Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Important Work Waits Where We Lean Down to Find It

I’ve made it a tradition to write a back-to-school letter every year on the eve of the first day of classes. I had quietly been planning the letter’s contents for weeks. The theme was going to be, “We have important work to do.” I was determined to write the letter before my head hit the pillow that night because I believed so much in what I needed to say.

After a full day of running around my classroom and making sure everything was as ready as it could be, I came home and worked to get my excited kids calmed down and ready for bed. At last, they were both tucked in and I sat down at the computer and typed the first sentence of my letter:

I have important work to do.

Just as I hit the period on that sentence, my four-year-old princess crept out of her bed to find me, saying my name in her sweetest voice. She donned her most charming, shy smile while holding one of her snuggle buddies, and I felt the words start coming out of my mouth automatically,

“Go to bed, my love. Mommy has something important to do.”

But then I looked down at her, and my heart reminded me that the important work was not in writing the message. Rather, it was investing in her. Rocking her while she’s still small enough to sit on my lap. Listening to her talk and talk and talk about her favorite color and her new friend at preschool whose name she had still forgotten to ask 4 days in. The important work was in us singing Jesus Loves Me together while I stroked her hair then telling her all of the things I love about her.

It was when I chose to stop thinking about writing the letter and opted to lean down and pick her up that I felt clarity in which direction I needed to lean this month.

Not a week went by in August where I was not compelled to stop what I was doing and lean down – lean down and pray my heart out, lean down and send the text or make the phone call, lean down and write the card, make the meal, or send the package. Because important work is never really accomplished if we don’t lean down to reach those who need a hand of hope to encourage them.

We all have important work to do, no matter if it’s at work, at home, with strangers, or those we love, but after feeling helpless as so many people I love the most have been hit with the most difficult trials of their lives in the past few days and weeks, I’m driven to remember to take the time to make the little things that can be easily overlooked the important things.

 

That only happens when I take some time to lean down and notice the details, to hear what they have the energy to share, and fill in the gaps they can’t yet manage to bridge on their own.

 

While I’ve worked hard to get my school year off to a successful start, my most important work has been accomplished when I took a few minutes to intentionally invest in real people with real struggles.

 

That back-to-school letter never did get written, but an important change happened inside of me instead when I resisted the impulse to charge ahead while I was leaning forward so that I could lean down and see how crucial living out what I try to teach is to making a genuine change in a desperately hurting world in need of hope and love.

The Simple, Difficult Act of Leaning Forward

Parkinson’s disease officially joined our family about 3 years ago. It began taking hold of my dad years before the diagnosis, but since that day when he sadly and resignedly admitted, “I have it,” it’s taken our entire family on a different journey. It’s devastating to watch a disease work to overtake his brain, drain him of dopamine, and at times shake the strength out of his grip.

But as time has gone on, I find myself growing more inspired by being around the man who lives with the disease. He’s come to accept it as a real part of his life, but he has refused to let it define or destroy him.

He began attending a boxing class created specifically for Parkinson’s patients several months ago, and every once in a while, I get the opportunity to go with him and be his corner person. Every single time I’ve gone, I’ve found myself encouraged and challenged. People who commit to this class have pledged to not let Parkinson’s rule their lives, and one can’t help but make the connection to other life struggles when such an obvious chronic disease as Parkinson’s is being beat up by shaking, gloved hands.

My personal challenge concerning my year-long resolve to lean was perfectly illustrated last week when I was throwing a few hundred punches on the heavy bags with my dad at the gym.

You see, July was about leaning forward.

The direction we all find ourselves looking each day, no matter what kind of day we had yesterday. The direction that oftentimes invokes fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Ultimately, it’s also the direction we strive to go.

There’s a real and important distinction to make between looking and leaning forward.

Anyone can look forward. I can look forward all day while I’m leaning back, but I’m never going to move without making the effort to lean forward, take those awkward and uncomfortable stretches, and lean into whatever challenge I’m about to face.

Dad did a 1,200 punch workout the other day; his biggest accomplishment in the class so far, and it was somewhere around the 1,000 punch mark, as he and I found our target pieces of colored tape on the heavy bag to wallop that he looked at me for a second, determined grin in place, and said, “See that red piece of tape right there? That’s Mr. Parkinson’s nose!”

He then proceeded to cream his competitor – the demanding, constant, uninvited companion that walks through life with him – with an impressive blow. We did a gloved fist bump and knocked out the rest of the workout.

It was a powerful moment to watch him look at what he needed to do, focus, then lean forward and take it on.

As I worked through my own personal challenges throughout the month of July, I was amazed at the power and simplicity that comes with leaning forward. It’s not easy to do all while being simple. No matter how much it hurts, how far I’ve fallen back, or what obstacle is in front of me, it always boils down to me simply choosing to stop making excuses and lean forward, especially when it’s just easier to stand still.

I’ve made progress each time that I’ve done so just as I’ve watched my favorite boxer grow stronger with each time he leans forward to throw a punch. It’s only fitting to take the challenge of leaning forward with me into the new school year. How do you find yourself leaning forward in your current season?