losing your dad

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

I’m starting to get a glimpse of what it was like for you two when your dad died almost 9 years ago. What it must have been like for you to watch the man who was your protector and provider, the man who seemed like he could take on the world…be so sick.

Grandpa is sick. He has been for what feels like a long time now.

We always knew it would be this way. We knew when his health went down it would hit hard and fast and snowball into far more than we could handle but it doesn’t make it any easier knowing ahead of time what will most likely come.

We’ve watched him spend more time in the hospital in the last 10 months than I could even possibly add up.

Lauren he missed your open house. He missed our family Christmas gathering. Missed his birthday and a whole host of other incredibly ordinary days in-between because of having to be in the hospital.

He hasn’t been himself for a long time now.

He was so hard working, strong, on the move, couldn’t keep him down. Now he is so physically weak and struggles to be able to do anything for himself.

I remember this happening with your dad too. Not exactly the same way, but similar enough. Thankfully, your dad was able to be in hospice care at home. I will always be grateful for that.

The circle of life. I keep reminding myself this is how it is. A new baby is born and people die all on the same day or in the same season. Joy and pain mixed. Hope and Loss intertwined.

Just before your dad died, your cousin, Kendra was born and shortly after, your cousin Nathan. I can’t help but grieve that they never even knew their Uncle Mark.

I know what it felt like to lose Mark as his wife. I lived that life. It was terribly difficult to go from being ‘one’ to what felt like half. I had you two so I kept pushing on. Plus it’s in my dna to not give up, but it was hard and very lonely. I remember feeling half alive sometimes.

I have tried to imagine what Grandma Jackson must have felt. I’m sure I haven’t fully understood because I was a fairly new mom myself when your dad died. But the older you two get I get a clearer picture. No mom thinks they will bury their own child. And as a mom you are willing and readily sacrifice so much because of how much you love your child. They are your heart walking around outside your body.

I have had my dad now for 45 years. It’s been hard for me to fully grasp how it must have felt and still feels for you to be so young and feel fatherless. How unprotected you must have felt. How difficult it has been for you to understand how men even interact and do life. What marriage looks like, etc.

Last week when we unexpectedly drove up to Michigan I found myself remembering lots of details from childhood. Lots of things my dad used to say or the kinds of things we did together. I found myself standing by his hospital bed just wanting him to be proud of me, to be proud of how me and my siblings turned out, our kids, etc.

I know it. I don’t know how he couldn’t be proud of us. We are an awesome family:). But I just wanted to hear it from his lips. It didn’t happen. He was too sick to communicate that kind of thing clearly. I drove home just feeling heavy hearted. Sometimes this world just doesn’t give us what we think we need.

At this point…I just want my dad to be at peace. I don’t want to see him suffer anymore.

Girls…I want you to know how proud of you your dad was (and I think still is). I want you to know that he loved/loves you to the moon and back. I want you to know that had he had any kind of choice at all…he would’ve stayed and would still be here for you.

Thankfully…God has redeemed the broken places of our lives. Thankfully…you have a dad in Dane who loves you well. For this I am extremely grateful. But I want you to know that it matters to me that you lost your dad so young. It was never the way it was meant to be.

I feel young at age 45 to be watching my dad go through what he is. I can’t imagine if I was 9 or 10 years old right now going through this.

I am extremely proud of you two. The way you have handled loss…has been remarkable. I know you had no choice…but even so, I want you to know that I love you and am so sorry about what happened to your dad.

Love your momma who is trying to just breathe in peace these days.


What matters

Dear Lydia and Lauren, (Every  once in awhile the youngest should be spoken first:)

Time is the most valuable thing you have.

Everybody has it in in equal measure. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year.

We struggle with loss harder when we feel that someone’s time has been ‘cut short’. It seems unfair. But none of us is guaranteed a certain number of years. Only that at some point you will die…every one will.

God knows your days. He knew them before you were even born. He knows the big moments that are coming, the ordinary, the hard and He knows when you will die.

God doesn’t live in the same space and time as we do. It’s a mystery…how He knows every day before it comes and yet prayer still matters. Sometimes it appears in scripture that prayer even ‘changes’ God’s plans. I’m not sure how all of that works but I know we have freewill. Maybe God ‘knowing’ is far more that He can simply step back and know what we will choose before we even realize it.

Lydia, last night you talked with me about cell phones and how you wish you weren’t being raised and living in the age of them. I found it ironic since most days I have to tell you to get off of yours:). But I get your frustration. You’ve found that with your age group, no matter where you go, church, youth group, encounter, out with friends, retreats, etc. everyone seems to feel the need to pull out their phone instead of interacting with the people that are right there in front of them.

You’re a homeschooled girl so you have learned how valuable the time is when you can be with your peers. It’s something most high schoolers would take for granted.

You were telling us last night how ridiculous the whole thing seems to you. Sometimes when we talk about our teenage years or childhood without phones and the kinds of things we did back then I think you think it sounds so much more fun. Obviously, it’s easy to portray the past as the good ole’ days…but there has definitely been something lost with such easy technology accessibility all the time.

We lack the willpower to handle it well. All of us for the most part. Parents, teens…even kids.

I asked you about your phone usage at home and why it doesn’t bother you here to have it out a lot. You admitted that you didn’t feel a need to cut back here. I guess you feel you have all the time in the world with us at home and that we are often doing other things so you might as well too.

I remember when I was your age lying on top of my bed listening to Casey Casem’s top 40 on my clock radio in my bedroom for hours at a time. So I get it. For you, most of the time on your phone is spent listening to music. That’s always been a headphone thing for you, not a public, every one listening experience. Now that I use my headphones more running and swimming I get how different it feels to have the music pulsing in your ears rather than having it as background. It is a different experience.

I know I’ve talked with you two a lot about time. How fast it goes by. How precious it is. Words don’t really need to pour from my mouth to your ears when you knew at such a young age how quickly time could end for someone you love. You know.

How has that knowing changed you? I would love to talk with you about that more. How has loss shaped you and how you choose to live in your present?

I know personally…sometimes at the end of the day I think back through the day and wonder if those I love most were suddenly gone what I would regret? How would I have lived differently? I challenge myself to think through that often, not because I want to live in fear…but simply because I don’t want to take anybody for granted.

For me that usually causes me to think…I would’ve stayed off my phone more. I would’ve scrolled less through useless information. I love taking in information…but really how much does anybody actually need? I would clean the house less. Yes I like a clean house and organization is good…so don’t throw this back at me too much…but there are days now where I look at the house and then I look at the weather and realize it would be far better to spend the day outside in nature with those I love being active than dusting. Which has led to me getting closer and closer to minimalism all the time. The less stuff you have the more freedom you have when it comes to this kind of thing.

At your age…money is a big deal. Who am I kidding…it’s a big deal no matter what age you are, but at your age money seems like it would fix everything. Money can make life easier for sure and being able to stay out of debt and have financial freedom is huge. But…I can tell you, time is still the most valuable thing you have.

If you knew you only had a year to live how would you live differently? Ponder it and consider why you wouldn’t go ahead and make those changes now.

We all have daily responsibilities we must attend to, the house does have to be cleaned…meals made…jobs done…bills paid, but, what about the rest of your time? What about that time of day when you first wake up? To do lists and marking things off is nice and you know I’m a queen of the list makers…but I’m talking even bigger than that. What really matters to you?

There it is…the most important question for you to ponder today. What really matters to you?

When we know that, everything else falls into place. Your awareness of God. Does it matter to you? You know it’s the ‘right’ answer. But does it REALLY matter to you? Only you can answer that question. What people in your life really matter to you? How do you show it? Would they know they matter to you? What projects and goals matter to you? Why do they matter? How about yourself. Do you matter to you? How are you taking good care of yourself…what do you eat, what kind of rest do you get, how about exercise and time outside?

Lydia…when you talked about the phone last night I was proud of you for realizing that when you’re out in the world and spending time with people your phone does not matter one iota. Good for you. That makes me so happy because it tells me you get the fact that real people matter more. You’re getting ready to travel to Ecuador for five months and that tells me you’re ready to be fully present and take full advantage of that experience.

Girls…no one is going to get to the end of their life and say, “I wish I would’ve spent more time on my phone. I wish I would’ve been on Facebook more, I wish I would’ve taken more quizzes on buzz feed or read more articles online.” No one is going to say I wish I would’ve watched more TV or been in my own little headphone world more listening to my favorite tunes. Absolutely no one.

I think the opposite will be true. I watched your dad closely and I can tell you…in the end he wished he would’ve taken better care of himself. He wished he would’ve exercised and ate healthier and been the weight that would’ve given him a more active healthy life. He wished he would’ve followed his God given calling and not meandered off the path. He wished that he would’ve spent more time with the very people closest to him…namely, you two. And your dad died long before Facebook or constant phone usage. He never even had an iPhone!! I’m not trying to imply that your dad had a lot of regrets. He didn’t. But I think there is still something we can learn and that he would want us to learn from his life and death.

The people in your life…they matter. That may mean 3 other people, it may mean 20, it depends on how you live and your personality. Just know, the people in your life are not there by accident.

You matter…how you treat yourself matters. Listen closely to your body and you will have a pretty good idea of what it wants to feel good. Water, healthy food, exercise, sunlight, rest, hard work, play…these are all things that make for a healthy life, body, heart and soul.

Your relationship with God matters. Some would be concerned at the fact that I’m writing about this last, but you know for me God has never been a part of my list making. I tend to grimace when I hear talk of making God number #1 as if He is a job to be marked off. God is the very air you breathe. I don’t put breathing on my to do list, I just do it. That’s how I feel about my relationship with God. He is in everything, behind, beside, above, in front, hemming you in, leading and directing you. Learn to hear His voice. Read the bible. Pray. Look for Him and He will be found.

No where does the internet make this list of what matters, or iPhones, tv, netflix, etc. We all have moments when we just chill and waste some time. But make sure you are aware daily that your time is the most precious thing you have.

You two are wise enough these days that when you earn your own money and then go to a store you’re not quick to part with your hard earned dollars. You shouldn’t be. Treat time in the same manner. Don’t be quick to throw away minutes and hours.

How we treat the minutes of the day matters. Just like you wouldn’t waste $5 a day with a McDonalds habit because you know it will add up, don’t waste 60 minutes a day with stuff that doesn’t matter on your phones.

I woke up this morning being challenged by all of this as well. Yesterday…I took a day off and played on my phone more than I should’ve. I was stuck on a game and kept thinking that one more time and I would get further than I had before. I never did but I managed to waste time in a ridiculous way when I could’ve been far more present with the people in the room. I will never get that time back. I don’t want to live that way.

For me…

My awareness of God matters, before I even rise it matters to me.

My marriage to Dane matters, we are best friends, lovers and God has made us one.

My parenting of you two matters, even as we transition more and more into friendship. Pouring everything I know, believe, feel and want to pass on to the next generation matters to me and that’s mainly as I interact with you two.

My family that I’ve been given in the past year and a half through the addition of Dane’s kids and grand kids matters to me. God has added to my life and I want to pour love, grace and healing into those relationships wherever I can.

The students I teach each week matter to me. It’s my way of creating some amount of beauty in this world.

My home and the kind of refuge I create for my family matters to me. I want home to feel pleasant and safe, to eat good food, have good conversation and to create a space that feels  loving.

My own health matters to me. It didn’t use to, I admit, but these days it matters to me how I eat, exercise, etc. I’ve realized this body is important and no one else is responsible for it except me. I want to be as strong and healthy for as long as I can be while I walk this earth. I know I will have grand children to play with someday and I want to enjoy them fully:)

My extended family and friends matter to me. Sometimes this involves Facebook over distance…but generally it still involves taking the time to call or write or get together face to face.

Living in community with other Christians through our local church matters to me. That’s why I go to a small group and try to initiate relationships with people at The Bridge.

Pretty much, that’s it. That’s plenty for my life to be about.

Netflix doesn’t make the list, although I admit I spend too much time there.

Tv, iPhones, anything with technology honestly, doesn’t really matter that much. Maybe as a tool to accomplish some of the above things but nothing more.

As you start this new week…think about your time. I am. Think about what matters to you, it can change everything, especially at the point in life where you are right now. Live with as few regrets as possible. No life is perfect, but with intentional living we can live a beautiful story.

Love your momma who prides herself on her todo lists and what she can accomplish in any given day but still realizes that somedays she’s not really lived out what matters most. I’m there with you.

Change is coming…

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

Change is coming.

We’ve talked about it off and on for years now…probably especially since your dad died. All of us at a young age quickly realized the reality that nothing should be taken for granted and how easily things can change and never be the same. I was a young adult when your dad died…36 years old, I know that sounds old to you now but I think you will find it interesting some day when you arrive at that age and realize what that felt like for me as a mom and wife. And you two were definitely young…just 8 and almost 10 years old.

It’s still so easy to take life for granted. Especially when you’re a kid. You have this feeling that you have years and years in front of you and that things will always be the same. And I hope you do have many years ahead of you!

It’s normal. I think all siblings take each other for granted. I know I did with mine. If I had it to do over I would have spent more time with them…more intentional time, a different quality of time, I suppose.

Since I’ve been an adult I’ve had very few years of living anywhere close to my brothers and sisters. We see each other at holidays and summer visits now and then. Thankfully, with Facebook we are a little more part of each other’s lives, but none of us are phone people. The times we do have are cherished but not frequent. The vacations we’ve taken together are especially good memories to me.

That being said…girls…you have the next 10 months to live differently. I know you love one another deeply. I know you’re loyal to one another and honestly…best friends, even on the worst of days and the worst of disagreements…but you’re at the point where your relationship is changing. You are no longer kids. You are shifting from teenager to adult fast and furious. Your relationship with each other will change too.

The irritations of today…bathroom usage and sharing, cleanliness or lack of, annoying habits, etc. will soon be over. You also will have far less contact. The meals we share daily…the conversations in the car…sitting in the same pew at church…going out to eat…watching a movie together…playing a game…laughing about old memories, etc. will be far less.

I am a believer that our best days are never the ones behind us so I  am not writing this because I want you to feel sad. Instead I’m writing because I believe the next 10 months are a really special chapter for you two. For all four of us to be honest.

In getting married a year and a half ago…Dane and I have realized that one of the biggest things that sets our marriage apart from most is simply the reality that we never take one another for granted. We live in the present day as fully as we possibly can…every day. We know the future can change and life can turn on a dime, so we try not to worry about that, but just live and enjoy this present day as fully as we can. That mentality has made all the difference in our love and life together.

Girls…I can’t help but ask you and advise you to try and live this way in the next 10 months more than ever. Live in each present day as it comes. Put down the time wasters and the things that so easily distract. Notice one another…as if you’re seeing each other for the first time. You really are…you’ve never known one another as adults! Think of conversations you would like to have with one another. Think about setting up your relationship in a way where you will always be close no matter where you go or how life plays out. Have fun together. All of the ordinary things that come along in life…the meals…the evening time…the conversations…the games and jokes…the sharing of life…realize how precious it is. There will come a time when it won’t be the same. It can’t be.

Don’t begrudge one another or focus on the irritations. Don’t short change today by pining for the future or when you can get your own place. That time will come all on it’s own. Focus instead on the beauty of this day. The reality that for this season of time you get to see one another daily. That is pure gift.

I fondly think back on the days when I shared a bedroom with my sister, Becky. I wish I would’ve appreciated those days more. Even the daily getting ready for the day…I remember watching her get ready, the precision curling of every piece of hair, putting on makeup, etc.

I remember when she got married. Everything changed. I remember when I got married and my little sister Sue was my flower girl. She cried so hard that night as your dad and I headed out on our honeymoon because we knew nothing would ever be the same.

It’s the nature of life. It’s ever changing. We can’t and wouldn’t want to change that. But I sure wish someone would’ve told me to live in the beauty of each present day moment long before my 40’s and that it would’ve sunk into my being.

Every day is pure gift. There are no guarantees in life…no allotted years we all get. But you have this day. This present moment.

You have a choice..fill it with life and love, hope and joy, goodness and peace…or fill it with petty arguing and criticism, judgement and condemnation. Fill it with fun or let the time slip by without even noticing. No matter what the time is falling through the hour glass…but you don’t have just let it slip by without eeking everything out of it.

Are there things you’ve always wanted to do together? Do it. Is there kindness you can give without expecting anything in return? Do it. Are there ways in which you could encourage one another or deepen your relationship? Do it. Is there fun to be had? Do it.

It’s hard to see things with fresh perspective…but please…don’t be like most of the world and think that every day is the same. It’s not. What you have today is precious. Who is in your life in this chapter of your life will not be the same in the next chapter. At least not to the same degree.

Give thought to what you want in an adult friendship with each other…and set it up so it will be as smooth and easy of a transition as it can be.

I’ve been telling you since you were babies you were best friends…I have the video tape to prove it. You are. You are the only sisters you’ll ever have. You can be there for each other in ways that no one else can. You can share stories from your childhood and laugh at the memories or cry together and fully understand where each other is coming from.

This next 10 months…they’re worth more than a bunch of money. Honestly.

Next January 30th…Lydia will head to Ecuador for five months. It will be exciting, yet strange. We’ve always been so close. To be separated for five months that far apart will be brand new to us. I know when you come home Lydia…you will have changed in so many ways, and believe it or not…those of us back home will too. This is good, natural, needed…all part of growing up, but definitely the beginning of major changes. New characters will come into play. New settings…new story lines…new chapters.

Some people come and go in our lives. May your connection with one another be one that is always constant.

By the way…I am very aware of the changes coming for me as well. And I want you to know I want to be sure that I’m very aware of the beauty of having you both under my roof for the next 10 months as well. I’ve known you your entire life…but I still don’t want to take anything for granted.

No worries about the future. We can’t control it. No focusing on the regrets of the past…it’s done and over. Just living in the present day…noticing the beauty of each blessed day we have together and enjoying it to the full. That’s all I ask.

Love your momma who wants this next 10 months of our lives to be the best yet.