The ‘why’

Dear Lydia,

You’re in that awkward time when you’re trying to figure out what the next step is in your life. How can any 17 year old really know for sure where the future will lead and what preparations should be made to head in that direction? Maybe some know for sure…but most of us would have to admit there was quite a bit of trial and error at that stage of life. Not fun…because most of us like to think we know what we’re doing and where we’re going. Most of us don’t prefer the error side of that equation.

But we might as well be honest and open to the reality that you will error, head in one direction and possibly change course, decide you made a mistake, etc. and it will be ok. Life is not a test. Life is not about right and wrong answers and coloring in the right letter on a scan tron sheet to be graded. Life is full of choices. Many directions that could very well accomplish the same purpose.

Yesterday we watched a video together about focusing more on the ‘why’ of life instead of the ‘what’. That’s not always natural or easy to do. Most of us are prone to focus on the what, how to get there, not why we are headed in a direction in the first place.

This morning I woke up thinking about my own ‘why’ question. I would like to say that it’s clear and easily put into one sentence. I would like to say that all of my ‘what’ has added up to my ‘why’ but I’m sure it probably hasn’t.

Back in the 90’s a book came out called “The Purpose Driven Life” and honestly it was such a big best seller because most of us struggle with the ‘why’ in life. We go through our days in endless repetition and wonder why it always feels like something is missing. Years go by and we wonder what we’ve spent our life on. I believe from what I can remember of that book that the ‘why’ in it was to bring glory to God.

A worthy why.

This morning I also feel that the verses of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself are also worthy ‘whys’ to live by.

For Paul in the bible I think his ‘why’ was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

For me often my why has been about bringing beauty and goodness, awareness of God in whatever I’m doing and wherever I am.

I’m not sure there is one right answer for everyone that fits…sure all of us are to be bringing glory to God in the process, but for each of us that will look different. I can bring glory to God as I love well, as I come to know Christ and experience His presence and power in my life and as I  do my part in bringing beauty to the world.

And I have surely not exhausted the list of ‘whys’ that are out there. Some are far more specific for people which causes people like your brother and sister in law, Chad and Sarah to leave the United States and run an orphanage in Uganda!

What is your ‘why’? If you’re like me you might think…I have no idea.

But that is the question that I encourage you to talk with God about and then to listen to. I encourage you to talk about that, even more than about career choices. I encourage you to sit down and be still and write down the thoughts that come to your mind from the Holy Spirit as you try to listen to His still small voice in your soul.

When I was in college I thought I was going to become a missionary to a foreign land. I had felt the tug on my heart since I was a child when we hosted missionaries in  our home and whenever missionaries came to church camp I felt such compassion. I wanted to be willing in my walk with God to go wherever He might call me. I assumed that would mean some terrible snake infested place and often even had bad dreams about it. My thinking was a little warped :).

I even broke up with your dad a time or two when we were dating because I wanted to be sure that the call on my life was answered before my desire for a relationship. Your dad wasn’t real interested in boarding a plane to go to a foreign land!

I was trying to seek out God’s will for my life. Oh if only it could’ve been written on the sky so it would’ve been clear and easy for me to follow!!

But in reality…it doesn’t work that way. God only gives us enough light to see the next step generally speaking, so we move steadily and with deep trust one step at a time down the path of life. We learn to listen to the voice of God and sense when we are even just a bit off the path and quickly adjust if possible. We often realize in the walking forward that we have wide open spaces in which to live. God is a freedom giver!

In this time of your life…before you even lock into a career, a college, a course of study or anything else…be sure to take time to talk to God about your ‘why’. Why has he put you…Lydia Ann Jackson on the face of the earth at this time? How can you bring glory to God? How can you love Him and others the best? How can you be more aware of His presence and bring beauty and goodness to your corner of the world? What tugs at your heart? What breaks your heart? What are you willing to give your life for?

I love you. I believe in you. I know God will lead you. I look forward to watching you each step of the way.

Love your momma who believes you have a special ‘why’ down within that God is just waiting to whisper to you as you listen.

Showing up…

Dear Lauren,

I’m proud of you. I know you are an introvert and social situations cause you more stress than I tend to realize. I know often you would prefer to just stay home or blend into the wall. I know your anxiety is real.

But I have to tell you…I’m proud of you. Proud of you for showing up to life every day anyway.

You’ve just finished 3 weeks of massage school. Talk about being out of your comfort zone. Not only have you had to meet all  new people but you’ve also had to quickly get comfortable with giving and getting massages daily from these same new people. While I love getting a massage I’m not sure how I would feel in a room of people doing what you’re doing. But you’ve done it anyway.

You’ve had days already when you didn’t want to show up. Days when you wanted to stay in bed or withdraw but you’ve showed up anyway. You understand that this is the nature of life.

You bravely conquer fears every day that I probably don’t even really understand or give you credit for.

I hope that it will all get easier for you. I hope the anxiety of life will ease up. I hope you will feel greater calm and peace in your soul as you move through life with other people in it. The only way that can happen I think is for you to keep showing up.

Truthfully, I am amazed at myself and how far I’ve come. I wouldn’t have known what to call it because we didn’t used to talk of such things…but I know at your age I was quiet and unsure of myself as well. I had anxieties and was caught up in fear too. So much so that I went through four years of college rarely showing up for anything beyond the classes and required things.

Somehow I married your dad who totally changed my world when it came to showing up and engaging with people. He was the king of going out of his way to connect with friends and family. Where I worried of putting someone else out, he made the assumption always, that anyone at anytime would love to get together.

I believe it will get easier for you over time. I want this to encourage you. I want you to know that as you show up in whatever ways you can each day over time you will grow. You will become more confident. You will experience greater peace and honestly you’ll become more comfortable in your own skin.

I wish I could speed the process for you because of how much better it feels, but I can’t. You must have times of awkwardness, times of stress, times of anxiety and discover the reality that life always goes on no matter what happens. The stuff that stresses you out now will fade with time to the point where you will wonder what you were even worried about. You will be able to let go more and trust.

For now…just keep showing up. Keep opening yourself to others layer by layer. You are worth knowing. Others already know this about you. You must come to believe over time that it is true.

Tonight as you were giving me a massage I couldn’t help but smile and praise God because I know with confidence your hands, your mind, your strength, your care will be life changing for people who like yourself carry far too much stress, worry, anxiety and fear. You have a gift, a God given gift to add beauty to the world and you’re learning how to use it for the glory of God. I couldn’t wish anything better for you.

Lauren I am very proud of you. No matter how things turn out. No matter what the next five years hold, or the next 10…I am proud of you.

You are stronger than you know. You are braver than you realize.

May you know the peace of God always in your life.

Love your momma who has watched you show up for life over and over and known that it was often hard for you. I still remember the first day of first grade and how upset you were when you got off the bus. I want to fix it…but I knew even then I couldn’t. I am trusting God will always help you, lead you, and give you exactly what you need as you trust in Him.

Baggage

Dear Lauren and Lydia,

I’ve been giving thought lately to some of the travels over the years that we’ve taken, lessons learned, funny things that happened, stressful things that ended up working out in the end, etc.

I’m a planner. A big part of the experience for me is in the planning phases. Remember all the guide books I’ve purchased down through the years?! I can remember watching Rick Steves on TV during my Europe planning times and even taking a college credit online travel course through the community college!

Today as I was swimming I was thinking about the packing…the baggage part of our journeys. I was remembering my HUGE big red suitcase that I used to pack with on our grand Out West trip. It was our first HUGE road trip, just the 3 of us. A year after your dad died. Our house was having an addition added on and we hit the open road with everything in the back of the Saturn outlook.

I remember trying to think through everything we might possibly need, therefore the big suitcase. Plus it had plenty of extra room for souvenirs that we would pick up along the way.

It was ridiculous and it didn’t take long to figure that reality out as we hauled in all of our stuff each night to various hotels. I especially remember one time when we got put into an upstairs room with no elevator, hauled it up the stairs and then got put into a different room back on the main floor and had to haul it back down.

I knew after that month of travel that suitcase would never again be used. There was no reason to ever need to travel with that much space.

I would like to say that the next journey I packed way lighter. It was better…but it has taken me about a decade to actually get to the point where I can honestly say I pack light and it’s the truth.

It’s crazy how much better it feels when you’re traveling to not have much to carry.

Remember Europe and all of our bags and how we struggled getting them on and off the train and how the back packers moved with ease?

When you travel with too much stuff it just wears you out. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating and you end up just spending too much time and effort dealing with baggage.

Honestly girls…it’s not much different in life.

I know you’ve watched me as I’ve gone repeatedly through rooms especially in our current house but even in our other houses. You’ve watched me thoroughly clean and constantly be getting rid of stuff, paring it down, running basket loads of stuff to goodwill. I hate clutter and how it feels. Lauren I’ve watched you especially working towards minimalism in your own life and I have a feeling your first apartment someday will be really awesome just because you already are disciplining yourself in this area.

Physically not having a ton of clutter and baggage is huge. But girls…just as important if not more so is the reality that we carry emotions, hurts, guilt, shame, regrets, history, fear, worry, anxiety, and every other human emotion on our backs.

When Dane talks about his conversion story, his walking toward the altar to become a Christian he talks about feeling the huge weight of that backpack on him. The weight of all of the stuff in life that wasn’t good or what he knew it should be…guilt, shame, etc. He talks about how he left that backpack at the altar that day and has never picked it up again, how freeing that was.

I think his story is kind of unique because I think for most of us we lay down the backpack but still find ourselves picking it back up from time to time. Most of the time without even realizing we have. Old regrets, shame, guilt, worries, anxieties and fears creep in. That’s been my experience anyway.

Dane became a Christian in his thirties. I became a Christian when I was 6 years old. I have no memory of laying down a huge backpack at the altar. My actual memory is of feeling blessed relief that I wouldn’t die and go to hell. I was six. I was scared.

I am glad that you two became Christians at a young age. I hope that decision has saved you from many things that could’ve had bad consequences for you. I didn’t want you to have to experience bad stuff to be saved from bad stuff, moms kind of feel that way about their kids. But…the bad part of that is…you probably weren’t old enough to have the experience and memory Dane had in becoming a Christian. It’s harder to grasp grace and your need of it, your need of a Savior when you’re 5 years old than it is when you’re 35.

You became a Christian and little in your life actually changed. You were already attending church. Already praying. Already listening to Christian music. Already around Christian people. You didn’t have a day and night change. I praise God that you didn’t have to go through a hit the bottom experience to want to believe in Jesus and come to Him…but…I almost think there is something lost in that process too.

I think both of you struggle to really ‘get’ and ‘feel’ grace. I know I did and sometimes still do. I think both of you have a backpack of stuff that you carry that you need to lay down, to travel lighter, without the hurts, fears, anxieties, shame, guilt, etc. but it’s as if you’ve been with Jesus for so long and been carrying the bag for so long you don’t even realize it or don’t seem to know what to do about it. As if the bag and Jesus are an experience that goes hand in hand.

Let me put it another way. Sometimes when I talk about my marriage to Dane and what it’s like to be in a second marriage I have friends, strangers, family, etc. who very well might feel some form of envy because while they are in a decently good marriage they know that what they have is not the same as what I am describing. They know that something is special about what I have. They’re not sure how to experience it for themselves but can tell they are missing out.

Dane told me today when we were talking about our conversion stories that’s probably what it’s like for him and I. His conversion coming at a much later date is more like a second marriage. Mine coming at an early date is more like a first. They are both beautiful in their own right. He would be quick to tell me how good it is that I came to Christ early…saved me from a lot of stuff that I could’ve got tripped up in. I would be quick to tell him how good it is that he came to Christ when he did because I can tell his understanding and experience of God’s grace and love was and is far greater than what I have experienced.

Neither is bad. Just as those who have been married for 40 years vs. our 1 year of marriage is not bad or good. It just is what it is.

The point is…your story involves an early conversion experience. Praise be to God that you were aware of Him early on and loved Jesus at a young age for whatever reasons. Hopefully this decision has and will save you from many a grief. But…please be aware that you may very well have not experienced the kind of grace and love that are available to you yet because you came to Jesus so young. You may not have experienced the huge laying down of the monster luggage and the relief that follows because you weren’t even aware of any luggage at that age. And now that you realize it’s there…you might have a hard time figuring out why it’s there…I mean you are a Christian after all so what does this mean?!

It means…it could very well be time for a fresh encounter…a grown up decision, a time to rededicate maybe, a time to ‘up’ your relationship with Jesus. It might be time to walk to an altar. It might be time to get down on your knees. It might be a time to take a close look at the baggage you carry and realize that you don’t have to carry it anymore. It might be a time to let go. It might be a time to walk into freedom and the life that God wants you to have. It means that you give up the right to control things. You’re not in control anyway. As much as I try to have everything we might need on a trip there are always things I don’t have and I’ve discovered it’s not necessary for me to think of everything. Things work themselves out in the process of the journey.

I am watching the two of you lately and I just sense a heaviness of heart sometimes. Lauren I think it actually causes you physical fatigue.

We’ve gone through old jewelry, shoes, clothes, desk stuff, linens, email, on and on to get rid of stuff and remove clutter from our lives. But don’t forget to do the soul work of getting rid of hurts, shame, embarrassing moments, guilt, regrets, worries, fear, and all of the other negative thoughts milling around in your mind. There is no reason to carry that stuff. Learn what you can from mistakes but then put it behind you and move on. There is no condemnation that comes from Jesus. He died for you while you were still a sinner. He is working in you and you will be changed over time…but who you are in this exact moment is enough.

You will never deserve grace. You will never deserve to have all of your baggage laid down and feel the relief of having to carry none of it anymore. But it’s not about deserving. It’s just about love. Love that you have just seen glimmers of. At this point in your lives you have no idea of how much God really loves you, how deep and wide his love for you is. You can’t. You must experience it bit by bit over many years. But let me assure you…it’s good, it’s free, it’s all you need on the journey.

Remember that guy that got on the train in Europe and was carrying a thin brief case and we laughed about how he must just be traveling with one pair of underwear and a toothbrush? :) That’s how you get to travel through life when you have Jesus in your heart. You’re free to just live, to move and enjoy without lugging around baggage everywhere you go.

It’s your choice.

We don’t do altar calls much anymore at church. We don’t sing Just as I Am for six verses and feel the tug to move forward. Regardless…I believe Jesus is calling you…calling you to lay down the big red suitcase. Calling you to freedom in Him. Calling you to a life that is full of grace, peace, love, forgiveness, hope and joy. Come taste the living water.

I encourage you to go read the story in the bible of Jesus with the woman at the well…that is a clear picture of what I’m talking about. That is what Jesus wants to do for you.

Love your momma who has the same conversion story as you and has had to learn and keep learning how to travel light.