Tag Archive | fear

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.

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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.

A letter to my daughter on her graduation day…

(This is shared with permission from the graduate.)

My beautiful precious Katie girl,

It seems like only yesterday that I was dropping you off on your first day of kindergarten. One of the moms said, “Well, this is it. We had our chance.” I cried all the way home, because you were growing up too fast. Little did I know that was just the beginning. (And by the way…that mom was a fruitcake. I had LOTS more opportunities to mess up after that!)

On this milestone day, know that I am so proud of you. Every day, I am in awe that I get the privilege of being your mom.

Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike without training wheels? I thought you would NEVER learn. And you were so stubborn. You just didn’t want to do it. You couldn’t get past your fear of falling down, and nothing I said could convince you that knowing how to ride a bike was worth a few bumps and scrapes. I begged, cajoled, and probably even yelled. I told you that learning to ride a bike was a necessary life skill and EVERYONE needs to learn it. I told you that you would be left out of lots of fun things. And like so many other things when you were that age, you just weren’t going to hear it.

Then one day, we put the bike in the car and went to the school. The intention was to use the parking lot as a wide open space. But the parking lot was too fast, and you were afraid. For some reason, we went onto the baseball diamond to try it on grass. You couldn’t get going on the grass, but the dirt provided just enough resistance that you were able to get some speed but not feel out of control. In no time, you were riding around the bases while I stood in the middle yelling and jumping up and down that you were DOING IT!!! I don’t know which one of us was more excited. What I learned that day is that you really wanted to learn to ride but fear was holding you back. You needed a soft place to land. The grass and dirt of that baseball diamond were more forgiving than the pavement and that soft place gave you all the courage you needed.

The stubbornness that you displayed about riding a bike was not atypical for you. From the day you were born, you knew what you wanted and you weren’t afraid to let the whole world know if you weren’t getting it. On the night you were born, you were screaming so much that the nurses insisted on taking you to the nursery so I could rest a little. I could hear you yelling all the way down the hall (so of course I didn’t rest). When they brought you back, they said, “This one is gonna be a lawyer. She has a lot to say. ” That didn’t end at infancy. Oh the tantrums you would throw in your toddler and preschool years! I’ve never seen such persistence. When I was completely at my wits end in those particularly headstrong days, I remember thinking, “That girl has balls. Nobody is going to mess with her.” Even though I wanted to refine that stubborn streak in you, I never wanted you to lose it, because I knew it would be that determination that would make you lead instead of follow. It would give you the courage to speak up. It would give you the strength to stand up for yourself. And if you could get past your fear, it would give you the stick to it-ness that would catapult you into a successful future.

Today, as you take ride off on another kind of journey, with your refined determination, this is my advice to you. It seems so inadequate, but it comes from my heart.

Take chances. Be willing to risk bumps and bruises to go after the things that you really want. When fear is holding you back, and you need an extra dose of courage, know that I will always be there cheering you on, and I will always give you a soft place to land. Stand up. Speak out. Try. Fail. Try again. Always remember who you are and where you came from. Love. Live. Fly.

I love you more than I could ever express. I will be the one in the audience who starts crying when I hear the first note of Pomp and Circumstance. They will be tears of pride and joy. Congratulations baby girl. Today is the first day of the best of your life. (And don’t worry. I’ll stop crying eventually…but maybe not until tomorrow.)

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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5/25/12 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. 🙂

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.