life at six. a letter from her mama.

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Dear Skyla,

Girrrrl…happy birthday! My heart is smiling as I watch you skip into six with all the passion inside you. This day…you’ve been ready for it forever! It’s amazing how you, my sweet girl, look forward to turning another page, another chapter of your life. You can’t get there fast enough. And me, your mama whose nearing forty, wants to keep the page secure and in place – for you, for me – because right now, the innocence and wonder and softness of this world feels just right for you, so natural.

I wanna stay. You wanna go.

There’s something in you pulling you forwards. There’s so much in me that pulls me backwards.

You and me – we have this little dance we do. The pieces of who you are draws me in, shapes the way I embrace mothering, and keeps taking me to places I’ve never traveled before. Our relationship reminds me that I’m brave in really ordinary ways, just as much as it reminds me of all the ways I can get stuck, all the places that still need healing. And then the parts of me that spill out onto you…they’re shaping you, too. I see it show up in how you talk and how you move, in what you care about and don’t care about, and in your little, big personality.

We dance, we disconnect, we come back together, over and over again.

And about this little, big personality…it intrigues me, it ignites me, it infuses into me. I see you. I notice you. I’m learning what it means to know you – what frightens you, what delights you, what hurts you, what your heart needs to soar, how your body and brain crave to feel protected.

You have this charm that makes those closest to you want to stay right beside you.

You have this intensity that goes into almost everything you do, which keeps your independence and strength fiercely untouchable. (We believe this will become an asset someday.)

You have a curiosity and wonder about the world that makes the simple, everyday things in life new and alive, waiting for you to discover and understand.

You have this certainty – that life and people are for you to embrace, wholeheartedly, with conceit.

You have a desire within you to feel safe – with your surroundings, in relationships. You always have. It shows up in unpredictable and surprising ways, knocking me off of my feet, just as much as I presume it knocks you off yours too.

You have this sincere honesty that never makes us question what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. It’s up front and forthright, learning to wrap itself with grace and kindness and respect.

And then there’s this vulnerable and tender part of you. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but I see it. Oh, girl! I want you to know how much I see this part too. When it shows up, it melts away all the hard that comes with parenting in a matter of seconds. You let me in to the most true and sweet places of your soul, and it feels so good to be right there, with you. And even if it’s just for a few fleeting minutes, I hope something in you knows that during all the moments that this part of you is tucked away, it’s so worth it to wait for those few moments where it feels like we’re together, when all is right in the world.

And ohhhh, those milestones you reached this past year: switching from four wheels to two, losing your first three teeth, learning how to read, memorizing Christmas program songs, navigating around on the computer and iPad and TV, practicing “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” and “Let’s start over,” and the way you’re just about to finish all-day Kindergarten with flying colors. Each progression is part of growing up and being human, yet each one in it’s own way comes with great bravery and perseverance and a new kind of freedom, both internally and externally. We celebrate these accomplishments and feel gratitude for what has needed to develop and mature in order to execute each experience.

Oh, Honey Bee, there’s so much I want to show and tell you about the world – to protect you, to prepare you, to help you learn what it means to offer your truest, most best self. Yet what I’m learning, what I’m being humbled by, is that you have to experience the shortcuts and mountains, the edges and crevices, the tension and restoration, yourself. I keep being reminded that this parenting journey isn’t about carving out a perfect path for you. I think Jesus had something up his sleeve when he gave me to you and you to me. However his sovereignty impacts us, I know that what we’ve shared in these six years, he’s using to make my heart soften so that I can awaken to my opportunity, not duty, to teach you less about “my” world and more about “his” world, and how he invites you to jump into it with all of who you are. He’s so good like that. And however it happens, as I parent you differently from my own experience, there’s this profound sense that God is mysteriously reparenting me in the fragile places where I need a bit more nurture and grace and love. Wow.

And I love…the way your affinity towards your brother keeps growing, how you make him laugh so hard, how you teach and tell him what to do and what not to do, how you help him and care for him and play with him. I’m grateful for how everything that you are adds to all that he is, and more. And, I love that all of who he is, adds to all of who you are. I love my Korean/Norwegian/Dutch sibs. So much.

And that daddy of yours…you draw him in. He’s so proud that you’re his daughter. He tells me late at night when you’re all tucked in and sleeping. I love hearing him talk about you and what enters his life because of your life – the challenging and confusing and hilarious and entertaining and special things. I’m so glad he talks to me about all of these things, because that’s what makes me know he sees all of you. The eyes of his heart are wide open, and I watch him offer something I wish I could do more of…so much grace, so much acceptance, so much presence. Girl, you’ve got your daddy’s heart.

So, year five leaves you stepping a little more away from our influence and protection. We’ve watched how the “outside” world grabs at you in subtly powerful ways as more experiences have found their way into “your” world, defining what’s cool and what’s not, new words and “bad” words and hurtful words, clothing style and lifestyles, peer pressure and paradigms. They just come in, unannounced and uninvited – through technology and public places and people. We pray for God’s divine discernment in how to respond rather than resist. We pray that your heart will be open to all the good that we have to offer, alongside of all the good the world has to offer. May you know, deep in your soul, what you have to offer – in friendships, in our family, in our community, for the kingdom. And, as the world flies by you or sticks to you or confuses you or pleases you, may you lay your head down on your pillow each night knowing how good your heart is, how loved it is – by him, through us.

So, together we skip right into six, with you. Taking all that has been with us, and allowing it to to complement and be used for all that is needed for this year, a new year. There are parts of me that wish we could stay right here, in this season, but onward we go. And maybe on the way, we’ll get a glimpse of Elsa’s Ice Palace, or maybe first grade, or maybe new friends, or maybe even more love.

So, let’s go, girl!

Love you…so, so much.

Love, Your Mama

***My song, this year, for you: Never Grow Up (Taylor Swift)

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day one.

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She did it. She stepped into the world of academia. With flying colors. Four days down. Nine months to go.

We’ve been praying and preparing for this day…school shopping and conversations about friendship, what it would be like in the classroom, in the lunch room, at recess, on the bus. The focus has been on treating others with love and respect, especially the ones who look like they’re hurting or shy or being picked on, instead of focusing on all the potentially hard and scary stuff (at least for now). We’ve reminded her of how special she is, and then how special EVERYONE is, and that it’s her job, her opportunity, to treat them like Jesus would treat them. And, of course, we reviewed what to do if and when the butterflies should appear in her tummy (thank you, The Whole-Brain Child).

The night before, one more pep talk, then we tucked her and her stuffed bunny and blankie into bed. And one last word from her to me, “Mom – if I sleep in, it’s OK if you get me up so I don’t miss the bus.” We knew she was ready ’cause this girl NEVER sleeps in!

The sun rose, she arose. GAME ON. Clothes, teeth, hair, sparkly lotion, tiara, breakfast. The house was calm, yet laced with anticipation and excitement and adrenalin, for all.

Pictures galore. Princess back pack. Packed lunch. Ready.

To the corner of Hope Street we went…skipping, running, smiling. Her eyes on the 5th grade neighbor boy. His eyes on the big yellow school bus.

Without hesitation, her little feet strided right up to the bus, turning around for one last picture. A smile, a wave, an eager walk to the back of the bus. And then, the bus took off…with our little girl – our innocent, naive, sweet, sassy, independent, feisty, hilarious, realistic, energized, loveable, capable little girl – who in that moment had just become a school-ager.

And the heaviness in my chest came. I felt it. I noticed it.

Perhaps it was the feeling of relief that she actually made it through the morning without any kind of push back or fear or attitude. Perhaps it was that I knew she had just stepped into the real world, the dangerous world, the exciting world. Perhaps it was a healthy fear of what could happen to her, who could hurt her. Perhaps it was the realization that our world with her as we’ve known it was done, completed, history…and we now step into a different kind of world – harder in some ways, better in other ways – and totally foreign. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit resting upon me because there was this sense of gratitude and satisfaction in knowing that these past five years, although done, have been good (so, so good) in the midst of how hard (so, so hard) it’s been, and that I made it – I made it, to school, with her. All the make-my-hair-gray and body-fall-apart years – the past five years – are done. We close the door on them, we say goodbye. And if God works this way, I feel as if when my eyes followed that bus forward, he was standing right there, right beside me, whispering, “She did it. You did it. We did it. Together. I gave to you, you gave to her, and she takes ALL of that with her. She’s gonna soar.”

We returned to the house, my husband left for work, my son played with his race cars, and I went and sat on our deck, with my coffee, alone.

And I just breathed. No meaningful or profound thoughts. I just breathed. And it was good. So, so good.

And then he and I played and went to the park and looked and listened for bears on a nature hike. I didn’t really do much that day. Perhaps my mind and body and spirit just needed to rest…and perhaps numb out. And so it did.

The bus returned. She wore a smile. I knew it had been a good day. She ran to me, we hugged. I said “Hi girl!” and she showed me a piece of gum some kid on the bus gave her, and then ran down the sidewalk, to the house, and got her bike. The “show” began for the neighbor boys and within minutes – BOOM! She fell. Sure enough, the sidewalk won. Her face lost. Intense crying began, neuropathways started to disrupt and re-route. All that good? Well, it fell apart.

Shoot.

Comfort, nurture, empathy. The crying stopped. We washed and treated and bandaged the wound. And then those words came out of her mouth, “Mom – I can’t go to school looking like this!” Oh, my heart! When did self-esteem and self-image show up at my house? A five year old just told me that she was concerned about what other people thought about her looks. My heart sank a bit, but we quickly came up with some responses she could say to people who might ask. She was a bit satisfied, but still concerned. I added that boys might think it’s cool because sometimes they look at scars and scrapes as having been brave. Hmmm…not sure if that was helpful, but that’s what came out.

She recovered. We recovered. We rested on the couch. All my questions about her day went on pause. The routine evening activities unfolded. The puffiness diminished. The first layer of scab began to emerge. Clothes laid out, back pack ready. Stories and kisses and hugs like we do, and then she slipped off, deep into her dream world.

And it was good.

And that was the day in the life of my Kindergartener.

**Our Smilebox video here.

one month. labor free.

It’s been one month of no work. I’ve absolutely loved it! Taking off the counselor hat has felt refreshing in glorious ways. But, I’ve also missed it. I’ve missed entering into life with my clients and speaking truth into their souls. And, I’ve wondered, how they’re doing, how their hearts are hurting and healing, and how God is moving in their lives. And then I found this…these sweet, blow-my-hair back “reviews” from some of my clients, sharing what that space has meant to and done for them. And I smile…SO big. Not because of what I have done or said, but because of what God has initiated and taught and revealed and whispered to them. I just got to be a part of it! Oh, my heart. What a gift to be a part of this…movement and healing and restoration, the mystery of how God works.

Read here. (Brings me to tears.)

So, what have I been doing?

I’ve been playing…with her. She’s loved it. I’ve loved it. We’ve gallivanted around our little town and the cities close by – laughing, exploring, enjoying, talking, watching, eating, learning, shopping, swimming, creating, holding hands. LOTS of hand holding. That’s been my favorite part. Why? Because for me, it makes all that we’ve experienced together not just about “doing,” but about “being”…together.

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We’ve shared a total of eight days all to ourselves. Lovely, isn’t it? It’s been almost three years since it’s been just the two of us. I’ve missed that and I know she has too. The places and moments and feelings – they’re seared into my memory, tucked away in a special and sacred place. And I hold them tightly, close to me. They’re a gift.

And tomorrow, she’ll step onto that bus, walk into school, right into the world. I’ll choose to let her go. I’ll choose to release her into a new space that will be a part of teaching her, shaping her, creating her. And that will be hard. So, so hard. I’ll choose to trust – a bus driver, a teacher, a system, a curriculum, and 20-some other 5-year-olds – to be her guides. Her world will expand. She’ll be exposed. Her eyes and ears and mind will be enlightened. She’ll practice using what’s inside her. She’ll find more of who she is. She’ll begin soaking in so much of what she needs to navigate through this world.

Without me.

And then I’ll choose to trust the One above who gave me these first 5+ years to be her first model and mentor and protector and advocate and safe place to push on and crumble with, that he is WITH her and that he SEES her and that he is ROOTING for her, and has been, and will be.

And then I’ll (try to) believe that the work he has done here in our home, between us, will be carried forward with her and through her, working itself out as it comes and is needed, maturing and strengthening in just the right doses and in just the right time.

My lands! I have A LOT of trusting to do!

But then, I might turn a little music on, a bit louder than usual, shake out some dance moves, because my days are going to be HUGELY different and quieter and a bit easier and there will be more time to work on the things that I’ve needed to set aside for five years. Oh! I cannot wait. Can I get a hallelujah!!!!

Oh, but there’s a little man who is about to turn three that’s still in my care. He’ll still be hanging out with me most of the week. I’ll play race cars with him until I have a low turbo murmur coming out of my ears, and experience a new kind of joy as I uncover more of his sweetness and energy and personality and masculine soul.

But, I’ll still be dancing. Maybe with him, maybe in my head.

So, as we celebrate this Labor Day – a day dedicated to the “social and economic achievements of American workers” and pay tribute to “the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” my tribute turns a little different direction. It’s a direction that points to the “contribution” of what I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of – the hard “heart work” that my clients have courageously accomplished in order to remove the obstacles in their lives that have perhaps been barriers to deepening their relationship with others, with God. And, towards those in my life and my family’s life who have, and will, so graciously contributed to and strengthened our well-being.

Thankful. Grateful.

Let’s welcome our final summer days, soaking in the remainder of the shining sun and bike rides and sandy beaches and green trees and fresh produce and deck nights with lights.

And then, let’s roll onward to what’s ahead.

But today…rest, relax, pay tribute to what matters most to you.

 

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our kids…20+ years later.

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year 10.

May 15, 2013

Dear Mom,

I miss you.

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years this week since you passed away, since we said goodbye to you, since you got to hug Jesus. Each year the calendar turns to May, my thoughts return to you, especially those last weeks with you…watching your body fade, missing your facial expressions, listening to you breathe, watching the lake water out the living room windows, curious about what you were thinking and feeling, observing dad offer every ounce of himself so you would feel comfortable, wondering what you were thinking of and wishing for and remembering…about life, about me. Your skin was soft, your hands were weak, your spirit was weary. I can still close my eyes and be transported right back into your living room as if it were yesterday.

That year, it was Mother’s Day that Sunday, your 60th birthday that Thursday, and then Jesus took you home that Saturday. I was young. I was quietly in shock, absorbing what life was giving me.

Each year, each May, I find myself reflecting on and remembering and honoring you.

This year, this May, I find myself wondering…what would you think of me today, 10 years later? I could easily get lost in my mind thinking about this, but today, this day, your birth-day, I wanted to share with you a few ways that I’m finding you in me – ways that have surprised and humbled me, ways that are bringing out the best in me, ways that have helped me see more of you, more of Jesus.

So, a little birthday letter to you…

I started a tradition with Skyla and Zane of writing them a letter each year for their birthday. It’s a way that I can sum up how I’ve experienced them throughout the year and what has made my heart leap because they’re in my life – the hard stuff, the silly stuff, the surprising stuff, the divine stuff. Obviously, it’s more for me at this age, but I hope that someday they will read them and know my heart for them as I watched them grow and learn and become. It’s a way to help me stay grounded and grateful because as you well know, parenthood can be utterly crazy and hard and wondrous and life giving all in the same day, sometimes even in the same breath.

Skyla’s birthday was last week. Every year I’m so grateful for the gift that God gave to me by bringing her life into our life in the very month that had felt so heavy and sad and hard. He’s sweet like that. It reminds me of how both death and life can exist together. It reminds me of how sitting in that reality, in that tension, gives me the opportunity to experience more of him.

I so wish you could experience our kids. I so wish I could experience you experiencing our kids. They’re full of life and passion and energy – both of them. People have opinions about who each one takes after, but I think they’re a great blend of us both.

Let me tell you a bit about Skyla because she has been the one that has initiated my reflections on you the most. She just turned five and the way she steps into life is determined and cautious and innocent and sweet and expectant. She radiates the feminine soul with her love for beauty – in her shoes and clothes and hair and glasses – fake glasses – and lip gloss and princess attire. She’s a playful realist.

Her strength, her fear, her resilience – they show up in unique ways that I know you also experienced as you parented. I wish I knew then how weary you felt, how lonely it must have been, perhaps maybe even how you doubted yourself and your parenting ability, how keeping life simple was necessary and good, how easily it was to isolate yourself because all your energy went into protecting your children and home, how much courage it took to say “no” to the things that may have brought you life because you had to bring forth life in our home, but…how losing yourself led to finding yourself through the desperation of falling into the arms of Jesus, because there were most likely days you had nothing left but what he could offer. And then, you kept going. Whatever you found in his arms, it sustained you – hour by hour, year by year. Not only do I have a clearer and subjective understanding of that now, but a deep respect for what you went through, how it drained you, how you allowed it to bring out the good in you, and for what you sacrificed and offered on behalf of our family. Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.

I know you would love being with Skyla. I think you would understand one another. I can’t adequately describe her, because I think you just have to absorb her to know her. I’m certain that you would be teaching her how to cook and how to throw an amazing dinner together so that people could gather around a table and share a meal with one another – and have a name card by each plate. You would show her the difference between “top cleaning” and “deep cleaning” and when each was needed. You would take her shopping and find the best deals. You would treat her to a special lunch, maybe even one with tea cups. You would instill in her the importance of chores and hygiene and self-care. You would remind her how important it is to have good manners and send “thank you” notes and cards in the mail. You would model dignity and grace and the importance of wearing the “right” colors and that it’s not polite to chew gum in social settings or church. And, for sure you would show her how to walk and sit with good posture! Oh, mom…you would have so much to offer my little girl! You would teach her what it means to be a lady, a woman. And, my prayer is that, as your gifts and strengths poured out into me, that I am offering her some of those very things…in intentional ways, gracious ways, kind ways.

I wish I had you here. Some days the wish is for practical reasons – to call with a recipe question, or ask you to help watch the kids while I step out into the world, or hear your perspective on things I need to make decisions on, or how to get chocolate out of clothes. And then some days, my wish is for the more unseen things like listening to me vent about what’s wrong with the world, or how to best meet my kids’ emotional needs, or how to respond to a marital disagreement, or reminding me of how capable and strong I am. Your voice would be one of belief in what I have to offer the world – the encouragement and support that only a mother can give. In your absence, I’m so, so grateful that God has given me some amazingly beautiful and strong women who are living life “ahead” of me, who encourage me, believe in me, teach me, mentor me…who cheer me on. They offer a maternal voice just when I need it most. I’ve come to believe that God shares mothers with those who don’t have one.

So today, I honor your life in the midst of missing your life here on earth. Thank you for choosing me – not just the little Korean baby you saw in my first picture, but for choosing to love me in the way you best knew how to love a daughter. I’m learning to love and accept and forgive and trust and lean…on God. I fail and I flop, but I’m finding God’s grace in those moments and he always brings me back to life.

Happy 70th birthday, mom!

Love, Carissa

Celebrating our little girl…her life, and all the life I find in her.

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Skyla Rae – month one

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Skyla Rae – year one

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Skyla Rae – year one 1/2

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Skyla Rae – year two 1/2

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Skyla Rae – year three 1/2

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Skyla Rae – year 4

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Skyla Rae – year 5

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Skyla & Zane – year 5

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Skyla & Zane – year 5

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Skyla & Zane – year 5

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Skyla Rae – year 5

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Skyla Rae & Daddy – year 5

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Skyla Rae & Mommy – year 5

a grandma…in waiting.

Let me introduce you to Linda Lyzenga. She’s a friend, a mentor, a kindred spirit. I love the courage she possesses…to find more of herself, more of others, more of God. This is such a sweet post. I love that she is allowing the process of becoming a grandma to call out her deep heart, the best parts of who she is. Grateful for how she is choosing to step into her role, now AND when the baby comes, with grace and understanding and intention and acceptance. What a gift she will be to this baby. I’m confident that she will be a grandma who delights in her, nurtures her, reminds her of how good she is…even if it is from afar.

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Congratulations are in order! I’m going to be a grandma. Every where I go these days I see young moms with babies and I want to peek at each little one and then share the good news – I’m going to be a grandma. I am the expectant one. Anticipation is high. They’re going to have a baby girl in April. I can hardly wait; other grandmas that I know say there’s nothing like it. Oh, just wait, they say. Lucky you! First one? You’re going to love it!! *Sigh* Did I say that I’m going to be a grandma? Congratulate me!

Now tell me how to navigate being a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be a long distance grandma. I don’t want to be thought of as the grandma who lives far away. I want to be a grandma that’s available at the drop of a hat. I want to take care of baby girl when her mommy has to go back to work. I want to be there for all those monumental firsts. I want to experience… I want… I want… Oh, I sound like a two-year-old. There are moments some day’s of an almost desperate sense of separation – of longing, loss and loneliness.

Most days I’m fine. It’s not like they moved away yesterday. It’s over ten years ago that younger daughter left home for her great adventure. Off she went – leaving all that was familiar here in Western Michigan to go to a university in Southern California. I thought she’d be back. But then, she got the job; and then, she met the guy. They’ve been married over five years now.

When her sister flew the coup to make a fresh start in Northern Florida, I was left decidedly as an empty nester. I couldn’t be more proud of both my girls. I’m truly happy for the life that is theirs. My girls are not coming home. They both live far, far away. People often say, “That must be hard.” Some days I must admit – it IS hard. Most days, though, there is a special grace that soothes my heart. On any given day when I miss them, I think of how we’ve been able to keep in touch. In fact, is it possible that we’re closer now than we ever were? When the geographical distance seems too great, I imagine how it was when children from past generations left home – never to be seen again after having moved to places far and away. Long distance telephone calls were reserved for strict emergencies. Other communication was relegated to snail mail – a delivery of old news. Today there’s ease in communication with free minutes and cell phones. Email. Facebook. Skype. Packages sent UPS. Special little notes sent in the mail. We’ve had a really good track record of cross country trips and have found a good rhythm of making it work. For this I’m beyond grateful!

But now that I’m going to be a grandma something has shifted in my perspective. Self compassion and self awareness invite me to process why I’m feeling deprived and despairing when this grandchild hasn’t even arrived on the scene yet.

What’s going on?

It’s the anticipated face to face moments that I’ll miss out on. The hoped for shared experiences that simply will not be. Precious memories with that teeny tiny new born seem to be waiting in some kind of vacuum.

More than that, I realize that it’s the fear of not being known – of being missed.

With this realization distilled and clarified, I realize that I have a choice. I can choose to view this new relationship from a vacant place of distance and scarcity of intimate face to face time. Or, I can choose to step into my new role from a place of abundance and gratitude.

With generosity and creativity I can be known as a loving grandma – fully present; engaging – even from a distance – with intention and creativity.

Celebrate with me – I’m going to be a grandma!

Linda is passionate about wholeness and healing and finds her sweet spot in the role of Spiritual Director. Married with two adult daughters, who have flown the coup – far from Western Michigan where they grew up, she’s home alone with her husband of 39 years. Though a life long learner, Linda never had opportunity to go to college until recently and is now working on getting her Associate Degree with hopes to finish it before her husband retires next year and they take off – visiting their kids and exploring the country in their RV. Meanwhile, she enjoys yoga, baking, reading, writing, and hiking. You can know more about Linda through her blog.

life at four. a letter from her mama.

In honor of what makes Mother’s Day so sweet…

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5.8.12

Dear Skyla,

Happy 4th birthday to my favorite little girl. A girl who I delight in, adore, and calls out the best in me. I write this with a deep sense of gratitude for the life God breathes in you and the role I get to play in it. I think back to the years we were trying to conceive and who would have known it would be this good, this honorable, this splendid, this transformative.

Skyla Rae, you’re a girl who grabs onto life with both cautiousness and boldness.You’re a helper and initiator, filled with ideas and intent. You’re simple and straightforward, yet diligently charm my heart with your words and smile and eyes. Your spirit is tender and your mind is sharp. Your love for me melts me. The love I have for you, it changes me. I love all the ways that you remind me of who Jesus is and all the ways that being a mommy to you draws me to him. His wild love for you and the ways you express that love bear witness to how good he is. I feel him chasing after me through you. Stunning.

In the most honest and honoring way, I can say that this year with all its joy and love, has been a really hard year. Whatever “they” say about “the terrible two’s” (and perhaps three’s), I’ve often times found myself swimming in whatever these years are defined by. It’s felt like you’ve been in this process of finding who you are…your charm, your boundaries, your capability, your strength, your endurance, your voice. I have this understanding that the place all this comes from isn’t “bad,” but really, just part of being human…figuring out your place in this world, in our home. But for me, the mama that parents you every day, it can easily feel like determined push back…on every thing. From your clothes and shoes and hair and where the most comfortable place for you to sit on the couch is, to your choice in food and sippy cups and volume on the TV. There is no hesitation whatsoever in telling us what you want or how you feel. Oh, the “good girl” in me feels stretched each time. And then, God reminds me that you’re just learning, that you’re only three, that it’s about how I respond…to your strength, your growing need for autonomy, your figuring out how capable and loveable you are. So, I try to gather myself and breathe, inhale some perspective, and step into each little episode offering what I’ve learned, what I’ve discovered your little spirit needs, and who I’ve become. My mistakes, my imperfections…yup, they’re clearly evident. The ways I can “miss” you, over-correct you, over-compensate…they enter in at any given moment. But my heart for you is to offer you the consistency and structure and nurture and connection that I believe you need, that you were created for. My prayer is to be the kind of mommy that while teaching you about the world, how to step into the world, to also be a place, a person, who you feel safe running to as you offer yourself to the world.

My heart soars when I watch you with your daddy, you’re favorite man. The way you laugh when he “plays rough” is authentic and pure, fearless and sweet. I giggle when I see you come alive with Zane and the sweet little smile I catch you giving him when I look in the rear view mirror. I totally get sucked in to singing and dancing and laughing and hiding and seeking with the two of you. We have so much fun together! You teach him how to talk, splash, draw, brush his teeth, and about Micky Mouse and Curious George…how good each of these things are, how essential each of these things are. You’re learning to share…your toys, your space, your parents, your time. You offer him so much of yourself. You’re the perfect sister for him.

You’ve leaped into this little girl phase with all the energy and life that brought you to three. Your “firsts” of chewing gum, flying in a plane, saying “bye” to diapers, riding the merry-go-round by yourself, visiting the dentist, venturing to the “windy city” and Disney World, taking gymnastic and swimming lessons, navigating your way on the computer, riding a bike, your first sleepover…they all represent the unstoppable growth and the way you represent your exit from being a little toddler to your entrance of being a little girl.

Totally loved.

Utterly adored.

Pure delight.

Here’s to birthday #4…all that has passed, and all that is to come.

Love you girl!

Love, Mommy

A song that helps me remember and honor my mom as I make memories with my little girl“How Could I Ask For More” (Cindy Morgan)

 

remember her. honor her.

It’s that time of year again…my favorite time of year.

The purest and brightest greens add their voices to the outside world, sweet little flower buds say they’re ready to be seen, and the air…the cold brisk air begins to fade as spring gently pushes its way in. I love this time of year. I’m ready for this time of year. Something in it breathes new life. And each year, just like the last, I’m so in need of it.

As I find myself stepping into May and the newness of the world around me, two people fall into my mind who always do so poignantly each year as April draws to a close…my mom and my daughter. Two people, two lives, that ground me to this world.

This world…both in its brokenness and beauty.

This world…both with its pain and joy.

This world…where both death and life reside.

For me, each spring, each May, marks significant moments.

May 15, 1943 – my mom’s birthday

May 17, 2003 – the day my mom met Jesus

May 8, 2008 – the day I gave life to our first child

My mom….She was not the woman who gave me physical life, but she was the woman who taught me how to live life. A woman of strength, wise, intuitive, humorous, thoughtful, courageous, etiquette queen. I received intentional lessons about the kitchen to my clothes, to people and churches and makeup and nails, how to entertain guests to strategic ways to obtain used couches on “trash day.” But mostly, she taught me what it meant to be “a lady.” That’s what she was good at. That’s what she offered me. And now as I wear the skin of an adult, I see parts of these things in me, reflecting her. I love that. I want that. I’m grateful for that.

Yet, in the midst of the good and lessons and character development, our relationship didn’t come without pain.

She was strong and I needed tender love.

She was precise and I needed space to make mistakes.

She was fearless and I needed someone to run to when I was scared.

She was strong and I needed to learn how to ask for help.

She was consistent with correction and I needed connection.

Brokenness and beauty.

My daughter…she’s a girl who grabs onto life with both cautiousness and boldness. She’s a helper and initiator, filled with ideas and intent. She’s simple and straightforward, yet diligently charms your heart with her words and smile and eyes. Her spirit is tender and her mind is sharp. Her love for me melts me. The love I have for her moves me. Nurturing this life has changed me…is changing me. The parts of me that have been called out in this season are mysteriously beautiful, yet the ways I feel drained I’m confident you could see with your very eyes. You give, you serve, you pour yourself out. You find yourself weary and vulnerable, unsure and expectant. This parenting season I’m in, right now, is hard…really hard. At least the way that I’ve chosen to step into it.

Brokenness and beauty.

This season, this month, this week…it evokes my heart in a myriad of ways. I sit in the tension of both the good and the hard. And that’s OK. I believe there’s something really honoring in doing that. It honors the past, it honors the present. It allows for the future…to unfold authentically. There’s this way that our humanness can deny the hard parts. Exhausting. There’s also this way that our humanness can linger in the hard parts. Despairing. Either may make a person feel numb, justified, prideful, battered. But, that’s no way to live.

Could it be that part of “honoring” our mothers means naming both the beauty and the brokenness, embracing both rather than eliminating one? When I imagine my little girl all grown up, I wonder what she’ll remember about me, about who I was…to her, to her daddy and brother, to our friends, to the world. Secretly, of course, I totally want her to think I was the most perfect and fun and balanced mom, extravagantly loving everything and everyone around me. And then I wake up from that dream…and find myself hoping to be remembered not for how I escaped the broken moments, but what I did with those moments – acknowledging them, stepping into them…with dignity and honesty and grace – asking God to form something beautiful and purposeful out of my mistakes and all the ways I unraveled. That’s how I want my children to remember me.

So, as we anticipate Mother’s Day, I urge you to take some time to think about your mom…her beauty and her brokenness; your beauty and brokenness…and the story you both share. And then go to your favorite card shop and find that card – the card that says just the right thing. Now. Today. Whatever place you find yourself in the midst of holding those two realities together.

Remember her. Honor her.

And if you need it, whether because the relationship with your mom is fake or distant or gone, may the tender, loving, nurturing, relational parts of you connect with the feminine parts of who God is.

Mothering…it’s profound and powerful, sacred and life-giving. Because we, in this mysterious way, get to take care of our little ones in the same way that God takes care of his little ones. It’s because of his love that we are able to love the ones who gave us life and the ones who we give life to.

Happy Mother’s Day.

“How Could I Ask For More” (Cindy Morgan) – a song that helps me remember and honor my mom as I step into this season of creating a home for my children.

 

panties.

So there are probably a ton of images that come to mind when you see or hear the word, “panties.” Let’s face it, most women (I would argue all women) have different kinds of undergarments. We have the ones we wear when we’re feeling sexy and beautiful and special. Let’s call those panties. And then, there are the other ones – the ones we call our “underwear.” These are what we tend to wear when we just want to feel comfortable and cozy and practical, and perhaps maybe when we’re feeling a bit bloated.  Yup, there are big decisions to make when considering what kind of undergarment to wear.

Well, this is about my panties…

I love that my daughter wants to be like her Mama. Everyday I catch her doing something that I know she caught from me. Sometimes those things are cute and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes it’s a bit scary to see how much I influence her little eyes and ears. I shall keep some of the scary, non-mentionables for later. Come on over and sit on my deck and I’ll tell you the best stories!

The morning was normal. She was two. I was getting dressed for the day in our bedroom. I walked into my closet for a quick, “What shall I wear today?” moment. It was like five seconds later and I turned around and there she was…my little girl frolicking around in my panty drawer. And on her “boom-boom” (feminine/cute word for “derrière”) were about ten pairs of my panties, each one hiked up to her waist, one over the other. It was like she thought she was on “A Minute to Win It” and the game was to see how many panties she could put on. Oh, my lands! How in the world did she get that many panties around her waist in that amount of time? (Secretly I loved that she raided the panty drawer and not the underwear drawer because that would have been way too boring.)

I laughed out loud. I smiled and then just stood there watching her go about her business.

I wanted to redirect.
I wanted to correct.
I wanted to teach.

Everything inside of me wanted to say something like, “Oh, Sweetie! We don’t get into mommy’s panty drawer. That’s for mommy. Let’s find something else to play with.” You know, kind of in that, “We really shouldn’t do that”/distracting kind of tone. But, for some reason, that’s not what came out (Praise Jesus!). After watching the entertainment for a bit, I miraculously and surprisingly responded with, “Oh, honey! You look way too cute! You like mommy’s pretties?” She looked at me, gave me the biggest smile, and then walked over to the full length mirror to look at herself – to check out her beauty, just like her Mama.

The power of influence. It’s amazing. It can be invigorating and scary, intimidating and heavy. When we’re in a position of power, we must remember the powerless. We can mis-use our power. We can mis-use our influence. Or, we can use our power and influence to bring life, awareness, change, advocacy, voice…to those without.

We can choose to step into it and hold it and share it.

She’s watching me. She’s always watching me. Sometimes I want to tell her to turn away or to cover her ears. I don’t want her to pick up the bad habits and tones and words and behaviors. I want to keep her pure and innocent and even a bit naive. Because I know what happens when the world shows up in ways that are hurtful and scary and unjust and hateful. There are moments during the day that I don’t want an audience. I just want to be human. There’s that secret part of me that doesn’t always feel like being responsible for my actions. I just want to be lazy.

Feels pretty human to say that.

But maybe, that’s the best kind of mommy I can be…human. Wonderfully and uniquely and undeniably human. Because for me, that’s what I want my little girl to know – that it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to make mistakes and mess up and throw tantrums (sometimes) and get mad. I want to give her permission to do that. And then, somehow with the divine help from above, teach her and show her what to do with her humanness. And then, consistently and graciously and lovingly remind her that there’s nothing she could do or say to make me love her less. Nothing.

So, as I teach my little girl about femininity and beauty and how to know if and when to wear panties versus underwear, I hope she grows up believing that no matter what she’s wearing or doing, or where she’s hiding or exploring, or how hard she’s kicking and screaming, that she’s loveable…inside and out.

Because I’m convinced that that’s what my God believes about me.

 

it’s not fair

The day started so good. We were giggling and playing and listening and making “good choices.” The kind of day every mom loves. The kind of day when you find yourself thinking, “Now this is what I signed up for.”

If I can remember correctly (part of this was a blur), I think we were laying on the couch watching one of her favorite shows. She innocently began bouncing around on the couch. And then, it hit me. Her head. On my nose. OK, let me be more specific…THE BACK OF HER HEAD SLAMMED INTO MY NOSE. I was in total shock and excruciating pain all at once. It was an accident, but in that kind of moment, one does not take the time to rationalize that it was an accident. I began crying immediately. Yes, it hurt that bad! Perhaps one might say, “It hurt like a _____!” (You fill in the word.)

And then I kept crying and crying and crying. The pain of that moment turned into the outpouring of the intense pain I feel at times about this season of life. This season of young children who need you for EVERYTHING – eating, pooping, talking, drinking, dressing. This season of young children where it feels like you have to say “no” to so much – so much that you like and find pleasure in and that’s fun and thrilling and that you get to do when you want to do it and perhaps all the things that you have previously found some identity and affirmation and validation in. This season of young children where you find yourself saying, “Do I have to give up one more thing?” Yes, this season. It feels so unfair.

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on what you chose to relinquish when you became a mom? There are some things all of us would probably agree on…a clean house, a clean toilet, a clean car, money to spend on yourself, your body, taking a shower without anxiety or a timeframe, sitting down to eat, stimulating conversation, memory, sleep. I’m sure this list could be as long as santa’s toy list. And then, for some, the list could go on…being productive at work, figuring out how to be “successful,” knowing that most of the time if you do the “right” thing there’s going to be a good outcome, immediate results, discerning your strengths and gifting and offering it to the world, feeling purposeful and useful and affirmed, being exposed to people and experiences and information that challenge and inspire and grow you, and…perhaps even time with God. For many of us, what we had anticipated and dreamed about being a mom is incredibly different from what really comes with carrying the title, “mommy.”

OK, so I could go on about this season. I think you get the picture. But today, my intent is to share something a friend so graciously and truthfully told me last week. She told me that there’s going to be a day when I finally accept the reality that I’m in. She also had the honesty to say that what I will come to accept, I will also come to understand isn’t fair. But, before I come to the place of acceptance, that I will need to grieve…grieve what has been taken from me, grieve what I’ve chosen to let go of, grieve what has changed. Plainly, I need to grieve before I can accept. I knew she was spot on. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. When we don’t grieve, our pain and disappointment can easily turn into resentment or anger or sarcasm or depression or addiction. Perhaps, this was what my tears were about the other day…my grief – mourning what has changed.

There was something that felt calming in her words. I think in her saying that I knew she really heard what I was disappointed in – not in being a mom, not Skyla or Zane, not even in myself, but what I’ve lost. It took guts to say that to me. No one has said that to me before. A lot of women wouldn’t dare speak that because of what it implies about how they feel. I so respect her honesty and somehow in her honesty I felt hopeful. Hopeful that I can do this. Hopeful that I can do this with grace and humor and love. Hopeful that this season can make me more like Jesus…if I let it. If I let go of it.

So, as I follow a few (or a lot) steps behind some of you, know that us moms need your voice, your honesty, your vulnerability, your truth. Because in your stories we can find ourselves and find what it takes to keep going.

So, here’s to grieving…whether it comes in the quiet and isolating moments at home, or when you’re zooming through the grocery store aisles because one of the kids is going to lose it, or each time you go to check your email, or as you watch your spouse leave for work, or when you find yourself wishing the water would get hot before you have to get out of the shower, or when you see the clock before 7 am, or when you chose to say “no” to that experience you really wish you could have. Let’s give ourselves permission to be sad and disappointed about what we have lost…what has changed.

And then, let’s have the eyes to see the good in this season so we can step into it with honesty and integrity and acceptance. Let’s remind ourselves that this role we said, “yes” to is just as crucial and defining and life-giving and important and spectacular and entertaining as the life we may have led…before kids. Let’s give ourselves permission to accept our reality so we can be fully present in this season and offer acceptance to those in our home.