April 25, 2020

When the Show Doesn't Go On

Oh, band, orchestra, choir, theater, and dance students, we are so sorry. 

The show, they say, must go on. But for many of you—especially for the members of the class of 2020 and your families and fans—it hasn’t.

We see your instruments parked in corners, your concert black dresses and tuxes hanging in the closet, your tap shoes silent for the moment, your highlighted scripts unopened.

That solo you finally won, that coveted role you finally landed, that tricky step you finally mastered, that impossible note you finally hit...

We can understand how all these might feel stuck inside you. And we, the literal and symbolic members of an audience that would have filled a now-empty auditorium, are so sorry. Our hearts break for you. 

And yet our hearts also hope for you. They hope, because we know your life show will go on. 

It may go on on a different stage, but somewhere, somehow, you will make an entrance. You will sing your songs and play your notes and dance your dances and deliver your lines. You will take a bow, a curtain will close, and your audience will rise to its feet and applaud. 

And when we cry, "Encore! Encore!" you will reach down and play, sing, speak, and dance the strength, grace, perseverance, and determination you are tuning right this minute. You will give that encore to us. And more importantly, you will give it to yourself.

April 20, 2020

50 Things I Know For Sure After 50 Years

With gratitude, a few observations from the half-century mark...

1. When in doubt, pause, praise, and pray.

2. Encouragement is always a good idea.

3. Three of the most wonderful words in the world to be able to say are, “That’s my daughter.” (And also, based on observation if not experience, “That’s my son.”)

4. Marrying a guy you picked up in church one Sunday morning can work out beautifully.

5. There’s no fan club like the mom fan club.

6. Faith usually grows the most when a lot of other things in life are the least.

7. There’s nothing quite like a friend who really knows you and likes you anyway.

8. Lemon is one of the best flavors ever that isn’t chocolate.

9. “Hosanna!” means “save now” and is a perfect one-word prayer.

10. Some brains think better when the body they’re attached to is moving.

11. When someone pays you a compliment, they are not looking for a discussion. Just say, “Thank you.” (Yes, mama.)

12. Clothesline-dried sheets are one of the best smells in the world.

13. In a lot of life areas, my job is the input, not the outcome.

14. The goal with any habit is to get to the place where it is not something I have to decide about every time.

15. I 100% agree with Laura on Little House on the Prairie: "Home is one of the nicest words there is."

16. Life is lived in the mix of joy and sorrow, dancing and mourning, weeping and laughing, doing and stopping, clarity and confusion, having and wanting.

17. Saying “I love you” to someone in their love language—especially when it’s not your native tongue—is in itself an act of love.

18. I can’t only do what I feel like doing and I can’t always do what I feel like doing.

19. Pretty much any vegetable is even better when it’s roasted.

20. Thankfulness activates peace.

21. In general, just do the one next good thing.

22. In baking, soda spreads and powder puffs.

23. Also in baking, you can always add time, but you can’t take it away. And recommended baking times are almost always way too long.

24. If you paint a wall or a room and have to talk yourself into liking the color, you don’t like it.

25. When clothes shopping, if you don’t love it in the store, you don’t love it enough to bring it home.

26. If you clean out a closet and give something away, the odds are maddeningly high that within the next 24 hours, that something will be the thing in the world you need most.

27. Forgiveness sets someone free. Namely, you.

28. Most days, scoring anything better than zero is a win. (Thanks, sister.)

29. Grandparents are some of God’s best inventions ever.

30. When I’ve got a destructive or distracting or discouraging track on a repeat loop in my brain, I can’t just tell myself, “Don’t think about that.” I don’t have the option of turning it off; there’s always a track running. I have to replace the old track with something new and better.

31. There are people who live to run...and then there are people who only run for their lives.

32. People aren’t usually expecting you to solve their problems; they just want someone safe who will listen while they unload.

33. Weird is the new wonderful.

34. God is God of the storm before the calm.

35. Introverts do not need to be fixed, healed, brought out of their shell, converted, or encouraged to cross over.

36. Chocolate is the answer. I don’t actually need there to be a question.

37. Moms do not sleep so much as they worry in a reclining position.

38. Looking forward to something is at least half the fun of it.

39. Love is a verb, a decision, a choice.

40. A mom is the heart of her home. This is both a weighty responsibility and a wondrous opportunity.

41. One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to simply notice each other: our happiness, our hurts, our triumphs, our struggles.

42. Five of the most encouraging words to ever hear or speak are, “You’re not the only one.”

43. The following are homeschool classes I’m qualified to teach: 1)PE for SAGs (Students Against Gym); 2)Math 4 MOMs (Mothers Opposed to Math); 3)The Art & Science of Chocolate-Chip Cookies; 4)Their, They're, & There: None Of These Things Is Like the Other; 5)Apostrophes & Why You Probably Don't Need One

44. God likes us to come to Him hungry and thirsty and poor and weak because that's the best environment for Him to show us that He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, our Treasure, and our Strength.

45. Our struggles do not have to define us. But they can refine us.

46. When you become a mom, you become a heart donor. From that moment on, a piece of your heart goes walking around outside your body. Which is why part of a mom's heart is always where her children are.

47. Fear is fed by what we don't know. Faith is fed by who we do know.

48. There's no better sound than one of your children laughing...unless it's the sound of all your children in the same room, laughing together.

49. I will not rue getting older; instead, I will remember it is a privilege not enjoyed by everyone.

50. At the end of the day—good days, bad days, any day, everyday—I want my people to be able to say, “I felt loved today.”

April 14, 2020

It's Already Been a Long Road, But Love Will Be Longer

No one really wanted to say it out loud, but at some point, we all realized coronavirus was not going to be a quick, two-week, "let's bake cookies and play games and stay in our pajamas all day, and it will be a fun story to tell our grandchildren" deal.

Even when new cases peak and start coming down the other side and even when stay-home orders are lifted and even when businesses reopen and even when events start being scheduled with some degree of certainty they'll actually happen, we are clearly running a marathon, not a sprint here.

There will be miles of recovery stretched out ahead of us: economic and emotional and relational and mental and physical.

Maybe one of the trickiest pieces of this puzzle is that we as a society are not used to waiting for things. Ours is an instant, right-now culture. I’m guilty as charged, yelling at my computer screen while it takes my ancient desktop possibly five seconds to open a Word document.

We didn’t know how to do this in the first place, and we surely don’t know how to do it long-term. All that’s hard right now is made harder by the fact that we don’t know for certain when it’s going to get easier.

I don’t imagine I’m alone in thinking I can usually psych myself up for a challenge if I know where the finish line is. That we aren’t even sure the finish line has been chalked for this race is wearying. 

But we have, each of us, been set in our places of influence and service for such a time as this. This can be one of our finest hours. The people closest to us need to know we are not going to check out on them. They need to know they can count on us...not to be perfect, not to never break down, not to have all the answers, but to keep fighting the good fight of love with and for them.

And so, to my people, I make this pledge and pray with all my heart I keep it more than I break it.

I promise to keep giving you my best, even though some days, that best will be just a point or two better than zero.

I promise to remember that when you are frustrated and sometimes take those frustrations out on me (within reason...none of us is each other's punching bag, after all), it's because you know you can trust me to know they are not really directed at me.

I promise to keep looking for ways to soften the edges of this hard season.

I promise to not think you've gotten used to this new way of doing life just because we've been doing it this way for a while.

I promise to acknowledge that grief is part of this package, and that you can be very, very grateful you haven't gotten sick from the virus and still be very, very sad about what it has taken from you.

I promise to keep looking for creative ways to help you through this.

I promise to let you have time to yourself and not act as though you are rejecting your family.

I promise to not to try to talk you out of or rush you through your feelings just because they're uncomfortable for me.

I promise to hold firm about some routines and habits that need to stay in place for the good of your physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health.

I promise to let go of some things that don't matter in the long run.

I promise to help you look forward.

I promise to keep storming heaven every day for you and for the world you and I will eventually go back into.

And I promise that even if we're limping or crawling by that point, when the finish line finally comes into view, we'll cross it together. 

April 1, 2020

These Are the Better Than Zero Days

I was playing a game with some of the members of my extended family at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary getaway celebration a few years ago when my baby sister had her turn. The objective of the game was to accumulate points, and on my sister’s go-around, she got a single-digit score.

“Better than zero,” she declared triumphantly...and a new approach to life was born.

"Better than zero” has become our benchmark and our scorecard and our measuring stick.

Walked for 15 minutes? Great. Better than zero.

Kid ate three carrot sticks? Fabulous. Better than zero.

Got one load of laundry washed, dried, and put away? Well done. Better than zero.

Tackled the most dreaded chore on a ten-item to-do list? Check. Better than zero.

Bought a single Christmas present ahead of the holiday shopping rush? Fa la la la la. Better than zero.

It’s not that we don’t want to do our best at the things that matter most. It's not that we're always settling for just enough. It's not that we never pursue excellence.

It’s just that sometimes, any score is a win. Sometimes, a single hash mark is a victory.

Friends, we are squarely in the better than zero days.

We are trying to figure out how to live life in a way we’ve never lived it before, with no intro course and no clear end date. This is NOT THE TIME to be trying to score 100 on very many of life's tests.

Of course, everybody has to figure out how to live this surreal existence in the way that’s best for their family and their needs and their particular situation. But we are all, in the big picture, 
trying to do some version of the same huge thing: keep our people safe and emerge on the other side of this with our closest relationships intact. Battered and bruised, maybe, but still viable.

So I'm going to go on the record and say that anything we have to let go of to hold onto that goal is a candidate for the chopping block.

Teenagers up at a time that still ends with any kind of a.m.? Better than zero.

Someone knocked out a few pages of their homework packet before they had any screen time? Better than zero.

Dinner is frozen pizza on paper plates? Better than zero.

Baked a cake and called it math class? Way better than zero.

Because here’s the thing: where doing love and showing uncommon grace to our families are concerned, right now is probably not the time to be aiming for a Scrabble word where you use all your letters including an "x" and a "q" and throw a triple-word score into the bargain.

No, when life has handed you the letter-rack equivalent of six vowels and a single one-point consonant, it's time to spell “our” and call it a resounding win.

Our faith.

Our families.
Our health.
Our relationships.
Our peace.
Our future.
Our hope.

If this ends up being our prize package, it will be so much better than zero.

It will be the best thing we've ever won.