It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
.I finished something last night. Yes, I know, we all finished 2018. But last night around 8:00 p.m. I also put the last period on a project I've been working on for over a year. Actually the idea has been stirring for much longer. I recently found a journal entry from January 10, 2017 which listed this particular project as a goal for that year. Okay, so it took a little longer than I hoped, but it's done. I enlisted the help of two friends and it turned into something I am fiercely proud of. There will undoubtedly be revisions to make, and I'm hoping this work will find an audience that will embrace and enjoy it. Celebrating that will come another day. Today, I celebrate finishing this part of the journey.
I am not a great finisher. It's something I know well about myself and really don't like. When I turned 50 a couple years ago, that became one of my life goals. To become a better finisher. I think my fellow creatives will agree that when you are a person whose brain is often a stampede of new ideas, it can be tough to wrangle one to the ground, tame it, then train it to be something worthy of sharing. When you do, it's a feeling like none other.. I just know I don't get to that point near as often as I'd like.
Over the years, the importance of finishing well has been one of the things I've consistently preached to my kids. What they probably don't realize though, is how with every time I've hammered home that message to them, I've really just been trying to convince myself of the very same thing. Because I know how hard it is. The battle to fight excuses, resistance, disappointment, negativity, physical and emotional exhaustion, and discouragement from others, is one that really doesn't seem worth fighting some days. Isn't it easier to cave and move on to something that seems more exciting and invigorating? The answer to that question is yes. It is easier. For a while. Then one day you're confronted with all the hard things you faced the last time. And again you must decide: press on and finish well or quit.
I've seen this play out in various ways with each one of my kids. One of the best things to ever happen to three of the four has been the experience of playing on a losing sports team when they were younger. Losing, as in they did not win a game the ENTIRE SEASON. After every game, we'd have the obligatory conversation about how sports is about more than winning. It's about the relationships. It's about learning how to be coachable. It's about growing as an athlete over the long haul. And it's about the absolute most important thing regarding youth sports - the post-game snack. As parents, we kept a brave face. We desperately tried to keep our kids engaged and enthusiastic, even while having conversations in our own heads that went something like, "This just sucks. How long is this season? Good grief, we're terrible." I can admit it. I hated those experiences. We all laugh about those seasons now, but it was not fun. I'd like to be able to tell you all the positives that came out of it, but really, the main thing they learned, we all learned, was to just push through it as best you can and finish. And finishing well doesn't always mean finishing in a manner others recognize as successful.
Lest you think I have a "you will complete this at all costs" mentality, trust me I don't. I understand the only way to finish some things is to abandon them. Several years ago, I resigned from a job I still don't feel like I finished well. I had stayed too long and nearing the end of my employment, every day felt like banging my head against a brick wall. Every. Single. Day. It was brutal and would take years to recover from. In the end, all I knew to do was abandon my position. The cost of staying had become too great. So, it was time to leave with things undone. Quit. There was no period at the end. No celebratory sense of accomplishment. My only hope in leaving was that I would go with some relationships still in tact. Some were and some weren't. Through that experience I learned there are some things you can only finish by moving on. In those moments, you can only hope a day will come when you'll be able to put a period at the end of it. Somehow.
2019 will bring some unavoidable finishes as every year does. For our family, it's another high school graduation. And for the next few months I'll be encouraging H#3 to finish well. And every time I do, I'll hear that same voice in my head telling me to do the same thing. Finish mothering another high school student. Finish another song. Finish that other project that's been on my to-do list since 2017. And when I do, I will celebrate. Just like I'm celebrating the fact this blog is now finished.
Happy New Year, all. Now go finish something.
Pardon my emotion...it's a big weekend.
The trouble with sons is they trick you. From the day they are born, they mess with your heart and you don’t see it coming. Not at three days old. Not at age four. Not at 18 or even 25. You think you’ve got a handle on mothering a boy, and then they do something else that knocks you to your knees and takes your breath away. You celebrate them and grieve them all in one small, life-changing moment. Then another. And another.
It starts in the hospital when the nurse brings them to you in the middle of the night and says, “He’s pretty fussy. I think he needs his mama.” It finally hits you that you are their person. Entrusted with their very life, you feel the joy and weight of what it means to raise a son. As much as you hate the all-nighters rocking and begging them to go to sleep, you also take great pride in the fact that it’s you they want. The trouble is, a few weeks down the road they prove to you they can do the whole sleep-8-hours just fine and they don’t need rocking anymore. You’re grateful. But you miss those dark, quiet hours just the same. It’s the first trick. Their independence is slowly and sneakily revealing itself.
A few months go by and that chubby hand grips your little finger so tightly that he fools you into thinking he’ll never let go. And then he does. And he walks. But he also falls and looks up at you with sweet, tear-filled eyes that make you believe you’re the only one capable of picking him back up and encouraging him to try again. So you do. Then a day comes when he takes off running and doesn’t look back. Even when he falls, his “I-can-do-it” spirit takes over and he leaves you in his dust. Darn it. You thought he needed you more. But you cheer him on. And you cry.
Year after year, the milestones come and go, and inevitably you feel duped. People warn you, but you still don’t recognize the sleight-of-hand at the piano recitals, little league games, high school proms, graduations, or their first apartments. It really is magic, watching them unveil their newest trick, and yet sometimes you’re left feeling like the woman sawn in two. Except you never get put back together.
Little by little, those tricksters learn to bear the weight of their own life. You pray it’s because you laid some kind of foundation for that to happen, but you can’t be sure because sons don’t always tell you that’s part of the reason. Oh, but when they do, when they say “thank you” or “love you, Mom”, suddenly every little conniving thing they’ve ever done is forgiven.
Big trouble comes when you hear the words, “I have a date.” It’s too much. You fight to stay calm, hoping this is just an illusion. There’s no way snips, snails and puppy dog tails have turned into mini-golf, movies and goodnight kisses. Then you meet her. And you genuinely like her. And you know why he loves her. Why he wants to marry her. And you love her too. She is the answer to prayers you’ve prayed since before he was born, but she is now part of the trick too. He has enlisted help in his mischievous ways and you think it might just put you over the edge. So you resign yourself to hoping that one day they’ll experience the kind of trouble you’ve faced and that lifts your spirits, because, well, “Grandma” sounds pretty good.
The truth is, mothering a son has given some you of the greatest joy you will ever know. And while some of their growing-up tricks may have stung a bit, with every trick they’ve played on you, you’ve come to love them more. No, that little, baby-blue bundle they placed in your arms didn’t stay little. And that’s the real trouble with sons. They grow up.
We cradle our boys, then we steady them, and then we cheer them on. We celebrate the adventures and grieve the losses, sometimes both in a single moment. Along the way, we might have to bear the brunt of life’s cruelest tricks, but without question I’ve never been happier to play the fool.
I've worked with kids a lot over the years: as a children's director at a church, as a homeschool co-op teacher, as the founder of a camp which encourages kids to use their creative gifts, and of course as a mom. I've written a dozen or so kids' musicals as well. But this experience of teaching kids about my favorite thing in the world, songwriting, sparked something new in me that I knew could be incredibly fun and very challenging.
I enlisted the help of my friend, Sue C. Smith, and we started working on a songwriting book for kids. It would take about 9 months to come up with a final draft, and I'm sure there were moments when we both wondered if we were actually going to finish. Sue did an amazing job illustrating the book, which was also a new adventure for her, but she tackled the job with such creativity and excellence that I hope she keeps at it!
Throughout this journey, I've again wrestled a lot with the whole idea of why I write songs. I tried to think like a kid again and remember why I even started writing songs in the first place. I recalled my first few songs and how good it felt to create something that seemed to express my thoughts and emotions in the only way that made sense to me. I remembered singing those songs for people and watching them actually be moved by what I had to say. And I remember the year or so when I basically had no voice, due to the unfortunate trauma I suffered as a result of vocal cord surgery. In that long and agonizing season, writing was literally all I had....there wasn't even any singing...only the songs.
It's been so good to go back and remember those moments, before cuts and publishing deals and royalties (or lack thereof) began to make it more difficult to see the joy, the fun, and the magic of songwriting. Being a grownup songwriter can be tough. So I hope this whole book-writing adventure can continue to remind me in the years to come that writing like a kid can be a very sweet thing. Kids want to make things. They want to be heard. And sometimes a song is the best way, maybe the only way, they know how to create something beautiful and important. Something to move people and make them listen.
This book is my way of encouraging them to write, and to keep writing. Because I think songwriting, and more importantly songwriters, are pretty cool.