Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Open Letter to People Who Are "Different"

Dear People Who Are "Different," 

My life is full of the same lesson over and over again. In the beginning there was a sense of shame for not being like the rest. At first it was because I was adopted and then the list just went on and on. No, I do not speak Spanish even though people think I should because of the color of my skin. {Yeah, people actually have been angry that I don't and made horrible comments about it.}

For a while I played into the "game" of fitting in. I was a cheerleader for 6 years, after all. I didn't try my best in my classes and thought being more concerned with my social life and boyfriends was the answer. I look back and realize that I wish I'd been BETTER to my classmates and more supportive of those that were "different" than me. 

Then, in college, something crazy happened. I realized that I was really good at working with computers. It sort of came naturally. I walked into my first college programming class.  There I was "miss cheerleader" with a class full of Steve Job's wannabes. For a moment, I was pretty sure I couldn't do it. Afterall, I didn't "belong" in this group.  I convinced myself I was only good at the cheerleader thing and all that came with it. I mean THAT wasn't the person I was. 

It was then that I realized I had a decision. I could continue catering to what others said about me or I could decide to run MY OWN RACE and keep going.  2 years later, I had several computer programming classes under my belt and a list of hands-on computer projects I completed for real businesses. 

13 years later, I watched as my son began his battle with leukemia. I learned a whole new level of being "different" in that moment. I watched as people of all ages would stare at his bald head and his N95 mask. And again, I learned a new level of compassion for people like him. 

A year ago Avery came home from school and told me a little story: 

"Mama, today at the playground I was swinging and  _____ came up to me and said "If you want to be popular, you have to cheer with us." "

"What did you say, Avery?"

"I told them I don't care anything about being popular. I just want to swing."

You see, my point is THIS. There will ALWAYS be people judging you and labeling you. There will always be people who only know a critical voice. 

The only label that is important is the label you give yourself. The most important thing is what YOU believe about yourself, not them. You were made for such a time as this - whatever THIS is in your moment. 

This past weekend Avery stepped out and did something that isn't considered "popular." I saw, firsthand, how hard that cast & crew of 60+  worked and since I was the taxi, their long hours were also my long hours. 

As I sat in the audience of their last performance yesterday, I was greatly disappointed by the loud talking and laughter and criticism around me. I, as a parent, was offended that behavior like that is "ok." The teacher in me was disappointed that respectful audience participation wasn't taught. 

But even in my disappointment, I had such pride in everyone of those kids. They kept going and kept going in confidence. {On with the show, as they say} THEY have re-inspired me to remember all the lessons I've already learned. 

◦ Being critical or mean says more about YOU than it says about those you're criticizing. 

◦ Finding the 1% you have to offer that no one else can will elevate you higher than you'll ever know. 

◦ It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think YOURS is the ONLY path. (Paul Coelho)

◦ Being part of something bigger than yourself is really what life is about.  

◦ Being popular isn't going to do as much for you as you think it will. 

...and so as you continue to grow older remember what Avery says, "Just SWING and do your thing." :) 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When You're Gone

I've been taking a break from almost all things these days that do not increase my faith or give me joy. I've been trusting the process even though I do not understand it. I'm committed to the unraveling. Based on my experience, God's unraveling ends in the most beautiful, breathtaking redemption ever. {right?!}

A friend emailed me today to ask if I was still around. 
My answer "Still swimming over here with God's hand underneath me not allowing me to drown." 

True story. He {like always} is my anchor in this storm. 

I'm learning a WHOLE lot about life these days. I use to pray for wisdom, but more recently, I just pray for guidance and discernment. 

There are SO many things on my plate right now in addition to #superJace and chemo. 

I can't help but think about the decisions that were made prior to these days. The days when I try to make sense of the "mess." {oh, yes. I know God WILL turn it into an amazing MESSage}
I've been reading a "heart-punch" book called THE BEST YES  {Thanks for the recommendation @hastobepretty!}

Let me just tell you. It's not an accident I'm reading this book  during this exact time. Making decisions isn't easy. Making decisions during grief is very painful. Making multiple decisions with little to no information while grieving is overwhelmingly painful. This book speaks to me every single time I begin reading and it's helping me find a way right now. 

So, I wanted to write about these decisions and give you a child's perspective because the season has jolted me to realize the importance of our decisions. 

Leaving your kids is not something people like sit and ponder on and I think it's probably a very painful thing to talk about but as I pray for the lesson in this season of my life, this is one of the lessons. 

What legacy are you leaving your kids when you are gone? 

Unfortunately most of my relationship with my mom was watching, listening, and learning what NOT to do. We thought differently, we responded differently, we made decisions differently, we thought of health differently, we did relationships differently, we parented differently....

So, as I sit here in my late thirties looking at all of the decisions laying before me, I cannot help but wonder if it all would've been different if she would've just truly thought about all that she was leaving us. If she would've decided one day that despite the pain, the discussion was necessary and just might make our grieving easier. 

From the time I can remember, my life was filled with stuff. In the beginning, after my brother died, it was a way for her to connect with me. I grew up never wanting or needing anything, because it was always there. I'm pretty sure from the outside it all looked blissful . But after watching my mom during her last day and now trying to sort out the mess {because if you were sitting in front of me now and I told you all the details, you'd say it was a BIG mess}, I wish I would've pressed her harder, though painful, to make some of those decisions with me/us. 

See, the stuff doesn't matter. Sure it mattered years ago. The houses, the land, the trips, the cars, the clothes.... 

But I can tell you today it doesn't matter. Not one bit. She couldn't take any of the stuff with her. I can't manage all the stuff and I'm finding it hard to even find time off to sort through the stuff that I might want to cherish.

 We didn't know I would be mothering a child battling cancer when my own mother died.

We didn't know just how bad my dad's Alzheimer's was because even when we would ask or suggest help we would get angry reactions. 

We didn't know {and still aren't sure} how to help my brother just live and survive because when we would ask for information we needed to know, we were shut off.  

Here's the deal. There is a healthy way to approach all of this. I did not get to experience this with my own parents. There was so much I didn't know and new things I'm learning everyday. 

Some days I get angry for being left with all of it and having no clue about anything. But most days I am reminded of the lesson. 

Every decision you make will either propel you and leave a lasting, loving legacy or those decisions will make you fearful and strangle that legacy. 

Every decision I make is the legacy I leave these sweet faces. Those decisions WILL affect them no matter how old they are when we have to say goodbye. 

I urge anyone out there, who might be avoiding the discussion with their family to please remember that in the end, your loved ones will grieve easier if you've helped them to know what your wishes are, what needs to happen when you are gone, who gets what, who goes where. . . 

Most often the hardest things to decide will determine our direction and our direction will determine the legacy we leave.