Saturday, July 8, 2017

There is so much more to say...



5th grade Odyssey of the Mind
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at my buddy Michael's celebration of life.  His sweet momma asked me to a while back... likely because she knows I've never met a microphone I don't like.  I pointed out that I was better equipped to speak to 4 year old Michael than 40 year old Michael, but you don't go through roughly 37 years of a friendship with someone and not have a few stories to share of your time together.

I shared this as I opened: Dan gave me the laptop that I'm typing on now with one instruction... "Write your damn book."

Well, that's daunting.

Even for someone who loves writing... and who often feels like there is a story in there somewhere... the first step of writing a book is paralyzing.

So eventually, I wrote what I know.

I wrote about Michael.

And to this day, that's the only chapter I've written ...

I shared a bit of my relationship with him yesterday, but there is so much more to tell.  I walked away from the microphone- overwhelmed with emotion and love for my buddy- and realized I left so many things out.  Rather than jump up and say "OH WAIT! I FORGOT....", I decided to share some of that here.  For the rest of it, you'll have to buy my damn book.
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Michael and I met in the late 70's at Hominy Baptist Church- either in preschool or in Sunday School.  We remained friends for all of the years after- even in the times that we argued. #Mistyliker  Michael was, however, the only person I ever hit.  (Other than my brother, of course.)  In seventh grade he said something to me worthy of being hit- and when I went to hit him, he let me.  He knew he was in the wrong, so he stood still and "took it".  And when the teacher responsible for us asked what happened, he quickly said "Nothing."

In 12th grade, we had the privilege of registering to vote in our school cafeteria.  Michael said to me before we went in, "I might as well fill out your card for you... you're going to be a Republican, right?"  I'm guessing he assumed that because I spent more time in Bible Study than in Bent Creek, I would align with the Religious Right.  Whether to prove a point to him or not, I was pleased to check DEMOCRAT on my card.  And even though my Momma told me politics were private, I immediately went to tell Michael that his guess was wrong and I was not a Republican.

Along those same lines, he constantly was unimpressed with my music variety.  He rolled his eyes at my love of Amy Grant and 4Him, and rather than just harass me, he put into my hands new music.  I have a tape he made for me with Red Hot Chili Peppers on one side and Soup Dragons on the other.  I kept it for his handwriting- my cassette player long gone.  That was the first "mix tape" he made me... and why I wrote a RHCP shirt yesterday.  He opened my eyes to music beyond my own preferences- some bands I loved and some I didn't- and I'm grateful that like so many of you, he educated me.  And constantly encouraged me to go see live shows.

One day, someone brought acid to school.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it- and I was surprised at how pretty it was.  I said "If I could afford that, I'd wallpaper my house with it."  Michael said (without skipping a beat) "And I would come and lick your walls." (#justsayno)

Michael was so fun to be around.  His laugh was infectious.  His smile was radiant.  And he never smiled bigger than when he was talking about his kids.  After the football game we saw during our 20th Reunion Weekend, Michael drove me and Emily back to her car.  First, he took Trenton to a youth group activity.  When we dropped him at the church, Michael said "Can you believe my son is going to a church thing instead of a bonfire? I'm so proud of who he is. He's a much cooler kid than I ever was."  And that says a lot, because Michael was the coolest kid I knew.  He raved about Savannah's artistic side.  Every time he mentioned her, he'd say to me "You would love her."  I do, Michael, I do.

So many more stories. Hours of stories- only about Michael.  Many people told me yesterday that maybe he should be the focus of my whole book- not just a chapter.  I got offers for "guest authors" helping write it.  There's something that makes my heart smile to think of that... the story of Michael. The story of us.

Let's write it together, friends.
Let's #makeithappen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Connection.

I'm currently sitting on my couch... watching Grace and Frankie.

Dan and I started watching it several months ago, and then we never got past the second episode.  It didn't "hook" us like we were hoping.  All of the reviews and hype just didn't click.

Until....

Some time recently I decided to give it another shot.

Something was different.

It clicked.

And it was because I knew it was something my Mom would have enjoyed.

Maybe it was because of 2/3 of "9 to 5" actresses were showing the world that their heyday wasn't over.  Maybe it was because I knew she would cringe and laugh with every moment that they were bashing their exes.  Or maybe the time was just right.

I've recently entered a new phase of looking for- longing for- connection.  Finding something that would bring my Mom... or my Daddy... or Michael, joy.  I enjoyed the BNL concert even more than usual... because of the company, the beer, the music- all because I knew Michael loved each of those things.  I enjoyed buying a new grill because I knew Daddy would want to buy it for us- he actually bought our previous one.  I enjoy wearing earrings of my Mom's because- while she would still be frustrated that I had been in her jewelry box- I long for the connection they bring.

I think this is a normal part of grief.  I think I'm actually in a healthier spot these days- trying to connect with those I've lost.  I feel more like "myself" than I've been in the last 5 years.  It feels good.

----

I haven't updated my blog since September.  A lot of that is because of lack of connection.  I attempted to update it in October, but the words were half-assed, the sentiment wasn't genuine.  I wrote out of a sense of obligation, not out of the love of writing.

And this has mimicked itself throughout my life- not just in writing.

A friend said to me last week "I've missed you recently"... Funny, I've missed myself.

In September, right as I was writing my last post, I spiraled.  An off-handed comment from a friend pushed my tentative self right off the ledge of grief.  It has taken me months to claw my way out of that hole.  It's not been a straight up journey- I've fallen back down a time or two.  Hurtful words from people, feeling left out, not having a "place"... those tend to trip me up.

But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, good therapy, a purpose, a strong church community, and some helpful friends who won't let me fall off the ledge alone... I feel like I'm back.

I've missed connection.

I've wept over friendships that have slowly faded away- ones that I thought would last a lifetime.

We've hosted fewer events in the last 9 months than we ever had... partially because I've started a new job, partially because we have a new dog, and partially because I've been too weary to be social some days.

But that job?  That dog?  They have given me connection.

----

I share all of this with you not to make you feel uncomfortable.  It's not to put grief upon you if we have faded apart recently.  But I share this to you to let you know that sometimes when people fade away, they need you to continue to reach out.  They may not respond, they may blow you off, or they may legitimately be too busy/ tired/ whatever to hang out.

But sometimes, as was the case with my buddy Michael, they are on that edge of the hole and just need to know that they are not alone.

That's the whole premise of Grace and Frankie- finding connection when the connection you thought you had is no longer there.  I'm still making amends with my heart and it's broken connections... but even in this bizarre social media connected world, I'm thankful for what connections we have.


Here's hoping you find your Grace (and Frankie), too.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Do Good Day, 2016


Hi Friends.

It's Coming.

Do Good Day 20016 is only 2 weeks away.

Here's the quick recap for those of you who are new to Do Good Day: Each September 24th (my Daddy's birthday), we unite forces to Do Good.  It's sort of a collective Random Acts of Kindness day... honoring a man who showed Goodness to so many of us. (longer explanation below**)

Each year since Daddy died, I've suggested to you a focus for your Good... a little bit of direction for those of you who might not know where to start. In the past we've donated to St. Baldricks in honor of children who fight childhood cancer, we've served the kids who benefit from the backpack program of Meadowlark Meals, we've organized gift cards for food for those who arrive at their doctor's office and haven't eaten, we've donated to Alzheimer's research, and we've collected money for a family who had been recently diagnosed with cancer.  Each collective effort brings a smile to my face and meets a need in such a tangible Good way.

You don't have to join our collective effort, though.   Anything you do is great- my day is made by the stories I hear from you about what you do in your own little sphere of influence.   I get texts all day of people who pay for people's coffee anonymously in the drive through... people who bring lunch to coworkers... people who provide musical instruments for children who can't afford them... people who have honored my Daddy by bringing treats to his beloved Home Depot coworkers.

So what will you do this year?  Already have ideas?  SUPER.  Need help with a little direction?  Think on this:  I'll be collecting school supplies for two area teachers who teach at local schools that need extra Good.  One of them teaches First Grade, and one works with Exceptional Children.  Both of their classrooms have children who need a little extra- and don't have parents that are able to always provide in that way.  They can both use basic school supplies or gift cards to Target/ Wal-Mart/ Barnes and Noble/ Amazon.  I'll be collecting items and gift cards for them.

Want another way to help?  Our "Do Good" fund is super low.  This year alone we have provided money to buy appliances, car repairs, and basic needs for multiple individuals.  Our supply box of gift cards is nearly depleted.  Do you work for an area business that would like to donate a gift card?  We'd love to keep it on hand.  We give them out as we hear of needs- and don't always have time to publicize for help.

Speaking of which, in this next year, we are going to be changing how we publicize needs- both on the giving and receiving end.  If you have a need or feel like you can meet a need, please make sure you've liked our Facebook Page.  We will begin better utilizing our page to help with the anonymity of our needs.

I'm grateful to get to celebrate my Daddy's life with all of you.  He would hate the attention, but he sure would love the results of this effort.  Whatever you do on 9/24, know that how you Do Good can have lasting effects.  Join me, will you?

** More on the history of Do Good here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Part Two... a Liturgy Newbie

Whew.

Thanks for reading Part One and not hanging me out to dry.  I'll admit now that I had loads of anxiety during the hours that the post was being read.

So St. Tim's... What was this Baptist girl to do?!?  I grew up at a mainline Baptist church.  I worshipped more recently at an Evangelical contemporary church.  Both of these feel familiar to me. I know how to follow along in a hymnal, or even on projected screen.

Dan had grown up in an Episcopal congregation... worshiping at St. Tim's felt like old home to him.  But me?  I felt like I was reading a script.  It wasn't worship as much as it was a group reading.  My only experience in an Episcopal church prior to this was as a visitor.  In fact, my first experience was when my friend Angela had me visit with her in high school.  The bishop was visiting her small congregation and she wanted me to come to the service.  All I remember is that at some point during all of the sitting and standing I tripped over the kneeler and fell for all the congregation (and the bishop) to see.

When Dan and I married, we didn't have much of a discussion of where we would worship together.  I was on staff at a Baptist church.  No discussion needed.  When we moved to Winston, however, and we began our search- we picked more contemporary services over those of a traditional bent.

So (again) St. Tim's... What?!?!  How on Earth would I even begin to fit in when worshipping in this space at first appeared daunting?  Again, I have nothing to ascribe it to other than the Holy Spirit.  This place felt right.  Immediately.  I knew I was supposed to give it a try.  I knew I was supposed to be open to new things, including giving this faith heritage a chance.

(Small caveat... I am not a big proponent of going where it "feels right"... Church shouldn't be a consumeristic space in our lives, yet it often becomes this.  All I'm sharing now is my perspective of how something so different than my previous experience immediately felt sacred and, well, right.)

What I have found at St. Timothy's is beautiful.

It is a chance to participate in the Church universal- knowing that my prayers are being echoed throughout the world.

It is learning a whole new (to me) faith tradition- and I often feel as though I'm right back in my Religious Study days.  Sometimes in Bible Study my hand goes numb as I am furiously writing all of the nuggets of wisdom I'm learning.

It is beginning to understand the beauty of Liturgy.  And to agree with what my friend John said when he pointed out that Liturgy gives him the structure to worship even when his heart doesn't feel like it. It's putting a dialogue in front of me that I get the chance to participate in- and know that I'm not alone in that process.

15 years ago- the thought of Liturgy would have been a roadblock for me.  It would have felt limiting to all that God could be teaching me.  Today, however, it gives structure for the way in which I hear His voice.

One of the biggest things I've learned in these recent days is that there is so much freedom in how we worship.  Something in which we fail frequently is assuming that truth can only be learned in one way- our way.  And now that I've worshipped in churches that are traditional, mainline, conservative, liberal, liturgical, contemporary, and other... I'm seeing a bigger understanding of Jesus's teachings.  I'm grateful for this path- although at moments it's been beyond painful.  I'm grateful that my community of the faithful has been gracious when we don't line up theologically and politically.

And I'm grateful that His mercies are new every morning.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, July 4, 2016

'Coming Out' Spiritually...

Yesterday I posted a picture on my Instagram account- publicly acknowledging for the first time the shift that has happened in our spiritual home over the last year.  While I am in no way making light of any experience my LGBTQ friends have had... I'll tell you that I felt a little bit that I was Coming Out.

The love I feel for my former church is so intense.  I have been so careful to not share about our current journey for fear it would look like we somehow didn't like them anymore.

Let me save you the trouble of looking for dirt if that's why you're reading this- wondering if maybe I'm gonna spill some big, juicy drama that occurred between us and our former church home.  NOTHING (bad) HAPPENED.

The road to a new church home has consumed the last year of our lives.  So much so, that I'm going to share that experience in two parts.  Not for a drama factor, but just for ease of sharing.

I have been a member of 3 (now 4) churches for all of my life.  The first one, I was born into.  The next one, I chose because of my time and service in Chapel Hill.  The last one, we found after a long search when we moved to Winston.  We knew going into our membership there that we didn't line up theologically 100% (spoiler alert: we're sorta liberal)... but we fell so in love with the people and the fellowship that we allowed ourselves to look beyond any differences and dive right in.  It was in this place that our biggest life events to date took place: we longed for, conceived, lost, and gained children.  We developed deep friendships- and lost some of those friends to tragic, unbelievable death.  We prayed fervently during extreme illness of children and parents... some with joyous outcomes, and some that won't be joyous again until we reach heaven.

In short, we grew in all ways during our time in that sacred space.

Along the way, especially as Elizabeth began to ask hard questions, we wondered if we needed to look at other church homes.  This is where the beauty of our marriage partnership became even more evident.  When I would feel a need to go, Dan would gently remind me that we don't all need to "look alike" in a church... and we would stay.  When Dan would feel a need to go, I would remind him about our beautiful fellowship... and we would stay.  Last year, however, we both came to the same point of needing to go at the same time.

We wept, we talked, we prayed... and we repeated that process over and over until we knew we were doing what was best for our family.

Last summer we began the Church Search again... a long and lonely process of not feeling rooted.  We were blessed, however, to explore so many neat places of worship all over our city.  We met people we wouldn't know otherwise and got a chance to see how Others are "doing church" oh so well.

We found a Community close to our house and were so excited to be welcomed in to their fellowship.  Our kids were part of their Christmas program.  We were loved well during the loss of my Mom.  It felt good.

And then....

One Tuesday night in February, my Book Club went to serve dinner at the Overflow Shelter at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.

When we walked into the building, I had an experience that I can only accredit to the Holy Spirit.  As I entered the church, I knew it was a special place.  I knew it was somewhere we were supposed to- at least- visit.  St. Tim's had been on our short list, but since we'd plugged in elsewhere, we weren't continuing to look at new churches.  Prior to walking in that first night, I'd had 3 good friends mention to me how much I'd like it there.  One of those friends had a child in E's class and she'd also invited E to come.

So right in the middle of heading toward plugging in elsewhere, we decided to give St. Tim's a try.

And that was the end of that.

We've been there ever since.

Tomorrow's post... Liturgy Newbie

Friday, May 27, 2016

Piles and Rugs and Pain and Faith

Growing up, I thought that by the time I was "an adult", I would be done changing.  I assumed that by the time I was "grown up"... and surely being 40 would be grown up... I would be who I was for better or for worse.  Right?

Wrong.

Our house has been one big pile recently.  Piles of paperwork, piles of plastic toys, piles of Julianna and Elizabeth's clothes because they continue to get bigger and outgrow them before I can even put up the most recent load of laundry, piles of photo albums, piles of books I bought but haven't read, piles of things that make me feel overwhelmed.

I am just now able to sort through those piles.

That was a side of grief I wasn't prepared for.  The debilitating feeling of being overwhelmed.  Not even seeing an end in sight- so much to do, such a constant reminder of being the only one who is going to be able to get it done.

Also in those piles of being overwhelmed- somewhere tucked in between the death of each of my parents- was the remnants of my previous faith.

I never renounced my faith.

I did, however, try to work through how my faith looked on the other side of chaos.

I never doubted the reality of Jesus.

I did, however, wonder how a sovereign God lined up with all of the pain we experienced.

I never ran away from the Lord I knew so well.

I did, however, yell at Him with all I had in me.

In all of the chaos... in all of our piles... as my new self is starting to break out of the debris... I am just now starting to deal with the crap left behind.  I am just now filling bag after bag of trash, making lots of trips to Goodwill, and sorting through some precious heirlooms that I've been handed.

One of the material things we've "inherited" is a rug that was in my Mom's house.  Mom didn't have air conditioning until a few years before we sold her house.  (One benefit of living in the woods is that we rarely needed a/c!)  We're not sure what happened during the installation, but something made the entirety of Mom's house smell like burning rubber for a while.  (Comforting, right?)  The smell eventually went away- except for in that rug.

It's not a smell we necessarily like, but it definitely reminds us of Mom's house.

That's how so many of the things are in our house now... and in my faith.  I don't always like what I smell, or see, or feel... but I'm grateful for what it reminds me of.  The places I've been.  The people who have mentored me.  And the faith that is evolving.

We are still nothing more than a bunch of piles in this house.  There is a good chance that when you stop by, we'll have to move the laundry before you'll have a place to sit.  But I'm hopeful that eventually the piles won't bring panic and pain, but will show the strength of where we've been.  Even when we have a bizarre smell because of it... maybe eventually it will make us all feel a bit nostalgic.

Growing up is hard.

Maybe when I get to be an adult, it won't seem like it's been that difficult.

I'll let you know when I get there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Juggling Chaos

I have a precious friend who once said that she needed a business card that explained her job title as this: "Managing Crazy, Getting Sh*t Done."

These days, mine would look an awful lot like that but I would change it to this: "Juggling Chaos, Getting Sh*t Done... Or Maybe Not."

Yesterday was a typical day for us.  Julianna and I drove to Hillsborough to get a copy of a form we needed for her adoption.  Then we stopped by our attorney's office to sign some paperwork, then home for a missed nap time.  (That always leads to a super fun afternoon!)  E got home from school, the mail came with a random check for Mom from an account we knew nothing about, so I began the investigation to see what was going on there.  Then when Dan got home I passed off kids abruptly, ran to the bank, then took part in a Grief Group at Hospice for people who have lost their parents.  I cried with strangers who became friends and then ran back home- getting gas on the way so that AAA didn't have to show up on the side of the road.  I walked in to find an anxious daughter who wasn't able to finish her homework on the computer because she'd lost the privilege of the computer for making a poor choice.  So as I sat down on the couch, I caught Dan up on it all and I cried.

I cried because I'd had a conversation with my brother about when to scatter Daddy's ashes.

I cried because the people at Hospice "get it" and have brought up so many things in my heart.

I cried because a friend unexpectedly lost his Dad yesterday.

I cried because our house was trashed... and I'm tired of it.

I cried because I just plain miss my parents.

During my productive morning, I juggled our chaos and I got stuff done.  A lot of it, actually.  So when I hit the moment that I just couldn't do anymore... it was okay to not do anymore.

We are raised to be finishers... we want to complete the task, mark it off our to-do list.  I am this way as well.  But I am also a starter.  I have a bazillion started projects downstairs- books I didn't finish, things I wanted to paint, old stationery projects uncompleted, half done scrapbooks... I am a pro at starting.  Finishing, however, is not my strong suit.  Don't believe me?  Check my college transcript for the dates between Freshman Year and Graduation...

In this season of grief and exhaustion, my Juggling Chaos is never harder than when it's trying to determine when to be productive and when to rest.  I teeter between excellent self-care and slothfulness.  I hover over the line of giving myself grace and giving myself permission to do too little... or sometimes, too much.

In between picking up forms and signing things yesterday, Julianna and I stopped at a park to play for a bit.  Near us was a woman sitting alone on a bench who was wrecked with sadness.  I'm not sure if she was suffering from mental illness, or if a situation had left her incapable of anything than sitting on that bench and crying.  Her sadness was palpable... maybe I picked up some of it along the way.  As I pushed Julianna in the swing, I prayed for the woman.  I prayed for myself.  I prayed for the pain and the drowning feeling of the Chaos we both were feeling.  All while I pushed Julianna "higher, Mommy... higher!"

Maybe my Chaos will get better today.  Maybe it will get better next week.  Or maybe it won't get better at all.  I don't know what's next for my schedule, my laundry, my bank account, or my heart... but I do know this:  Not one thing got knocked off my To-Do list yesterday while I was pushing this little girl on the swings.  But nothing on it was more important than pushing her, either.

So here's to being a finisher of the important things.  And a juggler of everything else.

And the wisdom to know when to stand back and just push the swing.