Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief

Advent, The Howl of the Not Yet

O ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow…

The past few weeks have been marked by much suffering for those I love.  The pain seems overwhelming: a cheating spouse, soul-crushing anxiety, an ex-husband who seems bent on destruction, an out-of-nowhere heart attack, a teen in the struggle of his life with substance abuse, babies who are stuck in the NICU, my own grief over huge life-changes and financial struggles that seem insurmountable.   You get it.  You might be in the middle of it.  Like me, your thoughts are shouting, “How long?  How much?  Why?  Why especially right now?”

I love the holiday season.  From November 1 to January 1, like many of yours, our house is filled with decorations, food (and way too much of it, as my waistline is currently showing), family, friends, celebration, and traditions.  Along with these external manifestations of the season, there are also the underlying inner emotional expectations of gratitude, wonder, joy, peace, love, hope and generosity, to name just a few.  (A quick confession:  I like this paragraph more than the first one.  I want to live here.  I want all good things, happy thoughts.)

The four-week period leading up to Christmas morning is commonly known as Advent.  It’s Advent right now.  Shauna Niequist says,

“Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning.  Advent is the question, the pleading and Christmas is the answer to that question, the response to the howl.  There are moments in this season when I don’t feel a lot like Christmas, but I do feel a lot like Advent.”

Advent speaks about and grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today, and yearning that is unfulfilled.  However, Advent ALSO gives a glimpse of hope at the end of a long season of waiting.   Advent says there is suffering and it is real, palpable.  But Advent ALSO reminds us there is promise of healing, just as real and palpable.  Advent says “do NOT skip over the suffering.  Do NOT minimize the heartache.  Sit in it, acknowledge it, and feel it.”  This is not an easy place.  I struggle with Advent.  I have difficulty sitting with the grief, the waiting, acknowledging and feeling it.  I skip right to Christmas morning, the happy place, where the answer is here and salvation has come.  As Emily Freeman says, “I rush to joy.”

Skipping right to Christmas does NOT work in the end.  Rushing to joy does NOT take away the pain.  It does NOT prevent bad things from happening (I was in the ER this past weekend to prove that point…I am fine now).  It does NOT bring true healing.  Advent might be the better place that brings lost-lasting healing.  Advent speaks the deeper truth of heartache and hope, suffering and a savior.  Both are needed in this beautiful, messy life of ours.

God seems to do some of His best work during the seasons of “Advent” in our lives, the waiting periods, the not-yet times.  Especially if we look for those who will “sit with us in the dark,” when we can’t see the light, those who will venture into the not-so-pretty places with us and remind us that we are not alone, Immanuel is coming and has come and will stay with us for as long as it takes until we can see “Christmas” on the horizon.

We still have more than two weeks until Christmas.   Let’s not skip to it.  Let’s stay in the not-yet, the place of anticipation.  Let’s dive into the questions, the grief, the “howl,” the yearning of both ourselves and those we love.  Let’s be okay in the waiting.  Christmas will come soon enough.  A baby will be here.  A Savior will come.  What is empty will be filled.  Heartache will be healed.  Yearning will be fulfilled.  What is broken will be repaired.  What we’ve lost will be found.  But in the meantime, we wait together, not forgetting the howl of our hearts.

Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

(It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Fourth Verse)

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

To the Mom Who is Saying Goodbye…

I’m awake.  It’s 4:00 am.  Just 45 minutes ago, I heard the garage door open and close for the last time at this ungodly hour.  I ran downstairs to give and get a hug from our youngest.

You see, tonight was the night of nights.  After a final dinner celebrating our two graduates, Rachel and her best friend did what they always do.  They drove around enjoying our sleepy little town and the surrounding areas, talking about all those things BFFs talk about.  This was their last time to do that as neighbors who’ve known each other (and been mostly inseparable) since they were just six years old.  That’s why it’s an ungodly hour.  I don’t blame them.  It’s really hard to say goodbye.

After crying and hugging when she came in, and clinging to her (and secretly wishing I never had to let go), she went to sleep in her childhood bed for one more dreamy night and after trying to venture back into my own fitful sleep, I gave up and decided to process just a tiny bit of the swirling emotions coursing through my very bones.

You see, today is the day of days.  I begin the long goodbye of driving my precious Rachel across the country to her new life on the other coast in Burbank, California.  2,764 miles from our house to her new apartment.  That’s really far.  We leave in just 11 hours.

When she burst on the scene 19 years, 10 months ago, I never fathomed the ache I would hold in my heart this morning.  The proud and painful and thankful and joyful and awful ache.  It’s the universal mom ache that comes every time we say goodbye.

It starts when our babies take their first toddling and tentative steps away from us.  That initial ache comes unbidden as we grasp a glimpse of all the future steps they will take away from us, all the goodbyes to come.

The goodbye of walking onto a school bus or into a classroom for the very first time.  Tiny hands turn and wave.  The ache rears and settles.

The goodbye of a first sleepover or summer camp.  They are not “right in the next room,” safe under the cover of our home.  The ache rears quietly and settles quickly.

The goodbye of their very independent, “I’ve got this,” preteen self.  This one smacks loud and jolts abruptly.  The ache rears ferociously and settles slowly.

The goodbye of a challenging teen mishap.  Their childhood innocence door slams shut.  The ache rears dragging fear along with it and settles in fits and starts.

The goodbye of backing out of the driveway moments after receiving freedom in the shape of a gift from the DMV.   The ache rears with memories of a toddler in her car seat and settles with some much-needed freedom from late-night, seemingly endless pickups.

The goodbye of a graduation cap and a college dorm room.  Stopping here for a moment.  This one was really rough for me.  This ache rears and settles, rears and settles, rears and settles, every time they come home and leave, come home and leave, come home and leave.

The goodbye I find myself in this morning.  The goodbye of moving out and moving on.  The goodbye that speaks to adulthood, active parenting job done, “will they make it on their own?  This ache rears fresh and raw this morning.  I am hopeful it will settle.

There are more goodbyes to come.  The goodbye of weddings and births of grandchildren (I’ve experienced those with my oldest and she is experiencing her own goodbyes now).  Every time, the steps are further and further away.  Every time, the ache rears and rears and rears.  Every time, the ache settles and settles and settles.

I know that with each goodbye comes a settling hello.  A settling hello that brings newness, possibility and life.  Believe me, I know.

But in the wee hours of this morning, I sit in the real, raw ache of the goodbye, not rushing the pride I feel, the pain I feel, the thankfulness I feel, the joy I feel and the awfulness I feel.  It’s beautiful here.  It’s sacred here.  It’s momentous here.

The sun is not up yet.  I sit quiet in the dark.  The ache will settle soon enough.  I like the ache for now.  It’s my very good friend.

********************************************

 

(To those of you who have said the worst goodbye in the loss of your child, I am just so sorry.  I wonder if there is ever a settling after the ugly rearing of the ache.  It’s okay if there’s not.  Maybe there shouldn’t be.  Either way, I wholeheartedly salute you.  I stand with you.  I sit with you.  I am just so very sorry.  You never should have had to say this kind of goodbye.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith

Hummus and Hosanna (#40days)

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”  (The Bible)

Love, loss and lent all collided on Wednesday.   The very best part of being human, our deep love for one another, was celebrated.  Another horrible and murderous act showed one of the worst parts of being human, our collective and individual brokenness and the tragic loss we all feel in our very bones.  Ash Wednesday couldn’t have come at a better time, marking the beginning of a period of human reflection, repentance and renewal.

Oh how we need it.  I need it.  When I hear “hard-to-understand, out-of-my-control” things on the news or from a friend or family member, or experience these things in my own life, I tend to move quickly toward fear and anxiety.  All the “what-if” thoughts come careening into my head and heart.  I go through all the natural “lizard brain” (as I call the amygdala) reactions:  flight, fight, faint or freeze.  Sometimes, I run the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Other times, I get angry and try to come up with a plan to fix it.  I seriously just take a nap or watch mind-numbing television many times.  However, to be honest, my reaction oftentimes is to become completely paralyzed, unable to do anything.  One thing I certainly don’t do often enough is to take the time for the spiritual:  reflection, repentance and renewal, what I actually need the most.

That’s why I am so thankful for the season of Lent, this specific time marked on the calendar that shouts to me to do things a little differently than I do every other day of the week, month, year.   Take a break from the status quo.  Carve out time to shake things up in my every-day life.  Exchange the natural for the spiritual, the outside for the inside.

About a year ago, a difficult, out-of-my-control, situation reared its ugly head in my life.  In fact, it was something that kept coming up over and over and no matter what I tried, the problem just wasn’t getting fixed or even getting pushed in the right direction.  It wasn’t for lack of effort on my part.  I had tried all four methods of fleeing, fighting, fainting and freezing along with better tools like counseling, prayer, you-name-it.  That night, in the dark, on my knees, a last ditch effort at telling God I was super serious this time, the word “Hosanna” flooded my mind and also my mouth.  I wasn’t sure why.

Of course, I had to check it out.  What did this word that I had heard so often in my churchy life even mean?   Thanks to ever-helpful Google, I found that “Hosanna” was originally an appeal for deliverance, a cry that shouted “PLEASE SAVE.”  Over time, it developed into an expression of joy and praise for deliverance that was anticipated and would be granted, an oral burst of hope in God, an “anchor for your soul” kind of hope.

Being the “doer” that I am, I came up with a Hosanna list (that now exists on a pink sticky-note on my computer and I have a feeling you are going to try to see if you are on that list…that’s why I made it blurry…LOL), that being at the very top.  I eventually added people and situations that seem completely out of my control, the ones that seem hopeless, the desperate, only God-can-fix-this, things.  I only have one word for them:  Hosanna.  Please save.  I repeat this often to myself when I see that pink note, “When you don’t know what to do, pray Hosanna.”

So what’s with hummus (see title of blog post)?  Starting on Monday, I am participating in a partial fast for forty days during Lent, ending with a celebration on Best Friday (as my friend Jody has named it since she is getting married that night).  I’m taking a break from some of the foods that I love:  cheese, chips, and chocolate (to name a few) to make room for what’s better: hummus (along with veggies, fruit and nuts). 

Forty days from now, I probably will be a little thinner and a lot healthier (great perks of this fast).  But I want it to be much more than that.  I am combining Hosanna and hummus.  You guessed it.   I want to take a break from my go-to, very natural methods of controlling and fixing (which I also love) to make room for what’s better for my soul:  reflection, repentance and renewal.  When I want to reach for the natural, I pray that I will instead be reminded to reach for the spiritual, the super-natural.  I am asking God to “please save!  Please save!”  Speaking words of hope to my own heart that He is the BIG GOD who hears my deepest cries and can truly save and renew even the seemingly impossible in my life and the lives of those I love and even some that I don’t even know personally.

Today, I invite you to take this journey with me.  You don’t have to give up what I’m giving up.  This is personal.  Along with this,  I would be honored to hear what or who might be on your Hosanna list (click HERE to get in touch with me privately).  If you want, I can add them to my pink list for the next 40 days and as I am eating my hummus, I will be quietly shouting “HOSANNA!”

By the way, it’s my birthday today!  What a great way to start of my new year!  I wonder how God will show up!  I can’t wait to find out!

As always, I would love for you to sign up for my email list so that you never miss another post.  And feel free to share this with anyone or any way you’d like!