Love Letter To My Grown-Up Children

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Kaila and Kieran–Austalia, January 2016

Dear Kieran and Kaila,

I hope you don’t mind that I’m openly sharing this personal peek into my heart. I was going to mail this letter, but then I thought about all the other mamas who are where I am or will be one day and I wondered if they needed words to attach to the jumble of emotions that are inevitably part of this “letting go” process.

I can’t believe this moment took me by surprise. After all, I’ve had two decades to prepare for it. Still, it hit me pretty hard that you two are turning 18 and 21 in just a matter of days. The reality of what that means has left me a bit breathless, and to be honest, a lot scared.

I feel like I’m short on time, and I wonder about all the things I left unsaid and untaught and undone. Never did I think it would be so hard. I always thought moms knew instinctively what to do to settle their babies, and to conquer life for their children, and then to launch their adults, ready to face life’s challenges.

But I quickly found out I was not one of those moms!

I was a blundering mom, trudging my way through every new phase wondering what the right thing to do was. I was sure I was going to have to pay for your counseling sessions one day (thank you for sparing me that expense…so far 🙂 ). Every day, I asked God to parent you because I was certain I was messing it all up on a large scale. It’s okay if you agree. You still turned out amazing despite me.

But here I am again.

Kayla's first day in the world--Feb 8, 1998

Kaila’s first day in the world–Feb 8, 1998

Trudging through.

Scared.

Asking myself questions like,

“Did you know how much I loved you or were you unsure of the priorities of my life?”

“Did I hold you enough while there was still time or did I let my to-do list trump my heart?”

“Did I model to you how to love your spouse and live with their best in front of you, or did you see me seek my own way over Dad’s too often?”

“Did Dad and I prepare you to be a servant in your homes and communities by modeling that or did you see too often that our flesh and selfishness took over?”

“Did we authentically live out our faith before you, or did we cripple your faith with our own weaknesses and doubts?”

“Did Dad and I teach you how to really build a life and a home and give you the tools to do it?”

Those questions and more keep wiggling their way into my consciousness and making me feel a sense of urgency at the disappearing days. I can’t take back the years. I can only pause in this blink of a moment to tell you what I hope you already know, but want to make sure you do.

1—I have failed you and will continue to fail you, but God never will. He is a perfect parent who is never too tired to listen, or too selfish to see what you need, or too insecure to handle all your emotions. He is always good, always kind, always right. He will never let you down. Ever.

2—I’m sorry. I am. You know I could list a gazillion ways I got it wrong. I never meant to. I’ve prayed through the years that the scripture be fulfilled that claims, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” If my love isn’t enough, I know God’s is.

3—Love others better than they love you. Love without fear of getting hurt or getting behind. Love when it’s hard. Be the one who says, “I’m sorry.” Be the one who forgives first. Be the one who gives in. It may not gain you the promotion, or the recognition or even any appreciation, but it will allow you to live a life without regret.

4—Be patient with me as I release you. I once was your home. My heart beat to keep you alive. It always will. Only, you’re grown-ups now. You don’t need me for survival anymore, but I’ll forget that sometimes. Not because I don’t trust you, but because I’m learning how to trust you to the One who has been the true Sustainer of your lives all along. It’s hard but I’m trying.

Friends always.

Friends always.

5—I am so, so proud of you. You are amazing. There aren’t enough words to fully convey that to you. Of all the things I’ve accomplished in my life, nothing compares to our family collectively and individually. Not because I take the credit. But because you are evidence of a Living God who can and will do what I cannot. He traded my inadequacies for His sufficiency. I asked Him to parent you and He did. The proof is in the fact that you look more like him than you do me.

So, you two, it is with some yearning that I look back on years that went by much too quickly. But I also look with promise into the future that is before you now. You are ready for it. Be patient if I’m a little behind the curve; I’ll get there.

I love you both so much,

Mom

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Kieran-always a snuggler.

Sweet Kaila.

Sweet Kaila.

The Dangerous World of “If Only”

Rita Clucas smI remember the 6th grade like it was yesterday. After all, I walked its halls many years after I left its classrooms. It was the year that changed my life forever—the year that the boys noticed I didn’t look like the other girls who hadn’t developed quite as much over the summer. It was the year that I began to hate the fact that no matter how good my grades were or how soft my heart was, my body had become the focal point and subsequently the catalyst for years of harassment and self-loathing. My young heart questioned why God thought I was so wretched that He didn’t care about my getting groped at in the halls or descended upon in the bathrooms, and later my scarred, angry heart began visiting all the “If Only” scenarios it could conjure.

If only I’d been stronger. If only my body had kept the same pace as my friends’. If only I wasn’t too ashamed to tell. If only I knew how to not wear someone else’s sin as my own. If only…

Maybe you can relate, or maybe your “If Onlys” are:

If only I was prettier…

If only I was thinner…

If only I had finished college…

If only I’d married someone else…

If only I had more money, more confidence, more friends, more __________ (You fill in the blank)…

And those are some of the simpler ones. Maybe yours are more complicated:

If only my parents had wanted me…

If only I hadn’t gotten pregnant…

If only I hadn’t had that abortion…

If only my husband hadn’t cheated…

If only I hadn’t cheated…

If only my kids would listen…

The fact is, “If Only” is a dangerous place to visit too often or too long, whether it’s a past or present circumstance. On the surface, it’s just a temporary diversion from our here-and-now. But on a deeper level, it justifies why our lives are inadequate and keeps us chained to our mistakes or to what “might have been” or “should be” instead of released into “what may yet be”.

So, what do we do when we’re tempted to visit the world of “If Only”?

  • Decide not to camp there. A backward glance is one thing, but a rear-view lens is often blurry. It’s too easy to let our imagination either skew reality or re-create outcomes that would never have been.4664571024_ccff2e5ccc

As Elie Weisel, a survivor of three Nazi concentration camps once said, “Some stories are true that never happened.”

  • Let go of what you didn’t have, embrace what you do have, and dream for what you can have. Your past or present circumstances don’t have to dictate your future. I love how Paul says it in Philippians 3:13, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
  • Forgive. God. Others. Yourself. You can.
  • Find a way to be grateful. Being grateful for something is not the same as being grateful despite something. Gratitude doesn’t change your circumstance, but it does change your perspective of it and reaction to it.

So how does this look in real life? Well, back to the 6th grade…I’m by no means grateful for what happened to me, but I am absolutely grateful for what it produced in me. From it, I gained compassion for young, hurting women and even for the young, hurting men who violate them. I developed the instinct to protect my own daughters and the wisdom to instruct my son to honor every daughter. I was propelled down dark roads that eventually led to these invaluable truths:

I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14),

I am dearly loved by my Father in heaven,

I am not responsible for the sins of others but am fully forgiven for my own,

I have the strength to leave my land of “If Only” and stay connected to my reality and be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend I can be .

Okay Mamas, your turn. What “If Only” are you going to stop visiting? I’d love to hear from you.

(photo credit: #ds198 – Not a Morning Person via photopin (license) )