My life now is comprised of beginnings all tangled up in endings. I don’t know exactly where one begins and the other ends. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure anyone else actually knows what is the beginning and what is the ending either.
I am asked to lead by example for my school, my team, my younger sibling while at the same time I am asked to define and refine my “reach” and my “safety”. Future… a place I have lived in comfortably for many years now has suddenly changed from an exclamation point to a question mark. I was always happily running to the next step. Can’t wait until I am 5 years old, so I can ride the big yellow bus. Can’t wait until I lose my first tooth. Can’t wait until I ride a two-wheeler by myself. Can’t wait until I am 13, then I will be a teenager. Can’t wait until I am 16, so I can drive whenever and wherever I want. Can’t wait to be a senior, so I can rule the school. So many days that I crossed off the calendar with exclamation points!
Ask me anything about where I am now and I have all of the answers. Things I did not know four years ago are like second nature to me. I navigate my school hallways with ease. Ask me questions about where I am going and I give stock answers. I am unsure and the truth is, I really don’t know. Now, I find I am in the middle place, kind of stuck between winning the race but being held at the start line because it is not yet my turn.
Instead of asking me questions about where I am going to college or my senior quote, senior picture, senior field trip, senior lunch, senior shampoo, please be patient with me while I try and figure it out. Smile at me and don’t forget to tell me when I have done a good job today, because today really matters in my world. Today is where I live. Today is where I love. Today is where I meet up with my friends and laugh. Today is where I look over to you to see if you saw what I just did out there. Today is where I smile and share and stress and try and cry. Today, for me, is all I’ve got. Tomorrow is coming. I know it is there. Please do not feel like you need to be constantly reminding me to plan for tomorrow. Believe me, it is like the big bad wolf and the best birthday present at the same time, all wrapped up in one! My future waits for me but my present is who I am. It becomes who I become. While I am running to my next place, please help me enjoy the moments in between. The wake ups at home, the homecoming weeks, the victories with my teams, staying up late with my sister solving the world’s problems, the tests, the trials, the silly laughter, the A’s and the F’s, the smell of your cooking, my dog’s excitement when I walk in the room, seeing you in my mirror saying “be safe” as I leave the driveway. These are the things that are making me “me”. The me I have come to be is not only so special to you, but I am special to me because of all of those small, but important things wrapped up in my present. I am excited for where I am going next. Until then, let’s love and live in the little in between times because honestly, when the date on my calendar comes and I pack my bags and set off on my own journey pursuing whatever future is knocking at my door, it is those tiny moments that I am making now that make the future me.
My children, let me tell you something about this mother’s love. This might be the most important thing I tell you. So, can you do me a quick favor please? Can you find a quiet space and turn off your phone and concentrate on this letter for just this minute? I’ll wait until you are ready…
Dear My Perfect Child,
I. Love. You.
It doesn’t matter if you think that you’re too tall, or too short, or too skinny, or too fat, I love you still.
It doesn’t matter if you win or if you lose, I love you still.
If you get an A+ or if you get an F-, I love you still.
It doesn’t matter if you think you aren’t fast enough or if you think you can’t jump high enough, I love you.
When you are happy, I love you. When you are sad, I love you. When you are mad, I love you.
Whether you are whispering, singing, or yelling, I am loving you.
If you go to night school, trade school or fancy college, I will be loving you still.
When your days are serious or silly or shy or shouty, I love you.
If you work on people’s hearts, or hands or homes, I love you still.
If your passion is nature or numbers or nurturing, I love you.
If you are a tinkerer or a tumbler or a tomboy, I love you.
Whether you are a writer or a runner or a rapper, I love you still.
Whenever you are wondering or worrying or wishing, I am loving you.
No matter who you love, I love you and no matter who loves you, I love you.
When you love you, I love you too.
When you don’t love you, I love you for us both.
The possibilities of your great big life are endless, as is my love for you.
There is no single moment in your life that could make me love you less, ever… ever… ever.
You see, I do not expect you to grow up be a perfect person for me to love you, because to me you have been perfect from the day you were born. A perfectly styled and crafted version of you. And I love you!
My heart carries you with me every second of everyday and in those seconds, minutes and hours of the days of your life, I love you.
Today myself, my community and my children woke to the sad news that a bright beautiful senior at my kid’s school was killed in a car accident overnight. How? Why? Disbelief. Shock. Sadness. So much tragedy… so, so much that sometimes my heart swells up and breaks in half, no words, no breath. We are left wondering why does this happen? The soldier who comes home with only a folded flag to give a fellow soldier’s family, my best friend imprisoned in a wheelchair as her body stops working a little bit more each day, my father who got a call with results he hoped would not come this soon. All of it too soon. Why does God let it happen? I tried to get my head around it. I laced up my running shoes and set off for the trail. It is always a good place to think, reflect and pray when all of this sadness was at my heels. When I sat on the bench to get my music started I heard two old men talking about their churches. They are good friends, they are here walking often together and they worship at two different places. One man was saying his church had good music, and they agreed that the other one did not. But it did have Johnny and apparently Johnny is really good thing to have. Living in the south you come to realize that we are all believers. We don’t all go to the same church but we have the same God. We have the shared sorrows as well. We all pray. As I set off I kept thinking that we are one family of believers. On my next loop around the trail I decided to stop and ask these men to pray with me for the family that lost their daughter last night. Total strangers to me but brothers and sisters in Christ. It filled me with renewal that God never leaves us alone. We have a tremendously large family of support. His command is to love, and we need to keep that command by giving it, but also by receiving it. What do we do when we are the ones left here on earth? Imagine that each day you are given a pack of seeds. Sowing these seeds of faith could be as simple as a text to check in on someone, or driving right into a friends driveway and walking up to their door with the intention of only a hug and an offer of a shoulder to share the burden. Our sensitive hearts together make us strong. When my kids got home from school they told me about a ceremony that they had at school today in honor and memory of their fellow student. In just a few hours our community had come together remembering her, praying on bended knee for her family and released hundreds of white balloons on the football field. I am awed and honored to be a part of a community of faith and support like the one we live in. Will the path to heaven be lined with joy and jubilation when we arrive to fist bumps and high fives? I do not know but I do know that as one body in Christ, we sow the seeds until then, scattering them everyday.
Last Sunday was International Friendship Day. This got me thinking about all of the different people in my life that I am blessed to call friend and how fortunate we all are to have friends in our lives. I mean, think about it, how in the world do friendships form, why do some of them stick for a lifetime, taking two people and making one bond? I was talking to a friend of mine today. She called me to talk about the teacher. You know the one…the one who doesn’t exactly teach to your child’s thinking…the one about who, everyone says “Get out of that class”… the one where you are thinking, do I really need to be that mom and try to switch my child’s class? So, we talked about the teacher, but then we also talked about our kids, and then we talked about our parents growing older needing a little bit more time now than then, and then we talked about how she is one step closer to making her goal, then we talked about a loved one who is ill. These are the ingredients of friendship-Encouragement, inspiration, respect, honesty, humility. When and where do the seeds of friendship begin? Maybe it is during lunch in middle school when you don’t know where to sit, then someone yells your name and points to the seat next to them. Maybe it is at the first practice at high school and you see a familiar face, they wave and say “what’s up man, glad to see you here”. Maybe its when you show up at a meeting and that one person shakes your hand and says, “I have heard a lot about you”. Maybe it is over a glass of wine, when you share a story that you had been worrying over. I am not saying it happens in that one day. Letting life happen is sometimes part of the blessing. Enjoy the process of the puzzle pieces fitting together. People who are able to open up, be true, share, speak to what is real, these are the friends I am talking about. No politics, no illusions, just the heart and soul. Haven’t we all had those friends that we meet, and in a minute you are sharing stories, laughing about a common issue, asking advice without feeling self conscious? I call those friends “sister friends” because in my life they become family. Does this sound hokey? If it doesn’t, then I know that you have the right friends in your life. We are going to be there together in the stands cheering on our kids down to the final second, at the bus stop talking an hour after the bus has already picked up, sitting on the barstool in your kitchen saying, “I’ve got to go in one minute” then staying for another half hour. I always like to think there is a bit of magic in everyday. Friends are a part of that magic. Thanks to all the sisters out there, my life is enriched by who you are-Cheers!
“A Friend Is Someone Who Does Things That Count, But Doesn’t Stop To Count Them”
The other day I was driving one of my kids to practice and the weather had turned super stormy, super quickly. Living in the south, you learn to adapt to swift changes in the weather due to raging thunderstorms in warm weather. Many of these storms are accompanied by a tornado, as was the case the other night while I was driving. I left my house and began driving into clouds, into rain and into dark skies. When I say dark skies, I mean that it was dark out at 7:30pm when it is normally still daylight. The rain came in sheets, downward, sideways, any which way–so much rain that my windshield wipers could not keep up even on the fastest speed. The only help in seeing the road was the hazard lights from the vehicle in front of me. Entering the on ramp to the highway, no blacktop could be seen. All that was normally visible of the road was covered in green… leaves, branches, debris. Once on the highway, hail began to pound on our car and in an effort to save our rooftop, I pulled under an overpass for a few minutes to wait for the calm. While driving, my daughter worried that I could not see. I assured her that I could see, and even when I couldn’t see ahead of me as I normally was able to, I could still navigate through the storm. Later, we found out that there actually were a couple of tornados that had touched ground in the area. Were they near where we were? Yes. Had we been in one of them? Probably not. But who knows for sure? This leads me to question, as we navigate the stormy weather in our lives, how do we respond? When life gives us heavy rains so thick that we cannot see, do we trust in God’s unfailing guidance and carry on in the midst of the storm? Yes, storms and troubled times in our lives are sometimes placed there to give us pause. In pausing, do we keep our faith that God is the master of our storm as well as our sun? It is hard to remember, but trials bring new opportunites to life and new opportunities for God to work in our lives. There are days of rain and thunder, and there are days of rainbows and sun. Too much of one thing is a curse not a blessing. Keep faith in the storm, even when you cannot see beyond the rain. The broken road, the rejection letter, the “no” seem like the dark cloud when actually, the sun is just waiting to push through and show you a yellow brick road, a golden ticket, a “yes” to the right thing. When all the world is seemingly under the gray cover, turn your umbrella upside down and use it as a boat. The places it will take you are far greater than you can see from the where you are standing.
Vulnerability is irresistible. I went to see the Great Gatsby a couple of nights ago and now I am obsessed! Not only was the cinematography lush, vibrant and multi-layered, but the music was chosen with such precision that it should be named as best supporting role! The soundtrack of the movie has become as talked about as the acting itself. The songs and their placement enhanced every single scene. Even though the story was set in the roaring 1920’s, the conflicts and hopes of the characters are timeless and that is why the modern music makes such a contribution to the mood. Rather than choose music with a retro style, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby chose the songs on the soundtrack based on the feeling, not the era. The song choices so perfectly linked that when heard outside of the theater, they still evoke the feelings from the scene. The acting by Leonardo DiCaprio was absurdly good. He transformed a scene with the slightest creasing of his brow, a deep sigh, a pause. Jay Gatsby is driven, patient and at times over the top with his need to create his perfect life. The most irresistible thing about the movie is the vulnerability that is shown in Jay Gatsby’s character, a man of great success and influence but incomplete… searching to recapture lost love and friendship. This vulnerability is how we get vested in his success and in his human-ness, we find ourselves rooting for him to have it all in the end. I don’t want to go back and retell the story because you just have to go see this movie for yourself. This modern and edgy interpretation is not your high school book version of The Great Gatsby! Treat yourself to a superb, albeit fantastical version of one of the most famous stories of the drama and intrigue of the life in excess during the 1920’s… and then hurry and download the soundtrack!
We all have masks. Everyone has at least one, but most everyone wears a mix of many. It may be that we began to create these masks to become closer to the “Me” we wanted to be. Remember when we were kids in art class and we learned how to create something with paper mache’–usually a mask! Tearing piles and piles of small, skinny strips of newspaper and after dipping them in our “glue” of flour and water, we then started layering them, over and over again atop each other. Until finally, we had that shell of the mask dried to the perfect thickness, to hold just the right shape. We did not leave it there. We added paint then, and perhaps adornments like beads, fringe, glitter, anything we thought would make our mask unique, beautiful, different… our own. Somewhere down that road to “Me”-ness, we end up picking up peices of other people’s masks to add to our own. We looked at our friend, our neighbor and we liked what they had done with their mask, so we borrowed some of their ideas and added them to our own. Did we pick up those parts for our mask because we did not like our own or were afraid to show what our real mask looked like? Or did we pick those parts of the mask because we had a dream, a goal, a want to become something bigger than who we were? Who knew that exercise in art class all of those years ago would bring out thoughts on such a lesson in life as an adult. Is your mask there to hide who you are, or is your mask there to create who you are to become? As you layer the strips of paper for your “Me” mask and it begins to harden, do you like your own mask enough to share it? Do you love each layer as it is applied, adorned with your own touches, colors-soft or vibrant, glitzed or quiet, beaded or plain? I love the Shel Silverstein poem above. It helps remind me that maybe we should all show a little bit of our own blue skin in the mask that we wear and share everyday!