Thursday, August 13, 2015

BTS and an Empty Nest

By Brenda Black

Once upon a time, I was shopping for backpacks, pencils and ruled paper in early August. The approaching autumn and school activities merited new clothes and shoes that fit our young sons. It hit me like a ton of bricks how long ago that now seems, as I watched hoards of families stock piling school supplies on “No Sales Tax” weekend. I nearly bought a box of crayons and a coloring book for myself, just for the sake of nostalgia. Besides I've heard it's great therapy for alleviating stress.

Funny how, on this side of time and distance, one only remembers the wonderment of back-to-school preps. We deny there were hassles and headaches. We conveniently forget how big of a dent the new clothes, paste and gym shoes put into our pocketbook. All we recall is smiling, cherub faces gleaming over Disney lunch boxes.

Perhaps this pollyannish mindset is the transfer of our own childhood memories upon our offspring. Truth be told, I still have my pink Tinker Bell lunch box. To me it still smells like tuna fish sandwiches – the good kind with sweet, homemade pickle relish and just the right amount of Miracle Whip -- lovingly cut by my mamma into perfect triangles that little hands could easily grip.

Wouldn't it be nice to turn that polyurethane insulated lunch bag into a time machine so that every time your baby opened it, the clock stood still and they stayed little. Then, once in a while, we could borrow it's magic, flip up the lid and step inside and go back to our own time of innocence.

So much for dreaming. We can't stop time and we can't go back. With the honor of motherhood comes happy memories as well as heartache. It would be nice if babies came with a guarantee of staying tiny. No colic, no tears, no toddler crashes, no loneliness on the playground and no teenage tragedies. It would be comforting to not have to worry over tough tests or deceitful friends or twenty-something break-ups. We'd like to think our child's life a bed of roses and innocence. But in the end, such a child would be spoiled and weak and have no history or meaningful memories. For all of life's experiences shape them into men and women we'll respect and upon which we may even depend. The whole of it is what makes watching them grow up worth the pain of letting it happen.

The instinct to provide and protect never ends. A desire to catch them before they fall or kiss all hurt away is protocol in the parent guidebook. That's what moms and dads do. We buy the supplies, we shuttle them to the practices. We check their progress and we carry their burdens like they were heaped in a backpack and strapped to our own shoulders. We watch them grow, without our permission, and cling to the memories of when they were little.

Then, one day, we look up to them. We step under the arm of a towering son, instead of holding him in our lap. We laugh like adult friends instead of warring like a mother at odds with her teenage daughter. We watch them launch. We celebrate their marriage. We welcome grandbabies and start the process all over!

Back to school takes me back in time. Back to when my children were babies. Yep, I think I'm going to go get that coloring book and use it as a bit of therapy to occupy and ease my mind, here in my empty nest.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Can't Fix This

By Brenda Black

Confession: I'm a fixer. Couple that with my strong will to not wait for someone to come to the rescue, and it warps into a MacGyver complex. You see, I am fairly convinced that nearly anything can be repaired by using assorted items from the junk drawer. Take a look. There's gum for adhesive, a paperclip that doubles as a skrewdriver or key ring. Most recently, I stopped a leaking toilet handle with a handy bread wrapper twist tie. A good supply of duct tape, super glue, baling twine and ingenuity has been known to save thousands of dollars and extend the life of countless gadgets, from household appliances to farm implements. Tada! Consider it fixed.

The frugal stubbornness that has found me digging through old rusty buckets for just the right little doodad can be a blessing. It not only saves money, but instills independence. It rekindles creativity. Thinking outside the box in an effort to make do or rectify a problem comes with satisfaction. So much so, that when I come to a situation without remedy from my make-shift arsenal of stuff at-the-ready, I fail miserably accepting the fact that I can't fix this.

 The let down over breakdowns is only intensified when the broken thing is not a thing, but a human being – one I love. That drives me the craziest; I'm still confessing. When I can't patch them with gorilla glue, and there isn't a bandage big enough to cover the disease, it grieves me. When I can't tie up their heartache with left over streamers from a helium balloon, I feel deflated. And that's right where the good Lord would have me to be – totally dependent on His touch and mercy.

The fact that I can't fix it keeps me on my knees. Down there, I don't pilfer through junk to discover a makeshift solution to life's problems. Down there, I can't take credit for my clever concoctions. Down there, it's humbling and has me waiting for someone to come to the rescue. On my knees makes me dependent on the One who can fix it!

Confession: I am tempted to give God a helping hand by making creative suggestions about just how He should whip something up and rectify the problem. Realistically, I know that my remedies come from the junk drawer, while His are perfect.

So, here I remain, able to tinker and strategize quick fixes for minute problems, but incapable of fixing the big issues for my loved ones. And right here is where I need to be – praying. For, when it is all said and done, the prayer of a righteous one fixes much.