31 Days of Making Room: For Women

October 3, 2013 by 5 Comments

31 Days 2013

Three and a half years ago, I walked out of the last Women’s Bible Study that I attended with any regularity.

Actually, I fled.

I’d been attending for a while, a year or two, and I loved it. But that Thursday morning, it suddenly felt very unsafe. One week prior, crisis hit when our senior pastor took his own life. A man who loved well, and was well-loved… my heart still revolts at the reality of it all.

That morning, waves of shock were still washing over me and I was feeling raw. I thought Bible Study was exactly where I needed to be, with others who were busted wide open too. But broken hearts don’t always behave, do they? I sat and listened while women, every bit as shocked and confused as I was, grasped at straws, looking for a reason why.

It’s a normal reaction.

It’s a coping mechanism.

But it wasn’t my coping mechanism or reaction. And so, when speculation waded into waters that gave a backseat to the profound mental illness he had endured, I bristled. I more than bristled. I burst into flames. And I ran. I willed my legs to slow down, but they absolutely would not. One woman hurried after me, stumbling through an apology for careless words, but I couldn’t hear her. My feet pounded the parking lot pavement, and all I could hear was, “He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”

I’d wanted a spot to pray for his wife and kids. I’d wanted a place to beg for peace. I’d wanted to speak of how hard he fought. Mercy.

I didn’t go back. Nobody ever seemed to notice, and I was glad because I didn’t want to explain myself. I didn’t want to put anyone in the awkward spot of trying to talk through what happened that day. But if I’m honest, I also wanted to be mad. I wanted to write them off as unloving gossips.

I wanted to throw my own grief all over them and call it righteous anger. 

Three and a half years have both flown and stalled. It still seems unreal that such a man fought and lost. Distance and growing up a little bit have taught me that in the wake of suicide, everyone is a as much of a mess as you’d expect them to be. Grief coupled with confusion is a recipe for hard hearts and thoughtless words. We’re all trying to turn back the clock a little, to find a way it could’ve been untrue in the end.

But it doesn’t work that way. That messy, bottom of the pit spot where we all flounder for a good long while, it’s a breeding ground for even more hurt, even more mess. When pieces begin to be put back together, you find that a whole lot of trust has gone missing. And that rebuilding that trust might take even longer than healing from the initial wound.

So, I’ve stayed away. Despite my newfound grace for us all on that Thursday morning, I couldn’t will myself to walk back in, but not without regret. I’ve missed hearing from women. I’ve missed the clarity that studying together brings. I’ve missed the respite in the middle of my busy weeks. But I couldn’t create trust out of thin air and I was too scared to relive it all, either in reality or in my memories.

So God gave me one woman. Just one. One that wasn’t there that day, though she was a member of our church at the time. She attends a Women’s bible Study across town. When she asked me if I’d like to go, I sputtered and spit. She sent me a text a few weeks later letting me know that registration was open. Before I could even process, I jumped online and filled it out. I started back two weeks ago.

It’s a step.

I’m in a small group, about the same size as the one that I sat in 3 1/2 years ago. They’re a lovely, honest group. We sing together, and I clench my fists, because I’m feeling it. I’m feeling what it’s like to be in a room with women, with all our stories and baggage, with our own questions and coping mechanisms, with our big, beautiful hearts that are pounding as the guitar strums and hands are raised and songs are cried or whispered. I’m feeling what it means to stand there while tears fall down my face and everyone can see that I’m not okay. But I hear the sniffles around me, and I suspect there are others who aren’t okay either.

But we’re here, trying to get well.

31 Days of Making Room: For Failure (alternative title: On training to run a 5k)

October 2, 2013 by 1 Comment

31 Days 2013

A few months ago, Brandon and I began to talk seriously about our health, our lack of fitness, our diet. Like a lot of people, we turned 30 and realized that it really is  about diet and exercise. It does actually take more than just a week of laying off the fast food to drop a few pounds. It does in fact, require “lifestyle change”. Now, in my defense, for the last seven years I’ve been nursing or pregnant pretty much continuously. Things like grocery shopping, exercise, and meal planning were not high on my list between the all-day sickness, the bed rest, the nursing on demand, the children in my bed every night. They just weren’t. And my husband, because he’s smart and kind, sweetly drove through Taco Bell or McDonald’s as often as I asked.

But, it’s no fun to feel tired all the time, to cry in dressing rooms, and to worry that you won’t see your grandkids some day because you chose a burger over a salad for a couple of decades. We love our kids, and we want them to be healthy. We want to model good choices, and we want to feel good enough to give them an adventurous and active childhood.

This has all been a lead up to say that I started running. To fully appreciate this, you should know I haven’t run a mile since high school, and back then I didn’t really run so much as took advantage of the 15 minutes of uninterrupted gab time with my girlfriends as we meandered around the track. So, this is a big deal. A little gym opened up two minutes from our doorstep, and the price of ten bucks a month was too serendipitous to ignore.

Of course, the first few times on the treadmill were horrendous. I thought I might die, right there and people would comment on the irony of it all. But, it got a little better pretty quickly. I found that I actually liked rising when it was still cool outside, and a little bit dark. It was quiet. So quiet. A huge bonus is that at that early hour, my gym is filled with little old ladies and me. It’s lovely. I feel like an athlete as they power walk and chat with each other in their keds and sweats. There I am, little running shorts, sports bra, tank, real running shoes, and headphones in my ears, running for well over half the time I’m on the treadmill. It might be all in my head, but it’s a boost of confidence to be the fastest one in the room.

It was going really well. And then I opened my big mouth. I called my sister (who ran cross country, is 8 months postpartum and looks like she never had a baby, has a fancy jogging stroller, which she actually uses for its intended purpose) and my sister-in-law (who had some pretty major surgery not too long ago on her LUNGS, and is back to running miles and miles and miles and miles….) and asked them to run a 5k with me.  They said yes, not because they were looking for a challenge, but because that’s a nice light workout for them on a Saturday morning, something they’d do for fun anyway, and they’re nice girls who don’t want to discourage me. Around the same time, my boys started school for the first time. I began living in my minivan. I drive 3 times a day most days and some how my days just filled themselves right up, with errands and favors, and “while I’m out” moments. And it seemed like by the end of the day, I fell into bed. Setting my alarm for an hour earlier suddenly felt like too much to ask, so I didn’t. Instead, I’d squeeze in a run here and there, at the end of the day, on the weekends. Meanwhile, I was up to 2 miles (with LOTS of walking), but not getting any further.

The 5k is in one month. I am nowhere near ready. Usually, it’s at this point that I give up. I admit that I didn’t get my act together and I didn’t do the work. But, I thought about it this morning at 5:30 AM. I realized yes, I can only run two miles right now. But I still have a month. And 6 AM comes every day, and usually I don’t have much going on at that time. So I really can make room for a run. Yes, I’ll have to give up that extra hour of dreading the start of the day, of checking the clock on my phone every few minutes, of feeling guilty for not getting up earlier. But I think I should make the sacrifice.

So, I got up and went to the gym. I was greeted by the sight of the older women in their usual spot and I hopped on the treadmill. It wasn’t a great run. I was slower than I was more than a week ago. I got dizzy and nauseous half way through, but I finished the run and headed home. The house was still quiet as I stepped in the shower. By the time I emerged from the bathroom, clad in my bathrobe and dripping wet hair, all the boys were up and looking for their breakfast. We went through our usual morning nonsense, complete with me hollering and them ignoring, and as I grabbed my keys to head out the door, I realized we had 25 minutes before we needed to leave the house.

This never happens.

And so I settled in with a cup of coffee, and they pulled out their legos. I worked on some Bible Study homework, and they played. Together. We all relaxed and soaked in the time we’d been given. And then, in my nicest Mommy Voice, I said, “Alright boys, let’s head out.” Grabbing their back packs, they walked to the car. No stress, no hurrying so we’re not late, no seething mommy.  My little act of will made room for a morning of calm, a gift in the middle of a school and work week.

I am terribly nervous that in a month I’ll step out on that race course and be completely humiliated. I’m scared that after ten minutes I’ll have to stop for water or tell the girls to go ahead, that I’ll see them at the finish line. I’m worried I won’t be able to finish. Or that I’ll be last. But, maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe I’ll finish. Maybe I’ll run more than I walk. Maybe my kids won’t notice if I’m the slowest one in the bunch. Maybe my husband will be proud of me, even if I barely make it across that finish line. Even if I don’t. Maybe I’ll have set a goal and either met it or not, but will have gone forward either way.

Part of this is sheer stubbornness. But part of it is that I’m fighting tooth and nail to do things differently, to make some room for things that I always thought were selfish or silly or for other people. If that means I have to clear some space for the possibility of failure, well, maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s just part of this new life.

31 Days of Making Room

October 2, 2013 by 7 Comments

31 Days 2013

I’m pushing back the walls I so painstakingly built. In fact, a few of them have to go completely, I’m in demolition mode. It’s time to make some room, to put a little muscle behind it all and clear out the things that just aren’t working, give space to the things that make my heart sing and my family thrive.

Last school year, I was a home schooling mom. In some ways, it was a magical year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. In addition to having a front row seat to my oldest son learning to read and fall in love with all things scientific, it was exactly what he needed. He wasn’t ready for a classroom, in the proper sense, and I’m glad we did it. But I’m also glad we stayed open to our options, agreeing to evaluate each kid, each year on their own. Because this year, the perfect little school fell right into our laps. And my two oldest boys are off on their school adventure for mos tof the day. And I’ve found myself backing away from the edge I’ve been living on. Instead of cramming all the things and errands into one day, I’m sprinkling them all throughout the week. And most of the time, I’m only carting 1 to 2 little boys with me, which is ten kinds of easier than 4 boys tagging along through the aisles of Target or Costco or crammed into the exam room at someone’s well-child visit.  It’s been an adjustment for all of us, but we’re all thriving. My boys are making friends and learning things in ways I couldn’t have provided for them. I have to admit, it’s a bit of a blow to my pride to admit that I couldn’t do the home schooling thing as well as I wanted to. I loved the idea of it, but in reality, it took more than it gave, to all of us.

I guess admitting homeschooling isn’t the awesome match for our family I so wanted it to be, well, it’s sort of a microcosm of my life. I’m learning to let go of things I’ve always said I’d do, or always thought I was, or always fought to keep. Not everything, certainly. But letting go of some things in order to bring other things and people in, is making me and my family smile a lot more.

And the reality is, I’m not sinking anymore.

But, not sinking isn’t the same as swimming, now is it? Treading water is great in the realm of survival, but I’m ready to move.

So, I’m linking up with The Nester’s 2013: 31 Days : Personal Endeavors  and I’ll be focusing on 31 Days of Making Room. There are some obvious places in my life that need clearing, and there are a few things that I hope will find themselves among the more regular parts of my life. But I have a feeling there are also things that are going to sneak up on me, hopping up and down for my attention. In that way, I guess I’m also doing 31 Days of paying attention for what needs a spot in my life, a seat at my table.

And, we’re off…

Day 1: Making Room: For Failure (alternative title: On training for a 5k)

Day 2: Making Room: For Women

Day 3: Making Room: For Five Minute Friday

Day 4: Making Room: For a Clean Face

On Breathing

September 26, 2013 by No Comments

*Resurrecting this piece from a year ago. It’s that fall time again, but I’m finding it easier to breathe this year. If you aren’t, know that seasons of life change a little more slowly than the seasons of the year, but they do change. Have a bit of hope.*

I hold it to my lips and I dispense the aerosol into my mouth. I hold my breath. I release. I was more comfortable holding my breath. Autumn brings with it a need for inhalers and zyrtec and I’m pretty much completely at home struggling to inhale. I have an inhaler in my purse and one by my bed, and I play mind games like, “maybe this time I’ll take a puff and I won’t have to think about breathing the rest of the day.” When 3 AM comes with my 6-year-old son hacking up a lung, I am comfortable, I know this. My husband, he just gets frustrated. But I just feel solidarity and sadness. I know what it’s like to struggle to breathe when all you want to do is rest.

The weather is changing. It’s still far too warm for this coastal body of mine, but the evenings are luscious. Facebook is afire with friends eating dinner on the front lawn or daddies and children taking bike rides and I’m staring into my fridge wondering what on earth I can whip up in twenty minutes. I’m staring at the two hours before the bedtime struggle. I’m dreading the dishes. I’m wondering if the trodding will ever be stepping lightly through the day, savoring the moments. Will I ever just relax?

I get minutes here and there. Minutes where my 18 month old, straight from the bath turn his head just so and I see his silky fine curls as the greatest miracle of my day. Times when the hug of a 4 year old fills my heart and throat and lungs and seeps out all around me. Moments where the call for “Mommy” from my intense 3-year-old is neither screamy or whiney and instead I feel called, truly called and anointed for that very moment. And so very blessed.

In those minutes, exhaling comes out in starts and I am reminded of all that is so, so good in my life.

But other times, the struggle to breathe, it angers me. It sets my eyes flashing and lips in a straight line. I’m ten again, holding my breath while I listen on the phone to my parents fighting and fighting and fighting. I’m laying the receiver back in the cradle softly and resuming the position of a little girl who is sound asleep as my mom peeks through the door.  I hear her exhale.

Anxiety overwhelms my boy and I watch his shoulders scrunch and I hear the sharp intake of breath. Tears falls down his face, “I… can’t…. breathe.” I grab his hands and we do it together. One slow breath in, we blow it out. Again. Over and over again, until the shoulders ease and I am sure that I am doing one thing right.

Teaching them to breathe.

On beauty and a buying it anyway

July 29, 2013 by No Comments

My husband disappeared with the children for a few hours yesterday. Our house had reached a level of filth that I could no longer ignore, and any mother knows that cleaning with children under foot is really just an exercise in frustration. We’ve found the most efficient way to deal with that level of mess is to get the kids out of dodge, which usually entails Brandon driving them around for a few hours while I race through the disaster. They’ve perused most of the valley we live in, the foothills, the various freeways, and the Old Town nearby. Each time they drive off, I close the door behind them and freeze. I just pause time for a minute. I breathe in deeply, listening to… nothing. It’s glorious.

Then I get to work.

fly through the housework. I pile dirty clothes in one spot, throw shoes in the direction of the bedrooms, storm through the house with a garbage bag. My computer follows me around blaring whatever tunes I’ve determined will provide the greatest motivation. I dust, mop, vacuum, make beds, straighten my desk. I fill my sink with hot water and pine sol, so even if I miss a spot or two, the house smells clean.

After Brandon loaded up the boys yesterday, I climbed into his commuter car and took myself to the grocery store because I was out of pine sol and bread. I walked down the aisle of cleaning supplies and found the pine sol. I chose “Smell of Clean” rather than the “Lemon Fresh” I usually select. As I put the two bottles of blue pine sol into my cart, I peered down the rest of the aisle. Confession: I really like cleaning supplies. Shopping for cleaning supplies and school supplies alike fill my heart with a certain sense of glee. The budget is usually too tight to purchase anything but the basics, but it never hurts to look. Fairly immediately I zeroed in on the shelves of candles. There was a time that I always had a candle burning in my house. My favorite used to be Black Cherry by Yankee Candles. But, as I referenced above, the budget has grown tighter over the years, and so I have done away with the $20 jar candles and instead just tried to keep the house smelling fresh and clean with my trusty pine sol.

But something in me rebelled a little bit yesterday. We’re 4 days from Pay Day, which means we’re holding our breath a bit right now… but I wanted a candle. More than just wanting it, I felt compelled to stand there in that aisle, remove the lids from each candle, and sniff with the full intention of purchasing whichever one struck my fancy. I didn’t attempt to be practical about it. I didn’t look at the price tags, I didn’t buy the smallest one so I could get my fix and still be economical, I didn’t try to figure out which scent every member of my family would enjoy most. I didn’t even wonder which scent would please me day after day, for the long haul. I just took a big whiff and bought the one that I liked best right then, in that moment.

Because I need beauty in my life.

I finally said those words out loud recently, and was met with a questioning stare. And I knew in that moment that my words were deeply true. I need beauty in my life. I’ve always needed it and my attempts to pretend otherwise have left me feeling slightly depleted and standing in a grocery store aisle sniffing candles and feeling like a renegade. It’s sad, really. The person that I shared this truth with, didn’t quite know what I meant and I tried to describe it. But I don’t think I can, not accurately. Surprisingly enough, her confusion only solidified my knowledge that yes, I need beauty in my life. Most people appreciate beauty. They take in a sunset, they smell the ocean air, they gaze at the star-filled mountain sky. And they enjoy it.

But it’s always been just a bit more than a recreational enjoyment for me. It’s been a giant exhale. A moment of remembering that this world is one possibility after another, one heart-gripping moment of beauty penetrating the mundane, exhausting, painful realities that cloud so many minutes.

I raced home and before I unpacked the car (because you know I bought more than the two things I went for…. about five grocery bags more), I lit that candle. As the scent made its way from its wick to my senses, I took a breath in and then I exhaled.

My home seemed a little more beautiful.

A few hours later, Brandon and our boys tumbled through the door. My 5-year old perked up his little nose and sniffed.

“Mommy, it smells so… pretty in here.” He gave me a content smile and blew out a deep breath.