I’m just going to warn you—this message is going to have typos. I don’t have the luxury of time to proof it multiple times like I normally do before I post. There won’t be a ton of photos either. I’m hoping you can just imagine with me. Right now, I am conserving my energy; I’ve had my head down since February 4th, pouring myself into an immense project that had been waking me up at night for months.
But this morning I had to stop and write to you.
I came across something this week that you needed to see.
But first, let me back up.
Since the last time I wrote to you in this space…my parents left their little Floridian yellow house to settle into a retirement home.
I yearned to be strong for them… to acknowledge the sacrifices they were making… to recognize the stress of having to go through a lifetime of items and retain only a few… of saying goodbyes to people and places they love… of embracing uncertainty that comes with new beginnings. So each morning during my stay with them, I anchored myself by walking down to the neighborhood park where I used to swing Natalie when she was little. But this time, it was me who would swing. When I pumped my legs hard enough, I could see beyond the trees. Just the sight of it sparked an internal shift from uncertainty & sadness to hope & gratitude.
I’ve never loved someone through their last and final move, but I am trying.
Trying looks like checking in frequently, sending cards, and having long talks about the happenings of our lives.
And when my parents say, “thank you,” I am reminded that the trying matters more than knowing.
Since the last time I wrote to you in this space… my twelve-year-old daughter and I saw an x-ray of her right foot that revealed severe structural issues. The image explained so much about her pain yet told the story of a debilitating future.
Avery held it together until we got into the sanctuary of our car. I took her hand and began to speak. Avery shook her head, so I anchored us in prayerful silence.
I’ve never loved someone with an x-ray that predicts an adulthood of chronic pain, but I am trying.
Trying looks like doing daily stretches together, taking her to physical therapy and doctor’s appointments, and reminding her of all the things she still can do.
And when she says, “thank you for being here with me,” I am reminded that the trying matters more than knowing.
Since the last time I wrote to you in this space… I could no longer ignore the urging in my heart to write a guidebook of hope to help relieve the pressure many of our kids are experiencing in this distracted and demanding modern world. The book proposal was so well-received that it has been fast-tracked to publishing. I’ve never written so intensely and so deeply in my life. Although I reached the half-way point in the manuscript last week, I have only seven more weeks to write the second half. The task ahead of me feels daunting and nearly impossible, but I am certain this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life right now.
I’ve never written a book to help adults walk beside the young people they love as they navigate difficult territories, but I am trying.
Trying looks like getting up at 5am to reach small goals that will make up a completed 65,000-word manuscript… it looks like reaching out to dear friends who understand the magnitude of this endeavor… it looks like holding my cat Banjo in prayerful silence and writing in the warmth of the sun.
And then the youngest member of my Soul Shift course messages me to say, “When I want nothing more than to destroy everything I am and everything I was, your words say, ‘You were not born bad. Your gifts have never been allowed to flourish.” I am reminded that the trying matters more than the knowing.
Since the last time I wrote to you in this space… my long-distance friendship with beautiful Alice of Rwanda has deepened. When this online community purchased all of the necklaces she made in a mere two hours, it validated her story, her work, and the way she provides for children in her home and her community. As Alice began working on another large batch for our community, she brought me into the process. Not only did I see the lengths she goes to get supplies and gather sisters to help her create, but I also saw the many ways she carries, leads, mentors, and builds up women in her community through her handcrafts. Alice has attended far too many funerals these past few months and is gravely worried about her sister with cancer, yet she radiates the light of hope and faith in each photo she sends.
I’ve never loved a friend who endures so much hardship and heartache, but I am trying.
Trying looks like asking her how I can pray for her… encouraging her with Soul-Building affirmations… letting her know how much I value our friendship. Trying looks like letting Alice know when someone in America wears her necklaces or bracelets and how they feel the love she pours into each masterpiece.
And when Alice says, “Sister Friend, I thank God for you, your good heart, your love for me, and your wish to walk beside me,” I am reminded the trying matters more than the knowing.
Since the last time I wrote to you in this space…
I sat in a tiny recording studio with Avery. A few months prior, she’d written a beautiful song called JUST BE. Her guitar instructor Corey was deeply moved by it and felt certain it needed to be accessible to our fast-paced, stressed-out world.
I sat quietly throughout the recording, taking in the momentousness of this occasion. When we got the recording back and began listening, Avery plugged her ears. She did not think the beginning of the song sounded like her.
“Why did you not tell me?” she said looking distraught. “Why did you not tell me I wasn’t singing like I normally do?”
It took me a moment to respond, but when I collected myself, I gave my child an honest answer.
“At age four, you tearfully laid your little ukulele at your feet and said, ‘I just want to be good, Mama.’ That was the end of me critiquing, dictating, and judging your God-given gift.”
I expected Avery to be solemn and maybe even shocked by this information, but instead she began to laugh. Finally, she said, “Ok, but NOW I want you to tell me when I am not singing my best. I can take it.”
And with that, we both laughed and decided she could ask about a re-do on the vocal track.
The second time around was tremendously different, and the result was astounding. When I shared the news with the Hands Free Revolution community that Avery’s song is now on iTunes and Google Play, Avery received the most profound affirmations about the calming effect of her voice and her message.
I’ve never raised a Noticer, and a decade ago, I did not know the first thing about loving this child who’s pace of life and inner fiber is in stark contrast to the pace and fiber of this world. I struggled at first; I inflicted pain at first, but I kept trying. I kept trying to know her, nurture her, and accept her wholly and unconditionally. The result is imperfectly beautiful and unbreakably strong. Avery is her own person, and her voice is exactly what the world needs.
Now that I have caught you up to speed, I must show you what I stumbled on this week.
I’d just dropped Avery off at guitar school and had an hour to walk around the nearby neighborhood like I always do. I was walking around the same loop when I discovered a tree-lined walking path. How could I have missed this all these months? I wondered.
As I began to walk down the path, I felt tremendous comfort in the fact it was here for me on this particular day. We had received more upsetting news about Avery’s growth—this time, it was her back. A follow-up x-ray revealed significant growth in the curve in her spine. On Wednesday, she was measured for a prosthetic that she will wear every night until she stops growing. The hope is that it will prevent further progression of the curve and the need for surgery.
Between the x-rays and the book writing, I needed this path and the refuge it offered.
About a mile along, you’ll never believe what I found. Out in the middle of nowhere, there was swing, but not the single-person, playground type-of swing; it was the sit-beside-me, lay-your-worries-down type-of swing.
It beckoned me to sit down and take a load off.
I anchored myself there for a good twenty minutes, and I thought about the past few months and how much I’ve missed writing to you. I wondered what unknowns you face, what deadlines daunt you, and who you have to be strong for right now. I imagined you sitting with me on that swing in connective silence, just holding each other’s hands.
At 6:40 I told you I needed to start walking back. I hesitated to tell you why because it might seem silly to some, but then I remembered who I was talking to…
“At seven o’clock on the dot, Avery walks out of class with her guitar in hand. The first thing she does is look for me. And when she sees me, she smiles with happy, crinkly eyes. That smile, combined with the setting sun and the guitar, creates an image that I seal into my brain to refer to in hard moments.”
As I walked away, I kept looking back to see if I’d dreamed up this swing in my mind; it couldn’t possibly be true.
But it was there… and that is not all.
When I looked back, I could see beyond the trees.
Just the sight of it sparked an internal shift from uncertainty & sadness to hope & gratitude.
Look with me now, my friends.
And be reminded of this hopeful truth as you face your unknowns: it’s the trying that matters more than the knowing.
I can’t wait to see what the trying looks like in your life.
My friends, I really miss writing lifelines to you in this space but know that I am still writing beautiful lifelines to you and the amazing young people in your life, they are just going into my fourth book that I look forward to offering you next spring. In the meantime, I have some beautiful opportunities to share with you. Please join me:
I’ve been invited by the renowned 1440 Multiversity to lead a restorative weekend retreat in the redwoods of Santa Cruz County, California in October. I will be teaching components of my transformative online course– SOUL SHIFT— and would be OVERJOYED to meet you there. Click here for all the details and registration.
You are invited to join my family as we celebrate East African Changemakers & support the work of African Road at the 2019 African Road Gala Fundraiser on May 4 in Portland, Oregon. Our beloved friend Steven Turkunkiko founder of the Togetherness Youth Cooperative is making a long journey to share the dreams and stories of his resilient community who holds a special place in our family’s heart. Click here to RSVP.
Alice has made another beautiful batch of necklaces as well as a small of bracelets for our community. If you'd like to purchase, please do not hesitate to get one here. I expect them to sell out very quickly. Given that the border between Uganda and Rwanda was recently closed, Alice has lost a tremendous market. Please let me know if you would be interested in having another chance to purchase her handcrafts in August when they could be delivered to the US by our dear friends at African Road. Alice is so grateful for your support.
Also, many people messaged me last fall when I wrote about the Learning Trip Natalie and I took with African Road last summer. I recently learned there are a few spots open for the Summer 2019 team going to Rwanda, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Although the trip is designed for people 18 and older, special exceptions can be made. Please click here for all the information you need regarding the trip. If you have specific questions, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friends, I wish you a blessed Easter filled with divine invitations that lift your weary heart and strengthen you for whatever lies ahead. There is always room beside me on the swing for you. I love you.