Tag Archive | teenagers

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.


04/09/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Live Another Day

Today’s advice is a re-blog from Ellie in Ireland.  She shared the story of a young man of 16 who is in his last months of life.  He is spending some of that time with an important message about the gift of life, specifically to those who give in to despair and take their own life.

Live another day.  What a great message.  Thanks Ellie!

But if you were 16 years old and knew you only had months to live, what would you do with your time?  Would you rush out and live it up as much as possible? Would you travel, go bungee jumping, go to concerts, parties and gigs with your friends?  What would you do? (click the link to read more and to see this young man’s interview)

Live Another Day.

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.

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.


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.

7/2/12 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.


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.

Today’s Advice to ME

In honor of my Facebook advice “column” to my girls, I am feeling the need to turn things around a bit.  So here goes…

Today’s advice to beautiful me:

You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness.  It is hard enough to control your own emotions without taking on the added burden of everyone else’s.

Yet here I sit with  my neck and back holding so much tension that they are tender to the touch and the ceaseless thoughts about how to make everyone happy.  I know it isn’t logical and I know that I can’t possibly succeed.  But the more I know this, the more tightly I hold the thoughts, so tightly in fact that my muscles from the top of my head to my lower back are all knotted up from the effort.

I often feel like a phony in this virtual world.  I present mostly cheerful thoughts and declarations about my wonderful family.  And they are wonderful.  Those who know me best know that I hit the jackpot with my kids, my husband, my mom and extended family.  We have suffered no major traumas and for the most part, I have managed by some miracle to avoid the typical teenage disdain felt by most parents.  Life really is pretty good.

What I don’t tell the world in my Facebook statuses is that life can get messy at my house.  I scream at my kids sometimes, sometimes with cuss words.  I pout.  I stew.  I resent.  I get fed up.  I lose what little semblance of patience I have.  My kids seem to hate me sometimes.  They think I “don’t understand” and tell me so.  They reject my advice and nagging and do things their own way, to varying degrees of success.  And sometimes my perfectly blended family frays at the edges, and I am the thread being pulled tight between the edges that are my daughters and my husband.  The stretching and pulling can be so painful at times that I don’t know how to stitch it back together.

I worry. I fret.  I obsess.  I negotiate…with them, with myself and with God.

This may be the hardest time I have ever faced as a parent.  My oldest is preparing to leave for college in the fall and less than two months from her 18th birthday, she is yearning for the independence that comes with her adulthood status.  And I cling and grab at the little control I have left and wonder desperately if I have done enough to prepare her, if there is still time to teach the things I haven’t gotten to and whether she will be ok without me.  I have been preparing for this for 17 years, 10 months and two weeks.  I knew that her leaving the nest would be hard and I have prepared for how I would feel when I dropped her off at college.  But nobody told me about the ripping away that has to happen in preparation for that.  I wasn’t prepared for it to start so soon and I WANT MORE TIME

My youngest is now in high school.  She is at that stage where she is seeking independence and trying to find the balance between her need for direction and her desire to figure it out on her own.  I recognize the pattern now and am determined to right all the mistakes I made the first time around. I wrestle for more control and she senses a double standard and resists.  Tension.  Conflict.  A test of wills.

Each day seems to bring a new challenge, a new hurt, a new emotion to navigate.  And because I am feeling so unsettled, I do the logical thing…I dig in..  I hold tight.  I obsess.  I worry.

It seems that all I know about my ability (or lack thereof) to control everyone’s happiness is in conflict with the deep longing I feel for the little girls who hung on my words and smile and who thought I was the best thing in the world.  I feel that life slipping further away and my fear and longing resist the logic in the  natural order of things.  Mark reminds me that this is the way it supposed to go.   My mind knows he is right but my heart isn’t ready to accept it.

So friends, know that the advice I give my daughters is just as much my advice to me.  And beneath the put togetherness that I project to the world is someone who is figuring it out minute by minute sometimes.  I second guess myself more often than not and every day I long for the “do over” button.

Despite all that, I know that I am blessed with a husband who supports me in my neurotic need for control and with daughters who have made being a mom the greatest joy of my life, even when it doesn’t feel like a joy at all.  At the end of the day, I need to remind myself that I am enough, and I can only be responsible for what is mine…my emotions, my reactions, my example.  The rest I will have to give back to its rightful owner, and maybe then, my faith can take over where my trust has left off.

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.