Perspective

Dear Wren and Lydia,

Perspective is everything…

I could just end this letter right there.

Just know whatever you feel good or bad, a month from now, six months from now, a year from now, 10 years from now…it will all look different in hindsight.

You’ll make mistakes. Hopefully you learn from them. You’ll have triumphs and exciting stories on some days and other days will seem ho hum and ordinary. Some days you might feel down and don’t even really know why. It’s alright. Everything changes with time.

In fact…just prepare yourself that nothing will stay the same as it is in this moment. That is actually encouraging for the most part.

We are all continually growing, expanding, learning, moving, and changing.

Occasionally if you can, step out of the circumstances in front of you that are huge and right in your face, sit down and reflect a little. Think about where you were a year ago, six months ago, and where you might very well be a year from now, or 5 years from now. Today is one dot on a line of a billion dots to be lived. It’s an important dot mind you, but it’s just one day in time. Do the best you can with it. Be fully present with each person you interact with today. But then, let it go and continue to move forward.

No beating yourself up over past mistakes and regrets. Learn. But move forward. No dread of what is to come. Just take it moment by moment.

Before you know it…the holidays will be here once again. In fact I just purchased a couple of Christmas gifts today! Before you know it 2018 will be here and believe it or not winter will pass and spring will come which leads right into summer. Time goes by so stinking fast. Which is good on the hard days.

Take some time to reflect today and consider how far you’ve come. Take some time to think about your current day and where you are today. And give just a bit of thought to where you might want to be a year from now. Mainly…listen to God and His still small voice. He will guide you.

Just know…things look so much different when you’re 40 than when you’re 20. Perspective is everything.

Love you both so much,

Mom

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Grit, determination and perseverance

Dear Wren and Lydia,

Haven’t written here in a long time!

This morning I was out running/walking and as usual my mind started to wander and think about life lessons and experiences. I guess that’s probably one of the things that draws me to running. The same monotony that turns some people off is the very monotony that draws me in…time to myself, outside, just me and my thoughts and some tunes cranking through my headphones, sweat dripping down every surface of my body, breathing hard, going up and down the hills of Alton.

The other day I was cheered on by a stranger and it stood out to me in a special way. The spectators in your life are important…we all need people to cheer us on and we need to be people who cheer others on.

But today, it was all about personal grit, determination and perseverance.

I’m going to run a marathon in a few weeks in Chicago. Your mom is actual a marathon runner…that still seems a little surreal to me. It totally doesn’t fit with the stereotype I have in my mind of what a runner should be and look like. But it’s true. The reality is…anyone can run a marathon. Most people probably don’t want to…but anyone for the most part could. As long as you keep moving forward you will finish at some point. I’m not saying it will be fast or easy…but the steady moving forward will get you across the finish line.

Running a marathon is mostly mental. Sure you have to train and building your muscles and endurance is really helpful. But it’s still mostly mental.

In the one marathon I’ve experienced up to this point, I can tell you…there is no one body size or shape that makes for a marathon runner. Sure…the top 1% who are there to actually ‘win’ the marathon probably look similar, but for the rest of us…we are incredibly ordinary joes out there just moving forward.

I can also tell you…it’s totally ok to walk in a marathon. The reality is, most marathons do have a cut off time so if you’re walking you’d have to be moving at a pretty good clip, but it’s really normal to see people run a while, walk awhile, run a while, walk awhile. And that’s exactly what I will be doing. I can’t run 26.2 miles continuously and I would say I’m in the vast majority. It doesn’t matter. It’s about completion.

Some people run in groups and talk the whole way through. Some of us have headphones on. Some people stop at every water and snack station, others go on by. Some people stop at every porta potty, others probably don’t have to. Some people go off to the side of the race at various miles and stretch their leg muscles. Some people layer on clothes for the cold of waiting for the race to start and throw off their goodwill clothes along the route as they warm up. Some people have trained rigorously and religiously and some people honestly step up to the line having never trained one bit. No joke.

Not every one will finish…but most of the people who start will finish at some point or other.

I’m about a 6 hour finisher. It’s not fast. I often feel a need to explain this when I tell someone I’m going to do a marathon but it doesn’t really matter how fast I do it. I know before I even take my first step that with everything in me I plan to step across the finish line.

I’ve read stories where sometimes people have to drop out. Sometimes things happen unexpectedly where people get hurt, pass out, etc. so obviously there are times when completion doesn’t happen and it’s understandable. Even Usain Bolt didn’t finish his last race! But for the most part…completion does happen.

It happens not because it’s easy. Not because you don’t want to give up. It happens because you make a decision to do it and you dig deep within to stay with it even when it does hurt and even when it is hard. It helps to have people cheer you along and those water and snack breaks are huge. And the porta potties…well they definitely come along at the right time!

This morning as I was out there on my own running the sidewalks and streets of Alton I got thinking about life and how much of it is mental. It’s easy to think that unless I have certain ideal circumstances ย and opportunities handed to me I won’t have my best life…but that’s not true. People all the time triumph over life’s hardest challenges and rise. Yes…it does make it easier and yes I’m thrilled for good circumstances and opportunities…but even without them it is possible to do more than most of us realize just by how you choose mentally to handle things. (obviously…I’m not referring to people living in hardship in third world countries or making light of any oppression that is tragically going on around the world even as I type this.)

You have a choice. You have a choice every day how you will respond to life. You have power to live life the way you want to live it. If you’re not happy with something…change it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame others. Just take an honest look at your life and head in the direction you want to go. It might take a long time. It might seem slow going but you will complete the goal if you keep moving forward step by step. Fast is not the goal. Completion is.

Your Grandma Dennings said to me after your dad died that she couldn’t believe how strong I was…almost in awe of my handling of it all, it seemed. I assured her that she and Grandpa had given me exactly what I needed to know how to handle life’s ups and downs. Without them even realizing it I had lived and watched them live through so many ups and downs in life and watched them press through and trust in God, that it came pretty naturally for me to do the same.

There are moments when pressing through is not the right answer. There are moments when you need to take a break, relax, be refreshed, even stop. But for the most part…I think most of us spend a larger percentage of our days needing to push through.

Push through the pain.

Push through the struggle.

Push through the hurt.

Push through the despair.

Push through the hard times.

Push through whatever it is that each day might throw at you.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get help when you need it. You’re not alone. It doesn’t mean that you can’t slow down, take a drink and catch your breath. But it does mean…don’t stop and just give up, or at least don’t stay there. If you’re headed in a direction you don’t want to go than change direction but by all means keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Start a new hobby. Learn a new skill. Read up on something that interests you. Make a new friendship. Start a new discipline. Set goals. Make choices that bring life to you.

Too many people live in a way where they think they have no choices. They live powerless and seem to be victims of their circumstances. For the most part…this is not necessary. You are not powerless. You have the God of the Universe living inside of you. You have far more strength, power, hope, love, light, etc. within you than you realize. You haven’t gotten to the depths of how far and wide and deep and high the love of God is and how much He can and will carry you.

Running isn’t everything and it’s not for everyone. But when I run I think about life and I’m reminded of the truth’s of life.

The bible actually says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s true. But you won’t know it’s true unless you actually go out and do all things through Christ.

Don’t sit on your hands. Don’t give up. Don’t live in a powerless way thinking you have no choices. Don’t buy into that nonsense. Instead…get to know yourself and get to know your God and listen to Him. Make choices that bring life to you. Make choices that cause you to dig deep, to love with everything you have and to lay it all on the table.

I have had many areas of my life in the past that I can see now that I just had to grit my teeth and not give up on. Many areas where persevering and putting one foot in front of the other was required. And even today there are areas of my life that feel that way.

After awhile today I made it back to our street…our driveway…I opened our front door, walked in, felt the cool air conditioning, took off my pack and felt the good feeling of knowing I completed the race in front of me today. I was hot, stinky and my ankle a little sore…but there is nothing that can take away the good feeling of having completed the race and mentally being strong enough to dig deep.

I think that’s what heaven will feel like someday. The ultimate race completed.

Right now…we’ve got to prepare ourselves mentally. Yes train, yes build strength and endurance…but even more so wrap your mind around who you want to be and the decisions you want to make that will rule your life.

Yesterday I took a picture of a guy playing a guitar at Germania. His guitar had words written on the outside of it. I’m drawn to words so I read it and asked him about it. The words were something about making choices and not making excuses in life. I wish I could remember exactly how it was worded. The man told me he wrote those words on his guitar when he was 15 years old. I don’t know how old the man is now but he’s definitely at least my age and probably older. He told me how he had chosen as a teenager to live with that mantra in mind and how it’s made all the difference. What a gift for him as a teenager to realize the power of choice and to understand excuses just take away from a well lived life.

You two are standing at the start of the race…the first mile or two. Can I tell you…it’s not going to be easy. There will be times you want to give up. There will be times when you are hurting. Times when you are having a hard time catching your breath. If you need to figuratively speaking, slow down, walk, crawl…do it, but always keep the end goal in mind. Always think about completing the race.

I love you. I am cheering you on.

Love your marathon running momma who does not look like your average runner, but it doesn’t even matter. ๐Ÿ™‚

10 years

Dear Wren and Lydia,

Tomorrow marks 10 years since your dad left this world. I can’t believe it’s been that long already. So many changes…so many different people have come into our lives, we’ve traveled, moved, added family, lost a few close friends and family, you’ve graduated, lived in a foreign country…just so many changes.

Life is strange the way time seems to stand still when it’s at its hardest points and then amazingly enough keeps moving forward regardless. Nothing stays the same.

There have been too many changes for me to list really.

This is good…for the most part, it means we’ve kept living fully alive. We haven’t pulled the shades and packed it in. We’ve made the choices along the way to keep living and moving forward. (Maybe an occasional pause to regather…but always upward and onward.)

But it does mean, the distance between your dad and you feels greater with each passing year. I feel it too.

I can tell you this…at the age you two are now, 18 and 20, these are years and memories that I have forever etched in my memory of your dad and I. And even though you haven’t been around him in 10 years…it’s amazing to me how much of him you carry within you. Just pure dna I guess.

Wren the way you’ve started running sound at our church and playing on the worship team, the way you’ve gotten into your new millennial group and are volunteering to serve regularly, these things are all reminders to me of who your dad was.

Lydia the way you’ve embraced Ecuador, serving, a different culture, independence, and opened your heart down there the past 3 months makes me think of your dad and his missions trip to Nicaragua. He absolutely loved that trip. And I know he would’ve done more if he had more time to do so. He would be so proud of the experience you’ve just had.

Ironically enough…you are coming home on the 10th anniversary of his death. So many emotions for you this week Lydia. I think you might just need to sleep all weekend at home just to recover!

Wren today you got a tattoo on the back of you neck that is beautiful. Simply “I love you Lauren, Dad”, in his writing. It seems so good for me to read those words on your neck and see your dad’s handwriting. Love it.

This life is not what I planned. It’s not what your dad planned. But…it’s life. And this life is still profoundly beautiful and sacred, probably even more so because we’ve all experienced loss.

Nothing is meant to be taken for granted. Not a single day.

For today and always I want you to know that although I’m always moving forward, changing and growing, living fully alive…I will never forget your dad and how much I love him.

Some day he and I are going to have a whole lot to catch up on.

In the meantime God is my Redeemer. Here and now.

When your dad died I had the verse “I will never leave you or forsake you” etched in my heart and mind. It got me through, just that promise of God’s presence in my life. He has been and will always be enough.

But let me tell you…the fact that He has brought Dane to our family, to be a dad to you two and a husband to me is nothing less than miraculous. I will always be grateful for the way God has taken broken dreams and created beauty regardless. This is something that only God can do. He is my Healer. Yours too.

I’ve watched you two adjust the past 3 years to having Dane in our lives. The first year was really tough. We can all admit it. It was just hard. The second year a little bit better. The third year has been a breath of fresh air. Mainly because you’ve let go and fallen into the love that is there waiting for you. We’ve become a family. These things take time.

You lost a huge part of your hearts and lives on May 5, 2007. Your dad didn’t choose it, didn’t want it that way, but that’s how it went down.

Today…I mainly just want you to know that I haven’t forgotten. I never will. Your loss is different from mine. I had my dad until just this past year. I guess I just want to encourage you to live each day fully present and aware. I want to help you relax and trust that God has good plans for you, plans you can’t even imagine right now. And I want you to know that God is actively redeeming everything, here and now and/or in heaven. Either way….He cares, you matter to Him and honestly girls…your dad’s love for you is big enough that no matter where he is I know he’s pulling for you.

Can you even imagine how much he can pray to Jesus directly face to face on your behalf? How cool is that? Who knows how aware of your life he is…maybe God gives him a glimpse. We don’t know. I just know the kind of love your dad has for you is not bound by this earth and it’s limitations. I think we just have to trust that someday it will be clear and redeemed.

In the mean time…I am so grateful for you two. You are my daughters but you are also my best friends. And I am so grateful for the family we’ve created in our old home here in Alton the four of us…learning how to love one another well.

I love you girls. All is at rest. All is well. We can trust God…always.

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Girls and Mark at camp

Love your momma who wishes you didn’t have to have this kind of loss so young…but knows that it’s helped to shape you into the remarkable young women you are. For that I’m grateful and I know your dad would be so proud of you two. (I’m just gonna say…he is…present tense ๐Ÿ™‚