Monday, September 10, 2018

delta! delta! delta! can i help ya, help ya, help ya?

well, southern women, we’ve somehow survived. 

another sorority rush season is in the books. we can all breath easy again and go back to our non-greek-lettered lives.

seriously, if you haven’t experienced the start of the southern school year sorority hot-mess … you have no idea what you’re missing. (in other words: count your blessings and your sanity).
it is something to behold. 
it is something to be reckoned with. 
i’m telling you, it is something else. 

and it doesn’t just begin in august or september. it isn’t isolated to one single week of rush. oh no, it consumes girls (and sometimes their mothers … and most definitely their money) months ahead—resumes and rec letters and really good outfit choices. holy moly. you wouldn’t believe the pressure this puts on the average girl. any girl. 

i’ve watched two of my own daughters go through it: one at a small christian college and one at a big SEC university. either way, i have to tell you, it isn’t all princess crowns and rainbows. sure, the system has merit, but, nonetheless, it is a flawed system. because, guess what? we are flawed people. cute, curled hair and perfectly applied lipstick aside, we are a bunch of broken, messy, mixed up humans. those peppy 18 year old coeds in their lulu lemon skirts with their non-cellulite-ish thighs might look pretty darn flawless … but, yes, even they have their ugly spots underneath all those sparkles. 

scrolling through instagram this morning, i came across a girl's picture from her bid day this past weekend. she “ran home” to a wonderful sorority and another girl left a comment on her post, claiming, “this is everything!”

and reading that comment this morning over coffee and avocado toast, my stomach kind of turned and i just knew--even though the kitchen needed attention and the grocery store was beckoning--i had to take a quick minute to tell y’all, It Isn’t. 
It Isn’t Everything. 

whether you are the girl who got into the supremely perfect sorority this month or the girl who got invited back to nothing … i promise you, either way, IT ISN’T EVERYTHING. it is one thing. it is some thing. it is a thing. but, girls, listen to me, it is not everything. and whether you got in or got left out, it is of dire importance that you understand this. 

all of us — college-coeds or middle-aged-mothers — we all need to remember, there is no group or club or sisterhood which should ever define us or determine our path. it can be a positive part of the journey, but it is definitely not the be-all-end-all of our existence. no matter how hard our image-motivated culture tries to convince us otherwise.

i’m truly not anti-greek. 

heck, a gazillion years ago, i was vice-president of my own sorority and i loved it. i think there’s absolutely a time and place for this kind of sisterhood. i loved the friends i made and the experiences we had in our greek letters, but it wasn’t everything. i can confidently say that as a greek-ish girl myself and i can say that as a mother.

sisterhood. it’s a lovely word, isn’t it? i adore the idea of it. i was lucky enough to grow up with sisters and in my (almost) 50 years God has given me countless friends who i’d definitely consider excellent sister material. i can’t tell you the greek letters they all might associate themselves with, but i can tell you these women have been instrumental in my journey as a woman. completely grateful, i simply can’t imagine life without any of them.
and, just like the friends around me, the sorority sisterhood can provide wonderful, meaningful, and very real relationships for girls away at college. that might be the best part. another positive part, is how the sisterhood can also unite together to do something wonderful, meaningful and real as well.  philanthropy plays a large role in the pan-hellenic program. my girls are both ZTAs (one at samford university and one at auburn university). the zeta tau alpha sorority ties itself to breast cancer awareness. money, time and education are provided through this relationship. of course, as a breast cancer survivor myself, i love this connection for my girls and for the thousands of zistas out there!

so, yes, good stuff. i could go on and on: fun parties, cute t-shirts, someone to eat lunch with, borrow clothes from … yep, all of that good. (well, most of that good). but, i don’t have to sell you on it. i think the sorority life does a pretty good job of marketing itself. and that’s part of the reason why it can easily become larger than life. that’s why it can quickly become “IT-IS-EVERYTHING” to so many young girls. 

but what i do feel compelled to communicate to you college girls (and your mothers too) is that you matter deeply apart from the groups with which you gather. so easily we take our identity from material things: from what we have and who we hang with; from our invitations, destinations and celebrations. it’s such a common practice, but so dangerous. most of you reading this know that at some point, we pretty much all find ourselves holding little or hovering in our loneliness. the party — like all parties — has limitations. how risky to place our identity and security in something which can quickly become nothing. 

some of you felt disappointment through the rush process. others of you might find yourself disappointed in these next months when you realize that sparkly place you “ran home to” actually does have some ugly cracks behind all that perfect rush-party decor. 

like i said earlier, it is not everything … and it is certainly not perfect. 

every year,  when this rush business kicks into gear, i'm amazed at the stories i hear from women scarred by it all. yes, women as old as me! women who 15 or 30, even 40 years later still remember the pain associated with rejection or regret. ah, ladies how can we let this happen? how can we give any group that kind of control in our lives?

yes, girls, God did design you for community. it’s a beautiful (and necessary) gift. and sometimes we must seek it. we all love the feeling of being part of something. i certainly do! but being part of something begins with being yourself and knowing that you are, first and foremost, daughters of the King. He has already crowned you. even knowing everything about you—the good and the ugly — He offered you a bid. you are His. He didn’t need to study your instagram or read a glowing rec letter to know you. Jesus, through His life and death, went to bat for you. not because you earned it or deserved it, but because He truly loves you. and i promise you, girls, that is something you can really run home to! 

He doesn’t care how crooked your smile or how perfect your style, He loves you for you. He might not cover you in archaic greek letters, but He’ll wrap you in His robe of righteousness with the already written words “loved” and “chosen.”  

greek or independent … you belong. 

you belong to Him. 

so this monday morning, whether you woke up feeling wounded or unworthy ... or even without a tribe… i want to remind you, because of Jesus, you, girlfriend, are very much wanted.

“you did not choose me, but I chose you 
and appointed you that you should go 
and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide …”  ~ john 15:16

and for a little sorority humor, because let's face it, they can lend themselves to some pretty funny stuff ... here is one of my favorite SNL skits ever DELTA DELTA DELTA

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

lessons learned out on the range

this dirty pile greeted me today at the garage door--tyler’s work shirt and boots. smelly and wet. and though both offensive, neither offended, but rather, made me kind of proud.

today is tyler’s last day at his job. though he had a vision of working on a ranch in montana this summer, he, instead, came home from college and worked hard every day landscaping at a golf course. he lived not in a cool, cowboy bunk room, but in our basement, leaving every morning before dawn. kind of out on the range — just not the western, romantic sounding one.

and though i am certain cowboys and golfers can both be great, this blog post isn't really about them, but about hard work.

with hardly a day off these past couple of months, ty has been up and out the door before 5:30 am. sure, this kid loves the outdoors— always has—but this summer, especially, he learned the big difference between a summer spent playing outside and a summer working there. he’s had lots of jobs in the past, but this one demanded the most from him. he’d come home every evening filthy-dirty and completely beat from a physical day working the fairways, the roughs and the bunkers. 

all day long. mowing, trimming, weeding, raking, edging, digging. you get the picture.

funny thing, tyler has a real love for golf. and this summer, his appreciation for the game has grown. but, even more so, i know his appreciation for hard work has grown.

last weekend, i played the par three with my boys. and though they offered their poor, awkward mother tips and hints and many lessons, i was probably most tickled to hear tyler talk about his recently gained experience in  grooming the greens. he has a good understanding of the game, but he also has a new sense of the grit.

as a kid, he grew up watching mike rowe’s dirty jobs. i think we actually owned the entire collection on dvd. i can still hear him and his brother and dad all exclaiming (or gagging) over those episodes of drudgery and disgust. when he was 8, i’m not sure he ever thought much about the possibility of having to work a dirty, back-breaking job himself. 

but i’m glad he got the chance. 

he heads back to college this week. back to the classrooms and the lectures and the library. back to a different kind of learning. but i know—fun or not — this summer has etched in him a new respect for real labor. 

and i’m proud of him.

dirty jobs and hard work---sometimes we shy away from them. i understand. but what a blessing it is when we have the opportunity to gain some much needed reality and responsibility. as parents, i realize this can present a challenge. we want our kids to have happy childhoods and nice lives, but there is so much value in giving them the chance to earn, exert, serve and, yes, even toil.

we certainly haven't done it all correctly in our home, but i can tell you when we have, there has been great benefit and even greater blessing.

walking out on the fairway with your four iron might be a lovely experience. but time spent working in the roughs and bunkers is where we truly gain an appreciation for what we have in this life. 

i love that my son can find real enjoyment and leisure out on the golf range, but i'm grateful that he probably won't ever swing a club again without some thought about the summer he expanded his own range of understanding.

his life game will be better for it.

"may the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands."  ~ psalm 90:17

Thursday, July 12, 2018

find someone else

dear rude and impatient I-75 motorist ---

i’m sorry i didn’t react much today to your angry horn honking. i realize you were looking for a little engagement when you gestured wildly and yelled something (most likely) obscene from behind your steering wheel. you’re exactly right, i didn’t move quickly enough and you were only letting me know how important and busy you are. trust me, i understand. and i'm sure, you probably desired much more from me than my weak wave. i have no doubt my lack of interaction disappointed. 

i get it. some times i feel like that too. i only want acknowledgement for how frustrating my frenzied days can sometimes seem. and, clearly, i was in your way: in my car singing ridiculously loudly to my john denver. “take me home country roads …” while driving, ironically, through the middle of a city. how completely inappropriate. i, too, was experiencing that rush hour horror. hard stuff. and what’s more, it had probably been a hard day for you. (i’ve had them too). and, dear (rude) one, i know, in your mind, it would have just felt better if you could have roped someone like me into your road rage. 

but today you picked the wrong woman for a vehicular altercation. or maybe—depending on one's perspective—you picked exactly the right woman.

either way, you could have no way of knowing. 

you didn’t know that, today—not every day, but today—i was feeling pretty unflappable. it’s not always the word i’d necessarily associate with my world, but this day you crossed paths with a woman who was actually somewhat serene. you intersected with a girl not willing to engage; with a person not needing to express her pent up emotions from behind her steering wheel.

you see, i’d just come from my annual oncologist appointment where my doctor and i had a moment of real, true rejoicing. seven years ago, when i was diagnosed with cancer, one of the things he said to me was, “jody, we are going to get you on a plan to keep you around for awhile. you’ve got too much life ahead of you. let’s make that happen.”  

for me, "too much life ahead" meant being around for the milestones … for the big moments. when i was sick and afraid of what the future might (or might not) bring, i remember pleading with God to make me well so that i might someday watch my children grow up … get married.
seven years ago when i was scared and wondering about my future, i remember finding the thought of not being present at my kids’ weddings unbearable. something about that specific image—more than anything else—rattled me. completely.

but, today, at my appointment, i was able to waltz in and announce to my doctor, that in just a couple more weeks, i’d be attending my first child’s wedding. i’d made it. that gruesome time 7 years ago full of mastectomies and medication has allowed me to be here today enjoying the final days and details before emily’s marriage. is that overly dramatic? perhaps. but, for me, it’s about perspective.

and dear rude and impatient I-75 motorist, no one—not even you with your incessant horn blowing and ugly expressions—is going to steal the joy i have on this july day seven years after cancer.  

there are no guarantees. i realize that. cancer or random street-crossings … we can’t ever be sure. here today and gone tomorrow. just like that. in a blink of an unexpecting eye. 

when i come across people who get caught up in the petty or allow for great impatience in the present, i realize i am typically dealing with someone who has never had to live in fear of dying. they’ve never been told cancer. they’ve never had to question the future. 

don’t get me wrong. i don’t mean that to sound condescending or in any way superior. trust me, even a cancer diagnosis 7 years ago has not completely changed this woman. i wish it had. but, the truth is, i still have plenty of pettiness and a ridiculous amount of impatience. i often forget how precious life is. and, even with that altering experience 7 years ago, i still don’t always make the most of every moment. i forget. i take things for granted. i expect to live forever. 

but today, in my good-report-appointment, i had the chance to be reminded of the gift i was given. and, thinking about the fact that in 16 days i will watch my girl walk down her wedding aisle, i’m sorry, but i just can’t get into it with you out there on the roadway. i’m sorry (not sorry) to say, you’ll have to find someone else to wrangle with. 

please don’t read this as superiority, but as serenity.
don’t view me as graceful, but see me a grateful.
it's not about pride, but all about perspective.

you’ll just have to find someone else. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

3 months: from proposal to processional

i've really wanted to sit down and write this post since april 27th. but seriously, y’all, i have yet to sit down. or at least that’s kind of how it feels: april 27th happened and we haven't taken a seat or a breath since.

that was the day our oldest girl got engaged.

and though i’m sure all of this not-sitting and not-breathing stuff might sound rather alarming, i have to tell you, we couldn’t be more thrilled. 

back in april, when austin drove to atlanta to ask our blessing, we gave it with enthusiasm. we love this boy and have confidence that God has brought these two together in His perfect timing. what's more: they both love Jesus. that day having lunch with him and hearing his heart will always hold a special place. what parent wouldn’t want to hear how much their daughter is loved and adored. (by the right boy at the right time, of course). 

austin even brought the ring along to show us. now, i’m not saying that was the thing which swayed us—rings have very little to do with what makes a marriage—but, i have to admit, it was pretty darn sweet when he pulled it out of his pocket wanting us to see it even before he would slip it on our daughter's finger that next weekend (if you happen to be a young man thinking about proposing, i’d highly recommend taking the ring along when asking her parents’ blessing. it is just a nice touch). 

some people might think “asking for the blessing” an old-fashioned and even archaic practice. and while certainly entitled to their opinion, i disagree. wholeheartedly. there’s nothing like listening to your future son-in-law articulate his love for your daughter. it meant the world to us to hear his words of devotion and love for this girl we’ve, ourselves, been so smitten with these past 22 years. the joy, well, it’s pretty much indescribable.

we were also honored to be included on the night of their engagement a few days later. austin worked to have his family and ours present afterward for a time of celebration. he did this because he knew out of every engagement scenario he could come up with, it would be most important to emily to have both of their families close by and included. “she would want that,” he told us. hearing him explain his decision, i thought to myself, “gosh, he’s on exactly the right track.” not that he, as her future husband, must give her her way in everything. nope, not that. but the idea that he must always consider her, her heart, her wishes, her desires … above himself. yes, that. that is the special ingredient which proves vital in marriage from first days to final breath. and it goes for her as well! it works both ways: consider your spouse above yourself. not exactly what the world tries to tell us, but God's word surely does. when that combination happens in relationships, miraculously more love can grow.  “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  ~ philippians 2: 3-4.

so, that was april 27th.

today is july 1st. 

the months of may and june became quickly preoccupied with planning a wedding. 
especially when, one week into her engagement, emily said, “mom, we can get married in 3 months, right?”  
i swallowed hard. “well, it’s possible,” i agreed. "not easy, but possible ... i guess." and i began immediately making mental lists in my head.  

though they originally talked about a wedding in late fall, when they started to put together the potential dates for austin’s officer training and flight school, it became clear the choice was either a quick wedding or a pretty long engagement. 

and after looking at all the different scenarios and schedules and timelines and options … they landed on having their wedding this summer. july 28th. 3 months from proposal to processional. 

and now today, less than a month away! 
[please enjoy a few photos from their (brief) engagement photo shoot ... while i go pour a glass a wine and practice my deep breathing]. 

okay. i'm back. and calm again. these pictures, kind of cute, huh? 

seriously though, with most of the "big" wedding decisions made, i am finally this weekend finding some time to collect my thoughts. i know it's just a brief lull before the matrimonial storm comes blowing in, but it's been nice and has allowed me to finally pound out a blog post. i do know, however, this is only a short pause before we begin to really wind up for wedding week. 

but as her mom, i am incredibly thankful for this pause. so thankful to have a little time this weekend to sit on my porch and ponder the blessing of what God is doing and has done in her life. i’m not sure exactly where two decades have gone, but i can tell you we’ve been praying about the boy God would bring to her for a very long time — since before she was even born.

this is a picture of her first nursery. as is typical with eager first time parents, we had her room ready and waiting well before her arrival. and just like it was yesterday, i remember sitting in that white glider rocker praying (and gliding)! praying for my soon-to-be-born baby girl. praying for her arrival. praying for her protection. praying for her future. praying, yes, even for the man she would someday meet and marry. 

i know that might sound kind of crazy. like that was maybe a couple of decades too soon, right? but not really. if i could tell you how fast these 20+ years have gone, you would understand how important it was to start praying right away. there was no time to waste. 

that’s kind of what i have learned in all these years of motherhood: there really is no time to waste. we don’t have forever. the future arrives fast. the days might sometimes feel awfully long, but the years and seasons pass quickly. one moment you are kissing boo-boos and cutting up waffles and the next day you are watching your girl pick out her wedding dress. it’s the commonality of motherhood. i am not alone, i know this. but nothing--absolutely nothing-- prepares us for it. 

it’s the sweetest thing ever. it’s the swiftest thing ever.

in these past couple of months we’ve watched our girl graduate from college, get engaged, start her career, move out of our home and plan her wedding. in less than 30 days we will watch as she walks down the aisle and commits her life to that boy we prayed for all those years ago in her nursery rocking chair.

yes, for sure, i'd love to press that pause button, but, clearly, that option is not available right now. and so, like in many seasons of motherhood, i press into what i know best-- prayer. 

whether life seems to move oh-so-slowly or at the speed of light, prayer is the thing which is always available and always the best idea. when we realize the limitations of our control there is nothing more comforting than to remember the limitlessness of our Lord.

i’m not doing a terrific job expressing these emotions in this blog post tonight, but you’re just going to have trust me on this one. 

something about stepping into july this morning — into her wedding month — really put me into some kind of tizzy. in fact, with the house empty this afternoon, i sat calmly at the piano to play one of my favorites, pachebel canon in d. it is such a soothing piece of music. it is also the song i walked down the aisle to …  and will be the song emily walks down to as well. i've played this piece 100 times, but today it didn't quiet me, instead it got me ... and, yep, i cried. and since i am not skilled enough a pianist to both play notes and wipe tears, my only choice was to stop.

it's true, emotions are running a little high around here these days. should you come to visit, be warned. my boys took off today for a week in minnesota and i know they were beyond thrilled to escape both my "wedding project list" and my crazy-mother-of-the-bride emotions.

it’s going to be a big month ... a busy month. i hope to be able to share a little bit more of the excitement or details as these next few weeks unfold. but, i know you’ll understand if you don’t hear from me again until august.

did i happen to mention that a puppy also showed up on the scene in the middle of these past couple of months. rick surprised me on mother's day with this little hunk of love. meet bentley! he's a newfoundland puppy which seems to gain five pounds a day. rick thought it might help alleviate the stress of wedding planning. lol. that's another blog post for sure! bentley, though not exactly alleviating stress, is a pretty darn awesome addition to our family. =)

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.

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