When changes and hikes are difficult

This morning I climbed a mountain. No, a hill. It was more like a hill. We have trails in our community that range from easy to “Are you insane?” and I opt for something closer to the former, so I don’t die. I made my way up a moderate trail that zig-zags its way through the foothills like a wound. It was difficult. Everything is already so brown because, desert, and I have sensitive knees (because I’m not old enough for bad knees) and I almost ate it a few times when I tripped over rocks. You’d think, if I were going to cry like a baby, I would have done it on the way up, but I didn’t.

I cried all the way down.

I was hungry because I forgot to carb load (if carb loading means I should have gotten a chocolate chip bagel from Panera) and it was 94 degrees and if I’m being totally honest, I cried because I’m super stressed and wildly worried. Because I. Hate. Change.

And there’s so much change right now; it makes my breath catch when I think about it.

When I was a kid I spent a few weeks every summer in Tahoe at camp. Each year I’d count down the days until it was time to escape to camp where I’d see my faraway-friends I only got to hang out with when I was there. By the time we were 15 and 16 we started attending as junior counselors. My last year there ended abruptly. We all got kicked out. On a Saturday afternoon, we went into town to do laundry and decided to get our ears pierced. The camp director called us things like “irresponsible” and “liabilities.” I still think it’s so stupid. It’s not like we went to London on a school trip in ninth grade and got a tattoo that looks NOTHING LIKE TINKERBELLE. Anyway, we waited for our parents and one by one we said our goodbyes. I only keep in touch with one of those camp friends; he grew up and got married and had kids and went to war for our country, but that day we stood side by side, so sad about the whiplash-like halt to our annual summer plans. That now-Army guy ripped his half-carat fake diamond earring out of his ear and threw it into the trees. I got so mad, I yelled at him about how it represented the end of LIFE(!) and how could he just throw it away?!

After all those years, all the traditions, the lame skits and campfires, and trips to Pope Beach and the freezing lake, everything changed.

That’s how I feel now.

I dread the end of the school year. Granted, I get over it during the languid, ice-cream melting, salty days of summer, but around oh, right now, I start getting sad. I was the weird kid who cried on the last day of school every year. That’s mostly because school was safe and home wasn’t, but also because I knew I’d miss the daily routine and my teachers’ support and my friends. I liken my kids’ school to a daily reunion and now a lot of the family members are moving on to middle school, or new opportunities are taking some of them to different places. My kids have been at the school for a decade and, while there have been some changes along the way, it’s remained relatively the same.

So as I trekked down that trail this morning I thought about the end of the school year, the end of the familiar, the end of tolerable weather, the giant question mark looming over my professional life, how much my people — my family, my friends, my mentors — mean to me, and all I could do was cry.

In the end, all of these changes are good. It means kids are growing up and friends are happy and, ultimately, all of the end-of-the-school-year changes will segue into those aforementioned dreamy days of summer and those days are steeped in memories and laughter. Enough to carry me into whatever new things are coming.

 

 

 

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Sarah, one of the bravest people I know

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Sarah, Ben, Me (“the kids”)

I received an email today that made me smile, and it broke my heart.

I am someone who communicates my feelings by putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen?). It’s how I process all the feelings.

There is something defiantly beautiful about shining light on the things that wrap us in darkness.

So a few years ago when I learned that my dear friend, someone I refer to as my sister, received hard, sad, and dark news, I wanted to use all the words. I mean all the words.  But I couldn’t. It wasn’t my place. She wanted to share her news, in her way, when she decided she was ready.

Then today happened. Today she was ready.

My friend — my sister — Sarah, has ALS. She was diagnosed five years ago.

She’s ready to fight, and she’s doing that by raising money for the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association. On Oct. 22 she’ll be participating in the Inland Empire Walk, and I’m looking forward to being there, cheering her on. The event is a fundraiser, with money going to ALS research.

If you know me, you know that Sarah, her dad, mom, and brother, took me in 20 years ago and became my de facto family. I love her so much, and I hate that ALS is now part of her story. I’m also proud of her. Sarah is so brave.

She’s fighting to leave a legacy.

Please consider donating to her fundraising efforts. For more information, check out her team page.

 

Love Wins

One of the best gigs I had as a freelance journalist was a weekly parenting column in the local paper. Mostly anecdotal, I shared funny stories, parenting hacks, and humbling experiences. Occasionally, however, I would touch on something serious.

A column I wrote in August 2014 was just that. Serious and hard and sad. As the Ferguson riots played out across our television screen, my oldest asked me some tough questions about race relations in this country.

I was raised by a single mother who came of age in the 1960s. She was a self-proclaimed hippie, and she marched for civil rights. She taught me that everyone should be viewed as equal, and my husband and I are raising our children to know the same thing. So, when my son asked me those hard questions, I wondered whether we’d stepped back in time.

I answered everything. I told him that racism is a major problem, maybe not in our community — which is a beautifully-woven, multi-cultural tapestry — but in other states and regions, racism was showing its teeth. Then I wrote about our conversation in my column. When it went to print it also appeared on the newspaper’s website. I shared a link to the piece on social media (it’s been archived, otherwise I would share the link here).

Later that day a contributor to a national television network that often features pundits and talking heads responded to my post by telling me I was adding to the unrest. I literally rubbed my eyes and reread the comment, sure that it would read differently. It didn’t.

I debated whether to respond. I had all manner of words ready to volley back at this person. It took everything I had not to explain how wrong they were, but in the end I decided it wasn’t worth it. This person thought that I was contributing to the tension because I pointed out the obvious — racism hasn’t been eradicated and in some cases, it defines entire communities.

M and M

But if every family in this country decided to raise their children to love everyone, racism would cease to exist.

In the end, I didn’t regret telling my son the truth.

It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting.

John and I want to raise kids who become world-changers and we can’t do that by covering up facts.

In light of that, in opposition to the horrible things playing out in this country…

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39)

Love one another. (John 13:34)

[Remember that] hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)

Our children need to know that someone can’t be a Christ-follower and a racist at the same time. Hatred and bigotry go against everything Jesus represents.

[Remember that] whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. (1 John 4:20)

Our kids are watching and listening and taking their cues from us.

 

Note: A special thanks to Elizabeth Shafer for allowing me to use a picture of her sweet kids. To learn more about Elizabeth’s multi-cultural family, visit her blog, “Embracing and Thriving.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Day 7: Hope in the Resting

December 3

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

Have you ever sat down in a quiet place in your home on December 26th, looked around and thought, “Christmas happened?” There aren’t any other times during the year that can fill our calendars the way the Christmas season can. We have office parties, family dinners, school programs, gift exchanges, and on and on. We’re so preoccupied with the tasks, we miss the holiday altogether. As Jesus-followers, we should see Christmas as a celebration of our Savior’s birth. Instead, that sentiment can become lost in all of the doing and the striving.

As we end the first week of Advent, take time to rest. Find a quiet spot and spend a few minutes thanking the Lord for his grace and his Gift. Read Luke 2:1-40, and be filled with wonder at the power of Jesus’ birth. Listen to worship music. Do something that will replace your busyness with praise.

Whether this is your favorite season, or if this time of year is hard for you – rest. Hope is recognized in the resting.

For Today: Take a moment right now to identify one thing you’re going to do to rest. It might be something that you normally do during the Christmas season that you’ll make the choice to skip, so that you can use that same amount of time to rest. How will you be intentional about resting in the midst of this season?

Advent Day 6: Hope in the Rejoicing

December 2

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

In the really, really difficult times — when our bills sit unpaid, when someone we love passes away, when we are struggling with an illness, when each day is an uphill battle, and life feels too hard to even think about Christmas — we can rejoice. Jesus doesn’t call us to rejoice because of our sufferings, but in the midst of them.

The suffering we experience, if we let it, will lead to perseverance and character and hope. This world will bring trials, and we have a choice during the difficult times. We can live in fear and worry, or we can let God work through tough situations so that, when we come out on the other side of them, we’re closer to him than ever before.

If suffering is inevitable, let’s persevere through it and develop character. Let’s allow the suffering to mean something. Let’s commit to using our trials to grow closer to God and spread his love to others.

Then his victory in our lives will be evident, and we will have the type of hope that comes when God pours his love into our hearts. The type of hope that comes from rejoicing, always.

For Today: Is there a trial you’re facing that you could turn into something you can do to spread God’s love to someone else this Christmas season?

Advent Day 5: Hope is an Anchor

December 1

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

Without an anchor, a boat can drift under the guidance of even the slightest wind. The same can be said for us. Without the hope of the Lord acting as an anchor for our souls, we can easily drift off course.

An anchor isn’t used to guide a boat on the proper course, an anchor is used to prevent a boat from drifting away from its intended destination. An anchor will keep a vessel held firmly to the ocean floor, and an anchor for the soul – the hope of God – will keep us connected securely to him.

At times the chaos of life will act as a gentle breeze and at times, a gale-force wind. It can easily steer you off course. That is, unless you allow God to map your journey and refuse to anchor yourself to anything other than the Savior.

For Today: When life is especially chaotic we become more susceptible to temptation. What is one temptation that could steer you off course this season?

Advent Day 4: Hope Born of Trust

November 30

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)

It’s amazing to think that we can overflow with hope, the very thing that defines God. As though that isn’t gift enough, we can also be filled with all joy and peace as we trust in him.

All joy and peace, and an overflowing of hope are blessings bestowed on us by the Lord when we believe and trust in him.

Trust. A difficult thing for many people to do. Maybe you’ve suffered hardships and tragedy. Maybe you’ve asked God for something, and you didn’t get the answer you were hoping for.

Maybe things seem completely out of control; we may feel out of control, but nothing is out of God’s control. When we surrender our lives to Christ, we do so in faith. A faith and a belief that God is who he says he is. The Lord came to earth as a tiny baby. What else is more vulnerable? We can trust a Savior who would do that for us. We can trust him, and then be filled with all joy, all peace, and an overflowing of hope.

For Today: Is there something you’re struggling to trust God with this season? What is one step you can take to demonstrate your trust in him?