The last concert I attended before the world as we know it changed forever was Mat Kearney’s acoustic tour. As I reflect back now, I’m quite certain I was supposed to hear the inspiration behind one particular song and pass it on to anyone who will listen.
Mat explained that early in his music career, there was no crew, no bus – it was just him and his manager/friend traveling across the country doing gigs.
During that time, his friend went through a rough patch and was not himself. While driving through the Cascade Mountains one day, they spotted an open field. Mat’s friend unexpectedly confessed that he’d always dreamed of running through a field, just like that one. So, that is what he did.
From the car parked along the roadside, Mat witnessed a defining moment in his friend’s life. Soon after, it became the song, Learning to Love Again.
“'Cause that was the real you running through the fields of gold wide open
Standing in places no picture contains
That was the real you, windows down, we could smell the mint fields crying
Singing with the radio to a song we can't name
That was the real you saying, ‘Maybe I'm not too young to be a cowboy.’
Hey brother, we're all learning to love again.”
I’d listened to this song for nearly a decade – but it wasn’t 2020 that I finally heard the words, “That was the real you.”
I think it’s because I need those words now—and maybe you do too.
In the span of a week, our children’s lives have changed drastically. As they face loss, letdown, social isolation, digital learning, fear, and uncertainty due to the pandemic and quarantine measures, adults are seeing behavior issues and emotional symptoms of stress.
As kids withdraw, reject, oppose, meltdown, complain, and rebel, it’s natural for us to be fearful, which can then make us react in unhelpful ways–
To control and dictate…
To lash out and match the bad attitude…
To shut our eyes and turn away…
Let’s not do that, my friends.
And yes, I say “let’s” because I am right there with you.
On Day 7 of social distancing in our community, the novelty of being home wore off and reality set in. In my home, I sensed tension mounting, boredom creeping, overreaction stewing, and disappointment deepening. While one teen had kept her daily schedule going strong, the other stopped making a schedule and began to withdraw. When I tried to engage, I was repeatedly rejected. Throughout that day, I felt like yelling, controlling, and worrying.
However, I carry some deep scars from discovering those reactions only cause more pain and distance from the ones I love. So instead of lashing out, I turned to tools I’ve acquired over the years and truths I’ve received from countless classroom visits.
“If you could give the world one message, what would it be?”
The responses to that question over the years have allowed me to uncover three roles young people need adults to embrace in order to help them navigate the challenges of today’s world.
Be a truth-teller, not a taskmaster.
Be an encourager, not an enforcer.
Be a guide, not a half-listener.
At the end of Day 7, I wrote down those intentions, which are the foundation of my forthcoming book — but I knew I needed one more piece of information. Meaning: What do these roles look like in close quarters for an extended and uncertain period of time?
Normally, this would be a time of great joy as we look forward to introducing this specially formed group to our friends Steven Turikunkiko, Penina Shema, and Alice Kajoina, among other local Changemakers doing remarkable work in their African communities.
When I reminded my daughters about the call, one said, “I don’t see the point—we are probably not going to be able to go.”
“Yes, we may not be able to go to Africa as planned,” I agreed, sensing her disappointment, “but what we can do is we can gather to have community and generate hope for the future.”
Two hours later, my daughters sat between me in front of the computer screen.
“Don’t be too talkative, Mom… no silly jokes…,” they instructed, as teenagers do.
After a word of welcome from Kelly, the African Road director, the team members took turns introducing themselves and shared one word on their hearts.
Words like grace, understanding, connection, hope, and faith were shared.
Then it was our turn:
“Persevere,” said the 13 year old. “I am turning to my guitar and writing songs and trying to keep going through music.”
“Acceptance,” said the 16 year old. “When I accept what I can’t change, it helps me feel less anxious. I am taking it one day at a time, and not looking too far ahead into the future.”
The call continued, but I got lost for a moment. Mat's song, “Learning to Love Again,” came to mind, particularly one line:
“That was the real you.“
Suddenly, the missing piece I needed was crystal clear.
What does the truth-teller, encourager, and guide do for pain we cannot ease… for losses we cannot reap… for peer companionship we cannot match… for answers we cannot provide?
We get real.
Our role right now is to see our children’s truest self beneath the unbecoming behavior and mood swings… and to highlight their REAL selves throughout this difficult patch.
Last night, I thought of a way to do that. I went to my closet and rummaged through a stack of journals I’ve been gifted over time. I chose one for each daughter and wrote these words on the first page:
Days of Quarantine: Week 1
You SHINED when…
Before I listed anything, I asked my spouse for input.
“What are some positive things you saw in each of the kids during the first week of quarantine?” I asked Scott.
He noticed things I didn’t, and I noticed things he didn’t. It was quite uplifting to sit together and focus on the ways these two young people were shining in the light of the unexpected.
For Avery, we wrote:
You shined when…
you played guitar and recorded your songs
helped with the dishes every day
checked on dad’s coworkers with him
made your lunch and cleaned up
baked a chocolate cake for our dessert
kept up with schoolwork
remained at home even though you saw friends gathering because you want to keep people safe
For Natalie, we wrote:
you shined when…
you did your swim team workouts online every day
you made Pad Thai for & blueberry pie for dinner
you organized the kitchen drawers
you made me laugh with funny memes
you combed Banjo’s fur
you called Grandma and Grandpa on FaceTime
you FaceTimed with friends instead of going out to help keep people safe
Given my daughters’ personalities, one journal was presented in person and the other was simply set on the bed. In both cases, the response was clear: They’d like this practice to continue.
My friends, in a time when absolutely nothing is clear, can you see what we have right in front of us?
It’s the open field…
And this is our chance to pull to the side of the road, let our kids run, and see the REAL THEM emerge.
From the open window, may we see strengths we likely would’ve missed—and never would’ve had a chance to nurture—had we not been forced to stop.
One last thing…
I, too, was given an opportunity to share one word during the live call.
My word was Trust. I didn’t have any explanation then, but I do now…
Trust that I am equipped to companion my kids through this uncharted territory.
Trust that I won’t do it perfectly, but the trying matters more than the outcome.
Trust that even though we don’t know where we’re going, we don't walk alone.
My friends, as we open our hands and hearts to trust, perhaps we’ll hear a lyric we couldn’t quite grasp until the world came to a screeching halt.
This is the real you, shining in the light of the unexpected.
Maybe this is OUR chance at learning to love again, in ways we never imagined we could.
My hand in yours.
HELPFUL RESOURCE: In just a few weeks, my work-of-heart, LIVE LOVE NOW, comes into the world. As I have struggled all week with the timing of its release, the members of my launch team received a copy and began to read. With permission, I share what is quite possibly the most important praise this book could receive:
“I read the first chapter aloud with my 12-year-old daughter and husband last night, (something we would not have done in any other time than this time we are in… interesting). They were both quiet after I finished, and I wondered aloud if they were interested in continuing together. Immediately, they both said, “We want to keep reading this out loud together.” With tears in her eyes, my daughter, who has been going through a very difficult time in life, said, “Miss Rachel did the most important thing… she asked people my age how they were feeling, and she's telling everyone how we are feeling. And now I really believe that I'm not alone in how I am feeling, and I also get to learn how our parents are feeling. It really helps us to know each other better. We need to keep reading this together to help us all.”
Up until this moment, I have not been able to explain why I wrote this book because all I had was a feeling, a deep knowing, that this is what I must do. Thanks to this brave young lady, I now have words to explain WHY this book and WHY now. May this young person’s insight inspire LIVE LOVE NOW to become a read loud for people hoping to navigate this challenging time together – and come out stronger on the other side.
I’d be most grateful for your support of this book through a pre-order. With every pre-order, you receive 4 of my most powerful connection tools that can be downloaded today and put to use immediately in your home. Click here for pre-order bonuses. Purchasing from any retailer qualifies you for the gifts, but here are a few retailers for your convenience: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-a-Million, and Premiere Collectibles (this is a signed copy).
Thank you for your love & support. I love you.