Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Homeless Couple Asked my Husband for Money...

I was so inspired last night by my husband, as we sat at the dinner table and went around one by one, sharing about our day.  Jon​ shared that he was approached at work by a man and his girlfriend who are homeless - living in their car.
They asked for money for gas and food.

I assumed Jon would give them money for those things, because we try to live very open handed.  Meaning, we don't judge the person or try to guess what they'll actually do with the money.  We believe that giving has a lot more to do with our own heart of generosity, and less to do with making sure the person we give to is a good steward of the money.  It's our job to be generous.  Living this way has helped us to have such freedom in our giving.  It's a quick heart check.  Does my money own me? Or am I blessed to be a blessing?

We've been on the receiving end of this type of generosity as well - Where someone has given us money and we responded saying, "Wow, we will do _____ with it..."  and the person interrupted us and said, "You do with it what you need to.  I don't need to know about it.  This isn't my money.  It's God's money given to you through me."  Wow.  Jon and I then felt accountable to God for our use of the money.  Not to the person.  It's such a more free way to live for all parties involved.

So yesterday, when approached by the homeless couple, Jon shared that he didn't just give them money.  He asked them out to lunch.  Yes, he filled up their gas tank and yes, he filled their bellies, but more than that, he joined them at the table.  He sat with them and ate with them and asked about their stories.  He got to know THEM.  Not just their need.  THEM.

I listened to him talk about this couple, with a heart of love and compassion.

1 Corinthians 13:3 says, "If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my own body, I could boast about it; but if I did not love others, I would have gained nothing."

Thank you, Jon, for giving me a glimpse of what it looks like to live this out.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Day I Stopped Caring If My Son Was Cool...

When my first born, Jackson, went to kindergarten, something birthed inside of me...  This desire for him to make lots of friends and be well liked by his teacher and peers.  I don't know why I cared that much or gave it much thought.  Jackson was an easy going kid - super chill and laid back.  He played well with other kids and had a lot of friends in his care-free pre-school years.  But having just moved to a new city, we didn't know any kids that first day of school.   I remember during his Kindergarten year, spying on him on the playground at lunch and recess.  Not often, but still.  Did he have friends?  Did he get picked first or last for soccer teams at recess?  Was he well liked?   Sometimes I saw him playing an intense game of soccer with a big group of friends.  Other times he waited in line for a good old game of 4 Square.  And other times he sat on a bench and talked with a new kindergarten buddy who had a broken arm and couldn't play, just so his buddy wouldn't feel lonely while everyone else played.  Jackson had always just been a good kid.  Like I said, very easy going and chill.

However, I quickly discovered that his way of doing school was very different than MY way of doing school.  As Jackson went into 1st and 2nd and 3rd grade, it became very clear that Jackson loved to do what he loved to do.  One day it was tether ball.  One day it was hand ball.  Another day it was basketball.  And maybe the next it was soccer.  Whatever he felt like playing that day, he did.  It wasn't determined by WHO was doing those things.  It was just about what sounded like fun to him on that day.  This blew my narrow mind and sent me into a tailspin.  "Um, but what about your friends?  Why don't you hang out with your friends and do what they're doing?"  I would ask, perplexed.  "Well, sometimes I do.  But sometimes they want to play basketball and I really feel like playing tether ball."  "Tether ball?  Is that even cool?" I would think to myself.  When I was in grade school, I hung out with my friends.  I didn't care what I was doing, as long as it was with my friends.  Here was my son, doing what he thought sounded fun, regardless of what his friends were doing.  How was I going to get him to change his crazy, care-free ways?!?  ;)

I remember when Jackson was in Kindergarten, a mom from another class who I didn't know that well, made a comment in passing about another mom at school who was super nice, but her son was "a total nerd." Wait, did she just label a 5 year old a nerd?  Wow.  My heart broke for the boy and for the uphill battle I knew would be his, if he was already labeled by a peer's mom in Kinder.  My heart also wondered what was said about my boy?  Was he liked and accepted?  And so the after-school questions continued.  "How was your day, honey? What did you play at recess? With who? Why didn't you play ____?"  Pressure.  Expectations.  Pressure.

At age 4, Jackson started soccer.  At 5 he started baseball.  At 6 he started basketball.  At 8 he started flag football.  And at 9 he tried out for a musical and got a leading role.  (The Donkey in Shrek)  His role was hilarious.  He was funny and witty and clearly had talent.  It was SO fun to see him branch out into the area of musical theater.  While he had fun playing sports, and continued with baseball and flag football, he also continued on to audition for another show.  He LOVED it ALL!  It was a blast to see him thriving in his talents.

And then it happened.  One day Jackson came home from school and told me that a friend of his had told him that he really shouldn't be trying out for a musical because it wasn't "cool."  In fact, he told Jackson it was "lame."  Jackson wasn't hurt or upset at all.  He was actually perplexed.  "Mom," he said, "He's never even been in a musical.  He doesn't know if it's lame.  It's actually one of the most fun things I've ever done!"  Jackson wasn't upset.  He just thought his friend was wrong.  :)  And the friend actually didn't say it to be mean.  He didn't have a rude tone and honestly wasn't making fun of Jackson.  He was really just trying to help his buddy out.  "Stay away from what's not cool."   Except that's not Jackson.  Jackson stays away from what he's not interested in.  :)  What's cool?  Jackson could care less.  He wants to be happy.  And doing things where he has gifts and talents and that's fun? That makes him happy.

In that moment, the moment where he was told not to do something because it wasn't cool, I felt an overwhelming sense of release.  A release of the pressure and the expectations and the mom-fear.   My son is really dang good at singing and acting. And if that's not "cool," then for the first time in my mom-life, I did not care.  Truly.  I had a choice.  I could tell my son to stifle his obvious talent and passion.  Or I could release him to be free to be him.  No pressure to be anything less than that or different than that.  "Jackson, everyone has different skills. Everyone has different talents and abilities.  Everyone has different things that they love doing, and makes them feel alive.  The best thing each person can do is to discover what those things are and do them.  You enjoy baseball and football.  So you do it and you love it.  You are really good at acting.  So you do it and you love it.  Someone else might be really good at sports.  Or really good at playing piano.  Or at building things.  Or drawing.  There is no 'right' or 'wrong.'  There is just being you.  That's the best thing everyone can do.  Be themselves.  No apologies.  No pretending to be someone else.  Be you.  And be happy."  Boom.  Release.  HE has always lived in that.  But me?  It took me a few years to figure that out in regards to him.  So embarrassing.

Since that day, I no longer ask Jackson loaded questions about what he does at recess.   I still ask him -  but I do it because I'm interested.  Not because I want to pressure him toward something else or gauge how I think he's doing socially.  I gauge how he's doing based on HIS happiness.  HIS demeanor.  HIS perspective, not mine.  (DUH!)

Jackson is happy.  Really happy.  Whether he's playing hand ball or basketball.  Whether he's playing baseball or The Genie in Aladdin.  Whether he's playing those things with his best friends or with a group of people he doesn't know.  He is happy.  And there is such freedom in me knowing that his happiness is "enough."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

For the Mamas who have Miscarried and the People Surrounding Them...

Today is my due date.  March 3rd.  Well, 11 years ago today, it was.  Today was the day I was due to deliver Jon and my very first child.  We had been so excited to start our growing family.  When we found out we were expecting, the first thing we did was go out and buy a minivan.  Ha!  To say we were thrilled would be an understatement.  :)

I'll never forget the doctor's appointment we had as I was about to begin my second trimester.  We watched in awe as the doctor showed us the tiny life on the screen.  Jon was taking pictures of me in my paper gown, as we were getting printout pictures of our newest family member!   And then he said it.  The doctor's words knocked the air right out of my lungs.  "I'm so sorry, but the baby isn't looking and growing like it should."  I couldn't breathe.  The room started spinning.  He sent us home to "wait and see" and come back for more tests the following Monday.  The elevator ride down to the parking lot was silent.  Jon just stood next to me and squeezed my hand.  I blinked hard and fast, but the tears streamed down anyway.  Those tears.  Once they came that day, they were either there or close by for the next several weeks and months that followed.  The following Monday we found out the baby had stopped growing.  Its heart had stopped beating.

I remember my husband wanting so badly to help, but didn't know exactly how.  I remember my friends trying to support me, but not knowing what to do.  I remember struggling with my own feelings of grief.  Was I allowed to be sad over losing a baby at 12 weeks?  That's nothing compared to the loss others have experienced.

As March 3rd's have come and gone, I have reflected and remembered.  I have since walked this journey alongside friends and family who have had similar losses.  And so today, I write this in hopes that it might be helpful to anyone in a similar spot - or who knows someone who is.

To the Mommies, the Daddies, and the friends who surround them:

*Give grace.  To yourself and to others.  Miscarrying is painful and everyone walks through pain differently.  Give yourself and others the grace to walk it loudly, quietly, sadly, angrily and even clumsily.

*Give yourself permission to grieve.  Whether you were pregnant for 5 months or 5 hours, allow yourself to grieve.  There are ABSOLUTELY different degrees of pain and loss when you carry a child for 5 months verses 5 hours.  But your pain is no less REAL.   When you see that "positive test," you start to dream.  Of what will be, what could be, what you hope to be.   Even a short pregnancy comes with its dreams.  Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of all you had hoped for that life.

*Use your pain to feel compassion, not comparison.  I will never forget when my cousin shared with my mom and I the details of her loss.  She lost her full term baby girl.  I cannot even begin to imagine how a loss like that would feel.  My mom, trying to relate, said, "I'm so sorry for your loss.  You know, Deanna lost her baby too."  I wanted to crawl into a hole.  There is no way for me to try to compare my cousin's loss to my loss.  Yes, my pain was real and it turned my world upside down.  But I have such compassion for a loss of that magnitude.  I never want to take away from someone's loss by comparing it to mine.  Just as I don't want to take away from my own loss by comparing it to someone else's.  I just want to use my pain to feel compassion.  To weep with those who weep.  To mourn with those who mourn.

*Give grace. Yes, this point again.  Give grace to that person who just said they know exactly how you feel because they lost their pet goldfish when they were 8, so they can imagine what it felt like to find out your baby's heart stopped beating.  People want to relate. They want to help.  Offer grace when they do it clumsily.

*Don't try to fix it.  Spouses and friends and family want so badly to take the pain away.  So sometimes they say helpful things.  Other times they say things that hurt.  "I'm sure you'll get pregnant again."  "Well at least you already have 2 kids."  "You should be thankful for all the other great things in your life."  And on and on they say "encouraging" things.  Except they aren't encouraging.  They perpetuate this pressure to be better faster.  Hurry up and heal.  Even if the statement is true, it doesn't mean it's beneficial in the moment.

*Give grace.  Yup.  Again.  Give grace to your spouse that is trying to help and heal and fix.  Women have this beautiful privilege of feeling a life growing inside of our bodies.  We feel nauseous and tired and swollen and tiny kicks and hiccups.  Your spouse doesn't have the benefit of those feelings, so doesn't always understand the degree of emotional connection a mama has with her unborn baby - no matter how far along.

*Surround yourself with healthy people who love you.  The best kind of person is the one who gets in the pit with you and grieves with you....but also loves you too much to let you stay there.  Let people love on you by bringing meals. (hint: if you are a friend of someone who has lost a baby, bring food.)  :)  Let people cry with you and meet your needs.  But let them also get you out of the house.  Let them take you out.  Let them remind you of beauty and Truth and that healing is possible.  These friends, if they have a healthy perspective on life, will know how to love you in both of those ways and at the appropriate times.

*Give grace.  You knew it was coming again.  ;)  Grace.  But I'm not talking to the mamas right now.  I'm talking to the spouse and friends.  You grieved with.  You showed up.  And now you're trying to help that person out of the pit.  But they're not ready.  They have found their pit to be quite cozy and warm. Heck, they may have even hung pictures in that place and called it home.  Don't give up.  Give grace.  And try again. This time, maybe gentler.  We will come around.  We want to.  Deep down we do.  We just need someone to be patient with us and love us enough to journey with us - even if it's at a slow crawl's pace.

*If you get pregnant again, celebrate. This one might sound crazy, but honestly, it was the biggest gift my husband gave me.  After the loss of our first pregnancy, the next time we found out we were expecting, I was very hesitant to celebrate.  I was hesitant even to believe that I truly was pregnant.  I knew the test had read "Positive," but every day after that, I second guessed if the baby's heart was still beating, if the baby was growing, etc..  One day, my husband sat me down and said, "You know what?  You are right.  We don't know how this pregnancy will end.  We don't know what tomorrow will hold.  But what we do know is that TODAY you are pregnant!  You are pregnant RIGHT NOW.  So we are going to celebrate the "right now."  We are going to be excited about today!  Because today there is a baby growing inside of you.  That is truth.  That is real.  We'll face a different reality if that comes, but today?  Our reality is YOU are PREGNANT."  And you know what?  He was right.  I was pregnant.  And I remained pregnant until at 9 months I delivered a 9 pound 12 ounce baby boy.  I could have spent those 9 months filled with worry and anxiety or I could have spent it celebrating each day that life grew inside of me.  I'm so thankful I chose the later and had a trusted, loving voice to point me to a better way to move forward.

*If you don't get pregnant and someone else does, celebrate.  This might sound crazier than the point above.  But I'm going to take a moment to use some "tough love" on this one.  While we are grieving our loss, as much as we hate to acknowledge it sometimes, the world around us continues on.  People get pregnant and grow their own families.  You know pregnancy is beautiful and miraculous, but when someone else gets pregnant after you've experienced loss, you don't always view it as beautiful and miraculous.  You view it as mean and cruel.  But the reality is, someone else's pregnancy has nothing to do with yours.  Celebrate with them.  Don't make them ashamed of the miracle growing in their womb.  They can't suck it in.  Or hide it from you.  At least not forever.  And although sometimes seeing a pregnant woman was a reminder of my loss, the beauty of hearing a healthy heartbeat and seeing a sonogram of a growing baby is absolutely something to be celebrated!

Bottom line: Don't do life alone.  Life is better together.  Celebrations are better with people.  And grieving is better when not done alone.  Let people in.  Although it is popular to wait until the 2nd trimester to tell people you're expecting, I am so thankful people knew about our pregnancy earlier than that.  So that when we did experience the loss, we had a huge support system that was aware and there for us.  And when our next pregnancy came, we had huge prayer support for a healthy baby and pregnancy.  People want to journey with you.  Let them.  And when it comes time to journey with someone else?  Be the first in line because you know the beauty of community.

I wish this world knew no loss or pain or death.  But unfortunately that's not the case.  "March 3rd's" happen for someone, somewhere, each and every day.  And so we link arms and put one foot in front of the after day after day.  Giving grace upon grace and knowing that we are better together.  Loving, learning, offering compassion, and being a safe place to heal.

Thank you for being that to me, on this, my first baby's due date.