Life can be messy, chaotic, and overwhelming, but when you change your perspective, you can see something truly beautiful, much like the inside of a kaleidoscope. When you turn the kaleidocope just right and look towards the light, you can see the most beautiful, intricate, unique picture, created out of a random array of beads and broken glass, or a mess.
The things that are happening around us are beyond overwhelming. The world as a whole is scary and dark and I just can’t take it on. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t turn on the news or engage with the destruction that we see happening all around us with the global world we live in. My heart and my head just cannot do it anymore.
It is not because I do not care. I care too much. I care to the point where it makes me physically ill and unable to do anything with the world right in front of me. Maybe you are feeling this too. This debilitating knowledge of hardship and suffering, but feeling so out of control and helpless that you just shut down.
I can’t keep doing that. You can’t keep doing that.
So what I can do is to make sure the people I love know how much I love them.
I spend far too many hours watching ridiculous horse dramas with our daughters.
I capture our children playing Lego and getting along.
I kiss that son of ours as often as he will let me.
I float in our pool and read a book.
I sit on our front porch and drink hot coffee.
I spend intentional time just being with my husband and strive to let him know why I love him each day.
I hug those I care about.
I kiss the tops of the heads of the children I have the privilege of seeing grow up.
I make a home that is comfortable and loving, to be a safe place to land when the world just seems too big.
I prepare for the upcoming school year and the opportunity to love and support another class of 1st graders.
I help our youngest get ready for her first day of kindergarten.
I give our dogs far too many treats and cuddle with them on the couch more than one should.
I listen to the crickets in the evening.
I pray. I pray a lot.
I do everything I can do to soak in all the good that is in the world and fill up with so much love that I can walk into the world, outside the safety of our home, and love others. Love others hard and love them well.
Love those who disagree with me.
Love those who are different than me.
Love those who are struggling to love.
Love those who are easy to love and those who need some grace. <we all need grace>
I cannot fix all the things that are broken in this world. I do not think we were designed to take on all the things that are broken in the global world. It is just not physically possible. However, I do think we are supposed to be the good in the communities that we are in. To love one another, support one another, give grace to one another, and to encourage one another.
If we all love in our own circles… our families, our workplaces, our churches, our communities, even our social media communities…then that love has to ripple out to the global world. But it has to start here, in your own heart, with what we can handle. We can’t handle it all.
But this summer just seems to have some weight to it.
This summer just feels like it is more than a few months in the sun, with school out, and family to see.
It feels like this summer needs to make up for last summer while also preparing us for the unknown of the year ahead while also healing us from the year behind us. <longest sentence ever, but that is how my brain spirals it out>
How? Is that even possible? Is that even what we should be doing?
As a teacher in a teacher family with school age kids, August has always had this feeling of the winding down of summer and the building excitement of a new school year. It is both amazing and sorrowful at the same time. Bittersweet.
But this year, it is different.
Are you feeling this too?
I find myself wondering if we did enough? See enough? Be present enough? Rest enough?
And I am finding myself exhausted, scared, and saddened.
And then I am reminded that it just will never be enough. And it doesn’t have to be. The next season is coming and that is filled with goodness and struggles too.
I was on my porch yesterday, as I often am during the summer days, and saw these sunflowers that have grown on their own accord in our front rocks…these beautiful gifts of sunshine and grace… and I found that several of them have completely fallen over..given up or succumbed to the pressure of either dogs or torrential rain.
It was as if these flowers also felt the heaviness of the final weeks of summer.
There is still many days left. Many moments to be had. Many moments to be still. Yet, sometimes the weight of it all, the expectation and the anticipation, just breaks us before we get to fully experience that moment. We give in before we have to.
We fall before it is finished.
Seeing these flowers falling on the ground so prematurely, as the trees are still vibrant green and the sun still brightly shining, reminded me to not turn the page on the season yet. August is heavy. It always is. This year is heavier, for whatever that reason may be, but it is not over yet.
But also, it is okay that this year just feels different.
Last year, at 36 years old, I got my first tattoo…quickly followed by second tattoo. I wrote about it here: Mountains and Valleys. I started thinking more about metaphors, symbols, and also I had learned about about leaning into the pain and leaning into the season.
After a series of many dark years, I learned that I am someone who likes to push forward or avoid my current situation in an effort to finding more pleasant experiences. I think that is rather typical for human nature: avoid pain, seek comfort. But, all this hiding from pain, or dreaming about the next thing, left me missing out on the current thing, even if the current thing is pain.
Through my heartache of depression and alcohol addiction, I learned that that by hiding from pain or suffering, you are not escaping it. Eventually, when you come out of the hiding space, it is still there, and oftentimes in a much more layered pile. Ugh.
Eventually I had to face it all.
Eventually I had to be present.
Eventually I had to learn the beauty and the growth that comes in the suffering and in the still.
There is beauty in all the seasons.
Life is a series of seasons.
A series of growth, abundance, death, rest.
A cycle of new beginnings, flourish, harvest, and still.
It is so fiercely rhythmic that it cannot be denied there is a gloriousness in the way our days unfold over time.
But still, we often forget about the roots in each of these seasons. The roots that spread, give life, and hold us up strong. Our roots do not disappear in the dark days. The growth does not cease, it is just not visible from the surface. Roots are essential to growth and to life.
It is so challenging to the human design to stay planted in our current season. We keep wanting to move ahead, or at least this is how I am wired. So, last year, with my new tattoos on my arms, I was paddling with my husband, sitting on the paddle board because the wind and the current had taken me a bit downstream, and I mentioned to him that I want to stay grounded in my current season. If it is good or bad, challenging or easy, I need to stay grounded in it because there is a lesson to be learned in it, plus life has taught me that the season will change. We have to show up for the lesson and suffer well.
I began drawing this preliminary series of four lines and a flower in all the stages of seasons, being sure to always have a root present. I have drawn this several times, always with the understanding that I am not an artist, but this is what I want and I want it on my foot as a reminder to stay grounded in my season. Keep my foot planted in the season. Stop moving.
Fast forward to this April, I got that tattoo.
And…since I am all about balance, I got a tattoo on the other foot too. I got an arrow. I had been thinking about this idea for a bit, but nothing as deep as my seasons, or my mountains and valleys, or my garden… but a simple arrow that reminds me that sometimes in order to propel forward, you have to pull back.
There is a story in everything. Each season teaches us so much. Share your stories too.
Plus, for anyone keeping count, yes, I have gotten 4 tattoos in 9 months.
I have never denied having an addictive personality.
Being a human and trying to do what you think is right is hard.
I am someone who acts. I take action. Leading is natural for me. I lead at home, at work, at church, etc.
However, has it become so natural that I do not think it all through?
I find that each time I try to do good, somehow I am left with more mess and more heavy, making me want to retreat and not move/engage/breathe at all.
Maybe you have felt that too? You try to help only to unlayer more layers of this awful onion of issues. All issues that need to be addressed and all issues that are valid. This is applicable in relationships, workplace, parenting, oh man is it applicable in parenting, and just life. You want to keep helping and keep fighting for what you think is right but you find yourself just so exhausted by the battle.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have been praying about it endlessly. What is my role to play? What do I need to do?
And then, I was given the image of a lion and an eagle.
Lions: fierce, mighty, strong, protective, leader
but lions are also terribly destructive. They leave a trail as they move to act, breaking branches or stomping on grass to make their move.
but eagles are also precise, calculated, observant, and leave little trail of destruction in their decisions to act. Eagles, because of the gift of flight, can swoop in and swoop out, never destroying the area around their course of action.
Be more like the eagle.
An eagle has the gift of impeccable sight, seeing eight times farther than a human and can focus in on the object of their vision. They fly from a distance, but are constantly watching around them. They soar, let’s not say hover, but soar around making informed decisions of when would be best to act and what part is theirs to play.
A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as five miles away. Talk about calling attention. What is the purpose of the lion’s roar? To know it is there. Yes, there is a time to use your voice. Absolutely. But, are you calling attention to yourself or are you calling attention to the issue? Are you listening or are you roaring? The roar insights fear, not love.
I have been thinking about this analogy for a few days and then my family and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. As we were walking, my children screamed, “Eagle!” and up above us was an eagle, majestically flying around above us. This eagle, was gliding through the air, observing the world around it, and making decisions on when and how it should act. The eagle did not interfere with our walk, just made it more beautiful by its presence, and there was a peace in knowing it was there.
I say this as a human, not the mouse or fish it was stalking.
It has made me think…am I leaving a trail of destruction in my effort to do good? Or am I making precise and thoughtful decisions towards the goal of love, unity, and restoration? Am I providing peace in my presence or intimidation?
I also have this thought process that all the problems are mine to solve. How heavy of a burden that is to carry and a burden I placed on myself. I have a role to play, but from a place of observation, I can see my part…and also see other people’s parts. I need to allow others to act and trust that all the pieces come into play. I cannot control my spouse’s actions, or my friend’s actions, or my coworker’s actions. I do not know what is going on in their heart and what they feel called to do. But, I have to give them space and time to do their part of the story. By trying to manage it all, I am taking away their opportunity to act.
Action is necessary. Taking out bystanders in my path to act is hurtful.
Being a human is hard enough. Thoughtful, precise, and purposeful action based upon observation and reflection might be the kinder, more loving way to move us.
Be more like an eagle and less like a lion.
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
It is a real bummer to know a problem but to not be able to fix it. Sometimes I wonder if it is better to not know that something is wrong because when you know and you cannot fix it…you feel defeated. again and again. on repeat.
Maybe you have never experienced this, but maybe you have and you know the pain of knowing something is broken and you can’t fix it. Now layer on knowing that you are the problem and you can’t fix yourself. Heavy. Each time it happens, whatever the it may be, the regret, the guilt, the shame just all piles on.
For me, this was months upon months of knowing I had a drinking issue, but not being able to get control of the drinking issue. It started with a very close friend taking me out to lunch and sharing her concerns. She did this layered in love and grace. I knew it was an issue but it was something that I had not said out loud yet. I was not ready. I brushed it off as though I could handle just having two drinks at gatherings…but that led to me creating elaborate math equations of how many drinks I could have verses the time I was spending verses what type of drink it was. Which all went away once I had a drink and my ability to make good choices weakened. Now I just felt embarrassed around this friend and tried to justify everything I was doing, or worse yet, I started sneaking my drinks around them.
Then it was the doctor appointment for my depression where they also ask you if you do drugs, which I proudly stated no…smoke, another no…alcohol…oh wait, say what? That humbled me immediately. Then the questions went on to ask how much and how often. Let me think of how small one can be. All that false righteousness immediately fled me.
I started therapy to work on my depression and also to admit that drinking is an issue for me. This was also humbling…but then freeing. I said it. It was in the world now. But, I am a grown adult and really got caught up in this idea that I might be a grown adult who cannot have alcohol, at all. My internal dialogue went something like, “I am a grown adult. If I want a beer I should be able to have a beer.” However, later I realized that I was forgetting the next piece of the sentence, “if it is only one beer.” I wrestled this for months. Months. So many therapy sessions trying to wrestle whether I could be a person who could drink or not. Trying to balance how I could drink in moderation and each time I failed, I felt worse than the time before.
The regret piled up.
The guilt layered on.
The shame covered me.
I would sit at church, which we had been regularly attending for a few years at this point and hear messages, covered in grace, and feel like a fraud because I knew I was doing something that was not honorable, respectful, life-giving. I knew I was making self-destructive choices each day.
I kept trying. I started to sit with my Bible on my front porch and I would write…crying out to God to help me.
April 28, 2019
Thank you for your love, your grace, your patience for the millions of times I let you down. I know you worked in me to keep my words honorable this week, please continue to do this in me and make me stronger Lord. Help me to gain more self control in all areas of my life to better honor you and support and love my family.
I’ll try to be honoring, leaning and walking with you this week.
and the patterns continued… shame, piled onto regret, piled onto guilt.
May 19, 2019
Lord, I pray…
Help me to make chocies to honor you, to glorify you.
Help me to teach our children about your love and grace.
Give me the strength to make choices to show your love and grace, Lord.
I have fallen so far…help me to grow and strengthen to honor your love and grace. I know I’ll get better, Lord because of your love and grace.
Thank you for your faithfulness and not giving up on me.
I know you will see me through this for your glory.
Thank you for placing Godly women and families in my life to walk beside me in growing my relationship with you.
I wanted to be able to drink appropriately but also to be able to keep drinking. I was not able to just give it up yet. I wanted to find a way to do both. I could not give my life over to this call I kept feeling to be done with it. That drinking had a hold on me and I was allowing it to run my life..not the other way around. I had not gotten there yet. This internal battle was dark and lonely. Isolating and full of self-hatred. Why couldn’t I be someone who has self-control and is strong enough to live life balanced? I was terrified to give up what I thought was my control. I did not want to surrender.
and the patterns continued… shame, piled onto regret, piled onto guilt.
But then…after months in the valley….a rescue came.
I made one last bad choice and a friend spoke truth and grace to me. She heard me apologize. She listened. And…she told me there was better for me. She told me I am better than the choices I am making. She never once told me my actions were okay. Never once. But she told me she loves me, that God loves me, and that there is so much better for me.
And that day, I stopped drinking.
August 20, 2019
I’ve been praying for change and to get out of the hole I have been in for the past year and a half. I keep praying for grace and self-control, yet I keep falling short and hoping with prayer for a change… and dealing with my own demons of guilt each time I fail.
Yet today, I’ve been 3 days without a drink. At one time, that was nothing, but today that’s a celebration. We also hosted a party to celebrate a friend today and I didn’t have a drink. I notice I talk much less…I still miss conversation not because I am drinking but because one person cannot be everywhere. I also was done with the party before the party was over…and my dishes are done and counters are clean. So here I am, sober day 3, in the books.
Walking home today the stars were so bright. I stopped and thanked God for the beautiful world He created and for the gift of being sober enough to appreciate it.
So Lord, I pray you continue to allow me not to be tempted. Continue to show me my own strength, that is a gift from you and Lord, I pray you’ll help me to forgive myself for the past two years …. and that my babies are not forever ruined because of it.
I surrendered. I gave up trying to fight for this arbitrary thing that was destroying my life. Destroying everything designed for me. I decided to follow that call in my heart and see what the plan was for me. The following set of verses just echoed throughout my summer and finally, I resigned to not being able to do it myself. I wanted to live the life God had planned for me, not this destructive path I kept taking.
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Each day forward was a day forward. But that is the climb out of the valley. We will get there. But, finally, my rescue had come. And it came when this song below just hitting the radio…and I felt like it was speaking directly to me..as though God gave her the words just for me to hear.
So many tears brought forth by the lyrics.
Every single word right to my heart.
and this is when our children started seeing me fall madly in love with Jesus…for He rescued me.
But here is the thing friend, maybe the idea of Jesus is not your thing. I can get that. I can understand that. In my story, Jesus totally saved me. But, in your story, that may not be what you are open to hearing, feeling, going to. And that is okay right now. If you have made it this far, sitting by my side, cuddled up cozy and sharing our stories together, I would tell you that the first thing you need to do, is find the people and the place in your life that support you with being sober. Where do you feel safe? What is holding you back from trying to go without drinking? Write a pro and con list. Make a decision to get into therapy, see a doctor, tell a friend, tell your spouse. Take an action forward, because sweet friend, your life is so much better than this.
To tell any story, I guess we should start at the beginning. I am sure there are a lot of people reading this wondering, what happened?! See, I do a half-decent job of covering things up because I am an Ennegram 3 and care far too much about appearances and how people see me. So, I did the things needed to play the role of a middle-class, thirty something mother, wife & teacher, until I didn’t.
I suppose we should go back to 2015. I was pregnant with our third child and also in school to get my administration license. We thought doing both these things at the same time was a good idea. It was and I am grateful for it, but still, it was a lot. After the birth of our daughter in the dark days of November, I noticed that it was really hard for me to snap out of postpartum depression feelings. Mostly because you cannot snap out of postpartum depression. It does not work that way. But, I tried.
I also was invigorated by career opportunities that were coming my way with my administration license. These opportunities gave me the drive to keep going. I focused heavily on my career because I felt like I could do that. My emotions were spiraling but I could do this. I heaved ahead. And personally, I was able to lose the baby weight and seemed to feel like things were coming together. But they weren’t. I had just buried my emotions under piles of distraction.
The next school year I had an amazing opportunity to become a literacy coach. It was huge for me. Dream job. I dove full in. I had to travel away from my family, which is a big deal for a teacher and a mother of 3…with our baby less than a year old. But, I was in. I was in, in. I gave it all to this opportunity for a full school year. I was feeling good about everything and pushing through. I had distracted myself from any of the ick in my heart of postpartum feelings by only focusing on work.
and then it fell.
After a year of training, four weeks out of state away from my family, countless hours doing additional learning, countless days out of my classroom with a guest teacher…the position was pulled across my school district. Everything I had given myself to was gone.
along with it went my identity and my distraction.
Now, I think it is important to note here that now, a few years out from it, this is exactly what needed to happen. I am very happy in my classroom and love what I get to do. I am grateful for all the training I have had because it helps me in so many capacities within the classroom. And my family… I am so grateful for the lessons I learned about priorities and to shift the focus back to my family. I know that this situation had to happen for my heart to realign some priorities. But, at the time, it was devastating.
When everything was pulled, summer was just beginning. Summer meant no structure. Summer meant Summer Shandys. So, Summer Shandys I drank.
Fall came and I switched to Blue Moons.
Winter came and I continued with Blue Moons.
Summer came and I learned about White Claws.
All those feelings of postpartum that I had buried under my work? Well, they grew into full depression..also because it is hard to say it is postpartum when that newborn is now a year and a half old. Now I also got to add shame and regret for my misalignment with my priorities to the layers of negative emotions I had. Regret from all the time I wasted away from my family. How can one pretend there isn’t any depression?
That baby weight I lost? It came back and then some. Which also led to more depression especially with my history of being 23 years old. 300 lbs.
Heavy depression that was getting heavier each day.
Things started small with a drink because it was summer…then a drink because it was a less than great day…then a drink because it was a great day…then a drink because it was the weekend…then a drink because it was Tuesday.
And somewhere along the way… a drink turned into six.
I had fallen. Fallen hard. It was now 2018 and I was in the worst depression of my life. I have had two hard depressions and this one shook me the hardest because now I had a husband and children. It was not just about me anymore.
Should a career blow cause this much devastation? No. But, my heart was misaligned. I allowed that role in my life define me. This needed to be adjusted and it took this fall to show me that.
Should I rely only on myself to fix myself? No. But, I thought I could…until I clearly couldn’t and then I felt compounded shame that I was not strong enough to fix this myself.
Should this have happened? No. But, I am grateful it did. I’ll explain…
sober– adjective. 1a- sparing in the use of food and drink 1b- not addicted to intoxicating drink 1c- not drunk
2- marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor
3- unhurried, calm
4- marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness
5- showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice
Webster’s dictionary keeps it pretty simple when they explain what sobriety and sober is: not drinking to intoxication and not drunk. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. I can see on this side of sobriety the unhurriedness, the calmness, the thoughtful character, and the levelness that comes without the extreme qualities of emotion.
To me…sobriety is not just about not drinking. Drinking alcohol is what caused me to have clouded eyes. But, there are other things that cloud people’s eyes that might need to be adjusted. We think of drugs, gambling, and sex…you know, the “big ones.”” But what about the little things? Overeating…shopping…gossiping…social media slander…or other overindulgences that are clouding the way you see the world and stopping you from living the life that has been designed for you. When you “sober up” from any of these habits, addictions, or choices you can begin to the see the world in a much clearer way. Better? Not necessarily. But clear. And when you have a clear view in front of you, you can make choices to find the path out.
Everyone has their own unique story. I break out and share my story to bring light to the fact that you can have a drinking problem without being a raging alcoholic. I think our society has this idea that if you can get yourself to work, pay your bills, and provide basic levels of care to you family, you can’t have a drinking problem. But, that just is not true. In my story, I went to work each day and did the best I could there, giving it all to my career. I came home and took care of my family…but with a beer in hand…and then once my kids were in bed, I had a few more beers. On repeat. And when I wanted to stop the cycle, I just couldn’t. This is when it became apparent that this was a problem. This was my problem.
I did not go to rehab or get a DUI. I did not lose my job or my family. But…I hurt my family. I hurt my friends. I broke all faith I had in myself to be strong and do the hard things. I did not make the memories I hoped I would have made with my young children and shame overtook me.
Depression brought forth the drinking and the drinking kept the depression around. Cycles over and over again.
Here is the fine print as I open my heart to share with you one of the hardest things I will ever write… but also what I feel God calling me to write the most. I am not an expert in sobriety or addiction, but I have lived it. I share with you my story in hopes that my story will help bring healing to someone else in their story. I am also not writing from a place of condemnation to those who do drink. I truly believe that some humans can drink responsibly… I am just not that human. I write these words with the thought that if being served alcohol is no longer serving you, you may want to rethink your approach.
In the next few days, I will be diving deep into my heart and sharing pieces of my journals with you…as though we were sitting here in my living room together…peeling back the pain and the layers to walk together forward into the life that has been designed for us. I will share things that I have only shared with Jesus, in hopes that they will give light to others.
So please, snuggle into a chair and grab a cozy blanket. I will light my favorite scented candle and bring my journals along. I will pour us some coffee or tea. Maggie (our dog) will keep our spots warm. Together, I will share my story and hope to hear yours. It is time we have this hard conversation.
I noticed something in myself recently. A heaviness. A hardening. Maybe you have felt this too.
This need to protect yourself from the criticism, the opinions, the angst that has been walking beside us for this season.
I felt like there were all these rocks flying at me.
In large conversations,
in subtle statements,
in words not said,
All these hard rocks just coming at me.
And I did not react in love like I should. Instead, I started collecting rocks with the thought process to throw rocks back.
This is challenging to admit, but it is truth. When I felt criticism or harshness I started to find faults in their choices, in their paths, in their lives. I started to compare and find ways to acknowledge the “at least I am not doing that” thought process. Ugly right? So ugly.
My faulty thinking and really, it was not intentional, but rather something I noticed after and realized I had been doing, was finding things to armour myself from anticipated criticism when I was feeling like everything was just getting too heavy.
I was collecting retaliation rocks.
But the thing about collecting rocks is, it just makes you even heavier. So much heavier. Think of your pockets and if they had actual rocks in them for each negative thought you had about someone else. Heavy upon heavy. It weighs you down.
Think about where we find rocks. They are always on the bottom. They layer the bottom of our lakes and oceans. If you carry too many rocks, you drown. The heaviness over takes you and you physically cannot overcome it. This is not how we were designed to walk.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2: 4-5
We were designed to be merciful and full of grace. We were designed to be forgiving, because of how much we have been forgiven.
I have not been my kindest, most gracious self this season. I went into this weird survival and self-preservation mode. But at its root, we began to self-destroy because we allowed our hearts to get so hard. Did you do this too?
So then we enter the world with hard hearts and interact with other people who maybe aren’t at their best and also have a hardened heart… grace really struggles to show up there.
We know we are not our best selves and yet we expect everyone else to be their best. Solid reflection on that.
The only way we can stop this cycle of hardening and rock collecting is to stop picking up the rocks.
Stop taking the offenses. Stop taking notes. Stop planning your retaliation. And act in love.
Drop the rocks. Give grace. Love one another. Even in the hard spots. Especially in the hard spots.
After I dropped my own rocks, I noticed a lightness in myself. I noticed this freeness.
Some comments are just comments.
Some opinions are valid and worth reflection.
Some critiques will help me grow.
And some things, I just do not have to give any value to.
Drop the rocks.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
Don’t let your love grow cold. Drop your rocks. Let them freeze. And open your heart to love one another.
This mess does not stop at our tree either. Typically this mess would give me quite a bit of actual anxiety and cause me to be rather nasty to everyone I love. But, for some reason, it is different this year.
It is December 27th. I walk through my home and I hear our girls playing together in one of their rooms. I see our son at our dining room table turned Lego central, building what must be his sixth Lego kit. My husband has been grinding our coffee beans and drinking several cups of hot coffee while building with our kids. I finally showered, since..ahem… Christmas Eve. We have really soaked in the days after Christmas to just be together and it has been amazing.
Anyone in the generation one step above mine, with kids grown or who have left the house, have made it clear that Christmases like this are for a very short season in life. Soon the sounds of screams on Christmas morning over the perfect toy, the wonder of how these toys got here, which toy to play with first, will be replaced by Christmas brunches with most of your kids, if you are lucky, as they start spending Christmas with their significant other’s family. Your trees will be perfect and orderly as no one will be touching them. The mess will be cleared as soon as it is made, if it is made. The wonder of it all fades away as your children age.
I am a bit… or rather a lot… particular about our house. If you have ever been to our home, I am particular about making sure things like the toilets are always clean (we can’t let anyone know that we actually poop), the counters are cleaned off, and things are in some order for use to live in an efficient manner. Also, quite honestly, I like when our house looks nice. There I said it. I care a lot about appearances and I want our home to be functional but mostly, look nice.
This makes me super fun to live with. Also, it is hard on my mind to keep up with it all. It exhausts me. So much. The guilt and the struggle, the frustration and the anger I have towards myself for not just letting things be, but also the genuine anxiety I get with clutter and mess. It is just a whole thing in my mind, that the people I love the most get to experience from the front row.
But, right now, things are different. We are on a pause from life and it feels so good. As a teacher married to a teacher, we worked right up until Christmas Eve, in what we can all describe as a very different year. Our family, as with many families have experienced a lot of tragedy this year, life just keeps taking some hits, and we have not had a moment to even process them. Everything just keeps coming at us and life keeps going but this week, right now, in the days between Christmas and New Years…we have no plans because you can’t have plans this year and we are just being here, with each other, in our joyful mess.
We aren’t rushing the moment along. We aren’t yelling at our kids to get their stuff together for school, in whichever learning model they are in. We aren’t meal planning or grocery shopping. We aren’t worried about the laundry because pajamas for tomorrow sounds really nice. We are playing. We are building. We are napping. We are being together.
We can’t do this forever. We will have to return to the world soon. But for right now, I am going to soak in the mess. This is the most rested I have felt in a very long time. The most calm I have felt. The most present. The most loving. We are giving our family this time to just be and to enjoy one another.
I am grateful for the women ahead of me who have spoken such truth into me about enjoying the right now, as the season is fleeting. These women remind me about the loneliness of a clean family space. The heartbreak of sharing your children with another family. The sorrow that comes with the great joy of raising your children to be adults with their own lives.
Therefore, right now, we will enjoy our mess.
We also ran out of trash bags, so that has been a real hangup on the whole cleaning up thing. The tree is raining needles, making it painful to walk by it, and the trash is really piling up outside. We will have to pick up tomorrow so that we can continue to play but have the space to do it well. And…the mess is starting to get to my husband. Maybe he has more of my mind then we thought.
When a tree experiences trauma, like a storm, its trunk is permanently impacted by that moment. It can and will keep growing strong and tall, but will forever show markings of that moment.
The other reason a tree may have this unique bend is because it was not getting what it needed from their current position, so the trees trunk began to grow in the direction where it would receive the light it needs to survive. Permanently marked because it fought to survive.
We have all been marked by an experience, experiences, or moments. We have scars from when we fell on our bikes as kids. We have scars from when we have the chicken pox. We have scars from surgeries we have had. We have changes in our skin from children we have grown in our bodies. We are marked by life. Our markings tell our story.
My body is full of scars. I have had several surgeries throughout my lifetime, lots of falls, a real unfortunate treadmill fall, and lots of damage done to my body by myself over time leaving me with a lot of loose skin, lots of markings, and lots of stretch marks. My body is marked by my life experiences. Your body is also marked by your life experiences.
When our son was 4, he had an unfortunate run in with a golf club to his eyebrow. You could see bone when you looked at him. After a series of stitches and being oh so brave, our boy who did not have any permanent marks yet, got his first real scar. I remember thinking how his face would never be the same again. He was changed. He was marked. And now, when I look at our sweet boy, his inch long scar over his left eye is a symbol for the time he was a total badass and allowed a doctor to sew his eye brow without having to be held down.
Two of my favorite little people are covered in scars from multiple surgeries starting just moments after their birth. Being friends with their parents is one of the best gifts I have ever received because they have shown me perspective, the ability to persevere, and so much love. These little people who are now ten and seven, are two of the bravest individuals I know, next to their parents who had to watch it all happen. Their bodies are full of scars, some that can be hidden under clothing, and some that are out for the world to see. I love the ones that are there for the world to see because to me, it shows their strength, their badassness, and their ability to take on some really hard things and do it with amazing grace. Their scars give me strength to tackle the hard things. I pray these two little ladies grow up showing off their scars, not hiding them, because of the strength they represent. Their families are doing an incredible job of empowering these fierce firecrackers to know how strong they are and how amazing their scars are.
Scars, markings, the left behind reminders of a season are not a bad thing. They show us our strength. They need to be better celebrated and acknowledged. They lead to someone’s story and someone’s heart. They can also show you how far you have come, how much you have grown, and remind you of your own perseverance.
Not all scars or markings are left on our outsides, most often it is our heart that takes the most marks. Can you imagine what our hearts (not the beating one) would look like if all the pain and suffering we experienced internally left an actual marking. We need to acknowledge that internal marking that no one else sees, but we feel. We have felt it and continue to feel it. That shifting, that struggle, that growing, that strength brought on by suffering, pain, joy, and life.
We are coming to the close of what for many of us has been our hardest year. If it was not your hardest year, I think most of us can agree it was a challenging year. For some of you, I want to acknowledge that this may have been a joyous year marked by some global ick as you experience pregnancy or welcoming a baby home. I am so happy for you and want to encourage you to scream your joy out loud, for we all need to hear those great things too.
The thing is, I see people running at 2021 wanting to get as far away from 2020 as possible and forget it all behind. Don’t. Let this year leave its mark. Reflect on what ways you have been changed, shifted, fought to survive, impacted by trauma, and yet, you made it. Let the year leave its mark so that in the future, when you experience more hard, because you will, you can remember that you made it through this hard. You made it through stronger. You grew on tall and strong. You adjusted, much like the tree, in order to survive the changes. You are going to need these reminders because hard will come again and it will not magically disappear on January 1, 2021. Life just does not work that way. But you have changed. You are stronger. You have markings that show that you have grown, you have lived, you have survived. Let this season mark you.
Or you can be like me and get your first and second tattoos at the age of 36…in 2020, deciding it is time for you to choose what marks you.