Before you leave home- a letter to my daughter

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Before you leave…..

Sweet one you graduate in 19 months from high school. Although that means you are home for another year and half. It means you are only home for another year and half and this mama’s heart just needs to let you know some things.

I’ve had a check list of things I’ve wanted you to know before you left. Now while this list seem trivial to some I believe that they are important life skills to know.

-Mow a lawn because you will not make enough money to have someone mow your lawn when you leave this house. Also we never made enough money to have someone mow our lawn as educators. Plus it’s very therapeutic.

-Cook more than noodles. Well because you need to eat more than just carbs for the rest of your life. There is nothing like making someone’s belly happy with a great meal that you created with your own two hands.

-Clean the house. Again defer to the amount of money you will most likely make. And I really believe that if God allows to live in a home that you should count that as a blessing and treat it as such. I know I am not the best housekeeper but when my in-laws come I know how to clean it.

– Fail. I know this seems harsh but I don’t want you to do this for the first time when you are not with me. I want to be able to walk you through this. Life is not fair. And many times you are not going to understand why. I don’t. But when you fail, and you will, I want to be able to talk you through it and watch you try again and again.

-Tell the truth. To be honest this one is hard for me. I have struggled with this one my whole life. To be honest with who you are. What your past was. And who you are now. I want you to live a truthful life. A life that screams the reality of who you are and not who others need you to be.

-Clean the toilet. I am not trying to make you a Cinderella but for the love know how to clean up your own messes. And I am not ashamed that I have given this as one of your chores.

– Wash your clothes. You will shrink clothes. But I want you to learn it here and not on the first week you are married and your sweet husband now needs to fit into Barbie sized clothing because I never taught you the correct way to actually do laundry.

– Ask for help. Please. Do not try to get through life alone. Your dad and I should be in your top three people to ask for help. Know that we always will. We always will help and ask questions later. I don’t know what I would have done without my village. You will need a village of help and love.

– Forgive. It took me many years to figure this out. I hope the day you graduate, if not sooner you have learned to forgive. Forgive the friend that doesn’t act the way you think they should. Forgive your sibling that keeps “borrowing” your clothes. Forgive your parents. We did the best we could. If you hang on to the unforgiveness it is only hurting you. It is chaining you to expectations that will never be met. Grace sweet one. Pour out grace.

-Respect your elders. I see the opposite of this so much it hurts me. When kids and adults have no respect for those that are older or in authority. Those that teach you, go before you, are around you are there to protect and love you. Look closely and you can see little glimpses of who you are going to be. How you treat others is a direct window into what is inside your heart.

– Laugh at yourself and have friends that laugh with you. Have friends who think you are funny. I know you don’t think I am “Sarah Braverman” but my friends do and that is just fine with me. Laughing cleans out the hardness that likes to make its way into our hearts. Deep belly laughs frees the spirit to sour.

-Get a job, with a boss- I started working when I was 15. Because my parents said if I wanted extra things I needed to earn it. I also thought it would be cool to fry up burgers. (not so much) But I want you to earn your own money. I want you to answer to someone other than your parents. I want you to manage your own schedule and money. I think there is so much value in actually working outside of the home and not relying on gifts of money that you receive.

-Know Jesus. Really know Him. Look for Him everywhere. He is here. He is walking right beside you every day. And on days when it is so dark and so much evil clouds your vision He is fighting the battle to keep your heart. I want you to own your faith. To claim it as your own. Ask questions. Seek answers. I want you to stand firm in your own faith not ours. He needs to work redemption out for you and I need to let you experience it.

Sweet one, as I am writing this list I realize I could go on and on at the things I hope you have learned. I realize though all the things you have taught me. You have taught me to fight for those I love. You have taught me that I love you when I just show up. You have taught me that all you ever wanted was my time. You taught me that you are grateful that your dad and I fought to stay together even though I wanted out so many times. You have taught me that all God wanted for me was to return. You have taught me there is healing when I admit my wrongs. You have taught me that late night giggles are best if not interrupted. You have taught me that I made the best decision by never walking into that clinic seventeen years ago. You taught me that second chances are moments we need to be awake for. You have taught me that each day I have a chance to do better. You have taught me that family is more than blood.

Even if you have only learned one thing. Know this. You have been loved so deeply and fiercely wanted from the day I learned of your beating heart.

Now go change the world sweet baby girl…..

love you to the moon and back.

mom

Charcoal stained lips.

Image

Second floor of the dorm, they had just completed it that spring.

I  lay on the bathroom floor.

Cold tile against my ribs. Hair matted, crusted with last night’s red pasta sauce. Head propped on the toilet.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. Psalm 38:3

 Not sure if my roommate could hear me crying.

This time. This time I had taken too many. Too many little blue pills that promised to make me feel better and look thinner. She had tried to hide them in her room behind her Biology book.

 I lay there and could taste the tears, salty, wondering who would find me first.

Maybe she hears me.

Maybe she hears my emptiness.

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38;8

 I can’t move.

 My heart is going too fast.

Help.

Someone see me.

My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light is gone from my eyes. Psalm 38:10

The ambulance came that night. As morning pushed her way in.

 My brother knelt over me crying. I could hear them say someone had found me like this.

This way. The way where the price of being thin had now caught the attention of the entire campus. The sirens rang my addiction for the seminary students to judge.

 Tubes shoved down.

Raw throat, black charcoal spewed over the grey tattered t-shirt of the boy who broke my heart that winter.

Friends that would never come. Never come to see the girl with the charcoal lips. They had given up watching me pile bowls of cereal on my cafeteria tray. Cereal they knew they would hear coming back up within the hour.

They stopped asking me to go out to dinner with them. Wasting money on food . Wasted on a girl who cared more about the size of her jeans, than the relationships she left walking through the bathroom door.

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds, my neighbors stay far away. Psalm 38:11

They had tried to save me. Tried to send me nutritional printouts through campus mail. Tried to distract me with activities and conversations.

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. Psalm 38:14

But where the mind wants to go, there the addiction stays.

Trapped in the image of emaciation is where control was found. Where no one would see the pain that I forced out multiple times a day. Toilets, trash cans, napkins, pillow cases, showers, ditches. When grief would surface, the quicker it could be driven out, the more I could breathe. The more I could have control again.

Yet this morning.

When night was leaving me there on the tiled floor.

When the secret was made public.

Here is where He found me.

Here is where I began to see the emptiness. Emptiness  in the sin that had bled me of actual feelings. Another addiction that clouded any connection others tried to grasp from me.

Oh Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Psalm 38:21-22

Here on the tiled floor is where He met me. That is where He is meeting you.

#shereadstruth

prego at summer camp….and what my mother taught me.

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In honor of Billy Graham- what is your legacy?

Today is Billy Grahams birthday. He is 95. 95 years of life on this earth. 95 years to leave his mark. His legacy. This got me to thinking. What kind of legacy do I want to leave? It also had me thinking that I am so relieved that I did not leave this earth before the age of 25. Lord knows there were many times I should have. Yet only by His grace am I still alive today.

When I was younger I remember my great- grandfathers both held certain men in high esteem. On my sweet Catholic great- grandfathers wall hung a gold plated framed picture of the pope. Next to it was a picture of Jesus. They hung on the right side of his rocker at the same level. I have to imagine that he believed that the pope was Jesus in the flesh and he wanted to always remember him in his prayers. While my Christian Reformed grandfather holds Billy Graham in the same esteem. To this day he will tell me stories of revivals that he has seen or heard and the eternal impact that Billy Graham has had on him and the way he has lived his life.

In 2007 I had an amazing opportunity to serve alongside Samaritans Purse in Liberia. Serving those afflicted with HIV/ AIDS it was my first time falling in love with Africa and realizing the joy we lacked here in the US. Although it is Billy Graham’s son Franklin’s organization I felt like I was getting to experience a part of the Graham legacy that my grandfather had experienced.

So today being the patriarch Billy’s birthday I have to imagine that as he looks over the birthday cake with his family singing him praises that he is filled with gratitude. Knowing that he has left a legacy that has changed the not only their lives but the lives of those all over the world.

So what kind of legacy will you leave?

Will you be more concerned with what grades your child has? With what clubs they are in? How popular they are? Will you look back and say wow I am glad that every weekend was overbooked with activities that I never got to really know my children? Will you look at your bank statement and be pleased that you never gave extravagantly to someone who really needed it? Will you be calm before your maker knowing you believed 10% was not for you? Will you be filled with joy that you spent more hours at the gym than on your knees before the King? Will you be satisfied that you went to brunch with your friends or slept in on Sunday morning instead of worshiping the one who made you? Will you be at peace knowing that you never took the moments to share the love of Jesus with the little ones living under your roof? Will you be rested knowing that you continued to live like you were in a frat house every weekend instead of growing up and being the man of the house? Will you be content knowing that you never knew that your neighbor was in so much pain but your pride to walk across the street kept you inside? Will you be delighted knowing that your kids went to elite colleges but never learned what empathy was?

If I were to have passed before the age of 25 I cannot imagine the legacy I would have left. Be selfish. Drink whenever you want. You don’t have to be married. You can believe whatever you want to believe. You have no one to worry about but yourself. Spend money on things that make you look better than everyone else.

I want to leave a different legacy. I want to do better.

I want my legacy to say mercy. Love big. Love with reckless abandon. Give away. Give away everything. Things mean nothing. Create memories. Slow down. Say no. Serve. All the time serve. Serve someone who can never serve you back. Take pictures. Write stories. Tell your story. You are never too lost. Don’t be afraid. Travel the world. Make sure your feet and heart stay red. Sit at the feet of Jesus and let His love permeate over you. Tell others about redemption. Give grace. Receive grace. Fight for your community. Fight for each other. But don’t fight with each other. Reach out and feel the hand of Jesus. And most of all….know that you matter.

Take a moment and think. What kind of legacy are you leaving?

sweet ones.–dreams for my daughters.

Dear sweet ones,

I watch you growing into the girls I always wished I could be and it makes me pause for a moment and think. I wish someone would have told me so many things when I was your age. Although maybe someone did and I was already so far gone that I just closed my ears to what was being laid out before me. So this is my advice to you now. Feel free to Tweet or Instagram it, whatever you need to do to remember it.

– Never color your hair. Seriously don’t start. You have gorgeous hair and once you start you end up spending hundreds of dollars to keep it up. You have your aunt’s gorgeous hair and I am a bit jealous. But if you do color your hair don’t do it yourself. I beg of you it will cost a lot of money to correct. And it hurts and is painful. Make sure you want photos of yourself taken with that color. Don’t try to convince me that purple will still look classy in 15 years.

-Don’t ever date anyone that is not as amazing as your dad. You both adore your dad so much and he feels the same about you. Don’t forget that. When that boy or man child starts paying attention to you talk to your dad about him and listen. If you can’t or if he doesn’t even have the courage to talk face to face with your dad then walk away. Better yet run. Because sweet girls you think your daddy hung the moon and the man you marry needs to hold it in place.

-Don’t go to college. Ok. Hear me out. Don’t go to college if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Just because you have a college degree does not make you any better than anyone else. Believe me some of the people I love and respect the most are changing the world more by never stepping in a college classroom. You don’t have to spend $30,000 a year to figure that out. And debt sucks. Travel the world. Go on a mission trip go on many! Ask tough questions. Follow your passion not the crowd. And if the crowd is your passion than we have another problem. I want you to see and know other countries and other cultures. I want you touch the oceans with your toes and see the evidence of God in the face of devastation.

– Open your heart to the possibility that God has something more than just high school drama for you He will meet you there.

-Throw away the credit card applications before you even walk in the door. They are liars. They do not want the best for you. They want the best for the world. And you are not of the world.

-Don’t fight with your sister. Love each other well. Learn her love language and speak it to her. Don’t wait until it is too late to make amends. Your siblings are your blood and they deserve all of you. I messed up in this area and I don’t want you to have the same hole in your heart like I do.

-Say no. Say no before you say yes. I want you to know how to balance your life. And just because it is good does not mean that it is always a yes. Good things deserve a no too.

-Know God. Explore Him. Claim Him as your own. Read His word. Soak in His Presence. Sit silently and hear His voice. Know that He is pursuing you so stop running and let Him catch you, hold you , and love you.

-Learn to change a tire. Grocery shop. Know how to cook all of your favorite meals and your siblings meals too. Give money away to complete strangers. Write thank you notes. Always have stamps on you. Know your family’s history. Ask questions. Tell your story. You never know how your story will heal another’s.

-Come home. You will leave at some point and I will sob. It will probably be an ugly cry and very embarrassing. But after you leave and start your own life. Come home. Visit. Call. Write letters. Skype. Facetime. Whatever you need to do to stay connected. If you need gas money I will send it. I will eat cereal all week if it means that I get to see your sweet face. Home is where we are. Home is where you began and the two should always matter to you. And if you don’t call. Don’t worry I will.

I love you to the moon and back,

mom.