Boomerang Encouragement

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Boomerang encouragement: when my daughter takes some of the cards I sent her through her college years and repurposes them into a cheerful collage to encourage me through a tough season.

I know it was a sacrifice. She kept every single card I sent her while she was at college, which was about one card each week. And she can quickly recall what was going on during the season she received many of the cards. She had mentioned many times that she’d like to do something with them someday. I thought about confiscating them a couple times and creating something new with them, but I didn’t want to disappoint her if I created something she didn’t love.

Then she gave them back to me. I don’t know when she had the time to do it, because it was a hectic, emotionally-exhausting time, not just for me but for her, too. But perhaps creating this for me was somehow healing. Whatever her experience with it, it has become one of the very favorite gifts I have ever received.

I don’t encourage others with the intent to have them encourage me in return. In fact, I think that defeats the purpose and purity of encouragement. But sometimes it comes back hundredfold.

Perhaps you could reflect some encouragement back to someone today, someone who has encourage you through the years. You don’t have to be as creative as my daughter.

Simply encourage.

Happy Yummy Peanut Butter Pumpkin Day

FullSizeROne of my daughters sent this graphic to me and my other daughter a couple weeks ago.

I introduced them to the reality of life early on. I got them ready for Halloween (and supplied some pretty cool costumes through the years!). I got a workout as I wrestled them into and out of car seats while they wore those costumes. I helped them walk up and down stairs and in and out of doors in those costumes. I monitored their sugar intake so they didn’t crash or go wild (okay, so I didn’t always succeed at this task).

And I supervised the sorting of candy. I taught them to throw away any pieces that were unwrapped or otherwise unsafe. I taught them to toss aside or give away the candy they’d never eat (why keep it for months?). And I taught them to give me their Reese’s.

Not all of them. I promise. And I prefer the Reese’s eggs over the pumpkins, but that doesn’t mean I won’t “sacrifice” my taste buds and eat a few pumpkins this time of year.

I don’t hang the “I gave you life” guilt trip over my daughters very often, but we have an ongoing saga about Reese’s, including the “whodunnit” when one of mine strangely disappeared one year.

Some of the simplest stories we share bond us together. And this (literally) sweet memory makes me smile. I appreciate being their mom so much. It’s a blessing and an honor. Right now, I’m feeling nostalgic enough that I might just share Reese’s with them.

Or maybe I’ll just think of them and smile as I eat mine.

 

A Great Ride

Thanks for joining me the last month as I’ve share a month of memories and grief. Something I loved doing with Dad is ATVing. Five years ago, on his birthday, I posted Behind My Dad. A little more than two years ago, as I was riding behind Dad in Wisconsin, I pulled out my phone and recorded a video, so I’d be able to enjoy a ride with him anytime.

Enjoy the ride.

The Final Days

I got to be with Dad during his final days on earth. I wouldn’t change those moments. Nor would I change the weeks leading up to them. Nor would I change the months leading up to those weeks. Or the years leading up to the months.

Not everyone can be with a parent or loved one during the final moments. Some people live too far away. Others know they can’t do it emotionally. Sometimes there are other circumstances that prevent being together. It’s often complicated.

The time I had with my dad was special, but I don’t say that to cause anybody to feel bad if they don’t get that time with a loved one or don’t choose to have it. The final days aren’t a specified time period just before someone dies. The final days are how you choose to spend the moments you have, appreciating what you can, dealing with what you face, reconciling the best you can, pouring into each other, loving each other well.

The time I had with my dad was special, not just in the last days but because of all the time leading up to them.

Today are last days for someone in your life, perhaps yourself. You may be well aware, or you might have no idea. You might have a week, a month, or a couple  years. But as always, time is limited. Spend it well.

Smile. Laugh. Cry. Remember. Resolve. Apologize. Forgive. Share. Love.

Not to Be Left Out

All this month, I’ve been sharing stories and thoughts about my dad, who died just over a year ago. The month is coming to an end, and I would miss an essential part of Dad’s life and my memories if I didn’t share about my mom and dad’s marriage.

They did marriage well. Maybe I can claim that for the sheer length of their marriage. But to me, it was more than that. I’m sure they would agree. It wasn’t that they had it all figured out or had a perfect marriage. They were two imperfect people doing their best.

It’s not that I think my or everyone else’s marriage should look exactly like my mom and dad’s. All marriages are different. But there are some things I learned from watching them together, through better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Do your best.

Love well.

Laugh often.

Be willing to grow.

I’m still working on some of these. But I’m doing my best. Just like they did. I’m thankful for their example.

We All Have Something

My dad was ATVing once and saw a bear cub and its mama in the distance. He decided to fearlessly (or foolishly) follow it. As the story has been told, my brother-in-law immediately asked him, “Is this a good idea?”

“Probably not,” my dad replied.

He called me once from Texas to tell me how exciting it had been to drive his truck along the shoreline. He was thrilled to have felt the sand and water moving the truck beneath him. I laughed but told him, “If you want to have fun and take yourself out, that’s your choice, but please don’t take my mom out to sea with you.”

My dad seemed a bit fearless at times. He liked adventures.

But he had no desire to ride in a plane over the ocean. So much for trips to Hawaii or Europe. In fact, he wasn’t very excited about riding in a plane over land either. He had his pilot’s license at one point and said he imagined what could be wrong with every sound of a passenger jet.

Then there was the time he and I rode a very large Ferris wheel. Let’s just say it wasn’t his bravest moment. I was a bit shocked and reported what happened to Mom when we got to the bottom. She wasn’t surprised, and he denied the whole thing.

Even the fearless have fear. Even the brave have concerns. Even the bold have caution.

We all have something. It doesn’t make us weak in a bad way. It makes us weak in a human way. A bit of fear, concern, and caution are good for us when applied well.

My dad wasn’t always right in his judgment of what to fear and what not to fear. None of us are.

Personally, I think Ferris wheels can be fun. So are baby bears. But I’m more likely to get close to the former.

Perspective

When I wrote Farm Days several years ago, my sisters complained that I got a few details wrong. But it was my perspective. My memories (with some added stories my mom and dad shared).

As I’ve been writing this month, I’m well aware that my perspective might not exactly line up with someone else’s who knew my dad. We all have different memories and perspectives. I hope I’ve reflected reality fairly well.

Perspective changes over time. Mine certainly has. As I’ve grown, added life experiences, traveled to knew places, listened to a variety of people, and solved problems, I’ve learned. I’ve changed, and that alters my perspective of the present, future, as well as the past. Growing up on a farm, I had the perspective of a youngest-of-three-girls perspective. I can (at least try to) see my sisters’ and parents’ perspectives of some of the same situations now. I’ve seen each of them change through the years, too.

My dad changed, too. In my opinion, he was a fairly open guy, but there were definitely some “never” lines in the sand, especially when it came to dating and marriage. But sometimes it’s easier to say “never” when the situation is hypothetical. Once faced with the reality, things change. The same happened with farming. Dad was usually open to trying new things, but he also had a strong old-school streak. There were some advances that when they first came up as possibilities, Dad wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. Sometimes he was right: something wasn’t a good idea. Other times, he tried and accepted the new approach with little complaint.

It might take him a while, but he was willing to change, or at least listen to people’s ideas about change.

We need to not only be willing to change but to let others change, too. I could place a stake at any point along my life’s timeline and claim everything and everyone in that moment is the way it was, is, and will be. I could say, “But you said…” without considering the person might have changed his or her mind. I could point to a mistake or a success and let that define a person despite the years that have passed. I could claim, “That’s just who he or she is,” stunting the possibility of seeing and encouraging someone’s growth.

Changing our perspective (and seeing others change) takes humility, patience, forgiveness, and a lot of grace.