Letting change change me

I wrote the essay below for the May 20, 2017 issue of The Drafting Desk, a monthly collaboration with my friend Lindsey. Click here to learn more!


It’s hot enough here in Central Florida that my kids have already been in their grandparents’ pool twice (though the water is still too cold for Mom).

In an effort to get a jump start on things this year, I went ahead and signed up my 3-year-old for refresher swim lessons. At 4pm every weekday for the last three weeks, I’ve sat next to the pool and observed as the skills came back to her—kicking, paddling, holding her breath, rolling onto her back to float—like riding a bike. She loves the water, and I love watching her and chatting with her swim instructor for those 10 minutes every afternoon.

But then, just like that, she was dubbed swim-ready and we were finished. On the last day, we said goodbye to the instructor and I choked back tears.

Tears. Over the end of swim lessons.

What is wrong with me?

We’re standing at the edge of a season when so many things wrap up—end-of-the-school-year concerts, dance recitals, class parties, thank-you notes, teacher gifts, goodbyes to friends and other parents and teachers I’ve come to adore. I dread all of it. It reminds me that my children are growing, moving up, moving on (and often that means I have to move on with them). At 8 and 3, at least they’re not moving out—but I know it’s only a matter of time before that happens, too.

Oh gosh. Hold on while I look for the Kleenex.

It would appear I don’t cope well with change—but then, I already knew that.

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Continue reading “Letting change change me”

Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

Continue reading “Remembering hope when everything feels wrong”

Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way

I don’t know why I didn’t get it until that moment in the little theatre, sitting in the dark with the rest of the proud parents and grandparents, watching our 8- and 9-year-olds act it out for us.

It’s not sad. It’s beautiful. It’s gospel.

I’ve read the book. Seen the movie—the old animated one—dozens of times. Was in the play as a middle-schooler when my school put it on.

The spider dies in the end. We all know this. Our beloved Charlotte saves her friend Wilbur, the pig whose days were numbered unless someone intervened.

And then her time is up.

As a child listening to my teacher read the story for the first time, as a 13-year-old acting it out, as a mom listening to my husband read the E.B. White classic aloud with the baby draped over one shoulder and our then 6-year-old on his lap, I got the sadness of Charlotte’s Web. 

That’s what it was—sad. Books about animals always are.

But then last week, that little girl who once curled up with her dad to listen to the tale became Charlotte in a (highly anticipated) 3rd-grade, 30-minute version.

I sat there perched on the second row of that little corner theatre, camera in one hand and phone in the other, and watched her intently.

And my heart broke all over the place, because as she spoke her last lines in her little voice and the lights dimmed, I—for the first time—fully wrapped my mind around what Charlotte had just done.

I finally got it.  Continue reading “Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way”

The kids are watching [our response to those in need]

I guided our red minivan into the left turn lane, the one closest to the median, and the man standing on it, leaning against the traffic sign, looked up, searching for a driver in the line to lock eyes with him. His shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops on a cooler-than-usual Florida day, along with the cardboard sign he held, indicated need. I caught his eye and nodded.

I am the woman who obsessively locks whatever can be locked—the front door, the screen door, the garage door, windows, car doors. I stash valuables; I buckle my kids tight; I creep silently to the peephole when the doorbell rings, wary of strangers. 

The man walked toward the van as I rummaged around in the center console and the tote bag on the front seat. I’m a mom; it’s in my job description to travel with snacks. My 2-year-old daughter grinned at me in the rearview mirror, and I locked eyes with her, too. My fingers finally landed on what I knew was somewhere in the bag, and I emerged with a chocolate chip granola bar.

I wished I had more, but it was something. I need to make care bags to keep with me.

I rolled down my window and offered it to the man.

“Would you like a granola bar?”

He had a crooked smile, weathered skin, and kind blue eyes. I wonder what his story is, but does it matter? 

“Thank you, ma’am.”

My throat was tight and all I could do was look him in the eyes and nod.

I rolled the window back up as the light turned green and we pulled forward. I glanced at the rearview mirror again as my little girl strained against her carseat straps to watch the man walk away.

“Did you gave him a ganolga bar, Mommy?” (One of those words I secretly hope she mispronounces forever.)  Continue reading “The kids are watching [our response to those in need]”

Compassion

When we lost a baby in June of 2013, friends who had known about the pregnancy—my small, intimate circle of girlfriends and our church small group at the time—showed up at our door. They didn’t linger, just quietly dropped off food. Lasagna. Casserole. Chocolate chip cookies. Two gallons of the best Italian ice from a local place.

Hugs and comfort in the form of food. Acknowledgment of our loss, of our pain. An attempt to alleviate some of our suffering.

I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d been on the receiving end of compassion. But when I thought hard, wracking my memory troves for personal examples, this was the first to come to mind—perhaps because it was our first experience with deep grief.

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Continue reading “Compassion”

One little word

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

—Eugene Peterson, The Message (Romans 12:1-2)

Early in 2016 but far enough into the year that I considered myself late to the New Year’s resolution game, I wrote about choosing my first-ever word of the year. Or, more accurately, how God pressed the word upon me until I said, “Okay, okay!”

I don’t like committing to much, because a commitment is a commitment. If I break it, I’ve failed—and failure is embarrassing. Keeping a commitment to a single word that I was supposed to weave throughout my entire year seemed like a terrible idea, setting myself up for humiliation. Especially a word like brave.

We were over at our friends’ house the other day, and the kids got into the dress-up clothes. As they paraded out to the living room as a flower fairy, a princess, and a bear-T. Rex-dragon-king for admiration from us four adults, we oohed and aahed and wowed, and then our friend said to his daughter and mine, “You look so brave!”

Not pretty, or beautiful, or fancy—brave. Not a compliment based on their appearance as adorable little girls (though they are), a compliment given intentionally based on what he wanted them to believe about themselves. They can be brave. They are brave, whether they know it yet or not.

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I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone say to me, “You look so brave!”

Before this year, I don’t think I ever believed that I was or could be.
Continue reading “One little word”

Before we click Unfollow

I noticed earlier this week that at some point—I have no idea when—I must have accidentally hit the “Like” button for the Facebook page of a certain political figure as I scrolled through my newsfeed. When I discovered what I’d inadvertently done, I laughed because of who the figure was and how that blue thumbs-up might have been interpreted. (I’m not going to name the figure because it’s not relevant to this post.)

But then I started putting two and two together and I realized some people had likely unfollowed or blocked my posts as a result of that “Like.”

That was sobering. Suddenly my accidental click didn’t seem funny anymore.

Since the election, I’ve seen well-meaning, kind-hearted people posting instructions on how to block certain friends/pages from being visible in our newsfeeds when we don’t agree with the content they’re sharing. I’ll admit, I use this tool myself and will say that there are times when it is useful and even necessary. I block junk, fake news, posts with foul language, and over-sharers (sorry!), among other things. Sometimes I need to step back from a certain feed for a season, for the sake of my own heart. You likely have your reasons too, and I think that’s all ok. Too much is too much.

But I regret my own haste to “block” and “unfollow” people lately based on the sharing of views and opinions that don’t line up with my own. I am sorry for it. For someone who requires so much grace, I sure am stingy with it. 

I’m challenging myself, and I’ll encourage you, too: Don’t cut people out—of your newsfeed or your life—just because you have political or ideological differences. Don’t create a bubble for yourself that only includes likeminded folks. Take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and remember there’s a person on the other side of your screen—a human being, just as loved and cherished by God as you are. Let that sink in for a minute.

Let’s be better at acknowledging each other’s humanness and the fact that it’s not only good to have relationships with people with whom we disagree, it’s necessary.

I think we are all capable of more kindness, compassion, and empathy.

My first step was to take a peek at the people and pages I had hidden from my Facebook feed. From a computer, you can do this by hovering over the News Feed header in the left column. Click the gear that appears to the left of the words “News Feed” and then select “Edit Preferences.” A new window should pop up. Click on “Reconnect with people you unfollowed” and see who’s there. You might be surprised. (I was.) From there you have the option to re-follow people from your list.

As I looked at mine, I prayed for God to soften my heart toward friends with opposing views, and then I added some back into my bubble.

One step at a time.

Who’s with me? 


For an insightful analysis on this topic, I’d recommend this article.