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11/28/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: It’s ok to cry.

For most of my life, I have tried not to cry.

Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that crying was a sign of weakness or manipulation and the idea of “don’t’ ever let ‘em see you sweat” took on a broader meaning.  I thought I needed to choke it back, push it down, stifle it so that everyone could see that I was strong.  When I was 15, I stopped eating because emotion has to be dealt with.  If I couldn’t cry, something had to give.  And it gave.  I lost weight until my mom was frantic.  And then slowly, I recovered enough from the emotions that plagued me and I got back to normal, without having to spend time in an eating disorder clinic.  My “strength” took a toll.

As I have gotten older, I have turned into a total sap. I can cry at just about anything, happy or sad.  I have shed more tears over internet videos than I ever have for myself, my own pain, my own joys and sorrows.  Crying for others highs and lows is so much easier than crying for me.

When I cry, I cry alone…in hotel rooms or when everyone is gone, or in the dark when everyone is asleep.  I still can’t release with others, even though I can release for others.  Every once in a while, I cry in church, and hope nobody notices.

Even though I know that tears are healing, I think I will always struggle to embrace them. This is not a good thing.

So for you and for me…it’s ok to cry.  It. Is. Ok. To. Cry.

There are times when the enormity of a place, a moment, a time will overwhelm you.   Whatever emotion that brings is healthy and good.  It often will reveal your humanity, your compassionate heart, your love.  When you cry for others, you love.  When you cry in front of others, you allow them to love.

This week, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with 120 high school students.  One of those students was overcome with the enormity of the place.  She cried.  Her tears revealed her compassionate soul, her care for the world that was forever changed when she was just 4 years old.  She cried for people she had never met, and all that grieved because of  that day.  And as her friends tried to distract her and cheer her with hugs and words that would make her smile, I thought to myself, “Cry.” In her tears on that day, I saw her heart in a new way and I saw her friends have the opportunity to love her and it was good. Her tears revealed her humanity and the humanity of those who care about her.

Sometimes it takes a kid to teach us something.  In this case, it reminded me that the thing I have spent a lifetime stifling is the thing that heals, that shows love, that is good.

It is ok to cry.  With your help, I will try to remember that.

9/11Memorial

04/09/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Live Another Day

Today’s advice is a re-blog from Ellie in Ireland.  She shared the story of a young man of 16 who is in his last months of life.  He is spending some of that time with an important message about the gift of life, specifically to those who give in to despair and take their own life.

Live another day.  What a great message.  Thanks Ellie!

But if you were 16 years old and knew you only had months to live, what would you do with your time?  Would you rush out and live it up as much as possible? Would you travel, go bungee jumping, go to concerts, parties and gigs with your friends?  What would you do? (click the link to read more and to see this young man’s interview)

Live Another Day.

4/2/13: Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Facebook is NOT real life

I gave up Facebook for Lent. I felt that I needed to do this because in the months leading up to Lent, Facebook had taken on a new dimension for me. I found that I was spending hours reading every article, watching every video and reacting to every divisive thing that I saw. Facebook debates were quickly becoming vicious, and even the “safe” ones, the ones among friends and like-minded people seemed to result in misunderstanding and hurt feelings. They certainly resulted in frustration for me. I was checking constantly…from my computer to my phone, regardless of where I was. I needed to know the latest thing that someone had posted on the last topic that had upset me. It just wasn’t healthy.

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, my daughter sang in church. She read Scripture aloud and I was moved to tears. I took a few pictures and videos and decided to end on a high note, a few days before Lent actually started. I posted those pictures and a video and signed off. In order to avoid temptation or the possibility of clicking on it by habit, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I soon realized how much of a reflex it had become for me to type Facebook in my computer browser or go to that app.

It turns out that I really didn’t miss it. The stress of dealing with all the drama was gone. I was still aware of it because even though I wasn’t on, occasionally, I would hear about a Facebook “battle” and I could feel the wobbly feeling in my stomach that I had become so familiar with as the “someone is wrong on the internet” button was pushed. What a relief that I didn’t have to go fight that battle, that I COULDN’T go fight that battle.

What did I learn from all this? During my Facebook fast, I learned that not only has Facebook become a stressor for me, but it had also become a crutch. I realized that there were people that I interact with on Facebook and although I may run into them at a school function or something, I had absolutely no other way to get in touch with them. I didn’t have their email or a phone number. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FIND ME TO GET ME MY GIRL SCOUT COOKIES??? (Facebook fast crisis #1: true story). There isn’t necessarily anything bad with using Facebook as the primary mode of getting in touch with someone, but the result was an unwanted DEPENDENCY on it. (Dependency on technology could be a whole post by itself).

What I really learned didn’t become apparent until Easter afternoon when I logged in again for the first time. It took me 30 minutes just to get through the news feed updates for about 1 day. I clicked on an article that someone had posted on some political or religious topic (can’t even remember what it was) and after reading a couple of sentences, I realized that if I let it, Facebook could suck my life away. Before I was done with that first login, an hour had passed…an hour I had intended to use for something else, an hour that was gone forever. What had I gained in that hour? I got to see some cute Easter pictures, which was nice. I got to get caught up on all the nice birthday wishes that people had left me. But other than that…I gained nothing. I didn’t get smarter. I didn’t become a better person, wife or mother. I didn’t learn anything new about the hot topics of the day that I hadn’t already heard by spending a few minutes listening to the news. The cute cartoons and shared pictures didn’t give me new insight into people or myself. All that happened is that I donated another hour of my life to Facebook. Dependency is the Facebook game. And Facebook is winning.

I realized then that the personal interactions I had over Lent with people far superseded anything I could get from Facebook. I learned that in order for people to feel “safe” discussing a highly charged topic on Facebook, a closed group was important. And closed groups tend to attract people who think similarly, and although valuable and interesting in some ways, also tend to create a group think atmosphere that ends up being more about my ego than a personal interaction would be.

I learned that you cannot possibly get to know someone by what they post on Facebook. We present a different persona to the “public” world than we present in our daily interactions with people. Life is glossed over and reduced to the latest accomplishment of our children, the latest vacation picture or what I had for lunch. The things that are really important to me, that really matter…my STORY can only be known from spending time with me. That time can be virtual, but it isn’t Facebook. Before you get upset, I’m not saying that the things we put on Facebook don’t matter, because when I see a picture of someone’s child and it makes me smile, that is good. It just isn’t real life. It isn’t the same as being in the same room as that child and hearing the giggle first hand and being a person that they KNOW.

At one point during the 40 day hiatus, Mark and I were talking about this and he said that Facebook is evil, and he wasn’t jesting. At first I thought that seemed over the top…but it made me think. Is it really good? Is it good that I have too easily replaced personal interaction with a computer screen? Have I judged someone or jumped to a conclusion or reduced someone to being not much more than the latest political/social stance they have taken? Have I let Facebook replace personhood with snippets of a life that may not even be real? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is yes. I have done all of those things. I have done them because I confused Facebook with real life and it just isn’t so.

I am not giving up Facebook altogether, because at the end of the day, I enjoy those pictures of people’s kids, and seeing what my distant cousins are up to, and seeing what kinds of quirky posts my beautiful goofy daughters put out there. I like sharing ideas about my latest project (natural cleaning products) and Facebook is a convenient forum to do that. I like being informed about school activities and parent groups and other organizations that use Facebook pages as another avenue of communication. I like having another place for my blog to live (after all, MAYBE I’m going to start using it again). But I am limiting what shows up on my news feed. I am not going to be watching videos and reading controversial articles and digging into whatever stance my friends may be FOR or AGAINST. I’ll leave those things for real conversation. At this point, I’m not re-installing the app on my phone. I can still access Facebook through the browser on my phone when I want to, but it is just inconvenient enough, less easy to navigate that I will be more deliberate about it. I am not going to turn my email notifications back on. I just don’t need THAT much notifying and I certainly don’t need any more reason to spend more time.

Please remember that what gets posted on social media is not the whole of you, and it also isn’t the whole of anyone else. It is just a snippet, a glimpse, a piece. Real life is more than that.

12/21/12: Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters ~ Don’t let your expectations steal your Joy

As seen in the posts of the past few days (here and here and here), this is one of those lessons that I had to learn the hard way…and then some.

And although I am still learning and struggling, today, I have a greater sense of understanding about how our expectations about where we SHOULD be, how we SHOULD feel, how the world SHOULD line up for us gets in the way of where we are.

Joy is not happiness.

Joy is the peace that comes from the knowledge that we are where we are supposed to be. In this moment.  Now.  Even if we don’t like it.  Joy is the deep knowledge of God’s grace.  Joy is finding the opportunity in the place where your hope and fear and happiness and pain intersect.  It sets aside what we want and what we expect and makes space for who we are meant to be.

Your opportunity in the place you are right now is not a mistake.  It might not feel good or comfortable, but it is not a mistake.  The real opportunity for you, the real joy, comes from how you respond to where you are, and is born from the acceptance that everything that has led you to this place and has prepared you.  It has prepared you to be exactly who you are right now.  The pain has prepared your heart for compassion.  The challenges have prepared you to overcome.  The loneliness has prepared you to reach out.  The roadblocks have prepared you to persevere.

Life is full of a mixture of pain and happiness, loneliness and contentment, peace and turmoil.  God uses all of those things to make you the person that He wants you to be.

Your expectations can make you miss it.  If you are too busy looking for what you want, what you expect, what you think you deserve, you may just miss the JOY that comes from the now, from this place, from the reality that combines all that you have been with all that you can be,  if you can just stop expecting and start accepting.  The you that is unencumbered by all the pressure of expectations is so much greater than the you who might miss it all.

Grace.  Joy.  You.

Don’t let your expectations steal any of them.

9/25/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Broken hearts really do mend

Broken hearts mend.

If there is anything in the world that I wish I could spare you, it is the a broken heart.  But I know that to avoid broken hearts, also means to avoid the greatest joys and accomplishments.  It means avoiding love and trial and hope and the best parts of friendship.  It means avoiding being a mother and watching YOUR beautiful daughters grow and learn and fly out of the nest.  Those are the best parts of life, but with them comes some heartbreak.  Today, my advice is that you are just going to have to trust me on this…hearts mend.

One of the things I have learned about being a mother is that it really is true that your heart is walking around outside your body.  When things happen to you, it happens to me.  With every heartbreak you feel, my heart breaks too.  But the shattering and the mending builds a stronger heart.  It builds a heart that understands pain so can empathize more.  It builds a heart that understands strength so it can hope more.  It builds a heart that understands love so it can love more.  A broken heart will mend, and it will be stronger than it was before.

When my heart feels like it has shattered into a million tiny pieces, these are the things that matter:

  • Your smile (you have no idea how many wounds your smiles can heal)
  • Hearing your voice
  • Hugs
  • Flowers from a friend
  • All the little ways that friends reach out to let me know they are out there when I am ready
  • Seeing you happy
  • The peace that comes from knowing you will be ok
  • The patient love and understanding of my best friend and husband

I’m not sure when I will be ready to write about the last month in its entirety, but I am ready to say that my heart has broken but it is mending.  Things are different now and it feels weird to have some pieces of the mending happening in Lansing, Michigan.  Every picture and phone call from my smiling Spartan and every special moment at home with my “only child”  is stitching my heart back together…different, stronger, new.

Broken hearts do mend, and whenever you are facing your own shattering and mending, I will be right there with you…helping you find YOUR different, stronger, new.

8/22/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – You are not that girl anymore.

You are not that girl anymore.

This covers so much territory and it really is about the hurt child in all of us.   “Old tracks” play on auto loop and tell the story of who we used to be.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are still the forgotten daughter, the “smart one” (aka NOT cool), the overweight, underweight, clumsy, acne-prone girl who boys didn’t like.  We are still the self-conscious girl who starves herself to feel in control, the girl who sleeps around to prove that boys like her. We are still the girl who failed at marriage and screwed it all up.

That is the story we tell.  That is the story I tell.  That is the story of “that girl”.

I have spent the better part of my adult life in an argument with that girl.  The grace that God has abundantly bestowed on me, as evidenced by the bountiful joy in my life, is often overshadowed by the lies that I allow that girl to tell.

If there is one thing that I want you to know about your future and who you are, it is this. You aren’t that girl anymore.

You aren’t the girl who got rejected by friends and therefore feels unlikeable.  You are not the girl who boys don’t like because you don’t look right or wear the right clothes, or act cool enough.  You just aren’t that girl.  No matter how many times that story plays in your head, no matter how many hurts you encounter, those hurts don’t make the girl.  You are so much more than that.  You are the delightful, beautiful girl who loves people and is loved in return.  You are the girl who works hard and does her best.  You are the girl who learns from her mistakes and works things out.  You are the girl who isn’t afraid to get back up after a fall.  You are the girl who is loved beyond measure and has so much to offer the world.

You are the girl who really believes she is a princess and expects the world to treat her with princess-like care.  You are the girl who is so convincing that you can talk a friend into picking up dog poop so you don’t have to.  You are the girl who runs races through pain and doesn’t quit.  You are the girl who does her own thing, makes her own style and doesn’t just follow along.  You are the girl who knows that being smart is a gift and works hard to honor her gift.  You are the girl who laughs so much and long that she gets a belly ache and always cares about making other people smile.

When I look at you, I see all the beauty and possibility in my life.  I forget about my “that girl” and can remember that my mistakes don’t define me and the stories that I tell myself can make or break me, but it is my choice.  I see in you the truth about God and His love and know that Truth is so much bigger than the lies I tell myself when I put my track on auto-loop.

When your confidence is shaken, and that girl tries to make an appearance, shake her off.  She is not your truth and you are not that girl.

*****************************************************************

This post was inspired by two pastors in my life.  Last Sunday, Steve North shared part of his emotional journey as he learned the truth about the man he is and the man he used to be.  In his poem, “Becky’s Thunder” he described the moment when  another pastor, Becky Przybylski, helped him see  that “You are not that man anymore.”  Listening to his story, I realized how much I let my own past tell me lies about who I am today.  I let “that girl” beat me down with the mistakes that changed the course of my life.  I continue to accept the guilt that girl heaps on, perhaps as punishment, perhaps as atonement and in the process, I forget who I am today.  I forget that those mistakes have shaped me, but they don’t define me.  Steve’s message helped me to  remember that the girl I am today has learned and grown and been blessed by those very mistakes, and that my life provides evidence every single day that God forgave me long ago and continues to prove it by pouring His grace into me.

God truly does set the brightness of our today into the dark mortar of our past so that we can see the contrast that He brings to us.

Thank you to Becky for being Steve’s thunder.  And thank you to Steve for being mine.

8/17/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughter – It’s your time to shine.

 

 

It is kinda weird isn’t it?  You’ve never been the only child.  From the day you came into this world, you have always been the little sister.  Because you weren’t my first, I didn’t have to figure it out as I went along (at least not as much), I relaxed a little more, and I learned from my mistakes.  I enjoyed your “firsts” differently because I knew they would be the last. Your first steps were my LAST first steps.  I was in no hurry for them to get here because for every first you had, I had to say good-bye to something that I would never get back.  So I cherished the moments differently (maybe better) and I got to treasure all the ways that you were different than your sister, which ignited that awe of discovery in you, even though you weren’t my first.  I didn’t rush you to the next stage because I knew that it was important for to enjoy every fleeting moment.  And as you navigated the world, you always had your sister by your side.  During good times and bad, whether you were getting along or not, she was here.

Now, as your sister prepares to leave the nest, you have to contemplate this space without her.  You have to figure out how to be the only child…the good (the extra attention) and the bad (the extra attention) and you have to experience life for the first time without you sister by your side.  It will be weird at first, and sad.  We will all miss her, and we will have to figure out how to be comfortable in the space that she occupied every day.  But we will adjust.  We will figure out how to keep her in our day to day life even when she is away, and you will get comfortable in this space….and you will shine.

All the comparisons that are a natural part of being sisters will fade away, and you will get to be truly you.  You will get to be Becca.  You will find your way and your style and your light will shine more brightly because it doesn’t have your sister’s shadow holding it back anymore.

The next 3 years are your time to find out who you are apart from your sister.  You will come to love her in a different way, and appreciate the differences rather than feel diminished by them.  You will figure out that your style and your personality and your talents are the very best thing you have to offer the world and the world will respond by welcoming you into the spotlight.

Despite my many conflicted emotions about your sister leaving, I am looking forward to watching you blossom and grow and shine.  When you see my tears after your sister is gone, remember that I can be sad and grateful at the same time.  I will be sad that she is gone, but grateful that you are here, and that we have this incredible opportunity to get to know each other in a new way.

Prepare you light and get ready to shine.