Monday, May 20, 2013

The Magic of Relationships

We just returned home from another Magical Disney trip.  To those of you who think we go all the time... you're right.  To those who don't get it... I don't blame you.  To those who always want to go in our suitcases... I don't blame you either.

After our first trip, Dan immediately started planning our second.  By our third, I would roll my eyes each time he mentioned "next time..."  Seriously.  I love to travel.  I love a good vacation.  Why not go somewhere else?  While I know the pastries are amazing in Epcot's France, they're actually pretty good in Real France, too... why not go there?  Or more local?  Sure.  There are tons of places our car can drive to... let's look there instead?

But Dan was hooked.  And now E was, too.  There was no turning back.

Our trips quickly became part of "us".  We were able to mark growth of our little girl in recognizing which rides she was able to ride- both because of height requirements and because of her own trepidation after a not-so-great moment on Thunder Mountain.  We noted restrooms where we'd first changed diapers, then took a "big girl" shortly after she was potty trained, then later allowed her to go into her own stall.  We experienced the luxury of meeting up with friends at various points along the way and have those memories engrained in our hearts forever.

So whether or not I planned to be a Disney Mom, I became one.

This most recent trip ranked up there among my very favorites.  We had some new experiences- The Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot was new for us, as well as the whole reason for this trip: Star Wars Weekend! Dan had booked the trip back in February as a Daddy/Daughter trip for just him and Elizabeth.  It was to be their one last Disney hoorah before the baby came.  We knew it would be a while before we'd make it back as I'd already declared I would not travel with an infant.  I had planned to stay home and have time to prep the nursery... and relax.  Once we lost the baby, Dan immediately booked my airfare.  Apparently there would be no relaxing, but instead my mental health would be cared for with Mickey Bars and fireworks.

So off we went in search of Jedis and healing in the land of the Mouse.

(**An added bonus of this trip was that our dear friends, the Pettys, were going to be there for their Make-a-Wish trip.  Miss Leah (and her siblings) added to the joy of our "new" experiences.)

On our Epcot day, we had just finished the Nemo ride in The Seas and E wanted to explore the aquarium/learning area.  I honestly thought she might want to skip that and head out in search of more rides.  Thankfully, she did not.  We went upstairs to check out the exhibits... and I couldn't leave.  The dolphins.  Oh, the dolphins.

Quick side story: I've been a big dolphin fan since our honeymoon when we were able to watch them from our resort both morning and night as they went to feed.  We continue to seek out the dolphins when we're at the beach.  There's just something so majestic about them!  The dolphins this trip provided the same awe-inspiring experience for me.

Eventually Dan and E went off to play in the shark learning area, while I stayed and watched these amazing creatures.  I'll admit that while I love Disney, I don't love that the dolphins are in such a small area.  There were two of them on the side of the tank where I was, and appeared to be at least 2 on the other side.  One of them never left the "window" in between where he/she could see the other dolphins.

I watched these dolphins for a long time.  I wondered what it was that connected them.  Was one the other's baby?  The other's mate?  Was one just curious what was on the other side of the "window"?  Or could they see the treats that were being given to the other?  Was it merely environmental?  Or was it relational?

Dan and I debriefed this for a while after he finally pried me away from the window.  I'll never know what it was.  My guess is that it was relational... probably because that's my view of the world.  I long for connection and I ache when it is taken from me.  Like that dolphin, I'll often times ignore the rest of my "tank"... and even the freedom that it brings... by hanging on to the relationship just on the other side of the window.  My hope is that I'm able to balance life on both sides of the tank and focus on the relationships on my side... but I can't be sure I'm able to make that happen.

Leaving The Seas that day, I couldn't stop thinking about those dolphins.  And connections.  They were all around me at Disney.  People were celebrating family and princesses and characters and running for hugs and skipping to the next event.  And that's why I love Disney.  Not for the hype of the park- though I do get caught up in that as well- but for the connections that it brings.

Regardless of which side of the window you're on... there is magic in relationships.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

on Mother's Day...

Buying a Father's Day card for my Dad was always hard.  Daddy moved out when I was in 7th grade, so buying one that gave him "rights to the remote!" never seemed to fit.  He lived in his own house with his own remote... I never was in charge of that one.  He didn't golf.  He wasn't in to sports.  I wasn't able to steal his car keys or take cash out of his wallet... and those seemed to be all of the Hallmark-themed Man Cards out there.  I often would stick to "Love, your little girl" and move on.

I found myself in a similar conundrum this year with Mom.  I can no longer go toward the "you're my mother and my best friend" line.  I can't talk about shopping trips.  I can't offer to give her a "day off"... ugh, Hallmark/ American Greetings/ Target... can you help a sister out?  I ended up with one which was super true- and hard to buy at the same time.  It was along the lines of "You taught me how to be a Mom/ I learned from the best."  But buying cards for someone who is no longer the woman you grew up with is tricky.

Mother's Day can be just that... tricky.  I first learned this from my friend, Nicole, after she lost her Mom.  She dreaded Mother's Day.  She got through that first day without her Mom with the help of her husband- that year also marked Nicole's first year with her own child, and Geoff helped her celebrate big in a way that was honoring to both Nicole and her Mom.

This year, Nicole is celebrating her second year without her husband's help.  Geoff died May 2 last year, and Nicole herself has said that maybe we can skip straight from April to July.  (Father's Day is another rough event for her same family... as it is in mine as well.)

So what then?  What about those who don't have a Momma here to celebrate?  Or who don't have a husband here to rally around them so that they are celebrated?  Or those- like us- who longed for so long to be a Mother, only to find pregnancy test after test negative?  My friend, Debbie (a recent widow herself) blogged about her own experience here.  This is her first Mother's Day without the "typical" husband-prompted events.  Rather than put myself in her shoes, I'd love you to read her own words.  And I read this blog post earlier this week directed toward women struggling with infertility... a battle I know too fondly.  In fact, I'm reminded that one year I not only had no child to celebrate, but my due date for one of the babies we lost was on the actual day of Mother's Day.  Ouch.

We all have our own pain, our own grief, our own hard places in life.  Those of us hurting don't ask those of you not to hide your joy- we just appreciate it oh so much when you acknowledge our journey.  My own journey over the last year has led me to be truly intentional on days like this.  Rather than play "the game", I let Dan know of something I'd been wanting to purchase for our family, and asked his blessing to make that gift my Mother's Day/Anniversary gift.  The "extra" treats of my day came in homemade books and self-wrapped candy bars, delivered with breakfast by the sweet little one who first called me Mommy.  I scheduled time with my Mom today, and made sure to make her feel special on this first Mother's Day in our newest stage of life together.  And this evening, Dan and I enjoyed some adult company while my little girl played Star Wars outside with friends until they all smelled like "kids in the summer" and we called it a night.  Truly, I enjoyed my day.  

I won't lie, though... this morning I woke up missing Mary, and quite honestly, missing my Mom.  I have been blessed to have an amazing Mother and Stepmother, and sadly don't have them here to celebrate as I have in years past. What I do have are the qualities that both poured into my life, and for that I am grateful.  I am hopeful that however you spent your day, you had a moment to be grateful for some amazing women in your life, too- however they arrived there.  And on days like this that Hallmark (etc.) don't seem to offer the perfect card for you, know that there are so many others like you out there.  We hurt with you, and we celebrate with you too.

Monday, May 6, 2013

she lied to me.

If you have spent time with me at all in the last 5 years, you know that I have a wee bit of a girl crush on Jen Hatmaker.  Okay... even if you've not... even if you've just read my blog, you probably know the same thing.  I discovered her several years ago when a group of us did one of her Bible studies... and instantly she became my fake BFF.

This weekend, I got to meet her in real life.

Move over, real BFFs... I think Jen just got promoted.

I'm not sure what was happening in this exact second,
but I know Jen and I had just had a moment where we shared our mutual love.
Or our one-sided affection.  Whatever.
Possibly because I'm already at Over The Top Stalker status, I had been in touch with Jen before her event to let her know how excited I was about our upcoming face-to-face time.  Her response to me was something along the lines of "You need to ratchet it down a notch. I'm no good in real life. I don't want you to be disappointed."

She lied to me.

Huge, gigantic lie.

(And maybe I even told her that.)

She was super in real life.  I mean, fantastic.  We share a snarcastic (it's a word) sense of humor... and there were moments I hurt from laughing.  And she shared truth.  Good truth.  Life changing/ world changing truth.


I won't bore you with the story of how my friends didn't get this picture on my phone.

But here's what also happened this weekend... I was able to hear that Truth.

I have- for nearly 5 weeks now- been in The Wilderness.  I'm actually still there... it didn't magically get fixed this weekend.  My heart got broken in early April in a way that it may take a lifetime to recover.  I've had friends help with my healing process- shopping trips and glasses of wine and cups of coffee and mix CDs and space given have all helped.  Dan has loved me well in these weeks.  Elizabeth has been a balm to my wounds.  But what has been so foreign to me in this space is that my usual Comforter has felt so distant.

Now, before you go all Bible on me, I am fully aware that He has never left me.  If anything, I've been the one on vacation.  Yet in this time, my standard responses- prayer, Bible study, journaling- have felt anything but standard.  What has once brought me great comfort has been a foul taste in my mouth... and that hurts.

I have shared this uncomfortable feeling with those closest to me... and with few exceptions, they have given me permission to ache and hurt and walk in The Wilderness.  What has been beautiful is that they have given my heart space to experience this time and have not rushed to "fix it"... because it has not been easily fixed.

What they have also done is fortress-ed around us and done all of the hard work of prayer on our behalf, knowing I have been unable to reach up in my pain.  (In fact, I worried about one sweet friend just yesterday.  As I sat beside her in church, I feared her head might explode from praying- and I'm assuming here- that I would be able to "handle" being back in church for the first time.)  We are blessed with good friends who stand with us and go before us.

I had prepared the girls going with me to hear Jen that I was nervous.  I was fearful I would have a panic attack hearing someone (not my fake new bestie, of course) say something so standard and cliche' feeling that I would run from the church.  I was worried of hearing those "God is always so good even in the pain" lines... which may be Truth, but have not been healing to my pain as they often get handed out so freely.

But you know what?  I didn't hear that this weekend.  What I heard was Jen reminding me of the person of Jesus... who cares about the same things that are my very own heartbeat.  He cares about relationships.  He cares about those hurting.  And that guy?  That guy I like.

I'm still not a big fan of the Band-Aid type of comfort that we so readily push onto hurting people.  Some of the things (cards, books, bumper stickers...) that are sold in Christian bookstores have been enough to make my insides churn over the last 5 weeks.  "Let go and let God", while may be filled with Truth, is enough to make me want to run screaming from places I have once felt so comfortable.  Please, people, when you see hurting people around you (even people you know who may have once handed you Christian-ese lines), please don't say things like this.  Please don't tell them that God clearly had a plan for their _____ ... their loss, their heartache, their pain.  Please don't assume that what they once knew without a shadow of a doubt has not created some doubt in their minds.  That's just it... don't assume.  Ask.  And wait.  And be willing for it to take time and even to look ugly.  Because it might.

Jen handed out Truth this weekend in a way that reminded me of who Jesus is.  She talked about Him... and not about how we should feel.  Those things- His nature and my feelings- can coexist in a tenuous space as I relearn how to trust and as I become what is next.  He is bigger than my issues... and He won't Band-Aid over my broken heart.

So, in a nutshell, time with Jen was awesome.  Except that she lied about 'not being good in person'.  But I guess we'll still be besties because I've invested too much at this point to walk away from our friendship.  That's what you have to do... you have to be willing to stick it out through the tough points.  And it's worth it when your bestie is a girl from Texas who makes you laugh til you hurt and did NOT take out a restraining order on me this weekend.  That's good times, people.