it means to be a "ruler" or "steward" of that creation.  Then, Kayla thanked God for all that we were seeing and experiencing.

The beach below is also the beach you can see behind the group in the above photo ~ Sand Beach.  We spent one afternoon there enjoying the sunshine.  The boys played Spike Ball and drew lots of attention to this new game ~ even met a friend of the co-founder of the company, and the girls soaked up the sun and ate a picnic lunch!

On our last morning in Acadia, we got up at 4am in order to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and watch the sunrise. Cadillac Mountain is the "highest point along the North Atlantic Seaboard and is the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6" according to .  The other "first places" during other months of the year are also all in Maine.  Majestic, I tell you! (<---For you,  Izckra!)
It was very cold and windy, and I'm not sure Kayla or Mary ever really fully woke up for the special event, but they did their best.  The boys (even the one, KLK, who said he would) could not be aroused from their tent for the adventure.  Shocking, I know.  They certainly missed out!

We were between layers of clouds on the mountain ~ seeing them high above us and down below, and then just as the sun was peeking up from behind the earth, a huge cloud engulfed us and all we could see was this hazy glow.  We were sort of disappointed, and there was a collective groan from the hundred or so others who had also made the dawn journey.  But then, on the way back down, the clouds cleared and we could see the beautiful colors.  People were pulled off to the side of the road taking photos of what they had missed at the peak.
A group photo upon departure from our campsite, and not too shabby looking for only having had one eight quarter, four minute shower at the facility down the road!
After the three beautiful days in Acadia, our family drove about three hours south to Ogunquit, ME where we have vacationed almost every year for the 14 years we've been in MA, staying in a little studio cabin that is a ministry to ministers. Overlooking a famous cove, and minutes from one of the most popular beaches in Maine, it has been such a huge blessing to us to go there every year.
I don't know if you can tell from the photos, but the water was ~ always is ~ extremely COLD.  56 degrees to be exact. At first it just plain hurts your bones to stand ankle deep in it, but then your legs go numb, and somehow you can make your way out for an frigid swim. I didn't get that far, but Robert and two kids did.  "Very refreshing," the hubby said.

Kory did his usual sand castle building, and Cooper just covered himself in as much sand as possible as fast as possible.  No kidding.  This kid just wallows and burrows in sand the whole time he is at the beach, and then he wants to eat food from the cooler. SANDwich, anyone? This photo must have been either before the wallowing or after the icy swim, because he appears to be sand free, sort of.
Felt so good to be beach bums for a day!
Now, I don't really know if this truly qualifies as a place in Maine where the Lord's name is majestic, but I'm afraid I may have been worshiping there on Sunday morning.  The Crate and Barrel Outlet in Kittery is one of my most favorite places to visit in Maine with its shelves of uniform, crisp white dishes, crystal clear glassware, wooden bins of kitchen gadgets, brightly colored cup towels, and sale prices.  My heart even delights in watching the cashier wrap each piece in several layers of newsprint before packing them in beautiful brown, handled bags.  And loading them in my dishwasher at home to prepare them for future use makes me all giddy.  Sigh...Maine just has so many marvelous (maybe not majestic) places to go!

Kayla just came in the room and brought me an original poem that she has been pecking out on her new typewriter.  It's the perfect way to end this majestic-Maine-vacation-post, and sums up our experience fairly perfectly:

Oceans, sand, and salty spray
A starry night to lead the way
Fishing, lobster, and surfing waves
Underneath the ocean lays
A happy clam and a tiny pearl
A giant snail wrapped in a curl
This place is where I'm meant to be
A tiny cabin by the sea
With pictures hanging on the wall
Upon the roof the acorns fall
A pitter-patter above your head
Telling you to go to bed
A puzzle and a cup of tea
This place is where I'm meant to be.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Maine Thing

Tomorrow we head to Maine for a little bit of the above picture life, and I can't wait!  We'll be camping in Acadia National Park for three nights and then staying near the beach in Ogunquit for three nights.  This trip has become the highlight of our summer.  Really, it's the highlight of our whole year.  And this year it feels especially sacred, as just nine days after we return, we'll be taking Kory 2000 miles away for college.  I'm praying for lots of great laughs, talks, meals, hikes, bike trips, and swims as a family before he leaves the nest ~ and good weather, too!

While we are away, we've rented our home to a family from Sweden who is bringing their daughter nearly 4000 miles away to college at UMass. (And people think we're crazy for letting Kory go to Texas!) I've had wonderful correspondence with them, and deeply regret that we will not meet them while they are here.  We leave a few hours before they arrive.  It certainly adds a lot of work into the equation of packing for a camping/beach trip to prepare your house bed-and-breakfast style for international guests, but I've really enjoyed thinking through things that would make their stay comfortable, and the house is now in tip top shape!

I also had a lot of fun this week (small reprieve in the midst of chaos!?) thinking about what meals we will make over the campfire, and have already pre-made some of the essential components and frozen them to add to the cooler on our trip north.  When we get back, I'll try to post photos and recipes, but for now think bubbly, garlicky cheese dips for appetizers, marinated teriyaki chicken for kebobs, and marshmallows, chocolate chips, cream cheese, and fruit to dip for dessert.  Yum!

If you've never been to Maine, I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.  Truly an amazingly beautiful place!  See ya in a week or so!
P.S.  Our college-bound kid is determined to eat lobster for the first time on this trip!  I'm thinking we will indulge him in this small fantasy!