Seasons

seasons

For most of my life I have readily recognized the truth of the verse that says, “To everything there is a season.” I get it, the whole that was then, this is now thing. I understand that some life seasons are harder than others. I’m not sure I was fully prepared for how confusing and bewildering this season would be.

Becoming a mother of five adults crept up on me and by the time it popped out from behind the tree I was too far in to run and too scared to scream. Don’t get me wrong–there are some pretty awesome things about watching five adults grow wings and take flight and make their own way in the world. Something fulfilling, even, about knowing I had a key role and a ringside seat to who they have become.

But just about the time I get excited about being a big part of something so amazing, I catch a scent of something concerning going on with one of them and the creative in me goes all imagination-nutso and suddenly all the pride and joy gets vacuumed up in a whirlwind of worry. I like to consider myself fairly flexible and resilient, but this is maddening.

Maybe the truth is that I’m just beginning to realize what a key role fear has played in my life. What a key role it still plays, if I’m totally honest. The perfectionist in me grumbles that I should have grown out of this by now.

And yet here I am, in the throes of peri-menopause, with emotions flailing all over the map and me in the middle playing wack-a-mole to keep them subdued. I’m exhausted.

I find myself wondering what women do in my situation when they don’t have the fierce love and support of a family like mine. I know how the frustration mounts for me, how it feels like a vise I can’t escape, how on my worst days I wish I could start walking and not stop till I fall into an exhausted heap too far away to negatively affect my family. I can’t imagine doing this without the grace and patience of my people.

One bittersweet facet of this time in my life is that memory is acutely sharpened for times gone by. Someone asked today if I remember my childhood phone number. It’s 912-382-0273. I was eleven when that stopped being my phone number. Eleven was a very long time ago. Memory moments keep popping into my head–not just monumental moments but plain old ordinary ones–with an acuteness that has my senses piqued in ways it’s hard to describe. This is a part of my season that I don’t really mind; I find comfort in reminiscing.

All in all, I guess I don’t mind being here in this season. Things could be a lot worse, and I am not about to wish away the blessings that keep me rooted in the here and now. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s where I am. And even with the frustration and the occasional fantasy of heading for the mountains and the life of an old hermit lady, I’m glad I’m here.

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Simple

calm

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.”
Jack Kerouac

These days, they are anything but simple. They are complicated, complex, wrought with conflicting opinion and stand-taking and assertion. I am tired.

I long for calmer moments, of rainy afternoons and dark clouds gathered and thunder like the rumbling of a distant train.

Things are about to become much less quiet in my life as I start work as a TA and simultaneously begin work on my B.S. in Ed Studies full time online. This will be far from simple, but I need rest soul-deep if I have any hope of getting through the next two years.

I want the election to be over. Whatever we are going to wind up with for leadership I just want it done so (hopefully) the arguing and judgment will stop. If it doesn’t stop, then social media will not be seeing much of me. I need to focus in a positive direction.

I long for quietness, for lightness of being, for peace. I long for moments spent holding my husband’s hand or playing Little People with my grandchildren or making dinner for my big, beautiful family. I need to pull inward, to beckon my heart back home. Only then can I pour myself out the way God calls me to do as a wife, a mother, a Mimi, a teacher, a friend.

I am praying for renewal of purpose. For all of us.

25

angel

One by one, they march along
So soon flew twenty-five swift years
Slowly fades the goodbye song
But not the sting of farewell tears

All these hearts remember you
Rosebud lips and tiny hands
Recall is all we now can do
This empty’s hard to understand

Yesterday I painted you
A graceful, earth-freed soaring dove
Upon a canvas spread with blue
Brush-stroked with a mother’s love

Time tries to help our parting fade
But April whispers soft your name
As Heather blooms in springtime shade
And I still miss you just the same

Love,
Mama

________________
In Memory
Heather Rose Easterling
B/D April 18, 1990
~ * ~

What we’ve lost

lisaupclosecropvertblinds25

There are days when I am no match for social media. Today would be one of those days. I have un-followed en masse and trimmed my news feed down to a skeletal list of family and even fewer friends and the smattering of news outlets that have survived the cuts, and yet everywhere I turn the posts and headlines pelt me like sharp rocks to the temple.

Famous Christian artist admits Bible not trustworthy!

Pastor has pornographic visions, gets ousted by foundation he created!

ISIS beheading Christians {Video–Graphic content!}

Economy lowest since Great Depression!

President’s approval rating lowest in history!

Military cuts hundreds of soldiers while on active duty!

America being overrun by illegals!

Beloved actor takes own life!

The anger, the grief, the misunderstanding, the accusations, the judgment. The deep, discouraging, disappointing loss.

It’s enough to bury the sturdiest among us, so it can really do a number on someone juggling mid-life hormone flux. Today has become a day when I needed to walk away from my computer and pour myself into housework or textbook reading or planning dinner. Or pouring all the anguish into a blog post.

Life can be pretty overwhelmingly depressing lately. Which brings me to depression and how wildly misunderstood it (still) is.

I see the reactions to a beloved actor’s death, words flying back and forth, from “Didn’t he know how this would affect his family?” to “You’re finally free!” to “It was a decision! He CHOSE this!” and quite honestly I sit here at my little desk and cringe at how blindly judgmental folks can be.

At risk of oversimplifying, please allow me to state the apparently-not-so-obvious: The person in clinical, chemically-altered depression is not thinking with his/her own mind.

This person is not weighing everything out, determining the massive damage suicide will do to those s/he loves, deciding s/he doesn’t give a rip about that damage, and then in full cognizance of all this, pushing the End button. It just isn’t as clear-cut as that.

I remember clinical depression well. It scared me to death. The sky looked dark in the middle of the day. I’m talking, like almost-night dark. I remember asking my husband if that was what it felt like to go insane. It felt like I was literally losing my ability to think clearly. And the truth, I discovered later as I researched it all, is that in a sense I really was losing it.

And today, what I fear we’ve lost is the ability to consider that we might just not know everything about everybody and what’s going on in the mind of another. And because of that, it might be best to hold opinion-forming until we know a bit more.

What people in depression do not need is blame. They need help. They need a shoulder, a hand, a listening ear. They need hope, not harassment. They need compassion, not condemnation. Believe me, there’s far more than enough condemnation coming from within.

So maybe instead of condemning an actor for selfishly taking his own life and leaving everyone in pain, it would be a better use of our time and energy to reach out to that person we work with, go to school with, live near, see at church/the grocery store/the post office and show a little love. Be a friend. Make a difference that might keep that person around long enough to get the help that is so desperately needed.

Less finger-pointing and more friendship. Because haven’t we lost enough?

 

 

 

Him coming Home

Rest in peace, sweet Joey
3/9/10 – 1/24/14
Photo: Ali Flower Shryock

I must have felt it in the early hours
A tiny quake when startled awake whispering his name to Heaven
Mumbled soft in slumber but the heavens knew
It was him coming Home

There must be a sound, a shake, a sensing
When the fragile soul of a three-year-old
Breaks through time and space
To see God’s face

It’s emptier here in our numbness and tears
We fall trying to make sense of it all
We pray and we grieve
And yet still we believe

In our struggle to cope we are not without hope
Another treasure’s been laid sweetly up
A beautiful boy with blue eyes bright
To light our way to Heaven

When I fall

yellowflower2

Thanks for catching me when I fall
Sometimes the empty of it all caves in
Like waves rushing over pushing memory
Where too many moments crush at once
I run and the tears come and I miss her so
And you reach out and steady me again
I did that for her

Thanks for loving me through it all
When the sadness steals truth from my knowing
And I don’t hear your heart at first
Know that I always feel it, look past the surface
And see you reaching out to grab my hand
Knowing you love me like I love her
And you

When your voice seems pale in comparison

wildflower

They are ever so lovely, those voices crooning from behind microphones, bellowing from bodies wrapped in spandex and sequins and sometimes very little at all. Their words are music and their presence seems to grip the hearts of hearers with an ease that makes you cringe when you think of how small your voice sounds in your own ears, how unappealing your message feels even deep within your own heart.

I’ve felt that way, too.

I’ve watched them dance and sing and speak and win fans in a five-minute performance when most days for me it feels like climbing a mile-high mountain getting one blog post written or sharing my own story or facing a tiny crowd to sing a borrowed song.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter. I can’t command an audience like that, so what’s the point?

Then there are days like yesterday when a woman I hadn’t seen in months walks up to me and places her hand on my shoulder and says, “I read your blog. I follow your life through your words, and I want you to know that I read your story and it’s like I know you, feel your heart, understand your story. When you write, I can see who you really are and it makes me want to share who I am, too.”

And suddenly there’s a ray of hope that breaks through the cloud of comparison.

Because really, I wouldn’t want to dress like those performers or dance the way they do. That isn’t me. That may be their stories, but it isn’t mine. And maybe it isn’t their story at all—maybe in reality it is a façade to cover what they’d rather the watching world not see.

I don’t want a façade. I want the world to see the real me.

And maybe that is what this whole thing is really about: me realizing that I don’t need to worry about how fancy or strikingly-clad or brightly lit my story is. Because it is simply mine.

And how amazing is it that I have the opportunity every single day to put myself out there, to show the real me without glitz or fanfare, to open myself up to everyday people who couldn’t relate to those Hollywood stars if they tried and who need a much more real and believable hand to hold on this journey.

I’m no prize-winning blue rose, but a tiny wildflower can bloom beautiful in a field of dry weeds.

Maybe the fact that I’m no celebrity makes me much more valuable to the millions out there who are anything but famous. People just like me. Maybe this little star doesn’t have to be blindingly brilliant to twinkle a smile in a hurting heart.

Perhaps in the end, it is the ordinary story that becomes extraordinary in its telling.

I’m willing to shine. Are you?

~  *  ~

 

 

A Write Where It Hurts column post

The lesson in a lie

grace

A lie is an ugly thing. The one I told Mary Jamison in eighth grade wasn’t supposed to be an ugly thing, but in the end it certainly turned out to be.

Mary was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. She was taller than me (which wasn’t saying much, as she was appreciably taller than most of her friends) with long blondish-brown hair and a creamy white complexion not uncommon among my other small-town Minnesota classmates. She thought she was homely. I thought she was beautiful.

I had moved from Florida to Minnesota in the middle of the school year, a move that snatched me from my friends and made me hate the step-dad who dragged us away. I was a blonde, blue-eyed, deep-tanned skater with a thick Southern accent. In other words, I stuck out like a sore thumb. All things considered, it came as a pleasant surprise when I went from being an ordinary nobody in big-town Tampa, Florida to quite a somebody in tiny Wykoff, Minnesota.

Everybody wanted to be my friend, and all the guys wanted me to go out with them. By “go out” I mean “be boyfriend and girlfriend” since I was all of 13. Looking back it’s crazy to think I was allowed to have a boyfriend that young, but I digress. It became a common occurrence for school-mates to randomly walk up to me and ask me to “say something–anything!” just so they could hear the twang. At first it was fun. Before long it had gone way past annoying.

Suddenly (and miraculously) the most popular girl in school, I got love notes in my locker nearly every day. My friends teased me about it, giggling and begging to read every word. But Mary looked sad. Fun I could handle, but the look on her face as I stood at my locker reading yet another secret admirer letter was more than I could handle. I wanted to do something to make her happy. I wanted to make her smile. So I decided to lie.

I didn’t see it as a lie, of course. I saw it as an intervention with the most loving of intentions. I wrote a letter to Mary from an imaginary Secret Admirer, telling how “he” thought she was beautiful and smart and amazing, and slipped it into her locker. My efforts gained the exact result I’d hoped for: Mary dashed into the next class grinning from one flushed cheek to the other. Her eyes danced as she read us the letter, and we all rejoiced with her. She refolded the note and sighed deeply, then said, “Do you think he will write me again?”

Suddenly this was a little more complicated than I had considered. Of course she would be disappointed if he didn’t write again. It had never occurred to me that this would have to continue somehow, and that at some point it would have to end. And then we’d be right back where we started: Mary’s sad eyes.

After writing a few more notes and sneaking them into her locker and hearing her excitedly read them at lunch, I realized I was in over my head. The thought of letting her down broke my heart. Telling her the truth was out of the question, since she would understandably hate me forever. So I confided in a mutual friend and asked her what I should do. Unfortunately the mutual friend was so shocked by my confession she took it straight to Mary.

I won’t ever forget Mary’s confrontation, her face contorted around the angry “How could you?” and her eyes brimming with tears. Caught unaware, I could do nothing but stand there in shock. No words came at first, and then I tried to explain that I was only trying to do something nice for her but she held up her hand stop-sign fashion and walked away.

News spreads fast in a small-town school. I was no longer Most Wanted As a Friend. In fact, nobody was really speaking to me at all. Few times in my life have I felt so alone.

About a week later I found myself walking down an quiet hallway during lunch hour. I didn’t bother going to the cafeteria any more, dreading the stares and looks of disappointment and disgust. I had come to their school and hurt one of their own. I was the unforgivable.

At the end of the hallway I backed against a row of lockers and slid to the floor. Drawing my knees in close, I let my head fall forward and wept. Hard. I’m not sure how long I’d been sitting there when I heard a noise. Startled, I raised my face to find Mary standing above me. I couldn’t meet her gaze. She backed up and slid down the lockers across the hall, assuming my same position opposite where I sat. I wiped my face with my sleeve and forced myself to look up.

Her face was sad but not angry. Her words were quiet and pierced me through. “It really hurt what you did.”

“I know,” I managed to choke out. “I swear I never meant to hurt you. But I see now how stupid I was.”

“I know why you did it. I’m hurt that you lied to me, but I can’t be mad at you for why you did it.” She managed a half-smile.

“Can you forgive me?” My words faded to a choke at the end. She nodded, then came over and hugged me tight. Grace and forgiveness washed over me like a miraculous healing right there by locker 54.

In that moment I vowed to never do anything like that again, and to always think things through before acting. I had learned the hard lesson that good intentions don’t excuse bad actions. I had learned that a lie never repairs but only digs a deeper hole, and that only truth and honesty and love can fill those empty places.

Mostly I learned that grace is one of the greatest gifts a heart will ever hold.

A Beautiful Life

ABLbookcoverFREE for Kindle this weekend

It’s a lot like giving birth, this book releasing thing, like holding a newborn out to the waiting world and whispering, “Please love it?” Makes me a little queasy, if I’m completely honest, and I admit moments of wondering what in the world I was thinking taking this on. But I did, and here it is, and I really do hope you love it.

I’ve been writing my whole life, and it’s no secret that I have a particular passion for using words to build into people–especially other women–and offer them courage and hope. I’ve had bits and pieces of books written and stored for a long time, but it wasn’t until Brian Williams’ book writing class that the motivation and accountability teamed up with my love for writing and resulted in a finished work.

My first book. As I consider how many women have received it since it went live yesterday, the thought of that many people holding a me-shaped piece of hope is both terrifying and exhilarating at once. Deep down I am awed by God’s grace that I get to be a part of something this lovely, this inviting of others to remember what it was like to dream.

I won a writing contest in fifth grade, and from the moment I read my story aloud and saw the wonder on my classmates’ faces, I was hooked. With a million butterflies dancing around in my tummy, I was overcome by an excitement I couldn’t word. I had a feeling that was just the beginning, and I was right. There is no feeling quite like having someone walk up to me and say, “I read your book, and I love it! Thank you for being real on the page and putting it out here for all of us.” That happened this morning, and I’m pretty sure it will never get old.

So here’s my baby, and I offer it out to you, my sweet friend. Because it’s you I pictured sitting across the table from me as I wrote. You, with your questions and your exhaustion and your wondering if you can keep going one more single minute. You can, and I’m going to be here cheering you on. You aren’t alone, and don’t you forget it. We’re in this together, and I can’t wait to meet you on the page.

My heart to yours, I wish you an ever-increasingly beautiful life.

Peace in the face of fear

weightmoments

It was just past 6am when the call came. “Mama, I’m okay, but I was in an accident.”

My surroundings panned back, lengthening like a movie scene as I struggled to find my voice. “Is it serious? What happened? Where are you?” Questions popped like shots from a flare gun.

“It’s pretty serious. The traffic is never backed up or stopped on this road, but this morning it was. It all happened so fast. I got out right away to check on the lady I hit and tried to keep her calm till the ambulance came. I think she will be okay.”

I found out where he was and jumped into the car, my mind still wrapped in a fog. In the midst of the blur, phrases from the call kept floating forward. He’d been driving his future father-in-law’s car, and as I pulled up to the scene I could tell it was totaled. I felt sick. He was talking to an officer when I arrived but quickly came over and put his arms around me. I was wrecked but in emergency mama mode and my baby needed me strong.

It was two weeks till his wedding, and I fought to stop the flow of what-ifs. It was surreal that he walked away from the accident uninjured. His account of the accident playing over in my head was nearly more than I could stand. He’s 20, but he will always be my baby boy.

I’ve rarely known fear like that. Really, I don’t think there is anything like the fear a mother feels for the safety of her children. I generally stay in a constant stream-of-dialogue prayer, and let me tell you that morning God and I had quite the conversation. The fear of a mama for her babies is the kind that grips and doesn’t let go, squeezes the breath right out and threatens to smother any hope or reason.

But when the God of Peace lives deep within the soul of a mama, it changes everything.

Scripture says that we don’t “grieve like those who have no hope.” (I Thess. 4:13) That verse has always made me think well beyond grief and mourning, has made me realize that we don’t do anything like those who have no hope. Not with the Creator of the Universe in the driver’s seat.

We don’t live like those who have no hope.
We don’t stress like those who have no hope.
We don’t fear like those who have no hope.

There’s no peace like God’s peace, that unwordable calm that settles deep and assures the heart that no matter what happens God will never lose control.

My sweet boy and his beautiful wife have been married for just over five months, and the same God who settles my soul watches over our newlyweds with a protectiveness like no other. I will always worry, because I am a mama. But fear will not hold me long, because my hope rests in the One Whose perfect love casts out all fear.

It is a hope that drives everything I do.
And I pray this hope for you.

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