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


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.