Celebrating

I haven’t written for a while because my Nana died, and I didn’t know how or what to write about that.  I was able to travel to say goodbye to her, and I have to say that I know God is real when you can sit at your Nana’s kitchen table, silent and jumbled-up and with an aching soul—and simultaneously knowing and feeling that He is at the table with you, not because you’re doing or saying or thinking anything good, but because He is good and He loves you.  God has met me in some very interesting places over the years, and this is one I’ll always remember—not because a miraculous healing occurred or because my heart was overcome with joy or because I heard a clear message or suddenly felt equipped to do the hard thing in front of me, but because He was there, and that was enough.

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I could talk for a long time about the experience of saying goodbye to someone, but Nana directed our feelings when she shared with us, “Don’t be afraid. This was easy.  I know where I’m going, and I’ll see all of you there.”  It was a sweet time, and I’m so, so grateful I got to be there.

A few weeks later, I was privileged to join my entire family to celebrate her life.  There was fresh snow, a freezing graveside service, a beautiful and inspiring church service, tears, laughter, wine, coffee, and unexpected train rides, so the entire thing felt a little bit surreal-ly balanced between happy and sad.

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After saying goodbye to Nana and beginning to reflect on her legacy, I have a clarified outlook on what really “sticks” at the end of your life, and I’m freshly aware that I am responsible for living now as the kind of person I want to be.  Sifting through Nana’s life made me realize that I want to be more intentional about being a good friend, making family memories, and doing the things that I enjoy (instead of thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to…” and then shelving the activity for some unspecified date).  

Thus…

Zoe and I went on a breakfast-and-sunrise date last week.

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I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful weather and taking my girls to the beach with friends.

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When we leave the beach, we often stop for a sweet treat.  I’ve decided it’s just going to be an official, regular thing now.  I want my adult children to say, “remember when we were little and we’d go to the beach, and we’d always get ice cream/a chocolate muffin?!! That was the best!!!” 

I went on a beach weekend with my own friends, too (and we left the kids behind)!!!! This should also be an official, regular thing. 🙂

I went to an international fitness dance expo with two similarly dance-crazed friends and danced for two hours.

IMG_0274Clearly, we looked just like the lead dance instructor. #not

I’ve been enjoying a walk or two on our treadmill each week once the girls are in bed.  I wear Zoe’s toddler headphones (which don’t fall out of my ears like the dumb iPod ones) and praisewalk/dance like a loon to random Christian music playlists.  IMG_0262

I have thoroughly been enjoying my little ladies and the daily adventures they bring into my life.

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I am trying to find the humor and universality in the little annoyances of parenting.

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And I am trying to soak up the little moments…because they add up to the bigger picture of my life.

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Thank you, Nana, for all you taught me, and for all you keep teaching me.

 

2017 Goals / Powersheets Review

We’re 19 days into 2017 and I have to say, so far, I have liked this year, minus the news that someone close to me is sick.

I usually do some posts about goal setting around the New Year, but this year, I took it offline and went through Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system.  Powersheets are not for everybody—my mom said “this is a NIGHTMARE” when I showed her the book, and David kept karate-chopping the air and saying “POWERSHEETS” dramatically whenever I would talk about it—but I’m really enjoying the way the system encourages you to break down bigger goals into small action steps.

I’ll keep my 55 pages of “whys” and “what I want to cultivate” to myself in case you’re on Team My Mom and all of this make you want to barf, but I still wanted to share a few of my goals, in case they encourage anyone else!

My big goals for the year are: 

  1. Establish a pattern of intentional action, celebration, & rest.

  2. Infuse my life and work with more creativity.

  3. Develop a deeper awareness of God’s presence and voice. Live with awareness of spiritual reality.

  4. Keep cultivating a fun & flourishing marriage.

  5. Embrace and enjoy this season. Engage in the little moments and enjoy them as gifts. Use what I have now instead of looking ahead/behind.

  6. Be proud of how I use my energy.

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Through the Powersheets process, I created small action steps that let me see that I am making progress on these goals. It’s really energizing and encouraging.  Here are a few of my daily goals for January that fit into the big goals:

Read the Bible/have quiet time every day.  I’ve been waking up whenever my first child wakes up (usually between 5-5:30) and giving them a little bowl of dry Cheerios to eat in their bed with some books.  Then I go out to the kitchen and journal and read with my tea until 6 am when the kids are allowed out of bed. I’m using the One Year Bible and so far, I’m keeping up!!! At one point, I got three days behind and almost gave up because every day is a lot of content, but I spent two nights catching up and I’m back on track! Whoohoo! Since I have committed to this goal, I am also going to bed earlier, so I feel better rested in general.

Complete one cleaning task per day. I made a list of all the “once a month” cleaning tasks, and am doing one per day. (For example, today, I washed our windows, mirrors, and appliances.)  This way, I don’t have to strain to remember what should be cleaned—I just consult the list and see what seems like fun not awful to do that day.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.

Have “present lunch.” I’m trying to sit down and engage in conversations with or read to my girls during lunch time, instead of shuffling through the mail, cleaning up the dishes, scanning my e-mail, texting a friend to coordinate afternoon plans, etc.  Mealtimes are hard for Zoe and she often doesn’t eat lunch on Riley’s schedule, so the bonus of living out this goal is that I often end up getting 1×1 time with each girl.

Sit down for 1×1 reading time with each girl each day.  We usually do a bedtime story, but I want to do more reading with each girl.  So far, this has been the hardest goal because my children do not sit still for long!

img_9330My weekly (non-work) goals this month are:

Take a Sabbath each week–celebrate and rest! I started this over the fall, and felt the desire to continue to grow in this area.  I am reading an amazing book that is deepening my practice of and commitment to Sabbath.  One great idea from the book: make dinner easy on your Sabbath day.  The last two weekends, I have picked up a prepared meal from our grocery store on Sabbath, and it really lets me sink deeper into relaxation when I know that dinner is already taken care of and there aren’t any dishes!

Work out four times. I have been in a steady routine of 3x/week for the last year, but I was ready to challenge myself! Having this goal “forces” me to exercise one evening or weekend day each week, which builds on my weekly “Sabbath” goal since I find exercise really fun and recharging!

Listen to a podcast each week. This encourages my creativity and can also encourage me spiritually and/or in my marriage, depending on which podcast I’m listening to!  My favorite podcast is The God Centered Mom, but I also really enjoy Creative Empire, Coffee & CrumbsInspired to Action, and just about anything Lara Casey puts out.

Complete weekly life planning. Figure out what our obligations are, what we’re eating, who’s buying the groceries and when, what the girls and I will do during our time together, when David and I will work out, what my work projects are and when I’ll do them, and what needs to be done around the house.

Speak my people’s love languages. Looking at this goal each week helps remind me to speak love to my family members in the way they receive it, not just the way that is easy/natural to me.  For Riley, my cuddler, I seriously just have to remember to sit down throughout the day and make my lap available to her.  It’s a simple way to love her, but I’m not the “sit down” OR “cuddle” type, so I have to remind myself to do it. Within ten seconds, she’s usually on my lap, so I know it’s filling her little love tank.

img_5274(Fun fact: Zoe took this photo!)

With the Powersheets system, you check in every day and every week and indicate with progress bars and check boxes how you’re progressing towards your goals.  I have found that it is really easy to remember to do this, and it’s so motivating to see that I am actually making progress on goals that otherwise feel abstract.  I love looking at my week with the goals in mind and deciding when I’m going to take small steps that add up to meaningful goals, instead of just hoping that I have time to take the steps.  I also really enjoy the Powersheets philosophy of setting meaningful goals, pursuing progress over perfection, and taking small steps that add up to your big goals.

Basically, if you’ve been on the fence about Powersheets, I either just convinced you to purchase them, or run far, far away, depending on your personality type.

This weekend, I’ll be checking out a potential future kindergarten for Zoe, organizing our storage room with David while my in-laws watch the girls (we’re turning it into a home gym space!!), meeting a friend for coffee, and skipping church and taking the girls to the beach to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday.  I’ll also be starting my friend Brittnie’s new book.  I can’t wait!

What are you up to? 

Saturday Morning Miracles

About a month ago, I took the girls to a birthday party on a Saturday morning.

When we got home, I texted my mom the exciting news about what had happened at the party and what had happened afterwards.

NOTHING.

For one of the few times in the last year…we were in a large, unstructured social setting and my daughter could identify and communicate what she needed.  She didn’t lash out, didn’t scream, didn’t get overwhelmed, didn’t get physically aggressive.  She didn’t cry on the way home.  She didn’t collapse or melt down when we walked back in the door at home.  Instead, she sat down and played with her party favors.

And me?

I didn’t have any new scratch marks. I wasn’t on the verge of tears.  I wasn’t discouraged or frustrated or confused.  Instead, I was bursting with pride and amazement.

It was mid-June of last year when I determined that my daughter was not developing the way that I expected to see and began to make appointments for her.  I have spent this year trying to understand who my daughter is, what she needs, and how I can help her be comfortable and successful.

It hasn’t been a continuous process—there have been starts and stops and “wait and see”s and “try this” and “keep trying this.”

For months, I saw limited-to-no improvement, which was tough, because I was WORKING.  I have never questioned whether I would keep going—because she is my daughter and so there isn’t a question—but I have wondered whether I COULD.

It has been intense.  It has taken more than I ever thought I could give.  The hardest part for me has not been the work, or the way that her behavior makes me feel, or the way that I sometimes worry that it reflects on me and my parenting.

The hardest part has been that her behavior, and her feelings that drive it, are distressing to her.    

Seeing my child in distress—and feeling powerless to understand and protect her from it, even though I am trying—and fighting to keep my joy in parenting intact instead of letting circumstances slowly mute it—these have been my particular burdens and challenges in the last year.  I know that many people carry much heavier burdens, and I am not complaining as I share this.  I didn’t expect that parenting—and particularly parenting a child who wasn’t given the best environment in utero—would be easy.  I just imagined that with lots of effort, you’d get answers or progress or incremental change or insight or acceptance or something.  Hitting a wall—but not knowing how to get over it—was maddening.

This spring, a failed hearing screening led us to our pediatrician’s office, which led us to an audiology appointment, which led us to an occupational therapist’s office, which led us—finally—to something.

It has led us to an explanation that, regardless of its loose fit, has helped me understand and help her.  To therapy that has built her skills.  To charts on my wall.  To a visual calendar.  To an arsenal of physical coping instruments.  And to birthday parties in which my child—who wants to attend, and wants to have fun—is able to make a plan ahead of time for success, communicate her needs, ask for a break, and rejoin the party.

There are still skills to be built on her end and on mine.  But my almost-daily “8 pm: cry tears of frustration” appointment has been moved to a less regular time slot.

One of my favorite writers wrote something a while ago that has challenged me:

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I’m still learning those last sentences.  For so long in this process, I think I labored under the lie that if I could just do something different, it would make all the difference for her.  I’m learning that the thing I can do to make all the difference for her is to accept and unconditionally love the child that I have been given, and to accept the parenting journey that I am on with her.

The lie was tricky to identify, because it didn’t come from a selfish place.  I didn’t want her to be different for my benefit; I wanted her to be different so her life will be easier.  But no amount of work on my end can take who she is and turn her into something that she isn’t, and no amount of work on my end can take away the struggles that she has been assigned. In my attempts to help her change, I was accidentally standing in her way.

A week or two before we got the diagnosis, David told me (during my 8 pm cry): “the reason that you don’t have any hobbies is because your hobby is trying to solve Zoe’s problems.”  I cringed, because he was right and because I knew it wasn’t healthy.  A diagnosis has helped me so much, not just in understanding her, but in accepting that she needs some help outside of me.

When I see strange behaviors now, I still feel sad or frustrated on her behalf, but I’m learning to observe her behavior without feeling like I have to solve it.  Instead, I make a mental note to share with her therapist, or decide I can just observe it and add it to my internal files without necessarily needing to process it and respond.

I’m learning to remind myself of “the village:” the amazing OTs who love her.  The preschool that has met with us to prepare to welcome her.  Our family that has tried to learn along with us, and who communicate love and support to her every time they talk with her.  The buddies who love her and who she feels safe with, and whose parents keep inviting her over even if we have to leave a play date early sometimes.  Her sister, who surrenders the parental attention when needed without being sad about it, and who goes to the other room to get her sister’s teether and blanket for her without being asked. We are so blessed.

I recently made a photo book of her adoption story.  She has enjoyed looking at the photos and listening to me read the simple text.  Interestingly, her main questions haven’t been about her birth mom or why people she doesn’t know visited her in the hospital.  Her repeated question is some variation of the following: “were you happy I was born? Were you happy I was your daughter?”

Our faces in the photo book answer her question; we are quite literally glowing with delight.  My hope is that she still feels that delight every day.  I am SO happy she was born and I am SO happy she is my daughter.

Our world needs this gem of a human being. And I do too.

IMG_5232(This is Zoe after a birthday party where she chose to bravely face her fears of unstructured settings, loud noises, an unfamiliar environment, and—the shocker to me—getting her face painted by the artist at the party.  

I could tell that she thought that the other kids’ face painting was cool, but she was nervous about it due to her sensory sensitivities.  I wound up sitting down in “the chair” and letting her pick a design for my hand so she could observe what body painting was and maybe feel more comfortable getting something done next time.  At the end of my hand painting session, she decided that she wanted to get her hand painted.  I could tell she was anxious, but she used her coping skills and was thrilled with our matching mermaid hands. After about 30 minutes of staring at her hand, she asked to return to the chair to get her whole face painted. She was glowing with pride and accomplishment afterwards, so naturally, we had to take some photos when we got home…and leave the face paint on for church the next morning! Nothing says “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” like some Elsa face paint!!)

A Reminder

A few nights ago, I walked out of my house with a dog and a heavy burden.  My day had begun with 4:45 am wake ups and ended with feelings of exhausted failure.  As my faithful dog and I plodded through the streets of my neighborhood, all I could think of was what I did wrong—what I could have done better—where I failed and where I didn’t do my best.

Then I looked at the beautiful clouds in front of me and realized: those thoughts are not from Him.

God doesn’t love me because I am a good parent.

He loves me because I am His.

In fact, God wouldn’t love me any less if I was a horrible parent.  Even if I was a deliberately neglectful or unashamedly self-centered parent, He would still love me the same.  His love for me is not based on my performance or goodness, but on His.

Parenting feels really important and IS really important, but it’s not all there is to me, and it’s not all up to me.  At the end of the day, He holds my kids and He holds me.  Nothing I do (good or bad) is as important as what He has already done.  And anything good I have done is Him, anyway.

The Holy Spirit is here to help me and encourage me, to coach and guide me and give me wisdom—not to burden me with shame and not to make me walk around with a pile of guilt weighing me down.

The Lord gives lightness.  Purpose.  Direction.  Wisdom.  Insight.  Energy.  Grace.  Love.  Rest.  Yes, He convicts—but always through the stream of those other things.  Anything else isn’t Him.

I just wanted to share these reminders with anyone who may need them.  And remind me too, ok?

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(image source)

On Love

I haven’t written anything about our failed adoption in a long time, and as much as I would like to say that my heart is all healed, it’s still something I think about often.  It’s so weird to me that the baby that was almost ours is now 15 months old.  I wonder if she looks like Zoe did at 15 months.  I wonder if she has Zoe’s spunk and zest for life, if she says as many words as Zoe did.  I wonder if she is being cared for in any minimally appropriate way.  I think about her, and I wonder, and I have no answers.

At the same time, I look at my second beautiful daughter—the one I wouldn’t trade for anything—and rejoice.  I rejoice and I marvel and I realize that I couldn’t possibly have the answers.  I only see a hands-breadth in front of me.

Trusting God to work purpose through my pain and entrusting God with someone I love are among the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Yet that is what we are called to do everyday as Christians and as parents and as life-livers.  The things we grasp tightest didn’t originate with us.  Loosening our hands and lifting them up with thanksgiving and trust is the only response that will free us to truly enjoy them.  You can’t own or earn grace.  You just live in it.

The same is true for answers.  You can’t own or earn them either.  Sometimes, you are given them, and sometimes you just live in the mystery—and that is still grace, although not always in ways you appreciate.

With that perspective, it feels trite to try to understand: “if it hadn’t been for Brianna, we would have never been in the adoption process and we would have never gotten Riley!” because really? If God wanted us to have them both, He would have made a way (thankfully for my sanity, He did not make this happen).  I’ve found that adoption makes you wonder what God really intends as plan A and plan B and I am increasingly hesitant to speak for God on these matters.

But what I do know is this: despite the pain, loving Zoe, Brianna, Riley, and their birthparents has been a gift and a privilege.

We are meeting Riley’s biological family this week for lunch and I am so excited to look into her birthparents’ eyes, give them warm hugs, and hear—really hear—how they are doing.  I am thrilled to show them how our child is growing and developing and how she claps to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  I am nervous to see my parenting reflected through their eyes; I am hopeful they think we’re doing it well.  I am not new to this, so I know there will be some awkward moments and some lulls in the conversation where we don’t know what to say next. But I also know there is a gift of grace that binds us all together.

Glennon Dolyle Melton writes about her conversation with her young son after the death of his favorite fish:

“When he asked me, “why, mom? Why does God send us here where things hurt so much? Why does he make us love things that he knows we’re going to lose?” I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever; we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer.  Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways.  Even if people and animals leave, even if they die, they leave us better.  So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us and changes us.  And that’s what we’re here to do.”
–“On Fish and Heaven,” from Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed

I am thankful to have had the chance to love and to learn about love from these people.  It has made me stronger and weaker in the right ways and I am better for it.

For The Mothers Less Acknowledged

About a year ago, I wrote about something no one told me about being an adoptive mom: namely, that I carry my daughter’s birth mom in my heart every day.

When I rock Zoe in the afternoon light, I see a hint of blue and green in her eyes and think of the eyes they came from.  When I saw Zoe take her first steps, I half-wished her birth mother could be sitting next to me seeing the baby who came out of her body taking these final steps out of infancy.  When I watched cool winds blow through Zoe’s hair on a mountain vista this summer, I thought of her birth mother, who has never left Florida, and wondered if she could imagine the things her nine month old had experienced.

I don’t think about her a pathological amount or anything.  But I do think about her, and especially on the weekend of Mother’s Day.

Because she is a mother.

I’ve never written about this, but for the first year of Zoe’s life, I felt a lot of guilt.  I felt like I had taken something precious from someone else, like I had gotten a blessing while her birth mom had only lost and suffered.

When I opened up to others about this, they always said something like “oh, but you helped that birth mom!” To me, this was never sufficient as an answer.  I know the deep love that I feel for Zoe and the joy and purpose that I get from being her mother.  I cannot fathom living without that or willingly giving that up.  I cannot imagine the loss as your milk comes in and there is no child there to feed because you’ve evaluated your life situation and decided that your child is better off with someone else.  How can you go on after that?

So for a year, I felt guilty for “taking” a baby from someone else.  I felt guilty for having a better start to my life than Zoe’s birth mom did, for having more resources than she did, for having the ability and background to make different choices than she did.  I LOVE adoption, but I almost felt presumptuous to have participated in it, like who am I to say that I could be a better parent than someone else?    

Throughout our (ultimately failed) second adoption process, I got more information about Zoe’s birth mom’s situation than I got the first time, and it’s alarming.  I am so proud of her for placing Zoe for adoption, for having the courage to say I want better for my girl.  

I’ve finally accepted what David, our social worker, and basically everyone involved has said from day one: we helped this birth mother find a situation she felt was best for her child and we provided resources that she needed.  We helped solve a problem—we did not create one.  We didn’t say “we’re good and you aren’t.”  We said “our world is broken and it affects all of us.  We want to do something to help.”  

And yet I understand why she couldn’t do it again.

I have some firsthand experience now of just how difficult it is to lay down your desire to be a child’s mother.  I know the months of tears you can cry for a child you barely knew.  I know the unfulfilled yearnings to hold a baby against your chest, to learn her cues, to see her happy milk-drunk smile, to brush your hand against her cheek, to see her hold her head up for the first time.  I know the curiosity of what she is doing right now, the hopes that she is safe, the wondering of what she will grow into when you can’t see her every day.

I don’t feel guilty anymore.  But I still feel for Zoe’s birth mom, and for myself, and for every mother who knows the pain of love and loss.

Motherhood isn’t just about the babies you can see in front of you.  It’s about the babies that you never met, the ones you met briefly, the children taken too soon, and the ones you’ve lost to this broken world with its failed relationships, difficulties, and hardships.

Every child counts.  And every mother counts.

Whether your child walks this earth or walks with Jesus, whether your child holds your hand or someone else’s, whether your child acknowledges you today or not—you are a mother.

And although you may not be celebrated or remembered by the world today—though no one may know the feelings you experience today—the Lord is with you.  He knows you intimately, He loves you deeply, and He will not forget you.

He says: “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” -Isaiah 49:16a

6 BWYou know something about that kind of love.

Let Him embrace you today with it.

To My Valentine

This morning, I heard my husband say the sweetest thing:

“Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you so much! This is a special day because it’s all about love, and I love YOU.  You will always have a Valentine for your entire life.  You’ll never be lonely on Valentine’s Day, because I will always be your Valentine.” 

But my husband wasn’t saying these sweet words to me.  He was saying them to Zoe.

And with those words, I was reminded again of why this man is my Valentine (Zoe, we can share.)

Let me explain.

 

Last night, I hosted my weekly high school girls’ Bible study.  We wore pink and red and ate Valentine’s day cupcakes and treats while we talked about love, reading these words from Colossians 3 (MSG version:)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The girls and I talked about how in high school (and even in early adulthood,) girls don’t always look for these characteristics in guys.  The boy with compassion and quiet strength isn’t always our first pick; no one ever says “have you met the new guy in our class?!! He is so humble!”

But when it comes down to it, these characteristics are what make someone a good partner.  A good friend.  A good lover.  The best person for you to spend your life with.

Any guy can scratch his head enough and eventually come up a romantic gesture or a compliment.

But he can’t come up with character without a lot of effort.  He can’t show Colossians 3 love without a lot of dedication and intention.

The guy who unselfconsciously tells your daughter that he loves her and that she always has a Valentine when he doesn’t even know you’re listening is the guy you REALLY want to be with.  He’s the one that will spur you on to be your best; he’s the one that will make you feel the most loved; he’s the one you need.

I’m so glad I have that guy.  I’m so glad he picked me.  XO

Love and Carrots

I met him in the frozen vegetables section.  He was looking for carrots.

Zoe was in the baby seat of the grocery cart, spitting repetitively (it’s a new “skill,” one she shared with an airplane full of people yesterday and the congregation members at our traditional service today.  You’re welcome.)

He looked over and smiled. “She has a lot to say, doesn’t she?”

I smiled back, a bit ruefully. “She sure does.”

“She always will,” he said. “I have a 13 year old and she still has a lot to say.  It’s important to listen.”

I pleasantly agreed.  He looked at Zoe again.

“They grow up fast.  My baby’s starting high school this week.”

And then I heard it.  The emotion in his voice.

Dang.

The follow up question was already out of my mouth.  I don’t know what it is about me, but roughly every fifth person I encounter winds up letting me in on their emotional junk.  I’ve had conversations about body image and divorces over the ab mats at the gym, given free life coaching to the bagger at the grocery store who feels stuck in his life (I only buy $75 worth of groceries at a time…so he opened up fast,) and learned the family history of a lady I met on the airplane yesterday, culminating in me volunteering to pray for her ailing mother.  What the heck.

I honestly don’t even think I’m that good of a listener.  I’m just a sucker for the verbal ellipses that indicate more to the story and I long for everyone to feel heard and understood. Put those together and you have hour and a half long trips to the grocery store and a man crying in the frozen food section.

And that’s what he did.

We talked about how his baby was starting high school and turning 14, all in one week.  He’s worried about high school.  Time is going too fast.  Will she get hurt? Will it be a good experience for her?

I knew a little about the high school she was attending and I reassured him that she will meet some good kids—that I know some good kids that go there.

He wasn’t concerned about friends; she had 10 kids at her house that night for a sleepover.

“That’s good,” I said.  “If she thinks your house is a good place to hang out, you’re doing something right.  You can keep a better eye on them if your house is the hang-out spot.”

Apparently I sounded just like his wife, who said that she wouldn’t care if 50 kids were at the house as long as they wanted to be there.

He was sorry, he said as he blinked away tears.  He was just having a really hard time with it.  It was going too fast.  She’s his baby.

When they were expecting her, he had hoped for a boy…but he got a girl instead.  Later, when his wife got pregnant again, he hoped for another girl.  He had changed.  There’s something special about girls.  And something special about your first.  And when they grow up, it kills you.

As I listened to him talk, all I could think was this: some children have no idea how much they are loved.  

I thought of the moms I know from church who just dropped their kids off at college.  You see how hard it is, how much they love their kids when you ask “how’s so-and-so doing at college so far” and they immediately tear up, apologizing profusely and missing so strongly.

I thought of my dad, who wanted our entire family to listen to the positive report that my brother’s internship supervisor gave him this summer.  He repeated the comments, bursting with joy and pride.

I thought of my grandmother who, for a period, spoke with my uncle on the phone every single day because he was having a hard time.  He was a fully launched adult, but he needed his mom and she gave her time to him every single day without making him feel ashamed for needing it.

I think of parents I know who discipline their children, not out of a need to control their kids but out of a desire for their kids to have healthy lives and relationships.  These parents do their best to balance grace and truth even when their kids resist and sometimes hate them for it.

I think of myself and the sacrifices my parents have made for me over the years—some that I’ve acknowledged with gratitude, some that I’ve overlooked, some that I’ve quite frankly been a giant jerk about.

Parental love is not a given.  That’s hard for me to understand, because I love my daughter with all of me, but I’ve worked with many kids whose parents just don’t know how to love them and so I know that there are things that make it hard for some people to step into that role.

So when I see a parent with that unashamed, unabashed love for their child…well, it is a beautiful thing.

Because of my relationship with teenagers from our church, I just wanted to write this down and say that if your parents love you like this or even try to love you like this…please understand when they have a hard time letting you go to college or when they set curfews or when they freak out because you haven’t called them to report that you successfully drove one mile to your friend’s house.  Yes, it seems stupid to you in this moment and it probably IS a little irrational, but you hold their entire heart in your hands.  They love you so much that they can CRY OVER FROZEN CARROTS TO A TOTAL STRANGER when they think about you getting left out, feeling scared, or making decisions that will hurt you.  So have a little grace towards their protectiveness, and maybe even try sharing an “I love you” from time to time outside of Mother’s or Father’s Day (it won’t kill you, I promise.)

And parents who love their kids? Carry on.  It is transforming your kids even when it feels like a weight and you are changing the world through your love, patience, and intentionality with them.  It is awesome to watch and you are my heroes.