Fast, but slow

She wasn’t a dear friend of mine, but she was the dearest friend of a dear friend.  Today, she has been gone 730 days.  Two years. I feel the loss mostly through the eyes and heart of my friend.

I watched this woman endure the suffering that accompanies loss. And I see in her eyes an awareness, a deepness of soul, that is that gift none of us really want.  Yet, if you could see in her eyes, that deepness of soul is indescribably beautiful.  The gift she didn’t want has become so much, so much beyond herself, so soft, so downy and tender.  It extends to me, and to all she touches.

When something is pulled away, we feel a particular motion.  A sickness of center.  Spiritual vertigo. Tears that go sideways.  Clouds that seem under us as well as inside our very skin. Our fingers clutch and grip and cling until that last shred of control is over….our last breath of holding on is over.  And then…the washing.

I saw her grieve as she said goodbye. I listened to her grieve as she remembered.  I witnessed her grief as she honored by loving. And I celebrate her grief as it transforms into ministry.

Today, she is willing.  Willing to walk alongside others as they grieve, twist, struggle and grow. Humbled and surprised by the Calling she has heard .

I’m not surprised.  I watched you.  And I love you, dear friend.

Self-Study

Not a huge fan of self-help.  Big fan of God-help.

Next to my bed are not a lot of books on how to help myself through hard things or any deep analysis books on my screwed up psyche. On my bedside table are several journals (I have a habit of starting new ones before finishing the last), a couple of favorite devotionals, and my Bible.  Also, several books from a group I attend regularly(That group is best described as a depend-on-God group).

In recent years, I’ve done a tremendous amount of work on taking accountability for my own life.  I’m discovering how unusual that really is as I intersect with others in the world, and I have to say that that is disappointing to me.

I try not to have inordinate expectations of others, yet personal accountability seems so basic, so foundational, that I am continually surprised and dismayed when adults are so quick to lay blame for failures, ruin, and misfortune at the feet of someone other than the person in the mirror. The thing is, it’s never all up to me or all up to someone else. Together, we build, together we break.

As I look back, there are many things that I’ve done, built, or contributed to that I am proud of.  There are also a number of things that did not happen as I wished they had, things that I was involved with that crumbled or even exploded.  My life is a combination of all of those experiences, and I contributed to them all.

I take responsibility for my life.  The good, the not so good.  The love, the pain, the intact, the broken, the relationships.

This no longer makes me sad.  It makes me whole.

The Back of Your Heads

When we were little, I remember driving to church in the family station wagon…three of us in the back seat behind mom and dad.  I have a distinct memory of my mom asking, most Sundays, if her hair looked ok , because she couldn’t see the back.  We always, no matter what, told her that her hair looked pretty.  Every time.  Today, I just smile at that memory, because now I am so very at that age where I wonder things like that. This brings me to today’s post.

Last night I was at a meeting where I was sitting in the row just behind two of my dear friends.  I had the opportunity to carefully look at them, which slowly shifted to realizing how much I love them.

These two women are different from me, and different from one another.  I love them for different and similar reasons.  I love one in a new way, because we are getting to know each other on purpose, intentionally spending time together.  I think we know intuitively that there is a friendship there.  Something valuable and precious…maybe quite rare.  I just really like her.  She’s brave and wounded, and in -process.  I admire her courage, her grace, her grit.  The other?  I’m sort of under-her-wing, so to speak.   It’s a friendship that has so much safety that I can tell her anything, and she has yet to flinch.  The love and compassion that is part of her actual fiber is clearly from experience.  Some days, I just want to hug her and be around her.  She is wise and elegant, yet entirely inclusive.  I love to watch her expand her circle.  The more?  The merrier.  Really amazing.  She means it.

This is but a moment in a life of the back of heads.  You know who you are Gigi, Beth, Kathi, Amy, Tina, Donna, Toni, Brenda, Kathleen, Carolyn, Alycia…. Anne, Janet, Shirley…and so many more.  I love you, and I watch you and I listen to you. You tell me the truth.  You are mirrors for me.  You are wise and funny and crazy .  You are God-honoring and disrespectful and occasionally quite out of control.  You give me hope and courage and sunlight.

By the way, your hair looks great today.

Who am I?

You know that Casting Crowns song from a few years ago?  I still love it.  It still speaks to me.  I go to it over and over and over.

I love the lyrics, because ultimately, it answers the question. All it takes from me  is recognition.  I am His.  I belong to  Him.  Not because of who I am, but because of who He is.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s done.

I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow.  Still He hears me when I call, when I’m falling, and He reminds me that I am His.

Here’s my favorite part:  “Whom shall I fear, whom shall I fear, cuz I am Yours.  “

Matching

This morning I was thinking about my inside matching my outside.  Do I match?  Is what I am actually thinking and feeling reflected in how I behave?

Sadly, I think the answer is FAR too often not.

I wonder  if what I say is true.  I SAY that I want to be known.  I say it all the time.  And it’s true that I can handle your stuff without judgement.  Or at least with very little.   When I hear about other’s failures, disappointments, falls and stumbles, I’m not easily rattled.  I like people with imperfections and bumps and bruises.  It really makes you interesting and authentic and a person who has truly lived here.

When it comes to me, though, it’s so much harder.  I confessed to someone recently that I wasn’t genuine with them.  I hate that, not the confessing, but the masquerade.  I wasn’t completely masking the real me, but I was in part.  I was willing to put my toes on the line, but not walk over it.

The thing is, I know who I am.  I am not fragile, and I am not generally insecure.  Why then, is it so hard to come clean?

The expectations I hold for myself are high.  I expect that I will meet my own standards, some of which are impossibly high…like being authentic and transparent all the time.  In living that out, I do try to hold that standard, but maybe the confessing when I don’t is a step in the right direction.  Maybe being a person that can listen and accept others lives as they are is another step.  Maybe acknowledging frailty and accepting help sometimes is moving me along that path.

Maybe writing this post about my own efforts to be genuine will spur me on in that direction.

Maybe I’ll just keep trying.

You taught me

They came into the world so differently. He, cautiously, slowly, thoughtfully, on a hot blue moon.  She, fast, courageous, fist-first, on a freezing January dawn.

I can remember with dazzling clarity the moment I looked into each new face, the instant I fell in love. That beautiful chin, those perfect lips, baby hair, new skin, tiny hands and all ten toes. Each…mine.  But oh, so not not mine.  Never really mine.

The hope of tomorrows is not a promise. I promised instead that you were His, come what may.  He loaned you to me,  I gave you in covenant to Him , and then we lived that out.

Thank you, my babies, for teaching me to be a mommy.  For birthing in me a new love that didn’t exist before you. For selfless love, as I learned of your needs. For fun and silly, as we played pretend. For wise love, as I learned to make hard decisions for your good.

For devotion and loyalty, as I cheered you and clapped as you sang and competed. For patient love, as you grew and became your own. And for bittersweet love, that hurts, but caused me to look to God, as you pulled away and grew up.

That scared feeling when the nurse placed you in my arms and said I could take you home is beyond description.

Someone said “It’s ok.  They teach you how to do this”. Who will teach me?

You did.  You did with each moment.  We learned together.  You as the child.  Me as your mom.

No more Legos

This was what I wanted for all those years.  No more stepping on legos, no more smeared peanut butter,  no more toothpaste without the cap or wet towels on an un-made bed.

Eventually, all that happens.

I am in the land of Eventually.

I haven’t seen a lego in years, and absolutely no one smears any peanut butter anywhere.  Occasionally, I admit that I forget about the cap on the toothpaste, but wet towels on an un-made bed??  Never.  Not ever.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of spending time with my mom and dad, as well as one of my sisters,  in town for a visit.  My mom explained that huge smile on her face to several of their friends, :”I’m just so happy when my girls are around.  So happy!

All of a sudden, I really missed my kids.  Not the kind of miss where I can’t call them, because I can.  They are a phone call away, and I know that.

No, this was the kind of miss that you can’t get back.  The miss of them as little toddlers, holding my hand as we crossed the street, or squealing with excitement because they heard the jingle of the ice cream truck.  The miss of climbing up in my lap before nap-time to hear a story, or asking me if I would sit by them to watch a cartoon or play a game.

I wish, just one more time, that I could hear one of them calling to me in the middle of the night, and as I hurried down the hall to them, realized a lego was stuck to the bottom of my foot.