Lessons learned on the journey of life

Not a baby anymore March 27, 2013

Dear Jackson and Maddie,

As Maddie likes to remind us on occasion, you aren’t babies anymore. You’re becoming more independent by the day, developing into your own persons.

I’ve said the mantras for years – “I’m not raising children. I’m raising responsible, contributing adults who love God,” and, “If it isn’t morally threatening or life threatening, leave the kid alone.” But it is a lot harder than I imagined to let you go. To let you find your own path. Or as I am repeating umpteen times a day of late, to let you figure it out.

You do silly things. Like wear shorts when it is 35 degrees outside and you have a perfectly nice pair of pants in your room with a warm coat in the closet. You do things differently than me. Like how you load the dishwasher for example. You are fascinated with activities that make no sense to me. Like repeating the same 30 seconds of a cartoon on your iPad. You do things that make me marginally crazy. THAT list is too long to even highlight.Kids xmas pic

But you weren’t designed to be a robot, to fulfill my dreams. You were created to be a unique person. A person who reflects the character of God in a way that has never been seen before – and never will be seen again. My prayer is that you will fully embrace the person you were created to be and reflect God in ways that only you can do.

This won’t be easy. It requires courage to be your own person. As Maddie said when I encouraged her to try something new this week, “But that could be dangerous. I might get hurt.” She was right. She might. But she didn’t that day. And if you live life only trying not to be hurt – suspect all you will do is sit on a couch with a book or the remote. Which isn’t much of a life. So be courageous.

It also requires effort to reflect the character of God. None of us does it perfectly. It is so much easier to be selfish when we are supposed to love. It is easier to flip on the television or disappear into the busyness of life than invest time in what matters.

You are entering a new phase of life. One where you learn more about who are you and have the opportunity to make choices about who you want to be. As a parent it is much harder to watch you than I expected. I know how awkward I felt during those years – always too much of something or not enough of something else. Always wanting to be someone or something else. I was well into my 30’s before I felt comfortable in my own skin. I want so much to spare you of that anxiety and pain.

It is one thing to watch this process for a typical child – this isn’t easy for anyone – but is to be expected. I’m learning it is another beast entirely to accept and celebrate the path of a special needs child. The future can appear so frightening and menacing. But truth is truth, regardless of the circumstances. Each of you is created uniquely in God’s image. He has a path for your life that can reflect His character and glory.

I might have chosen something different. But then I have to examine if I trust God only when His path follows my dreams. Or, do I trust that His glory will be better revealed in something different than my plan? Ultimately, I have to decide if I have the faith to trust God or if I would prefer to be my own god? Since I say that I trust God, it is critical that I find a way to live out my faith even when it is hard.

As you go through this metamorphosis, I am praying for you. Praying that you will embrace the unique person you are created to be. Praying you know your path in life is acceptable and valid while at the same time celebrating the path of others. And praying I have the grace to celebrate the path that God has planned for both of you.



Kids Need to Have Problems February 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — learnedonthejourney @ 8:57 pm
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Dear Jackson and Maddie,

We often joke that your dad has a much nicer mom than you do. And it’s true. By nature, Nana is much gentler and, well, nicer. You, poor dears, have a mean mom. All jokes aside, at the heart of the issue, I believe in you having problems. A generation ago or two ago, I think I was the norm but wonder if I am now a bit of an oddity.

My observation of life (mine and lots of other people’s) is sometimes you create problems, sometimes they are handed to you through no fault of your own. It happens – whether you are 8, 28 or 80.

Since it is a given you will face problems in life, I believe my job as a mom is to provide a supportive environment for you to learn how to solve them. And unfortunately, that can’t happen if I solve all of your problems for you. If I solve the problem, then by definition you don’t have a problem – I do.

While it may work out fine in the short term, if I own the problems when you are 8, I likely will still own them at 18. And 28. So I’m thinking that my owning the problem isn’t such a great idea in the long run. Neither of us wants me going to work with you. If you still haven’t figured it out by the time you’re 80 – well, I’m likely to be dead by then! So let’s begin how we mean to go on and have you own the problems from the beginning.

Having you own the problem isn’t easy for either of us. Frankly, it is easier just to do it for you. It takes less time, requires less drama and since I love you, I really do hate to see you suffer. You of course, would rather not have any problems. No one WANTS problems. (The Dr. Seuss book I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew comes to mind.) But in the long run, since I do love you, I recognize that it is in your best interest for you to own your problems.

There are lots of benefits to you owning your problems. Really, there are. First, you realize that when you make poor choices, poor consequences generally occur. Stephen Covey describes this is as picking up the other end of the stick. When you pick up one end of a stick, you pick up the other end with it.

You will have more problems when you do something foolish. I’d rather you figure out this critical life lesson at age 8 when the consequences are low, than at 18 or 28 when the consequences can be devastating and life-altering.

Secondly, when you own the problem, you become creative and learn how to solve problems. If you never play Little League, you can’t figure out what to do on second base for the Yankees. So let’s start with the small problems that occur in childhood – the Little League of life lessons if you will. By the time you reach the teenage years and adulthood, you will have tools to appropriately solve problems and create positive outcomes.

Finally, solving your own problems gives you well-earned confidence that you CAN solve problems. Again, if you never play Little League, you don’t know if you even can play baseball. Solving your own problems teaches you to keep a level head and gives you the ability to face a problem knowing that you have what it takes to create a positive outcome. Because you do have what it takes.

So yes, your mother is mean. I will allow you to fail. I will not rescue you from poor choices. I will allow you to own your problems and learn to how to solve them. Your dad and I are hear to listen and to provide guidance but ultimately, to work ourselves out of a job. My goal is not to raise children but to raise responsible, contributing adults who pursue God with their whole heart. Because I love you and want what is best for you.



With Whom or To Do? January 24, 2013

Dear Maddie and Jackson,

I have very few regrets in life but those I have all relate to being too pre-occupied with tasks and not focused enough on building relationships. For example, while I LOVED my four years at Taylor University, if I could go back and do it over again I would study less and hang out more. I suspect I could have studied less without a significant drop in grades but with a significant increase in the quantity and quality of my relationships.

Or when I look back on the months before Dianna went to dance the streets of heaven, I wish I had carved out more time to spend with her. Yes, you were little and Maddie was so sick but I probably should have hired more babysitters or brought in “the Grandmas” more often to spend additional time during those last few precious months with her.

As you know all too well, I still struggle with finding the appropriate balance between work, not allowing our household to descend into complete chaos and spending time with you and dad. It’s too easy to get distracted by trying to finish the laundry instead of spending time snuggling with you in bed. Given my low boredom threshold, inability to sit still for long and my general distraction by anything shiny, it is likely that I will always struggle to keep this in balance. Even though it is hard it is for me to set aside the task list and focus on people, I still believe it is incredibly important.

The task list is never ending and will always exist. As you’ve heard me say on a regular basis, I could work non-stop for a month and still don’t think I would cross off everything on “the list”. There is always laundry, meals, school forms to fill out, Brownie lessons to prepare and homework to review. Not to mention the nagging list that I realize won’t get done anytime soon – cabinets that should have been scrubbed three years ago, walls that need to be repainted and baby books that I’m beginning to wonder if they will ever be completed.

But your childhoods will be gone so quickly. Jackson is already on the threshold of adolescence and will leave for college before…well, quite possibly before those cabinets get scrubbed. If I don’t make the time to play Uno Moo today, soon no one will be around to play. Truly the days are long, but the years are short. If I don’t make the most of this time it will be gone forever.

I’m writing this from the beaches of St. Thomas on an anniversary trip with your dad. And while the trip is something we dreamed about for a long time, making the time isn’t convenient for either of us – and especially so for Grandma who graciously agreed to watch you! But is more than worth it in terms of the strengthening of our relationship. While some might criticize the time and money spent while away from our children, I would suggest that the strength of our marriage is the most important gift we can give you.

Positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky notes that the happiest people are those who have meaningful relationships. If happiness alone isn’t enough of a motivator, mortality rates double among the lonely. It is important to invest in relationships with a broad group of people who add variety and interest to your life. Think baseball and Brownie scout families, people from church, school friends and our neighbors. In order to have a well-thought out world view, it is important to interact with a wide variety of people, including those with whom you don’t agree.

You also need have deep relationships with family – both immediate and extended – as well as a handful of truly close friends with whom you share your life over a period of decades. All relationships take time and constant investment, but the payback is truly win-win. You benefit from the social interaction AND (assuming that neither of you becomes completely obnoxious people to be around) the people you interact with also benefit. Talk about buy one, get one free!

I can’t go back and relive my college days or have a cup of coffee with Dianna one more time. But I can ignore the mounds of laundry and grime on the kitchen cabinets to scratch your back or have a margarita on the deck with dad. In the long run, the time I spend with people is much a better investment.

While all of life must be lived in balance (more on that in future letters), investing in people and relationships are a key part of any life being lived well.



Happiness is in the eye of the beholder… December 26, 2012

Dear Jackson and Maddie,

It always fascinates me how when a child is born, their basic personality is already imprinted upon their soul. I don’t think I truly understood this until both of you were born. As newborns, Jackson cried to be picked up and Maddie cried to be put down. Jax prefered the infant swing but hated the bouncy seat. Maddie was exactly the opposite. Jackson wants to be cuddled and fussed over when you are sick. Maddie will literally hit anyone within striking distance – you just want to be left alone.

Today as we watched the snow fall, it reminded me how each of us is as unique as each snowflake. Our family is a clear picture of how God makes each of us different from any other!

Part of what makes us unique is what brings us joy. Hanging out at our house for only a short time reveals this is true! Watching sports will never bring me the pleasure that it brings “the boys”. Nor will I ever understand why Maddie loves SpongeBob as much as she does. But I’m also sure that Dad won’t ever understand why a beautifully decorated, well organized room brings me such long-lasting happiness and a sense of peace. Or how reading for hours on end leaves me feeling so refreshed.

There are three key lessons in this truth. The first is to recognize what brings you happiness. It is important to set aside the time and resources to engage in those activities. Not to the neglect of other key areas of life, but a place of importance just the same.

In our family this means we place a priority on date night dinners, great vacations, baseball tickets with terrific seats, books, gardening equipment and home furnishings.

The second lesson is to recognize what does NOT make you happy or restore your soul – no matter how many other people enjoy it or how much you think you should. I want to deeply appreciate music. It seems sacrilegious to say that you just don’t pay much attention to music and seldom view it as more than background ambiance. While I enjoy Christmas music and love my workout playlist, I have learned that music on its own just doesn’t restore me. I used to hold season tickets for the symphony. And while I like to give your Dad a hard time about not going to the symphony with me since we were married, truth be told, I can think of a dozen other activities that bring me more peace and joy. (And now your aunt and the entire Bade family have fainted from shock. When they come to, they may not speak to me again!)

But part of being happy and comfortable in your own skin is accepting what you truly enjoy – and what you don’t. So while my leisure activities of choice aren’t cool or glamorous, they are mine. And they are what brings me peace and happiness.

The third lesson builds from the first two. Be willing to accept what makes, and does not make, others happy and at peace. And in the name of relationship building, respect what makes them unique. Be willing to cheerfully participate in others’ leisure activities of choice. So I occasionally take in a ball game with your dad. And Jackson goes to the Children’s Museum with Maddie. And while we might not love the chosen activity, we love the people we are doing them with. And that brings us peace and happiness.

May you always know what truly makes you happy and brings you peace. And more importantly, may you pursue it with all your heart.



If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Take It November 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — learnedonthejourney @ 9:36 pm
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Dear Mom and Dad,

I wanted to talk about an ongoing problem in my life and in many other people’s lives too, which is complaining. It’s

Jackson in Steamboat, CO.

amazing how much someone can complain in a week. Actually, this week, try to notice if you are complaining, and keep track of how much you do. You might surprise yourself once you look at the results.

But the big lesson here is that if you don’t like it, do something about it.

Now, there are obviously some things that you really can’t control, and even though it stinks, you kinda have to just suck it up and make the most of it sometimes. For example, I would be the baseball stud (even though I already am 🙂 ) if I was 5 inches taller and was thirty pounds heavier. But can I really control that? No. What I can control is how much I work on my fundamentals — like how I hit the baseball and getting stronger by doing push-ups and things like that.

I’ll give you a real life example. I’m one of the best dang baseball players in my grade at my school, and yet the past couple of years with my baseball has been frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming. But you know what, I got through it, and I got a lot better! So even the things that you can’t control you can kinda sometimes turn into a good thing.

So, the big picture here is, like I said before, and let me make sure you hear this loud and clear, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!!!



The Best Antidote to Greed November 1, 2012

Dear Jackson and Maddie,

As we walked home from trick-or-treating last night, Maddie thought we should put away her Halloween decorations and put up her Christmas tree in her room. Right now. And while your dad would vehemently protest if I put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, Maddie made a good point.

The moment Halloween is over, I am in full preparation mode for the upcoming birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas  and New Year’s season. It is a well-oiled machine beginning with our annual shoe box packing for Operation Christmas Child and wrapping up with our New Year’s Day open house of football, food, friends and family.

Yes it is a lot of work, especially since both of your birthdays are the same week as Thanksgiving. But it is more than worth the effort every year. The joy of giving to a child who has never received a Christmas gift, creating memorable birthday celebrations, enjoying the emotional warmth that always comes with the Christmas decorations, spending time with family and friends, being able to honor those we love with well-chosen gifts – I receive so much more than I give.

One of my greatest hopes is that you develop a spirit of generosity – not just at the holidays but every day throughout the year.

All of the toys my wonderfully generous co-workers gave to Toys for Tots.

The joy of generosity can be experienced much better than explained. There is a unique joy in giving. It frees you from the greed, envy and selfishness that seem to be inherent in the human experience. When you give something to someone you know needs it more than you, there is a happiness that is not felt any other way.

As you give, I also pray that you will learn to give wisely. Because even good things should be done in moderation.

First and foremost, organize your life in such a way that you can afford to give. Your dad and I have chosen to live frugally so we can afford to live generously. We choose to shop for the best deal, coupon clip and drive a perfectly functional older car so we can afford to give generously. If you spend every penny you earn, you will not have the ability to give or reap its vast benefits. The joy of giving far outweighs any pleasure a new car, the latest electronic gadget or toy might bring.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that God loves a cheerful giver. So don’t give just because someone sends you on a guilt trip. That is a really great time to give nothing. If you create, and follow, plan to give, you have the freedom to say “no” without guilt. (And yes, you need a plan to give because you will never just find the money and you will always find something else you can’t live without.)

Of course, you may choose to do more than your planned giving. Some of my most joyful moments are those when I met need on the spot – such as paying for the groceries of the person ahead of me in line when I knew of a need, buying back-to-school supplies for a family going through crisis or purchasing months worth of diapers for a young couple struggling to get on their feet. Don’t ignore spontaneous opportunities but don’t deprive yourself the joy of giving by doing so only out of obligation.

I pray that you will gain the discernment to help others who are truly in need – and not to enable ongoing poor choices. Dave Ramsey notes that when money is given to individuals who continue to make poor choices it is the financial equivalent of giving a drunk a drink. While it is often hard not to give in those situations, you need to be wise about how you can best help this person create a better life.

It also is important to give within your means. In I Timothy 5:8, the Bible says that your first obligation is to your own household. It is not appropriate to avoid meeting your own obligations or providing for your family because you gave to someone else. There is an old cliche that says “Charity begins at home.” And it is true. You need to take care of your family first.

As we enter this holiday season, I am excited to wrap presents that I know will delight you. And I continue to pray that you will grow into people with an outrageous sense of generosity.



What’s on fire today? October 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — learnedonthejourney @ 9:32 pm
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Dear Maddie and Jackson,

Frantic heroics always seem so much more exciting to me than daily effort. I’d prefer to tackle one project, guns blazing, than grind away at several. It is so much more exciting to have the adrenaline pumping, focused on whatever is on fire at the moment.

But slowly I’m learning that generally this approach, while exciting, is less effective. Doing a little bit of something everyday is achieves more results in the long run than heroic effort once in a while.

Unfortunately, this has been evident in my on-going effort to lose weight. I’ve talked about losing 20 lbs for at least 5 years. In the process, that 20 become 30 lbs! It’s been frustrating because I eat healthy and I exercise. Or so I thought. I recently started working out with a personal trainer. She laid out a program where I work out 5-6 days a week and eat no more than a specified number of calories everyday. I had to face the reality that yes, I work out – except when I’m travelling, it’s busy at home or I’m tired. Which is about every day. So in reality I work out a few times a month. And I eat healthy – except when I’m travelling, we eat out or I’m tired. Geez – that is a lot of “except when”. No wonder I didn’t lose any weight even when I ran 3 miles!

My workouts are shorter now and I still eat some treats but I stick to the program daily. No ‘except when’ allowed! And the results are proof that it works. I’m nearly half way to my goal.

Recently I read Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier at Home”.  She verbalized what I’ve been experiencing. Rubin noted that we tend to exaggerate what we can accomplish in a short period of time and underestimate what can be accomplished over the long-term if we are disciplined. Spending a few minutes every day chipping away at a goal makes progress.

It makes sense – studying every day tends to work out better than cramming the night before the final. Picking up a few things every day keeps your room cleaner than a big effort once in a while. (And it makes your parents happier.)

Tidiness aside, Jackson you are already living this lesson well through your daily baseball workouts. You’ve figured out that you can’t become exceptional at a sport by working really hard every now and again. It requires daily effort that generates incremental, continual improvement. There is a life lesson here bigger than learning how to field a ground ball! Now if we can get you to apply that same effort to picking up after yourself and your eating habits!

Dad and I are becoming more consistent on working with Maddie. It can be hard when I know she is going to fuss, whine and fidget but her progress is dependent upon us being faithful and being consistent. So we make time for reading, counting, putting clothes in the hamper and walking herself up and down the stairs. It’s easier to just do it for her when we’re busy, tired or don’t have the emotional energy to dealing with the whining. But it is better in the long run when we are consistent and make incremental progress every day.

It’s not like this is a new concept – the lesson is as old as Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare. But it is one that our family is learning to live consistently.

Remember the power of small, daily efforts.



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