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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.

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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.

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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.

 

8/16/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughter – Life is full of contradictions

How else do I explain the roller coaster confluence of emotions that are happening right now?

Intense pride
Joyful expectation
Heart squeezing anxiety
Impending dread
Resigned sadness

I can’t even explain the reality of feeling all of these things, sometimes multiple emotions in the same heartbeat.  In one minute I am describing my pride, the next minute my eyes are filling up and I am choking back my tears.

This is it….this moment represents everything we have worked toward and everything I have always wanted for you.  I can’t even explain how deeply I long for you to leave the last painful year in the rearview mirror and move on to lasting friendships and a fresh start.  I am living vicariously through you as I relive those exciting moments of preparation for leaving home for the first time.  My heart just may burst from the pride I feel in all that you have accomplished and all that I know you will be.

But as I plan the menu for the last week of your favorite home cooked meals, I think about the number of days remaining to prepare them.  I shop for the things you like and realize that you won’t be here long enough for them to be eaten…and it makes me so sad.  I’m like a mother bird getting ready to push her baby out of the nest.  I know it is necessary and good and right . I know that this is what I want for you and at the same time, I dread the final nudge.

How do I explain to you that the tears are as full of joy as they are of sadness?  That these tears are the fullness of all that I believe in and want for you?  They carry the memories of your first moments on earth, those first frenzied sleepless days, your first laugh (the most beautiful sound I had ever heard) and your first tooth (that great big lopsided grin that went with it) and your first steps (you were SO excited!), your first day of kindergarten (I was so terrified!), your first kiss (“Mama, Hayden kissed me.  Where did he kiss you?  He kissed me over there.  NO!  Where did he kiss you ON YOUR FACE????), first bike success (finally!!), and your first heartbreak (caused by hurting someone else).  The tears are a celebration of all of those firsts and all the others that came before this one.  The salt of these tears cleanse, they heal, they are the release of the past and the entrance of the future.  These tears hold all the contradictions of the last 18 years.  I release them and I release you with the all the joy, the sadness, the pride, the hope and the dreams that those tears carry.  I release them in celebration of releasing you.

So in those last minutes before our good-bye when I am trying desperately (and failing) to control the waterworks, and you feel that pang of guilt at my sadness, please remember that life is full of contradictions and these tears are so much more than they seem.

One Month

My daughter goes to college in one month.  One month.

For those of you who are wondering why I haven’t been blogging much….my daughter goes to college in a month.

One would think this would be the perfect time for advice, the perfect time to tell her all the things that I want her to engrave on her heart, and you would be right.  Instead, I am just sad and all of my words feel inadequate and I’m so overwhelmed by all of the things I want her to know that I don’t know where to start.

As she pulls away, I am painfully aware that it wouldn’t make much difference anyway.  Do you remember how smart you were when you were 18 and about to leave home for the first time?  In the last days of your mother’s desperate advice, how much made you pause and how much went in one ear and out the other as you worked on having it all figured out on your own?  This is the thing about parenting.  All of these years are preparation for THIS TIME…the time that she will go out on their own, learn to live without me, figure out her own answers, and stop listening to me…at least for a little while.  (Don’t worry…I know she will be back.  We all come back right?)

So if this is the goal, why don’t I feel accomplished?  Why don’t I feel like I made it?  Why do I feel so sad?

I will return to the advice when I can.  Right now I’m propping myself up for the emotional avalanche of the next 30 days. I’m thinking about how far we have come.  I’m reminding myself every day that she will be fine (after all, I’ve prepared her to not need me).  I’ll take care of the details like shopping for dorm room décor and making that first tuition payment and I’ll pretend I have more time, more time to imprint my heart on hers, to hope that the values I have taught her shine out of her like a beacon and that this separation is what it is all about.

7/7/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – What do you want?

One of my friends and blog followers posted a comment on my post about being right, and that comment got me thinking.  She said that she has been in situations over the last month that made her ask the question, “What do I want?”

Isn’t that brilliant?  What if we asked that question in every situation, in every argument, every conflict, every moment of doubt or celebration?  What do I want from this?  What is my goal?  What am I hoping to achieve in this conversation?

We may find that the answer is often that we want to prove a point or change someone’s mind or win.  What do you REALLY want the outcome to be, not just in the discussion or event in question, but what do you want the impact on your relationship to be?

What if I asked that question of myself the next time I felt ready to nag or say (in one way or another), “I told you so.”  What if the next criticism that is going to pass my lips first passes through the filter of “what do I want?”  Is it still worth it when you think about it that way?  Does winning or proving a point or changing a mind still have the same importance if you first ask, “What do I want?”

What do you want for others, and yourself, for your relationship?  How important is THIS comment, this conversation, this point?

What do you want?

Shout out to Sara K. for the inspiration for this post!

7/6/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Put others first.

There are times where it is easier to be selfish.  It is easier to think about my own point of view.  I don’t feel generous or kind or patient enough to think about another’s point of view.  Those days are tough.  They aren’t tough because I feel guilty.  They are tough because when I put me first, I just feel lousy.  Those are the days that my irritability is high and my patience is low.  The things that go on in my head should never see the light of day because they are vile and ugly and mean.

What I learn from those days is that it feels crappy to be selfish.  It feels miserable to be wrapped up in myself.  When I feel like that, I don’t like me.  When I focus on me, turn my attentions and my desires only on what I want, I don’t like what I see.  And worse, those are the days that the people closest to me (you!) avoid me.  You tiptoe around, disappear into your rooms and try to avoid rocking the boat.  My selfishness becomes a poison in our house, and nobody is unaffected.

The times that you have been the most unhappy with each other is when you focus on your own point of view.

In contrast to all that, there are times when the focus points out.  There are magical days when we are all focused on each other, when we are more worried about what is happening to each other than what is happening to our own selves.  We defend, we laugh, we enjoy, we are happy.  Those are the very best days in our house.  I don’t think our good mood makes it so, because I think the good mood comes from the pointing ourselves out, giving ourselves to each other, sharing life from the collective point of view, instead of the selfish point of view.  It just feels better when we put others first.  I’m not sure what it says about the selfish thing that we actually benefit when we focus on others (is that a selfish motive??) but I do know it works.

The next time I am feeling snarky and self-righteous and mean, I’m going to work harder to turn it around, to focus on other, to see a different point of view.  Perhaps when I look through that lens, the cloudy veil of yuck will lift and we will all be happier for it.

Try it.  Put others first.

 

 

7/5/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Be kind, not right.

Being right isn’t all it is cracked up to be.  Sometimes being right isn’t right.

There are times when we find ourselves in arguments that seem critically important in the moment, that get us riled up with righteous indignation, that cause us to rant and fret and worry and stew.  Sometimes these arguments are truly important, but most of the time they are just arguments.  Their outcome will not make a difference in a week or a month and it is possible that in that time, we will forget what the issue was in the first place.  Most arguments fall into this category I think.

Those petty, small, unimportant arguments become a real problem when we decide that being right is more important than being kind.  Winning the argument becomes a higher priority than winning at friendship.  Our quest for right-ness causes us to say things that can’t be unsaid.  It causes us to forget why we are arguing and focus on who we are arguing with.  When we focus our argument on the person, being right has trumped being what we know to be right.  And then we all lose.

When people get hurt because of your victory, being right wasn’t right.

When you get the last word because your words have become weapons that have left someone battered and torn, you lose a little part of yourself in the winning.

When your argument has casualties, people who get pulled into the fray, damaged in your battle, bruised by your determination to prove a point, your point is lost because people will just remember how you made them feel, and not what you were so right about.

When people feel like they have to pick sides and things become so black and white that all the middle gray area, disappears, you have lost.

When your victory feels shallow and your triumph leaves you feeling empty, being right wasn’t right at all.

When you engage in battle over right and wrong, black and white, winning and losing, how do you FEEL?  When you make your point, are you focused on the issue or is your point just a dagger aimed at someone’s heart?  When you walk away from a conversation, do you feel good about what you have said or is there a part that you wish you could have back?  When you examine that part that you’d like to have back, how do you react?  Do you learn?  Do you apologize?  Do you use that weapon again?

The world is full of conflict and people and wars and battles.  In every conflict, there are two sides that believe they are right.  In every war, each side fights for the right-ness that they believe in.  How many winners do you really see in the bombed out remains of the battles big and small?  How many victors emerge without casualty?  What price do we pay for the privilege of being right?

What price do YOU pay?

What price would you pay if you chose kindness instead?  What would the spoils of victory look like if you didn’t win, didn’t defeat, didn’t end up on top?  What would your world look like if you made room for more than one right answer?

Next time you heat up for that argument, ask yourself what kindness would look like instead.