Giving Up The Right To Be Right

Last summer, my family and I took a trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It had been many years since we laid eyes upon the farm where my grandparents lived while I was growing up.

My brother and I have such wonderful memories of playing in the corn and soybean fields, as well as the wonderful meals my grandmother prepared in her farm kitchen. As children, we spent every Thanksgiving around her table and loved to visit each summer.

The farm was sold 30 years ago, after my grandfather died, and we don’t know the people who live there now. We drove by the house and noticed how much it has changed, but we didn’t go up to the door.

We decided to stop by the side of the road and take a few pictures.

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The farm across the street, which used to be owned by a distant cousin, had also been sold. We wanted to drive up the lane to look at the early 1800-era family cemetery located on the farm, but there were ‘no trespassing’ signs all over the place warning us away. We thought we had better not ignore those signs!

Instead, we visited the public cemetery where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried; we then drove through the little town of Goldsboro, past the church and other places that were part of our childhood. Once we had done all that, we had nothing else to do.

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About midway through the day, I realized that we had no one to visit.

There were no cousins or relatives to reminisce or catch up with. It hit me in kind of a strange way. My grandparents are both in heaven. My mother, their only child, has gone there, too.

Mom’s cousins and relatives may still live in the area, but I don’t know them. In fact, I’ve never even met them. I don’t know them at all.

I know that sounds odd. The fact is, my family farmed that land since before the Revolutionary War. The farm was acquired as a land-grant from the King of England. That’s how far back my family goes – but I do not know any of our relatives — my own generation — who live in the area now.

There are ways that families are broken that, in the moment, seem justifiable. There are hurts and disappointments that happen – and sometimes relationships are severed as a result. 

This was true in my family. The reason that I don’t know anyone on my mother’s side is that there was unforgiveness that went unresolved for decades. It was never made right and never gotten over.

Without going into a lot of detail, my grandfather ended his relationship with his two sisters — his only siblings — long before I was born. When this happened, my mother lost her two aunts and all of her cousins.

I only saw my great-aunts once. It was from a distance at a church supper. I was about six years old.

My mother pointed them out to me across the room and I remember thinking how much they looked like my grandfather. I also thought they looked like nice ladies, even though I figured they must’ve done something really bad if Granddaddy wasn’t speaking to them anymore. It was confusing to me, but I accepted it. I never saw them again.

My grandfather was a very good man, we loved him dearly and I do not plan on disparaging his memory in any way – but he was human. Something very hurtful happened to cause him to break off his relationship with both of his sisters.

I wonder why it was never resolved. Why didn’t they find their way back to each other?

The truth is, whether justified or not, my grandfather’s decision has affected our family for two generations. Right or wrong, it was a loss for the whole family. I didn’t fully realize it until we visited the farm.

Unforgiveness that is unresolved, never made right and never gotten over reaches far beyond the original offense.

To be clear, I am not speaking of a situation where something horrendous has happened. There are times when we must sever ties with people who have hurt us – even if they are family. Some people are not safe and there must be a break. Forgiveness, not necessarily reconciliation, is still the goal but, of course, it is a process. It can take a long time and we need God’s help to accomplish it.

This kind of deep, devastating hurt is not what I am writing about today.

I don’t know exactly what went on between my grandfather and his sisters. I do know that no one died, no one was physically hurt, and no one was unsafe. It was all a misunderstanding that snowballed and grew until it simply blew up.

Not always, but more often than not, unforgiveness is the result of pride, feeling justified and having to be right.

Many of us have trouble working through conflicts and problems.

When it gets hard, or we feel as though we might not win, we throw up our hands and say we are done. The other side feels the same. Lines are drawn and the relationship is broken. It remains unresolved because no one makes the first move or takes the first step. The stalemate can last a lifetime.

Here is a true and wise statement — I actually want to cross stitch it on a pillow, it’s that good. 🙂

“When in conflict with another person, the goal is not to be right – the goal is to be effective.”

Think about that for a moment. Isn’t that so true? What if we kept that in mind when navigating through any kind of problem-solving —  and not just in our family?

In my mind, ‘effective’ means that there is no winner – the issue gets resolved, the relationship is preserved and both parties are ok.

With this approach, we allow ourselves and the ones we are in conflict with the room to grow, learn and do better next time. Grace.

Scripture tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18

Since this is in the Word of God, we can’t pretend it isn’t there. Our response is our responsibility.

After my grandfather died, my grandmother lived another 15 years – she and I developed a close grown-up relationship. Many, many times she cautioned me about unforgiveness. She had deep regrets about the broken relationships within the family. In her generation, most women followed along with what her husband decided – even if she pleaded with him not to do it.

In her later years, she impressed upon me the importance of keeping the lines of communication open, to set boundaries if I must, but to forgive my loved ones.  She knew something that I am only now realizing – unforgiveness that is unresolved can break a family for generations.

Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

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We are supposed to be different, those of us who follow Christ. We are to extend the olive branch, give up our ‘right to be right’ and, as far as it is up to us, live in harmony with everyone.

After all, how can we explain God’s free gift of forgiveness to those who do not know Him, if we are not extending it ourselves?

 Sending love to all,
laura

 

 

 

 

The Push/Pull {of letting go}

I made it!

If you read my post last week, you may remember that I was struggling a bit. We had a whole bunch of life events that were hitting at once and I was feeling very conflicted about all the changes. My emotions were all over the map and I was anticipating a very joyful, yet bittersweet, week ahead.

Well, I am very happy to report to you that I made it through all of the celebrations with my sanity intact! After graduation, I saw Grant off to Europe and Mathew off to California. Both sons have arrived safely and have begun their adventures far from home. I am so excited for both of them!

I also survived Patrick’s 30th birthday without feeling too ancient, although I still can’t believe I’m the mother of a 30-year-old! It’s still pretty shocking, but I’ll accept it – eventually. 🙂

To add insult to injury, Grant turns 27 today. I jokingly reminded him that in only three years he will be 30 – that’s when he reminded ME that I was 30 when I gave birth to him! In other words, in three years I will be…well, you do the math. The joke is on me.Talk about feeling conflicted about changes! Ugh!

So much of motherhood is experienced with some level of inner conflict. It’s just the way it is. Don’t you agree? It seems that there is an internal push/pull from the moment our children are born. When they grow past the baby stage, the push/pull includes questions like these:

When do I speak and when do I remain silent?

When do I parent and when do I coach?

When should I step in and when should I stay out?

When should I rescue and when do consequences need to be experienced?

When do I hold on and how on earth do I let go?

I could go on. Depending on our personalities and those of our children, some of these questions are harder to discern than others.

It isn’t easy navigating through all the changes as our children become adults.  It’s hard to know how much to pull back and give them the space to find their own way. It’s difficult to move to the side, when you have been responsible for them since day one.

But this is important — we don’t move away. We only move aside. We stand on the sidelines to cheer them on.

I have to admit that I don’t always do it well, but I am committed to giving them my blessing as they discover the life that God has for them – even if it conflicts with what I wish for.

Even when it seems it takes forever for them to find it.

And even when it takes them far from home.

At a certain point I’ve had to realize that I cannot control the path they take. To do so, might cause them to be more concerned with my will for their lives instead of focusing on God’s will.

Ultimately, I don’t want their eyes looking back at me. I want their eyes looking forward to Him.

Truth be told, sometimes I tend to get God’s plan mixed up with my plan. Sometimes I bite my tongue when I should have spoken and sometimes I’ve spoken when I should have bitten my tongue. I am still learning as I go along.

Thank God for forgiveness and grace. 

Another thing that I have learned is that, most of the time, my boys need to make their own mistakes and experience their own life lessons along the way. Kids rarely learn from our missteps – but they do learn from their own.

And when they take a wrong step, my first response should always be grace – before any truth is spoken.

I struggle with that too.

My mom was the first to admit she did not ‘let go’ well. I have often joked that I launched my own self! To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it and, neither would she. It was a hard road for both of us. So quite naturally, as a result of my own experience, these push/pull questions have been very important to me.

When I was in my 20’s I was completely paralyzed by the fear of failure. I held on to false beliefs about myself and my ability to make something out of my life. As a result, I would not and could not follow my dreams, let alone God’s plan. It wasn’t until years later that things changed for me.

Our God is truly a Redeemer of broken thinking, broken hearts, and broken dreams. Because of His mercy, we do not have to pass our failures on to our kids. Hallelujah!

Last Friday evening we attended Mathew’s Baccalaureate service – or, as we moms call it, ‘Cry Night’. It was a beautiful, moving, service full of praise, worship, and gratitude for the past four years. There were tears of joy and sadness all at the same time. At the end, we lit candles, and all 665 graduates were commissioned to live as servant leaders and take God’s light out into the world.

Photo credit: Marti Hwang
Photo credit: Marti Hwang

In the end, this is what moms who are followers of Jesus have been doing for generations. We wrestle with the push/pull questions. We seek His guidance as we let them go. We give our conflicted hearts to Him and pray that our children will do as they have been taught – to discover the path God has for them and, once on it, take His light out into the world.

Sending love,

laura

 

 

 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters {and mothers} , stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. — 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Time Got Away From Me

I’ve got a lot going on. I don’t know how it all snuck up on me, but it has.

I lost a week at the end of April when my dad was in the hospital – maybe that’s how the time got away from me. All I know is, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that May is here and boy will it be an eventful month for our family!

This is going to be a crazy week. It’s all good stuff – but it’s all happening at once.

Here’s what is going on:

  • Our oldest son, Patrick, turns 30 years old on Friday
  • Our youngest son, Matt, is graduating from Messiah College on Saturday morning
  • Our middle son, Grant, is flying to Europe for a 10-day vacation on Saturday night
  • Matt will fly to LA, California, to begin a 10-week internship on Sunday morning
  • I will be in a heap on the floor on Sunday afternoon

I’m only kidding about the last bullet. But I will be tired!

Now when you look at the list, it all seems kind of normal – doesn’t it? Children having birthdays, graduations, vacations, internships – they’re all good things and are no big deal. Right?

Wrong.

For moms, these milestones are a very, very big deal. Each and every one has intense emotion wrapped all around it.

We can’t believe our children are old as they are. It starts when they are one year old and then 10, 20, and so on. Birthdays, graduations – they are all bittersweet occasions.

We miss what was, but are filled with joyful anticipation to see what God will do next.

Grief and joy often appear together in a mother’s heart. It seems to be a condition we must learn to live with.

And when they go? Well, that’s another bittersweet occasion.

We are happy and grateful that the fruit of all our work has led to the first steps of independence. We are thankful that our children have the courage to go new places and try new things – even if their adventures take them far from home.

But… we worry.

We fret.

We imagine all kinds of things. We keep one eye open at night just to be sure someone is thinking about them while they are far away.

And we pray – oh my goodness do we ever pray.

Grief and joy often appear together in a mother’s heart, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Both emotions connect us to dependence on God who watches over our children as they grow and go.

We give our conflicted hearts to Him.

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The time got away from me and suddenly May was here.

And it’s the same with my boys. The time got away from me and suddenly, it dawned on me that they are all grown up.

As I head into this week, I am intensely happy and sad all at the same time. Missing what was, but joyfully anticipating what comes next for each one.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Many Blessings,

laura

 

 

 

Are you celebrating a ‘milestone’ with your children? Will you please leave a comment? How I may pray for you and your dear mama’s heart? Love to all. xoxo

 

What Will They Inherit From You?

In most families, precious treasures are passed down from one generation to another.

Such things are irreplaceable. Having been lovingly cared for over the years, they are part of an inheritance that goes from parent-to-child over generations. The number of generations that it is able to go depends on how well the recipient cares for the inheritance.

If it isn’t well cared for, there will be nothing left to pass on.

On Good Friday, as I was setting my dining room table for Easter dinner – I brought out the china, crystal and table linens that I inherited from both of grandmothers and my mother. There I stood, looking over things that at one time had belonged to them – but now they belong to me.

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My grandmothers and my mom believed that, even though these treasures are precious, the china, crystal and linens were not to be hidden away and brought out only on holidays. They were used often and were on display in their homes until they didn’t need them anymore.

One summer, when I was in elementary school, my mom allowed me to have a fancy dinner party for my friends. We had so much fun planning it!

It was quite a girlie affair – we even folded the napkins into ‘roses’ and put pastel-colored dinner mints inside their petals for my guests.

We were SO fancy!

My choice for the main course was chicken pot pie. Even with my very non-gourmet choice of an entree, the table was set with mom’s antique tablecloth and the pot pie was served on her china. I will remember that little dinner party my whole life long!

There are so many sweet memories – but the china, crystal, and linens are not the most important things that have been passed on to me.

I have been given a much more valuable inheritance.

Over the past year, as I have gone through my mother’s belongings, I’ve come across things from my grandmothers, too. One afternoon, I found their wallets.

Inside, I found prayers and scriptures written on the backs of business cards or on little slips of paper – tucked away behind family pictures and the other kinds of things we carry in our wallets.

As I read them, I could clearly see that the verses and prayers they saved were reminders to be strong & faithful – and to not be afraid. There were prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for God’s peace.

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It’s funny, but those are the very same types of scriptures and prayers that I have tucked away on my iPhone, in my Bible and on sticky notes around my house.

Like the women before me, they remind me to pray, to stay strong, to remain faithful, and to not be afraid. I thank God for my blessings. I pray for God’s peace.

Now, in case you are wondering, I did not pick this up from the gene pool! I learned to trust God with my hurts and fears because they did. I learned to thank Him, because I heard them do it.

Their example and commitment to be faithful offered me a spiritual inheritance.

It was my own decision to trust Him with my life – they couldn’t do that for me – but the seeds were planted.They left a legacy of faith for the next generation.

The number of generations it is able to go depends on how well the recipient cares for it.

If it hadn’t been well cared for, there would have been nothing left to pass on.

I am thankful that my grandmothers and my mother did not sleep in on Sunday mornings – but instead, made sure their family was sitting in God’s house every week.

Like their treasures, they did not hide their faith away – only to be seen on holidays. No, they used it well – serving God and His people in too many ways to count.

These were not perfect women – and we aren’t either – but they hung onto and trusted His promises until their faith became sight.

Let the same be said of us, too.

On the 13th of May, I will have been a mom for 30 years. There’s a flood of emotion that comes with THAT thought, but I won’t go there for now! Instead, I’ll share with you a few things I’ve learned about caring for and passing on the faith to the next generation.

  • You can leave an inheritance even if no one left one for you
  • It is never too late to plant the seeds of faith in your family
  • You will never regret introducing your children to the body of Christ and making your way into the fellowship each week – even if you have to do it alone
  • For some, it might be tempting to give up during the teen years when children are asserting their autonomy and independence. It’s NORMAL. Keep going – do not give up at this most crucial time in their life. It may be a thankless exercise for now, but God sees you.
  • PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
  • Take care not to fall into legalism — people come to Christ by His kindness, mercy and grace ( and ours too)
  • Never underestimate your influence as a grandmother, aunt, godmother or friend. Here’s the thing – like my inherited tableware, our faith is mean to be shared and passed on. Give it away.

Let’s do the hard thing, girls. Let’s stay faithful and strong, knowing that He never asks us to do anything He won’t give us the power to do.

In Exodus 20:6, God tells Moses:

“I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations.”

Many Blessings,

 laura

 

 

PS. Welcome, May! The summer is finally in sight, and to celebrate, I am sharing one of my very favorite early summer recipes with you! Every single time I make this yummy strawberry salad, I am asked for the recipe. It’s definitely a keeper! You can find it by clicking the ‘freebies’ tab at the top of this page. Enjoy!

 

One Year…

It is hard to believe, but today marks one year since my mother went to heaven. I was going to write ‘since I lost my mother’ – but, as my friend Debbie reminded me recently, I haven’t lost her at all. She is safe and I know exactly where she is. Thank you, Jesus.

I am grateful that she left us during Lent because my eyes are focused on the promise of the resurrection. Last March, we gave her a big Lutheran funeral with the liturgy she loved, and 350 people celebrated communion together.

We chose the Easter hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” for the recessional because we wanted to proclaim that, because He lives, she does too. I remember the Pastor saying “Well, that’s an unconventional choice and Lutherans do not sing Easter hymns during Lent, but I like it!”

It really was a beautiful way to end the service; we sang ‘alleluia’ all the way out of the sanctuary – even if it was unconventional.

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We have made it through all of the ‘firsts’. There’s a bit of relief that they are over – but, even though a full year has passed, the grief continues.

I miss my mom. I still can’t believe it has been a year since we have spoken or laid eyes on each other.

And as for grief… it is kind of normal now. The waves of sadness don’t hit as often and I am much better, but I truly expect it to be part of me for the rest of my life.

The death of someone you love so dearly is not something you get over. You do get more used to it and the grieving does improve, but it will never go away.

And I am ok with that. I really do not want to get over losing my mother.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I am stuck in time and unable to move forward in my life. The truth is, by allowing myself the time to grieve [and that would be as long as it takes], I am free to heal and embrace my new normal.

Healthy grieving moves us forward – stuffing, denying or trying to rush through too quickly keeps us stuck.

I have experienced two significant losses this past year – my mother in March, and my dearest friend, Mary Lou, in July. I’ve discovered that in the middle of the shock and heartache, Jesus comes in close. He extends His hand and asks “Do you trust me?”

I remember the heaviness of that question on both occasions. I knew He was asking me to trust Him in a way I never had before — and I said yes.

Last night, I went back and read a post I wrote last April, just three weeks after mom went to heaven. It was the first time I had written about her. I wondered if, with a year’s perspective, I would want to go back and change anything I had written.

Do I know something now that I didn’t know then?

After reading it again almost a year later, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a word. I feel the same way now as I did then. I thank Him that I had eyes to see the blessings even so early on. As the Chris Tomlin song says – He’s a good, good Father.

So, in honor of my mom and in remembering her on this one year anniversary, I hope that will you go over to You Will Never Truly Understand {until it happens to you}. It is one of the most heartfelt posts I have ever written and I hope it blesses you – especially if you are dealing with a loss of your own.

Thank you to all who have prayed, encouraged, and cared for me over the past 12 months. Your outpouring of kindness and love has meant so much to meYou have been a much-needed circle of sisters during a very difficult year.

 Whenever you cross my mind, I thank my God for you and for the gift of knowing you. — Philippians 1:3

Love to all –

 laura

 

 

 

"The first time I heard Laura communicate, my exact response was 'Wow'! Laura's teaching style is passionate, relatable, and hope-filled. She radiates warmth, kindness and a genuine interest in those around her -- on and off the platform. Her amazing story of transformation, coupled with her solid biblical teaching, will leave you also saying "wow!" If you're looking for a dynamic communicator, Laura has my highest recommendation!"

- Cindy Bultema, International Speaker and author of Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church and Live Full, Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin Soaked World