Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Prodigal

I have debated whether or not to write this post. As FamiliesChange.blogspot.com was created by a single mom struggling with her new reality, it seems appropriate to share all the changes that have come my way.  I have hesitantly allowed you into my broken heart and divorce.  I have shared the emptiness and joy as a daughter leaves the home to marry.  I have shared my inspired romance and marriage to one of my very best friends growing up, becoming a step-mother and a grandmother.  From this list, I have realized that Families Change with the days, and some changes are delightful, some growing, some heartbreaking and some just downright hard and unfair.  So now, I share an experience that seems to encompass all of the above and more.  And, I share it, perhaps with the hopes that someone else has felt like I do and will be brave enough to share with me.  

No matter how hard we try, our kids don't always make the choices we would make, choose the career that we think they were made for.  We could raise them in a musical home and they could crave the quiet.  We surround them with certain core values, our core values, and they may choose to create their own.  We may try to fill them with motivation and aspirations and they may be content with "now" and unsure of the "later"----and be just fine with it.  We may have pictured them a certain way, all their life-----and they may have a completely different album of their future.   All of which are fine and good, but some are difficult to swallow ---- like a large pill for the best outcome, yet it hurts the whole way down.  So, as my son has left and moved out into college housing, I have been flooded with a myriad of emotions, thoughts, memories and even regrets.  Did I raise him the best I knew how?  Did I give him my all when he needed it?  Did I try to relate and enjoy, understand and feel from his perspective?  Did I analyze his actions according to how he would live or how I would have him live?  Did I?  Could I?  Should I? And, will I? are the questions.  With this heavy on my mind, I found myself pondering the story of the prodigal son.  Of course, their are similarities.......... his "inheritance" would be a bed-in-a-bag, and a 5 x 7 of the family.  And, the new distance he created between us, less than a mile away.  However, Families Change, and it's easy to focus on the "Never Agains", rather than the "Won't It Be Fun When?"........Families Change and will continue to change, not only with the times, but because of time.  And, as they change, so do we, as parents----- learning and growing, laughing and crying, packing and unpacking....we change. 

Back to the prodigal son.  The son, takes his inheritance and  leaves, and is about "riotous living" for a time.  His money is spent, he realizes that his choices did not lead to the happiness he was seeking.  Then, in moments of reflection or perhaps desperation, he remembers whose his is, and yearns to be reunited with his father.  Then, we have the oldest son, who had been obedient to his father's will, and watches this reunion.  The prodigal son returns to open arms, not the lecture, grounding or typical response the eldest son would have thought.  It is evident that the prodigal son has never been far from his father's thoughts, as their eyes meet, they run to one another and embrace with a kiss.  Then, the father has his servants bring the prodigal a robe, some shoes and ring, and instructs them to prepare a fine to prepare a fine feast.
 I believe this parable teaches us a little bit about ourselves and a lot about our relationships.  We have all been the "father", lovingly responsible for someone else, celebrating a return, an accomplishment, or even a change of heart.  We have all been the "eldest" son, unable to celebrate the good fortune of another, when we feel like we have worked for it and deserve it even more.  And, we have all been the "prodigal"------ leaving what we know and love, to test our wings and see if we can really fly........our own way!  And, we have all been "prodigal" as realization becomes our reality, and we long to return to the Father.......from whence we KNOW we came and even belong, regardless of our weakness.

And, not mentioned in the parable, but in my mind, there must have been a mother.  A loving mother, who spent her days creating a home full of the spirit.  She must have created some meals her boys loved that no one else could make just like her, that would permeate the home each night.   Perhaps she played music that her son's did not think they enjoyed but, made it feel like home.  There must have been a mother who felt guilty as her son left the home, which guilt led to self-doubt and feelings of failure and inadequacies.  There must have been a mom who cried with the father as their son departed, and who rejoiced with him upon his return.  A mother who remembered birthdays and created traditions of all kinds, that the son remembered, perhaps missed and maybe even quietly longed for during his journey away. 

The Prodigal is so much more than a son's return after "riotous" living.  The Prodigal is more than a loving father welcoming him home with the best of the best.  The Prodigal is more than an obedient yet jealous brother.  The Prodigal is all about how selfish, immature behavior can become a canvas of learning and possibly to becoming broken and humble.  It is about living our mistakes, which we all do, then allowing humility and our own realization of whose we truly are, becoming a catalyst in our lives, producing change.  The Prodigal does not mean that we all need to live and experience every thing for ourselves, in order to know right from wrong.  But, what it does mean is that if we do, if pleasure-seeking becomes more powerful than covenant-keeping, there is a way back, rejoicing to be had and open arms awaiting our return.  The Prodigal is about each of us and our imperfections, and allowing those imperfections to motivate us even catapult us home.  The Prodigal!

Monday, June 2, 2014

7.3 miles

Saturday, I set out to run from the top of the Provo temple, down to my house--- a little over 7 miles.   As we drove to the top of the temple, my designated starting place, my daughter noticed I was shutting down my phone and putting it in the glove box.  She told me over and over again to keep my phone with me, just in the event of an emergency.  With each plea, I gave the same response, "I'll be fine. It's no big deal! I won't need to call anyone."  Prior to leaving, my husband worried about the distance.  Again, I confidently gave a similar response, "No big deal.  I'll be fine!"  He cautioned me about the hot weather and specifically advised me to take plenty of water and stay hydrated. I like a long run now and then, and 7 miles seemed perfect.   Though it had been some time since I had ran any long distance, the weather was warm, time was on my side, the decision was made, the race was on!  Consistent with my responses, I drank a few sips of water, left my bottle in the car, put my cell phone in the glove box, and jumped out, and admired mountain upon which I stood.  Phone-less and water-less, I began to run.  The only competitor was myself.  The weather was beautiful.  It was a perfect day.

After pounding the hot pavement for the first hour or so, "warm" quickly escaladed to hot! Suddenly, I realized I was no longer 20 years old, and I was ready to call the "poop-out-pick-up", however, I had tossed my phone in the glove box of the car, confident my determination would see me through.  I came to a steep hill, and really felt like giving up.  "If only I had listened to my daughter, and not felt like I could do it all on my own?"  As I continued, hot, tired, and ready to give up, thirst began to set in.  The more I ran, the thirstier I became. Then, at about 5 miles, I noticed a ditch or canal, full of water, right next to me.  Rushing, cold water was within reach, it would taste and feel so good, yet I knew, it was not clean.  For about the next mile, I ran parallel to that running water.  I could hear it, see it and almost taste it.  I imagined my thirst being quenched by the rushing water, and it felt so good.  I could not believe how thirsty I became with each stride.  I began to slow and approached the ditch.  I walked along the side, staring at the water.  I wanted it so badly.  I was SO hot and SO thirsty, yet I knew it was not clean and if I drank it, the outcome could be disastrous!!
 I stood.  I pondered.  I yearned for a drink.  Then, I walked away and began running again.  I felt empowered, and thoughts and inspiration began to flood my mind and heart!

The water could be too much idle time, late nights, dark places (figuratively and emotionally), a bad habit, temptation, or anything else that is enticing yet possibly disastrous. Then, I thought about the fact that I had water in the car.  I was advised to bring it with me, yet I did not listen.  How often do we intentionally surround ourselves with those things, we know, target our "thirsts" and weaknesses, all the while knowing we have access to living water and knowledge to quench any thirst the world might throw our way, yet, we do not prepare and partake?  The heat could be the intensity of life!  Sometimes it provides an absolutely beautiful day, yet other times, life can be so hot that we want to quit, give up and get out!  Finally, the sun---- or the Son.  He is there illuminating, enlightening and brightening our every day in every way, yet sometimes, we lose sight of His divine potential in our lives and we focus on the heat--- the hard times and challenges that life provides.  I realized that today's challenges can and are tomorrow's strengths, with the comfort of the Son.  With those realizations, I ran!!  By mile 6, those inspirations began to fade, as often they do in life, and my thoughts of weakness and giving up became first and foremost in my mind.  So, with the intensity of the Son, I prayed...... out loud..... as I ran!  "Please, let a neighbor or friend drive by this familiar road, and rescue me!!"  I ran, watched and nothing.  I prayed again, this time a little louder.  "Please, let even a stranger drive by, see the pain and desperation in my face, and stop and rescue me!"  I ran, watched and nothing.  Quickly approaching mile 7, tears welled up in my eyes, as thirst, pain, heat and frustration overcame me.  Finally, I pleaded, "Please send my husband or one of my kids----whisper to them that I am struggling, and send them to my rescue..........even though I did not listen.....did not bring my phone or water.......send them!"  As I looked in the distance, I could see the familiar lights of our silver Hyundai headed right for me.  I began to run faster and faster, so that they would not know the extent of my desperation.  It slowed as it approached, then drove right by.  I prayed again.  And, again, another silver car approached.  Again, my speed and determination increased.  And, again, the silver car of strangers drove by.  I continued to pray and continued to see more silver cars than I had ever seen before.
 Silver car after silver car, motivation after motivation, yet, not apparent rescue.  Then, I turned down the top of our street.  I slowed to a walk to allow my muscles to cool.  As I walked I pondered again........... "Why had He not answered my prayers?"  I walked away from the dirty water and pleaded and prayed to be rescued.  Silver car after silver car, but no answer.  Then it hit me.  I had made it home!  I had finished the race!  I did not give up!  I did not quit!  And, He did hear and answer my prayers............ with each silver car He heard.  And, with each silver car He answered!  These answers motivated, encouraged and inspired when I was about to give up.  He could have sent a ride......then I would have always wondered if I could have finished the run.  And, I would not have learned about the "water", the "heat" or the "Son".

As I ran, I learned, He lives!  He hears!  He answers!  He teaches!  He comforts!  Silver car after silver car, He sends, if we will but open our eyes, and see Him in the details of our lives.  Each tender mercy, each and every day, to keep up from the dirty water, to push us and inspire us to Get Up!  Get Dressed! Show up! And, Never Give Up!  7.3 miles.  Silver car after silver car.  He lives!!