Two weekends and three years ago, I saw one of my parents in an emergency room bed for the first time. Dad was rushed to the hospital on a Sunday morning with chest pains. While we were thankful that Dad did not suffer a heart attack, I wrote a post called Emotional Coasters, Heart Attacks, and Tangled Necklaces as a response to the overflow of emotions and love shown towards my family felt during that time.
Two weekends ago, my mama was rushed to the hospital on a Sunday morning with chest pains. At 50 years old, she is incredibly beautiful, incredibly intelligent, and incredibly healthy. She also endured a minor heart attack.
Prior to that Sunday morning, I had been my worst self with my family. Nerves around plans made for the coming weekend had me acting more crazy than usual. Petty concerns kept me asking for affirmation from my family members. My parents say I can be “an emotional thermostat” in our home–I have the ability to manipulate the atmosphere with whatever my attitude is at the moment. With that, I had set the thermostat way high with the anxiety and stress I was carrying, and my loving Mama, who always stands by me in my storms of feels, was also feeling the heat wave.
The temperature changed when Mama went to the hospital. Suddenly, everything I had been so fixated on was washed away by the waves of the unknown. I watched as my Daddy never left my mother’s side, completely surrendered to her and her needs. I was paralyzed by the sheer number of people reaching out to me by text messages and Facebook messages and phone calls, offering up their homes, their time, whatever we needed. The selflessness of others convicted me of my recent selfishness.
The battle to put others before myself in my heart and mind has always been a life theme of mine. I gave a retiring address to 4,000 FFA members with the message to “Get Over Yourself,” thinking then that I had discovered the key to being selfless in service and leadership because I had spent a year thinking I had done just that.
As a PhD student studying Leadership Education at the University of Florida, I’ve joined the research conversation around the study of “Humility leadership”–leadership from a place of knowing yourself accurately, knowing your role in relationships with others, and knowing your place in the greater picture of the world (Sowcik, 2016). And I’ve actually come to the table sub-consciously thinking I’m more humble than others just for studying and valuing humility.
For 25 years, God has given me opportunity after opportunity. He’s opened doors for me I would not believe, some prayed for, some as a surprise. And I’ve had the nerve to, on occasion, believe I was the one who made those doors come open, that I pushed open the doors and barged my way in to where I am now, that I might have even strayed away from what He might have intended for me because of my selfish bent for ambition and competition and getting what I want.
Free Will and God’s Sovereignty… another day, another post, but certainly not to be debated as if they are of equal power.
I can be pretty hard on myself (and EVERYONE WHO KNOWS ME WELL laughs here) when I reflect on my life thus far, decisions I would have made differently, people I would have treated better, places I should have went and explored.
But, there’s a few things I’ve done okay with. And a lot of those things are because of my Mama.
Mama is the MOST selfless leader and lover I know. She gives and gives and gives and gives until she’s left with seemingly nothing else to give, then she finds away to give more through the overflow she receives from her Jesus.
Mama has all of my life sacrificing for me, from the months of being carried around in her small frame to the years (and years) of wiping my tears away to being there for the greatest moments of my lifetime.
Mama has taught me how to love people through both words and actions.
Most of all, Mama has taught me to choose Jesus always.
Hundreds of people prayed for my Mama when we were not sure what was happening to her. Hundreds of people prayed because hundreds of people have been served by my Mama. Hundreds of people have been served because my Mama has lived a life devoted to loving and serving others as a living offering to her King, Who she knows loves her with infinite love.
For my birthday, my Mama made this post on Facebook that made me smile.
Her words also made me think. As much beauty and grace and joy my Mama has brought to the world in her classroom, in her living room, in between the walls of a church or a counseling office, she would consider ME as a beautiful chapter of her life.
Perhaps it was her recent health scare that has me really thinking about her words in depth, but to think her “life book” will include a significant chapter devoted to me has me truly humbled, especially considering my whole 25-year-life book right now makes up one-half of her 50-year-life book.
This brings me to this thought. If I am to spend another 25 years on this earth, what kind of life chapter do I want written for myself? For my Mama? For the people I will come to love and be loved in return by?
There’s too many words I could use and be inspired by to write this life chapter, but here’s a few I think I would want to make sure are written, mainly because they are inspired by my parents who I admire so much.
I want to live the next 25 years fearlessly.
I want to love people without fear, pursue opportunities without fear, go after learning new things without fear, dream dreams without fear.
I want to be gracious and humble with what I am given, to be thankful, to expect nothing yet appreciate everything.
I want to see who God made me to be in the mirror and remember that girl wears a crown and should NEVER lower her head in shame.
(First and) Lastly, I want to be known by how I love others and how I love the Lord.
Regardless of what else takes place in the next 25 years, I know have this promise to hold onto:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrew 13:8