Writing Where It Hurts

Photo: Artbeat Photography

One would think that because I write and edit for Write Where It Hurts, I am constantly writing where it hurts. One would be wrong.

I never mean to make it sound easy to dig down below the surface to the painful places, pulling them up like roots exposed to light for examining. I’ve only been to professional counseling once in my life.  I was 34 when a close friend died suddenly and it jolted my system into clinical depression (nerve exhaustion, adrenal exhaustion). After suffering the most debilitating physical symptoms I’d ever encountered for about two weeks, I visited a professional counselor to see if maybe he could help.

His suggestion was to dig back into my past, to unearth whatever past traumas were at the root of what was happening to me. I kept trying to explain to him that what I was experiencing wasn’t just grief symptoms–I could barely function! He started talking about taking a pharmaceutical route and I finally told him if there was no other way to wellness I would consider it. Fortunately through extensive research on my own and an amazing family doctor, we were able to address the physical problem of nerve exhaustion with acupuncture and Chinese herbs and I was symptom-free within six weeks.

All that said, there is a time for digging, unearthing, examining.

Such introspection and remembering can be freeing beyond all expectation. That doesn’t mean it’s a breeze to do, but the benefit of wholeness is far beyond worth the effort.

Real healing is rarely easy.

With the right tools and (especially) encouragement, the excavating of our hurts can be made a little easier. We all need a buddy for the journey; if you have at least one, consider yourself armed.

In fact, I would love to be considered your Friend for the Foray. Would you consider it?

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We Are Parents

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We are parents who started out too young to be parents. Ones who didn’t stand a chance but chanced to stand strong against the odds, who held each other at night while babies slept and storms raged outside and the worry etched deep.

We are parents who bungled the mothering and the fathering early and learned along the way to do things better. Ones who spoke too sharply and said sorry and got forgiven. Ones who corrected swift and hugged gentle and long and prayed with children for better choices and smoother days.

We are parents who were terrified to have a second child because there was too little money and too much fear for what we couldn’t provide. Ones who found out God makes a way for two children and more when there is trust.

We are parents who read aloud to children who could read on their own long after laps were outgrown because the cuddling is where the joy comes from. Ones who cried through lines in books read and movies watched twice because it was just as sad the second time.

We are parents who rolled pennies for baby shoes and collected soda bottles to return for gas money to make it to work. Parents who once begged the electric company for a few days’ mercy because the little ones would be cold.

We are parents who modeled the wildly imperfect and shrugged off catastrophes, who brushed tears from little faces over toppled drinks because broken cups don’t matter but broken spirits do.

We are parents who held grownup children and cried open and hard when memory swarmed because in the memories we get to live love all over again. Parents unashamed to express love, because real love is not ashamed.

We are parents who drove old cars and thanked good friends for shade-tree car repairs and tried to always do for others whatever we could because it was money we lacked but love we had.

We are parents who started pea fights and played pranks and smeared the unsuspecting with cake batter, because life should include more smiles than sadness.

We are parents who held close through miscarriage in early May and buried a newborn in a little white box on an April afternoon while breezes blew heather in clay pots by gravestones too small to belong.

We are parents who sat long at baseball practices with coolers and chairs and packed suppers, who shared ball park fries and worked in the concession stand to pay player fees. Ones who coached and team-mom’ed and fund-raised and raked fields and ran fences and cheered hoarse.

We are parents who shouldered criticism for too much sheltering. Parents who shrank back when told it was normal for siblings to duke it out, who didn’t agree because we wanted our young to hold one another close to the heart. Parents who are grateful for kids who learned to peaceably resolve conflict and have grown up close.

We are parents who to our knowledge have never really been written off as uncool, and who as a result tend to forget our age.

We are parents who taught our young ones there was nothing they couldn’t do or be, and believed it. Parents who said aim high and never outgrow being a student and go for the dream, whatever it might be because we would always be their home team.

We are parents who conceived seven and raised five as individually as we knew how. Parents who encouraged each to “be who God wired you to be” because no two sand grains are the same and neither are two people. Parents who said there’s more than one path to a goal and the adventure is finding the one that fits best–or blazing one brand new.

We are parents who sold the house and dragged kids across the state to plant a church, who asked them to see with us past what we possessed to what God was building, who worked hard and cried the questions embraced in the quiet of night and begged God for glimpses of His plan when we couldn’t see it through the fog. Parents who established and released and brought them back home again to move on forward. Ones who have watched wide-eyed and awestruck as God has shown us through our children the very answers we craved.

We are parents who taught our children to love fiercely and forever, because that is the only way we know how to love.

We are parents who have held babies and toddlers and children and teens and adults through aches of the heart, have cried with them and prayed with them and in our flailing efforts and by God’s amazing grace helped them rebuild hope when life tore it right through.

We are parents who have been taught by our children more times than we could count.

We are parents who made many mistakes, who wrapped up in grace and tried always to offer it back. Parents grateful for every tiny thing, who hoped our children would in turn walk in gratefulness down paths all their own. Parents who know God is the giver of all good things even when we misinterpret what good means in this life. Ones who believe God and what He gives truly is enough.

We are parents who made home our discovery hub, who sewed halves of parent hat and teacher hat into one and joined in the learning adventure to make a classroom out of life.

We are parents who filled our home with music, left instruments lying around for the playing and listened to new songs birthed and shared. Parents who would rather hear our kids play and sing than anyone else in the world.

We are parents who have openly given, fiercely protected, madly loved.

We are parents who get frustrated, slip and swear, put things off, take on too much, neglect the good we know we ought to do.

We are parents who have watched sons choke up as their brides walk the aisle toward them, parents who blessed them with the wish that they will experience the depth of love we have known with one another all these years, and who will always bless those on either end of the aisle because this love we’ve known is the best blessing we can wish.

We are parents who stay home when those who remain go and do, usually because there is no money left for us for the going and doing. Parents who are okay with being left behind because we like being together. Ones who both eagerly await and dread the very-soon day when there will be money for the going and the doing because those who remained will be gone.

We are parents who drop off and pick up, who arrange and rearrange schedules, who cancel what we had planned in favor of a kid’s activity, who find the funds one way or another for that unexpected need. Parents who do whatever it takes to make things happen for their family because that’s what parents do.

We are parents who carry regrets that go back decades–regrets of parenting blunders that cause us to cringe but make our children laugh.

We are parents who joy in our children’s every accomplishment, who grieve with their every loss, who will always call them babies even when they wrinkle with age. We are parents fist-bump proud of the amazing people our offspring have become and who count them our closest friends.

We are parents who hold hands on the dock and look to the future and smile at the past and try live fully present in the now because every singular moment in this life is a gift to be savored. Ones who share heart to heart and talk of things no one else would comprehend, say things only we two understand because our hearts are one.

We are parents who are blessed to be.

The Mama Promise (A Mother Letter)

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Dear Mother,

Maybe you’ve been told not to wish these moments away, that you’ll want them back someday. I wonder if it made you smile, or grow thoughtful, or if maybe you pinched your eyes into little slits and wished people would mind their own business.

They usually mean well, I think, and don’t intend to come across as uppity or old and bossy. Most of us really are trying to be helpful.

I’ve said that: You will wish these moments back. It was never meant as a sermon. No, that was just me wishing. What my heart was saying is that there will come a time when you think back on the fingers stretching out beneath the bathroom door when all you wanted was a moment of peace, the Glazed Doughnut Monster of Snottingham’s unwelcome kisses being applied to your freshly showered face, the nights of broken sleep…

and you will actually miss it.

I only say that because I do.

Not that you will miss the invasion, or the snot, or the bloodshot eyes and incoherent speech. What you will miss are the little faces, the big eyes filled with wonder, the tight hugs at bedtime, the “Mama, you are the bestest ever.”

Because those things get caught up in the breezes of time and blow away.

They melt into classes and meetings and excursions and parties and dinners out and driving permits and weddings and goodbyes. And while goodbye is not forever, it does leave things very, very quiet.

Right now the thought of quiet may sound like the purest music you’ve ever heard. Might even sound too good to be true. Don’t dread the quiet that will come–just close your eyes and breathe in the busy and beautiful noise, the crazy and chaotic flurry of family all around you while it’s here.

Know that you are doing the most noble and beautiful and profound thing you could possibly be doing in this life, you mothering the spark of the Divine here on this humble sod.

Things will calm down. Those littles will grow up. The sticky kisses will cease.

The watercolor ponies will ride away, and you will wish them back.

But that isn’t even the real promise.

The Mama Promise is that you will smile a lot more often if you think a little more deeply about this life you are living right now in the midst of the motherhood mayhem. If you thank God for every dirty face, every untidy room, every load of laundry, every moment made less peaceful by a bathroom buddy.

Because each one of these things is from His hand, a grace only a mother could love.

If you can, try not to wish away these moments, Mama. Savor them for all they are worth. Trust me when I say they are worth far more than you could possibly know right now.

You will be glad you treasured them. This I can promise.

Just Love

It’s just love, really, at the bottom of the pile of all this, the striving and the overwhelm and the frantic tries to do it all. Just love for my family and friends and for this life and for sweet people all over the world–and especially the ones who haven’t yet been loved enough to be sweet back. I was wired to love and I was wired to write, and so it feels something like breathing to use my words to love this world and give them only a me-sized piece of hope.

I want to do it all–all the letters and the photo-snatched memories and the beautiful things that go into books and onto pages and get etched across lives to grow them deeper, fuller, richer. I want to do it all, and I don’t want anyone to tell me it’s okay if I can’t because it isn’t okay. I’m not okay if I can’t.

Call it a dream, or a goal, or just something deep inside this crazy almost-old woman whose children are nearly all grown up, whose husband stands strong nearby holding her hand but daring her with twinkling eyes to soar. If this is my dream, please don’t pinch me. Tell me I can do it.

I have to believe I can, because to believe anything less leaves me not quite all here, not quite whole.

Sometimes in the chaos of do-it-all-now I instinctively slow, close my eyes, breathe deeply, inhale my surroundings, and remind myself to be grateful–truly grateful–for the here and now, for what I am doing already.

I never realized how driven I am.

But what if it’s true that it’s just love driving me, pushing me forward, propelling me toward the dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember? What then?

How does one fly through a cloud thick with all the details of a purpose?

A Marriage Letter

ImageDear Steve,

How have you done it all these years, kept up with my wild striving, put up with me from the girl you met at a stop-light and followed home all the way to now more than 32 years later this woman I’ve become? How have you always loved me the same way, with no restriction and no bounds, just all in and all about me and our children–our family?

I don’t describe you often to others, my beloved whom I’ve called Pizzaman since we heard Joyce give the name to her Frank all those years ago, us curled up on the couch together watching Hillstreet Blues. I don’t describe you often because it sounds like I’m making it all up like the fairy tale I dreamed you to be as I wished in my little girl mind for the man who would one day win my heart.

And win it you did, boy with the afro in the Mustang at the stop-light, now man who has held my hand all these years through wordless joy and wrenching pain, who has fathered our children and held me at graveside as we buried one too soon.

You have always been here for me, for us, in ways I find it difficult to write.

You were there holding me close the day we learned we were three, the day by the Mustang when we cried scared knowing I was only sixteen and we’d not yet said “I do” and we feared what everyone would say, would do, would think. We almost ran away. Almost, but we stayed, and we whispered our confessions tearful on swings and in dining rooms and we hurried plans and spoke vows to one another from young lips and hopeful hearts in a tiny church your parents built. Vows we’ve kept for a long time because God has never stopped being good.

You have never spoken unkindly to me, though few might believe that possible. I was a stubborn girl all those years ago, fiercely independent and nowhere near ready to be a wife and mother, and how, my love, were you always still so kind?

I wonder often, but especially today, was there ever a husband so good to a wife?

Join me along with some other lovely people in celebrating our marriages in April?