An open letter to my adult children

For the second year in a row, one of our children is graduating from high school. The eldest just graduated from college and there are two still to go.

It is almost unfathomable the children I birthed are considered “adults.”

This is scary. 

I know so little and think I have showed them even less. 

Just yesterday, Noah was learning to ride a bike while Emma was learning to walk and Seth could barely hold his head up. 

Though they were and are all delightful human beings, that period almost now seems a blur of dirty clothes, diapers, tears, pink eye, stomach bugs, ear aches, spills, and the like. They were funny and adorable and a joy. My mom told me to treasure the time because it would be over in an instant and because this was the easy part. 

I could not fathom how either of those were true, but like almost all insight given by those who have gone ahead, it’s nearly impossible to grasp until you get there.

Seventeen years gone by proves my mother right once again. 

The issues of yesteryear are not the issues of today and while we have many restful nights and far less to clean up, the issues now are, well, life altering.

Then it was easy to know what to do, what to say.

Absolutely do not stick your fork in the outlet. You are not allowed to put your hands in toilet water. Stop pulling your sister’s hair. This is how you tie your shoe. You say thank you when someone gives you something. 

Many, if not all of our directions at that time, were straightforward, common sense that young children have not yet developed. The subtle and scary depths of parenting “adults” is a far different task. 

Just three week’s from Seth’s graduation, my mind will not let go of what I want them to know, what I pray for them every day…

 

To my adult (and soon to be adult) children wanting to make their way in the world:

There are only a handful of things I know that I know after 46 years of living and attempting to grow up myself. Despite foolish mistake after foolish mistake, God has graciously, mercifully pursued me and continued to reveal himself.

I have turned away, He has turned me back.

As you live your own life, I can guarantee yours will include some mistakes of your own. That’s part of it. I pray now though, you will grow through them and learn He wants so much more for you than you can even imagine. 

Remember this!

1. First and foremost, God loves you. 

This isn’t a passing fancy, an “I-like-the-way-you-make-me-feel-about-myself” kind of feeling. This is an unshakable, unchanging, unfathomable love like you have not know known from anyone at any time. As much as your dad and I adore you all and want the best in your life, our love looks like garbage next to this towering miracle of grace. 

I may have thought I was going to die giving birth, but this God died so that you could have new birth. He died to give you life. Whether or not you cling to that now, my prayer is that you will one day recognize and cling to it for eternity.

God loves you. 

God loves you Noah. God loves you Emma. God loves you Seth. God loves you Macy. God loves you David. 

2. We are all broken people. 

Even the best of the best—the top of the class, the star of the team, the CEO, the guy next door, we have things that have utterly broken us. There is no escaping this. Some of it is our own fault and some of it is inflicted upon us, but regardless of the circumstances, none of us get out of this place unscarred. 

Because of this, relationships are hard. We are the broken trying to find ways to piece ourselves back together. There is this somewhat humorous irony: I don’t know that we are supposed to be put together. It is in the brokenness we find the same God who was broken for us. He was broken to know us in our own hurting places and to eventually heal us there. 

It is in brokenness that we can begin to understand and connect with all the other broken people around us.

If we let Him, He is faithful to use the pieces in ways we never thought possible.

3. Life doesn’t get any easier. 

In fact, it is probably only harder from here on out. The living part is just hard.

There is a reason people want to re-live the glory days of high school, cling to the college days. There is also a reason they are always looking to the next best thing. Life will be so great once I just graduate high school, graduate college, find a job, find a spouse, have a kid, pay off bills…

From the moment the lie that God does not love us entered the world, things have only trended toward difficulty. 

It is hard to earn a living. It is hard to find someone to love you (and no one will do this perfectly). It is hard to get along with people. It is hard to see the suffering in the world. It is hard to do the right thing.

Despite a scary world and difficult circumstances, do not be discouraged.

4. There is a plan for you. 

Though there are so many times we feel alone and abandoned. We know and can trust there is a plan in place, in motion more like it. It was established before the foundations of this world and your part, you participation is essential. It doesn’t happen without you moving forward, making choices, finding your way. 

It requires some trust on your part to know you are not forsaken. He will not leave you. He will call you by name and beckon you to Himself. To understand your role, you will need to hear His voice. 

Often we just want to know what to do. We say we would do it if we could see clearly what it is we are supposed to do. I have learned though, this is like cheating on a test. It is being given the answers when we are really here to learn. We learn from the hard stuff, taking one step at a time.

5. To find the plan for our lives and understand it requires communication with God. 

This comes through the written word, spoken word and living Word of God. He is literally the communication and all too pleased to do it with you as much as possible. He delights in it in fact. It is in this communication (communion), you will find Him and find yourself. 

Relish your down time, away from the noise, the social media madness that has swallowed us all. Look for places to find Him. He isn’t hiding from you. He is the one pursuing and there is great comfort in this. 

His written word will encourage every single day. No time in prayer is ever a mistake. Through these, you will know the Living Word Himself.

6. Pursue Him, pursue that plan for your life knowing that He is in it with you and will absolutely never leave or forsake you. 

When you have discovered His call, discerned the sound of His voice, you can wholly, completely, unabashedly follow Him. You will find so much grace you will be overwhelmed by it. If it were possible, you would drown in it. 

Freedom is the gift of this grace. This freedom will give you the joy and peace to pursue His plan, the glorious vision He has for you.

In the pursuit, know you will fail and fall and stumble along the way. It is inevitable. This, however, in no way disrupts the process. It is part of it. Thank God for it and keep on moving toward Him and all that He intends for you.

7. Lastly, when some seasons seem particularly difficult or seem out of control, or even if you doubt any of these reminders, be sure you never forget the first thing.  

God loves you. 

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learning how to die

“That’s the whole spiritual life, learning how to die.”

~Eugene Peterson

People say they want to die to self.

We, however, have an innate natural fear of death and dying to self is no easier a feat than regular death. Really death of any kind is something we all would like to avoid.

I’ve decided people don’t really know what they are really saying.

This, like any difficulty I know about or encounter, is something I choose to run from and not to.

A spiritual life by death is daunting and I’m fully aware that I am not capable. I have demonstrated that I always choose self. Even when I think I’m not, the motives are frightening.

However, I have children.

As it turns out, that it is an excellent method for learning to die.

Having kids is the single hardest thing I have ever done.

Giving birth on its own is like a death of sorts. The physical pain and exhaustion and opening of your body in a way never thought possible feels like you may be dying.

Literally ripped apart, the body is broken and gives up to another life.

The pain, the fear, the sheer exhaustion of birth may have actually been the easy part.

When a child reaches maturity and you consider all you have poured in and that nothing is how you thought it would be, this too is a kind of death. The death of a desire or a dream.

Let me just give birth every day to not have to see, to feel, to endure these kinds of things now.

When the freshman in college says he doesn’t believe any more what he has professed to believe all his life.

When they slide up next to you to tell you they love you only to follow up with the story of how they are in dire trouble for foolish actions or what they would like you to buy them.

When they invite you to lunch with a friend and you realize it’s only because they need you to foot the bill.

When the embarrassment of “mom” being nearby is enough to make them take two steps away, pretend they don’t know you.

When it’s mother’s day and they hem and haw and shuffle feet anxiously waiting until they are free to go.

When you hold fast and they only pull away.

Motherhood does not look like this—at least not in the movies, not on television, not next door, not on Instagram or Pinterest.

This is where it feels broken, given up, swept under, less than.

To be at the middle of life and have nothing to show, no achievement to point to. There is no stellar career. This is not a neat and orderly home. There is not a beacon of spiritual leadership here.

There is the dry ache of eyes that have no tears remaining. Dryness all over, that sense that you’ve nothing left to pour out.

These people are just looking for a way out even though you have given up everything you had to bring them in. It is a hurt like none I’ve ever known.

I can’t figure out if I am dying to self or if they are killing me.

I look for any kind of evidence that there is love and only when I look up and away from me and the mess and disappointments do I find truth.

When I think that my kids are forcing my own spiritual death, I remember this is the calling. The Savior led me this way.

Looking up to him on that cross, enduring far beyond all I can imagine, I know as awful as it is to behold, it is life coming from death. His journey to the cross did not end with death.

It is in remembering this that we find life: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. {Phillipians 2}

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. {John 12}

How must He feel when I say I don’t believe, when I always ask and never thank, when I am embarrassed to say I am with Him, when I try to escape our time alone.

We are called to this same death that brings life, but we have to remember in the midst that we are loved, not alone.

For Christmas last year my dad made a decorative guitar for me. He has taken up woodworking and cherishes the time and effort he puts into the work.

He searches barns and roadsides and specialty shops for unusual and unique pieces that he can transform into something beautiful. And he does.

The guitar he made has several different types woods and is pieced together in a glorious design. When he gave it to me, he included a wooden nameplate that he had burned with the name of the piece.

We hung it immediately I and I kept the label nearby on the windowsill.

I admire the work daily.

Somehow it is easy to miss the life in the midst of death. It is easy when the focus is on all that looks awry. The noise, the failures of life tend to draw our attention away from the finished work.

As awful as giving birth—the process—can be, the resulting life is like nothing else. The mere fact that life comes of that brokenness is astonishing.

When I had my fifth child, I was in the final throes of childbirth, baring down and pushing with all I had. My head was down and eyes closed focused only on the pain.

Then I realized the doctor was speaking to me, “Amy, look up.”

I opened my eyes and there, half out of me was my precious David screaming like, well, he was dying.

He was coming to life in this world and it was as if my broken pain was instantly gone. My focus changed and I was renewed by life.

While battling feelings of loneliness, I recently stared hard at my dad’s creation hanging on the wall. I know it is a symbol, a reflection of his love. I looked at it and yearned to know my cries are heard, difficulties understood.

I asked my Father to show me again.

I reached for the nameplate, picked it up and turned it over.

There I found something I’d not seen before. My dad had written on the back side of the wood. His signature was there, the artist signing his work. He had also written a note to me:

You are greatly loved by me Amy

-Dad

Undone, tears came again.

I am no longer dry when I fix my eyes on the finished work.