2016

Another year come and gone. I am beginning to understand what people have been meaning when they say that life is a little bit like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I feel like I’m well over half way into my roll, and it’s going faster and faster.

It has been a year filled with great beauty and great loss. Of course, one of the most significant events of 2016 was the loss of my beloved mother-in-law. But before that loss came wonderful opportunities for love. Many sweet moments shared. Raw humanity that stripped away everything but the heart of who we are. After more than twenty years, she and I saw, and appreciated, the core of one another. The beauty of 2016.

My year was filled with strong friendships, being forged and strengthened by the hardships of life. Wonderful people, expanding their lives to make room for me, room for my children, room for our joy and our pain.

Rich memories made around tables breaking bread, in cars going places, on ordinary days serving beside friends, in circles holding hands and lifting one another in prayer, while  just putting one foot in front of the other.

Joy that bubbled up like a brook, often times right out of the center of me. Like adding vinegar to baking soda, it grew and rose and overflowed often out of control.

The year also held much softening. Like a tough hide that is worked and worn until it becomes more tender, I bumped against things that made me soften. It wasn’t always comfortable, slamming up against sharp things, but like softening leather, it made me more flexible.  Pushed and pulled by hard situations, I’m now more prepared to bend.

The year held laughter and tears and revelation and loss and gain and brokenness and perfection. It brought much wisdom and revealed how very little I know.

On this last day of the year, I sit here with a grateful heart. Grateful for the wrinkles and gray and breaking of my heart that made me who I am in this moment. And I try to eagerly look forward to the year to come. Goodbye 2016.

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Naming the Beast

There is power in calling things by  name. Standing up, looking something right in the face, and calling it what it is.

Anxiety is real. It lives inside you like a constant electrical charge, silently pulsing through your body. You don’t get to control it, but quite often it controls you.

My son was five when I finally felt like I had to do something. I remember the very moment of surrender. I hadn’t yet named the beast; I just knew that something had to change.

I was paralyzed by all of the negative thoughts in my head. I couldn’t leave a room with a light on because I wasn’t being a good steward. I couldn’t feed my kids without beating myself up because it wasn’t well balanced enough, natural enough, homemade enough. I wasn’t a good enough friend, daughter, mother, sister, neighbor, wife. I was never enough.

Those thoughts ran up and down my spine with every breath. The only variation was the volume and how well I could try to live my life inside the noise.

After so much effort of trying to deal with it through counseling, I decided to take meds. Much to the dismay of both my husband and my mom, as admitting weakness and seeking help was not a sign of strength.  But I did it  And I’ve never looked back.

What the medication did for me was unbelievable. Suddenly there was some quiet space in my head. The constant negative chattering was gone. The pulsing electric charge had stopped, and now I could CHOOSE what to tell myself. I could then say “You are a good human. You are a loving mother. You do make a difference.”

Like turning off a radio that had been blaring music filled with hate, the air was quiet. The silence allowed me to hear my own breath. I could hear the sound of singing- me to my children, them back to me. And laughter, I could hear laughter again. It was beautiful.

I looked the beast in the eye, and I called it out. I gave it a name. I began to own it. It no longer owned me!!

For My Friend

Tonight my heart breaks for a friend. Tonight I feel the full weight of the world as it comes crashing down, even as everyone else goes on about their business. In the busy hours while people gather around the table for dinner and return home from work, my friend mourns the loss of her beloved mother-in-law.

She is a woman I’ve never met. Loved by a lady I’ve known only a short amount of time. But the pain she feels tonight is familiar to me, and I ache with her. The bond of loss unites us.

Just as raw as if it were my grief, I experience it. And maybe that’s because it is. Like an unhealed wound that weeps, perhaps my heart cries its very own tears tonight. In one accord, our bones ache and our spirits groan.

Grateful that Nana is free from this broken human vessel that could no longer contain the vastness of her love, I celebrate. I celebrate that my friend knew her love. That her children knew they were adored. That this life spoke of Heaven. And tonight, she is God’s honored guest, seated at the side of Jesus.

The gravity of being left behind pulls down on me just as it bears down on my friend. The weight of it, while it feels it is hers alone, I bear with her. Because the feeling of this loss, it binds us. This bittersweet part of humanity is how we know one another.

Tonight, as I rest my head, I lift you up, dear one. As liquid sadness falls from my eyes, I baptize you in these tears. Know you are loved. You are held. And you are not alone.

Let It Be Love

I’ve been thinking about what I’d like my legacy to be, of how I’d like to be remembered. I want it to be that I made people feel loved. Whether they know me well or just crossed paths with me a few times, I want deeply for their thoughts of me to be that I loved well.

So, like an athlete trying to master her sport, I practice. I am in training to love better. It’s not always an easy thing, to choose to love. But I am trying. I pray that God gives me His eyes to see people. Because through those eyes, love is easy.

I still get it wrong, plenty of times. But I’m mindfully working on it. I’m trying to expand my own capacity, that I might truly make/hold even more love. Like hollowing myself out, scraping away at the negative stuff taking up space that love could fill. Replacing that negative thought with this good one. Stretching myself to dig deep and get rid of that doubt that has long ago taken root.

And it feels amazing. Because I think it’s working. I hear myself laughing louder, and smiling more often, and taking chances offering my words to people even when it’s not “safe.”  ‘Cause here’s the thing- my job is simply to offer it up. Their job is figuring out whether or not to accept it.

Like a muscle that gets worked and toned, I want my heart to become my medal winning quality. When neighborhood kids show up at my house because they know a hug waits for them, or a girlfriend will wade through the crumbs to sit at my table and share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, or a stranger feels she can tell me of her ailing brother-in-law while we are waiting in a checkout line, those are moments when I feel like I am getting closer to being able to take the podium in the winner’s circle.

More than anything I’ve wanted in a long time, I want this. And I’m willing to work at it. Everyday. At home. In my car. At the grocery store. Online.

So I guess I should warn everyone. If you get too close, I may just make you part of my new exercise routine. Sorry (not sorry) if I get some on you. You might just need to back up.