Hang on to your youthful spirit

Dear Lydia,

Last night we put up your big pictures from the past all along our kitchen wall for your graduation party we’re having this weekend. And of course…all of a sudden it feels like time has rushed by. We’ve had so many days together. When I think of all the memories I couldn’t even recall everything we’ve done, the meals we’ve shared, the shows we’ve watched and the places we’ve gone. You’ve had a full childhood just as all children do I suppose.

Good days and bad. Hard times and times of fun and laughter. Times when we played hard and times when we worked hard. And lots of change. The changes in the 11 pictures I see hanging on my wall are incredible. I remember you at each phase. I don’t look at the old pictures much, but this week I’m glad they are hanging above the table where we eat because they are a reminder to me of the beautiful girl God made you to be.

These days you’re growing up fast. You’re in college, more independent it seems by the day. This is good and the way it should be. You’re headed to Ecuador to live for 3 months just a short 4 months from now. I’m so excited for you and yet realize that the day you leave will be really strange. It’s one thing to talk about adventures, dreams and plans and quite another to step on a plane by yourself to fly to another country! But I’m excited for you and pray and believe it will be life changing for you in a way that I could never give you back here at home.

As I look at your childhood pictures I see the spark in your eye, the smile and passion, life and energy of your youth. Ironically the pictures that are hanging are the ones that represent your life before your dad died. We have many good pictures of you from after that time as well, but I find it interesting that what I’m looking at is you before your greatest loss.

Loss has changed you. That’s how it works for everybody. You are not unique in this. Everyone will experience loss and everyone will be changed because of it.

I want to encourage you to remember the joy and spirit of your youth as you become a young adult. Yes you need to be responsible and get an education. Yes you will have bills to pay and eventually I hope and pray will have your own family to take care of. But in all of this growing up be sure to keep some of your youth with you.

Do you know what I feel when I go on a bike ride with Dane down the bike trail? I feel like a kid with my hair blowing in the wind. Do you know what I feel like when I take on any new adventure? I feel like a kid that is striking out into the great unknown wondering and excited about what I might do or experience. Yes I have adult responsibilities that I must fulfill…but I also still love to be outdoors, I still love to get wet, to ride my bike, to run, to notice flowers, to walk through the woods, to go new places and see new things.

The best way to not turn into an old grumpy person is to  hang on to your childhood in small ways all your life long. Never lose your wonder. Never lose your passion. Never lose your easy smile and expressive self. Never lose your sense of humor.

Take a long look at the older people in your life. You can tell real easily who has hung onto their childlike spirit and who hasn’t. Some people think that when you become an adult there is no longer room for child things. They’re wrong. Life can be very fun. Life can be full of adventure. Life is meant to be lived fully. When I look at your pictures I see fun, adventure and a little girl who was full of life.

Sometimes in the heaviness of life we lose this childlike part of ourselves. It’s only natural. Life can be very wearisome, a burden to bear at times. Real stuff happens and it hurts. There are some hard times and days when we wonder if we can even go on. There are tears to be shed and sorrow to be felt. It would be strange if we just glossed over that or acted like we didn’t feel any of that.

But ultimately…we all have a choice about where we choose to live. You can choose joy. You can always choose joy. Doesn’t depend one iota on your circumstances. It depends instead on a steady reliance in God and appreciating the beautiful life He has given you.

Remember the days when you were just grateful to play in the backyard no matter what the weather? Remember being caked in mud, or jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler on underneath? Remember swimming at Raging Rivers? Remember fires at Richard’s house? Remember watching videos in the car while we took long road trips? Or dancing around to videos you used to watch at home? Remember the shows you and Lauren used to make up and put on?

I have so many good memories of your childhood.

I hope you do too.

I have more pictures of you than of anyone on the face of the earth because I used to just snap pictures of you from moment to moment because your expressions could change and you were so photogenic.

I know in this season of life it may seem like all of that is a distant memory. It’s hard to transition from childhood to adulthood. Right now the adult part looks real enticing…independence, freedom, etc. Which is good by the way. But…in the transition don’t ever throw the baby out with the bath water. Hang on to the humor, the joy, the life, the fun, the good memories, the adventure and excitement of youth.

Just glance at your pictures this week as they hang on the wall. Look at that little girl’s eyes. I think you’ll see what I see.

I swear from the moment you were born you had a spark in your eye. And that red hair…well let’s just say you were never made to just blend in. You were made to shine.

Don’t you ever believe or act as if you don’t have value or allow yourself to be a wallflower. That’s not who you were created to be. You are not a dandelion my girlie…you are a beautiful sunflower. Stand tall and proud of who you are and shine.

Love your momma who feels a little misty eyed by a precious redheaded baby who has fast become a beautiful young woman. I can’t express strongly enough to you how behind you I am, no matter what, for always and forever. It’s almost your time to fly…I say spread those wings and soar baby girl.

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Melissa, Lydia and Dad in the canoe

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Lauren and Lydia jumping in the sprinkler

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My Greatest Hurt

Dear Wren and Lydia,

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought today and would have to say at least for this day, the thing that has probably hurt me the most over the past 10 years and maybe even beyond are the times when I have felt judged by others.

It hurts to be misunderstood. To be talked badly about. Especially when those people are people you love.

I am not talking about something unusual to the human experience. I think it’s quite universal, sadly enough.

Often no apologies are made, but even if they are…the words have already been said and just kind of hang there.

I’m writing to you about this because…I am sure the apple never falls far from the tree and I know I’ve struggled with being judgmental my whole life. Maybe all of us do, I’m not sure. At least if we’re really honest with ourselves.

It was sobering for me to think this morning about the hurts I’ve felt over the past few years and to take an honest look at myself and realize that the stuff that I’ve felt done to me has also been stuff that I have surely done to others.

This is where grace begins. We see our own need for change, the reality that we can’t fix ourselves let alone anybody else. We ask God for help and somehow in the process we start to realize that others need grace too.

If you think about it, you probably make judgements about people all day long. How they look, what they eat, how they spend there time and money, how they talk, how they drive, on and on and on. We don’t even realize we are making judgments about other people it comes so naturally.

Is there a place for judgement? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I grew up with a clear sense of right and wrong, rules and a high standard. Good…but also…tough, because it caused me to see everything in black and white terms, clear cut thinking, and real life isn’t like that at all.

We need space for gray areas. We need space for I don’t knows.

How many times do I wish someone who has hurt me would walk in my shoes for a bit and really see what my life is like or what I’ve been through? How many times do I wish that person would listen long enough to hear my story? And yet…I turn around and do the same to others.

The church is kind of known for being bad at this kind of thing. We are also hopefully known for love…but judgement is something that many have experienced in the church.

Whose place is it to make judgements about another? Do any of us have room to judge someone else? I wonder. I mean we can’t just check our brains at the door…but still I wonder.

God is our Judge. It seems to me from reading the bible that making judgements is something that is left in His court.

We also are told in the bible that the way we judge others is the way we will be judged. That thought alone should scare you to death! And it should cause you to want to excel in mercy and grace.

The only way I’ve found to get over the hurt of being judged is to pray for the person who judged me. This is not easy…but it is possible. In the process of praying I start to put myself in their shoes and see them from God’s view.

If we operate under the assumption that everyone is probably doing the best they can on any given day, we start to lower our expectations of perfection and see instead the beauty of redemption.

I have been challenged today to be more aware of the judgements I make about other people and to make efforts to stop. I’m asking God to help because I know good and well I can’t do that alone.

I’m also writing to you because as much as this kind of writing increases my vulnerability to being judged by others…I still believe that vulnerability and connection are more valuable than self protection.

When you are making choices about your life that fit with who you were made to be and you’re actively listening to the voice of God you can move forward with confidence no matter if other people think what you’re doing is the right thing or not.

There will always be naysayers. Most of the time…their naysaying is the layer over top of their jealousy. I know this because I’ve been there.

It’s important that we somehow train ourselves to encourage others, to lift them up, to rejoice with others, to love them and hope within us as strongly as possible that they will have the best they can have from God and that will take nothing away from us. There is no scarcity on God’s goodness.

I can’t change the hurts I’ve felt by being judged. They are real. But I can choose to take what I’ve learned from those hurts and make sure I pay forward kindness instead. I can take the high road. And in the process as I let go…God heals my heart and mind in ways that only He can.

Love your momma who knows you have and will face times when you are judged and misunderstood and it will hurt. And also knows that sometimes you will be the person who hurts others. Either way God’s grace is big enough to meet you at your point of need. Let Him be The Judge.

Wisdom teeth, letting go, life and parenting

Dear Lydia,

Yesterday you got your wisdom teeth pulled out. On the way there you joked about how you would no longer be wise…but I knew shortly you wouldn’t be joking when you felt the pain. I remember the experience and have been through enough medical things to know that recovery is never fun.

On the way there you said…”Mom…I expect a letter to lead you home this weekend.” Sometimes I forget how much my words have meant to you over the years. I think you’ve read everything I’ve ever written…I don’t think that could be said of anyone else, not even Lauren.

You are my biggest fan. Or at least somewhere in the top 3.

So here I am.

Last night I set the alarm faithfully and got up to give you pain medication, some food to settle your stomach, switch out ice packs and make sure you were ok. You asked me if I felt like you were a baby again. I have to admit…I’m glad the getting up at all hours of the night is a temporary thing this time.

It did make me think of the years that have gone by and all of the memories along the way. You know there was a time when your dad and I were getting up and giving you breathing treatments when you were 2 months old and for several years after that. You gave us quite a scare when you were tiny. I still remember living up at the Owosso hospital when we dealt with that whole RSV thing.

And stitches when you were just a year old… and various other medical things that thankfully have faded into the back ground.

The stuff that stays and that I cherish is your face, your liveliness, your expressions and the spark in your eye, your love of music and seeing you rock through the past 17 years with headphones.

I had to admit to you just yesterday that although I’ve always told you, you could put the music in the background and still get things done…wearing headphones is a better sound and experience. I’ve only learned this while running. I remember your little feet down between the seat cushions on our green couch rocking as you used to hold your portable cd player and listen to music as much as you could…even as a toddler! (Those were the Steven Curtis Chapman years🙂

Lydia…you are strong. I know this weekend is not fun but it will pass.

I can only imagine all of the highs and lows you will face in the coming years. Some days you might feel like you can’t go on. Some days you’ll be on the top of the world. You’ll experience loss, sickness, sadness and also victory and joy and blessing, it’s all part of the natural order of life. Through it all just breathe and try to let go and trust.

Last night I talked with you about letting go quite a bit. You were holding tight and wanting to cry which only makes everything feel worse. I’ve found that in most of life if you can somehow try to let go, relax and breathe even in the worst of situations it can make things a little better. Nothing wrong with tears…cry those too…but try to unclench and breathe deep. Physically…emotionally…spiritually…relationally…etc.

Whenever we hold on too tightly we make life more difficult. That’s why so much time is spent on breathing when women give birth to children! In yoga our teacher talks about breathing into the spaces where we feel pain or tightness of some type. It sounds a little elusive or out there…but occasionally when I really do it and let go I feel the change and my body literally lets go.

What I’m talking about is not always easy to do. You know me and my to do lists, plans and goals, projects and various other personality quirks. Some of that is good. I do get a lot done. But…look at Dane, he knows how to go with the flow and he looks, acts and feels light years younger than just about anybody his age. It really makes a difference.

What might you need to let go of? What grudges have you carried? Where might forgiveness let you and others off the hook so you can live more fully and free? What losses will you need to remember but also move on from?

You have always been my sentimental girl. Everything to you holds meaning. In fact, you have come to the place where you like me to go through your bedroom while you’re gone and purge just so you don’t have to deal with the emotions involved even though you know you need to not keep everything.

I appreciate how much you care. You have such a big compassionate heart. You’re the little sister but often have taken care of the big one just because of who you are.

But.

In this next season of life…it might be important to let go, to trust, to release, to unclench, to simply breathe and be.

I still remember the first time I saw you. I remember the huge conversation and excitement about your hair…literally the first thing the world saw. I have taken more pictures of you than probably anybody on the face of the earth simply because you were always so expressive and photogenic. You have been and will always be my baby.

I am proud of you and want the best for you always. I will be there for you in anyway I can for the rest of your life. I know you struggle to believe this sometimes. It’s been a hard adjustment for you to have a mom who is married and then single and then married and to figure out your place in it all. But none of that changes the fact that you can count on me.

The reality is…you’re getting to the age where you don’t need quite as much from me. This weekend does remind me of days when you did. Memories are good…but you and I always know that my motto is ‘the best is yet to come’. I know for you…you love the past. So it’s hard not to feel as if the best hasn’t already passed by. Borrow a cup from me and know…it’s not so, your future is so bright…I’m just glad that I get to watch you fly.

Ok…almost time for some more pain medicine. You’ve got this girl, you’re almost through your first 24 hours. Just breathe…

Love your momma who still wakes up in the night for you.

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