Month: August 2015

Control and Letting Go

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I decided to download all of my pictures off of my Facebook page and place them in photo albums.  Remember photo albums?  You know, it’s not easy finding photo albums these days. It’s been a while since I have placed pictures between the sticky paper. By a while, I mean a good five years.  As I sifted through the pictures,  noticed that besides Christmas, Easter and Birthdays, the picture that was taken the most, was the first day of school.

I have marked this passage of time, more than any other. More than the loss of the first tooth, or the first ride without training wheels, or the first time on skis, the first day of school gets top billing.

The photo serves as a way of trying hold time in place.  As if by taking the picture, there is a false promise that nothing will change. And yet we know, that another year means another set of challenges and possibilities, and that we as parents have little control over what will happen next.

There are all of the little things we try to control like school supplies, schedules, haircuts, physicals, new shoes, and a good night’s sleep.  We might even try to control who are kid’s get for a teacher and where they sit in class, and how they do on a test.

But you know, all of these things are distractions to avoid that reality that another school year is another step in the parenting process of letting go.

Letting go is the cruel lesson of being a parent. I’ve known few parents who have done it gracefully, and none who have done it perfectly. These human beings come into the world fully reliant on us for their very survival and gradually, slowly, their survival is up to them, and we relinquish any control we ever thought we had.

What does it mean to let go?

  • It does not mean that we ever stop loving our children.
  • It does not mean we  ever stop having hopes and expectations for them and of them.
  • It does not mean we ever stop seeing a portion of ourselves in them.
  • It does not mean we ever stop praying for them.

To let go means to separate, to differentiate yourself, and to recognize that our children’s lives are theirs to live. Their third grade spelling test, is not our third grade spelling test. Their junior high drama is not our junior high drama. Their home run is not our home run. Their marriage is not our marriage. Their lives are not our lives.

And yet. And yet, we worry. We grieve. We suggested, advise, lament, yell, scold, shame, argue, push, fret, and try with all of our power to control the beings that were formed in our womb to make sure they are going to be okay!

Will they be okay?

Yes and No.

They will bleed and rejoice.

They will hurt and be whole.

They will make mistakes and have great luck.

They will live.

Just as you will.

The final scene in the movie A River Runs Through it, speaks to this truth:

I remember the last sermon I ever heard my father give, not long before his own death:
“Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one in need and ask the same question: We are willing Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true that we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, that part we have to give… is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us… But we can still love them… We can love—completely—even without complete understanding…”
Now, nearly all those I loved and did not understand in my youth are dead, even Jessie. But I still reach out to them… When I am alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade away to a being with my soul and memories of the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River, and a four-count rhythm, and the hopes that a fish will rise.


Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the earth’s great flood and runs over the rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words. And some of the words are theirs. ‘I am haunted by waters

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From Surviving to Living

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And just like that, my life is not my own. Not that it ever really was, but at least I could pretend I was in control for a while. Now that it’s over, I’m back to being at the mercy of some strong force I cannot see,

What’s over?  Why summer, of course.

I have been out of sorts these past few days as I have checked off the checklist:

  • check ups
  • hair cuts
  • forms
  • paper
  • pens, pencils, markers, tape
  • gym shoes
  • open house night, meet the teacher night,
  • wine
  • I think I’m forgetting something….

It’s not the “going back to school” part that makes me irritable. Although I do join in the litany and pray for good teachers, good friends, good health, and good teachers.  It’s not really about the passage of time and my babies being one step closer to leaving home.  After all, letting go is part of life.

What makes me irritable, is the feeling  that as summer ends, I find that I am no longer living, I am surviving.

To live means to have room to rest, play, create, travel, eat, visit, explore, read, and watch sunsets. These are the gifts of summer.

To survive is to just make it through the day, not aware that the sun neither rose, nor set, because your biggest achievement is just getting through it.

We have done this to ourselves. We have allowed the pressure cooker of school calendars, sport calendars, music calendars, and church calendars to push us to the point that we aren’t really living through the day, we are just surviving it.

This mentality sets us up for failure. It turns us inward. It sets us up for feelings of inadequacy, because we can’t have it all together, all of the time.

I don’t even know what “it” is.

Here’s what I do know.

We only get one time around in this life.  We assume that we will have a good 80 to 90 years to get “it” all done. This is an arrogant assumption. We take advantage of the day, thinking that we have a lifetime to live, when really, the only day we have to live, is today.

What would it take for you to live your life, not just survive it?

We have become a society of people surviving, and this will kill us.

It’s impossible to be a living community, when we are all trying to survive individually.

When we are surviving, the mentality is, “what’s in it for me?”  We treat each other as goods and services who are working for or against our personal survival. “They dropped the ball.”  “They didn’t call.”  “They messed up.”  “They sent out the wrong information.”  We forget that all of us desire the same thing: to live more fully.

When we are living, the mentality shifts.  We treat other people as people who have good intentions and trying to do their best.   Living requires loving. And loving always requires grace.

All of us need to know that we have value and worth and are more than just surviving. So be kind to the cashier at Target, the secretary at the junior high, the teacher nobody wants, the cook in the kitchen, the teller at the bank, remembering that we all desire to do more than survive.

Slow down. Nothing has changed.  You still have 24 hours to live your day. May it be full of life.