These Things I’ve Carried: Thoughts On Holding On & Letting Go

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

~William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World

Like many of you, I collected random things during my childhood years. This stage seems to be a typical part of human development, a healthy sign of our active imaginations and natural need to classify objects. My own children are currently in this phase and the organizer in me wants to throw all of their [perceived] useless junk out the window.

But I resist.

Whether Shopkins or trucks, glittery crafts or tsum tsums, key chains or LEGOS, I just want to BURN ALL THE THINGS.

But I won’t.

Mostly because of town ordinances and resale value of said items, but also because I remember how important collectables were to me when I was their age. Like a laser-focused doomsday prepper, I stockpiled baby dolls, notes from friends, stuffed animals, and knick-knacks. (Mother, how did you deal with this x5? Please advise.)

Eventually, I outgrew this phase and slowly became a pitcher. If I no longer used an item or felt sentimental about it, I gave it away or threw it in the trash. Out went the trinkets, trophies, and knick-knacks. This exercise made me feel free-er, lighter.

As a teenager, I went on a cleaning spree, tossing stuff like the Digging-est Dog throwing dirt behind him. In my purging frenzy, I threw away my beloved teddy bear, Night-Night. Rumor has it when I was just a wee tot, I waddled out to our clothesline to hold Night-Night’s paw while he hung out to dry. We were inseparable; I couldn’t sleep without his soft pink and grey body snuggled next to mine. So when my parents noticed Night-Night in the trash, they rescued him, washed him, and quietly tucked him away in their cedar chest. I’m glad for their nosy wisdom. That bear was a tangible source of comfort for me, a delightful character in my history that I now get to share with my own kids.

 

Autumn officially begins tomorrow, September 22nd. New seasons often feel like fresh starts to me. They are specific points on the calendar that inspire me to reflect on what I need to let go of and what I need to hold.

Here are two things I’ve carried that I’m learning to release:

  • False guilt: This kind of guilt has no business walking around in my mind or toying with my emotions. It taunts me with the lie that I will never be enough, pushes me to say “yes” to possibilities not meant for me, and silently begs others to appreciate me. False guilt drains me emotionally and physically while filling me with resentment. This is not the healthy kind of guilt that leads to confession of sin and forgiveness. This kind of guilt turns me into a person I no longer recognize because I’ve agreed to do and be certain things just to satisfy certain people. I become someone who no longer knows her needs or wants or skills because she is so entrenched in the expectations of others. False guilt has plagued me for decades and I am officially OVER IT.
  • Fear: This is not the healthy kind of fear that sees danger and takes the necessary precautions or the kind that wisely prepares for certain worst-case scenarios. This is the paralyzing kind of fear that can keep me from new endeavors (in which I might fail) and new friendships (in which I might be rejected). Instead of taking healthy risks that often lead to growth or change (and yes, even public criticism), I let fear bully me into clinging tightly to what I can control because that feels safer. As a lifelong skeptic, full of questions, I will always have a relationship with fear but I don’t want it to govern my life.

False guilt and [unhealthy] fear are worthless, heavy keepsakes that I’ve hauled around for years. Whenever I moved, I boxed them up, loaded them in to the truck, and brought them along to the next adventure. What a waste of time and energy.

Here’s what’s helping me to release this useless cargo in this new season:

  • Claiming the Truth. I continue to read and study Scripture. Also, good books and music. (See my list at the end of this post.) When I’m immersed in what is true, I’m better able to recognize and handle the lies that lure me into false guilt and fear.
  • Connecting with my people. I have a tiny circle of people who know me well, who balance their truth-telling with deep love, who welcome life’s hard questions, and who choose to listen rather than offer easy answers.

Dear readers, what are you carrying that you need to release?

What have you collected on your journey that is neither useful nor beautiful?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Here are a few resources that have encouraged me in this season of release:

Books:

  • The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Music (artists & song titles):

  • Andre Day: Rise Up
  • Listener: Wooden Heart
  • Zach Williams: Chainbreaker
  • Nicole Nordeman: The Unmaking
  • Switchfoot: I Won’t Let You Go, Live It Well
  • NEEDTOBREATHE: Rise Again, Lay ‘Em Down

Podcasts:

  • The Art of Simple, hosted by Tsh Oxenrider
  • Typology, hosted by Ian Cron
  • The Minimalists, hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

 

All photos in this post are courtesy of https://visualhunt.com, except the Digging-est Dog which is courtesy of https://www.bikemonkey.net/wente.

Look for the Helpers–and a Book Giveaway!

Fred Rogers, the Mr. Rogers–the one with the neighborhood—famously said,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

The news provides plenty of scary things these days. Our nation and our world are suffering; I struggle to keep up with the ache. The catastrophic hurricanes, raging fires and earthquakes, racially motivated killings, ongoing war in Syria, and the recent genocide in Myanmar, which has led to 313,000 refugees fleeing to nearby Bangladesh, threaten to leave me in despair. The loss of life and physical devastation are distressing, heartbreaking.

Earthquake in Haiti, 2010

 

Recent fires in the state of Washington. Photo cred: Tristan Fortsch/KATU-TV via AP

 

Texas flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Photo cred: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Polaris

 

Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh to escape the violence of Muslim extremists in Myanmar.

 

As I witness the sad news in our world, I also remember September 11th, a day full of shocking, tragic loss on American soil that occurred 16 years ago today. I grieve the losses we’ve suffered and continue to suffer due to violence and terrorism.

 

Firefighters Todd Heaney and Frankie DiLeo, of Engine 209, carry injured firefighter from the rubble of the World Trade Center. Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

 

To heal and move forward, we must allow space for lament; I also believe we must allow space for gratitude as we look for the helpers.

Today, I’m asking for your help. As we mourn the recent global suffering in our world and on this historical day, would you help me find the helpers? You’ll recognize them as the ones who show up, listen, reach out, speak up, show kindness and hope, who stay long after the cameras are gone, who give beyond their comfort, who look like Jesus–dressed in skin. 

Here’s how you can help:

  • Subscribe to my blog (if you haven’t already).
  • Comment on my blog (not on FB) with the name of a helper and a brief description of how s/he has been a helper in your home, community, and/or beyond, whether recently or 16 years ago. Remember, no act of help is too small to mention.

Your comment will enter you into a drawing to win a free book! Yep—it’s just that easy! Comment and you could win a free book!

Your comments will be a collection of short stories, celebrating & thanking the helpers. Join me in naming them!

Drawing ends Tuesday, September 12th at 9 pm. Winner will be announced on Wednesday at noon.

 

On Choosing Public School

I always assumed that Glendon & I would be the kind of parents who would make an educational plan for our kids and THAT WOULD BE IT. I viewed our decision sort of like a tragically arranged marriage: Before our children were born, their future schooling would be determined. We would sign a legally binding contract and no matter how terribly incompatible said choice might be for our kids, there would be no turning back. We would simply endure whatever path we chose for them.

How foolish of me for being so entrenched, so strangely committed to one way of educating. I’ve become the parent I didn’t expect: open to whatever schooling best meets the current needs of our family.

 

 

Since The Big Kids (ages 9 and 7 now) were three years old, we’ve homeschooled, with one exception: Selah went to our local public school as a second grader. She had expressed interest in a more traditional school setting and after ample time to pray and consider her request, we gave her that opportunity. In the fall of 2015, she hopped on the big yellow bus, waved a tearful good-bye, and handled her first year in public school LIKE A BOSS. She loved her teacher, made some great friends, endured playground drama, and learned a few hard lessons. Could the public school curriculum be stronger? Sure. Are there some things I’d change about the system? Abso-freakin’-lutely. Am I concerned about bullying (especially my kiddo with special needs)? Yep. (And don’t even get me started on the funding issues, especially as it relates to race and poverty and special programs. That’s another post for another time.)

 

 

Months of prayer, seeking wise counsel, and wrestling with the question, “What is best for all of us?” eventually led us to this decision. We’re simply choosing one good option for our family. There are lessons The Big Kids can learn in school that we cannot orchestrate at home. There are opportunities for them to grow as students that we cannot provide right now. And The Little Kids at home need me more engaged and ready to meet their demanding stages without the added time and pressure it takes for me to plan lessons and teach. I’m grateful for the gift of choice, especially when I consider the many families struggling with their only option.

I confess: I’m weary of the negative stereotypes surrounding our varied educational paths:

If your children are homeschooled, you must be sheltered and culturally ignorant and hate public schools.

If your children attend public school, you must be godless and lazy and surrendered to the state’s ideals.

If your children attend private and/or Christian school, you must be rich and spiritually exclusive and elitist.

I’ve lived each stereotype, where wrong assumptions were made about my family—about me—and now our kids. I spent 11 years as a student in a private Christian school. Certain public school kids used the term “preppy snobs” to label me and others who attended. Their words stung, especially since my dad was a teacher at that school and I knew how committed he was to his students, how little he made, and how hard he and my mom worked to keep me and my siblings enrolled. We lived simply (without cable TV—we had rabbit ears with foil, though.) We wore hand-me-downs, and drove around in used cars, like our 1983ish station wagon (the hood flew off en route to school one morning) and our 1990ish Ford Aerostar minivan. Such status-symbols they were. (May they both rest in peace.)

When we homeschooled, I noticed the furrowed brows and heard these comments, “Homeschool is terrible because you never make any friends…It’s not really school, is it? Are they getting enough socialization?”

Now that we’ve chosen to send our kids to public school, I see the pursed lips and hear, “The quality of education isn’t great…As a Christian parent, you are called to homeschool…I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it raising my child.”

 

I think we can all agree that no educational system is perfect. Can we also agree to be kind to each other in how we respond? To refuse to burden each other with guilt and shame over the choices we’ve made for our children? To find ways to encourage each other in our educational endeavors?

Instead of [silently] criticizing, let’s support one another. Instead of deeming our choice best, let’s connect with those who educate differently and discover what works for them. Instead of making assumptions, let’s ask questions and learn from each other. Perhaps most importantly, let’s remember that many families around our country and in our world do not have the luxury of choice.

So, here we are—bidding good-bye to homeschool—at least for now. The Big Kids will soon walk out the front door, away from my lesson plans and into a setting where their wonderful teachers will instruct them. They will be welcomed into a more formal classroom rather than scootching their chairs up to our old Ethan Allen table.

This transition is bittersweet for me. I’ll miss The Big Kids each day but we are at peace with how God has led us. We’re learning, as a family, how to walk by faith, to let go of our need for control, while trusting God to use this season—as He has every season—for His glory and our good.