Tuesday, February 4, 2020

dear daughters: what you should learn from the super bowl

Dear Daughters,

Right now, the media (social and otherwise) is full of commentary from women about the Super Bowl halftime show. There are hateful words being spewed from both sides of the argument (a sad truth in any argument today--people seem to have forgotten how to communicate respectfully with each other), women who are accusing the other side of not honoring or respecting women. So what are you, a young lady trying to find your place in the world as you grow into a woman, supposed to think?

Let me be one more voice--maybe a quiet one, but one I think you should hear--both in regards to the halftime show and that one pesky "make space for women" commercial.

Okay, the elephant in the room--halftime. I'm going to be that crazy person that tells you not everything has to be one extreme or the other. In this case, that means there was good and bad in that show.

First, that performance was by two women who put on quite a display of athleticism. If you've ever tried dancing, you know what I mean. There's a reason so many exercise routines through the years have involved dance. The preparation and training that went into two middle-aged women (yes, believe it or not, Shakira is 43 and Jennifer Lopez is 50, so they are pretty firmly entrenched in the "middle age" classification) doing what they did is something to be admired. From that, I want you to learn to work hard for what you want. Put in the time and the effort, because that's the only way you'll get results. Big dreams don't come easily.

Second, both women acknowledged their cultural backgrounds--which I find really amazing. Jennifer Lopez's parents both immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico as children, while Shakira's parents were originally from Lebanon and Colombia. This world is full of amazing cultures, and I wish we were all better at acknowledging the beauty in each of them. One of the best lessons I've learned from my physics degrees has nothing to do with physics--those programs gave me the opportunity to meet people from around the world and learn a little bit more about their cultures as a result, and that's something for which I'm thankful. It's easy to vilify the unknown, and when we close ourselves off to learning about other people and other cultures, that's most often what happens. Take the time to get to know people instead of just listening to what gets said about them. Otherwise, you'll miss out on some incredible opportunities and friendships.

Third, people who do good can also do bad (and vice versa). In this case, two women who on one hand showed strength also chose to stoop to putting on an over-sexualized show in front of millions of people, including you. Hear me on this--sex isn't bad. God created us to be sexual beings, but as is the case with everything good, there are limits. In this case, that limit is marriage. No, it isn't empowering to show off the overwhelming majority of your body in front of the whole word. What is empowering is being with the one man who loves you no matter what, the one who sees you at your best and at your worst, and knowing that he will protect your dignity because he protects your heart, just like you protect his. When you give your body to someone, you're also giving them part of your heart. Make sure you're giving you heart to the one person who has vowed to guard and protect it, not to anyone who will drool over it. What's sad to me is that in the picture below I see two women who could have made such a positive impact on the young girls who were part of their show--and the millions of people watching.

Picture from elle.com


Your beauty doesn't come from how many people you can make lust after your body. Instead, it comes from your relationship with God.

"let your adornment be what’s inside—
the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit,
in which God delights."
1 Peter 3:4 (VOICE)

Your beauty comes from your confidence in who you are as a daughter of the Creator of the Universe, the one who loves you. Your beauty is shown by how you treat those around you. It's shown by the words you speak, the confidence you instill in those around you. It's shown by how you exhibit the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If you rely on outward beauty, you're going to be disappointed--because like it or not, one day that beauty will fade. It will turn soft and wrinkled, but it will still be beautiful to the man who looks at you and sees the beauty within.

Along those lines, you can't make the choice to objectify your body and then get mad when guys do it. If you're showing off, it's because you want to be looked at. Don't dress in clothes that show all the cleavage and then tell guys, "Eyes up here" when they talk to you. If you don't respect yourself and your body, other people won't either.


Okay, so on to that pesky commercial...

I'm all for encouraging girls to jump into the STEM fields. There has been a lot of research that shows that girls are actually very well suited for math and science--we can think spatially and are good with numbers, despite the common saying that "girls can't do math." Some of my favorite people are strong, capable women who are excelling in those fields. I'm dealing with numbers and data and Excel spreadsheets every day, and it's wonderful (even if it's hard to explain my job to people sometimes)! I've often said that I'm better with numbers than I am with people, so if that's your passion chase after it. Use those lessons in working hard to achieve something great (you know, one of the things you learned from the halftime show), and go to space or study big cats. I'll be cheering you on and telling everyone who will listen how proud I am.

But please, for the love of all that is good--don't follow that up with the "dumb girl" moment of asking, "What does this button do?" while hitting said button. Oh my goodness, I will never understand why Olay chose to end their commercial on how women are capable by having one of them accidentally eject them both into space.

You don't have to be ditzy to be liked. Your intelligence and your abilities are every much a part of who you are as your eye color and your laugh, and you don't need to downplay any of those things. Be confident in who you are. If you're a physics nerd, the right person will tell you you're smart enough (even when you don't think it). If you snort when you really laugh, the right guy will think it's the best part of your laugh and will make it his goal to make you laugh that hard every day (probably in public--good and bad, remember?). Wisdom is a gift, and it shouldn't be squandered because of insecurity. You'll never be who God intends for you to be if you try to hide the gifts He's given you.

 "But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure,
then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,
without partiality and without hypocrisy."
James 3:17 (CJB)


"It is in Him (Christ) that all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge are hidden."
Colossians 2:3 (CJB)

Friday, January 10, 2020

Welcome to 2020!

So, I had this post all written up about my one word for 2020. I only had a couple more sentences to add, and then I was going to hit the publish button. It was fitting--a strong word, one that would add to my "I can do it myself" mentality that I've had pretty much since birth.

But God.

He has this way of stepping right in the middle of my plans. It probably sounds horrible to admit, but it gets really frustrating at times. You see, I (probably not unlike you) like things to go the way I have them all mapped out in my head. I'm an analytical person, so every decision I make is researched and planned and debated before it ever gets put into play. I consider all the logistics and make sure that I'm making the best decision that will work out best for anyone and everyone involved...or so I like to think. If I'm being honest, it's more that I just want to be in control.

Or maybe it's that I want to look like I'm in control when everything inside me is threatening to spin out of control. I over analyze everything in an attempt to make it look like I have it all together because I can't bear the thought of letting somebody else see me doing something that I may not have mastered. I'm fine with the idea that practice makes perfect and the only way to get good at something is to do it over and over again, but I'm terrified of being judged as somehow inadequate.

Here's a hard thing for me to admit--most of the time, I feel like I'm a fraud who is going to be found out. I have to show other people that I can hold it all together and do all the things because all too often I see myself as inadequate.

So what in the world does this earth-shattering (okay, so definitely not a shock to people who know me) confession have to do with my one word for 2020? 

I was driving to work yesterday morning, stressing out about having to stand up in front of people and talk not just once but twice in the same day.  That probably sounds insane to people who know I stood in front of a classroom of teenagers and taught for 5 years, but public speaking is easily my biggest fear. I have a genuine physiological reaction--my heart races, my voice quivers, and a glowing red rash starts on my chest and makes its way up until I closely resemble a lobster fresh from the pot. I was listening to my worship playlist on Spotify, trying to distract myself, and this song came on:

 

My thoughts turned to the word I had picked for the start of this decade, and I realized my focus was wrong. I had chosen a word that reminded me that I could be strong no matter what is thrown my way, a word to cling to as a reminder that I could hold it all together and face whatever comes. As I listened to the song, though, my eyes threatened to tear up (if you know me, you know how much I fight that threat). The word I had picked? It was an excuse for me to fight on my own. It was a way of saying once again that I can do it myself, or in the words of MercyMe, "I'll overcome by my own strength."

So, my theme for 2020 as we move into a new decade that promises more change for my family than I can even begin to imagine (more on that later):

You are I AM
 
Since I'm on a transparency kick here, I have another confession--Sunday morning this title was brought up in discussion at church. I thought then that I should probably make it my focus, but then I convinced myself otherwise. After all, it doesn't fit the nice, neat, one word challenge.

Yet here it is again. Funny how that happens...

Sometimes, I forget. In the middle of the mess and chaos and stressing and striving, I forget that God is I AM. He is never changing, or as Revelation says,

"I AM the Alpha and Omega,
the One who is,
the One who was,
and the One who is coming;
the All Powerful."
Revelation 1:8 (VOICE)

My prayer for 2020 is that my focus will be on the One who said "I AM" when Moses asked for His name. The One who

conquers giants
calls out kings
shuts the mouths of lions
tells the dead to breathe
walks through fire
takes the orphan's hand
 
 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Grief and joy

I'm finding myself in a raw place this Christmas season. I don't know what it is--I'm not typically a sentimental person. But this year, I find myself swallowing a lump in my throat and blinking back tears way more often that I would like.

Grief is such a bizarre thing. Here I am, 15 years out, fighting tears as I'm driving down the highway. It hits out of nowhere, and it really doesn't care how inconvenient the timing. Like Sunday, after a bad day where I had made my husband, daughter, and son all frustrated with me (for different reasons--I'm talented like that). Then I had fought the crowd at WalMart, something I'm never a fan of, in search of gifts and stocking stuffers. I was driving home in the dark, which is already not such a great thing for me because my night vision is terrible.

And there was the flag.

After Michael's death, my family had a flagpole installed at the cemetery. There's a light shining on it at night so it doesn't have to be taken down at sunset each day. When you drive down highway 21 at night, you see the flag highlighted against the night sky, behind a glowing church steeple. Sunday night, that flag hit me like a punch in the gut. I can't tell you why; normally when we drive by I like to see it there. It usually gives me comfort, somehow, seeing it waving in the night breeze.

But Sunday, it brought instant tears and a lump I just couldn't swallow.







Here's the thing about grief, though--we grieve because we love. The deeper the love, the deeper the grief.

This Christmas, if your heart is breaking--whether it's from a new grief or one that just seems to have snuck up on you again--I wish you peace. I wish you memories, even the ones that bring tears to your eyes, because that's how you heal. I wish you the time to slow down and take a breath.

But I also wish you joy. It seems strange to put joy and grief together, but I've come to believe that it's normal. It may not seem that way to people who've stayed on the outside of grief looking in, but let me be blunt--unless you've lived through a loss that has rocked you to your core, you don't get to tell people what's "normal" in grief.

So I hope you'll have a moment like I did Sunday night. I hope you'll cry ugly tears, but then I hope you'll think of something that makes you snort and laugh through them. I hope you'll let the memories that hurt your heart also heal it.

Monday, November 4, 2019

What are you chasing?

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"Chase your dreams."
"Go after what you want!"

We hear it all the time, encouragement to chase after our dreams and keep pushing until we get what we're running after. It's the American Dream that everyone wants, right? Work hard enough, for long enough, and don't ever stop setting goals that are bigger and better and you'll get everything.

Yet time and time again, the news is filled with stories of people who seemed to have everything...but no matter how much they chased after all the things and met all the goals and found reward on a large scale, their lives felt so empty and meaningless that they thought the only fix was to end it.

I have to admit, I fall into the trap of thinking that if I can just make it to that next goal, just earn that next thing on the list, things will get easier and happiness will be a given. I stress and strive and work to make sure that "I can do it myself," because that has been my mantra since I was little. I run after the things that are supposed to be important, and I work hard to accomplish all the things...because that's what we're supposed to do, right?

Only, here's the one little problem with me frantically running after all the things that I think are important:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and then all these things will be given to you too."
Matthew 6:33

Seek God first? But won't that get in the way of my plans to do everything? Won't that mess up all my plans? How can I fit in all the things I need to get done if I'm seeking God's kingdom first?

Because you see, God's kingdom doesn't necessarily look like we want it to. Sometimes, it looks like getting out in the pouring rain to help somebody on the side of the road. Or getting covered in mud helping pull a calf. Or stepping into the middle of a confrontation to speak peace. Or holding your tongue when you really want to spit out something hateful in response to the hurtful words of someone else (that's a hard one for me...). Or turning something over to God instead of worrying about it. Or being still and resting in Him instead of hurrying to do the next thing on the list. Or stepping our of your comfort zone to have a conversation about God with someone who may not be receptive to it.

When I'm seeking God's kingdom and His righteousness, that means I'm focusing on the eternal instead of the temporary. It's really easy to get tied up in the here and now. Bills have to be paid; there are demands at work; the washing machine gives out, there's a leak in the roof. It's easy to start looking at the circumstances around me as what's important and forgetting that they are all temporary. I get tied up in making sure I'm doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing--and I forget about the one thing that matters.

What matters is that I seek God. I should be pursuing Him, running after Him with my whole heart. I should be searching His word and praying in all things. I should be sharing the good news with others instead of sitting quietly on the sidelines, afraid to speak. I should trust in His provision...and His timing (that whole "timing" thing is a hard one for me).

God knows what I need a lot better than I do. He takes care of His creation, and He will take care of giving me what I need (even though that probably won't always match up with what I think I need...). My focus should be on Him, not on all the stuff that distracts me.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

pastors and suicide...

I've debated whether or not to write this post. Even now as I type, I'm not entirely sure I'll hit that "Publish" button. You see, I'm not an expert on anything I'm about to say. I'm not a pastor, and I'm not a mental health professional. Thankfully, I have very little personal experience to draw from when it comes to the indescribably painful and messy thing that is suicide. When that suicide involves a pastor, I'm at even more of a loss.

What I am, though, is the daughter of a pastor. So for just a minute I want to talk to you from that unique position.

I became a "Preacher's Kid" the summer before 6th grade, when I turned 11. You know, that super peaceful time in a girl's life...right there on the verge of losing her mind in the preteen years. I had always been (and will always be) a daddy's girl. Pop was the pastor of a wonderful church in Bonner Springs, Rehm's Park SBC, until the middle of my junior year of high school. He took a bit of a break for a few years, but has been leading Living Word Fellowship in Green Forest for the last 13 years.

So although I'm not a pastor, I have a pretty deep connection with someone who is living out a calling to the ministry. This post dives into that and what I've seen in the many years I've watched Pop navigate the journey of being a pastor. These aren't his views, though, so take what I say for what it's worth--the words of a daughter who has watched her father fight some pretty choppy seas.
***

Suicide is an incredibly complex topic, the last resort of someone who feels all hope is lost and there's no other way to end the pain that they can't get any relief from. It comes from a place of overwhelming despair, and I'm thankful I can't fully understand those thoughts and feelings. Lately, there have been many pastors who have found themselves lost in that darkness.

And for some reason, the world can't understand it.

A pastor is somebody with all the answers, right? He's a leader who has a deep connection with God and spends his hours delving into the scriptures. He's a counselor and a mentor and a teacher--how could he ever give in to the hopelessness that leads to something like suicide?

I don't know about you, but the more time I spend in my Bible the more I'm convicted. I know God is in the mercy business, but goodness--I can't read very long before I start squirming when I'm reading about how I should be patient, slow to anger, in control of my tongue... you know, all those things I'm not so great at doing.

But a pastor? They are held to a higher standard than the rest of us. I'm not saying that they shouldn't be:

James 3:1 tells us, "My brothers and sisters, do not encourage a large number of you to become teachers because teachers will be held to a higher standard."

1 Peter 5:2&3 says, "When you shepherd the flock God has given you, watch over them not because you have to but because you want to. For this is how God would want it not because you’re being compensated somehow but because you are eager to watch over them. Don’t lead them as if you were a dictator, but lead your flock by example"

Then you have Titus 5:6-9 with,
"Here’s what you should look for in an elder: 
he should be above suspicion;
if he is married, he should be the husband of one wife,
raise children who believe,
and be a person who can’t be accused of rough and raucous living.
 It is necessary that any overseer you appoint be blameless,
as he is entrusted with God’s mission.
Look for someone who isn’t pompous or quick to anger,
who is not a drunkard, violent, or chasing after seedy gain or worldly fame.
Find a person who lovingly opens his home to others;
who honors goodness;
who is thoughtful, fair, devout, self-controlled;
and who clings to the faithful word that was taught because he must be able,
not only to encourage people with sound teaching,
but also to challenge those who are against it."

Those aren't easy standards to meet, and yet they are the Biblical standards we are given for selecting a pastor. You know, the one who has to lead the people by example...when that example is being stacked up against Christ.

This is also the one who hears everything--he catches the tears of mothers who've lost children, of husbands who don't know how they will provide a roof over their families next month, of people who are stuck deep in the stagnant waters of addiction. He's the one who patiently listens to the pain that comes out in the form of ugly rantings over relationships falling apart, or hateful words, or accusations. He's expected to have answers to everyone's problems.

He should know how to convince the wayward son to return,
how to answer every question,
how to comfort the dying,
how to support the grieving,
how to inspire the faltering,
how to encourage the downtrodden,
how to mediate arguments...

In Acts 20:28 Paul says, "Here are my instructions: diligently guard yourselves, and diligently guard the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has given you oversight. Shepherd the church of God, this precious church which He made His own through the blood of His own Son."

Pastors are called to move between one person's deathbed and the maternity ward, and when they get there they should have the perfect words for both. He's expected to be there for all the huge events in people's lives, which often comes at the sacrifice of time with his own family.

Yet, he's also called to raise children who run after God.

As a bit of an aside, 7th Heaven was big when we were in the midst of life as a pastor's family. There was an episode once where Eric Camden (the dad/pastor) had a heart attack. The episode showed all sorts of busy-ness and stress as he went about his day, with that as the culmination of it all. After the episode aired, someone asked my brother if life for our family was really like what they showed. Michael laughed and said, "Mostly, but their dad is home way too much." Pastors are responsible for the spiritual growth of their children, but they are pulled away from them at all hours of the day and night.

All of those responsibilities put pastors in what is often a very lonely role. Sure, there are lots of people around them. They can't go anywhere without being stopped for a conversation of some sort (usually somebody asking for prayers). How often, though, do you think someone asks a pastor if they can pray for him? When does a pastor get to share his struggles? Who does he talk to when he has questions (because the more time you spend in the scriptures, the more questions you'll have) or when he just needs to vent?

Most pastors don't have true friends in their congregation. It's not really by plan, but more by default. Think about the things you do for fun. How often would you invite your pastor to come hang out with you? How often do you call him up after a game and ask if he saw that terrible call that obviously lost the game for us? Sure, you like your pastor, but do you invite him to come over for a barbecue? Too many of us don't want "church people" to see us as our normal, everyday selves...and that goes double for letting the pastor!
.
.
.


When I read back over what I wrote, it seems a bit disjointed to me. I guess, though, I said all that to say this: love your pastor. Let him be human. Ask him if you can pray for him, then spend a few minutes on your knees before the throne and pray God will wrap His arms around this mighty warrior of His.

He needs it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What's in a name?

Sunday was the Norris family reunion, and I was asked to give the devotional.

So, yeah...talking in front of people is probably my biggest irrational fear, and I have a physiological reaction to it each time.

I'm not talking just something little like sweaty hands or something. I turn red--bright red that starts on my chest and quickly makes its way up to turn my face scarlet. My hands and voice get shaky, I start losing my voice (Nathan lovingly told me it was like I was a teenage boy in puberty...yeah, lots of support there), I barely breathe...

You know, just exactly the type of thing you want to see in a speaker.

I wrote out everything I was going to say, fully intending to "stick to the script" and just read. I could do that, right? I'm a writer, not a speaker; surely, though, just reading my writing wouldn't be that big a deal.

And then, I started talking...and instantly I had this crazy thought that it would somehow be a bad thing for me to just read. I mean, who does that? Isn't it a bad thing to simply read a speech? So I started going off script, and losing my words, and feeling myself turn red, and hearing my voice betray me... So, not really a pretty sight.

Honestly, I don't know what I ended up managing to say. Here's what I intended to say, though...

***

When Nathan and I were expecting our kids, we spent a whole lot of time trying to pick out the right names. It was a big deal, and we wrestled over what name was right up until we were about to leave the hospital with our tiny baby girl, to the point that the nurses were prodding a bit because they wanted a name for the birth certificate.

Raiden means "fiery one." Honestly, I chose it because I thought she would end up with Nathan's red hair. That didn't happen, but she very quickly lived up to her name in other ways: she's daring and adventurous on the positive side; on the negative sometimes, her personality is pretty fiery, too.

"Jane" has a deeper, more personal meaning. It's a family name, alternating with "Jean" on my mom's side: Raiden Jane, Amanda Jean, Tammy Jane, Dilla Jean, Prudence Jane... It's her middle name, so it isn't necessarily one a lot of people are going to know and even fewer people will know the story behind. I hope, though, that she will always hold to the importance of the legacy it represents.

Conan Scott was chosen in a pretty similar way. Conan was chosen as a strong name for our almost 9-pound baby who was so much bigger than all the tiny babies in the hospital nursery. It is a Celtic name derived from "conn" which means wisdom and strength. It didn't hurt that it's a writer name (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). My hope is that he continues to grow into his name. Scott is the personal side, following in the footsteps of his Pa and Grandpa. For both our kids, their middle name was chosen to help them remember where they came from.

Biblically, a name is an incredibly important thing. Proverbs 22:1 tells us that a good name is worth more than great riches. Time after time, we're given the meaning behind people's names. In Isaiah 9"6, about 400 years before Jesus was born, some of the names of the Messiah are laid out: Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Those names gave a glimpse of the character of Christ before He came to earth, a picture of who He is and who He will be for us. Likewise, the names of God are used throughout the scriptures to help us understand His character. There are whole studies out there that focus on the names of God and what they mean (Tony Evans has a great study if you're interested) because the names of God provide one of the best pictures of His nature that we can get before we get to see Him face to face.

Our goal, then, should be to live in such a way that our name alone tells everyone our character. I was blessed to be born into a family with a good name: "Goins" tells a lot of people here in my little corner of the world where I come from and, I hope, a lot about who I am. People who really know me know the DeLozier side and all that entails (the good and the bad). 15 years ago, I was blessed to marry into the name "Kilbourn," which tied me to "Norris" by default. Those names and all those conencted to them have been earned by a lot of people through a lot of years. Each generation is tasked with preserving and bettering that name, keeping it intact for those who come after us. If we want them to reflect well on us, we should reflect well on those who came before us.

More than that, though, the name we should always keep in mind is that of "Follower of Christ." When we hold ourselves up as Christians, we are bearing the name of Christ. That means we are responsible for the reputation of the name we carry. My actions are a reflection on the name I've been given, and it's a responsibility I shouldn't take lightly. Ephesians 4:1 tells us to live a life worthy of the calling we've received. I think that can easily be extended to say we are to live a life worthy of the name we've been given. If I am a daughter of the King and bear His name, my goal should be to present His name in the best possible light. His name is worth more than all the riches of this world, so who am I to taint it?

And how amazing will it be on the day that He looks at me and tells me my true name, the one only He knows!

And I will give him a white stone,
and on the stone a new name written which no one knows
except him who receives it.
Revelation 2:17 

***

For some crazy reason, they've asked me to share next year. I think I'll ignore all the lessons I have in public speaking and just read...surely it would be the better choice!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

15 years...

This isn't one of the counts I ever thought about keeping, the number of years since we last saw Michael. This year has been a rough one. As most people know, my wedding was moved to January so that my big brother would be there. I'll never regret that change because I don't want to imagine the other scenario. I have to admit, though, it's tough when your wedding day is also the last day you were with your big brother. I think I've been in a bit of a funk since January 3rd.

I don't know why this year has been so hard. Maybe it's just because this is one of those "mile marker" type years...15. I've found myself being moody and contemplative and even a bit weepy at times, and I don't dare tell people what the heck is wrong with me...because then come the awkward silences and looks of pity that make me crazy.

I saw this post one time, and it is a great picture of grief. It seems like the world thinks that after some set amount of time has passed, loss shouldn't hurt any more. You should be able to "move on" and put the pain behind you.

But here's the truth of the matter: when you love hard, loss hurts hard. When someone has been a part of your identity, the loss of that person turns your whole life inside out...and that's not something time heals.

I hated that there were people who called me "Little Mike" when I started high school. A 9th grade girl doesn't really live that down, even after her brother graduates. Now, though, a big part of my life is spent with people who never knew my brother. They don't see me as Little Mike, and I didn't know that would hurt. I've never been good at conversation with new people, but I didn't know that I would come to dread it because of one simple question: "How many brothers and sisters do you have?"

Don't get me wrong--I love this life I live. I'm blessed in so many amazing ways, and I'm thankful (though not nearly as much or as often as I should be).

There are days, though, when the pain suddenly hits me in the stomach. Days when I want to just ignore the world because I don't want to deal with the petty things people get upset about. Days when I can't really swallow the lump in my throat completely. Days, like this morning, when nothing more than a song brings tears to my eyes.

15 years. It seems like such a long time, doesn't it? Our little sister was 14 when Michael was killed, so this year marks her officially living more of her life without her big brother than with him. I've still got another 5 years before those categories become equal for me, and I can't put words to how it feels even to think about that. It hurts my heart to think that there are some amazing kids who don't get the chance to be picked on and doted on by their uncle.

I see glimpses of Michael in my kids, though. I see Raiden's interest in dragons--to the point where she can draw and describe every possible classification of them--and it reminds me of Michael's obsession with the Civil War when he was growing up. I look at Conan and see a gentle giant who would rather be picked on than stand up for himself, but who will fiercely defend other people. I'm thankful for the glimpses.

I've posted this before, but I'll leave you with words I wrote 3 years ago:

What's it like to lose your brother?
It's like having a piece of your soul cut out,
     only to have people say, "That's alright--you'll live without it."
Sometimes it's like your lungs forget how to breathe,
     or maybe it's just that they don't want to remember.
It's having people ask, "How are your parents?
     This must be really hard on them," and wanting to scream,
     "They aren't alone--I lost someone, too!
Someone who was part of the definition of what it meant to be me:
     Oldest daughter, but middle child; 'Little Mike' at school.
Someone who taught me to throw a punch--and take one,
     but who gave his little sister a valentine with the words
     'Sometimes I may pick on you (just a little)
But you should know I still love you.'"

What's it like to lose your brother?
It's being thrust into the role of oldest child
     with no earthly idea of how you're supposed to fill those shoes.
It's constantly living in a shadow others can't see,
     but one that's so real you can feel it in your bones.
It's trying to decide if introductions are worth it
     because people always ask, "How many siblings do you have?"
     and the debate on how to answer isn't worth the effort:
"Do I say two? Because then they'll ask what they do
     and the pity that follows 'He was killed in Iraq' is too much.
Or do I say one, and lie to make things easier?
     Not easier on myself, because I'll be racked with guilt,
     but easier on the person who didn't know where that question leads.
And nobody bargains for the painful silence."

dear daughters: what you should learn from the super bowl

Dear Daughters, Right now, the media (social and otherwise) is full of commentary from women about the Super Bowl halftime show. There ar...

what people are reading...