This is day five of a new series: 31 Letters from London. In October, I’m doing something a little different and writing to you about the realities of life as an expat; finding the nearness of God through random experiences with new culture. It’s important to begin here and find the collection of letters here. (This letter was written a month ago.) We’re breaking for Sabbath every Sunday.
Yesterday, I woke up to a grey bowl of cloud cover. Squinting, I captured rain spitting from the sky. The shiny pavement out my kitchen window warned me rain began falling more than a few minutes ago.
Leaves cascading from vines covering the wall behind my house are bleeding from verdant to crimson. Nature always alerts me to changes coming.
My daughter, Murielle, is asleep in the bedroom on the other side of the wall where I sit and type and listen to God most mornings. Right now, I’m listening to the Eastern Europeans three floors down banter back and forth while they pound hammers and drill into the adjoining concrete wall of our neighbor’s house.
We live in a terrace house or condo for those in the US. Adjoining walls means that their remodel is also ours to experience. Pounding, sawing and jack hammering are an intrusion to the normal stillness we usually awaken to in our neighborhood.
We can live through just about anything if we know the uncomfortable parts are temporary.
The leaves remind us daily that the work must be finished swiftly before the cold, dark and dreary months Dickens writes about became a reality in London. Open window days are fleeting and so is time with my daughter.
Murielle came here from South Carolina almost a month ago. We have one more day of being present with her until she flies back to the US.
I stare at those leaves, looking for wisdom as I navigate a new season of surrender in parenting.
She and I are making the slow transition from parent to friend. During her middle school years I didn’t think this was ever a possible reality. Admittedly my navigation skills in our relationship are sometimes lacking and awkward.
For two hours, we walk the aisles of Boots, a local store like Ulta in the US. Walls and shelves filled with lipsticks, eye pencils and magic sponges for applying makeup. She watched YouTube, took notes and is applying what she learns; a student of cosmetics, holding her Moleskine and purse with hyper vigilance to details.
“Do you want me to wash your makeup brushes,” she asks.
Of course, I said yes. I remember the days when I attempted a tutorial on how to apply mascara in her bathroom mirror. She still doesn’t wear it.
Hours spent wandering around a store full to the brim with femininity is an awe-inspiring expedition in this season of our relationship.
We come home with a bag of beauty tricks; a new sponge shaped like a mushroom for me because apparently only using your finger to apply foundation is old school.
And this being with my daughter, not for what I can teach her but for what she can teach me, it is a humbling transition, needed and freeing.
I’m learning that when I take a step back and look at life, not for how I can influence or change it, but for what I can learn from it, the ways in which God speaks through new culture and diversity become vistas admired for the wonder instead of formulas to be conquered.
Like the leaves shifting color on the wall of my garden, my daughter is showing me change is beautiful. And embracing change is a ruthless surrender making a clear pathway toward the future.
Are you experiencing a change of seasons in your community? In your relationships? Write me back and tell me how it looks for you (in the comments).
All my best,
Hello friend, Annie and I made that transition years ago, but her Dad hasn’t gotten there yet! When we dropped her and her girls off at the airport last week at the beach to fly home, she gave the desk clerk her license and looked up at me bewildered. Her Dad had made the ticket in her maiden name! For that she got to endure “extra” security measures as she traveled home with toddlers :). Ha! We went to a conference called “Woman” this weekend. She is a woman. I can hardly believe she is my little girl, so beautiful with her freckles and her deep dimples. She is still my joy and I treasure her friendship — and her fashion advice. Lovely pic of you and Murielle. And loving this peek into your Morning Pages. xo, Dea
I can’t believe he booked her ticket in her maiden name. Sounds like something H would do. He actually asked her to spell her name the other day. WHAT?!!
Our daughter moved to New York City (from Kentucky) almost two years ago to forge her own path and she did so with our blessing. She loves it and we are so proud of her as a young woman, following her dream and growing in so many ways. But we still miss her terribly and are thankful for Instagram and instant messaging :). She was my best friend ( and my shopping partner) and I have had to grow as well, reaching out to friends, etc. It has been good but a hard transition and I am not quite on the other side yet. A helpful book I read recently is “Girl Meets Change” by Kristen Strong. I pray that you will continue to work your way through this and continue to share what God is teaching you!
What an encouragement your comment is to me, thank you. Knowing someone’s daughter is making her way in a new city is somehow comforting even though we don’t know each other. And yes, I miss my daughter terribly even though I know this separation is needful at the moment. God is good. And I love Kristen! I haven’t gotten a copy yet but can’t wait to read it.
Maybe we never fully out of transition Megan.
I love what you’ve so thoughtfully “penned” here, Shelly. All the changes in relationship, especially with a daughter, seem so bitter-sweet to me. I recall when my girl was 17, sitting at our kitchen nook instructing me as to the applying of eyeliner–something I never wore–and also her latest tutorial on hair care. Of course, applying this new knowledge always seems to look so much better on her, a mere 29 year old, than on myself, turning 59 tomorrow. And now, like the other Mums who have commented, my daughter lives 1400 miles away on the beautiful Island of Prince Edward, here in Canada. She called today to wish her Dad a Happy 60th Birthday, and I heard him ‘choking-up’ a couple of times. For her to be so far away has been a real challenge for us, and yet we are so very proud of her for taking a giant leap of faith in order to live where she’s always dreamed of living. But it’s hard. Very hard. We miss her terribly.
I am just now beginning to see that our ’empty nest’ of some 9 years, means I need to get on with MY life, just as my children have done. Time for new friends, new pastimes, new experiences apart from them. They are forging new roads, seldom needing a ‘parent’ any more, but rather a ‘friend’ who will simply listen. I’ve tried throughout these many years NOT to be a ‘Smother Mother’, which, by the way, goes against my very nature, but I’m learning as I go. Especially with my daughter, it has been a different transition. The removing of my hand, in exchange for woman-to-woman relationship. And, the further trusting of our Good God to keep her in His tender care. Amen.
Sometimes, like yesterday for instance, I closed my eyes and pictured my kids when they were babies. I could feel how it felt to be in that season again. It goes so fast doesn’t it? Letting go of our children is gradual but this season of long periods of physical separation is hard. Thanks for sharing your own experience Jillie, makes me feel comforted.
The one constant thing about life and especially parenting is change. My daughter will turn 30 next month (hard to believe) and I well remember all the feelings you have so eloquently shared in this post. Beautiful!
So true Michelle. Change and God’s never changing love for us are the only constants in this life. Thanks for being here and leaving a comment, I really appreciate it.
Total season change for me :), it will be spring to summer when we arrive in Melbourne in two weeks. For this move I feel like I am bracing myself. I left something I loved and for the first time I am going back to an old home base, to relationships and places of the past. Will they still fit? How do we make room for each other? These are things I wonder about.
Yes, going back to the place you once lived has its own challenges doesn’t Devi? We remember people and places like they are stuck in time but life continues to move forward all around us. I’m sure you’ll revisit those relationships with new eyes and some realistic outcomes based on your own experiences. I look forward to hearing how it all works out. I hope you’ll keep in touch. Praying for you now.
Thanks so much Shelly. I’m off Facebook and other forms of social media right now, but I’m commenting more on blogs and blogging more as well.
Shelly, this is such a beautiful post, and so funny that I should read it today, because as Sheridan and I were taking a brisk walk together this late-afternoon with Chevy, our incorrigible Poodle, I was saying, “You know, honey, our relationship has really shifted, and we are dear friends.” She’s so conscientious, and I love how she still honors her parents–something I told her that everyone is required by God to do–but that she never has to ask permission any more. It’s been a different kind of navigation since she went to college at home and lived here (to enjoy her father’s great cooking! 🙂 ) We’re both gaining our new footing. But I love the woman she has become. I love that like your Murielle, she can give me advice on areas I’m not so adept at and just share her inner life with me with abandon. I love how you and Murielle are sharing your hearts, and how the leaves of your life are twining together as they twirl. Isn’t it the goal of every parent and child ultimately to become friends? I know Mother and I are dear friends, and I am so glad that Sheridan and I are emulating the relationship I have with my mother. These are good times, Shelly, and I”m glad for all the autumn leaves reminded you about–that change can be colorful and beautiful. Thank you for such a meaningful sharing.
This is absolutely lovely and such a special time you had with your daughter. Something, I guess, that will be treasured for years to come. I never had this type of relationship with my mum…going out girly shopping or being shown how to apply make-up. Knowing that I had missed out on something that I know would have been a special bonding moment between me and my mum, I am determined that this is not to happen with my own children.
My eldest daughter is only 7, but I am seeing her change into a lovely young girl and she so craves my attention to have girly time with her. She loves to wear makeup and does her hair in a different style nearly every day. Because I didn’t experience this girly time with my mum, I have to really push myself to be in that moment with my daughter. It can be so easy to dismiss what she wants in this busy world. I think one of these days, she is going to teach me how to apply make up properly! When that day comes, I am going to embrace that transition with open arms.
Thank you so much for sharing your lovely moment. x