Monday, December 30, 2013

call them lies

Most of what I feel is intensely circumstantial. 

Sometimes my sister and I suffer from what we call the "guilty feeling", which is a feeling of weight and unexplainable sadness, causing a day to feel heavy, cumbersome, or even weepy.  The guilty feeling is unpredictable and usually cannot be traced back to any event or mishap, and certainly has no reason.  But it is short lived.  It's not chronic, perpetual, or ultimately controlling.  Actually.  It's so wildly circumstantial, Liv and I shouldn't ever deal with it at all.  Because we know what fixes it. 

Music fixes it.  Blueberries fix it.  Hugs fix it.  Dancing usually fixes it. 

It's just a little rise in the roller coaster of some of our days and we know better than to let it change anything substantial.  I dare say she and I have even learned not to make any decisions or any critical "moves" during these few hours... but we talk to each other.  Because nothing is more comforting than someone who doesn't need an explanation. 

I don't live with constant anxiety.  I think I used to, to some degree.  Social anxiety is for the birds.  Learned behavior has been my saving grace and the things, which used to stop me up, slow me down, or cause freaking heart palpitations, may only cause a minor sweat these days.  And that's only when something is at stake.  A job interview.  An exam.  A speech.  A crowd of people no longer sends me over the edge -- and perhaps that's because I've learned a thing or two about people.

But one person is very capable of inducing anxiety in me.  Not a particular person.  Just when they come at me, one at a time

My dating life is either non-existent or in shambles.  And, like my friend Bonnie and I used to discuss, I am a horrible "starter".  She, on the other hand, was a great "starter" but had a serious issue with longevity.  I can't convince someone I'm worth the risk.  She got bored. 

She's married now.  What gives. 

But every once in a while someone will come into my picture.  Into the peripheral.

And for the last five or six years, they've stayed there.  Right there on the edge. 

I'm not really an edge kind of person. 

Stay off of my freaking edges.

Either you are here, or you're not.  In or out.  Whichever you choose is fine, but pick one.

Still there on the edge, the peripheral of my vision and our daily lives, linger just too many assholes. 

Recently I started blocking phone numbers.  The proverbial pushing.  I don't even want to have to decide if I should respond to you or not.  I don't even want the option.  This has helped.  They get the picture I think.

In the past year there's been one or two who have NOT started out as assholes.  And we all get kind of excited and we all wonder "what about this one" and he works his way off the edge and then he does something stupid, and I am too busy, and I'm really annoying, and then he's gone for whatever reason and we're back to square one. 

Inevitably, when in the space between hello and whatever comes next, I worry.  Swollen chest, rampant illogical thoughts of unworthiness and questions and despair.  It all seems kind of hopeless and unless you've been right where I am, I don't know that you'd understand.  I wouldn't want you to.  But there are a few of you know who know all about the lonely nights I'm talking about.  When you just stare at the damn phone.  Or in my case, turn on the ringer and put it across the room so I will stop looking at it and play with my child and hope it makes some noise.  Soon.  And when it finally does, it's my mom. 

And you look at yourself differently in the mirror, trying to figure out "is this the problem?".   

Then, in what you think is pure logic, remind yourself no one wants to date a woman with a baby.  And that's asking too much and even though the pseudo-encouraging masses disagree, you know it's going to be unlikely to find someone who chooses this chaos.  This particular chaos.

And you say things your otherwise wise, mature self wouldn't say. 

And you forget you're wonderful. 

You've seen corners of the world no one around you has ever laid eyes on.  You have stories so great no one even really believes them.  You have made something out of nothing and up until this point, nothing has kept you down.  You have recovered.  Numerous times from numerous things.  And daily you face fears no one else may understand, but at the end of the day it's the fear who backed away.  You are a fighter and a builder with the greatest capacity for love.

We dwell on what is broken.  What is broken gets all of the attention in seasons like this, seasons of repair.  Of rebuilding.  We feel pretty responsible for the acknowledgment of our flaws, just so someone else doesn't get around to pointing them out first.  We know what we do not bring to the table and we think we know everything which didn't work out before can be directly traced to our deficiency.   

And so yesterday... the lies got so loud I couldn't hear anything else.  Tears just poured.  Because if it didn't work out again it must be because I'm broken, because my situation is too hard, because there's not enough good in me to overcome the bad.  Because I will always spend Christmas alone and I won't ever have more children.....

Loud lies.  Bad lies.  Real freaking awful bad lies

And I reached out to a friend.  A friend who has felt some of the same things.  A friend I met nine years ago, when we were teenagers, when love came in a wrecked our lives the first time around.  And she asked me something, then told me to ask God to speak to me in a familiar way.  I explained I had.  I've been waiting to see Him for some time now... anxiously, just waiting.  But honestly I needed Him to man up and come looking for me too...

And there it was.

The familiar.

The visual.

So I sat on my couch and cried and realized what the lies were.  Who the lies were coming from.  And called them lies and they died down, like water receding or a flame going out.  Slowly until they were all the gone.  A pot of water taken off the heat.

And all I was left with was the image of a shepherd.  The gentle Jesus who I needed very much at the time.  Not the warrior Jesus or the crucified Jesus.  Just the gentle Jesus, with the rod and the staff.  Comforting and warding off the big, scary things with teeth who were trying to eat me alive. 

And He left the 99 to come and find me, and we called them lies together

I still looked at the phone this morning with a twinge in my chest, a feeling of "if only I'd been more".  And stared a little tyke basketball goal in my living room with the same feeling.  And took a deep breath and gave those thoughts away. 

Because the truth is, I can be more.  And I can do better. 

I will try harder and fix as many of these pesky personality traits and address as many of these fatal flaws as I possibly can.

And the one who chooses not to leave will be the one who's earned the privilege of the best me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013

Here's the deal.

It's Friday and my shampoo worked really well last night and Old Navy had great sweaters on clearance, and I bought a coral one.  Not a neutral one.  A coral one. 

And I got a good morning text.

It's December 27th and the water is spinning over the drain and it's all almost over and we all quietly wonder what we're going to do now?

With all that fear we confessed.  With all that blank page.

Early spring, maybe summer of 2013, we talked about small goals.  Maybe we talked about operationalizing objectives.  About creating measurable goals.  Did we?  If not, we should have.  Because that's what I did.  Instead of a large-scale, life-long, grandiose bucket list, a few of us created our own yearly bucket list.

My list had three goals.

1) buy a house

2)  enroll in grad school

3) and a general fitness goal with a weight objective

It's December 27th. 

I am currently enrolled in an online Masters in Public Administration degree with Murray State University.  And I'm horrible at it.  I hate it.  I'm getting ready to just have to eat the damn frog, however, because I can't afford to pay back student loans yet.  I don't want to keep going, but I will.  But I am.  I am a graduate student.

Judah and I bought our first house this fall.  A small, simple townhome in a rough, little neighborhood.  Not much.  And some days I resent it wildly.  But it's home.  With a washer and dryer and Herbie and a welcome mat.

I have been diligently working towards a vague, conceptual fitness goal since May 2013.  Haha... roughly since January 2009. 

In 2009 I dropped dozens of inches.  All over my body.  Counting calories, lots of cardio.  That was the year I got sick.  The year I dropped out of school.  Exercise was one of the only things, which made me feel better, but the confidence was not there to do the work I needed to do.  So I lost dozens of inches, gained only a little muscle, got sick, gained all those inches right back.  I'd hit the gym pretty consistently through the rest of my undergrad, having easy access to the campus gym.  Light weights, elliptical machine, spinning classes.  I was more confident than ever before, but so much of it was because I wasn't thinking about it.  Because I had chosen to focus less on it -- it, the things I didn't like.  I didn't look in the mirror anymore and think about a fat roll or blemished skin or crooked teeth or twisted back.  I embraced my body shape... only because acceptance was so much easier than the alternative. 

Then I got pregnant.  And had a gigantic baby boy who gave me stretch marks and increased the size of my ass and who separated my abdomen so far, I could lay three fingers between the muscles.

Anyway. 

It's December 2013, so seven months after setting a goal, I still haven't reached it.  The scale is a bitch.  However.  However...

My abdomen is healed.  And I tightened my belt another notch.  I increased my personal record for my deadlift and my back squat last week.  And the coral sweater is a size smaller than what I would have bought last year. 

This what it's about.  How I can walk into a place and have a goal, an agenda, and accomplish it without feeling inferior.  I've changed my lifestyle in such a way I am bettering myself, without even realizing it.  My skin is clearing up, after a very intentional regimen change.  My hair is longer and my cooking skills have increased.  I budget better and think outside of the box.  And I am enjoying it. 

Now.  I really do embrace my body shape.  And it's really the same as before.  Just stronger.

So last year's third goal, the fitness goal, will carry through to 2014.  It's marathon, not a sprint, I suppose.  I hope to work increasingly on my food choices, the amount of sleep I get, and also how much food we waste. 

A second goal for 2014 is to find a new job.  I love my job.  I am thankful for my job.  I work for a therapeutic foster care agency, recruiting and training foster homes.  It is flexible.  I get to self lead and make my own schedule and some of the people around here are great.  But Judah and I need insurance.  We need an income, which allows us not to have to rely on anyone else.  I dread the sacrifices, which will come with leaving this place.  I may have to sacrifice the gym time.  Or hours with Judah.  I may have to buy a new wardrobe, lose the nose ring, cover the tattoos.  With a bachelors in Social Work, options are limited.  My eyes are peeled.  But I'm praying when the time comes to take that step, I'll have peace. 

A third goal for 2014 is a hard one.  I will leave it simply as this:

Risk

That's up for interpretation.  But can't ambiguity be sweet?


I just pulled up last January's post.  Hot tears just flooded my eyes and the knot in my throat is too big to swallow.  I will continue to try and do better...  I don't really know what else to do.

And fear, suddenly, turns into thankfulness.  Thankfulness for a fresh start.  For a brand new year, fully unknown. 

A few old words cut, sting, as I reread:

I hope I learn to be more gracious, more patient, more understanding.  I hope I am a better friend. 

I hope to stand up for myself and my son and be brave enough to walk away from the things that hurt us.

I hope I remember how to risk and how to listen.

I hope I get answers.  I hope I get closure.  I hope we find freedom in being and love the way we were created to. 

I hope I keep learning.

And that at the end of this year, I hope I have a new story to tell.

And I cry. 

January 1st will also be an anniversary of a decision I regret so deeply it haunts me daily.  I don't know if it can be called grace, if you regret it.  But one decision led me down a rabbit hole of graciousness, from which we may never return.  Learning to forgive and protect and fight in ways I never dreamed possible.  I am not gracious.  But I now know how to show grace.  I hope, although I still regret it, this decision is what teaches Judah to be a gracious man.

And we didn't walk away.  Not soon enough.  Not fast enough.  There are so many times when I should have picked up that baby and ran in the opposite direction.  But crouched in fear, sometimes because I had only a little hope left.  But there are times when I did.  When the unfathomable love I have for that boy helped me cut whatever tied and dare any danger to follow.  Both shield and sword.  I am better at protecting Judah than I am myself.

But I got my answers. 

Painful, terrifying as they were.  I got my answers. 

And even if it's the dwindling last days of the year, I'm trying to do better. 

It was just this week... a familiar prayer settled in my spirit. 

Open my eyes to the risks you want me to take.  Give me insight, discernment, and enough perception to know and to hear.  And the wisdom to make the right choices for us.

It's a new story alright.  If not a good one, a strong one.  I wish I could say I did better.  I did not.  Not with what matters.  But now I know how. 

so I repeat, as we welcome the new year:

I hope I learn to be more gracious, more patient, more understanding.  I hope I am a better friend. 
I hope to stand up for myself and my son and be brave enough to walk away from the things that hurt us.  I hope I remember how to risk and how to listen.  I hope I get answers.  I hope I get closure.  I hope we find freedom in being and love the way we were created to.  I hope I keep learning.  And that at the end of this year, I hope I have a new story to tell.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Years that Answer

On Tuesday the boys were running around Noni's house, fully unaware it was Christmas Eve and loving the day.  Loving each other and hugs and kisses and new oversized toy cell phones and tearing wrapping paper.

Noni made one quiet, thoughtful comment, "can you imagine how big they're going to be this time next year?".

That's when the fear hit.

I'm always contemplative at the end of the year.  There's always a post, recapping what's happened and how far we've come.  This year I actually get to cross off every item on my one year bucket list.  Which blows my mind.  To think backward, in order to gauge progress, is a beautiful thing.  Tie up loose ends, wrap it up.  I compartmentalize by years.  Good years, bad years.  "Years that ask questions, and years that answer."  Anymore, nothing is solely good or only bad.  There are hard things and joyous things, together.  Years of community and then years of solitude.  They are years of what we need, I suppose.  Rarely what we think we want, always what we need.

If only to move us.

Judah was running around Noni's house and his words are still jibberish and his gait is jumpy and sometimes unsteady.  He still gives open mouth kisses.  And there were people this week whom we never heard from, and yesterday morning, on Christmas morning Judah and I woke up in our house.  Just him and me. 

2013 got us right here and dropped us on the next year's doorstep and for the first time in my life, I'm afraid to move forward.

Another January.  Another hot summer.  A second birthday.  A twenty-sixth one. 

I have no way of knowing what 2014 holds and instead of filling me with anticipation and hope, I recoil... expecting a hit.

I suppose this is what happens when you are far too familiar with Murphy's law.  Or when the majority of the past year's experiences have been troubleshooting, problem solving, and crisis management.  Craving a calm, simple life and finding yourself in the boxing ring.

We come to expect the worst and to fear what lies around the next corner, because the next monster is always bigger

There's a card on my refrigerator now, which reminds me how problems used to always overwhelm me.  And points out an ability, come only with age, to problem solve.  To find solutions

Perhaps this last year was full of monsters; monsters, who made an unplanned pregnancy and delivery and graduating with an infant look like child's play. 

So much changes in a year.  And while I am no where near content with where Judah and I are, I am comfortable.  We have our routine.  Little things like bedtime make sense.  The dryer ticks when it's done, I need to replace the batteries in the smoke detectors; and I try and pick up toys every day before bed so we start our day with clean floors. 

Money is tight and Sundays are hard days and the oil needs to be changed in my car.

I know these things. 

I like knowing things.

There's no graduations coming up.  No major events planned.  Which leaves this plotline wide open.  What happens next is a mystery and I find myself in the middle of a page-turner.  Trying to trust my ability to build, to find those solutions; trusting in our resiliency. 

In less than a week, this year will be gone.  For all intents and purposes, it already is. 

If I were to ask, to make a request for what comes next, I'd ask for laughter. 

And to not wake up alone.

There's a power in saying.  But we will see.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Worth

Sometimes, maybe, worth is overestimated.  

Maybe we can start believing something is overly important, of greatest value.  But in reality it is worth very little.  The oyster with no pearl.  

Often, also, we grow to believe those things which are very important are no longer worth anything.  We grow to believe recognition defines value, appreciation determines worth.

And I really sometimes feel like the latter.

And fear I am the former.
~

I don't remember one particular conversation in my childhood about my worth.  I don't remember a lecture about how boys should treat me or not treat me.  Maybe they happened, but I don't remember them.  I remember standing up conversations in living rooms with boys, scared of Larry.  And I remember lots of good and valuable life lessons, which had much more to do with growing up and danger and heartbreak than sex ever could or did.  

At most I remember maybe two conversations, before the age of 17, which went something like "don't have sex" and lots of conversations afterwards from lots of other people, which went something like "sex is bad".  And I still roll my eyes.  But not for the reasons you think.  

I do distinctly remember breaking up with my first love and coming into the Long Avenue kitchen around midnight, breaking the news, and first being asked, "since the best birth control only works 99% of the time, what are the chances you're pregnant?"  Strange foreshadowing.  But I don't remember thinking I deserved more.  Or ever being told I did.  More than the jealous selfishness of that first relationship nine years ago.

Or after the second relationship, which ended because of major differences in values.  A relationship I was mostly admonished for ending.  (Understandably.)  But I was never quite able to process how I wanted, needed, to be a priority.

I have a laundry list of regrets between then and now.  Over the years I have had friends preach repeatedly about how much I'm worth.  They say I'm beautiful a lot and talk about how much I deserve and I just quietly laugh at the word "deserve".  We don't deserve or earn any of this.  

I allowed a lot of bad things.  Disregard, disrespect mostly.  

I was admonished for bad decisions.  Judged for them.  Still am.  And most of you right now think I'm mostly talking about sex, which I'm really not talking abut at all.  You think I should be, but I'm not.  Because regardless of what you believe, sex or the lack of sex, has nothing to do with this worth I'm talking about.

But, one of the hardest things you will ever do is change your own perception of yourself.  

I remember someone once saying the Vaughan girls were the kind of girls you married.  At the time I remember thinking he was right.  

But I haven't thought about that in a long time.  I haven't trusted someone with so much of a future, and no one's tried to stay yet.  And the tendency for those of us, for whom love comes slowly, is to repeat mistakes.  Or to give up entirely.

I wasted two years on one, who despite his good heart, had no idea.  I spent another year on someone who, to this day, remains a mystery to me.  Two weeks was spent on one, who turned out to be dangerous.  Because of him I proved to myself my ability to put Judah first, no questions asked.  

This time around, it took roughly nine weeks.  

Nine weeks and I asked myself the question about six weeks in.  

This, this is the breaking of a cycle.  

Do I still believe I am that kind of woman.  And I wondered, quietly, if maybe I have been overestimating my worth.  Or have I been ignoring it?  

Is it possible I am worth as much as some say and it is wildly acceptable to set the standard high.  And to look someone square in the eye and let them know.  I will work hard and love well, but I expect the same in return.

Is it possible, instead of believing my worth had been overestimated, it has been underestimated?  

And if so, is there any redemption to be had?

I don't know, really.  If you can come back from all this.  But here I am trying.

Is it possible I can wake up tomorrow and reclaim a greater sense of worth?

Maybe that's what I've been doing already.  Since the beginning.  Since the first time I walked away and closed a door because I knew whatever it was I had, was not what I needed.  

Because it seems to hold true, your worth is not determined by how you are treated.  

And so it follows, you may not have to wait to be treated differently to experience restoration.


Friday, November 15, 2013

give a damn

"Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands." - Brene Brown

A few weeks ago I blocked a phone number.  Thanks to the nice new iOS, a contact in your iPhone can be blocked without going through your service provider.  Finally.  Since we are impulsive, forgetful, self-sabotaging creatures, I can't really think of a better idea than being able to eliminate temptation.  (This, of course, is why I eat all the cookies at once time.)  To eliminate a problem, however small, is a great luxury.

This person was rude.  They were rude and derogatory and disrespectful to me.  And worse, they were the kind of person who was sure they were right.  Because no one had ever told them they were wrong.  Right about me.  They don't even really know me.  Sitting in the grandstands, they knew all there was to know.

I had to give myself permission to let it go. 

People have always had lots of awful things to say to me and about me.   

A lot of awful things I have let sink in. 

That I choose to believe, simply because they were said.

*This is why I deleted my social media.  The internet is a platform for unfiltered, unsolicited, destructive, uncensored, competitive language.  Where no one is held accountable and the community can be wildly superficial.  This means, now, the only people who speak into my life are the ones I actually know.* 

(Also, I have had to learn how to pick my friends better, which is why at this point in my life I can probably count the good ones on one hand.  In any given week I have real, constructive conversations with maybe four of you, excluding the family.  Makes for some terrible loneliness and a lot less drama.  But it probably should stay this way.)

People have always had lots of awful things to say to me and about me.  They have so many opinions and so much advice.  Unsolicited.  But I listen and absorb it and internalize it and then shame myself because someone, who doesn't even know me, thinks poorly of me.  I made someone mad, just by existing.  And they must be right because they chose to say it. 

Maybe some of them were right.  I've explored that option too.  Regardless, what I wouldn't give to naturally, biologically, genetically be predisposition not to give a damn what they think?  Those people in the stands?

I was encouraged by one of the four the other day to "shut that shit down".  A huge smile broke across my face when I got the text message for a couple different reasons.  1) She was smart enough to call me on my cowardice. 2) I love when she says shit. 3) She cared enough not to let me make a mistake I would regret. 4) She doesn't lie to me.

That kind of criticism I can handle.  It may make me choke at first -- like a big smack on the back.  Knock all my air out.  But just long enough for me to remember: this person loves me.  Genuinely

Today I blocked another phone number.  Full of compliments and sugary words and then flares of nasty temper.  I hate tempers and I hate manipulators even more.

Someone in the grandstands, knowing all there was to know.  Who would never be accountable for their words and had no interest in reciprocity.  So I eliminated the problem. 

I will never be one of those people who believes to be honest we have to be brutal or harsh or destructive.  I don't respond well to that.  (Aside from athletes, I don't know a lot of people who do.) Sometimes we have to be honest and tell each other to shut shit down.  We have to be honest and tell each other to choose optimism when it's the hard choice.  We have to tell each other to stop being paranoid and we have to tell each other to stop being judgmental.  We have to tell each other to be brave and when to stop making the decision that will kill us.

But I do believe we have to have filters. 

The people who love us should have a voice in our lives.  Ultimately, even they do not determine our worth.  The people in our lives who love us should help us become better people, should challenge the weaknesses and spotlight the strengths and be willing to stand in the treacherous line at Moe's on a Monday with you and not say a word so everyone can get their queso. 

But what about the people who don't? 

I am not the center of any universe.  Neither are you.  But in the system, which is our lives, other people hold certain spots.  They transition through certain positions, or maintain certain perspectives. 

This is the realization I adopted, which got me back into the gym.  I was intimidated by the other gym members and I had to remind myself of where they stand.  I had to remind myself: those people see me, but they don't care about me.  What I do, don't do, how I sweat or don't sweat, how my ass looks in those pants... is not something anyone anywhere thinks about for longer than it takes for me to walk out of their line of vision. 

This does not make me insignificant. 

It means I can sweat and work and make gains and progress and not worry.  (But this is why, when the front desk guy started calling me by name, I got really paranoid.  Because now I am a tiny bit more significant in the one place I wanted to remain invisible.)

Who loves me? 

Who's invested in me?

Who do I allow to have influence over my emotions, my decisions, my opinion of myself?

The number of people who love and invest in me is dramatically smaller than the number of people in the third category.

I want to fix this.

I want to be able to hear criticism and determine whether or not it's constructive.  I want to be able to hear a compliment and determine whether or not it's genuine.  In the blink of an eye I want to be able to assess the answers to a series of questions (which may be up for revision):

Does this person love me?

What is this person's motivation?

Is this person right?

Is any part of what they said helpful?

What role do these loud, loud voices play in my life?  Do they have weight?  What is their influence?

And then give myself permission to smile and nod and keep going.

The last, hardest question for me to answer is: does this person matter?  Because, frankly, there are people who love me who do not matter.  And there are people who matter who do not necessarily love me (i.e. my boss). 

It sounds harsh to me.  I feel callous when I say it out loud or when I think it to myself.  But I'm not asking if an individual is important.  We are all important.  We all matter.  But do they matter in my life?  Does what they say matter to me?

Too often my answer is yes.

And that needs to change.

Very few of you truly matter to me.  You know who you are.  Chances are, I'm trying to be a lot more like you, which is why I chose you.  Thank you for choosing me.  And for hating my monsters as much as I hate them.  And for crying with me.... and for the past two years, crying for me. 

You matter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

maternal instinct

I was reading my friend Fran's blog this morning.  Just because I remembered she was pregnant and I wanted to know her perspective on the experience.  Already,  her journey is entirely different than mine and I'm wildly jealous of anyone who gets to be excited about pregnancy.  But she said something, which this morning especially, resonated with me. 

Something about not being overtly maternal.  Something about knowing you could be a mother... but not necessarily yearning for it, the way some of our girl friends have and do. 

~

Judah had a procedure on his ears on Friday.  We woke up early, before the sun, and I did my best to keep him sleepy and warm and distracted from the hunger I knew he was feeling.  No food or water since 8 o'clock the night before.  Those were the rules.

We bundled up and made a few ridiculous trips to my dark, quiet office and back to our dark, quiet house looking for some necessary things I had absentmindedly forgotten the day before.  All while pushing panic and anxiety aside, keeping the what-ifs and apprehension at bay.

I picked up Judah's dad and I had to let him drive, because his legs are too long to sit in the passenger seat.  His almost seven foot tall frame barely fits in the Corolla at all. 

And we drove to the hospital. 

I had quiet flashbacks of repressed memories of the six of us in the mini-van.  I only remember driving at night with the whole family, only in the winter, only on Christmas really. But I remember it.  I remember hearing the two of them talk and not being able to understand.  I remember Garrison Keillor.  And I remember associating marriage with being the ones to sit in the front seat.  Being a wife, to being the one to sit in the passenger seat, because husbands drive.  Daddies always drive.

My mind was reeling, wondering if I could hold it all together.  It was a simple procedure to help drain Judah's ears so he would stop having so many ear infections; but it required general anesthesia and I couldn't be back in the OR with him.  I worried he would be confused and feel abandoned.  I felt guilty.

So the three of us waited in the waiting room, making awkward conversations with people who had no idea what our situation was, who had no idea the hell we've been through to get there... sitting together in the waiting room, the three of us.  Almost like a family.

The nurse called me back and I left Judah's dad in the waiting room.  We went back to the pre-op room and Judah got his blood pressure taken and one of those strange, beeping monitors they put on grown up's fingers... but they put on his toes.  Everyone exclaimed at his hair and at his protruding belly button and at his size in general.  Until his dad came back to sit with us, and then the questions stopped.  Like now, it all made sense.

And they ask us if we're married and they ask if Judah's a daddy's boy and they ask if Judah's allergic to anything and "oh my god, how tall are you?" and "is there a family history of...".

They quickly take Judah back to the OR and his dad and I wait, cautiously, until we know he's around the corner and then walk quietly, tiredly, anxiously back to the waiting room.

It's a simple procedure.  It took just long enough for me to waste a cup of coffee.  Then I heard it.

The doors opened and the nurse came out with a sheepish smile and Judah's big man cries bellowed through the hallway and his dad and I stood up, throwing things away and following the nurse.  Following Judah's cries.  The cries I recognized as well as his face, the cries no one had to tell me belonged to my boy.

There Judah is, then, in the dark post-op room in a nurse's arms.  Screaming, eyes closed, bloody cotton balls in his ears.  And I reached for him and she made me sit down first, handing me my not-so-little baby and he screamed and screamed.  She left the room because she knew, like I knew, there was nothing wrong.  But anesthesia is a bear.  The fog and confusion it leaves you in as you come out of it is nothing short of bewildering and all Judah knew was he woke up and there were only strangers.  I held him and whispered to him and juggled his thrashing body, his flailing arms and legs.  He's almost as big as me, without exaggeration.  But I rocked and crooned and stood up and sat down.  All while his dad looked at us, eyes wide.  Uncomfortable.  Because what was there for him to do?  He didn't know.

You see, I'm not overtly maternal either.  I always knew I wanted children -- lots and lots of children.  I still do.  I crave it, a large family.  I grew up telling others I wanted a family who made people ask "how did that even happen?" when we all walked in the door together.  Different races, cultures, ethnicities, sizes, genders... that's what I had in mind.  People still ask those rude questions, even though it's just the three of us.  Even though, for all intents and purposes, we are not a family.  How did that even happen...

 This morning, after our first full night's sleep since the procedure, Judah climbed into my lap on the couch.  Full night's sleep equals 9pm to 6am and so in the wee hours of the morning, Judah and I just sit.  It's still dark out and it's still cold and I am out of coffee and out of creamer.  So we sit in a daze watching the Today Show.  He leans his head back against my collar, his cheek pressed against my cheek and his hand laying on my forearm. 

And I think so many things on mornings like these.  I think, there is no where else I'd rather be.  And, I could be a better mother.  And, my family does not look at all like I thought it would. 

And there are mornings, just like this one, where I wake up and feel the wind whistle through the holes left by people who never intended to stay, hollowed out places for someone we've never met.  And I mourn for them all and do my best to speak them -- the right ones-- into existence.

But that never works.  At least not yet. 

So we sit, cheek to cheek, and I squeeze his little body and am thankful for him.  Thankful that despite my flaws and the deficits I entered motherhood with, we've learned how to do this.  How to do the hard things.  Answer the hard questions.  How to sit still and soothe the crying.  How to lay on our backs on the floor and giggle.  How to chase each other down the halls. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

locus of control

There's always a trigger.  A putting a name to a thought.

The destructive chaos of the past week has left me wanting to only sit in a corner.  Feeling lonely and out of control and mad.  Mad at those who believe they know me, who've undeservedly caught a glimpse at our life.  I've allowed it, and I am ashamed.

But I am smarter than I remember, some days.  And in the white noise tonight I found the name.

In the loneliness of our life, we seek energy from the outside.  I seek energy from the outside.  Naturally I am an introvert.  I process internally, gather energy from being alone, crave quiet time, and tolerate only small doses of highly social situations.

But life has happened, hurt has happened.  I've allowed myself to develop an external locus of identity.

And I've lost a certain level of control.

Interesting, then.  People can be selfish and presumptuous and arrogant.  But what satan means for evil, God will use for good I believe.  There's always the inciting incident.

Now it's time to regain control.  To draw back in, without withdrawing.  To create in this new home a safe place and also allow myself room to grow.

Regaining, repositioning, recollecting a locus of control.  Others have influenced, swayed, contributed far too much.  Too much has been lost and there's so much space to fill.

I sat down, intending to be much more profound and cohesive.  But I don't have this figured out yet.  Take it as the confession it is, and be gentle.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

eyes to see

I said I was done crying about it.   But I lied.  The tears are flowing today and I can't quite sort those these feelings of confusion or inadequacy.

And I can't find a safe place.

Nowhere to go to talk, no listening ear, no comfort.  And the fear and the hurt bounces off the walls, reverberating and returning to my ears, deafening almost.

I know the tears will stop though.  They have to.  And surely this season is almost over.  I feel as though I've lived a lifetime in this storm and I just can't breathe here anymore.

I knew it would come to this.  It had to -- I doubt I could have ever gotten us here on my own.  But, goodness, it hurts.

And I am so confused.

I mean very little to most.  So very little.

There is so much deception I can't wade through it.  What is true, what is manipulation.  The tears fog my vision and I just don't know what else to do but pray for eyes to see.

I want a reset button.  I want to wipe the slate clean.  I want to take it all, sift it out.  See what makes the  cut.  And I want to do it quickly.

I am tired of making excuses for others.  For allowing myself to be hurt, in the name of grace.  For being in a corner all by myself... because it's not like Jesus to defend one another?

No wait.  That doesn't sound right.  But regardless I am fighting this fight alone.  Dodging bullets and punches and reminding myself these people are hurt, they didn't mean it, they have no role models.  Or reminding myself of what I've been so often told...

To choose us would be the hardest decision.  

It really can only get better.  With the war being waged around me, I am afraid to imagine the many more wrong turns it could take.  But I do know space is being cleared and broken places are being strengthened.  I do know that.

But I wish I was protected.

I wish I was comforted.

I wish I was not always required to be the strongest person in the room.

Or that when the tears started like that... well.

It just wasn't supposed to be this way.

I wish the fear and hurt I feel on no one.  The uncertainty is a plague I can't escape.

And it's just all I can think to pray for anymore, that someone else would start making the hard decisions.  Doing the hard things.

These new eyes are adjusting to the light.  It burns, but vision is coming.  It's the pangs of healing that hurt the worst, it seems.  It's the being put back together.


Monday, September 16, 2013

one year later

Birthdays, more so even than New Years, are a time for reflection.  They are milestones, launching us from what has been to what will be, and give us all kinds of false hope for who we think we ought to be twelve months from now.

Each year I get older, I stop on my birthday and feel around to see if I feel any older.  Never do.

Birthdays aren't important, really, unless you weren't supposed to make it to the next one.  Or unless this is the first birthday with someone special.

In some ways, Friday was both.

It's not so much I didn't think we'd survive, but I questioned how.

This time last year, I questioned how I'd deliver a baby alone.  How I'd survive the top of every one of those contractions, causing me to vomit.  How I'd survive one final semester of undergrad. How I'd pay rent.  How I'd go back to work after three weeks of maternity leave.  Mostly, how I'd raise this little boy... not yet born... all by myself.

I woke up Friday morning, trying to fathom how we'd gotten here.  To a year later.  Where did 365 days go?

Friday was Judah's birthday.  He is a year old.  This was his first birthday and when I look at him I can't believe we made it.

But we sure did.

This was the fastest year of my life and I am overwhelmed.

So much has changed in such a short period of time, I can't imagine when Judah blows out two candles where we will be.

~

Survival is not a choice.

And I have no words, but thankfulness for this small, loud, precious, cuddly, wriggly, big-footed, brown eyed boy.

What a blessing he is, and oh how I don't deserve him.

May this year find us in less of a battle.

unless you have to say it

deep breath. 

I am overwhelmed with the weight of it, on my chest like something sitting.  Right there.  Where I breathe.

I don't understand why things happen.  I don't understand why my life, our life now, has played out the way it has, but I am heavy with it.

One year later, I should be writing about something else.  About candles and smash cakes and happy birthday to yous.  But that is not what's on my mind tonight.  To get to that, to the confetti, I have to sort through this.

All of this.

Tears came today.  After so long holding back.  After short bursts and welling, of self control and self admonishing.  It is silly to cry alone.  It is embarrassing to let someone else watch.

But tears came today and my eyes are a little swollen from it.  Listening, for the first time in years, I was comforted by the silence because I knew it meant he heard.

And the heaviness was alleviated when I said the words out loud.

Some things take so much courage.  And monsters are defeated when given a name.

Easier said than done, he says.  Unless you have to say it.

And I had to say it.  

I've said it before, half heartedly, leaving the door cracked.

I allowed the hurt, which is the saddest part.  I allowed it to continue and I allowed it to cut deep and I exposed Judah to it and I am sorry for that.

But we pray for answers, even when we don't know what they are.  We have sneaking suspicions we won't like them, but we pray for them anyway.  And often I pray He'd control it, I know I can't and I don't know best, and would He please fix what I cannot.

So sometimes, the answer is the decision is made for us.  He chooses what we're not strong enough to choose.  Hollowing out space.

And oh how thankful I am.

deep breath.

That's what I had to say out loud, you know.  How thankful am I.  I've been thinking this thought often... deep moments of gratitude for the survival and the place we've found ourselves in.  But thankful for this?

I am thankful.

I am thankful I don't have to always make the hard decisions.

And for the deep, rushing feeling of being able to breathe again.

Bless our hearts.  What could it mean to have love reciprocated?  Time valued?  Hearts cherished?

Deep, rushing.  Space created, I am thankful and I am so relieved.

Hurt.  Heartbroken.  Confused.  But so very thankful.

I scoop him up and he hugs my neck now.  And I wonder how he could not be loved.  How is it so easy to walk out on this little one?  I don't linger on this thought, knowing it's my fault.  It is not him they walk out on, but me.

deep breath.

Quietly tonight I pray for the one who won't walk out.

If you know him, send him our way.

There was quite a bit of room made here recently.  And I'm done crying for it.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

but.

I've been using the analogy of a garden. 

But I was just reminded this looks a whole lot more like a fight.

The highlight reel plays before my eyes, except this one doesn't depict all the good memories.  Lights flash and I remember horns hocking and glass shattering.  I remember sitting in parking lots and praying for courage to go inside.  Of being shaken.  Of standing toe to toe, quite literally, praying I didn't blink.  Of walking in and finding confusion and bewilderment and not being brave enough to say out loud what needed to be said.

I am reminded of this, this afternoon, as Satan tries to have a field day with mine and Judah's future.

And I am overwhelmed with the sound and impression of heavy doors slamming shut, bolts locking.  Claustrophobia kicks in as I can't imagine my way out.  I can't fabricate an escape route.

But. 

Good stories always have a "but".

I've mentioned this before, I'm not sure it's a wildly popular concept.  But lots of you are in love with the crucified Jesus.  The battered, beaten, sacrificed Jesus. 

But I've always said, from the moment I met Him, that was not the Jesus I knew.  Today I'm reminded of this as I sit down and pray that Jesus would do what I cannot.  I count on, love, trust, expect a Jesus who's really dirty, who loves little children, and who fights like hell.

So I've asked for doors to be thrown open and for room to be made and for provision, protection.  The whole freaking gamut. 

Then I saw Him.  As soon as I took the time to ask.

And don't you know He kicked the damn door down.


I don't really know what happens from here.  But I'm holding onto that image for dear life. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

new locks

Yesterday was one of those bad days.  The sad days, when the road you're taking makes a sharp left and you're left staring at the brick wall ahead... or the plummeting cliff.  Unaware the path has changed direction.  It feels like a dead end.  Like an immovable obstruction, obstacle, perilous fall.  All in your way. 

But in time, you always realize, you just have to move your feet.  It's still winding and confusing and it's still not so hopeful.  But it's not the brick wall, not the cliff anymore.  It looks a little bit more like cooking dinner and messy applesauce and damn if it doesn't look like one hundred body weight squats at the gym and $4.99 drapes from Ikea. 

I guess I don't really know what happened.  Actually.  No wait.  I do.

Judah and I were sitting in the funny doctor's office waiting room.  And he was snuggled up in my lap playing with a dinosaur I know had yucky germs on it.  We were one of funny doctor's first patients, almost a year ago now.  They know us by name.  They love my little, brown boy.  So when we walked in, they asked about his ears, and they squeezed his cheeks.  Then.  I let him walk.  He toddled around the office and I just beamed with pride.  Funny nurse kept looking at his chart, marveling at how this ten month old was moving so quickly.  He got to stand on the big boy scale to get weighed. 

And when we went into the examination room, I took his little shirt off and there he sat in my lap.  All 26.6 pounds of him.  Each time a stranger came in the room, he would tuck his shoulder in my armpit and rest his cheek on my collarbone.  This is new.  My boy isn't shy, I didn't think.  But here we are, and he's being bashful.  I am his safe place.

Also.  I was right. 

He has an ear infection. 

Good call, mom, Funny doctor said. 

Of course, this morning I woke up with a cold too.  After wrestling with Judah to take his pink medicine and falling asleep to Shark Week and wishing he would walk through the door. 

But you know the other thing that happened was I got a quick faith check.  A gut check, if you will.  It doesn't happen often because I'm surrounded by people who are at a higher caliber of righteousness than I am.  And that doesn't challenge me.  Not a bit.  What challenges me, what measures my faith, is when someone else doubts. 

I may live in a gray world where sometimes I haven't a single clue what's going on.  Is it right or wrong?  Good or bad?  (Usually the only definitive question is whether or not something is wise or foolish, but then again...)

When I hear someone say, out of the hurt and confusion they feel, they don't know who He is anymore... I get a little bit antsy.  Popping up out of my seat, trying not to blurt out the answer.  My answer isn't your answer... but I do have one. 

I have a pretty good idea of who He is, after all this.  Maybe I would question Him if my life looked a little different.  If I had experienced more loss.  I write this and laugh a little to myself, realizing that I have claimed to have no hope and yet here I am.  But I do know who He is.  And when I take a second to acknowledge, and wonder how I might describe Him... the answers come faster. 

Yesterday still sucked though.  And I'm still really lonely.

Today I have a cold, so today sucks a little bit too.  But forgetting who Jesus is... is not something I want to happen.  Not to you, not to me.  Even when we're tired of it all.  Even when we're tired of Jesus.

But part of what redeemed yesterday was a gentle acceptance.  Not of loneliness, not of singleness, not of forever-aloneness (although, I looked in the mirror today and I look really old today and I thought, ah shit).  But I thought about what's about to happen. 

What building looks like. 

Part of what redeemed yesterday was Jesus heard me say I didn't believe in miracles anymore and that pissed Him off.  Oh please, Anna.  Yes, you do.  And then he reminded me. 

A few weeks ago I signed a really ridiculous contract, which flirts with the wise/foolish property line.  I'm dancing on it.  E came out to do my inspection on this purchase, with his cigarettes and his wandering eyes and his attention to detail and his off color sense of humor.  And when E came out to do my inspection he left a dishwasher door open.

Now I have new locks on my doors. 

Because a few days ago, Jesus must have heard my muttered whisper about not knowing how much new locks cost.  Not knowing if I'd have the money for new locks, because I didn't know. 

Now there are new locks on my doors and a contract set for three weeks from now.  A move out date.  A move in date. 

He reminded me those miracles I decided not to look for anymore, are bred in those decisions we're not really sure are wise or foolish.  Miracles happen when we trust, when all those eggs go in one basket, when we're willing to change our minds.  And live anyway, even when it doesn't make sense.

Miracles happen where there are new faces and names and $5 pizzas and basketball in the court.  Cookies in the oven.  Where we plant seeds and hope.  Trusting not only that they will grow but did we plant where we should have, that the birds won't take off with them, that if we're going to put down roots... we chose the right spot. 

Miracles happen when we ask the ridiculous questions.  Trusting looks like, for me, when I turn to God and say angrily "Hey! You heard me!" 

Miracles look a lot like the prayer I prayed years ago, that all my thoughts would be considered prayers.  A prayer asking the Spirit to pray for me when I hadn't a clue what to pray for, or the right words to use. 

And to this day, my thoughts are recycled into prayers. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the way we do

Weed pulling is hard work.  And my hands are dirty and my nails short and my back sore. 

I feel guilty for wanting more, for wanting different.  Because the small person who runs around my house is also my favorite.  He is sticky and he is loud and he is funny.  His eyes smile bright and his snuggles sink deep.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around his love for me.  He doesn't show it often.  He loves many -- favors many, reaches for many.  My heart hurts that he often doesn't prefer me.  But when it is just he and I, together at home, he runs down the hall after me.  He throws back the shower curtain.  He rests with his hand on my knee. 

I don't want him to get big, but in the same breath, I cannot wait for the day when I can answer his questions.  When I explain things, and he understands.  When I get to hear his thoughts and his laughter, because he understood what was said.  When I can teach him things and buy him movie theater popcorn and show him real lions.

But I am tired.  From all the weed pulling and from the load carrying.  And I sit here now, welling, as Liv would say.  Because I'm just doing such a poor job at it all. 

I am irritable and I am tired and I am impatient.  My hair is a mess.  My car is a mess.  My apartment is a mess.  My eyelashes are falling out.  Judah went to daycare sticky this morning because on the way out the door he stuck his hand in my cereal bowl, dumping milk and soggy cereal on the floor.  And I forgot to wash his hands off, because I had to mop up the milk on the floor. 

We will go see the funny doctor this afternoon, because Judah's nose is running and he's not sleepy.  But I bet the funny doctor tells me "welcome to parenthood".  I have a toddler now.  All by myself.  And I just have this feeling my will won't match his.

We've experienced so much loss.  Life, daily, often feels like a precarious balancing act.  Teetering.  I am not as brave as my boy, who falls and claps for himself.  He knows no failure or embarrassment.  Just picks himself back up and tries again.  I sit on the floor longer.  Mope longer.  I wallow longer, bemoaning anyone saw me fall and getting up and all that is so much work.  He's braver than I am and I hope, with everything I have, he holds onto the bravery. 

I watched him last night in Noni's sink.  He's almost too big to get bathed this way, but his feet were dirty and we knew he'd fall asleep in the car.  So we stripped him down and into the sink he went.  Lathered and soapy and I watched him as he grabbed for the water coming out of the faucet.  He could feel it, but couldn't hold it. 

I feel like that today. 

I just can't get a hold of it.  Of the thoughts I know will lead to some congruency.  Maybe even to a harvest.  Thoughts that will lead to a place of hope I haven't visited in a long time.

Everyone wants to reassure us.  Women, mostly.  Of how beautiful we are and how lucky any man would be to call us home.  Of how young I am and how I have all the time in the world...

Tears well again, mostly because I don't believe it.  Not because I'm stubborn, but just because it's not true.  I am not young, I have never been young.  I do not live a young life or have a young mind.  I am not beautiful, I am just surviving.  Honestly.  But I know it's hard to be alone, whatever your circumstances.  I know it's hard to be married.  I know it's hard to be barren, and I have my small person, which so many would die to be able to call their own.  I know.  I know that's what people are trying to say, when they say don't worry.  That I'm not alone, others have it worse, to stop complaining.  All while looking at me and my little, brown boy and seeing just what I'm talking about. 

For this reason, I stopped believing in miracles a long time ago.  I picked up my shovel and started doing work for us, on our own.  And stopped looking for dots to connect and stopped asking for blessings.  Because of all the quietness.  Because you can only ask for something for so long, before you're weary of it. 

Before you feel like it falls on deaf ears.

And you can only hope for something for so long before it hurts too much to keep on. 

Regardless, I'm trying to make it work.  With that shovel and this gumption and with a lot of coffee.  So much of crouching and pushing and barreling through the hurt and the mess: leave my family alone, I feel like I say most days.  Back up.  We've been through too much already, all I want is...

But the tiredness drains the joy.  Who am I, though, without the joy? 

The struggle is, also, who am I if I am not a good mama?  So the other gets sacrificed, because it was never promised anyway.  And I take a deep breath and grapple.  Trying to grab the water flowing from the faucet, and have a good attitude because I know it will help. 

I try to make good food and go to the park so he can swing and make myself stay awake until it's dark out.  All in an attempts to find some normalcy.  To defeat, and say we made a good life despite it all, we built a tiny, strong family. 

Because he's my favorite.  He's my priority.  Someone would have to come in and love us both, unconditionally, without a second thought... anyway. 

So how do you make a family and save yourself from the splintered pieces? 

Close your mouth and keep the well-intentioned friends from criticizing, making it worse.  Save them the irritation.  Buy a plain house just big enough and hope this is where the harvest is.  Hope this, now, all this cloudiness and heaviness is the rain that makes the seeds grow.

Keep brushing your hair and washing your face and practice smiling... and understand life never works out like we thought it would anyway.  So you shouldn't be surprised. 

And hold the back of his curly head and whisper in his ear, the way we do.  I love you, I love you, I love you.  Feel the leaning in he does, until he knows it's true. 

Deep breath, and muster the courage to make it beautiful yourself. 

I was hoping the story would be told differently, though.

Friday, July 19, 2013

weeds

In April, He said this.

I was going to pick up my boy and I saw him.  Randomly standing on the edge of the street, spade and spray bottle in hand.  His bright red shirt caught my attention and when he looked up, I knew.

He was wearing sunglasses.

I drove back around the corner and him, the red shirt man, stood up and watched me.  I heard him say, behind my ears, "I am weeding".

There for a few days I had it, the clarity.  The removal of the old, to be replaced by the new.  The choking, toxic gone, to give room to breathe, to grow.

Until today.  When He came there, behind my ears again.  I am reminded of this now and the tears come.

So now my prayer is different. Soften the soil, then.  

Ears full of so many children's voices.  I envision a little house with green shutters and I just saw him hand me a gardening spade.

I'm returning to the field.  And though I've doubted, perhaps my heart always knew.


As I've said before, I have a feeling, perhaps in a different capacity, He will lead me back to it.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

first steps

On the fourth, Judah took his first steps. 

I wasn't even really paying attention, trying to calculate my student loan repayments.  I looked up just in time to see him turn away from his activity table and take two tentative steps towards our entertainment center. 

I screamed and hollered and clapped so loud it scared him and he fell back on his behind.  And then started clapping for himself too.  Big, gummy grin and all. 

So for the past few days, we've been practicing.  A few steps here and there.  One, maybe two, as many as four.  He maneuvers a funny little side shuffle, but always claps for himself. 

I was standing in the kitchen the other night and Judah was standing there with me.  He was trying to get to me, but was using the kitchen cabinets for support.  Shuffling and holding the wall.  I picked him up and stood him in the middle of the room and reached out my arms to him.  He looked around tentatively, realizing all his support and security and safety were at least two or three steps away.  In every direction. 

And as I reached for him, I heard it. 

Just like always.  In the whisper. 

Becoming a parent will help you understand the nature of God in a way only being a parent can.  It's just a facet of him, an aspect of his character.  But I couldn't explain it with words.  The same way I can't prepare my pregnant friends for what's coming.  The same way no one could prepare me.  It transcends whatever language we choose... we don't have the words for it. 

But in that moment, God bent down in our kitchen floor and reached for me.  He pointed to the catastrophe that has been this past week.  The catastrophe, which had catapulted me into the middle of the floor. 

He reminded me, gently, of what it takes to make us grow.  The pivotal moments, the turning points, the inciting incidences, which are required to tell a good story.  To lead us away from the wall, away from the safety, away from the security, to the middle of the floor.  Where the good story is being told. 

And He called to me.  In a voice so familiar.  I am reminded He loves me, and is calling me to Him. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

making room for the answer

There hasn't even been time to process, really.  To sit down and think.  The pace has been rapid and I feel very much like I've been hunkered down, head bent, shoulders pressed against the weight of it all.  Push forward.  With all my might. 

It always works out, you know?  I've only been homeless a few times, but even then I had a couch to sleep on.  When I run out of food, more is always provided.  A way is always made, it seems, when there is no way. 

This is a hard way to live.  Things have been hard for a long time, and though there is some joy in each day, I wish mine and Judah's story would take a quick turn.  A new season would be such a blessing.

But this morning I made a phone call.  Defiantly stared into the face of all the doubt and worry and said "no -- no thank you."

I hope He takes this as the act of faith I feel like it was.  Because logic says I should have accepted.  Logic says I didn't make the responsible decision.  On paper, it made sense.  But it didn't make sense for our lives.  It didn't make sense for the story being written.  The world wanted me to write a story about a Volvo.  But God's trying to write an adventure. 

I heard Him say, "you're not done there".  And I heard Him say, "time is a gift".  And I heard Him say, "trust Me in this.  Trust me enough, for once, to stay right where you are." 

It would be the same day other options would fall upon me as if the ceiling had collapsed.  The same day that He would offer alternatives, some hope of provision.  Just like He always does though -- knowing my eyes seek so far ahead.  One step at a time.  One set of directions at a time.  He knows me, knows how easily I get overwhelmed. 

Prayers are being answered that I don't remember praying.  The control freak in me wants to pray the prayer, hear the answer, and then have a story to tell.  It doesn't glorify me at all, it just helps me understand.  And it's a part of my testimony, how I help others see God.  But that's not always how God works. 

I'm coming to realize my prayers don't have to be specific for us to be taken care of.  Occasionally, for dramatic effect, I think He shows up and shows off to make Himself abundantly clear.

Other days, He wants us to bend close.  To recognize the obscurity, the general "working out of things", as His hand moving.

Does that make sense? 

I am not powerful because I pray.  My life doesn't unfold daily because I remember to ask.  There is power in prayer and being bold enough to ask for what we need.  But I was, and am, reminded of Matthew 6.  And my guess is the lilies don't spend their days asking for rain. 

Intimacy is in the details.  In the quiet details of doing life together.  This is where so many go wrong with their relationship with God.  I am not a good Christian, but I surely know the Father.  If only because we share my life.  Sometimes I forget this.  Sometimes I forget He already sees.  Sometimes I forget that He wants to help us, and He doesn't have to wait for my go ahead. 

So a few weeks ago when I started praying "please make a way", He knew it was my way of saying "I have no clue what the hell I am doing.  Fix this."

Fix this.

I am reminded of worship service I attended at Southland a few years ago.  Burned into my memory so well is Amanda Carter singing "Hosanna".  She stopped in the middle of the song and explained what Hosanna meant, literally translated.  Come fix this.  Come down, come here.  Come fix what we cannot. 

So that's what I started praying.  Make a way, where there seems to be no way.  When I am fresh out of ideas, when I have no more solutions, when I am at a loss.  Please, fix this.  Take care of us.  Help me take care of us. 

I do not believe in the old adage of, "God helps those who help themselves".  Too often I have seen Him stoop down and love on all of us.  Too many people get what they don't deserve.  God does not rely on us to be good.  He is not a good father because we are good children. 

I believe we are called to do what we can.  To be responsible for what we've been given.  To use our time, energy, resources, gifts, to build a life and leave a legacy.  I also think we need lots of help.  I also don't believe in the old adage "God won't give you more than you can handle."

If you and I were together right now, I would have said that and sighed out of exasperation.  Maybe thrown my arms and up and sank back into my chair.  I hate the saying.  Not until you are staring at a load at your feet, too heavy for you to pick up alone, will you ever understand how ABSURD it is.  How na├»ve it is. 

He wants us to ask for help.

God helps.  He does.  He doesn't need my permission to do it.  And He sure doesn't need our ideas to help Him figure out how.

He just loves it when we trust Him enough to ask.  

Go ahead.  Tell Him you're scared.  Tell Him you have no idea where to go from here.  Sometimes, when we finish His sentences, we get it all wrong.  Let's learn how to give Him time to talk back.  Make room for Him to answer. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

a purple horse

I was pumping gas.  That's all.  Had just finished a difficult workout and my tank was on empty.  Literally and figuratively, I suppose.  I don't pray deliberately very often any more.  But I pray continuously.  Fragments of prayer, scattered throughout my day.  And I may, in that moment of emptiness, have just whispered: what the hell am I supposed to do?

I turned around to go into the gas station and get a drink when I saw him.

Sitting on a toolbox in the bed of a Dodge Ram.  Legs extended.  Hands, each finger shining with a silver ring, folded in his lap.  He wore sunglasses and a blue bucket hat.  I suppose he could have been looking anywhere, what with those sunglasses on and all.  But I swear his steady, quiet gaze followed me as I walked into the gas station.

I tried not to stare.  But I knew who he was.  And a smile spread across my face.

It's been a while since I've seen Him.  Can't quite remember the last time it was, actually.  But I do know He came with a different message this time.

Life has been a bloody, chaotic battle these days.  I can barely make ends meet financially, we need a new home, it's time to pay back student loans, there are lawyer fees to be paid, I'm waiting to be accepted into grad school, and trying to decide if I even should go to grad school.  And work keeps getting worse instead of better.

On top of it all, I feel like I'm fighting this battle alone.  Loneliness is cutting my legs out from under me.

For about two years now I have associated the color red with God's presence.  You'll have to go look in the archives to help me remember exactly why, but it had nothing to do with anything theological or divine.  Just connecting a prayer to an answer.  Just me being Gideon.  Red, being His answer.

So here He was, sitting in the bed of a truck, quiet and still as could be.  Wearing blue.

Am I crazy?  Because I diverted my eyes and whispered quietly, just because it's blue, doesn't mean that's not You, does it?

I walked into the gas station and paid for a drink and walked back out.  I didn't see who was driving the truck.  But there He was, still sitting right where I left him.  As the truck started up and pulled out of the parking lot, He didn't even budge.  Not a flicker of movement, His dark, wrinkled face staring in my direction the whole time.

It's Me...

I climbed into my car and sat there for just a minute.  I am crazy.  For seeing things and hearing things and believing in things.  But it's the story -- it's the story that moves me.  It's the quiet, grandiose, simplistic, desperate measures He takes to speak to me... propelling it all forward.

Shake it up.  

I pulled away with one word floating in between my ears.  He'd left me with a new association.  Him in his blue bucket hat and all the glory hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses.  A new season is coming, a season of peace to follow this season of war.  A new season is coming.

~

He (not my sunglass wearing manifestation of God, I mean someone else) texted me the other day.  Two years later.  Here he was.  Inappropriately friendly.  Lighthearted.  

I almost didn't answer.  Because I'm not sure what to say to the one who started it all.  I was overcome by memories, tracing everything back like dominoes, like a ripple.  To the source.  

He, for the record, was not the source.  He, if we were to identify him, was the straw.

The source is probably somewhere deep within myself.  A fatal flaw of my very own.  A chink in my own armor.  But there have been others, some well intentioned and some selfish, who have added insult to injury.  In a terribly concentrated amount of time.  

Three of them had the same name.  And were all awful for their own various reasons.  All hurtful, all dangerous.  All serving a myriad of purposes.  Wearing me down, weighing me down.

But he, the straw, came along.  And broke me.  With the big promises of the church.  And an overblown sense of self.  All masking his own hurt and shortcomings.  Which were eventually what all came crashing down on me.

And for a while, I had the bruises to prove it.

The straw that broke the camel's back.  

Literally.  It all came crashing down.

Now here I am.  Two years later.

Two years later and now here is an apology.  

So I listened.  I dug around a little bit and looked for the grudge I really wanted to bear.  Searched for the hurt I swore was still there, or the wound, which surely was still bleeding.

But the apology had come after the forgiveness.  Which is truly the sweetest thing.  Because what the enemy had meant for evil, to break me, to destroy my hope, had led to today.  What was once a wound is now just a scar.

It all has led to Judah and to the small, small victories.  

And a heart more capable of grace.

Actually, he called me gracious, probably not knowing it was the greatest compliment he could have paid me.  The calling on my life -- tattooed on me permanently.  

We will call this redemption, a greater victory.  

And I felt the heavy door swing shut.  

~

So now I am faced with the unknown of a new season.  I can tell I've been given some autonomy.  Sheets of paper have been laid out before me and He's just told me to draw.  There are guidelines: to learn and provide.  But other than that, I've been given no instructions.  

Just draw.  

Just move forward.

The graciousness in closure is intertwined with the ambiguity of a brand new season.  And I stand awkwardly in the hallway, holding on to what is mine, and I know the next step is crucial.

Not because there is a right or wrong answer.  A right or wrong direction.

But because it will take us, my little family, somewhere brand new.

I am holding onto the image of Him riding away in the back of the pick up, and the sweet word, sounding so much like a promise.

Peace.

And even though I don't feel it, and I know better than to believe "peace" is equal to "calm" is equal to "easy", there's some courage to be found here.

My lips burn with a thousand prayers I need to pray.  And my feet feel heavy.  

But there is no going back.  I have a purple horse to draw.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

even small victories

We sat at Pazzo's last week celebrating my best friend's 27th birthday.  Her cousin was sitting across the table from us, and she is expecting her first child.  We had begun talking about this subject in the parking lot and the conversation had followed us inside.  Bucket lists.

We are all familiar with the concept.  Maybe have even written one ourselves.  The list of things we want to do before our lives are over.  A list of accomplishments we want to strive towards.  Some may be very arbitrary, others may have deep meaning behind them.  Superficial.  Life changing.  In our control, or out of our control.

But Rene was talking about a bucket list just for this year.  No long term goals.  Nothing unattainable.  But a list of realistic expectations for the next year of her life.

I've been struggling to regroup lately.  To find my pace, my stride, in the chaos of my life.  Going through the motions of a full work day, maintaining a household, keeping track of responsibilities.  Judah's smiling face reminds me of the little joys in each day.  But the pace... we have to find the pace.

 This blog has been a metronome.  A place to come to calibrate, to re-evaluate.  Through international travel, through degree seeking, through urban ministry, through pregnancy, through new motherhood.  This is where I come.

And I realized the night at Pazzo's, I need a bucket list.  Something written down, something expressed. A voiced goal to work towards, for the year I am 25.

I have such good intentions.  I mean well, I want to do better.  Be better.  But expectations are sometimes set too high, the obstacles are sometimes too big, my faith not big enough.  There is often so much fear.  Fear of large change.  Fear of inadequacy.  (That I might try, give it everything I have, and fail miserably as I so often have.)

But.  I want Judah to grow up to be the kind of man who understands the connection between his actions and the harvest, who understands consequences, who believes in himself.  Whose reach exceeds his grasp.  How beautiful it will be, to watch my little boy grow up to be that kind of man.

I watch him now as he is trying to learn to walk.  He pulls himself up on a couch, a chair, an ottoman, smacks it with his hands and quarrels at me.  He is proud of himself.  Closely I watch as he sets his eyes on another piece of furniture next to him and reaches.  Little arm outstretched, adjusting his feet, and reaching.  Every once in a while he will realize the other piece of furniture is too far away and he will lower himself to the carpet, scoot himself over, and pull himself up.  But he does not quit.  He is too small to let the fear of falling keep him from trying.

It's amazing what I am learning from my 8 month old.

So I will reach.

And maybe my arms are not long enough, maybe I do not have enough balance.

But I have to try.  Because progress needs to be made.  Change needs to happen.  A life must be built.

I have chronicled my life here.

A few years ago, I had entitled this blog "in medias res".  A latin phrase, meaning "in the very middle of things".  A literary term meaning joining the story in the very middle of it.

I have returned to this blog title, because I know nothing that represents this stage better.  I am in the very middle of things, learning how to be a young woman, a mother, a social worker, and a healthy human being.

Hopefully, by the time it is time to wrap up my 25th year, I will be able to tell you about progress.  I will be able to tell you about growth.  I will inevitably have hurt and heartbreak to share, but it is time for victories.

Even if they are small ones.

My list is not complete.  But tonight I wanted to share with you what I'm working on in my head.  Know that this blogspot will be used to chronicle this journey as well -- every aspect of it, in all its spirituality, crudeness, texture, and whatever grace I have left.  Which means I may share a recipe and a poem in the same day.  A product review and a prayer.  We're in the middle of the story here.

I'm trying to write a good one.

So far all I have is:
  • Start grad school (I've applied for a program, set to begin in August)
  • Find a new living space for Judah and myself (with a washer and dryer)
  • Meet predetermined weight/BMI/strength goals

Friday, May 10, 2013

25

This is not where I thought I would be at 25, I told him. 

Where did you think you'd be then? His response was immediate.  Logical.  But I came undone. 

~

Bob posted on Twitter (@bobgoff) today: "fear never leaves a ransom note when it steals our lives; we'll just notice we can't find our imagination anymore."

I turned 25 yesterday.  A quarter of a century old.  I told him this was not where I thought I would be.  And by that I meant I didn't think it would take me so long to graduate college.  I didn't think I'd work in foster care.  I didn't think I would be single.  I didn't think I'd be single... and a mommy. 

But then he returned with the question and I grappled for an answer, which I suppose does not really exist.  Or at least, I cannot remember.  I know what has surprised me about my life, I know what I did not expect.  But as far as what my best laid plans were, I cannot even remember.  I am so far off base, I missed the mark so severely.

That's the way of it, I guess.  People teach you to make a plan and follow it through.  But life is not as much a road as it is an obstacle course.   If you think and believe as I do (which is unlikely) you don't believe your course is charted out down to the eighth of a mile.  There's a starting point.  There's an ending point. 

And the rest is all story.  Waiting to be told.

No hero (no good one anyway) gets from beginning to end easily.  No real hero takes the shortest, safest, quickest distance between two points.  Because that is not a good story.  Don taught us this, remember? 

There is a possibility I was picking the story about the Volvo when I was younger.  There was just enough edginess to what I was choosing for my life, no one questioned it.  At 17, the story involved the blue-eyed Georgia boy, a youth center, getting married right out of high school, and having babies.  Somehow then it was about the bearded one, about helping people, about community, and getting dirty.  Then it was about the third world, the ghetto, the diversity.  It was about spiritual gifts and $5 pizzas in a dental clinic and glitter on the floor.  It was about non-profits and I told people it was about Jesus. 

Then it became about Judah.

I see the progression, I really do.  I wasn't telling a bad story.  I was telling the beginning part of my story.  Not an unimportant part.  A necessary part. 

My character was building as I took each stepping stone in a different direction.  Diverting from the original path -- the path I think everyone assumed I would take.  Every time I walked up on a drug deal, every time I found children home alone, every argument I had about living somewhere safe, every time I was denied a job or a spot in an educational program... the path changed.  Every time I connected a prayer to an answer, my head was turned.  Toward the way I was supposed to take.

I thought about the "end" I suppose in no certain terms.  But looking back I realize I never thought much farther ahead than 23.  I was sure by my early twenties I'd have a degree and a husband and we'd start having babies and depending on who that husband was... would depend on how this story went.  I think then for a while I thought just farther beyond, and pictured myself in Africa.  Pictured myself in Atlanta.  But never too far ahead.  Never make too many plans. 

Good thing.

~

Judah has not been sleeping.  Double ear infection, teething, big growth spurts, and he is sleeping in fits and spurts; waking up at 2am ready to play and sing and play "patty cake".  Judah has not been sleeping, so I have not been sleeping. 

Last night he fell asleep early and I curled up in the chair and started reading.  I realized I haven't been able to write because I haven't been reading.  My life is a story about depletion right now -- as tragic as that may sound.  My tank is empty, my well is dry.  All energy and effort I have goes toward surviving, providing.  Flourishing is not priority.  But I don't think that's the kind of story I have to tell for much longer.

I heard Judah whimper in his room.  As routine, I listened for a few minutes.  He has nightmares sometimes and cries out in his sleep, rolls over and dozes off again.  That was not the case last night.  He whimpered, then cried, then yelled and I heard him stand up in the crib.  So I went and got him, all 22 pounds of him.  He's sleepy still, so his body dangles as I carry him back to the living room with me.  Almost eight months old and I am overwhelmed with his size.  I sat back down in my chair, frustration building, exhaustion creeping in.  Will we ever sleep through the night, I wonder.  And then Judah folds his little hands on my chest and his head drops.  Deeply breathing, his cheeks are smushed up against my chest, and the tears come.

Slowly at first, and I am alarmed by them. 

Then like a flood, a torrent of them.  They fall on his little, blonde, fuzzy head and I remember a few times as a child when they cried over me.  I didn't like it, really.  I didn't understand it.  But I do now.  I understand now what it means to not remember what was supposed to happen.  To only remember sitting in that chair, with a big, baby boy with fuzzy blonde hair snuggled close under your chin.  To remember thinking he'd never be this big and knowing you'd think the same in ten years.  To think, this is not where I was supposed to be, but deeply understanding I had found where I was meant to be

This is not how I want it to stay.  I do not want to live in a state of survival, I do not want Judah to be raised in uncertainty. 

~
 
Normally, a birthday post would involve a re-cap of the last year.  Reflection and reminiscing and lessons learned.  But I am too tired for that.  Instead, it is a prayer.  A benediction.  Truth spoken over, anticipated.
 
 
May what happens next, lead the way into the best story.  May our plans, my plans, pale in comparison to what You have in store.  May I never give up hope, or lose respect for those fragile things.  May ends meet and our prayers be answered.  May we see provision and connection and will You speak to the right people about us.  Make a way, where there seems to be none.  Next year may we be in a place even better than we were able to ask for, or imagine.  May our lives be a testimony of grace, resilience, and gumption. 
 
Beyond that, there's really nothing left to say.