The dog is upset. I don't say that with much sympathy. I'm a bit frustrated with Harry right now. For the last six nights in a row, he has had an accident on the carpet, in the same spot, blatantly displaying his refusal to come and nudge us or bark in warning that he needed to go out. He didn't even try to get to the door to go out and do his business. No, it's like he has issued a warning to us that he is disturbed and emotionally troubled right now, and what better way to let us know that than with something so aromatically charged and obvious as his "business" right there before us where he has no business going?!
It could be that he can tell our son is leaving for college any day now. It may be that he senses all the commotion and packing and discussing is a sign that a big change is occurring- and he does not like change. He has made that very clear to us in the years we have had him.
"He's very delicate," my husband will say, in his defense.
"He's needy" my kids will offer up as an explanation of why he clings to us and shadows me everywhere I go in the house.
"He's a lot of work," I usually reply with an angry glare... and then a sigh signaling I am going to overlook his latest faux-pas. He is what he is: furry, fun, lovable and often a pain in the neck. But we adopted him from the Animal Rights Rescue group. We chose him to come live with us, for better or worse. And that's where we are right now, at one of those seasons where Harry is exhibiting his anxiety and confusion.
I myself have been having disturbing dreams, midnight wrestlings where I wake up and look at the clock reading 3am, and then battle all the "what if's" that suddenly come to mind. None of us are sad that Alex is leaving for college. We're excited for him. We're very hopeful about all that he is going to learn and experience. But we're a bit anxious about how life will be, now. Everything- and I do mean everything- is going to change.
Now there will be only three of us at the dinner table each night. The house will be quiet, except for the light humming along to music that Abby does. There won't be groups of guys coming over, saying "Hi Mrs. Caldwell!" while they hopefully eye the kitchen looking for chocolate cake or something freshly baked for them to eat. A big change will be that once Bill and I retire to our room to sleep, I will not lie there half awake as the night goes on, waiting for that knock on the door that signals my son's return home from whatever adventure he'd just had. When our daughter Abby goes to sleep (at a reasonable hour), she is out for the count, just like that. But our son is a night owl. And he doesn't always remember to let me know when he finally gets home. Many nights I have suddenly woken up with a start, run to his room to find him sprawled across his bed, and have heaved a sigh of relief. Now, when Bill, Abby (and even Harry) go to bed for the night, that's where everyone will be till dawn...in bed, safe and sound.
As to where my son will be every night, who knows?! He will be where he should be: at college, in his new world, carving out his life there with joy and probably some confusion. It will be a big change for him, having complete autonomy and jurisdiction over his life (other than the reminder phone calls that I do plan to make, reminding him to take medicine, reminding him to try-please try- and get some sleep, reminding him to eat vegetables and fruit and not just pizza and fries with cheese sauce all the time).
His leaving is not the only big change in our family's life. We are homeschooling Abby this year. We are also looking for a new church to be part of, one that is scaled down to the basics of fellowship, ministry, prayer. Many churches struggle in their quest to handle their growth. Sometimes they wind up wanting the supposed beauty of the business world where everything is efficient, successful, and organized. Management can become a key word, instead of Ministry. I'm at a point in my life where I have to scale back to the things that I know I need. I need to get to a place where I can fellowship with struggling Christians, with victorious Christians, with broken and confused Christians- 'cause I am all of those. Look me in the eye, and you'll see that. But we'll need to be face to face. We'll need to be real with each other.
Everything is changing. And change, for the most part, is stressful. But it is so needed. It signals that we're growing, that we're developing our gifts. It signals that we're releasing loved ones into their future. It means that we can't hold onto the past. We fumble around through change, and we often look ridiculous as we navigate the new paths before us. We are humbled as we have to ask for help, ask for advice from others who have gone before us. We are sometimes skittish and nervous, as Harry has been.
But it's all good. It really is. Or I should say it all works together for good- if we're flexible, if we admit that we have not gone this way before, if we look up and fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He will make this new world we enter be above and beyond what we thought it could be. It will be a journey and a Challenge. And it will be alright.