I slammed the car door shut and wiped the rain from my cheeks.
Turned the key over in the ignition and the Bluetooth picked up, suddenly and quietly filling the car with Adele's voice.
I reached over to turn on the windshield wipers, just as my eyes caught a glimpse of color.
I was encouraged months ago to write about now. Not what was, not what could be, but about the truth of the right now. We had known then, she and I, getting caught up in the history of things can slow down the words. The stories were getting bogged down by the explanation. By the process of making them acceptable, presentable. A watering down might as well have washed them away. Despite the desire to set the stage, here we are in the very middle of things.
I keep trying to decide what is mine to tell. Trying to edit the story so I don't have to be vulnerable twice. Since vulnerability is the red thread through this whole story. But as I work through the writer's block of the last six months, all I know is to keep telling the truth. As I sip on my three dollar wine from Trader Joes out of a plastic stemless wine glass from Target, I remember to write drunk. Just write hard and clear about what hurts. (Hemingway) I'll sort out the rest later. If they wanted us to speak nicely of them, Anne says, they should have behaved better.
The sickness had settled into my chest and I felt slow and my eyes felt heavy and it was Monday. In the monotony I was trying to be faithful. Showing up when showing up wasn't easy.
The door opened behind me and I didn't even turn. Every morning, the same, and we would gather around the table and problem solve and disperse again. Returning every morning. Repeat.
The door opened behind me and more bodies than usual entered the room. Suddenly Monday and the heaviness and the end of August meant a great deal more.
I would pray. Praying in a way feeling so much more like begging. I would watch and listen and I would piece together and I would pray some more. I measured myself and mourned my shortcomings and prayed for grace and for courage. There was light and there was promise and I kept showing up, listening as God started dusting off old dreams. Unrolling my old crayon drawings of purple horses and whispering to my heart. Keep showing up, and remember how big the world is? But mostly, I still work like this.
What has happened since then, I can barely remember. A whole lifetime packed tightly into not quite three months. I'm left now to sift through the soot for whatever remains.
I had so much hope. I would look at this new face and believe things for myself and for my family I hadn't dared to believe in a while. I loved the energy, the listening, the speaking, and the smells. I remember the first time arms were around me and I don't remember a single thing after. I had heard words I believed to be true and laid them out as my foundation. Where I normally would have lacked confidence, I relied on something my spirit called a truth. This propelled me forward into a story I'll never forget. I was so excited and the excitement is what embarrasses me now.
Our whole world was turned upside down. I prayed and I fought and I learned. I listened and adapted and prayed again for humility and a teachable spirit. I made a certain kind of effort I've never made in my past. I kept reminding myself to be gracious with myself and I kept asking for grace. I kept falling short. But there was always the coming back.
My feelings were hurt repeatedly and if it hadn't been for what I believed to be the truth, which I clung to, I would have walked away. Lies swirled around me, clouding my vision, and I struggled through inadequacy and loss and trust. The ways I criticized myself were innumerable.
I came into the story hoping the best parts of me would come alive. I should have thrived, should have felt confident in what I could contribute, felt excited about what could have been accomplished. I had dreams of teamwork. There were days I felt encouraged, there were days I felt giddy and joyful and believed in what it was so deeply you couldn't have changed my mind.
I questioned my parenting. I questioned the last three years of provision and protection, but simultaneously a new hope was ignited for redemption. Had I done my best? Would Judah succeed or fail, based on my performance as a parent? I struggled to shield him from any uncertainty and yearned to give him something he'd never had.
Most days I felt inadequate. What I brought to the table didn't seem to be of much worth. I wouldn't have dared say those words out loud. But I did think about walking away.
The hard questions were asked and I struggled with the doubt. And any thought of leaving, was honestly challenged by this one pervasive lie.
It won't get better than this. If you let this go, you won't find anything better. If you walk away, you've walked away from your best story.
Ghosts followed us everywhere. I had questions, which were never answered. I had thoughts I never shared. And while all the lies and the doubt swirled, we would wade through the crowds together. And people would stare.
I am used to the staring.
But people would stare with admiration in their eyes.
They would watch and there would be hello's and each time there was a leaning in and a whisper, "your family is beautiful" and nodding thank you, I would keep moving.
The doubt and the lies and the insecurities would rise like the tide and there was leaning and the whispering, and waters would recede again. I could catch my breath.
Ebb and flow.
Just enough to keep us moving forward.
Just enough so every time I was told I wasn't doing enough, I thought maybe it was truth.
One promise though I've always made myself as a mother, is I would cherish the privilege it is to raise my child. I would prioritize his well being and I would make decisions for our lives, which benefit us both. And above all else I would protect him.
Judah and I have felt our fair share of fear.
Honestly, I feel like the times I've held him closest in the last three years have been when our safety and security has been jeopardized. I've had to pray and beg for intervention and protection more often than not, and we have learned to not be paralyzed by our fear. But we have also learned to pay attention to it.
And there was an unravelling.
And what was left was the thin, smoky veil of fear and there the story has to end.
Leaving happened quickly and I was left on the floor, surrounded by hot wheels race cars and stifling the kind of sobs my three year old hates to see me cry.
I'm still not sure what I'm grieving. But the grief is still there.
My eyes caught a glimpse of color. I stepped out of the car, face bent against the rain, and grabbed the yellow piece of paper stuck beneath my windshield wipers. Ink ran. I closed the car door again and sat with the limp note on my lap.
My hands are black from the ashes.
I think there's beauty here. But as it always does, the rain has washed everything else clean.