How to Face a Fork in the Road

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

~Robert Frost

We fanned the college materials across the kitchen table. Competing school colors and fresh young faces stared up at us, offering an invitation to a future full of unknowns. My husband sat behind his laptop lost in a world of spreadsheets and cost projections and numbers with too many zeros behind them. I sat lost in a reverie of little girl laughter and long-ago conversations about growing up. He lives for the spreadsheets, while I live for the story behind every promise bound up in those college letters. Our daughter, seventeen and on the cusp of forever, sat across from us. On the table, the road split and forked in every direction.

We’ve approached this decision from a great distance, enjoying the long road leading up to it. Our firstborn lines the path of her life with delight, like a path covered in yellow daisies. We knew the road would split and splinter away from us eventually, but most days it seemed more like a rumor than a reality.

Just as it should, our daughter’s daisy strewn path widened quietly, while alternate avenues tunneled away from our feet overnight. The paths appeared in all manner of directions: the foreign or the well-traveled, the mysterious or dream-like, the ordinary or the distinct. They appeared with every kind of descriptor, but none of them appeared with a sign pointing “This Way.”

So, we found ourselves around the table with our spreadsheets and our Rory Gilmore pro/con lists. We laid out our research and our preconceived notions, our arguments for and against, and our core beliefs. But, it’s our dreams and our tender hearts that want to lead the way forward into this future. Discernment is difficult when the heart longs to lead one way, and the head leads another.

I find myself facing these kind of alternate path decisions often, and I second guess myself, wondering what “other” life might wait for me on the reverse side of my decisions. I’ve learned to keep a few guiding principles in mind when my emotions run away with the should have/could have beens. As we take tentative steps towards our daughter’s future, we’ve kept these same thoughts present with us as we approach this fork in the road.

Few decisions are perfect.

Perfect paths don’t exist. If they did, we would look for the magic that would lead us to them without fail. Every decision will have drawbacks and rewards. We can pro/con our way to some of them, but in the end, only God knows the end result. Someday, we will too, but until then, faith will help us take the leap into imperfection.

Few decisions are permanent.

My husband reminds me of this all the time. With the exception of having babies, very few decisions can’t be undone. It may be painful and costly, but it may be the undoing that is our re-making. There may be more lessons learned on the return trip home, than lessons learned on the initial journey.

Few decisions predict the ending.

We can’t know the end from the beginning, and this is a gift. Few of us would choose the road less traveled if we knew exactly what pain, heartache, and rough roads lie ahead on it. We must make our decisions knowing there will be challenges, but there will also be wild beauty.

My daughter will choose a path soon. It may be strewn with daisies or weeds, but my hope is that it’s lined with roses. Thorns, while painful, help us grow, and by them we recognize all that is fragrant and soft and sweet in the blooming.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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A ring of keys swung from her hip, and I could hear her clinking down the hall long before she came into view. Her name was Ida, and she was the geriatric security guard employed by my high school to police the front doors. We held opposing goals; mine was to avoid her and all other adults while slipping in through the triple set of front doors of the red brick school building.

Her goal was to catch me…

To read the rest of the post, join me at More to Be.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Shannan Martin’s fantastic new book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted.  Leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page for a chance to win. I’ll choose the lucky winner on Wednesday, October 5th.

On Transformation and Weakness Made Strong

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“Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing.” ~Marilyn Robinson in Gilead

We’ve easily spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on her smile. First it was the headgear, then pulled teeth, then braces, and retainers, and unbelievably, braces again. I need a part-time job to afford this child’s teeth. Her brother, fourteen and already free from the shackles of brackets and wires, teases her. She hates it, and smirks when she discovers a fifth grader she coaches will have their braces removed before her second set comes off.

She is a seventeen and over it.

She doesn’t smile the way she used to–open-lipped, wonderful, wide. She is closed-mouthed, covering the scaffolding of her teeth with pursed lips. She is not a child who should keep her mouth shut. She is all things bright and beautiful, and her new Mona Lisa smile is too subtle, too unlike her in every way. She is laughter. Now, she is laughter compressed, caught behind a cage.

I can’t relate to the frustration of finally achieving straight rows, and then beginning the process all over again because your teeth simply won’t behave. I never wore braces, but I have perfected my own Mona Lisa smile. It’s the smile that covers up the change taking place behind it. The smile that hides the weakness beneath the surface, and the complicated system I’ve rigged up to manage this perceived weakness.

I am weakness made strong in Christ.

I know this, but often, I don’t live this way. I forget that the agent of change in my life is not the systems I’ve created or the people I love or my inner drive for perfection. It is the power of God come alive in me through Christ. It is sufficient grace.

Transformation begins in the quiet chambers, in the deep darkness, but it doesn’t remain silent. It can’t be covered up by a pursed lip or a cupped hand or status symbols or false humility or aspirational quotes or trick mirrors. Transformation is ugly before it is beautiful. Our metamorphosis through faith can’t be contained. It is weakness made strong, crooked made straight, darkness made light. It is a miracle preparing.

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Coming soon: A giveaway of Shannan Martin‘s new book Falling Free. I received an advanced copy, and I wrestled with it for weeks. Shannan and her family left behind their comfortable jobs and their idyllic life on beautiful patch of farmland, to live among the urban poor and work in prison ministry. This book will shake you up, and quite honestly, I needed the shaking. Maybe you do too?

Three Strategies for Dealing with our Kids’ Mistakes

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Before I had children, I assumed if you raised them right and prayed enough and set the very best example, they’d skip the rebellious stage. The lying stage. The sneak out and drink, or swear or post terrible things on social media, stage. They’d love God and love me, and I’d pat myself on the back in my gray-haired years on a job well done.

I think you know where this is going…

Join me at For Her to read the rest of the story and receive a little hope for the battle-weary mom.

When You Don’t Want Summer to End: A Serenade for the Seasons

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Come mid-August, I’m ready for the return of structured days. I’m ready for yellow buses and quiet hours and watching my kids play sports under a canopy of burnt orange leaves. I’m ready for early mornings and rain-soaked skies and school books fanned out across the dining room table. Did I mention I’m ready for the quiet? I love the muted hum that enters with the advent of Autumn.

My kids begin school in two weeks, and for the first time in many years, I want to tug the curtain back on the new day dawning, exposing us to more sunshine and summer. I blinked and an invisible hand drew the drapes on this season. This year, I’m not only saying farewell to summer, I’m also saying goodbye to this season of parenting. This abundant season when all my children live under my roof, needing me, wanting my time, my approval, my attention.

My oldest enters her senior year of high school in two weeks, and she is ready. I am ready. All is as it should be, but knowing this doesn’t remove the taste of it from my mouth. It is, like most things in life, bittersweet. We are moving into a new season, and the bright blooms of summer will fade, the sun will play hide and seek, and the child of my heart will trim away the strings that tie her to me.

I want to lament the passage of time, but I would be wrong to wish for anything other than life as it is today. This season is so good–so very hard, but so very good. Next summer, my daughter will pack her life and all of my love in a few cardboard boxes and drive into the beginning of the rest of her life. I hope she’ll remember how I used to sing her to sleep. How my life was spent as a serenade to the changing seasons.