Sometimes I think life is just a long undoing of all the things we thought we’d be.
In place of what we thought we’d be and the questions we have about life, we find God whispering something.
It turns out, life has nothing to do with what we thought we’d be, a lot more to do with who we were made to be, and everything to do with whose we are.
“You are mine.”
There’s a common question you’ll get pretty much anytime you meet new people. And if you move clear across the country like me - you’ll meet A LOT of new people so you’ll hear it everyday. What’s the question? Well, after you’ve exchanged some sort of customary greeting and necessary small talk, you’ll find yourself facing a couple seconds of silence. Inevitably, someone will pipe up with…
“So… what do you do?”
For the record, I actually hate this question. But I find myself asking it every once in awhile just the same.
But I’m working on the courage to change it up instead of asking what someone “does,” I’d love to hear more about the type of person they are and who they’re aiming to be.
And, when people ask me “what do you do?” Instead of answering this always asked question with “write, run a business, speak” or “wipe noses, butts and counters” depending on who I’m talking to - and the given day’s agenda - I’d love to say something along the lines of:
“Every day, I am trying my best to become more present, more grateful, more patient, more gentle… and more free.”
Or, the even weirder response:
“I’m trying to just be. Like just be… You know? Still in my soul. With a knowing. That I am loved by God. Being and knowing.”
It’s what I do. It’s who I am trying to be. It’s what I do.
Reading it here *might* sound poetic, but I have a feeling if I answered this way to a brand-new-to-me person… I’d get a blank stare, a confused nod - and then my new “pal” may back away slowly, never to attempt a chat with me again.
But, also, another part of me wonders… What would the world be like if meeting new people included hearing about the character traits they valued most…? If these were common questions, would more of us common folk spend time thinking about our answers?
If this were the status quo - how much more time might we spend on our stature vs our next status update? How much more time might we put into relationships vs career advances or new academic standings or better paying jobs with cooler titles?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making some big heart transitions back to the person who knew which priorities went first. If you’ve read my book, you know what I’m talking about. You know where I came from.
But, if you’re new around here, I’ll try to sum up the part of this story that applies and put it as bluntly as I can:
When my hardworking husband (and best friend) got cancer at 25 years old, our world flipped upside down. We both stopped working 60-70 hour weeks and started to reorient our lives around work life balance, around our love, and around our faith. He had surgery and was declared cancer free! We got pregnant! We had a baby together! It was bliss! Then, when she was 9 months old, he died. (Sorry. Told ya it’d be blunt. Only have so much room here…)
Anyway, I got back to work after he left this world because I had to provide for me and my baby girl. Eventually I found healing through Jesus. And God healed my heart enough for it to grow... What felt like suddenly, where there had been no wiggle room, I found in my heart room to love more.
A perfect second chapter virtually fell into my lap and I got married again. This time, to my incredible second chapter, Jay. We had more babies. I started a new business and loved what I did for work so much that it barely felt like work. Which wasn’t a bad thing. But, when I couldn’t focus well on anything else - that’s when I found a good thing pulling me back into all the wrong things.
I’d gotten back into this world’s pattern of trying to get to the next rung and thinking about how to advance; my career, my social standing, my “reach.” With a business that lives on social media, focusing on the wrong things was far too easy to do. And it paid in more ways than one. My business hit over six figures, my book was getting published, I was reaching more and more “eyes,” but what truly matters had started to fall by the wayside.
But I didn’t see it right away. In fact, it took another scary hard thing for me to recognize my old thought patterns had started creeping back in.
Our newborn daughter, Taytum, had been fine through day 9. Born to term. We were sent home from the hospital 16 hours after her birth… In fact everything was going so great, I was back to posting on social media for my business by day 5. But by day 10, she’d caught a dangerous-for-babies respiratory virus and I found myself peering around the shoulder of a Children’s Hospital doctor where my TayTay laid on a table struggling to breathe.
“I need you to give me permission to intubate her and put her on a ventilator,” the doctor had said. “We’re going to have to paralyze her. She won’t be able to breathe on her own for a bit so you’ll see one of these teammates of mine…” He gestured to the 5 or 6 people behind him, squished around, jimmying for room to work on my tiny six pound girl, “will use a hand-held bag to push air into her lungs and breathe for her.”
I’d said yes because there was no other choice. But I didn’t anticipate the moment that followed. It’s etched into my memory forever.
Her body going limp, her breath abating, the rise and fall of her chest, no more - as they attempted to get the breathing bag in place. The tech struggled to secure Tay’s mask for a moment and the couple of feet between me and the table that held my baby’s still body felt like a chasm. I wasn’t near close enough.
It couldn’t have been longer than a couple of seconds… Her laying there, still. Me, frozen in fear. But it felt like forever.
It brought me back to the night I had laid my head on my husband’s chest to confirm my worst fear. And I remembered…
Everything can change in an instant.
This life is fragile.
Nothing you see is certain.
Apparently I’m a slow learner. Because while I’d seen the truth before, I’d apparently forgotten again…
Even the best of what this world has to offer - won’t last forever. The things that truly matter aren’t usually the things we can see. It didn’t matter in that moment what kind of job I’d had or what money I’d made or WHAT I did with my days. The only thing that mattered was that I was Taytum’s mom, that I loved that girl with all my heart, and then I wondered - since my days are numbered too - what kind of mom will my kids think I was? What kind of person will they remember me to be?
Today Tay is a smily, spunky three year old. The day-to-day of diaper changing and child rearing for her and our other three (10, 5 and 1) can feel so impossible and endless sometimes - but just like that incredibly hard stint where Tay could barely breathe -I can see the way even these slow, pressing, monotonous days have all been molding me.
Molding me into a posture of surrender. Molding me into a person whose life requires patience. Molding me into a mother who trusts Him - and tries so very hard to prioritize peace.
This life isn’t a race. It’s a marathon (or maybe a trail run) with incredibly high highs, incredibly low lows, and what feels like an infinite number of monotonous days - but one things for sure - every day, every breath - serves a greater purpose.
For His glory.
And for our good.
It’s taken life-altering events for me to see what really matters and to hold in higher regard whose I am & who I want to be vs what I want to do.
If you asked me as a child, I had a great long list of rotating dreams. Did you too? I used to want to be an author. An artist. A teacher. A sculptor. I also wanted to be a professional soccer player. A firefighter. A chef. And a nurse.
Maybe you wanted to be a ballet dancer or an actor or a singer or a gardener? Maybe you wanted to be a parent or a waitress or a lawyer? If you ask my five year old what she wants to be when she grows up… she’ll say a unicorn.
While some of what we want to be might come to fruition if we’re lucky (except for Emery becoming a unicorn - at some point, I’ll have to break it to her), I’ve noticed it often doesn’t happen in the way we expect. Or… once we get there, it doesn’t feel quite the way we imagined.
While I might “count” as an author since I’ve written a book and write a blog… I can tell you that the path I had to walk to get here wasn’t one I would have ever chosen.
I can also tell you that the “titles” that I hold matter far less to me these days than the person who I’m attempting to be. Not because I think it’s bad to achieve promotions, jobs and dreams - but maybe because I’ve been through fire. Singed. Scarred. But stronger for it, at least a little bit braver and, I pray, a little wiser.
I’d take truth over comfort any day. And, if you’re still around in this little corner of the internet, I bet you’d rather honesty too. So, let me be real with you here and now:
Yes, the weather here has been nice. But, here’s what really matters to me:
What kind of person are you trying to become?
What character traits matter most to you?
When you reach your end, how do you want those closest to you to describe you?
How will they say you made them feel?
What truths will they say you emulated?
Who will you have pointed them to?
These questions are fairly rhetorical here, but they don’t have to be…
I’d love to actually TALK to you, face to face, about these hopes and dreams. I’d love to share what I’ve learned about the reality of living into WHO and WHOSE you are in a world obsessed with WHAT you do.
And, I am SO EXCITED to say, we actually are going have a chance to have a discussion just like this! We will get to talk! AND, it doesn’t have to live in a blog post thread or social media inbox. I’d love to sync up with you in real life - help you make some decisions on big questions, help you make a difference in your life, and talk about how you can actually put these priorities in order!
Our quarterly live community discussion is coming up in just TWO weeks for our paid community, on June 2nd, and I cannot wait to be there with you! While I have committed to producing at least one letter a month here on this blog for free, I don’t feel comfortable putting all of my thoughts on this out there for public consumption. And honestly, I think you’ll feel more comfortable asking vulnerable questions safely behind the pay wall as well.
If you want to upgrade your subscription now so you get in on this call and all the extras, you can do that with the link below. But if its not in the budget right now, I so get it, and there will be plenty of free content for you too. The paid tier is simply a way to further support what I do on the blog and gives me a way to share some of the more vulnerable parts of my story and helps you feel safer sharing yours. The other cool thing about this: no random lurkers or looky-loos stumbling in!
Just people who actually want to be there. And healthy discussion. And room for questions that don’t even always have answers. Anyway… hit the button if you want to join the paid tier & get in on this month’s call. Would LOVE to meet you!
In the meantime, whether you’ll be there or not, think on these questions or let me know in the comments what you think. AND if there is anything you are hoping I’ll cover or questions you want me to answer on the call - include those below too. I CANNOT WAIT to dive in with you! I CANNOT WAIT to continue getting closer to God with you. And, I feel eternally blessed for each and every one of you who have been walking this journey with me for so many years.
Hang in there, friend. We truly are… almost home.
Until next time, stay brave. You were made for this.
Love you Alyssa. Your kiddos are getting so big. Thanks for sharing God's love through your life, you are an encouragement, always. You touched on my thoughts with your last letter and challenge me to keep pursuing what's really important not business successes.
Your posts always seem to include at least one thing for me to process on a deeper level and I love it so much! I'm all about digging deep. This post certainly prompts some evaluation of my response on "what I do". I would actually really love to respond with more of what you mentioned here...as strange as it may come across and as many confused looks that I would likely get...maybe it would take people by surprise enough to stick with them and encourage their consideration for a bit of a different perspective?
Can't wait for the call in a couple of weeks!! It's in my calendar 😁