Somehow, Sunday Always Comes

It’s around noon on Easter Sunday. I’m at my kitchen table with a Bloody Mary waiting for my beloved Carrot Souffle to come out of the oven. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting around my parents’ dining room table, blessed to still have both my mom and dad. My brother and his wife will be there, and happily, this year I’ll be joined by my son, my youngest daughter and my boyfriend (which still always feels weird to say at the age of 45…) My older daughter is in another state with her grandma, having her own Easter.

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I’ve been thinking all morning about the ways my parents’ dining room table has changed over the past 20 years or so. About the way it is different every year, every holiday. I’m thinking of all the times there were both empty seats and a full kids table. All the memories. The silent tears and heartaches around the table. The laughs. The new life. The new people who have only passed through and those who have stayed.  At some point or another, almost all of us were either widowed, divorced, or sat there with and without our kids. We’ve mourned spouses, grandparents, and kids and babies who should be here.

It’s amazing to me. Life is amazing to me. The way families and relationships and life changes over the years. There are years I sat at that table afraid to speak or I would cry. Years I drank a little too much so I didn’t have to think about being the lone single person there, with or without my kids.  Life is just so fragile and so beautiful and I see it so clearly around the dining room table.

I don’t know what Easter means to you, but on this Easter Sunday, I think about how Sunday always comes. Historically speaking, Good Friday was the darkest day in human history. And Saturday– the time and space between Friday and Sunday– seemed dark. So very dark. Sad. Quiet. Hopeless. And as if it would last forever.

But Sunday came. It did. Somehow, Sunday always comes. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not how we ever pictured it, Sunday comes. And in its own way, it is new and beautiful and it is okay. I feel grateful today. Sunday is here. It is hardly what I pictured. But there will be eating and drinking and laughing and celebrating. It is sunny and new and somehow, it’s still going to be beautiful.

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Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.

This is Why We Tell Our Stories

images-18Not long ago I received a call from a good friend in total distress. A young woman he knows had lost her husband suddenly and tragically. He didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. He was shaken and looking for direction. Knowing I had walked this road before, he called me first. With tears in my eyes, my heart was already silently breaking for what I knew lay ahead for this girl. I gave him some advice and then choked out the words I sort of dreaded to say: “When are the calling hours? I’ll go see her.”


 

Flashback to December 31, 1998: I have just been gifted with the American Flag from the United States Army on behalf of a grateful nation for my husband’s military service. With my little boy by my side, I am walking down the aisle of the church. I have just sat through my husband’s funeral service. I am numb, but not so numb that I don’t feel slightly annoyed and frustrated when someone pulls me to the side and says there’s someone I should meet. Seriously? Who could I possibly need to meet right now? Whoever it is, surely there is a better time than this. But then I see her. A child standing on either side of her, half-smiles cloaking their mild embarrassment and it’s as if I already know.

This woman. This stranger with whom I was prepared to be annoyed with, warmly grasps my hands in hers and tells me how sorry she is for my loss. And that she understands. That she knows this pain. A few years back, she lost her husband too. And honestly, after that, I don’t remember another word she said. But it doesn’t matter. Because in that very brief meeting that could not have been more than two minutes long, this is what my brain processed: “She survived this. She lived through this. Her kids are standing next to her. They are here. They are alive. They seem okay. One of them is even smiling. They survived. They are here. I am not alone. I may live through this. My children may be okay someday. We might recover. We might make it.”

To this day, I don’t know who that woman was. I never saw her again. I don’t know if I said thank you or just nodded my head or cried or what. But I know this– in the middle of my absolute hurricane of shock, grief and despair, a total stranger came to see me for two tiny minutes and do something extraordinary: Plant a seed. Give me strength.  Show me that I was not pioneering this road; That there were those who had gone before me and survived. It was barely perceptible that day, but it was there: Hope. Possibility. A future. I would look back on that meeting for years to come. When the way seemed too dark and too hard to navigate, I would think of her and remind myself, “People survive this.”


 

And so I hung up the phone with my friend and made plans to attend the wake, if only for a few minutes. Because this girl needed to see me. She needed to know what I already knew. There are those who have gone before us to pave the way and report back about giants in the land and roadblocks in the way. About the cracks where the light will shine through and the spaces where it is so dark you cannot see. But that there is a way through. That there is hope. And this is why we tell our stories.

What is it in your life? What part of your journey does another weary and wandering traveler need to hear? Have you run a marathon? Lost the last ten pounds? Finished your college education? Started your own business? Found freedom from an addiction? Learned to live with a chronic illness? Every single one of us has something we have made it through— and the proof is that we’re still here.

There’s healing in the telling and there’s hope in the listening. Tell your story. Because someone needs to hear it.

 

 

 

Another Round of “What Not to Say to Your Struggling Friend”

e4fdff0a1508f0c5e69dcbc04de02a21But wait! There’s more! In my aggravated haste, I missed some of the BIGGEST offending phrases! BIG as in WAY too awful to be left out! If you missed the first list, check it out here. And listen, we’ve all been guilty of being in a tender spot with a struggling friend and not known what to say– myself included– but there are still some things better left unsaid.

So  please…Join me for another round of “What Not to Say to Your Struggling Friend!”

God has a better plan

Sighhhh. Of course He does. That would be just like him, wouldn’t it? How sweet. And maybe next week or next month, or next year, I will see that and find peace in that. But today, right now, I wanted THIS plan. MY plan. And I’m sad and disappointed that my plan did not work out.

God must have something really special in store for you

I am totally calling bullshit on this one. I have heard this line for 20 years. Maybe He does, maybe He doesn’t.  Because maybe–just maybe–this is just how life goes. Sometimes, really crappy things just happen. And the only reward for living through it is…living through it. (Which, you know, IS a big deal, but still…)

Don’t Cry

Don’t tell me what to do. K. Thanks. Because I am crying. And when you say “Don’t cry”, now I feel like I have to fake my behavior because you’re uncomfortable. People cry. We all survive. Trust me. I would’ve drowned by now.

Someday this will all make sense

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Today, it doesn’t. Today it sucks. Can we please just acknowledge the suck of today?

And finally…(but certainly still NOT a conclusive round-up!)

Things could be worse

SIGH……(I’m yelling now) WELL OF COURSE THEY COULD BE WORSE! Let’s now list all of the ways things could be worse. I don’t even know where to start. It’s long and involved and ranging from the house burning down to starving children in Africa. The only way you can use this phrase– THE ONLY WAY– is if you look at your very, very close friend and say it JUST LIKE THIS, “Shit could be worse. I mean, you could have bad hair. Or ugly feet. Or no style. On top of everything else you’re going through.” And then, after that, buy her a beer. Because you both know you’re kidding. Period.

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{A perfect example of what NOT to say to your friend.}

I loved hearing YOUR input on the first list! If you’ve got more, lemme have ’em!

And I promise– A list of helpful, validating, gentle things to say is on its way…

 

 

5 Things You Should Not Tell Your Struggling Friend

images-151. Cheer Up

Really? Cheer up? Thanks. Because I never thought of just “cheering up”.

2. You shouldn’t feel that way

That’s so weird. Because I DO. So. One of us is wrong. Feelings are NOT wrong or right. They just are. It’s what we do with them and what actions they illicit or inspire that give them dynamics. You are allowed to feel what you feel. You have wide and varied reasons for feeling what you feel. You do not need to defend them or explain them. Period.

3. Here’s what you should do…

Big. Heavy. Sigh. Thanks. I know you mean well. Really. But your suggestions for fixing my life are unsolicited and not helpful. And, whether or not I’ve already considered your solution, it’s usually not that simple. And if you’re a Christian and you proceed to tell me what the Bible says when I am smack in the middle of my pain and my process…Lose my number. There might be a delicate time and place for that– this is not it.

4. You think THAT’S bad….

I know. I KNOW what you went through. I get it. I get that your situation is/was/will be ten times worse than mine. But pain is relative. Your pain doesn’t make mine better or worse and vice versa. Pain is pain. And it hurts.

5. I thought you were over this.

Great. Now I’m not even struggling right. My timing’s all off. Well I’m not over it.  And I wish I was more than YOU wish I was.  Sooooo….when I get over it, I guess that’s when we can be friends. If you don’t hear your phone ringing, that will be me. Not calling.

Believe it or not, I’m smiling as I type this. There’s no resting bitch face, there’s no animosity or bitterness regardless of how snarky I sound. (Um. Okay. Maybe just a teeny bit. Working on that…) I have been guilty of ALL of these and I hate myself for it– but I’m human. We all are. It’s just that I know so many people struggling right now who just get railroaded and corrected and shamed for their personal process of grief and recovery. Which is kinda like pouring salt in the wound. It hurts.

What would YOU add to this list?

Next Up: 5 Helpful Things to Tell a Struggling Friend

 

The Fault in Our Stars and Everything That’s Right With my Heart

I’m right in the middle of reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it is achingly beautiful and tragic and painful and funny and everything in between. Every single time I pick up this damn book there is a lump in my throat and tears well in my eyes. It undoes me. It presses a bruise inside my heart. But like a million books before this one, I wallow in it and I drink it in like a person who is dying of thirst because somehow the pain resonates. I keep reading and I almost weirdly enjoy that emotional tidal wave that threatens. This morning as I snuck in another 10 minutes of reading with my coffee and pumpernickel toast and egg whites, I had the most personally profound thought: All of these tears–these frequent tears– these tears that so closely associate with pain and loss and heartbreak–do not mean I’m broken, as I have always suspected. As I have been led to believe. As I have been told. And that I have been ashamed of. They mean I’m human. And I feel. And I have a big, warm, sometimes complicated heart . And this is not a fault. It is actually quite a beautiful thing.

Like the rest of the human race, I have known tragedy. I have known heartbreak and heartache. I have known my own personal suffering and therefore tears come easily. But I have long said to myself, and more so recently, that this was some sort of indication of my brokenness. A defect of sorts. And I have been told this, as well. And while there may be some partial truth to this- that there are broken parts of me, isn’t this also the human condition? I don’t believe this makes me unique or special in any way–but I have now come to realize-neither does it make me defective.

And in fact, could it perhaps actually be a gift? Not like in a cliche way that makes you want to slap someone who refers to suffering as gift– but could this fragile, tender-to-the-touch heart of mine be a gift for myself and the people whose paths I cross, instead of a burden to bear? Because it means when I say I feel your pain, I really do. Because sometimes I can’t help cry when a friend is crying. Because compassion and kindness and empathy are important-and it hurts when they’re not extended generously and often and without judgement or measure.

And though I do feel life deeply and cry easily, I also laugh easily. And a lot. And did I say easily and a lot? Despite the fact that one of my favorite things to do is be by myself with a book that is undoing my heart and mind (I know, I know…I sound like a real party in a box), I’m actually a truly happy and optimistic person. Is it possible that the heartache makes the happiness easier to recognize and perhaps that much sweeter? “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” (John Chbosky) But I do know this: I’m okay with it.

Life Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to Still be Wonderful

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to still be wonderful. Woah. I don’t know where I saw this quote, but it’s having a big impact on me. Huge. Because I want life to be perfect. I’m pretty sure everybody does. But we all know it’s so not. Even on really, really good days it’s so not perfect. And sometimes when its not perfect, it can feel like its not good at all. That because of those things that continually scratch up the picture, the whole thing is a toss. And when I read this quote I am reminded of just how untrue that is.
At the risk of sounding cliche, I know that I have so much to be thankful and grateful for. So much more than I deserve. So much more than so many others. But there are still things that I wish were different. There are still things in life that I can’t change, that make it unperfect- and that just bugs me. And when I say “perfect”, I’m not talking about a bigger house or a better this or a better that- thinner, richer, blah, blah, blah. I’m talking about those things in our lives that we just wish weren’t so. Or were different. Or had happened. Or never happened. There are aches in my heart over parts of life that I have no control over. And no control is a very hard place to be.
Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m a Jesus-girl. (If you don’t know me, I’m a Jesus-girl) So I’m not talking about having no hope. I mean really, hope is all I have, with my biggest hope being that this earth and this life are not the end- that heaven is a real place with no more sorrow and no more tears. But this side of heaven, there is life. And life is so not perfect. There is a lot of joy and a lot of sorrow. A lot of ups and a lot of downs too. But I want to embrace it all as parts of a whole that is still really good. And I want to fully understand that it doesn’t have to be perfect to still be wonderful. Because some day, in heaven, it will be perfect. And that will be wonderful too.