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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

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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.

7/2/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Be the Change

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Lately, I’ve seen so many examples of the youth leading the way.  You seem to have it figured out so much better than us “mature” adults….at least in some areas.

So today’s advice is to honor you and the wisdom that you have to offer the rest of us.

We live in a world of intolerance.  Kids your age don’t think that is ok.  You see the screaming adults on news channels and nasty campaign ads on TV and divisive rhetoric on the internet and you respond with head shakes (thanks for telling me what SMH means) and with tolerance.  The only thing you seem to be INtolerant of is… intolerance.  When a gay friend comes out publicly, youth respond with overwhelming kindness, support and love.  We all need to learn from that.  When you want the world to be more tolerant, bring tolerance to the world.

When you think the world has forgotten what friendship means, respond by showing the world what true friendship looks like.

When you think that people aren’t accepting of others, show the world what acceptance looks like.

When you think that Christians are giving Christianity a bad name, show the world what you believe it means to be a Christian.

Adults talk a lot of talk.  We complain and rant about what is wrong with the world, but we can’t seem to do much to change it.  We judge people for their judgmental-ness.  We pick sides.  We wag our tongues and whisper in corners.  We say one thing and demonstrate by our actions that we mean another.  If we want to change the world, we simply have to look at youth.

I know that none of this is perfect and that kids are bullied and can be incredibly mean sometimes.  But what I see more than that is a culture of acceptance.  I see kids reaching out to kids who have a different race, religion and sexual orientation.  I see them fight for the less fortunate and fight for the rights of others.  They show the world what it could be while we sit back and talk about it.

To all of us, follow the example of my beautiful daughters and the young people out there and be the change that you want to see in the world.

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Just as I finished writing this blog, I got a message from a boy who recently came out publicly.  He was thanking me for supporting him even though I didn’t know him.  He heard about my Facebook status last night where I told the world that I was proud of the kids that supported him.  He made me cry.  I say this not to toot my own horn, but to reinforce the points that I have made here.  He told me that it wasn’t the support of his family and friends that meant so much because he KNEW he would get that.  What he didn’t expect was support from people who he didn’t know.  And he is getting that too.  Both of these things are remarkable…that we have come to a place where a young man can feel confident that he will be accepted by his friends and family is so different from what I have seen for previous generations.  But it is also striking that what he expected from the rest of the world was intolerance.  At least he has been pleasantly surprised.  The youth is indeed going to change the world.

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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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.

5/11/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Sometimes you have to walk away.

Walking away.  Now this is a tough one. 

This is follow up to yesterday’s advice. 

Sometimes when you have done all the right things, and you have worked hard to clean up your messes, they still look like the “other brand” in the Bounty papertowel commercials.  They are just a soggy, shredded mess.  When that happens, your heart probably feels pretty shredded and messy too.

Sometimes you will try to fix something that isn’t fixable, not because your heart isn’t right, but because the other person’s heart is closed.  And when that happens, you have to chalk up your losses and walk away.  Before you do that, you need to forgive, because if you don’t, when you walk away you will carry that darkness in your heart.  That darkness is a gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not.

So forgive, be grateful for the times when your relationship was good…and walk away.

There are some friends who enter your life for a reason.  Others for a season.  And the rarest and most precious of all, some who enter for a lifetime.  You need to learn to recognize the difference, and give yourself permission to accept it for what it is.  Each of these types of friendships is important and beautiful but will play a different role in your life.  It is ok.  The time you have with any friend is a gift.  But sometimes, as hard as it will be, you will have to walk away.  Walking away can be a lttle bit like friendship.  Sometimes you will have to walk away for a reason, sometimes just for a season…and the rarest and hardest of all, sometimes for a lifetime. 

Make no mistake…this advice will NEVER apply to your mother.  Because no matter where you go, what you do, or what relationships you clean up or walk away from, I will never stop loving you.  You will always be on the “worth it” list.  No matter how big of a mess we might find ourselves in, I will never stop digging to get to you. And I will never, ever walk away.

5/10/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Clean up your messes.

Clean up your messes. Profound huh?

I have been on a bit of a cleaning kick lately.  A couple of weeks ago, I spent about two days de-cluttering all of the common areas of our house as well as our bedroom.  The result was a house that just made me feel better.  When I did it, Mark was traveling and you girls were at our dad’s, so maintaining my pristinely clean bubble didn’t take too much effort.  When everyone came back, I threatened your lives if you left messes and was determined that the current state would be maintained.

Little by little, things appeared on surfaces, dishes appeared in the sink and little things got by.  Isn’t that how it always goes?  So I scrambled around and got it all back in shape and I realized for the 1000th time in my life that it is easier to maintain something than to get it there in the first place.  Messes have a way of creeping up on us when we don’t tend to them.  A few drops of spilled milk can stink up a whole lot of space if we don’t mop it up.

By now you know I’m not just talking about dishes right??

Relationships are a lot like clutter.  When we take care of them, tend to them a little every day and clean out the trash, they stay fresh, and restful and good.  When we let little things go unresolved and let frustration fester, the little messes turn into big messes and those messes put our relationships at risk. 

And if you think I’m saying this whole maintenance thing is easy, please read on.  This is HARD.  It takes a little bit of work every day and a lot of work some days.  But you know what?  Friends and family are worth it.  They deserve your honesty when they have hurt you.  They deserve the trust that you have to place in them by telling them that something needs to change.  People are just people, and sometimes they don’t know.  People who would never knowingly hurt you in a million years deserve to know when they have unknowingly done so because they think YOU are worth it….worth the change, worth fixing it, worth the work.

I have learned this the hard way (by not doing it) and the easier way (accomplished through loving friends and partners who also believed it was worth it).  Although the work you put into your clutter every day can sometimes seem like a pain, and it can be hard…it will never be as hard as a broken relationship or a lost friend. 

So yes, clean up your messes…the big ones and the small ones.  Tend to your clutter and tend to your relationships daily.  That little bit of work is a whole lot easier than digging out from under a pile.

And when things get past you, and they begin to stink, don’t give up.  Grace is a great deodorizer.