Taking A Sad Day

I wonder who first crafted the beautiful word “brokenhearted”?

They must have been scrabbling for purchase, for some language to sink their fingers into. They must have been struggling to capture that shattered, aching, empty, heavy, dismal desperation… They must have whispered “broken” because it can’t be right. And whispered “heart” because it seems that the very true core of all things is cold to the touch.

And when they first spoke the word… what then?

Did the feeling yield in their chests. A gentle “ah ha” breathed out like relief? Or did it grow thicker? A quiet desperation. Does a broken heart mend? I like to think that speaking it’s name let it come out of the shadows and into the light of healing.

Today I can do only one small thing: Give up.
It’s my own whispered word into the everywhere. Give. Because my hands are too tired to hold anything any more. Up. Because I’m falling down. And everything is carrying on without me. And here I am.

Giving up. That’s a thing. A real thing. A hard thing. Giving up all the scrambling for meaning. All the weary reaching for joy. All the clinging to hope floats in a stormy sea of “I didn’t sign up for this.” We can give it up.

We don’t talk about this like it’s an option. But it is.

Why does it always have to be “Lean in” and “Give it a good hustle”?
Maybe sometimes it’s not. Maybe sometimes it’s “Let go” and “Lie down.”

Goodbye desperate white knuckles. Goodbye peppy and upbeat.

Don’t we just upbeat ourselves to death sometimes?

I am opening the door and invite it all in. All the sadness that has been beating on the windows. All the weariness that has been prying at the cracks in my armor while I smiled and did the life things. While I braved. While I stronged so well. Come in, Sad. I’m making space.

I’ve given a day to my big son and a day to my small son. I’ve given a day to my friends, my husband, my church. Not in that order. I’ve given a day to my work, my hobbies, my mom, my dreams, my sisters, my grocery list, my house keeping, my city. I’ve given a day to the ducks in the pond and a day to Target and Halloween and Ikea and books. I’ve given a day to my body. A day to my mind. I’m deciding right now… I can give a day to you too. Sadness, you’ve been with me for all the years. You’re an old friend. I can give you your time.

Broken heart. Crawling skin. Strained nerves. Limping bravery.

You are all meaningful parts of this Whole Person.

Let’s be honest: You’re the ugly step sister. But you have a place at this table. You have work to do too. You have things to teach me. I can make the time.

Today is a sad, sad day. It’s not going to be a resolution day. It’s not going to be a rise above day. It’s not going to be a best self or boot straps or battle onward day. It’s going to be a sad day. Anything else would be a lie. I need a second to make the “time out” sign. I need a second to say, “Enough.”

As mothers, we spend so much time binding up the broken hearted. Then we try to bring our best and brightest Me to our community. We try to not give our husbands the ass end of us. We are always putting the best foot forward, while the poor worst foot is getting more and more wounded from carrying all the weight while the best foot shows off.

I’m calling a “Worst Foot” day. My Worst Foot needs some time and space to heal. My Worst Foot needs to stare out the window in desperation and burst into tears in the bathroom, then crawl in bed for a two hour nap while the kids watch “Animal-Mechanicals” or some shit.

When you’re depressive, it’s a scary thing to open the door to sadness. You don’t know how long it will stay. Will it come in for an hour and then move on, the way it should. Or is this the beginning of a two year struggle to breathe?

I’m just going to take a small step of faith.

I’m going to believe that Sad doesn’t need to stay. It just needs to visit. It needs to touch base and make sure I’m taking care of me. Then it will fade gently away. I will be left here. More quiet. More honest. Less like too little butter spread thin over toast. More ample. Because I said yes and made space even for the ugly step sister side of my Whole Self.

If you need a sad day, take a sad day. That’s all.

“The law is for the proud and the Gospel is for the broken hearted.” – Martin Luther

Advertisements

Thanking the Gifts of Tiredness

I think I put too much pressure on coffee. And candles. And seasonal change. To heal all the wrongs of this mamma life. To season the injustice of short naps, bind up the brokenness of breakfast mess, and cover over a multitude of ‘tudes before lunch time.

Each dark morning, when my ears are assaulted by the “moooooomma” battle cry, my hope lies with the coffee pot! It can restore life to these dry bones! Hallelujah.

I prepare it like a holy ritual.

Before I drink it, there is only grace.

Aches? Coffee heals all ills.
Disorder? First the coffee, then the problems.
War zone? But I will soon be held in the warm embrace of a hand made mug of black liquid… and it loves me. It doesn’t shout. It is constant and predictable.

I am morning-sad by nature. Especially if it’s still dark outside when I open my eyes. Which it usually is in the winter. “But there is coffee to look forward to,” I tenderly tell myself to coax cozy feet toward cold floor.

And then after the first cup, I’m usually disappointed.
After the second, I’m impatient.
It’s less glamorous than I told myself it would be.

So I light the candles. They help. But they don’t do the dishes.

I open the windows to Fall. The crisp air-kisses sooth all my curmudgeon-y places. But it doesn’t fill the oatmeal bowls, mop up the spilled milk, or answer the 20 million questions about nothingness.

And I’m still tired. In a deeper-than-caffine kind of way.

And it occurs to me that maybe the big lesson here is that our tired places don’t really need healing? That they’re healing us, instead. That this dull imperfection, this mundane and mind-numbing place, is not to be remedied, but to provide some deep and profound remedy to my own soul.

Is it possible that our tired places are whispering, “Stop chasing paradise, precious dreamer.” Inviting us to lower our eyes from distant horizons where all is productive, peaceful, and perfect. To look at the horizons in our hands. To find beauty in raisins, instant oatmeal, and Almond milk.

I think I put too much pressure on each day. To yield not only safety and sustenance, but deep satisfaction, profound spirituality… not to mention serendipity, sex, and surprises.

I think I need to lower my standards.
I think I need to talk with Tired instead of always doing battle with it.

Maybe it’s not right to say we’re lowering our standards?
Maybe we’re raising our thankfulnessability?
Maybe it’s not right to say we’re settling for less? I like to think we’re settling in to more.
It’s definitely not right to think we’re letting ourselves down. Oh dear ones. Not at all. I really don’t think we are. Let’s let the mamma guilt go. We are leaning into loving the right now. And then we’re forgetting to lean in… and then we’re remembering and forgiving ourselves and leaning in all over again.

Thank you coffee… for being enough, but not magic. For walking with me through the valley of the shadow of Matchbox Cars and Potty Training… but for not being so awesome that I skip over the silly little engine noises they make with their mouths… and the funny little faces they make when they’re concentrating so hard on poop.

Candles… remind me with your bright little spots in the chaos, that there is Spirit Stuff everywhere and eleventy-zillion precious moments to notice.

Fall… Take my children’s crazy outside, for the love of all that is holy, because Hand To Heaven my sanity is thin today. Thanks. You’re a good friend.

Today, I surrender Paradise. Even Paradise in a mug. I surrender Perfection, with all it’s pressures. I take Tired. I accept it for what it is. Tired with more Thankfulnessability.

Are Your Mean Voices Winning?

Can I tell you what happens EVERY time I try to write something?
Every. Single. Durn. Time.

The mean voices. The mean voices start up in my head and say nasty, nasty things to me.

– No one cares!!! Would you jeeest HESH?!
– You’re too over the top. Drama maaaama!
– You’re too late! We have Glennon and Jen for this.
– You have, um, lemme count, ZERO qualifications.
– You’re too bland to be meaningful.
– You’re too weird to be relatable.
– You don’t write well enough. Why is there a pen in your hand? Could you just go… bake something? Be a good wife and mother, please.

The mean voices in my head also remind me that if I spent less time pretending to be a writer and more time in the gym maybe I wouldn’t look like I ate lard. (Not buckets of lard, mind you. Just, you know, lard in moderation. Lard on the weekends. And holidays.)

My mean voices like words like “pudgy”, “failure”, “wasted life”, “lousy mom”, “trite”, “fraud”, and “embarrassment”.

They’re dangerous because the mean voices sound an awful lot like ME.
My sensible voice.
My grown up voice.
My big girl pants. As if I’m seeing myself with the veil of confusion and silliness pulled back! The truth! Laid bare! TA DA! Oh there I am. Worthy of no things. Except maybe shunning. And death by lard.

Every. Time.

To be honest, the mean voices have been winning.

Yep. They have. I have let them be louder than my love. More dominant than my desires. Pushier than my push. More convincing than my courage. I have been a quitter.

I have quit more things than you can even imagine. I have boxes full of three-ring binders full of folders, full of notebooks full of projects I have quit.
I have computer files full of computers files full of computer files of stories without endings and essays without books.
And I don’t just quit work! Oh  no. I do not discriminate!
I have quit churches, friendships, clubs, jobs, and diets.
I have quit hard things for being too hard and easy things for being too easy.
I quit gluten and then quit quitting gluten because I’m not a psychopath and bread is delicious. Amen?

I’m tempted to quit THIS ESSAY because it’s starting to sound like some sick pseudo humble brag thang. Darn you, Mean Voices.

Here’s the true thing: The Mean Voices aren’t liars. Nope. Sometimes they tell the truth. But they never tell the whole truth. They’re not lying, but they’re not honest. They always forget to mention the thing that matters most… (and I’m 100% sure they forgot to mention it to you as well, so here it is… take this to the bank)…

Here I am.

Starting again.

Here you are. There you are! Yes indeed. I see you. Rising up. Reengaging. Reaching for it.

Here I am. Standing on a mountain of try and quit, try and fail, try and shrug… and instead of saying, “I accept my own defeat” I’m saying, “Let’s call it a practice round. Or 700?”

I quit many things that I start.
BUT I never quit starting again.

cslewis_courage

Here I am! There you are! Here we are! Like a morning glory flower that spits out blooms in the first soft rays of dawn… and then shrivels before lunch time. A short simple little sputter of uncertain beauty. But there it is again each morning. New. Brave. There it is again, by golly. It will never quit putting its small bloom into a scorching earth until it dies. And somehow… somehow… in some small way, on some small fence, in the back 40 acres of some old cow pasture… that morning glory adds its beauty to the world.

What do you keep bringing and bobbling and bringing again?
Loving and leaving and loving again? No matter how small? No matter how silly? No matter how scorched, by your mean voices or theirs?

There’s something really magical there.

Lean in… look into my eyes… listen close… I want you to hold on to that.
That treasure. That gift that only you have in your hands. Hold it close. Don’t give up. It’s not yours by accident. And there’s just nothing the mean voices can do about that!

How to Pray in a Hurricane

PART ONE: In which I remember that I’m ridiculous

Anxiety has been rising.

It looks calm on the top. I’m not worried! What do I have to be worried about? It’s just stuff! I have my people! It looks like cheerfully going about my work with extra energy. It looks like no appetite. Then it looks like snacking. It looks like indigestion. Where are the Tums in this wonderful house we have evacuated to? But when it starts to look like snapping at your people… that’s when I know. My cup is full of anxiety. Bump this full and boiling cauldron at your own risk.

A few days ago My People were giving me one of THOSE mornings. My head was full of the song, “You are my strong tower. Shelter when I’m weak.” I was singing it… but I was short tempered as HAIL. I was singing, “You are my Shelter when the storms are beating the stink out of me” but I was standing in the middle of the emotional hurricane with my fists balled and my teeth gritted. Suddenly, with my hands in the pile of spilled coffee grounds and my shirt smelling vaguely of baby sick, I thought… It’s not enough to say, “You are my strong tower” if I don’t turn myself over to the safety of it. It’s not enough to say, “You’re my shelter” if I don’t take refuge.

A_STORM.jpg

There in the middle of crazy I remembered that He looks at me with loving eyes, He is a calm space. Immovable. Kind. He is trustworthy. No tragedy has ever overwhelmed me before. Every wound has been a blessing before. He knows my anxiety cup is full and he says, without a shred of condemnation, “Let’s let some of that go, sista. Let a smile spread over your face. Be still. Breathe in thankfulness, relaxing your body. Breathe out fear. KNOW that I am God.”

A little lift. That’s all it takes. A little wing spreading and you rise above. A little opening of the heart and light floods in. A little raising of the eyes and peace covers the heart. A little obedience to stop thrashing around in the storm, come into the full presence of his gaze and say, “This. And this. And this. And that. All these are my worries. My angers. My grief. My fear. And I know that you see them. And I know that you hold them. And I know you never leave. And I know I am loved. And I can let your Love Light flood me… no matter what.”

So here I am… mere days later… a real hurricane is barreling toward me, my people, my stuff, my city. Am I obedient to this sweet submission to love? Am I leaning into the presence of God?

Oh no, my friends I am not!

I am leaning into the coffee and the Ibuprofen for my stress headache.
I am leaning into the Facebook for the updates about my people.
I am leaning into the random busy-ness to keep my mind off the thing that’s palpating in my chest.
I am leaning into the feeling, “You haven’t done enough for me” instead of the feeling, “I’m vulnerable and lashing out at innocent bystanders.”
I am leaning into WORK (like I do)… Good work. I’m writing a Bible study… But I am not leaning into prayer.

Trying to control the wind instead of taking shelter.

Let my soul take shelter. Oh let my soul take shelter. There is shelter! There it is! It is always sweet. It never fails. It has been my solace in so many storms before. Remind me! Remind me again, my own soul, how good it is to take shelter in the warm heart of Love.

 

PART TWO: In which I begin to pray… and remember what matters…

Last night around midnight I remembered that I was standing right next to Shelter. I turned myself in to it. I remembered Faithfulness. I felt the soothing kiss of Father. And then I started to list all my fears. All of them! And I mean every little one.

Jesus, remember those pillows… the ones I sewed out of the fabric I bought from a bazaar in the Tanzanian bush? Yeah. Those are super special to me. They embody a zillion memories. Could you protect my pillows?

Jesus, remember that photograph my husband gave to me at our wedding… of Prague… Imma need that picture to be kosher when I get back. Cause it matters.

Jesus… I have a star fish and a potted plant on my window sill… I’m sure my husband didn’t put them somewhere safe. Forgive him Lord. And, I’m surrendering those two things to you. The star fish and the potted plant. They can go. Put protect the pillows O Lord.

And my magnolia tree!! You can take the oak by the road, but leave me my magnolia tree!

Ready for the Ah Ha moment?

Oh… and Joe and Priscilla. They don’t have anywhere else to go. Please keep their house safe.

Oh… and Willy… the homeless man I had breakfast with a few weeks ago…
Gosh. I forgot about Willy because I was so busy talking about the pillows.
Jesus, guide him to shelter! To food!

Oh Jesus, protect the nurses who have to work 36 hour mandatory shifts. Who can’t evacuate with their families. Who will see the worst of it.

And the national guard… and the priests… and the servants… and the electrical linemen…  and the disenfranchised with nowhere to go… Oh Jesus. How could my heart forget?

Please don’t worry about the pillows, Jesus. You’re big enough for all of it, but if even a shred of your infinite self can be spared for the Least, don’t waste it on my pillows.

That’s how you pray in a hurricane.

You start with the things at the top of your heart. The pillows and the starfish. And he touches them and looks at you and says, “I see them. What else?” And you pray for the computer and the windows. “Yes. What else, dearest one?” And you pray for the magnolia tree… and he doesn’t scorn a single prayer. He just says, “Yes. It’s so precious to you. I see. What else?” And when you have dumped all your little fears out and let them be washed clean… you remember what is precious to him.

The poor. The lonely. The old. The vulnerable.
The proud. The foolish.
The servants. The hungry.
The weak. The wanting.

Remember them tenderly.

And suddenly all the things that were keeping me up at night… literally… are ok. I’ve let them go. I’m not fretting. I’m not grieving for the pillows. My heart priorities have been rearranged. I’m praying for the people.

Isn’t it beautiful how Jesus leads us to HIS HEART so tenderly?

He doesn’t say, “You sick bastard! How can you pray for pillows at a time like this?!” Not at all. Oh so gently he touched each anxious part of my heart, giving freedom from my own fears so that I could have His Heart Beat for the city.

Lean into the shelter of his love.
Pray for every single worry, small, large, relevant, irrelevant. Hide nothing.
His heart is kind. And big. And it will meet us in our need. And them in their need. And he can protect the pillows. He can. So release the pillows… and prepare your heart for the people. Pray for the people. Pray for compassion. Pray for margin to love others. Pray for priorities to be rearranged in your own heart. And when it’s all over… go home and serve the people.

Amen.