You’re gonna miss this.

When I was a new mom I was quite convinced that if one more well-meaning, mature woman told me to “Enjoy your children, they grow up so fast”, I might just slap them. Of course it turned out to be the absolute truth but it’s not the kind of advice you can just receive and put into action.  Not understanding what the future will look like is part of the process of living.  So much is only understood in 20/20 hindsight.

Children growing up too fast is only part of life that you’re gonna miss someday. For some reason, this week I’ve been especially missing my parents. They’ve both passed years ago; dad has been gone 21 years and mom gone almost 16 years. How old does one have to be to quit craving a long-distance phone call with their mom and a big bear hug from their dad? I don’t have any guilt or regrets about our relationship because we were very connected and close. Sure, I would have spent even more time with them for my own sake if I knew how much I was gonna miss it.

Maybe it’s the era of Social Media, but reconnecting with friends of my youth actually adds to wishing for the past. Reminiscing together is fun for a minute but then it starts to gnaw at my heart in a longing way for those days gone by; the easy, care-free days of no responsibility with all my life ahead of me. I would have skipped the wasted time wishing I were older if I had known how much I was gonna miss it.

The lesson I’m learning is that it’s okay to visit the past but I can’t set up camp there. I have to find the new normal, the purpose, and the joy in today because it no longer takes well-meaning people to tell me that I’m gonna miss this.

Run In Your Own Lane

Run In Your Own Lane. It’s an inspirational, team-building, catch-phrase that is overused but probably because it is so true. Sometimes our lane doesn’t look as much like a track and field type lane but instead, a single path that is full of obstacles. But many of life’s races are just like a relay. We only need to run when it’s our turn and the baton is handed off to us. Then we begin to run our part. All the runners on our team behind us will cheer for us and urge us along because without you and me, they don’t win either. Each person’s leg of the race is critical to finishing the course. One person can’t run the entire race on their own and that is why each runner’s strengths are essential to continue the forward motion.

It impedes the overall progress when people are in the wrong lane or running when it isn’t their turn. These are the people we need on our team to run a good race.

Visionaries; They have a great vision for purpose, the end goal, and the are inspirational to the whole team. Detailed People; they are going to set the map, plan the rest stations, get all the equipment in place. Worker Bees; They are the long-distance, in-it-for-the-long-haul runners. Without them nobody would be there to hear the vision or follow the map. (Just don’t ask them to lead the way.)

So let’s not get in each others lane or try to take the baton when it’s not our leg of the race or we are going to royally jam things up! Run in your own lane in your appointed time.

A Collector of People

I’m not much of a collector of things. I have a small figurine collection that was built entirely because they were given to me. The same thing happened with a collection of unique salt & pepper shakers: I mentioned I’d like to start a collection & suddenly it was what everyone bought for me. But I decided that I am a collector of people. When I came to this realization I looked it up to see if it was a real thing? There are a few people with different takes on the concept but this is mine.

The general concept of collecting is to gather & cherish things of value. I have gathered so many valuable people throughout my life that I think I could consider them a collection of people. It started from the beginning of childhood. I remember family friends from when I was very young and I still try to keep in my sight, today. Childhood friends, family of any sort no matter how distant or far-removed, adult friendships from different places I’ve lived, high-school, college, former co-workers, – they all build this unique array of people who I cherish and value.

When people are new in my life they are front and center where I’m constantly aware of them, learning and seeing new details as time passes. Gradually, I get to know all their colors and am very aware of how their presence impacts me. But the very most important ones are those that came at great cost and sacrifice, either by myself or by someone who gifted them to me. Other special treasures are those that, old or new, have been present during significant seasons of life. They were just there, ready and willing to do their part.

For whatever reason, I lose some of my collection from time to time. Maybe there’s just been too many moving days – too much packing & unpacking and they have gotten lost in the shuffle. The risk of carrying extra baggage, I suppose. I remember what they look like and how I felt when I was with them, but it’s a bitter sweet memory, realizing the loss of something so valuable with such fondness. As much as I miss those people, it seems appropriate to add to the collection with new ones!

As a collector of people, I don’t posses them or own them. I’ve been rewarded with all their best qualities and learned a lot about grace. Any part of a collection has flaws that we have to overlook in order to see their real value to us, the collector. I don’t display them or show them off to one another and oftentimes they aren’t even in the same place at the same time, except in my heart.

Loves me. Loves me not.

He loves her, she loves him not. She loves him, he loves her not.  And so it goes with teen romance all the way through young adulthood.  There are crushes, dates, and actually sometimes love but there’s never been a time that one of these relationships didn’t produce character and gained maturity and understanding.

I was criticized behind my back and surprisingly to my face about the freedom with which we allowed our teenagers to date.  The boyfriends and girlfriends came and went at a pretty regular pace.  The permissive approach to dating didn’t come without rules and a lot more discussion than our kids would have probably wanted. I’m not naïve enough to believe the rules were always obeyed or the truth was always told but enough of it got through to provide them with a foundation to weigh their options when they faced making good decisions on the fly.

With each relationship, however superficial or heartfelt, they learned more about themselves and other families than if they had not been allowed to explore their role with other people.  Every boy my daughters dated, in some way helped them form their standards.  They learned behaviors and attitudes that were real deal-breakers, they saw qualities that they looked for in their future relationships and ultimately their husbands. Every girl my son dated allowed him to see the value of a good mate and in contrast, to see the pitfalls to avoid.  He too, will know what character qualities he’s looking for when he reaches the place in his life that he will choose to be in a relationship.

I’ve been criticized, or at the very least raised a few eyebrows, at how we welcomed each boyfriend or girlfriend into the family.  I can show photos of Christmases, birthdays, graduations, and even vacations where one or another of these extras were present.  We included them in order to know them, in order to be able to give guidance and know when our intervention might be necessary.  We also wanted to know what it was in these young people that captured our kid’s hearts and it often captured ours, too.

Every now and then there was a real conflict. On occasion we did a lot of agonizing over one of them and that’s when we played the parental trump card and put a stop to it. Everything is not always a negotiation, especially when as parents we could see the disaster ahead.  Our kids were no worse for wear from these teenaged dating experiences; only wiser and more aware.

I don’t believe they were wounded, scarred,or that they created any sinful “soul ties” that bound them to that ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.  Rather, they’re stronger and more secure in who they are in Christ and how grace works in their lives.

I’m happy they love to love. And I’m really, really happy that all that experience lead them to their very best loves as our two daughters grew into confident women and have added two amazing young men to the family. Ultimately, they chose well.

Some People’s Parents

Because my own peers are mostly in the same boat as me, I come in contact with a lot of empty nesters. Lately I’ve been more aware of couples who have reclaimed their lives with selfish abandon as soon as their kids are grown. Granted, there are many perks to having an empty nest but to always prefer it over the opportunity to spend time with my kids is such a foreign and unfathomable concept to me.  We will rearrange our plans and make ourselves available when they want our company.  Why wouldn’t we?  They’re independent, happy, well adjusted young adults who are fun and interesting to be around and let’s face it, at their age their lives are much busier than ours.  There isn’t anyone that I’d rather spend time with than my own kids!  I really, really like them.

The flipside to that coin is that we are still kids, too.  At least to our parents we are, if we’re lucky enough to still have them with us.  Being the parent of grown kids has made us more conscientious toward making an effort to spend time with our aging parents. Now we understand how treasured it is to have your kids around – no matter how young or old they are. 

What makes a parent separate themselves from their grown kids?  They may be grown, but they are still setting goals and working toward them, establishing life relationships, and making career decisions. Just because some magical number says they’re adults now, doesn’t mean they should have to do all of it without us.  When they come around, it’s because they love us and they really do want us to be part of their lives, and they show us honor by showing up.  We’ve modeled what we think is a decent example and then sent them to find their course but our part isn’t over and neither is the joy of doing it.

Parenthood continues – be present for it.  Being a child of an aging parent continues – be present there, too.  Enjoy being honored and always be honoring.

My House Has A Crack

My house has a crack. Just over the doorframe, creeping to the ceiling. I see it every time I come down the stairs. I asked how this happened and the answer was, “collateral damage.”
Collateral damage is defined as damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. Nothing was slammed against that wall and we had no major earthquake.  But something else, probably underneath, at the foundation had shifted, causing the crack above door.
Oftentimes I find myself being the collateral damage; a by-product of other people’s cracked foundations.  When criticized, neglected or have been rude to, I have to remember that I am not their intended target.  Something that is amiss in their foundation is creating damage all around them. 
Like the crack in my wall, no amount of putty and paint is going to fix the source of the problem. Even though the collateral damage is well hidden, repairing the foundation is the only true fix. 
Psalm 147:3 promises God can fix these broken parts. As He heals our hearts, He will show us that the cracks weren’t the source of the problem. By taking our eyes off the cracks and opening our hearts to God, the more God’s grace will repair our damaged foundation.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

It’s a Pretty Big Deal

It always takes me aback when I see an invitation or announcement that lists Family Only. As important as family is – more important than anything actually – I cringe at the exclusivity when friends are not included. In my book, friends are a pretty big deal.

Think of the people in our lives and the role they play or position they hold in our hearts. Family comes first, without a doubt and without question. We don’t choose them but we love them entirely and completely. They rank most important. But absolutely everyone else in our lives (except friends) fall into all kinds of lesser ranking relationships such as co-workers, neighbors, classmates, teammates, or acquaintances. 

Friends. We actually choose our friends. We decide we like someone and we get to know them very well. We build trust between us and them, and share some very special times of our lives together. They come only second to family. So if you’ve been chosen to be someone’s friend, understand that you are special and you hold a high place of honor in their life. There’s no such thing as being just friends. Being my friend is a pretty big deal.

Another Clip of the Apron Strings

Trying to tie my apron strings behind my back, blindly, with arms twisted and fingers working as nimbly as possible, I find that if I tie it very loosely it’s easier but that only works if the apron strings are really long. It stays in place without being too tight, and it keeps me safe from whatever mess I might get into.

While I was raising children, it’s a good thing my apron strings started out long because they got a regular trimming. As my children grew, I clipped my apron strings according to how far they’d have to stretch and how tightly a grip they needed to hang on to me. As they grew more independent, it became less of need for them to hold on to me, and more of a comfort for me to have them there at my heels. Eventually, I had to clip them so short that neither of us could benefit from the ribbons that kept us within an arms reach . Even though I still wear the apron, the string are barely long enough to tie; just enough to hold my printed, fabric armor in place. It’s the protection I wear when I’m facing the heat and sloppiness of creating something wonderful. 

Simply navigating through life throws children into messy and sometimes heated situations. My hope is that my cut short apron strings that help keep my protecting armor on, will somehow protect them, too. And I hope they always know that the comfort of my apron and that it has just enough length of the strings left to tie my children to my heart forever.