Things I wish I would’ve known…

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

There are many times in my life when I think, I sure wish I would’ve had someone give me wise counsel about various things…marriage, finances, parenting, personal care, etc. when I was your age. I have great parents and I was part of a church community so I’m sure there was good counsel there, but somehow I still feel as if either I wasn’t asking the right questions or not listening close enough or it just wasn’t talked about enough back when I was your age. No one’s fault…just my perception of life.

So…I find myself wanting to make sure you have good counsel and don’t make some of the mistakes I’ve made. You’ll make your own…we all do, but if I can save you a few, I sure would be overjoyed to do so.


This one is huge. I think I’ve been talking to you guys about money since you were little kids. I grew up fairly poor and so I hate to see money ever wasted. You know this about me. To the point where I can be a little over the top๐Ÿ™‚. I’ve wasted far more money in my life than I wish I had. It’s so important to think about the long haul…to take the long term way of handling it. It’s so easy to be instantly gratified by whatever the latest thing is instead of just being content with what you have already. It’s so easy to buy cheap and fast when you could wait and buy what is best and will last.

I want you to know that if you could see the piles of stuff I’ve taken to goodwill in the last 10 years it would be astounding and it makes my heart sick to even think about it! Too much stuff. Too much clutter. Too much waste. Don’t do it!

When you travel someplace…no souvenirs are required. Don’t go shopping unless there is a reason to do so…as in a necessity. Don’t collect stuff…don’t fall for it. No one needs a collection of stuff sitting in their house. It just becomes junk at a later date and you wonder why you ever collected it in the first place. (I realize some people probably have great valuable collections…but for most of us…it’s just junk sitting on a shelf.)

When it comes to gifts…christmas, birthday, etc. keep it minimal…there is no reason to go over the top.

If you choose to spend money…spend it on making a memory or having an experience with those you love. I have found that is about the best way for me to spend money. I’ve put out a lot over the years to go on vacations and take family with us and those are precious memories for me and worth every penny.

Take pictures…enjoy life…don’t have anxiety about money, but don’t spend frivolously.

Seriously…when you go to places like Walmart, have a list and stick to the list.

When you are thinking about a large purchase, take your time, save up for it and then get it, often you’ll find while waiting it isn’t an important purchase anyway.

And be careful about online purchases…it’s far too easy to click and keep clicking and end up purchasing too much…even if it is a ‘great deal’!

Use cash whenever possible…it helps you to realize that yes you are actually spending money.

In the last few years you have seen me living a very different life…very different from most any other adult you know. It’s a very simple life. I have incredible freedom. My life is not a daily grind. It revolves around exercise, being outside, taking care of my family and our home, being involved at church, and interacting with neighbors. It doesn’t revolve around house projects hardly ever. It doesn’t involve shopping trips. And I try to make sure we don’t even eat out too much…I could do better in this area for sure. The main thing is…my life is free. My time is spent the way I want it to be.

I still work hard. I teach music lessons and make soap. I keep a house, cook and clean. I take good care of myself. I wife and parent. But it is deeply fulfilling work.

Just yesterday I was talking with Dane about money and the regrets I have from the past.

Your dad and I started out in debt up to our eyeballs the moment we got out of college. Not a good plan and something I knew I would never want for you two. We got a credit card in our first year of marriage and although we used it for fairly small purchases….it still snowballed and accumulated more than it ever should’ve. Various other things came along…sometimes I’ve tried to help people or rescue them when probably I shouldn’t have. I try to let that stuff go and assume I followed what I felt God wanted me to do at the time. And stuff…just far too much of it purchased over the years. While I’ve never had drugs or alcohol…I can say that shopping and eating out too much has definitely been a problem for me in certain seasons of my life.

As I talked to Dane yesterday I can see that God has redeemed it all…even the stupid mistakes I’ve made…but I can also see that I could’ve made life better for myself and my family easily if I had just been wiser.

That’s why I write to you.

You are on the start line. You have every opportunity to make good choices. There are many areas of life to think about, finances are just one, for sure…but they are a big one. Don’t buy stuff. Simply put, if you need something…put it on a list…wait and see if it really is a need or not. Don’t just go shop and randomly look around…it’s too easy to buy stuff you don’t need. And if you try something on, never buy it unless it looks so amazing on you it is something that makes you feel amazing. Don’t buy anything that is just so so…you won’t like it when you get home. Better to have less and have what you really love than a bunch of so so.

Don’t make big purchases without much counsel and saving. Cars…houses…electronics…etc. I have made this mistake far too often in my life. And the waste is depressing for me to think about. Don’t do it.

Better a small place to live with very few possessions than a large placed filled with a bunch of junk. Instead…make the outdoors your home. Go places…make memories…fill your mind, not your closet and cupboards. Be free.

The way America is headed…you have no guarantees about your future. Many of the people I know and love may never be able to retire…they may have to work the rest of their lives, often in jobs that are not all that fulfilling. The only way around this is for you to start where you are, saving…learning to live on a tight budget and thinking about your future.

Yes…be generous. Yes…live with an open hand to helping others. But don’t buy in to the idea that to be happy you need to have it all. You don’t.

I’ve lived both ways. I can tell you with confidence which way is better. My only regret is that I wish I had lived this way all along.

Love your momma who just wants the best for you.

Perspective from the bench

Dear Wren and Lydia,

The last couple of years have been astoundingly good in many ways and also rather challenging in others. I shouldn’t be surprised…this is the nature of life. But I have to admit, with each new phase and season of parenting, I am amazed at how humbling the whole process can be.

Lately, I’ve realized that we have been so intimately a part of one another’s lives…the 3 of us girls, that I think sometimes our view and perspectives have been skewed at times. Like when you look at a major work of art that’s beautiful from a bench but not so beautiful or amazing from one inch away.

Maybe it’s a girl thing. We tend to think in small details rather than large pictures.

We get so focused on the minutia of life…the minuscule brush strokes and colors that it’s easy to miss the beauty that comes from stepping back and accepting all of the ‘flaws’ as part of the art.

As your mom…you are my greatest work of art. OK honestly, we know that I didn’t create you and I surely can’t control you…but as your mom I have had the opportunity to paint stroke after stroke, color after color, layer after layer on the canvas of your lives. It’s been a great joy to me and also at times a great frustration. I imagine that’s how it is when any artist is creating a thing of beauty.

Ultimately…I am not the creator, author, finisher, artist of your lives. God is. But when He allowed me to be your mom…I sure became one of the main tools being used to create your masterpiece. And I’m happy to have that privilege.

Dane tells me this continues for life. He knows more than I when it comes to parenting. He’s got kids in their forties!

But I definitely sense a stepping back happening in our relationship.

I remember the toddler years, being involved in every part of your development and day. I remember the elementary years, middle school…even being your teacher through those years, a joy that I will always be thankful for. Even high school at this point is done. You both still live at home for now…but we know this will change within the next five year section of our lives.

I’m tempted at times to still stand one inch away and perhaps nitpick a bit, to fine tune a detail or two. I have good intentions…I always want you to be all you can be. But there comes a time in any piece of art when it’s time to step away and let that art be viewed as it is…without more correction and adjustment.

You will grow and change your whole life, so I’m not suggesting that you reach age 20 and you’re complete. You’re not. And this is a good thing…you will grow the rest of your life and be amazed at how much you change.

Other people are speaking into your lives and shaping who you are. Life experiences are coming along and adding to your masterpiece. If I’m smart…I think it’s time for me to step back a few steps and take in the beauty of the art…

I call this masterpiece…”Childhood…”๐Ÿ™‚

Your masterpiece has every shade and hue in it. Brush strokes that are fast and furious and lines that are long and unending. It has the full gamut of emotion.

As I sit on the bench of life and look at each of you…I have so many memories.

Times when we got it right.

Times of laughter and joy.


Times of having long and hard talks.

Struggles…sin to overcome.

Times when we didn’t get it right.




Pain and loss.

Love and hope.

Places and people flash through my mind as I think of victories and failures. Love and loss.

Childhood is coming to a close.

You will have new canvases to paint upon. New masterpieces waiting to be made. Young adult years and life experiences. Independent living. Ecuador. Schooling. First jobs. Family and children of your own most likely. You will have new places and people that come.

I will not necessarily continue being the main tool in your lives.

This I do know. Childhood…it’s the foundation for all that is to come. And good or bad, these years will shape every season that is to come for you.

I’m trying to step back a little in this season and take a few moments to sit on the bench and see all that we have created…all that we have experienced and realize how amazingly beautiful it is and always will be.

And at the same time…I am open and anticipating what comes next for both of you. Never fear…I will always have something to add even if it’s small to every season of your life. I can’t help myself๐Ÿ™‚.

Love your momma who is trying out life from a new perspective. Not an easy transition but one that I know is necessary.


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 family๐Ÿ™‚. 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.