You Can’t Waste Good

I had been working my new job for a few weeks before when Mr. Mt burst through the door on a Saturday evening and said, “You need to leave early.” I glanced at my boss, who nodded his approval before I went to clock out. When I came back and gathered my things to leave, I said to my boss, “See you Monday.” But there was a look on his face. I don’t know if I will ever forget that look. I couldn’t quite figure it out. Not sadness really. Almost pity. Concern maybe. He knew something that I wouldn’t learn for another 60 seconds. I wouldn’t be coming in on Monday. Our oldest son had just been found dead in his apartment. I had been Micah’s mom for 8 years. In that moment I felt like our story together had just ended in the worst possible way.

 

Mr. Mt and I adopted Micah when he was a teenager.  He was starting to do so great. He had just celebrated his 20th birthday. Getting ready for college. Living on his own. And now it felt like the story had been abruptly cut short. This was the wrong ending.

But you can’t waste good

If there are 3 lessons I have learned in the 4 years since that day it would be these.

1. Don’t live in fear of the wrong ending

What is your most significant work? What is your greatest life goal? Sometimes we are paralyzed to really pour into that dream because we fear the wrong ending. Our book doesn’t get published. No one buys our album. No one shops in the store we opened. We want to venture out and take risks, but what if it all goes horribly wrong?

You can’t waste good.

Every good thing you invest into your dream, you get to keep.

Let’s say you want to live debt free in the next 2 years.

So you learn to cook at home. You get to keep those skills.

You start babysitting on the weekends. You get to keep that hustle.

You start tracking expenses and master that. You get to keep that know-how.

Maybe when you are SO close to being debt free, you take on thousands of dollars of medical debt from a car crash.

You can’t waste good. All the good you put into that goal is still yours to keep. It served you well the first time and will serve you well again. Even if you missed your goal and didn’t get the ending you were hoping for.

I grew so much as a mom during those 8 years. Honestly I am not sure I could have adopted a sibling group of 3 if I hadn’t been Micah’s mom. I learned how to be patient. I learned to be slightly flexible. He taught me compassion for people who have been shaped by trauma and loss.

Everything I poured into him was returned to me ten fold.

It’s easy to settle for average because we fear the ending.

 

The ending doesn’t have to be perfect for the story to be good.

 

2. You will never regret showing up.

Not for your most significant work. Not for the things closest to your heart. Not for your passion or your purpose.

When we pour ourselves out for our most significant work, that won’t be wasted. All those seeds we plant. All the hours we toil. All the growing and stretching we feel. All the skills we learn. It makes us the best possible version of ourselves.

I had the worst possible ending. And I am better for it. Micah is better for it. Our lives are better for it. All the people he reached are better for it. It made a difference. It mattered.

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3. The story is more than just the ending.

No matter what you set out to do. The ending isn’t the whole story.

There are so many sweet spots in our story with Micah. Our first trip to Glacier National Park. Or our first family vacation to the beach in Florida. Trips together in Europe. Our home was filled with growth, love and laughter.

No matter what we set out to do, there will be failure and loss. But that is never the whole story.

Maybe no one publishes your first book. But you are a better writer for it.

Maybe you fail the Bar exam. But you gained the skills to make your business grow.

Maybe you fostered kids that head to back to a horrible environment. But they are better for knowing your love.

Maybe you tried to pay cash for a house but the stock and housing market both moved in the wrong direction. But your down payment is larger for it.

A old friend messaged me on Facebook this week. She wants to be a safe place for teenagers who might otherwise age out of foster care (this is the reality for about 20,000 kids every year in the US). She said I may never know how much our story has inspired her to do this. She is scared, but has seen how huge the need is and wants to step out to be part of the solution, if only for one child.

For 8 years I was able to be Micah’s mom. It wasn’t always easy or pretty. But that work mattered. His story mattered and it changed the world around him. I have seen a dozen friends go on to adopt, mentor, foster or come along side families in crisis.

At 22 I adopted a teenager with a manageable medical condition. 8 years later it took his life without warning. But I am so grateful for the time we had.

You can’t waste good.

Live without regrets. Live fully. Live on purpose.

Because the ending is never the whole story.

 

 

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43 thoughts on “You Can’t Waste Good

    • Being his mom is one of the best things I have ever done. It was beautiful and hard, and stretching. I still miss him so much, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I have posted your saying to the front of my desk. “The ending doesn’t have to be perfect for the story to be good.” A lesson we all need to remember.

  2. Thank you for sharing this part of your stories. I’m starting to feel like you are living my alternate life, the one I’d intended to live before getting derailed by several major life crises, and talking to you and reading these memories, both old and in the making, reminds me how important fostering and adoption were to me before my health tanked and maybe I can find a way for them to be again. Thank you for that, as well.

    • Life does have a way of adding twist and turns to our path. But I think if there are ideas that really resonate with you, it’s worth looping back around and trying to create the space for them. It doesn’t have to happen today, or this year. But I don’t think you will ever regret carving out the space for your deep dreams. I have loved getting to know you! And we should chat again soon! =) Thanks for the comment today.

    • I think our stories are so important. When I started the blog, I didn’t want to share this story just yet, but I wasn’t willing to cut Micah out of our story. So I just said that we have adopted 4 kids, have 2 biological and we now have 5 at home. I’m not sure if one outweighs the other. For me both stand fully present side by side. The full weight of loss, and the full joy of family. And that is ok. To see the weight of loss and not be crushed, but instead continue to love and risk and venture out knowing full well the risk. Simply choosing to embrace life anyways.

    • Life is fleeting, and seasons of life are fleeting! It’s part of the reason that we travel and visit friends and family. Even if we could wait 10 years, in 10 years life will be different. My kids will be older, family members older, friends in other seasons of life. I want to make smart choices for my future, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity of today either. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and even if it’s there, it might not be the same. I’m not going to put off my biggest goals and dreams till I’m 65.

  3. I so appreciate your sharing your and Micah’s story with the world. I can’t imagine how painful that experience was, and I’m sure it’s still hard to talk about, no matter how much time passes. I’m glad you’re able to appreciate all the positive things in spite of the ending. Count me as inspired.

    • Thanks so much Matt. =) It is still hard, but I am so glad for those years. I never want to limit our life to things that I feel are 99% sure not to bring any pain, loss, failure or stress. The best things in life all carry some risk. I want to be able to scoop up those things, instead of being paralyzed by fear or hedging our bets.

  4. I feel so much love coming out in your story. An investment in loving someone, taking care of their needs and seeing that work translate to a young adult setting out on his way can only bring such very fond memories. The risks in life are at times all consuming when we think about it but not taking them is never an option.

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am sure your family continues to provide goodness for each other every single day.

    • “The risks in life are at times all consuming when we think about it but not taking them is never an option.” I hope that is what people take away. It’s worth it. For our deepest work, and our biggest dreams, the risk is worth it. We have had so many truly incredible life experiences and some loss, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. We never sat on the side line and wondered “what if?” I’ve failed at more things in life than I care to admit, but I have had a few wins along the way as well. But failure or win, you can’t waste good.

    • I think it is easy to live in fear of the one painful point in a story. The business that fails, the books that sits unpublished, the marriage that ends in divorce. But the end isn’t the whole story. I think each trial can give us confidence, that we can be hard pressed but not crushed. And if we came out better, even through that hardship, we don’t fear the failure and the pain as much. To know pain, but not be defeated. If I can do this, I hope this community can stare down the fear attached to their greatest dreams and not be deterred by it.

  5. I appreciate you sharing your story. I am very sorry for your loss…I honestly cannot fathom the loss of a child. I love that you have focused on his story, your story together…life well lived. Thank you for the reminder to focus on the journey and live life to the fullest.

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss. But I’m happy for your gain, and for the love you were able to provide to Micah. You were 22 when you adopted him and he was twelve? That was incredibly brave of you. You were barely older than a teenager yourself when you became a mother to a teenager. I’m glad you decided to write about this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Oh, adopting a teenager at 22, that is a couple of stories in itself! We decided to start the process a month after I turned 21. It was a hard decision for a lot of reasons, and not the ideal time for sure. One day I will write a post or two about that time. It was challenging, hilarious and filled so many funny memories. I’m not sure I would recommend it, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything either.

    • It takes time. It’s been 4 years since he passed. And it took time. Time for the sky to have color, for flowers to have scent. Time for food to regain taste. And that is ok. Time doesn’t heal the pain, but the goodness comes back. And we feel joy in the goodness again. I never want anyone to compare their day 1 with my day 1200. Day 1 was a hot mess. I was a hot mess.

  7. This was a pretty powerful reminder that increasing the goodness in the world is not a zero sum game, and that focusing our efforts on one area of our lives will generate dividends in other areas later in life.

    Thank you for all of your work with adoption & awareness. I’m glad you had an impact on Micah’s life, and I’m thankful your experience raising him enabled you to do so much good in the lives of others.

    • Often times when I am chatting with people about their biggest dream, they say, “But what if “x” happens?” Like “x” will be the whole story. Even if that happens a 100 other things will happen also. Good things, beautiful things. Things that stretch and grow us. Things that make life worth living. But you don’t get the good stuff with out risking “x”. I’m a little less scared of x. I know I can survive x. And I don’t want to miss out on the hundred other amazing things that will be part of that story.

  8. I am sure this was not an easy story to share. He was an amazing gift to you just like you were an amazing gift to him. Absolutely one of my biggest fears of being a parent, but we can’t let that stop us from the overwhelming good that comes from it. Beautiful message.

    • That is absolutely right. I don’t know of anything more terrifying than losing a child. But it’s only because of how much we love them and all the good they bring into our lives. To know the kind of love that fills your heart so full it feels like it might burst. But we jump in. And hope that on that day they take their last breath, we have already passed on years before and they leave behind a full and amazing legacy themselves.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom. Like you said, you never know what tomorrow will bring, but you make the most out of each and every day. You can’t regret a life lived to the fullest.
    Thanks for inspiring us all to keep taking chances, keep our hearts on our sleeves, and keep hoping for and working for good. We can’t control the outcomes but we can know we did our best and the world is a better place for it.

    • You are so right. It can be a hard place to stay, instead of sinking back into safe and comfortable routines. But you miss out on all the good things could that flow into your life.

  10. Thank you for trusting us with Micah’s story. I’ve been mulling over “you can’t waste good” the last two days and can’t tell you how grateful I am that you shared this. To hear about how no matter the ending, our work MATTERS…whew. I wish I had better words – thank you, Ms M!

    • Thanks Britt. =) It’s a saying that I hold on to. It helped me jump into this first 6 months of blogging. Even if know one read the blog, the skills, learning, and growth aren’t wasted. Today I am posting my 6 months in blogging recap. =)

  11. I’m moved beyond words. You’re a gifted writer, with a powerful message. Thanks for sharing, the emotion rolls through your words. Worth repeating your final words, learned through an extremely difficult time in your life, and which all of us should seek to apply in our own lives. Thanks for you what you do.

    You can’t waste good.

    Live without regrets. Live fully. Live on purpose.

    Because the ending is never the whole story.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss. This post gave me chills when I first read the tragedy you endured. Reading it both crushed me and inspired me. I really could feel your emotion throughout your writing, and the hope and optimism you exude. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing your story. Such a beautiful message.

  13. What a heart wrenching, yet beautiful post. One of my favorite quotes from Gladiator: “What we do in this life echoes in eternity”. No life, no love shared is ever wasted.
    cd :O)

    • Thanks so much. It’s a saying we hold close to heart whenever we venture into things that are meaningful but carry risk. We get to keep all the good we pour into this life.