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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.

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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.

Coming Together and Pulling Apart

The last two weeks have been unsettling to say the least. Two weeks ago, there were two blows. The senior pastor (Mike) of my church had a massive heart attack on my birthday, and just before that, I learned that the other full-time pastor (Don) in my church was moving to Virginia.

I wasn’t prepared for how far those two things would throw me. And in fact, I didn’t even realize how much they had thrown me until after the fact. On one hand, I knew that Don that moving for all the right reasons, and I was excited about the possibilities that were opening up for his family. On the other hand, I felt the loss of him leaving. Then, just days later, Mike’s heart attack not only made me fearful about his outcome, but it brought all kinds of memories back. Memories that didn’t end well under similar circumstances. But the day after this happened, I saw our community come together in prayer for Mike and in support for Don and I was comforted by the togetherness felt by the shared experience of worry, fear, celebration and mourning.

This was followed by two weeks of what I can only describe as an empty place. I didn’t process, I didn’t give myself quiet time to think, I didn’t write, I didn’t reflect. I filled my non-TV time with other screens and other distractions. I had a business trip followed immediately by a miserable head cold, both giving me more excuses to disengage and just be.

During that time, I’ve had a parenting struggle that left me second guessing what I should have done differently to influence a different outcome. My relatively hands off approach, combined with a teenagers lack of planning skills resulted in a very difficult lesson in academic cause and effect that has resulted in ample opportunity for second guessing, what if’s and woulda, coulda, shouldas…none of which are conducive for future thinking spiritual growth.

This last weekend, my oldest daughter and I went with her dad to visit one of the colleges she has been accepted to in the hopes that a final decision could be made on where she will spend the next 4 years. We had a great time, the decision was made and celebrated and I was starting to feel like a positive shift was occurring. Then yesterday, the bottom dropped out. The feelings that I had been ignoring, the sense of loss, the fear, came rushing out in an gut wrenching argument that left me feeling drained, rejected and very sad.

I’m starting to realize that the process of separation that a child has to go through in order to leave home starts long before she leaves. The argument was probably a natural step in the assertian of the right amount of independence that will allow the actual leaving to be easier (at least for her). My reaction has much more to do with what will happen 5 months from now, than what was happening in that moment.

So for now, the process of pulling apart has left me feeling a little bit rudderless. I feel that my primary job as a parent is entering a new phase and the time for new lessons will look a lot different than past lessons. The active work of teaching, loving and doing my best to prepare her for independence is coming to an end of sorts. That doesn’t mean that my job as a parent is done, but it will be different, and it will require physical separation, independence, and a disconnection (or reconnection) of the places that our hearts are currently intertwined.

Come fall, there will b a part of my spiritual heart that will be in Virginia, and there will be a part of my heart and soul living in Lansing. For now, the pushing and pulling is new to me. As some parts of my spiritual journey come together, others will be pulled apart and reformed to better fit the new reality. In the middle of that is an empty place that feels disconnected from the past and not quite ready for that future. I have more questions than answers and the loss of control has me flailing and floundering a bit. Maybe the acknowledgement of that place will leave it more accessible to the pathways out. In the meantime, I will try to remember something that I saw on someone’s Pinterest board yesterday: “In the happy moments, praise God. In the difficult moments, seek God. In the quiet moments, trust God. In every moment, thank God.”

And from this morning’s lesson at church, I will remember that I need to learn to be in the wilderness without a deliverance answer, because it is by facing my enemy (fear) that true deliverance is found.