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”
We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”, so I guess that means that because I ate toast with Nutella and bananas this morning that I am crunchy, sweet and…. yellow? No, seriously I know that the idea is that what you put into your body is what nourishes it or doesn’t depending on what you choose. I have been thinking about the opposite of that. What you put out of your body can also nourish your insides or not depending on what you choose… In other words, you are what you speak. Raising two teenagers can become days of lessons upon lessons in life, but experience tells us that the best way to encourage a thoughful, kind, respectful human being is by showing them that in a world full of the unexpected, you can carry yourself in whatever manner you choose. Your reaction is your own choice (even though sometimes it feels like you have no choice but to be rude or forceful right back at someone)! Words have the power to enhance your life and the life of the person you are speaking to. Your words become a mirror, a big reflection that follows you around and shows you what you look like from the outside. If you run around judging someone harshly or gossiping about them, the feelings those words create will come back at you in the form of a judgement against you, or a story behind your back. On the other hand, and thank you God always for the reminder that there is the other hand, if you run around sharing words of kindness and encouragement, the effect of those words will also come back to you. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. We all know that a word once it is spoken cannot ever be taken back. Everything you say will be connected to you forever-good or bad. Are the words you share meant to be nourishing or to be breaking down? Imagine that the words you speak swirl around you mingled with the air that you breath, and at any given moment they become a collage that creates the picture of you to the world. Your reflection in that big mirror. The words that you choose will allow you to create whatever self portrait the world sees in you. Is your word picture beautiful or is it ugly? Just as a flower grows from the dirt, you too can create a beautiful you with only a tiny seed, a small word of nourishment to a friend, a stranger, an adversary. Like a mighty oak tree from an acorn grows, once spoken your words become a living thing. Do you remember a time when someone complimented you on a day when you felt inadequate? Do you remember a day when someone encouraged you to try when you were scared that you would fail? Do you remember a day when someone gave you wise advice when you were faced with a tough choice? These are the things that made all the difference on those days. One word, a string of words, a conversation, this is what we speak, where they take you is up to you! I remember when my children were young and one of them came home complaining that “so and so” was mean to them, and they did not want to be friends with them anymore. My response that day, and my response today would be the same as it has always been anytime a situation like that arises, “I do not expect you to be best friends with “so and so”, but I do expect you to be polite and kind”. Living out this example is at times, harder than not. We all probably prefer to puff up our chests and show we are as tough as the cookie next to us who is ranting and raving, but I am reminded that God does not measure strength in raised voices or cutting remarks. Our strength is measured in words of faith, wisdom and love. As we walk from place to place and speak with person to person, what word picture is being painted around ourselves today? If you are what you
eat speak, then I’d like to order a sweet words sundae with a cherry on top…to-go please!
When I say the name Lance Armsrong, chances are you have a strong opinion of him. Over the course of the past twelve years he has become so many different things to so many different people… victor, villian, champion, cheat. Way back in 2000, my husband and I began to watch the Tour de France and were immediately swept up in the inspirational story of this scrappy, American kid who fought his way to the top of the cycling world. The story most of us know includes a viscious battle with cancer where he crawls out victorious. Lance Armstrong became an inspiration to cancer survivors, cancer warriors, young cyclists, heck, any age cyclists! My husband bought a road bike in 2000 and has been riding every week since!! There are few homes that Lance’s story did not touch. Not only did he beat cancer, but he was beating up the Tour de France year, after year, after year. Amid all of this success, he started the Livestrong Foundation to help cancer patients and their families worldwide. Wow! How does he do it? What an inspiration! He is amazing! He is a hero! And that is exactly what he became- a modern day superhero. A sea of yellow bracelets were proof that we all wanted to believe in him and his story. So, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Lance agreed to do an exclusive interview with Oprah based on allegations that he had used illegal and banned substances to help him win all of those races. After years of vehemently denying that he had ever participated in using those substances, he finally came out and admitted that he had done just that-and that he had done it for years. Now, honestly if we look hard enough (or maybe not very hard), I know that we can find cheating in any and every sport, whether it is as big as performance enhancing drugs or as little as stretching the truth. Have you ever competed with someone, in any arena where that win is just out of reach? No matter how hard you try, there is always someone a little bit faster, a bit out of your grasp? Whether it is at work or school or sports, do you ever just touch your toe over that line of integrity? Maybe you didn’t exactly tell the truth about those last few seconds of the race, perhaps you rounded up or down wherever it suited you to become the winner of that particular goal. Are the small blurred lines as bad as what Lance Armstrong did? Lance said in the interview that he needed to come clean and tell the truth because of his kids. He didn’t want his children to see him as a cheater. Do our children then become the soft whisper of our conscience? If our children learn and model our behavior by the choices we make everyday, don’t they become our conscience? Our actions, our words, our behaviors towards others become our children’s inner voice. Kids are more perceptive than we realize and just when we think no one is watching, they are learning by our example, be it right or wrong. Integrity turns out to be something you have to practice everyday. It can be encouraged in the big and little choices we face on a daily basis. Today, as I am running around in my own “race” called life, I am going to try to remember the importance of choosing truthfulness, tolerance, and love with integrity. I might not become a modern day superhero by practicing these things, but then again… maybe just a little!
Our newly minted 15-year-old has an anniversary every year on Super Bowl Sunday. Yes, you read that right, an anniversary. We love Super Bowl Sunday and in my house it is a really big deal! Let me start by saying that I like football for all the reasons a girl who grew up in the south likes football… because of the pep rallies, the prayer before kick off, the cheerleading, the band’s halftime show, the homecoming parade, the concessions… You know what I am talking about right?- the magic of the Friday night lights. I do watch the game, honestly I do, but I am kind of more into the experience than the actual football. So, why do I get so excited for Super Bowl Sunday? Well, it’s not because of the commercials (although truth be told, I cannot wait to see them!). Please allow me to take you back to fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago, our son was born. Like many soon-to-be parents, my husband and I were the kind where the entire time I was pregnant, we did everything that the book said and more. Eat healthy, take your vitamins, exercise enough- but not too much, no coffee, no wine, sleep on your left side, get a body pillow, talk to the baby, read to the baby, sing to the baby, start your baby book, take childbirth classes, get the car seat ready, walk (a lot) near your due date, especially during a full moon. This was the biggest, most exciting event in our lives and we were so excited when, during that full moon, our son was ready to make his appearance! Much to our surprise, and after all of our preparations, the minute he was born, he was whisked off to the other side of the room, and started receiving all kinds of treatments with suction, tubes and ventilator bags. The glances exchanged from nurse to doctor made it clear that all was not okay. Even though this was our first baby, we knew that we were supposed to be holding our son, snapping pictures, gazing at him and each other in wonder of it all and clearly, that was not what was happening. So, after minutes, which truly seemed like hours, the doctor explained that our boy was not breathing properly and that they were going to take him for “a little while” to help him with that. And off they went. My husband and I sat stunned, not in wonder, but left wondering-how? what? why? We had so many questions and we turned to the only one who could answer them for us-God. We prayed out loud together in that delivery room and each day after that. Our first baby would be spending his first night of life in the neonatal intensive care unit. The nurses in the NICU explained that our son had what was called meconium aspiration, which generally is mild and they expected him to be better in a couple of days. We were comforted by the fact that this was a temporary setback. His little body would recover and he would be the strong, healthy boy we had dreamed of. Well, two days turned into three days in the NICU and it was time for me to go home… after allowing me to stay an extra day to be down the hall from our son, the hospital no longer wanted me. I will never, ever, ever forget the heartache that I felt that day as I got in the car with my husband and had to drive away. We sat stopped at a red light, silent, worried, unsure, heartbroken. I looked out the car window and up at the hospital and felt physical pain at being separated from this child that I had carried for nine months. How can I go from feeling his every movement day and night to going home without him? Why and how can I leave when he needs me most? My husband and I spent hours at the hospital everyday, when we went home we pumped and bagged breast milk to be used when we weren’t with our son. We scrubbed in everyday and greeted the nurses that we had come to know as three days turned into four, then five, then seven and then nine… Every answer to our question of “when can he go home?”, came back as “almost ready to go home, but not quite”. Everyday, the doctors would say “probably tomorrow”. And everyday, we prayed. Then one day, one of our amazing nurses pulled me aside and said she was going to get permission for my husband and I to stay in a special “family” room that we could share overnight with our son. They would be still able to monitor him and we could spend an entire 24 hours with him! Yes!! We were giddy! My husband ran home and got our overnight bags and we settled in for a sweet night with our sweet baby. We finally felt complete and so very blessed. We had been able to spend our son’s eleventh night in the hospital with him and I did not think that I would ever be able to leave him to go home again. Really, I mean it, I did not think my feet would be able to carry me out that door. I kept thinking there had to be a way they would let us stay until he was ready to come home. The next morning when the doctor came in to check on our baby boy, he declared very simply that he was ready to go home! Jumping up and down, hugging, and crying out in glee doesn’t even begin to describe the joy in that moment. Do you know what day that was? Yep- it was Super Bowl Sunday! Sometimes, when the temporary seems too long and the journey too difficult, hang in there. Trust that God has plans for you and will rejoice with you when it is your moment for your own victory dance! So, that is why every year on Super Bowl Sunday, we celebrate the day that our son came home from the hospital at twelve days old. When everyone is getting together with friends and family and celebrating the big game, we are celebrating too, just something a little bit different. It sure feels good to be able to look over at our boy in wonder of it all! Happy Anniversary baby!
So, today I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate the 2nd birthday of my neice’s son… I am not even sure what you call that– my second cousin, my first cousin once removed? Is he removed because he is two generations younger or removed because he is an offspring of my sister and not me? Or is he even removed? I really don’t know- I just call him adorable! Anyway, we were all beginning to crowd around the table to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. We all had our mobile phones & cameras out to snap the perfect picture, to capture that very precious moment when he sat in all of his sweet, embarrased glory while the whole room turned to him singing and sending up their own quiet wishes for his next year. All the while, all of us eager to get that “perfect” picture, so we could of course, post it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I began to wonder. Are we taking the moment out of the moment? What I mean is, are we so much in search of the perfect picture that we lose the perfect moment in time? Sometimes, isn’t there that hint of dissappointment when you look back at your pictures and not find one that conveys the intensity, the joy, the beauty of the moment enough for it to be good enough to post on social media? Couldn’t you have zoomed in a little more? Couldn’t you have captured that smile, or that laugh, or that winning goal, or that highest jump, or that step across the finish line, or that walk down the aisle just a little bit better? My question is this, aren’t the imperfections in those moments just as beautiful as the perfect ones? Isn’t being in the present moment, enjoying the present moment, savoring that moment more important than capturing the perfect picture? In this day and age of instant media sharing, let’s cut ourselves some slack and not allow the “post” button to dictate whether or not we have a perfect moment because really, if we are in them, counting our blessings every minute of them, aren’t they all really perfect?! I know that two year old’s birthday party with family and friends who were there to sing to him, celebrate him, love him and wish him a beautiful life was just that- PERFECT!