An open thank you to parents.

Dear Parents,

“Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, besides each other, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much” // Lisa Wingate.

Time and time again, we see articles, clips, and words spoken that consistently remind parents they aren’t doing their job correctly.

As if you don’t already have ‘provider’ stamped before your name, you are consistently bombarded with titles that you have to live up to, in order to appease your family, your children, and the world.

I’m no expert. I don’t have children. The most parenting I have done is babysit, teach my students, coach, and that one time in high school when I was required to care for the electronic baby. I don’t know how difficult it is raising another human being, with emotions, struggles, and mood swings. I commend all parents, especially mine.

But more importantly, I want to personally, from the bottom of my heart, from a first year teacher, from a growing woman who eventually hopes to have a family of her own, thank the parents who encourage their children, love their children, and take interest in their child’s heart.

You are the real world changers.

You make differences that I’m sure not many people notice. You sacrifice daily. I don’t mean in the way you work. I don’t mean in the way you struggle to put food on the table and clothes on their back. Although that in and of itself is an accomplishment that deserves to be acknowledged as well. Thank you for working so hard.

But when I say thank you for sacrificing daily, I mean you take time to stop, pause, and speak truth into their heart. Thank you for telling them they are loved. Children need to hear that. Teenagers need to hear that. Adults need to hear that. I mean more than the ‘I love you’s” exchanged before leaving the house or dropping them off for school. I want to thank the parents who make sure their children KNOW their love.

Growing up, there was never a night I closed my eyes and questioned whether my parents loved me. Did I question their reasoning? Absolutely. Did I question their judgement on who I hung out with or was attracted to? You bet I did. But I never put my head on my pillow at night, doubting that my parents loved me with their whole heart. I knew it. I still know it. I know it so well, that it is permanently engraved in my mind and heart.

And because of that, I better understand the love of God. You don’t have to be a saint in order for your children to see the love of God mirrored through you. I see you struggling to make ends meet. I see you struggling to live from pay check to pay check. I see you struggling with depression. I see you battling insecurity, because it is so easy to compare yourself to the grade A parents. I assure you, those don’t really exist. Just as media has a way of forcing their idea of “accepted” in terms of image with your child, the media also has a way of making even the greatest parents feel like failures.

You are the farthest thing from a failure. I need you to believe that.

So you can’t buy your child a brand new car… or any car for that matter. Who cares?

So you can’t pay for your child to have the nicest clothes or the newest technology. Who cares?

So you don’t have the nicest house on the street or even in the neighborhood. Who cares?

You want to know what I think of when I reflect on how my parents have really provided for me and my siblings?

I think of waking up every day and coming downstairs to my parents doing their devotions.

I think of walking into my parents’ bedroom to see my father praying by his bed, only to return thirty minutes later to see him still praying.

I think of my poem book assignment in Elementary school, where I had written a few poems of my own, and my mom hanging one of them outside her classroom for people to see.

I think of my dad taking us to the softball field every Sunday afternoon, growing up, because he knew we loved it.

I think of my parents cuddling on the couch together and always showing each other their love and adoration.

I think of my stays in the hospital and my mother, knowing she couldn’t heal me physically, but knowing she could comfort my heart spiritually, praying with me.

I think of finding encouraging verses written on notes, that I still have.

I think of their forgiveness.

Sure, my parents gave me things. They gave me food and the clothes I wanted. I’ve never been in need of anything. But those aren’t the things I will tell my future children about their grandparents. I will tell them about their love for Christ being reflected in how they loved me, how they believed in me, how they adored me, and even admired me.

I know you don’t hear it enough. I know that not everyone will stop you and commend you for your efforts. I know that not everyone will even take time to notice that your little girl or boy still wants to hold your hand. I know that not everyone will forgive mistakes, and only look toward the good you have done for your child. I know that not everyone thinks providing for your child means encouraging them and loving them too. I know that some nights you go to bed thinking you’re a failure. I know that some days you dread waking up, because you’re battling depression so heavily. I know that marriage is difficult, and that many people experience some incredibly difficult hurdles. I know you don’t hear it enough. I know you need to hear it.

Thank you. Thank you for adoring your child. Thank you for pushing them toward Jesus and showing them what matters most. Thank you for praying for them, believing in them, and admiring them. Thank you for caring enough to guide them in the right direction, and applaud them when they show signs of growth.

I need you to know how truly great you are.

You deserve to hear this everyday.

And from a teacher, a coach, a daughter, a future wife, and a future mother,

You are my hero.

You.

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Strong is refusing to be people.

You won’t be able to hide from it.
You won’t be able to avoid it.
You won’t be able to run from it.
I promise you, no matter how hard you try, it will still be there.

Negativity.

I assure you, before this day is over — this NEW day of a NEW year — you’ll hear it. You’ll hear it in your family grumbling. You’ll hear it on the news and see it in the magazines. Perhaps the loudest voice you hear is your own.

You know what I think ‘strong’ looks like?

Strong is being surrounded by negative remarks, but still refusing to participate.
Strong is turning every corner and hearing the complaints and whining of others, but still not letting them discourage you.
Strong is finding the good. Strong is seeing the good. Strong is being the good, and being willing to point it out.

Strong is refusing to be like all of the negative people in this world. Strong is refusing to be people.

You know, God calls us to many different avenues in life. He calls us to be pastors, chefs, teachers, politicians, and even mailmen. He calls us to do life with many people, and He calls us to give up relationships closest to us.

He calls us to leave home, and He calls us to build up what’s been broken.

But you know what’s amazing about this life we get to live? We get a choice in how we decide to live it.

We can wake up everyday and assume the worst will happen. We can assume that our country will progressively get worse and discuss that hours on end. We can vent to our family and friends about the person who ‘ruined’ us or destroyed our lives. We can talk about our biggest regrets and biggest mistakes. We can talk about how awful and unbearable certain people and situations are.

Or.

Or we can talk about how blessed we are. We can talk about how wonderful the people in our lives are. We can tell those same people how wonderful they are. We can find the good in our still free country and discuss that God is still in control even in the chaos. We can talk about the people who make us better and how we’ve grown to be who we are today, because every mistake is a lesson. We can find the good the second we wake up and assume the best for tomorrow when we close our eyes at night.

We can do that.
I can do that.
You can do that.

It’s really not difficult. It’s just a decision. It might make people stare. To be honest, it might make people feel awkward, because pointing out the good in people isn’t a normality anymore. I’ll take awkward over negativity any day.

The best part?

There’s something else you won’t be able to hide from.
There’s something else you won’t be able to avoid.
There’s something else you won’t be able to run from.
And I promise you, no matter how hard you try, it will still be there.

Jesus.

It’s your choice this year. It’s your decision. You can choose to be like everyone else and conform your thoughts, words, and actions to the negativity that seems so impossible to ignore.

Or.

Or you can choose to see the good, everyday. Regardless of what everyone around you is doing. Regardless if people hurt you and ridicule you. Regardless if your job, relationship, or even this country is questionable at times. You still have the power to decide for yourself what kind of life you will live.

One that focuses on the negative or one that chooses to see the good.

Good will never happen to those who can’t even recognize it.

People will find every reason to find negativity acceptable.

Simple enough, don’t be people.

Tell me something good.