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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Therapeutic Writing

I'm writing you this, knowing you will not read the words. I'm writing because it makes me feel better...

It's been a year now. It's been a year, but just the other day I grabbed my phone to take a picture of your youngest two children, in my kitchen with their arms around each other, with the intent to send it to you. For about the thousandth time this year I had to quickly remind myself I can't. It is so strange how intermingled my contrasting thoughts can be. I knew you'd be so proud of how they are all three taking care of each other since you're gone and that is why I wanted to send you the picture. But... You're gone.

Today I took your girl to get her hair cut. I assume somewhere inside that's hard for her since you were always the one to cut her hair. I tried to make it a fun, lighthearted day for her. She brought it up at lunch, though, saying so very casually, "My mom always cut my hair." Since she opened the subject up, I asked her if it bothers her to have someone else cut it. Of course, she said no just like I figured she would. She keeps that tough exterior up just like you always did. 

A little later I went to the restaurant bathroom to see what was taking the girls so long and thanks to MY girl (who has a big sister) yours blurted out the question: "WHAT is a period??!" It struck me as so hilarious and with permission from Dad I gave her the basics of the feminine functions. It was no burden to have this little talk with two of my favorite girls in the backseat - I considered it a privilege actually. I thought of how you surely would have made it light and funny. It broke my heart, too, though because it should have been you. You should have had the talk with her and we should have shared our stories about how they reacted. Your baby asked about you. "Did my mom have that???" 😂😂 

I'm so incredibly thankful to be able to include you in these moments. We talk about you all the time. Not in a sad, mournful way, but usually through funny memories. Just today she told me a story about leaving early from a school party and you were holding her cupcake. She said she got to the car and the cupcake was gone and you just told her you dropped it "like it was no big deal." I told her you probably ate it and just told her you dropped it. She agreed. 

Our biggest bond was always these girls. I remember you texting me to ask what I thought about her name when you were pregnant. I remember being so exited for you at the news you were going to get your girl this time, and you showing me at that very first ultrasound, just a few months later, you were pretty sure I was having a girl, too. I remember holding your baby girl in the hospital the day she was born. We had absolutely no clue back then how much our girls would end up meaning to each other! I remember sharing almost every funny, cute, sweet, or monumental thing she did at my house during the day via a text or picture. That's a hard habit to break, I guess. I miss you. And I'm sad. And I'm a little angry, honestly, that you're missing all this. It's not fair.

I think you'd be proud of all of us, though. I think you'd be happy to see how everyone is taking care of your babies - to see how they take care of each other.You'd be proud of their dad, for sure. And maybe someday I'll quit reaching for my phone to tell you all about it...

Monday, October 9, 2017

Second String

...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

My son is not the star of his football team.  

So, let's all be honest with each other for just one minute.  As a parent, doesn't that sting?  Whether you're the type of parent who wants to live vicariously through your children, the type who feels your child's performance is a reflection on you, or just a parent who really wants awesome things for your child with a life of minimal heartache, it is hard to watch other kids be the stars.

Recently our little 8th grade football team lost a game.  Incidentally, my son played less in that game than he has so far this season.  (2nd string doesn't get a lot of playing time when the chips are down.)  I think he went in for one or two plays and in my haughty internal parental monologue I thought, "Hmmmph.  Just going in to give someone else a breather."  We left when the game was over and I was being my usual self when I'm with my kids; cutting up and making jokes.  My son was having none of it!  He. was. angry.  Was he angry that he did not get to play much?  No.  (He NEVER has an attitude about how much playing time he gets.)  He was upset because his team lost.

Did you catch that?  HIS team.  (Isn't it humbling when your children teach you life lessons?)  I didn't get as in to the game as I might have because my boy didn't play much.  I realized after that game, his level of playing time matters very little to how he views his place on that team.  They are his teammates and that was his game as much as it was the super-star starter boys'.

Mind you that I have no delusions about my child's abilities on the field and I am not one of those parents who thinks everyone should get equal playing time after we get up in the middle school years.  My son is a hard worker, he has more heart than anyone I know, and giving up on something is absolutely not in his nature.  But, there are some kids on that team who can just flat outplay him on a football field.  As it goes with life, those boys are obviously going to start in front of him.  When we talk about it I tell him to just keep working hard and playing to the best of his ability.  Hard work pays off.

But, there is a piece of this puzzle I've been missing the whole time.  My son is a servant.  I have worked hard throughout my life to turn on that side of myself that wants to do things for others and give of my resources and time.  My son, however, came out of the womb that way.  He is forever looking for ways to take a burden off of someone.  He genuinely loves to help other people and in service is where he finds his true joy.  I watch him on the sidelines sometimes and I see him just go from one little group of padded up teenage boys to another, talking to them.  I see him patting guys on the shoulder pad or helmet.  I see him high-five his teammates for a great play.  What I do not see every day at practice is he is there on that field for those starters to practice against and get better. 

You see, not everyone is a starter.  There have to be the other kids on the team to make practice work; to step in when the starters are winded and need a break.  How could I have not seen it before?  Of course this is the role my son plays.  (It is the role he plays in life!)  And, how could I have missed how important that role is to the team?

I recently had this conversation with my dad who absolutely was a "super-star starter kid" his whole life and played college football on a scholarship.  This was no revelation to him.  He was nodding the whole time I talked to him about my little epiphany, and said, "Oh, yeah.  Everyone has a role they play.  Those guys are just as important."

So, the biggest question I had to ask myself in all of this is, "why?"  Why do I want so much for my child to start on a football team?  Why have I even gone so far as to pray for favor over my child to have more playing time? (Yes, I am at this point a little bit ashamed to admit that!)  It was absolutely not because I wanted God to be glorified.  It was because I want my kids to be blissfully happy all the time and have wonderful fantastic lives because I love them more than anything.  All the while, my son has been out on the football field just glorifying God with his servant's heart and amazing attitude and I totally missed it.  

So from here on out I will never watch my 2nd string football player's team like I used to.  That is HIS team, and I am going to be watching it from his point of view.  Now I am praying for him to glorify God in whatever position God chooses for him to be in.  

Because I know as well as anyone, God uses us 2nd string kids in big ways sometimes! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The other half of addiction

I woke up this morning from a very vivid dream that hurt my heart. I was immediately reminded of a poem I wrote close to 20 years ago now. I'm always hesitant to share my poetry, but I feel compelled to share this because it depicts the raw emotions that come with watching someone you love struggle with addiction.  It isn't something that just affects that person; it is almost equally as destructive to the people who love them. And, if you are in that place now, I encourage you to get support with you own struggles. There is help out there - no one has to go through this alone. -->

Oh, your aching heart
So very close to mine,
And this sickening poison
Running through your mind.
You try so very hard
To make it go away.
You push away the right things,
The ones who bid you stay.
You cling to demons
While angels cry for you,
Pushing away the pain
While reeling it in times two.
And I have been right here
Loving you all the while,
Holding on to your dreams,
And remembering your smile.
I've cried out to God for you -
For all the times you wouldn't.
I've stayed calm and sane
Most of the times you couldn't.
How could it not destroy me
To watch you fall apart?
You are in my soul
And you hold half my heart.
I'll be that consistency
In the corner of your mind.
I'll be here loving you
When there's nothing better you can find...
-Christin Knowles, 1998

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To the Seniors

Dear High School Senior,

I had a shoe box in my closet growing up and it was full of pamphlets and info (much of which I'd sent off for - remember I didn't grow up with the internet. Ha!!) about various issues I was highly concerned with. Endangered species, wild flower preservation, rain forest conservation, etc. I was the kid calling to pledge $5 to the telethons on TV and I wrote more than one "letter to the editor" as a child. At under 10 years old, I followed the situation in East/West Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall with intense concern. I was so ecstatic when it fell and I desperately wanted a piece of the wall to commemorate the occasion. (My husband, who is exactly my age, has no recollection of this event from 4th grade.)

Am I telling you this because I want you to know I was born an outstanding citizen of the world? Gosh, no. For Heaven's sake, I sometimes look back at me as a child and want to tell myself, "Would you just chill out and let the adults worry about world hunger and the hole in the ozone??" I'm telling you this to explain to you that everyone is passionate about something!

You are about to go make decisions about what you want to do with your life, and this is NOT the most opportune age or time in your life to have to decide what you want to do forever. Sheesh! Most of you have barely experienced anything, really. You're still figuring yourself out. Picking a college or trade school, declaring a major, and deciding on a field of study are all major decisions!! Looking at you all from this vantage point, here is the best advice I can give you: if you choose something you're passionate about, something you love, something you believe in, then going to work every day won't feel like going to work. It will feel like fulfilling your life's mission.

What excites you? What makes you tick? What interests you? If money is what you are passionate about, then pursue that! Focus on the salary, by all means, because that's going to drive you!  Money motivates me least of all, so it's probably no surprise I'm working in a non-profit, education based agency!  If you love creating things, then figure out how to make a career of it.

The other night I was at a fundraising event for cancer research and my sister saw a picture of me on social media. She texted me to tell me I looked like I was glowing. I thought about it for a minute and then decided, "Of course I'm glowing!" I was taking part in something bigger than me, a cause, that would benefit humanity in a positive way. (Not to mention I also had my husband and kids joining in with me!) I was in my element, I was doing what I was made to do.

Lucky for me, I work in an agency where every single day I'm playing a part to change the trajectory of people's lives. That doesn't mean that every day at work for me is all sunshine and roses, but it means every day I go to work on a mission. I'm fulfilling my passion.

You see, you have to pull that proverbial shoe box out of your closet and try to narrow it down to your most prized pamphlet. And, that is the answer to what career path you should follow.  It may not end up looking exactly like you think. My plan to be a child psychologist has ended up as a career in Head Start administration and training adults in early childhood best practices! Your passion for sports may not end you up as a professional ball player, but maybe you're destined to be a sports analyst or for a career in sports medicine! Find a way to channel some of your favorite things in to a way to make money, and you're going to be pretty​ happy in your career!

In the wise words of the Postman (my Dad), "You're going to spend most of your life working. You might as well do something you WANT to instead of something you HAVE to do." (He also told me college isn't a race. But he may regret that advice now!! Ha!!)

But, the most important thing I can tell you is this: listen to what God is telling you. He has already worked out a perfect plan for you and He will direct you exactly where you need to be.  God has instilled specific passions in you for His specific purposes! There is nothing quite like the contentment of knowing you are right where God wants you.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord . With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,  because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.  You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:8‭-‬11 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Who ARE these Blue and Gold Kids?

I am sitting in a sea of blue and gold, and I am in complete awe. I am in this arena, surrounded by kids (KIDS!) who are dressed so much better than I, in their official FFA dress attire - all business.

There are adults around to keep things in check, but this outstanding conference I am listening to is being put on by young adults. Who ARE these kids?? They're conducting board-style meetings in front of thousands of people. They're speaking more eloquently than I ever dreamed of, even at my age with my current training in adult education and presentation. They're dynamically introducing public figures, presenting statistics on current issues, and sharing their personal stories. (Did I mention in front of thousands of people?!)

I witnessed our little chapter, alone, have discussions and make decisions on who to vote for to represent them at the state level in their organization.  I watched several of them serve on different levels. I just continue to be amazed by the skills and values instilled in these kids in blue and gold.

I watch the things they are doing now, already, at their tender ages, and it is so encouraging to think of what they'll be capable of as adults. They are ahead of the game!!  I never wore that blue and gold jacket myself, but I'm so proud to be raising children who do and the more I learn about this organization the more value I see in supporting it any way I can. That is why I am here this week. I sincerely thank every person and company who gives of their time or resources to keep this great organization going. You are helping make our future better!

Who are these kids in blue and gold? They are our future Educators, Innovators, Legislators, Ranchers, CEOs... They will be the leaders of our communities. If you doubt that, then I challenge you to come see a State FFA Convention.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dear Teen I am your Mom AND your friend

This blog post may not be popular with everyone and I may get some push back on it.  We may have to agree to disagree.  And, like with so many parenting issues, there is always the chance I'll get some more experience under my belt and I'll change my stance.  But, right here, right now, in THIS moment with a 16 year old daughter, I have very purposely chosen to be her friend.

Don't get me wrong.  She knows the boundaries and she knows that look on my face or tone in my voice that tells her I'm not kidding around anymore.  See, all those boundaries were set up long, long ago.  I'm a firm believer in allowing kids their consequences to their actions and we've spent a good 13 years on setting limits, allowing consequences, etc.  (I say 13 and not 16 because she's my oldest and it took me a few years to find my groove in the discipline area!!)  I know that a child's values are set somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12 and I concentrated on those years pretty hard.  We've been through groundings, loss of privileges, and many many conversations.

This girl knows my stories.  Within age appropriate timelines, I've told her my tales - yes, even the ones I'm not too proud of.  Oh, my goodness!  It is a humbling experience to look at this child who adores you and tell them how you messed stuff up really good at times.  But, if my children can somehow not have to repeat my same mistakes (although I know they'll find their own!) and learn from my life experiences, then choking on my pride is worth it.  

So, I guess you could say we're friends.  If you ask her, she'll tell you we are.  I was fully prepared to lose her.  I braced myself as she entered her teen years for her to dislike me, pull away from me, and decide I am completely dumb and out of touch.  But, I also have done my due diligence to NOT be out of touch.  I Snapchat!  I Instagram.  I tweet.  I listen to music that is not always my favorite.  Why do I do these things?  Because I want to be a teenager?  Not even a little bit.  (I wasn't even great at being a teenager when I was one.)  I do these things to stay in touch with my child - to read what she read, hear what she hears, and stay informed enough to help her navigate this crazy digital world our kids are growing up in.

She is now 3 months away from 17 years old.  We. Have. Raised. Her.  She knows what we do and do not expect.  She knows what our family values are.  She knows what is okay with us and what is not. We are not going to back track on that now.  I look to God as an example of the ultimate parent.  He sets out the guidelines for us, he allows us to suffer our consequences when we need to.  But, he is also the dearest, dearest friend.  So, why would I think I need to try to be different to my children?  I want to parent them and I also want to be their friend.

Why?  Because, please God let my daughter come to me if she messes up.  She is going to mess up.  How do I know that?  Because she is human.  And, because as a fellow human (for just a minute I'm pulling out of the parent role) I know what it means to be faced with temptation from every angle.  I know what it means to have every good intention but still blow it.  So, if she slips up and drinks at a party, Oh please let her call us instead of getting a ride home with one of her fellow party-goers.  My daughter's stance on purity is firm.  I pray she can stay true to that.  But, if she were to slip up and give in to satan's snare in that area one night, it breaks my heart in two to imagine her crying in her room alone.  I'm never going to say to my children, "It's okay.  Go on walking that path."  (God doesn't ever tell us that!)  But, I am going to say to them what I'd say to a friend in those moments.  "It's okay.  We all fall short.  How can I help you move past this?"  

The consequences to any of these actions are going to come at this point!  We are so far past simply grounding or shutting down the phone.  Not that there would never be reasons for that to happen.  We still have to discipline and we still have to parent.  But, as far as molding their character and instilling their values... that's pretty much done at this point!  Now it is about supporting them and helping them navigate.  There is a season for everything.  And, this season of parenting - at least for me and for this particular child - is about lying on her bed listening to her latest story at the end of the day.  It's about dancing like fools in the car.  It's about very frank (sometimes sort of uncomfortable - mainly for me) conversations about real issues.  It's about reserving judgement on the things that aren't moral issues so she will still come to me and share with me.  It's about staying plugged in to the issues these kids are facing in the here and now.  It's about being an authentic version of myself and displaying authenticity with my faith - admitting my past mistakes and my current ones.  

My ultimate goal for my children is that they have a real relationship with Christ.  It's bigger for me than saving face, it's more important than being right or keeping my pride intact.  It's the cornerstone of everything for me.  There are times God has allowed me my trials, there are times God has rescued me even when I was drowning in my own sin, there are times he's gently prompted me, and there are times he's downright gotten in my face and given me a little bit of "what for."  He knows me.  He knows what I need and when.  But, through it all, no matter what, he's been closer to my heart than any friend.  That's how he knows the what and when!  Why would I fashion my parenting after any other model?       

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holding Hands in the Rain

The puke was all over the front desk and entry way of the IHOP where we were waiting for seats. IHOP is the morning after date night tradition we started years ago on that one anniversary early on when we fought the whole next morning and Trav spouted off a hilarious retort to me that has become legendary (and often quoted) in our relationship.

I knew my hubby wouldn't handle the puke scene well and I watched his face as the poor kid's mom finally walked back out of the restaraunt with a trail of "chunks" down her back. (We've all been there!) I stood there for a minute as NO ONE came to clean it up and I finally went to him and asked, "How set are you on eating here?" "You want to go?" He asked. And just like that, we were in total agreement and walking out of the restaraunt in perfect unison.

The night before I'd planned a getaway to a "Riverwalk" location about an hour from where we live. It's pretty romantic and you can just stroll around outside together by the river or catch some live music being played. We checked in to the hotel and as we headed over to the restaraunt we started to feel raindrops. You know, in the movies rain seems really sexy. In real life, rain is wet and cold. By the time we'd eaten dinner it was pouring outside. Travis grabbed my hand for the trek back to our room (no romantic river walks this night!) and we both just cracked up. We laughed about "our luck" the whole way back to the hotel and recounted all the ridiculous mishaps we've encountered during past attempts at nights away together. (They are many!) Early on in our relationship I would have been so upset about things not turning out like I planned, but 10 years in to marriage my thoughts were different. I thought about how much that moment in time mirrored our life together. I just kept thinking about my hand in his hand as he led me through the rain.

This world is trying and very rarely does life go the way we plan it to. It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity, the doubt, and the sheer exhaustion of it. But, at the end of the day, when my plans are "rained out," and I'm traveling down a path with stormy weather, my hand in his makes it so much easier to keep walking. Having someone to share the memories with makes them so much sweeter.  There are times when he has to be strong for me and there are times when I have to be the strong one. There have been times along the way when each of us has wanted to stop walking, but the other one has pulled by the hand and said, "Come on. We need to get out of this rain."

That's the beautiful part of this marriage thing, which I've found to be so much more about living life with your best friend than it is about passion and romance. Those things fade. What's real is coming back, rain soaked, from anniversary dinner and both agreeing (amidst lots of laughter) that you're too stinking full to move and being content with falling asleep in each others arms to a movie you've seen 100 times.  What's real is seeing the most flawed parts of someone and loving those parts as much as the good things. What's real is having someone see you - I mean really see you for who you are - and choose you over and over again. Real is walking through life's storms and knowing you have someone to hold your hand and help keep you safe.

Real is knowing who can clean up the puke and who can't - and never keeping score about it.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:13‭-‬14