what was. what is. what is to come.

house6-13 001(2) It’s been five years since our first child entered our home, our world, our hearts. So much has changed – some expected, some surprising. There have been thrilling changes. There have been hard changes. Sometimes I find myself wondering who I am, who I’ve become. There are days that I feel as if I’ve completely lost who I was – the really good parts, the really desirable parts – since I’ve become a mom. I haven’t always wanted to let go of the roles or groups or schedules or activities or people who I was connected to, before kids.

But, I have. I’ve had to.

For me. For her.

It’s been easy to ruminate about what “was” and what “isn’t.” It’s felt natural to focus on the loss, what I didn’t want to let go of. But I’m learning, there is just as much good in what “is”…unfolding, developing, maturing…around me, in me. I want to be here, in this moment and in this season.

Change…it certainly is life-changing.

I have some friends who just had a baby – change that impacts the way they view human life and the beauty and brokenness of the world.

I have a friend whose divorce just finalized – change that impacts her role and identity and security.

I have a friend who just found out his wife has cancer – change that impacts every thought of love and companionship and his future.

I have friends whose sister-in-law just passed away – change that impacts each family member and how they step into the world and experience hope and despair, suffering and redemption.

I have a friend who just moved to a different job, a new state – change that impacts friendships and family and finances.

I have a friend whose father is remarrying two years after her mom passed away – change that impacts family dynamics and rules and rituals.

I have a friend who just adopted a child from China – change that impacts the rhythm of the home, marriage, children.

Each person, each scenario initiates finding and defining a new self – who they are in the reality of their new world. It will most likely, at times, feel uncertain and scary and hard. They might even try to grasp at the past, fighting to keep what they’ve known, resisting the new invitation and role and responsibility and tension. But what I’ve found, is that resistance only leads to suffering. It’s in the accepting that brings freedom and perspective and hope…that something fresh and good and purposeful can be birthed.

Maybe change isn’t as much about losing yourself, who you were, as it is about redefining yourself, who you are – taking all that you had become and allowing it to blend in with who you are becoming…a wiser, more compassionate, more mature, more secure, more alive, more whole self.

God’s in the business of recycling and re-purposing…because there’s a bigger, better story he’s writing – a story that needs all of who we are to show up – the parts that we’ve lost, the parts that we’re finding.

Let’s be the kind of people who give ourselves permission to release who we once were so that we are able to receive what’s right in front of us.

Let’s be the kind of people who remember where we’ve been and allow that to be a part of remaking who we are…now, in this moment.

Change…may it call out the best parts.

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unexpected moments.

Sometimes we get to plan out what’s going to happen. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we know what’s coming. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we’re confident that what’s about to happen is going to be exciting and wonderful and grand.

And, sometimes, we know that what’s coming is going to be hard and gruesome and painful.

Yet, I don’t think we could ever know or anticipate how these experiences are going to change us.

In the past few years, I’ve had these amazing and life-giving opportunities to speak around the country. I’m blown away at how I’ve been invited to offer my voice, my story, my heart. Each time I’ve felt so honored, so humbled, so overwhelmed by the openness of others to listen to my voice. Each experience has proven to be powerful and transformative for me in profound and surprising ways. Beyond grateful.

And then, last summer, the day after Father’s Day, I was asked to “speak” at a different kind of event. It was something I had never been asked to do before, something that felt even more honoring, more humbling, and actually, more scary.

One of my best friends asked me to read a letter at her father’s funeral.

Let me back up a few years. Well, maybe like 20+ years…

renee2

Renee and I have been friends since high school, and we were roommates for about three years before I got married. We’ve had countless talks over shopping excursions and car rides and pasta and chips and salsa and morning cleaning and “smokey treats” on the deck and way too many late nights. Renee is someone who shares the value of being honest and open and reflective and imaginative and silly. She’s a learner. She’s a listener. She’s sensitive. She’s kind. So, as you probably can imagine, the spectrum of our conversations were wide. I remember so many of our crazy and stupid and lazy moments filled with jokes and laughter and music and SNL replays. But, mostly, what I remember are the moments that were filled with sharing what it was like to be a part of the “real” world…what it was like to be a daughter, a sister, an employee, a person with privilege, a person of color, what it was like to feel betrayed and forgotten and misused, dreaming of all the ways we wanted to find love and what that would look like and who that would be with and what kind of wives we would be, and what it would be like to become a mother and what we would name our kids and who they would look like, and all the ways we wanted to parent similarly to our own parents while giving ourselves permission to do things differently, what it felt like to have our heart sink and soar, long for and hope and trust, and how we were always going to fight for what’s good and true, in us, in others.

renee wedding

So many moments, so many hours, so many days…sharing what it was like to be human.

Our stories were being made, being shaped, being shared. And, they still are.

I loved that then. I love that now.

And so, when she asked me to read the letter she wrote for her father’s funeral service, how in the world could I say “No” to honoring a friend like that, honoring the man who she called, “Dad”?

So, yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

Honoring because these were the words from her heart, from her memory, scattered on paper, capturing who he was as a father, as a friend, as a man. These were the words that she wanted the people in his life to remember, about him, about his life, about the way he stepped into his world.

Humbling because I was asked to do this because my friend trusted my heart for her, and had entrusted her heart to me. Essentially, I was going to represent her story, her heart.

Scary because, well, let’s face it, there were going to be hundreds of people in that church whose hearts were going to be a bit more raw that evening, whose emotions were going to be a bit more surfaced sitting in those pews. And, because when you say, “Yes” to something like this, you risk having your own heart be publicly put on display…in a microphone. And, because the emotions captured in my friend’s letter were piercing the emotions in my own soul reminding me of the loss of my mom.

Yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

I practiced and read and practiced and cried and practiced and cried some more.

And then it was time.

The funeral was an evening funeral which was lovely and beautiful and meaningful. The mood was somber, yet celebratory. There were tears and laughter and music and prayers. The service was filled with friends telling stories, friends remembering their friend. It was a gift to be a part of this group of people remembering and celebrating and affirming this man’s life.

renee and john

I’m so glad she asked. I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

Because in that moment, I was able to experience one of the most profound invitations to “speak,” to use my words, to offer my voice.

Unforgettable. Powerful. Transformative.

Sometimes, we get these unexpected moments that help us put all other moments in perspective.

May you allow yourself to be surprised by the moments you get invited into today, this week, this Father’s Day…and may they forever change you.

paulin kids

Our kids…20+ years later.

paulin kids 2

children of light.

Thrilled to introduce you to Jen Wise, a woman who’s voice invites me to lean into more of our Creator through story and food and reflection and beauty. I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing team of writers for Restoration Living, of which she is the wise and inspiring gatekeeper that pulls us together, keeps us in line, rallies our voices (aka Managing Editor). So, after a year-and-a-half of writing for her, I thought it was time to ask her to write for me – so I could share her voice with my little world, and her passion for people and wholeness and truth and living life to the full. So, what better topic than parenting as we approach summer and the shift that happens when the kids come home…to us, to our care. I know you’ll be moved and challenged and empowered to offer your best self, your whole self…to your children.

light

“Sir, are you really calling the police because there is a squirrel with a long tooth in your yard?” – Police Department to my husband.

In his defense, he had to call. It was Saturday morning and we were wrapping up a leisurely waffle breakfast when I noticed a new squirrel in our backyard. This little guy stood out because he was eating his waffle (don’t judge – it’s their weekend too, you know!) on the right side of his mouth. Sticking out of the left side was a gigantic tooth that looped up and around, rubbing the fur off his face. A quick Google search told me that this squirrel was not going to survive unless someone caught it, sedated it, and trimmed that crazy tooth. I knew we needed to get help – call animal control – this is an emergency!

My husband didn’t share my concern.

That’s when the tears started. First me. Then the kids. Then he caved.

As it turns out, the Police had absorbed Animal Control due to budget cuts. To say they weren’t concerned would be an understatement. We were to “let the squirrel take its natural course”.

This, obviously, led to more tears.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a squirrel, toughen up, this is life. And you’re right – this is life. And that’s why I cried. Hard.

SPROUTING

There is something heart wrenching about watching your children stumble upon the realities of our world. Sometimes bad things will happen. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do. Sometimes (many times) other people aren’t going to care about what you care about.

So yes, I cried about a squirrel… but really it’s so much more than the squirrel. It’s grieving what’s broken in the world. It’s grieving that this world is broken at all. It’s grieving that my young idealistic children are slowly making this realization.

And don’t most of us go through this ourselves? As our lives sprout we believe that if we’re good, the world around us will cooperate. We believe that if we’re kind, others will respond likewise. We believe that if we do the right thing we will be safe and successful and life will play out the way we believe it should.

By the time we have roots and branches we’ve seen and felt enough to know better.

EYES OPEN

An introduction to brokenness comes as a tidal wave for some: sexual abuse, chronic sickness, natural disasters, or the death of a parent. I cannot even pretend to understand the profound impact these events have on a young heart. For most of us though, our realization is more of a trickle. Throughout our days we encounter moments that highlight the truths we’d rather have kept in the dark.

Our family has walked through many of these ‘enlightening’ moments over the last few years, necessitating some difficult and sometimes painful conversations. Some of these include being hurt by friends, the disparity of wealth in our community, and the death of a family member. Beyond that, the extinction of dinosaurs, where meat comes from (and what makes it more or less ethical to purchase), the marketing and selling of things that are bad for us, and the sickening reality that some people just want to hurt kids.

The thing is, no matter how much I want to tell my boys that the world is whole – no matter how much I want to shield them from knowing that it’s not – I can’t. And I shouldn’t.

We keep media to a pretty innocent level in our home – there are certain topics we generally steer away from – and we don’t alert them to every tragedy that crosses our headlines. Still, we don’t lie to them. We do let them know, on their level, what disappointments and dangers loom. We are open about the brokenness that they are sure to bump up against.

UNSHAKEN

Rather than a reactive stance of explaining-away or putting a rosy spin on everything, we take a proactive stance of preparing our children for what they will inevitably discover. We take opportunities now, while they’re young and under our care, to get their toes wet. We let them experience a bit of unfairness. We encourage them to take risks with new opportunities and face fears out of their comfort zone. We resist the (very strong) urge to protect them from every feeling of discomfort or pain.

Help them face fears and hold up against disillusionment now while they have the luxury of your support. They’ll be better equipped to remain grounded in the years to come.

And this goes for us as well. Step into that new social scene – take on that project that’s a little intimidating – volunteer in a place you’d rather pretend doesn’t exist. It’s good for us, it’s also good for our kids to observe us stepping forward, taking risks, opening our eyes, facing fears and coming out the other side.

FORWARD, UPWARD

Ultimately, the key to coming out the other side well, as children and as adults, is a deep understanding of identity and purpose. When we know who we are and the value we hold – when we know why we’re here and the role we play in all of this – we’re less likely to be thrown for a loop when the landscape shifts.

There are so many opportunities to help your children understand their identity, for us these moments are some of the strongest. Upon every hard realization, every burden, every tear, we have a chance to invite our children to walk with us – a chance to remind them that this is why we’re here, this is what this is all about. We’re binding wounds, working for wholeness, bearing light, and loving this world.

This points them forward, upward. It helps them, and us, have a grounding that is not dependent on a pain-free sheltered life. It turns those moments from despair and disillusionment to moments that propel us forward, stepping more fully into who we are, stepping more confidently into our role as healers.

Our family has an identity, we know who we are, we know our role in the world – the darkness does not change that. The bad things that we see from our path, that cross our path, and that sometimes will explode on our path do not change who we are, what we are called to, and what we are working towards.

When this is rooted in our souls – we aren’t easily shaken.

May we embrace who we are and our role in this world. May we walk confidently forward with eyes wide open to see the brokenness around us and where we can extend healing. And may we, with grace and strength, invite our children into the process of restoring their world as well.

BIOPICFINAL_WEB Jen is a compassionate theologian, obsessive foodie, constant hostess and voracious reader. She attended Cornerstone University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary earning a MA in Theology. Jen is the managing editor of Restoration Living. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Philadelphia. Catch up with her on twitter @jenlwise.