There I am

I’m sitting here in my freshly put back together living room and thinking about all the resolution-y things that keep scrolling across my feeds today. Goals and plans and coming out of the gate strong and change and manifesting and commitment and overcoming fear and and and … and I’m tired just thinking about it. I mean, that’s a lot of changes to be made! And I wonder, as I meander through the same things over and over — at what point did being who we are become not “enough”? At what point did we decide that there’s something wrong with the “us” that exists now?

I’m not knocking anyone’s resolve to improve their lives or their happiness or their circumstances, I think it’s great. I was that girl for a long time. But if 2019 has taught me anything it’s this — who we are, right here in this moment, is OK. Running and running trying to be “more” isn’t for me. To do more, be more, work more, reach for more is exhausting and while it may eventually lead to “more”, is that more really what I need?

I was forced to sit still last year, really still, and the quiet was full of lessons. About what makes me happy. About the vital nature of meeting my own needs before I can meet anyone else’s. About true friendships. About the energy it takes to fully invest in people and the bandwidth that leaves for the rest. About turning the losses and setbacks into lessons. About actions and activities that feed your soul compared to ones that steal your joy. About pruning commitments and people. About finding God in the crazy, and learning to make time for Him in the quiet. About obedience. And asking for help. And about the equal amounts of joy and pain that make life so, so very beautiful.

And after all that, I’ve come up with my own plan for 2020: to be more of ME, because I believe that “me” and “you” and all of “us” are already who we are meant to be. Our likes and our dislikes. Our strengths and our weaknesses. Our joy and our pain. It’s all part of who we were designed to be.

Sure – maybe we could stand to be a bit less jiggly, or a bit more patient, or a lot more organized – but deep down, that person you see first thing in the morning in the mirror, stripped of the hair and the makeup and the trappings of success – that’s who you are.

There you are.

THERE. I. AM.

And I think she’s enough already.

So here’s to my year of me. Loving well. Living wisely. Learning as it comes. And remembering, every morning, that the girl in the mirror doesn’t need to work to please anyone. Because who she is is already enough.

Happy New Year indeed. To all of us.

If Only These Walls Could Talk

We kicked off the home edit this summer with the “triple flip” of bedrooms and offices upstairs. It signaled a lot of things — rethinking how we use our space, giving the girls more autonomy and decision-making skills, and ultimately — the end of an era. We started with this room, and it’s on my mind tonight as I sit here waiting for Jane’s birthday cake to cool so that I can frost it. Tomorrow she will be seven and I think, finally, it’s time for this little room to tell its story.

I really didn’t think much of it until the first roll of clean white paint started to cover up the polka dots, what this room had come to mean to me. Jane’s old bedroom. The nursery. The toddler room. The tiny girl’s first bedroom. A lot has happened within these four walls — hard nights with wailing babies, sweet giggles playing Barbies on the floor, what feels like millions of bedtime stories, and all the other things in between. This room has seen the full range of human emotion. It’s also been the room where I have poured my heart and soul out to God in the wee hours of the morning, and it’s been the room where He has answered me again, and again, and again.

We moved to this house because we knew that we wanted another baby, and we knew immediately that this room was going to be the nursery. I wasn’t ready then, but eventually, every time I would walk past it I felt a little more empty — like something was missing. Like someONE was missing, and that’s how we knew it was time to do something about it. This empty room was sitting in wait.

I have been pregnant three times since we moved here, and I have had one baby. They call them “rainbow babies” I think, the ones that come after the ones that aren’t meant to be. It’s strange, because although I knew that I was in the very early stages of pregnancy with each loss, the only emotion I felt was “not yet – this wasn’t the one.” There was no rage. No anger. No sadness. No confusion. No self-recrimination. Only calm. I just knew, somewhere deep in my soul, that she wasn’t here yet, and that eventually she would be. “For this child I have prayed” does not begin to do justice to what this room has seen.

And then Jane.

After a difficult pregnancy my doctor told me during the semi-emergency C-section that she would be my last one. I was OK with that. Again, no sadness. No sense of loss. Acceptance. Gratitude. Peace. Because I knew that she was the one — the rainbow. The one we were meant to have. The one that this little room had been patiently waiting for.

As I stood back and took this picture, scrubbing away the tears rolling down my cheeks — I felt a step change happen. She doesn’t need this little room anymore. She’s outgrown it, because she is HERE, and we are complete.

As we usher in this new era of pre-teens and big girl rooms, this room ushers in its own new era too. I think it still has plans for us. New dreams. New prayers. I don’t know what will happen, or when — but I know who does. And this room will hold its new secrets until then.

New eras. New stories. New joys and heartaches and life to be loved.

If only these walls could talk.

Grocery Store Gospel

Have you ever been put on the spot about your faith? And I mean put on the spot with actual strangers waiting for your answer? It’s scary. You’ve got to get it right in about 10 words and 3 seconds, and it seems like when it happens I never get it quite right. 
.
.
.
Ash Wednesday noon service at MDUMC is hands down my favorite service all year long. It trumps Easter and Christmas Eve in my book, and here’s why: I CAN GO IN MY YOGA PANTS AND SNEAKERS.

This may seem like a lazy way out, but I assure you it’s bigger than that. I love this service because it says…

“Hey – I know you’re in the middle of your day, but slow down for a minute and sit awhile. I don’t care where you’ve come from. I don’t care where you’re going next. I don’t care what you’re wearing. Just come in and sit by me and we’ll be still together.”

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Ash Wednesday gives us permission to strip away all the nonsense that we burden ourselves with – the trappings of wealth, or success, or popularity, or what we think we need to present to the world – and come back to center. To remember that none of it matters in the story of Jesus. He doesn’t care about any of it other than that you come in and sit with him awhile, that you are willing to lay it down, to admit that you might have gotten just a scosche off track, and that you’re looking forward again now – eyes on the prize.

That’s the Jesus I know, the “I saved you a seat” guy.

So when the checker at Kroger just asked me “what does it mean?” as she gestured to my forehead, a million thoughts of Lent and wilderness and 40 days and all the things rushed in and I started to panic. And then I took a deep breath, looked her in the eyes, and God gave me this…

“It reminds me of what really matters”.

And she cocked her head to one side, looked at me for a second, and then said “cool” and went back to scanning the spinach.

Lent. 
Simplify. 
Re-center. 
Remember. 
It’s all just dust.

Cool.

Bathroom Wisdom

It’s crazy how places will trigger memories. For me, it’s the rim of the bathtub in the girls’ bathroom. For some reason that’s where the substantive stuff of my life seems to happen. It’s where Jane and I sit in the steam when she’s sick. It’s where Reese and I sat and sang and rocked in between bouts of throwing up one night. And it’s where I sat – frozen, for three hours this very night a few years ago when the text came. At the time I thought it was because it was the closest place to sit down, but now I wonder if that narrow ledge was where I sat because it was the place where my important things happen — my safe haven of sorts. 

January 17th is indelibly etched in my mind as the day I realized that I don’t actually live in the bubble that I thought I had carefully constructed for myself over the years since my mother’s death. Find the stable guy, have the stable kids, live in the stable neighborhood, go to the stable church, make the stable friendships — live the stable life. Except that if you can get a text at 11pm telling you that your sister friend’s husband was involved in a horrible wreck and did not survive, there is not one single thing stable about that life at all. There is just the realization that there are no walls capable of keeping the bad out — that it finds a way in no matter how safe you think you are. Not because it’s scary, but because it’s necessary — without the bad, there can be no good. And while it was a terrifying realization, it shook me out of the lies I was telling myself – that if I did the right things that life would be smooth. Clear skies. Smooth sailing. 

What a silly girl I was. 

What happened on the 17th changed my sister’s life in ways I cannot begin to imagine. It also changed me. I like to think for the better. Beauty from ashes, isn’t that the saying? I learned how to be a better friend to her. I learned that you can take nothing for granted, ever. I learned how deeply interconnected women can be as friends and that when one hurts, the herd comes running to surround her. I learned that communities will rally in ways that you could never predict. I learned that my sister is strong. And weak. And vulnerable. And beautiful. I learned to be inspired by her resilience and by her raw emotion and gut-wrenching honesty. I was reminded that life is precious. I was reminded that we can do hard things. And I learned that the bubble is a lie. 

I think as Christians we can insulate ourselves like that sometimes. We can forget that even though you do all the things — God’s plan was never about your bubble. It was never about your insulation. It was about your growth. Your understanding. Your hurt and fear and pain and grief and your willingness to rage and then be still. To find the good after the storm. To find the strength that comes from letting go. 

Tonight, as I put away towels and walk by that ledge I am reminded of that night. That pain. That disbelief. That grief. Of my sister and the burdens she carries every day. Of the deep gratitude I feel for being allowed a friendship with her. Of that growth in understanding. And I am grateful for the lessons, and for the unassailable fact that NOTHING IS WASTED. Ever. 

Beauty from ashes — on the edge of a bathtub.

Sex Ed for Parents

** Gentlemen: this post is not for you. It is inappropriate in so many ways. Consider yourself warned. 

Here are some words for you from my Wonderfully Made parent meeting tonight…. “Don’t give away your power by being silent.” Good ones, right? Here are a few more…. dental dam, transgender, and oral sex — all of which were found in the workbook glossary. Jesus be a fence and a wall and a nuclear bunker. I am not ready for this. It’s on its way, but I am not ready. 

Our church is offering a class for all 5th and 6th grade students on sexuality and what it means with respect to our relationship with God. It’s going to be a great class. Think anatomy and physiology and humor and inclusion and answers and puberty and understanding and a safe environment to ask ALL the questions. It’s phenomenal and I’m so glad that it’s available to these kids so they know what’s happening to them and how to handle it as they embark on their adolescent years. Rah rah sis boom bah and a bucket of birth control. BUT I AM STILL NOT READY FOR MY CHILD TO BE OLD ENOUGH to need to be equipped with this information. She needs it – do you have any idea the flow of bad information that is sure to start coming her way as she heads into middle school? I think not. Honestly if I could convert to Catholicism and send her to a nunnery right now I would, and don’t think I wasn’t Google-ing it in the meeting, I was. Turns out it’s a pretty complicated process that I cannot complete by the end of the week. More’s the pity. 

But, after I stopped grimacing and twitching as I skimmed the book I settled into the idea that this is the world we live in now and information and misinformation are free and everywhere. She needs to know. But the bigger question plaguing me tonight was this — where was all this enlightened teaching when I was growing up? I mean. I feel like we got the short end of the stick in this arena Ladies. All the puns intended. Don’t you? 

I didn’t get this information and I’ll bet a dental dam you didn’t either. The extent of my sex ed was getting pulled into the auditorium with the other girls at the end of 4th grade by the gym teacher, being made to watch a movie called “The Miracle of Life” or some such crap which traumatized me for life regarding childbirth, and walking out an hour later dazed, emotionally scarred, and holding a box of Always maxi pads with wings. I can only imagine what they told the boys. Miracle of life my ass. 

The extent of my discussions with my parents hinged on “don’t do it” and so I launched myself on the unsuspecting college populace knowing less that nothing about sex and my body. And I mean less than nothing. And to be honest, I was just fine with that. Boys were loud and hairy and smelled vaguely of Axe and beer, which to my 18 year old self was not an overly enticing combination, and I had classes to take anyway so I didn’t have time for that mess. I’ve got two lovely daughters and a moderately happy husband now so clearly I figured it out, but I wonder how things would have turned out differently had this been a topic that was openly addressed in the early 90’s. I’m not sure what I would have done with said knowledge, but I think it would have been nice to know? Maybe? Just the basics every girl should know — like two people with braces should not make out. Also sex by the dim glow of a black light poster — not what God intended for you. Oh, and if you don’t know the full name his mother calls him when he’s in trouble, it’s a no go. Also, backseats: not a good idea. And if dinner involves a drive-thru restaurant, also not happening. Likewise the idea that potentially creating a life that is half this person who thinks beef jerky is a legitimate food group is a poor one. Just the basics, like I said. 

I feel like a lot of unnecessary pitfalls could be avoided if lists like this were the next step in the Wonderfully Made curriculum. Maybe I’ll make a suggestion at the next parent meeting, but this time we had the onerous task of writing a note to our kid for them to read at the start of the course so they know that we know what they’re about to get and we are on board. Serenity now, Lord. 

I watched the mothers around me write flowing prose about how proud they are of their kid and how much they love them and all the right, wonderfully incisive thoughts on this topic. Naturally, I had nothing of worth in the moment, so here’s a semblance of what mine got… 

“Hey kid. It’s just biology. Don’t make it weird. 
Love, Mom.”

That’s less traumatizing than a free box of maxi pads, right?

Old Wounds

“Good news Lizzie. The scans were clear.”

I don’t think I have ever heard sweeter words than these from my dad earlier this week. Because honestly, I do not know what I would have done if faced with the alternative. 

My dad was philosophical about it. He’s an engineer. Information is power. If there’s a knock in the engine you take it apart, find the source of the knock, and then find a workable solution. I was not. The only thing I could think was “not again. I can’t do this again” and mentally I was transported back 17 years ago to those weeks we spent wearing grooves in the linoleum of the medical center together, matching each other stride for stride as we paced the floor. And it made me think, especially as I’ve watched the news coverage of 41 all week – do we ever really get over the loss of a parent? Does time truly heal all wounds, or are some losses too big to ever fully recover from?

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her — remember something that makes me smile, see something in my girls and wonder if the same thing in me drove her just as insane. Look at my friends and their adult relationships with their mothers and feel happy and jealous and heartbroken all at the same time. It’s been seventeen years, and I think, for the most part, I’m over it – whatever that truly encompasses. I’m not numb. I don’t cry. I’m happy way more than I’m sad. But to be in that moment last week where my dad’s mortality was called into question? Forget it. The wound is reopened, fresh as the day I tore out of the ICU like my hair was on fire and ran, gulping mouthfuls of crisp February air because I knew – I KNEW in the way only a daughter could know – that this was not going to turn out the way we wanted it to. 

Maybe it doesn’t heal as neatly as we like to think it does – the gaping wound caused by losing a parent or a sibling or a child or a precious loved one too soon. Maybe we just think it does, when in reality it’s a jagged scar with irregular margins, where with just the right amount of pressure the stitches pop and it reopens, as red and angry as the day it happened. Maybe it’s a precarious balance lived one day at a time that forces all other relationships into stark relief. Maybe it’s meant to be that way – a parting gift to remind us to treasure what is left behind. A scar with a story. A weakness that can become a strength. Maybe…. I don’t know. But the one thing I do know is that I am immeasurably grateful that it’s not the story this time. 

“The scans were clear Lizzie. They found a brain, and by all accounts it’s still working.” 

They found a brain, he found his wicked sense of humor, and I found my breath again. 
.
.
**Note: My Dad is fine. Just fine. And 71. And wickedly funny, and still healthy as a horse, if perhaps a little bit slower off the starting blocks. So don’t worry, and please don’t email or call him all worried. That would make me the world’s least popular daughter and Christmas is coming up – I want my obligatory Clarke socks. This week just made me think, and we all know that I do my best thinking over the keyboard.

*This post originally appeared on December 6, 2018