Archive for ‘love’

2014/03/26

Courageous Conversations

Tile-Strength-and-CourageRaising a teenager is almost like having a never-ending Courageous Conversation. It feels like all things lead to some teaching point based on the various sometimes-sudden moods, the social pressures, and the transformation that my daughter Emma is going through. She’s caught in that world between kid and not-quite-old-enough.

I walk with her, and she walks with me, my imperfections no longer hidden or sugarcoated. It is crystal clear that I don’t have all the answers, and unlike her younger years, a simple kiss on a “boo-boo” after a fall on the playground isn’t enough to chase all her tears away. I’m realizing that sometimes the best thing I can give her is presence and prayer.

I see her shying away from being open with good friends at times. I encourage her towards conversation, especially through conflict. And I see how challenging that can be in an age of texting and Snapchat. Everything is so instant with this pressure to respond quickly before thought even has a chance to intervene.

Good conversation takes time and effort, and to have any depth, it takes honesty. I find it takes courage to be honest with her about some of the mistakes—the big ones—I made along the way. And despite the fact that my flaws are pretty apparent, it is admittedly a work in progress. I guess I fear if I’m “too honest” that it might do damage in a way I can’t perceive.

As a freelance writer and editor, I spend time a good amount of time reading and editing books, and I have worked on several life stories the last few years. I know the authors well enough to know that it wasn’t easy for any of them to put their secrets on the page, where even close family members would know things about them that they never knew.

But I also see the freedom those writers have experienced in that type of courageous expression, modeling how our personal stories in even their most raw parts can be redeemed and used to help other people on the journey. And that is what I’m striving for with Emma. I want to keep stepping forward, whether I’m feeling brave or not, to have those tough conversations.

I know my words and honesty can’t keep her from failing or making mistakes of her own. But my story and the stories of those around her can help her see that though we are all flawed, our life stories—with bumps, bruises, U-turns, and dead ends as well as victories, celebrations, and glorious horizons—make a beautiful tapestry that is meant to be shared. It just takes a little bit of courage.

 

This post originally appeared on the C3 Nashville blog. C3, held March 6-8, 2014, is an annual event where participants engage in topics related to culture and faith. This year’s theme was Courageous Conversations.

2013/10/30

Recovery in Question

Recovery in question...

Recovery in question…

Emma turns 14 this weekend. I can’t really believe that 14 years have passed. I can’t believe that in 4 or 5 years my nest might be empty. To celebrate this momentous birthday, an age marking awkwardness but also independence, we are having a party. Not just a party, but a Masquerade Ball.

It is sooooo Emma. There’s a dress code for boys and girls. There’s a fabulous menu, beautiful masks, a long song list for DJ Doug. And I’m hoping the songs I don’t know won’t embarrass me or the other adult guests coming or that my dance moves don’t embarrass my daughter. Who am I kidding?

In the vein of throwing a classy party, I mean Ball, we are trying to stay away from the usual party fare of chex mix and BBQ wienies. But since our budget won’t allow for a caterer, I’m the chef at hand. That sounded like a great plan when we were leisurely driving over fall break, planning the menu and decor.

Now in a week that has turned stupid by all of the things that have hard and fast deadlines, including the Ball, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. I’ve had delicious moments of energy and productivity, but the pile is so very large and daunting on both professional and home fronts. So the other side is me barking and grumbling and nagging for someone in the universe to please help! Like someone who is 13.95 years old who I live with…“Hey you there, offspring, help me!”

The result is sorry-filled teenager staring blankly. “What can I do?” her eyes and voice say.

Indeed, what can she do for this always-setting-the-bar-too-high mess of me? I like to think I am a recovering perfectionist, but am I really recovering? Am I putting all of this pressure on myself? Have the “shoulds” taken over?

I think my perfectionism was dampened in Emma’s younger years due to the perfect storm of going through the trauma of divorce, transitioning to single parenthood, and scrambling for income at every turn. It was a period in my life that basically showed me that failure is a launching point. It was the first time I really started seeing and understanding grace at work so that I could accept it and begin to extend it to others.

But I tell you, there are times now since Emma has entered into this age of pushing back and stretching her wings, that I feel like that old person again. It’s like I’m grasping for more control by boxing her in with too high standards and my way of doing things. How can she learn to be her own person, to be her own capable adult, with this kind of perfectionist bullying?

She can’t.

On our chalkboard where we write the dinner possibilities for the week, where there is now a pumpkin face, I sometimes write, “Harp less, encourage more.”

This statement is totally 100% for me and no one else in the house. Not for Emma, not for our cat Mo, not for anyone else who comes to visit. It’s just for me. It’s where I want to live but sometimes find it so hard to live out.

In my mind the week where this important milestone of 14 happened for the one and only time in Emma’s life, looked so different. I was going to be a little more Martha Stewart + Jesus, calm, organized, brilliantly creative and loving. I feel more like Jeff Lewis from Flipping Out, obsessive, frantic, and demanding (minus the psychics and “scream therapy,” though maybe that would help at this point).

And I’m realizing that I need that statement from our chalkboard now more than ever. But this time I need to say it to myself.

“Harp less, encourage more.”

Stop trying to do too much. Stop worrying so much. Stop striving so much. Stop beating yourself up. Hug more. Pause more. Love more. Celebrate.

And maybe, just maybe if I can resolve to put less pressure on myself to be more than I really can be anyway, I can let go and enjoy the process and the time with Emma between here and this celebration and even, God willing, beyond.

Lord, thank you for loving recovering perfectionists like me. Help me, in the moments where I stop to listen to you, and feel your love, to then live out of that reservoir and not return to my silly way of striving and pushing. Amen.

2012/12/23

Heroes nearby

A gift for a child

Early this month I spent the second year in a row in Memphis during the St. Jude Marathon. A town known for music, soul food, and the death of Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis is also a place where many families have found the only hope for their children at a hospital that offers cutting edge treatments at no cost.

Visible Music College had music stages set all along the race course to help keep the runners motivated, and I was helping my friend George check in on the musicians including students and Vincent Creative Group’s Americana duo Yancy & Yancy. One of the venues was a fire station parking lot that faced part of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A high fence lined the hospital lawn, green from the still warm southern temps.

As we watched the runners in one of the last miles of the race, we saw that a father and two small children had come out and were peering through the bars at some of the heroes passing by. One of the firemen crossed over to them slipping two red plastic fireman’s hats to the kids from the other side of the fence. The smallest child was a little girl donning a mask and a pretty headband across her head, bare from the treatments that were helping to lengthen her life. She proudly placed the red hat on her head and continued to watch the hero runners, many who not only paid the fee for the race, but had also raised extra money to help kids just like her.

It was a poignant picture, and I thought as the fireman crossed back over to his station how there are heroes all around us. We have family members in the armed forces, friends who are policemen, brothers and sisters who are round-the clock nurses and doctors, and we know teachers who protect children even at their own peril like we saw in Sandy Hook just a few days ago.

Many of us will be with our personal heroes as we reunite with families and best friends over the holidays. Some of us will go “home” to see pastors and spiritual mentors. Others of us will be volunteers along side other heroes to feed the homeless, give shelter to the weary and cold, or to deliver packages to children with out-of-work parents. And less than two weeks ago, I got to meet medical heroes that saved George’s life when he had emergency double bypass surgery.

Truth is, in the midst of a chaotic and troubled world, there are heroes nearby.

As 2012 winds down, we are presented with the perfect opportunity to say thank you to our heroes. If you’ve lost a hero this year, write a prayer, print and frame a special photograph, or gather with people to tell the best stories of that person’s life and record the conversation as a memorial that can be shared with generations to come.

Conversely, take some time to appreciate, to love on, or to serve your living heroes. I’m on my way to see my Pap who is one of my heroes. I often joke with my daughter that they don’t make men like him anymore, but I hope you know someone like him. Devoted father, husband, former volunteer fire chief, prayer warrior, steel mill and railroad worker, retired yet full-time caregiver to my Nan—he is a humble leader with a very healthy sense of humor, a person who leans on his Bible more than his abilities (though he has plenty of them), and one of the most godly men I’ve ever known as evidenced by his every day living.

I plan on telling him how much he means to me. I won’t get anywhere near the mark in expressing fully what a great hero he is to me, but I don’t want to miss the chance I have this year to do so. I promise you sharing your gratitude with your hero will be one of the best gifts they could ever receive this Christmas.

2011/07/31

I want

I want.  Yo quiero.  It’s a phrase we are all used to saying. We order the delicious items that call out to us on a menu by saying, “I want.”  We take off for the mall, cash in hand to buy the things we want.  We make plans and create strategies spending our lives pursuing the things we want.

As I grew up, my sole dream and desire was to be in love.  Like many young girls, I dreamed of a prince and being treated like a princess with a fairy tale wedding and life.  As I got older, my vision changed, but I’m not sure I traded those fairy tale dreams in for the more realistic stuff of falling in love with a real person versus some superman on a white horse.  But I always wanted a family and a home, and at the center of my dream was the relationship I would have with my spouse.

This dream was very powerful in my life.  Looking back I would say that above anything else, including God, (though I wouldn’t have always recognized or acknowledged that fact) I wanted a deep, loving relationship with someone.  That dream was so strong for me that I know I made decisions along the way solely based on the very narrow vision of what I wanted.

As life has happened and as I have changed, I have come to realize how much I took care of that dream to the detriment of other parts of my life.  Most importantly, I’m very aware today of how much that dream came between God and I.  I know that I did little to make sure that dream was built on the right foundation.  Looking back, I feel I was like an Israelite who heard the words of Moses saying, “Love the Lord with all your heart; fear Him; keep his commandments; put no other gods before Him…” but the way I was living you would have thought I just heard, “Blah, blah, blah.”

Scripture is filled with the idea that loving God and putting him first is the key to prosperity and the desires of our hearts coming to fruition, but I really need the story of the Israelites to remind me of the lifetime journey I’m on to defeat the idols in my life. In Deuteronomy before Moses hands over his leadership to Joshua, he reminds the Israelites over and over of this very thing, and in chapter 30 he basically says that if the people will love God with everything in their being that he will restore their riches and gather them all back to ultimately give them the promised land.

It’s great to think about God in unconditional love kinds of terms, but we don’t like to focus much on what is required of us when there might be pain and sacrifice involved.  Here’s just one reference to it from Deuteronomy—emphases mine:

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts (ouch!) and the hearts of your descendants (not my kids too!), so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” 30:6

Life—that’s what we all want.  And I’m not just talking about the act of living of course.  When we define what makes a good life, certain images come to mind based on the desires of our unique hearts.

But what happens when our dreams are idols that we put before God? Circumcision.  Yeah, I know it’s not a pretty word to use, but it fits.  God has circumcised the dreams of my youth, the ones that kept me from his true promises.  It’s been a painful—oh so painful—but necessary part of my faith journey.

A few years ago, I stopped uttering, “I want,” and it wasn’t because I’m some super spiritual person.  It was because I couldn’t really even lift my head.  I was in a valley that overcame me for a time.  I was taken to that place beyond thirst to a place of survival, and amazingly I realized that only God could get me out of there.

I think he is still in the process of doing that, and now I’m more attentive now to his presence.  I’m desperate to live the life he wants me to live.  I know I won’t get it all right.  I know I need to constantly be reminded not to put idols before him.  I know it would be so easy to go back the way I came into the wilderness of old plans and dreams.  But that’s not what I want anymore.

I want what he wants for me.

In May I stood on Mount Nebo.  I looked across the Jordan valley into the Promised Land just like Moses did when he begged the people to remember to put God first and no other.  What a view I had from up there.

I was in Jordan on a theatre in missions trip with Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA)—a dream trip that God miraculously and unexpectedly gifted me with.  Our mission was to work with Muslim and Christian high school students in Amman.  After we left Jordan, we toured several towns in Israel performing scripts at many of the biblical sites we visited.

Our group’s collective journey was very meaningful, and to this day I can’t really believe that I was so blessed to go along.  Being in Jordan and Israel gave me a perspective on my faith that I’m not sure I would have gotten any other way.

My favorite days were in Jordan.  I loved waking up too early and sharing breakfast and conversation with Anna over a delicious bowl of cereal with dried strawberries in it.  I loved sharing food together and reflecting over the amazing things God was doing through our group with Tom.  I loved the late night silliness with Morgen and the prayers we lifted up for one another.

My roomie for the trip was Bev.  Bev has a wonderfully rich soul and lives life with rare vigor and earnestness.  She does not give up easily, though her life has thrown her a number of curve balls.  And she helped me to learn about 5-bar experiences with God—those moments when the communication with him is so full and rich like when all the bars are lit up on my iPhone and everything is clear and unencumbered by interference.

Music was a part of our mission trip as our group worshipped together in the mornings sometimes on our bus.  For Bev and I, both being Anglican and away from our respective churches brought up chats about some of the hymns unique to our tradition.  Once in a while we would just break out into song in our room.  We discovered that we both loved one of my favorite hymns.

Bev and I didn’t have a hymnal or a good internet connection to find all the lyrics while we were on the trip, so we did the best we could scribbling a line or two along the way when one of us would remember, adding up to maybe one or two full verses and the chorus by the time it was all over.  Like bad karaoke we would sing with fervor the parts we knew and then hum the rest until we got back to a familiar word or line.  When I got back to the states, I found my hymnal right away so I could fill in the blanks:

V1:

I want to walk as a child of the Light.  I want to follow Jesus.

God set the stars to give light to the world.  The Star of my life is Jesus.

REFRAIN:

In Him there is no darkness at all, the night and the day are both alike.

The Lamb is the Light of the city of God.  Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

V2:

I want to see the Brightness of God.  I want to look at Jesus.

Clear Son of Righteousness shine on my path and show me the way to the Father.

V3:

I’m looking for the coming of Christ.  I want to be with Jesus.

When we have run, with patience the race we shall know the joy of Jesus.

This hymn is my prayer of the year.  It speaks to all that I hope I’m living out right now. I want to follow Jesus.  I want to look at Jesus, and I want to be with Jesus.  Though I don’t consciously want to hurt, I don’t want to be so far away from the pain it took to get here that I forget that sacrifice and even circumcision are necessary parts of a life dedicated to God.

I stopped saying, “I want” when I went to that desperate place.  But he has lifted my head and helped me to walk again.  And in the stillness he has begun to let me know that it’s okay to ask again.  It’s okay to dream again.  He is whispering to me, “What is it Kim that you now want?”  And from this new place with new perspective, I humbly pray for the desires of my heart.  Psalm 37:4

Lord, may what you want for my life be always what I want.  Amen.

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light composed by Kathleen Thomerson  (lyrics) © 1970 Celebration.