Tuesday, March 27, 2018

high school is hard


dear lovely-beautiful-hurting-high school girls. let me tell you something you probably already know: it isn’t easy.

high school is hard.

it was hard for me when i was your age ... and, i promise, it's been hard for my girls as well.

this middle daughter of mine, right here in this picture. yep, she struggled too. i know this photo looks kinda wonderful---she’s 18. she’s blowing out the candles. she’s got friends surrounding her. and there’s this beautiful birthday glow-thing going on. heck, she's even having a good hair day!

pictures are really good at showing lovely moments like this.

and it was a lovely moment. i captured it with my camera and later that night looking through my photos i felt incredible gratitude for this group of girlfriends around my daughter.

we need people around us.

no matter how independent or self-sufficient or introverted God designed us, He made all of us with this little seed inside which greatly desires community.

but, let’s face it, the community found in high school can sometimes be hard. hellish. on somedays, downright crappy.

social media doesn't help.

i want you girls reading this right now to know that even when the instagrams and snapchat stories look pretty darn great … even when the girl looks popular and put-together and incredibly poised … there is (usually always) more to the story. 

(and that, friends, is true no matter what our age)!

i can tell you that this girl in this photo with all these smiling friends around her has had her share of sad, lonely, heart-heavy days. she’s been excluded, left-out, rejected and ignored.

i know ... because i'm her mom. i was there. gosh, was i there.

there have been parties and plans to which she was not invited. 

high school can be hard.

especially in her first two years of high school:  i can’t tell you the number of times she was in tears. i can’t even begin to count the number of talks we had about friends and fitting in. it is hard for me to even think back to some of that without my mama-bear blood beginning to boil all over again.

and, let me be clear, my girls haven't always been the victims. i am absolutely positive they've made someone somewhere feel unimportant, unwanted or inferior.

i don’t know why it has to be this way.
gosh, i wish it wasn't.

as a mom, i wish i could just wave my fairy-real-mother-wand over the public and private schools everywhere and just make everyone n i c e . i've actually dreamed about traveling around and giving talks on this subject to girls across the country--cities and suburbs alike. that sounds seriously corny, but i really have dreamt that. 

but, truth is, i’m not sure “talks” are going to change the fact that high school is hard.  and there will probably always be those who (because they themselves are hurting) hurt others.  

i don’t know how much of an impact a “talk” might have, but i do know having someone to “talk to” is key. having someone (parent, teacher, mentor, pastor, friend) is necessary for survival. i wish that for each of you girls reading this right now. 

dear ones, if you’re hurting, if nothing is helping, if you’re barely holding on …  my prayer is that you find a person in whom you can confide. don’t worry about burdening someone with your stuff ... don't worry about embarrassing yourself …  i implore you to find someone who can walk with you. 

because, as we've already established ...

high school is hard.

harder than when i was there, that's for sure. many times, i have declared how grateful i am to have grown up without the pressure of social media -- especially in those years when i was having some pretty exceptional self-esteem struggles. gosh, i shudder to think ...

again, the instagrams look great, right? you can call it fake or false if you want, but it’s kind of how it goes with most people. sorry to say girls, but most of us just don’t post about our broken hearts or our bruised egos … or blemishes.  yes, we can all do a better job at being authentic in all areas — including social media, but i want you girls to to know and to remember: no one  (NO ONE) has it all together. no one has it all figured out. 
no. one. has. it. all. 
no one.

i know what you do. i know how you scroll through the instagram feed and compare your bodies and your beauty and your legs and your lives to each other. i know how you deliberate over the cleverness of your caption and the cuteness of your clothing. i know. i'm almost 50 and i do it to some degree too. we're human. 

but remember, life is not lived inside the photo-frame. real life doesn't have filters and editing tools. 

there's nothing wrong with posting a pretty picture. y'all know i sure like posting pretty things. i am just encouraging you to be careful---especially in the area of comparison. 

though a picture might be worth a thousand words, we all know it never quite reveals the full story. 

this girl in this photo ... well, she is about to leave the high school years behind. she graduates in less than two months. (btw, i'm starting to feel kind of a mess about that fact) and whereas she’s been having a really great senior year, i know she would be okay with me telling you high school hasn’t always been so great. 

yes, i'm so glad she's ending on such a good note, but i never want her to forget some of those struggles she had in these past four years. i do believe that God uses even the brutal, broken, lonely, left-out moments in our lives. those hard high school years can be holy because through them God can make us whole.  and, though i wish it were different, sometimes we only learn that lesson when we are left out or lost a little. we learn that our identity and worth is in Him alone. not in how we feel day to day in the hallways of high school. 

oh girls, we don’t do it perfectly in our home. i have struggled mightily with what to say and how to say it. i haven’t always been a mom full of great answers or great advice or great amounts of godliness. but this picture from my daughter’s birthday last week, compelled me to put some of these thoughts to paper to encourage you. 

you are not alone.

i don’t know who you are or what you're going through … but i want to urge you to keep seeking Him and keep reminding yourself He has an amazing plan for your life. He does!

yes, indeed, high school is hard.


but sweet ones, God is really good at using the hard places for His holiness and your wholeness.
i know it's not easy, but trust Him.


p.s. 
and, with two sons, i suppose i should also say this isn't just a girl issue. it's different with boys, yes, but high school can be hard for them too. that's another blog post for another time!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

walking alongside

she’s been in college for almost four years, but just today she might have had her greatest lesson. 

i knew immediately when emily called and i heard that certain tremor in her voice. i knew when our very-contained-daughter couldn’t contain the emotion behind her words--my girl had rubbed shoulders with reality and she would be better for it.

“mom, i don’t know exactly why i’m about to cry, but i have to tell you what happened just now.” 

and her story began. 

today, driving home from classes (emily lives off campus) she passed a girl walking along the busy road. off and on this past month, emily has noticed her. she even mentioned this to me last week when she was home on her spring break.  

“when i’m driving to and from my classes, regardless of the weather, i always see this girl walking on lakeshore boulevard. mom, i don’t know what it is, but she looks so sad. so heavy. i don’t know where she’s headed, but i think i should probably ask her if she needs a ride.”

and whereas i don’t necessarily encourage my daughter to pick up just anybody ambling along roadside, i agreed this seemed like an okay situation and a good opportunity.

and today, there she was. again. walking.

and there was the opportunity. 

emily made a quick decision, pulled her car over and rolled down the window, “can i give you a ride somewhere?”

saying yes, the girl hopped into emily’s car. 

they only had a few minutes together, but that’s all it took for emily to learn more about her passenger: probably only 19 or 20, this girl walked this road several times a week to her job at samford university where she worked as a janitor. she explained how she walked from the walmart (on the other side of the highway) all the way to samford (several miles).  she lived with her mom, her 7 siblings and she had a 3 year old child of her own to support. she was doing the best she could, but, it was clear after talking these few minutes, life wasn’t easy.

emily turned her car around and drove her back to the university. the same university my daughter had just come from. the same university em has been privileged to attend these past four years. the irony wasn’t lost on emily: this girl’s workplace is the same university which has been the emily’s life-place.

our daughter works incredibly hard, but she doesn’t pay for her education. and if she was honest, she would probably tell you that—like all of us—she at times takes what she has for granted. 

over the phone to me this afternoon, tearfully, emily spilled out the story. she was heartbroken to learn the details of this girls’ situation and how, though probably similar in age, their lives couldn’t look more different. emily was driving her nice car from her nice college. she had just returned from a nice vacation with her (mostly) nice family and, even, already has a nice job lined up in birmingham after she graduates this may. life seems on track. in fact, life seems pretty darn terrific. life seems nice.

emily zooms up and down lakeshore boulevard all the time. always on the way to something or coming from somewhere. yes, she has responsibilities and stress and challenges, but they are nothing like this girl’s.

this time, however, she stopped.

and when you take time to stop and listen to the story of someone roadside, it can change you.

see, it’s easy to zoom by people.  it’s, in fact, easier.  it’s more convenient to live insulated lives which don’t interact with those walking roadside. when we stop for a passenger, we might have to also stop and process. it might cause us to consider. it might encourage us to contemplate. it might compel us to remove some of that thick callus of our own comfort. 

this girl is doing what she has to do to make life work. she’s had a rough go of it. obviously, a different story than the one our oldest daughter is living. but let me be clear, this isn’t about emily feeling guilt over having it easier, but it’s about emily feeling. i love that she didn’t take this encounter lightly. i loved hearing the emotion in her voice today on the phone. i love that she understands the commonality of mankind even when traveling along rather different roads. 

we can’t pick up a passenger and feel guilty that our life might be easier, but we can pick up a passenger and feel … and that’s the thing: feeling. 

emily only stopped. she would tell you it was nothing. and in some ways, it was nothing. she had a car. she had a few extra minutes. she had the intention. stopping didn’t require much of her … except the decision to do so. and so many times, that’s the exact place where many of us get stuck. 

we have the best intentions to stop. to help. to come alongside. to listen. to lighten. but, often, in the busyness of our own bustling lives, we just keep zooming right on by.

yeah, i’m a little proud of my daughter for stopping. but i am mostly thankful that her heart was touched deeply today.

em knows there’s a next step. she isn’t going to drive this road again and not look for her passenger. she has no plans to wave a fairy wand over the girl’s life and make it all better, but she will look for more opportunities to come alongside. 

because when we stop and listen and let ourselves truly see … it changes us. 

and of all the learning my daughter has had in her years of higher education, this might, very well, be the most important lesson.

“compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves.” ~ m. cooley
“be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ~ plato

"the King will reply, 'truly I tell you, 
whatever you did for one of the least
 of these brothers and sisters of mine, 
you did for me.'" ~ matthew 25:40



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

just me and us (and Jesus)




i remember, 15 years ago, getting my roll of film back and seeing this (above) picture. 

it scared me. 

i am not sure what scared me more —

the fact that somewhere in the midst of my unstable state of pregnancy i must have decided to pre-purchase party glasses for my family …  OR that all these little people actually belonged to me. 


i was always excited about having "one more," but i’d be lying if i didn’t admit to also having the occasional "who in their right mind decides to add a 4th child?" thought.

but we did.

and we are so glad we did.


and today he is 15. 




but, in those months after connor's birth, when i felt about as crazy as a junebug in march, i somehow knew it would be the addition of this 4th child which would probably teach me the most in my motherhood. i was, clearly, in over my head like never before. from the moment this little guy arrived, i couldn’t seem to catch my breath. there was something about the number four. 

we were always on the go. 
always on the way. 
always on to something else. 

we had four children under the age of nine and everyone needed me. all the time. or so it sure seemed. 

maybe that’s the season you’re currently in. maybe you’re the mom who, right now, feels so inundated with what is happening in your home that should even a tiny hamster appear in a cage on your counter, you’d probably sit down and sob.

i know. 

i remember.

that was me 15 years ago. don't get me wrong: it was jam-packed with some absolutely-wonderful too! adding a baby brother  was like the coolest thing ever for our older three. we were all in awe and had so much fun just staring at him --- on the way to soccer practice or tennis lessons, mind you.

even in the busyness, the arrival of this sweet little brother breathed a special kind of joy into all of us.

babies can do that.




but, nonetheless, connor’s babyhood was a blur. he literally grew up in a carseat behind me. when he was a toddler and we’d drop off the older kids at school or practice or lessons, he’d almost always say to me: “it’s just me and us, mom. just me and us.” and that’s how we did life when he was little: just me and us. 

when he'd say that, i used to answer him back -- sometimes out loud and sometimes just
a whisper in my heart -- "yes, connor, just me and us ... and Jesus." because, more than anything, that's what i learned during those years of being an overwhelmed and under qualified (feeling) mother: life with these four kids would require a whole lot of Jesus. 

it still does.

now--15 years later--and my “just me and us” boy is about a head taller than me and no longer in the backseat. tomorrow, in fact, i take him to get his driving permit and he'll probably be driving me home. 

yes, his babyhood was a blur. but fifteen years have been even faster.

happy birthday, c-man. 
we love you!





15 things i love about you, connor!

  1. your sense of humor and timing.

  2. your compassion and tenderness.

  3. your desire to grow your own relationship with Jesus.

  4. your constant inquisitiveness.

  5. your daily texts asking me what’s for dinner.

  6. your 4th-born-ability to go-with-the-flow!

  7. your willingness to do whatever i ask (even when it involves things like your mother wearing blue sparkly glasses).

  8. your servant heart.

  9. your sense of direction — literal and figurative.
     
  10. your sweet desire to hang out with your crazy siblings.

  11. your big dreams.

  12. your little guy haircut. #amishboy.

  13. your love of the outdoors, animals and nature.

  14. your calming presence.

  15. the unique way you see things.


    we are so thankful God placed you in our family!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

a friend to fish with

living long distance from loved ones--friends and family--can be hard. more and more, i find myself missing those people for whom i care deeply.

with college kids out of state, parents 12 hours away, siblings scattered coast to coast, and friends dotted across the country, it sometimes makes my heart hurt.

then on a nothing-special rainy wednesday morning, my dear friend, diana, sends me this sweet picture out of the blue. and it makes me miss her and seeing our dynamic duo together---but it also makes me so thankful for how God has woven into my life so many wonderful people.


if you have people to miss, God's given you the most beautiful gift of relationship. He created us to be relational and rooted deeply with others. in the very beginning, He determined, "it is not good for man to be alone." - genesis 2:18

independent and autonomous as we might like to be at times, we aren't islands and were never intended for isolation. we were made in His image to bear His image and to be intricately involved with others---just like He is so intricately entangled wth us. yes, even in the messy parts. especially there. our earthly kinships can remind us of the relationship possible with our heavenly King.


dear ones, don't fail to invest in your relationships---near and far ... earthly and heavenly---we all need a friend to fish with.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

BLOOM even when you're [not] feeling planted


i know it's only february, but this past week has felt a lot like spring in georgia. makes me a little anxious for all these trees and plants beginning to bloom. i know a frost isn't quite outside the realm of possibility. so a little concerned, yes, but mostly i'm in a state of unbridled bliss. 

curse be the cold. i love spring. 

i love noticing the tiny buds on everything. i love how every day something new unfolds: the haze of lime and the hint of pink working their way into the drab fabric of winter brown and gray. honestly, sometimes i think something wrong with me: a middle-aged woman probably shouldn't be quite this smitten with a season. but, admittedly, i am. 

driving is downright dangerous during this time of year. last week, while chauffeuring connor to some teenage destination i scared the pants off my poor boy when i, unexpectedly, hit the breaks hard and shouted wildly for him to "LOOK AT THAT BRADFORD PEAR TREE BEGINNING TO BLOOM!"

after regaining his regular heartbeat, he was like, "MAAAHHM ... you CAN'T do THAT when you're driving."

but i was like, "son, i can't NOT do that when i see a bradford pear tree beginning to bloom."

geesh.

anyway, today is sunday. and not having to drive anywhere this afternoon, i headed out to my backyard with the plan to address our vegetable garden i'd completely neglected since fall. i figured it was time to remove the leaves and other dead stuff i'd ignored in these past couple months of winter.

as i approached my forlorn, little garden, i noticed a few hyacinths already in bloom. last fall i had planted some bulbs with the purpose of cutting them. because, come spring, who doesn't go ga-ga over the smell of a fresh hyacinth. [if you haven't smelled one yet, you haven't lived. just saying].




standing before these few blooms springing from the rich garden soil i found buried on the outside of the garden was the bag full of more bulbs which i had failed to plant. i remembered thinking--last fall--wanting to save them for bella so she'd have the chance to participate in the fun of bulbs blooming. (i have these very grand ideas often). so i guess it was sometime last november when i abandoned the bag and then, of course, (grand idea or not) forgot all about it in my normal forgetful way. 

the leaves fell and the days grew cold and i never once again thought about that bag of hyacinth bulbs. 

until this rainy sunday afternoon at the end of february. 
and there, covered in leaves and pine straw, was the bag full of abandoned bulbs. not planted, but, nonetheless, blooming! BLOOMING!

these bulbs ...
they didn't get planted. 
they didn't get placed.
they were never gently situated in soil.

they were kind of forgotten.
kind of lost.
pretty much abandoned.
left out.

ignored.


and, yet, they were doing their very darndest to bloom---right there on the outside of everything. 
and they were beautiful. 

and they made me think about how sometimes we, too, can bloom even when conditions aren't ideal. 

we've all heard the phrase, "bloom where you're planted." and i like that phrase. i'm sure i've even used it before in my writing and speaking. it offers a pleasant modicum of truth and, i suppose, some much needed encouragement. but i think in some ways it is a tad simplistic. 

maybe the bigger thing is to bloom even when you're NOT planted. 

because, let's face it, sometimes we don't feel like we are existing in ideal conditions. sometimes we don't feel like we're very rooted or even in the right place. 

sometimes we feel outside of something: left out or lost.
sometimes we feel not tethered or attached or anchored or very authentic ... 

maybe you're the high schooler who still doesn't feel connected to any group or any one thing. maybe you're the young professional uncertain in his first job. maybe you're the new mother who isn't sure how she went from deadlines to diapers. maybe you're the empty nester who isn't sure what to do next with everyone gone. maybe you're the older man questioning his day when he wakes to his very quiet house.

i don't know.

but i do know that even when we look like we are deeply rooted and perfectly planted, sometimes, we feel like we aren't. 

i have struggled with that feeling for years. i don't think anyone would necessarily know that about me. i look rooted; well-connected and well-established. i certainly am busy. 

but, truth is, sometimes it's easy to feel a little bit on the outside of life.

you're not alone.

maybe we all feel that way at times.

with moving away from family years ago and moving around a little in these past two decades there are moments when i'm not sure to which group or place exactly i belong. i am in this season of watching my kids grow up quickly and there are definitely days where i wonder what it is i am supposed to be doing. 

again, my guess is most of us struggle with these feelings.

and if you do, i'd like to encourage you to remember my bag of hyacinth bulbs. 
bloom.  wherever you are planted ... even if you aren't feeling completely planted. bloom.

oh friends, it's not about our FEELINGS, but about His FAITHFULNESS.


God has a plan and a purpose for our life. He knows exactly where we are and cares deeply for how we feel. so--teenager, young professional, new mother, empty nester, and well seasoned friend--go ahead and bloom!

"thanks be to God who  ... through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." ~ 2 corinthians 2:14

"be rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." ~ colossians 2:7