Courage Forward

A letter to my oldest son who is on the brinks of leaving home and going to college. Join me as I give him my ten tips that I have learned when I was in his shoes.

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To My Oldest Boy,

After turning forty nearly two years ago, I found myself completely perplexed as to why people find such a milestone to be a negative impact on their lives.  I mean, I felt like I was chasing a lifelong dream of becoming an author, had a beautiful marriage, wonderful children who were equally making their dreams come true, and still felt and looked super young.  I just didn’t get the whole hating on forty thing…

But what I’ve discovered your last year in high school, Caleb, is that it isn’t an age that  manifests itself as a presence, yet a moment such as you graduating high school that can carry such a heavy burden.  This has truly been a year of reflection for me~yet also a year of beautiful discovery.  I’ve pondered your eighteen years as if it were a test I was studying for or a book I was researching to write.  It was as if I had all of a sudden woke up out my  normalcy to discover that “normal” was about to change, BIG TIME.  I would no longer have all four of my babies under one roof.  But more so, I wouldn’t be apart of your everyday life.  I mean, come on, that is a GIANT pill for a mother to swallow.  Letting go is the ache of the heart, the impossible filtration of the mind, and the awkward pull of the universe.  People have struggled with letting go for as long as God has had us walking this strange place called Earth.

Trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I am old enough to have a child heading to college, I;ve come up with ten things that I think you should take with you.  So here are my top ten things you should experience in this next exciting, personal roadmap years of your life:

  1. Play football in the middle of the night.  You just need to do this, no questions asked.  Find some friends, an empty field, a pigskin, and go for it.  You’ll laugh more than you know possible.
  2. Take a road trip to somewhere you’ve never been.  Cram yourself in a car (safely of course) and take off with your best of friends.  Laugh, play the music way too loud and discover a new landmark that you would have never seen if you hadn’t followed your life’s calling to go to another state to attend college.
  3. Talk to someone new.  One of greatest I things I admire about your dad is that in college at our Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Thursday night meetings he would find a person he didn’t know every week, and talk to them.  He would make them feel welcome, blanket them with the comfort of fellowship.  Because this is what it’s all about, right?
  4. Courage forward.  Find someone who is insecure but has no reason to be and point out all the brilliance they exude.  I know you will find this because I have taught you so.  Hug a classmate who has had less than you in this life and buy them lunch, or heck something more.  Take a person in need into your heart and fill them with all the love I know you have to give.
  5. Branch out of school and church.  You have to expand your circle more than just the Christian bubble that you will be cocooned in.  Meet people that are different from you and learn from them.  God brings us His people that need to  be ministered to that are often times not found in church or chapel.  Look at Jesus and the company he kept, blessed, and eventually saved.  Those are the people who need us more than our awesome Christian brothers and sisters.
  6. Run far away from judgment and legalism.  One of the greatest regrets I have during my college years was a legalistic, judgemental call I made in the name of God.  Shame on me for not being a bridesmaid in my sister in law’s wedding because she was marrying a non-Christian.  That is not my conviction to place and it is not our job to guilt people into God’s kingdom.  It is our calling to love.  That is how people will see Jesus through us. 
  7. Fall in love.  Fall in love with friends, mentors, pastors, teachers, parents, and anyone who may need your love on them like the air we breathe. Some of your life long friends will be met in the years to come.  Enjoy every one of them and relish every time you say, “I love you, bro.”
  8. Call home.  Yes, this may sound self-serving (and maybe it is, a little…) but the reality is you have this huge prayer and love chain residing in your childhood home that would love to hear all of your adventures.  Your youngest sibling, Lilia, will be almost 8 when you graduate college.  EEEEEkkkkkk.  I know you want her to have your stunning influence all over her heart.
  9. Take a class that you have absolutely no interest in.  You never know what you may get out of it, and how God may use you through the experience.  It’s always good to try new things throughout your entire life.
  10. Journal, journal, and journal.  One of the things I value the most in this life are my journals.  I know I’m a writer, but even if that is or isn’t your life’s path, writing your life journey is POWERFUL!  Not only does it help you filter through what you are going through in that moment, it is also your story to look back on.  Your history, the memoir of God’s remarkable presence in every step of your walk you were meant to take.

So, my son, as I drop you off in two weeks at the doorstep of your next adventure, and I travel back to find my new normalcy, please take with you,  my heart, my words, and yes my blogs.  No, just kidding, my life experiences, that in essence have always existed to share with you and your siblings.  My ventures as well as yours, are meant to grow, root and propel the remarkable people you will encounter in times of greatness and in moments of struggle.  My sweet oldest boy, that is what life is all about.

 

I love you always and forever,

 

~Mom

The Daughters and Me

Recently, I went to a Christian woman’s conference hoping to make some new friends. Little did I know I’d end up spending the weekend with some pretty amazing millennials.

13131540_1767702466809038_6790292382361851216_oThe term daughter can bring an uncertain sting to a girl who has begged and pleaded for an eternity to be loved by the hand that created her.  At the feet of their own father they cry out, “love me, see me, want me.”  But when their cries are fruitless there is a question of validity and an intense breach of trust being forged and often the opening of a lifetime wound.

Recently I attended a women’s conference called Shine in which I was so excited to go to I could barely stand it.  Then as it approached I became more and more filled with the fear that haunts us when we least expect it.  The foreboding that can hold us back from greatness.

I found myself afraid because I was going to this mega celebration…alone.

My mother always taught me that going at something alone is brave, that it builds character.  I’ve tested this theory, this life lesson. I’ve gone to a movie alone, dinner party of one, Starbucks with yours truly, simply to see if anyone would actually see me.  And guess what, never once did anyone care that I was in fact, this huge big smile sitting at a table alone.  Nope, no one cares.  Because we are all so inside ourselves our own complicated mess of complications.

And this created an inner dialogue that was so intense.  God would say to me: why do you care that you are alone?  For you have me and I created this interestingly smart woman who has all the potential in the world.

Even when I didn’t want to hear it.  He was there telling me that I was enough.  That I do not need other people to validate me because I am well…in fact a Daughter.

That may be easy to accept when the people who are supposed to validate you, don’t do their jobs.

But often times they don’t.  Our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers can leave us unloved and dry of life-sustaining water for years upon decades.  And when that happens waiting on God to provide at a huge women’s conference where everyone going is there with a stunning woman on their arm is somewhat…daunting.

I almost didn’t go.

God asked me, “Why are you doubting?”

I paused.  And He read my heart singing:

Seek Bravery, not Fear.

But I’m scared to be alone.  I hate not being accepted.  I’m insecure even though I may seem larger than life.  I am a facade.

No~you are greater than any comparison you will conclude and I will show you as long as you believe, have faith, and go at it alone.

Yet God knowing me, truly reading that I am not the “alone” girl I had been in the child of my past I received a text from an extraordinary young woman later that day.

She said she wanted to sit with me at Shine.

Twenty-three years my junior I wasn’t sure.  My inner insecurity said,
“Don’t ruin her fun.”
“You are old.”
“You aren’t, hip, yo.”
“You aren’t good enough.”
“You should be alone because no one really loves you.”

Against my inner demons I texted back,

I’d love that.

And so I embarked on a life-changing weekend sitting with the daughters of our future, the difference makers of the days ahead.  The future mothers, friends, wives, leaders, lovers of life that are about to embark on the truth they are being called into.

I can say there is a lot to be spoken of spending time with the generation that follows you.

Looking at the youth ready to face their own opportunities I relished in the excitement their eyes reflected back at me as they shared the call they felt were on their lives.

I met amazing young woman number one who has aspirations of becoming an author and public speaker.

Inspirational strong young woman number two wants to be a midwife specializing in women experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth.

Dynamite girl number three aspires to be a worship pastor, one of the most captivating ways to meet God.  And~has a calling on her life to write her life story which involves a broken relationship with her father.

Okay, for those of you who don’t know me, get ready for some provision…

I’m a best selling author and a national public speaker who has spoken in front of thirty thousand people.

I have lost two baby boys, one at eighteen weeks gestation and one at twenty-three both due to chromosomal abnormalities.

And lastly, my oldest son leads worship, touching thousands with his passion and fervor for both music and well…God.  And I also have a horribly broken relationship with my father that guts me every day.

Wait…What?!?!

And I thought I was going to this thing by myself?!  Are we ever truly alone in this life as long as God is in charge? Resoundingly NO!  Our life story runs through and through with a beautiful symphony of a song that weaves in and out past the years of pain and conclusion.  It is beauty.  It is God.  It is a community of women.  It breaks barriers of age, judgment, and class.  Yet only if we let it.  These girls welcomed me and we soaked each other up like precious water after a hundred year drought.

We can learn a little from the youth, can’t we ladies who have lived a little life?

My weekend ended on a high.  After I left my girls I paused and decided that I needed to get a few “selfies” with my date for the weekend.  Me.

In that, I met two amazing women (a little closer in age to me this time) who had attended the conference together and then an amazing conversation took place.  I told them that I came alone. But am leaving knowing I’m never alone, that no matter the demographic or the anticipation, God gives you what you need and what is needed from you.

I told them that it doesn’t matter who I am or what I’ve done that without togetherness it doesn’t work.
I shared with them that I wrote a little book called, The Return to Happiness.

One of the girls said she knows several women who have suffered pregnancy loss and would love to connect them with a resource such as my book.

I cried out, knowing I had been alone losing my babies yet when women unite, it is always better together, stronger, and far more powerful.

I made new friends in that moment and left the weekend behind filled to the rim with love, community, and possibility.

Yet I left with the youth deeply embedded on my heart.

The daughters and I worshiped, loved, and learned from one another far from fear of lost trust, abandonment or pain.  Yet gave us more than we could have ever anticipated.  Leaving us with an overwhelming joy and praise blanketing us all, knowing that we are in fact better together.  Forever.