Creativity usually strikes me on the weekend, but it’s 8:00 pm on a Wednesday, and I’m feeling particularly inspired. I’ve been watching a new show, This is Us, which airs on NBC. It’s an inventive new drama with many story lines taking place simultaneously. The central theme of the story is family, more specifically growing up—how what happens to us when we’re younger carries over into adulthood.
As a parent, it’s a theme that scares me to death—this idea that so much of what my children will become is happening right now. Right under our roof. Right under our very noses. It gives me pause. What we’re doing now as parents will stay with our kids for a lifetime.
The Father figure in the story, played by Milo Ventimiglia, is a character named Jack. Jack is an amazing dad; full of patience, kindness, rolling with the punches, loving his kids unconditionally. He’s the kind of parent you’d want to emulate, but he hasn’t always been that way.
There’s a pivotal scene during which Jack must decide what kind of parent he’s going to be. It’s kind of like a “come-to-Jesus moment” for him. I wish I could have found a clip for it, but I’ll do my best to describe it:
Jack has been getting home later and later, spending more time at the bar than he does with his family. One evening after he gets home, his wife, Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore, has this conversation with him.
Sitting next to him on the couch she asks “Hey, how do you think we’re doing as parents?” Before he can answer, she responds, “I think we’re at a 6. On a sliding scale of 1 through 10, I think we’re at a 6, and I think I’m being generous.”
She continues, “I’m trying really hard to get us to a 9, because they are cute kids and they deserve 9 parents.” She pauses, “The thing is I feel like I’m there. I feel like I’m operating at a 9, because I do individualized lunches, and I do individualized tuck-ins so nobody feels jipped.”
Finally, she concludes, “But when you’re home and you’re you, you’re way better than I am. You’re a 10 . . . when you’re you, Jack.”
She confronts him about the drinking and gives him kind of an ultimatum about it concluding with, “Fix it, because I’m done letting you lower our score.”
Have you ever thought about it that way—that you’re in it together when it comes to parenting? You’re in it together. Divorced. Married. Separated. And here’s the deal, the stakes are high. Very high. High enough to scare the living daylights out of you, at least they should be.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the show. I know what I hope will happen—that Jack and Rebecca will make it through the rocky parts and parent together for as long as they have. They’re a couple I’m rooting for.
But I’m going to root for myself and my husband even more. I want our kids to look back with fond memories on their childhood. I want to be the kind of parents that they look up to, the kind that they want to emulate someday.
More importantly, I want to parent with the end in mind. I want to intentionally raise our kids to be the kind of people we want them to be: smart, capable, caring, responsible, resilient. You get the gist.
Who do you want your children to grow up to be? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Parenting is serious business, and it should be. After all, children grow up to be adults. It’s up to us to determine what kind of adults they’re going to be.
The topic for this week’s blog came to me as I was listening this morning to the pastor share his thoughts about Joseph and how God “changed his story.”
If you’re not familiar with the story of Joseph let me give a summary. Joseph was engaged to Mary, a binding commitment stronger than the one we call engagement these days. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant he made up his mind to “divorce her quietly,” so as not to publicly humiliate her.
After the decision was made, before he could set the wheels in motion, an angel came to him in a dream reassuring him that Mary had not been unfaithful. Rather, the infant growing in her womb was a gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, who would become the Savior for us all.
This morning when the pastor mentioned that Joseph seemingly had his own story, his own plan as to how things were “supposed to go,” it reminded me of me.
See I’m not sure how my family and I ended up in Ankeny, Iowa. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful and lovely community—a place where we’ll make many happy memories, I’m sure. But here’s the deal, this wasn’t how my story was supposed to play out.
You see, my husband and I are Nebraskans at heart. And I liked my life there. I liked where I worked out. We had our favorite restaurants, places to shop. Most of all, we called it home, and as a girl who doesn’t like change, I was content to spend my days in Gretna for many years to come.
So, when God interrupted and seemingly “changed my story,” it made me a little mad, a little bitter, a little, well, angry. What right did God have to change my story without consulting me?
I felt sad, alone, in limbo, so here’s what I decided to do, walk with him. Literally. This past week as I was struggling with these feelings of sadness, I went to my local Y and walked on a treadmill. My goal was to walk two miles each time and spend time in prayer—religious speak for just talking to him. As I walked I shared my confusion, frustration, my pain.
And I prayed for the change in my story, the one that was leaving me unsettled. Because the fact of the matter is that the change in my story wasn’t really a change to God. He knew where he was leading me all the time. The change was only news to me.
I know I’m at a crossroads and that I can either fight with God, or continue to walk with him—not just on a treadmill, but all the time, without props, or people, or places that are familiar but with him, the author of my story.
Change is hard. Accepting it is even harder. It seems fitting this time to end with someone else’s story whose world was rocked with change. The story of Mary, who was told she was to become pregnant with the greatest gift the world has ever known, Jesus.
When she received the news, Mary didn’t flinch, didn’t shrink back, didn’t complain. Here’s how she accepted the change given to her by an angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Mary embraced the change in her story because she knew the author of her story. May we accept the twists and turns in our own lives taking a cue from her.
So my friends, walk with God this week and let him show you how the twists and turns in life can be beautiful. Most of all remember that the ending of our story will be very happy, very happy, indeed. Merry Christmas!
Last Friday, we hit the road to begin our new life in Ankeny. The boxes were all packed up, the house was empty, and I said goodbye before picking the kids up from their last day of school in Gretna. I was a bit sad, but not overwhelmed with it. It seemed strange to not feel more broken-hearted about leaving. Admittedly, while driving to pick my kids up, I wondered why I wasn’t feeling more sentimental about this move.
My husband and I pondered this feeling of being detached from the whole process of moving. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy life in Gretna, or make great friends, or hold so many great things about this community close to my heart. But the older I get, the more I hold on loosely to the things of this world, the things that change and shift, including moving away from such a fantastic community.
On the night before we left, my daughter and I were reminiscing before bed time. I asked her to name some of her favorite memories of the past seven years. At first it was hard to recall particulars, but as we talked dozens upon dozens of wonderful and beautiful memories came flying back into our minds: including the butterfly cake we made for her birthday, meeting one of her best friends when she was only 1 ½, playing with her other best friend with Shopkins and Legos, and scootering around the neighborhood. Yes, there was a lot to be grateful for.
Those last days as we said good-bye to friends, family, and to all things familiar, my husband who had already been living in Iowa for the past several weeks, said something pretty profound, “You are going to go through a lot of endings this week, and I feel bad that I won’t be here to help you through them.” Then he went on to say, “But, next week you get to experience a lot of beginnings, so that’s something to look forward to.”
On the night we left for our new home, as I was driving down the interstate, I pondered what he had said. And for a few moments I began to feel uncomfortable, almost panicky. We’d said our goodbyes in Gretna. But we weren’t to Ankeny yet. We were in an in-between time, and it was strange, shaky, and scary ground to stand on.
Admittedly when we reached our new place, I felt like an alien in a strange land. This didn’t feel like home. But as we began to move our things in, I began to feel more and more comfortable
Those next several days as we settled in, we began to make new memories. For the first time, Jack shoveled a whole driveway by himself. My daughter, Katie, bravely walked over to our neighbors next door when she saw their little girl playing in the snow. Later that day, the same girl and her sister brought us beautiful Christmas cookies—a welcome treat. We even went out and bought a new kitchen table that was much needed. Already, we’re into beginnings and it feels nice.
So yes, good-byes can be hard and beginnings can be scary. But when you’re on the road in-between, there’s no need to panic, it doesn’t mean everything is ending, it just means you’re on your way to the new adventures God has planned for you. And that, my friends, is a pretty great place to be.