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6/2/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Believe

Faith really can move mountains.

A little over two years ago, my dear friend Kristen was given unimaginable news.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon cancer that had spread to her liver.  It is hard for me to even imagine how she and her family processed this news.  As her friends, we were shocked, scared, stunned really.

This is Kristen today:
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Today, we celebrate her battle and her victory.  Friends and family joined her to walk in the area’s first 5K in support of colorectal cancer research and funding, “Get Your Rear in Gear”.  The team shirts say, “Rump Shakers – Never fear. We are here for Kristen’s rear.”

I don’t know how much you know about color cancer, but a stage IV diagnosis is about as bad of news as you can get.  To many, it is a death sentence.  But not Kristen.  I could tell you what the odds were.  Kristen doesn’t know this (until now) but I researched the odds.  I did what you aren’t supposed to do researched on the internet to try to determine her chances.  I cried my eyes out that day.  I was devastated.  I won’t mention the numbers I found because they didn’t mean anything to Kristen.  Numbers are just averages, and she isn’t average.  She was young, otherwise healthy and had the kind of faith that really can move a mountain.  She decided that she was going to kick cancer’s ass, and that is just what she did.  She had two MAJOR operations to remove the infected part of her colon and part of her liver, had setbacks with infection and healing, spent a combined several weeks in the hospital, and went through two separate rounds of chemo.   During that time, she never stopped smiling, never stopped believing.   The prevailing joke was that she made the whole “cancer” thing up for attention…that is how good she looked throughout.

She taught me that faith is everything.  Believing is everything.  The love and faith of family and friends is everything.  I’m no dummy.  I know there were times when she got discouraged and had doubts, but she had this massive contagious faith thing that she had spread to all the people around her.  That faith grew in all of us, and I hope there were times that our belief carried her when hers was feeling shaky.

Sometimes when things seem absolutely impossible, you just have to believe.  Believe in a truth that doesn’t make sense and defies conventional wisdom.  Believe in the faith that sustains you and believe that you can spread that faith around.  Miracles happen every day.  Not only is Kristen my hero, but she is a walking talking SMILING miracle, not just because she beat this terrible thing, but because she inspired us, made us believe, increased our faith…and that gift IS one of life’s miracles.
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6/1/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Make room for others.

This post is inspired by a message delivered by the amazing Pastor Becky last Sunday…a message that I needed to hear.

Life is full of lots of roads.  There are the regular city roads, with just enough room (most of the time) for free flowing traffic in either direction.  There are super-highways with multiple lanes of speeding cars and there are the small winding roads and paths, the narrow ones with just enough room for one.

It is on the narrow paths that we really have to pay attention.  We have to take turns, look for ways to let others get by, and even lend a hand to get over a particularly bumpy, steep or difficult part.  It is on the small narrow paths, the ones that can seem treacherous and scary, that we learn to make room for others.  We can’t just speed through oblivious to who might be walking or riding beside us.  We have to pay attention, be mindful, share the space.

When  you find yourself on a narrow path, turn down the music and turn off the distractions and just pay attention.  Pay attention to the people around you.  See who needs help and who needs a little extra room.  Step aside to let someone pass.  Lend a hand to someone who needs a boost.  Look around to see the hand outstretched in help to you.  These paths are narrow, but they don’t need to be traveled alone.

When you are frustrated by the slowness, the bumpiness and the general difficulty of the narrow paths, ask God to give you the feet for the path.  Instead of impatiently asking for the path to be cleared, ask instead that you be equipped to handle it.  Because the narrow paths really do have the best views and you don’t want to miss out.  So make room for others, and enjoy the beauty together.

The last picture is taken on a path in Hocking Hills, OH.  This particular path is on the property where Mark and I got married.  It is a beautiful place.  And this particular path is the perfect metaphor for the paths that are best when shared.  The views have been pretty good so far!

5/31/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – It’s not a race.

It’s not a race.

More and more, we treat life like a race, like a sprint to some imagined finish line.  We just want to get to the next thing, to be done, to get there.  When we don’t get that instant gratification, when things take longer than we would like, we get discouraged, and want to give up.

Life is not a race.  It is a journey.  Most of the good things happen between the milestones, between the start and the finish (whatever that may be).

When I walk in the Susan G. Komen 3Day for the Cure, the start is exciting and invigorating, designed to pump us up for the journey ahead.  The end is emotional, exhilarating, and is often an emotional highlight of my entire year.  It feels so incredible to finish something so hard.  But between the start and finish is the EXPERIENCE.  The pain of all those steps is a reminder of the battles that people fight every day.  The end wouldn’t be nearly as sweet if the middle wasn’t so hard.  If I treat it like a race, not only do I miss the good stuff, but I risk injury (trust me!) Long journeys  teach me that putting one foot in front of the other, ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to, result in the sweetest finishes.

Don’t get me wrong, beginnings and endings can be beautiful, heartbreaking and memorable.  But they aren’t the only thing.  When we focus on the finish, we lose sight of the now.  If we focus on death, we don’t live.  If we focus on being done, we miss the experience of doing.

So don’t forget the journey.  Don’t focus so much on the end, that you get discouraged or miss something.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Look around.  Slow down.  Eventually you will get there, richer for the experience.

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My new friend from Ireland climbed a mountain last weekend, and her post  had a comment that inspired this.  Someone else who had climbed this mountain was inspired by an old woman who noticed that she looked discouraged and said, “sure, you’ll make it. It’s not a race. You just put one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you’re there.” (Thanks to Lois  for the inspiration!)

5/25/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters (and me) — Talk less, listen more.

I am having a love/hate relationship with my blog right now.  So far, my blog has been about me sharing little nuggets, pieces of advice that I think are good life lessons for you girls.  But at the same time, I feel like this little blog is an example of me doing all the talking, and your voice isn’t being heard.

I feel a little like a phony, because I don’t’ always follow my own perfectly brilliant advice.  I feel a little sanctimonious for being inspired with such incredible insight (it IS incredible, right??), and worst of all, insecure.  When I post a blog, I watch the site stats obsessively to see how many people are “listening” to what I have to say and how many new followers I have.  The talking has become the thing, and it is making me feel unsettled, because I don’t necessarily like the me that I see through that lens. These feelings  also make me think that this blog is becoming more about me than you, and I don’t like that.

I actually started contemplating putting something completely controversial out there (politics, gay marriage) to stir things up, but I’m afraid I will be criticized, so I hold back saying some of the things that are stirring in me.  Despite my advice to you to conquer your fears, I am letting mine hold me back.  Fear is what makes me write a blog instead of the book that I have always said I wanted to write.

So even though this is me again…doing the talking, I have to tell you (again) that I don’t always get it right.  In fact, I get it wrong most of the time, and this advice comes to you from the knowledge I gained from that mistake, and from knowing there is a better way.  I’m scared to fall down.  I’m worried that I don’t lead by example.  And I’m terrified that you will look back on these years and tell people that you didn’t feel heard.

So today’s advice is for me, so that I will remember that I don’t have all the answers and I need to listen more.  I’m not perfect and that is ok.  Maybe it is even ok that I write a blog for you when I need the advice as much as you do.   I will keep writing because each post and each response plants another little seed of courage and maybe someday it will be enough for me to get serious with my dreams.  I will write because I think it will be interesting for us all to look back on this in 10 years and see how our perspectives have changed.  I will write because people seem to respond, and even though that response may make me a little too full of myself, it has also been a way to connect with people that I would never have connected with (Shout out Ellie!)  And when my ego gets too big, I can always count on you to give me a “You don’t understand.” Or even better, to tell me that you didn’t know I had a blog (sigh). That’ll teach me. 🙂

5/23/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Embrace the gray.

The world will try to convince you that things are black and white.  Us vs. Them, Democrat vs. Republican, Christian vs. Non-christian, Straight vs. Gay, Right vs. Wrong.  You get the idea.

The truth is that there is so much between the two extremes.  When we define people into polarized categories, we focus only on the differences, the blackness and the whiteness, instead of all the gray in between.  That gray represents the things we have in common.  It represents our humanity.

Black and white is easy.  Black and white means you don’t have to think for yourself, you don’t have to wrestle with issues or deal with the humanity all around you.  Picking sides means that you miss out. You miss out on the merits of the people on the other side of the issue, and you miss the great big gray.  The gray is where you learn.  It is where you find common ground with people you thought you had nothing in common with.  It is where you learn compassion for the human condition and all of the things that make black and white not work.

So embrace the gray, and all the uncertainty that comes with it.  Doing so will unlock a rainbow of color in your life.

5/22/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Fall down a lot.

I’m not suggesting that you become more clutzy, God knows we don’t need any help with that.

My friend, Stephanie has a little girl named Katie.  She reminds me so much of you when you are little, that I absolutely adore her.  I could just watch her all day.  When her mom asked her why she has so many bruises on her legs, she replied, “I fall down a lot.”  Hearing that story got me to thinking.

I know this little girl is FULL of life.  She runs around and dances and wrestles with her brother.  Her exuberance for life just makes me happy.  She falls down a lot.  Perhaps she is a little clutzy, but I think she falls down a lot because she is always DOING stuff.  You can’t fall down if you are sitting still.  You can’t fall down when life is passing you by.  You fall down a lot when you are LIVING.

Falling down a lot is about being willing to try and fail and get up again.  It is about going after what you want, living life to the fullest and not worrying about whether it will all work out perfectly.  Being willing to fall down a lot means you are going after things exuberantly and that you know that in order to succeed, you first have to try, and be willing to risk failure.  When failure comes, falling down a lot means that you get up again and again and again.  It is the “a lot” that makes it so cool, because it means that the first time you fell down, you tried again.

I hope that you fall down gently, but I also hope you fall down a lot.

5/21/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Screw up gracefully.

Before you get all excited and think that I have just given you permission to screw up…hold your horses young lady.  All my other advice about doing goodleading by example still holds true.

But, when you screw up (and you WILL screw up), one of the most important things that you need to learn is how to recover grace-fully.  I’m not talking about the way you might jump up after fallling on your face when you tripped over some imaginary thing in the middle of the floor (after all, you ARE my daughters, so this is bound to happen).  Don’t get me wrong, that kind of recovery is also important.  Hint: jump up, look around and if nobody is looking, just go about your business and try not to limp.  If someone saw you, then you just have to laugh.  What else are you going to do?  I also highly recommend telling as many people as possible about your fall.  It makes for great conversation and makes you seem more human. (I’ve had lots of practice with this.)  But I digress…

As you grow up and move away from the safety of home, remember that it is always important for you to have an escape route.  Know your plan B and when you will execute it.  What I am really talking about is learning to recognize that you have made a mistake and learning to recover without digging a deeper hole.  You see, we are human and we have a really hard time admitting when we are wrong.  Sometimes we become so committed to our mistake that we can’t see our way out.  We throw good money after bad, both literally and figuratively.  So stop the madness.  Know that it is ok to be wrong.  It is ok to screw up.  Admit it, plan your escape, apologize and move on.  Give yourself grace.  Recover grace-fully.

Most important, never ever forget to apologize to those who your mistake has hurt.  A genuine apology can right a whole lot of wrongs. Giving grace, accepting grace…recovering grace-fully.

Remember that mistakes are just mistakes.  Don’t get them more power than that.  For more on mistakes, refer back to this blog post.

Today’s post was inspired by a comment on yesterday’s advice by a blogger I just met.