And my word for 2017 is…

She poured the bubbling acid, waited for just the right moment, then scraped and scraped and scraped. It was a laborious process, requiring much patience and precise depth. We groaned at another piece of old, musty furniture that did not look worth salvaging. Yet, she saw beyond the layers of paint and deep gouges to the beauty of that turn of the century bird’s eye maple grain, stained a warm, inviting blond.

My mom saw it restored, envisioning something the rest of us simply could not see.

Restore.

That is my word for 2017.

After 2016 began by burying my last remaining parent and ended with a brutal, unjustifiable 2 months of unemployment for my husband, I look towards the beauty of what will be.

2017 will hold its own heartaches- this, life has taught me with certainty. Yet, the restoration I envision is no wishful thinking or wearing of rose-colored glasses finish.

Instead, with great deliberation, I will strive to find purpose in the layers of pain, broken expectations, loss. In the gouges, I will behold the grand details of life’s intricacies and the redeeming qualities of the blemishes.

Restoration is: reclamation of something lost, a bringing back to full capacity, a revitalization of original beauty. It takes seeing beyond what is on the surface. It takes hoping for a future promised. It takes valuing the painful moments alongside the exquisite ones.

It is a laborious process at times, but one so worth the effort. I will hope. I will imagine what’s underneath. I will endeavor to renovate the ugliness. I will have faith in God’s renewal. I will anticipate the loveliness of a salvage completed.

Here’s to a restored 2017!

1 Peter 5:10

“And the God of all grace… will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

My broken snow globe holidays

In a matter of days they will arrive. You know, the cards with families full of mirthful expressions, the letters telling of orgasmic feats, exotic vacations, university degrees and oh-so-amazingly talented children.

Then there others that would like to send a card but can’t. They just buried a loved one and are clawing their way through grief, one torturous moment at a time. There’s the once happy family that was splintered when their rebellious child left everyone in the lurch with their choices. Then, there is the jobless family who could not fathom the frivolity of a holiday card, as they look at their dwindled bank account in worry.

Oh, it’s not like each of these can’t somehow muster a few “things I’m thankful for” to rattle off when asked. Rather, the crushing weight of current circumstances has shattered the idyllic holiday snow globe scene: shards of hopeful expectations or family traditions, broken, unable to be recaptured.

It’s that time of year, where all the things we might know about friends and family (but can blissfully ignore every other month), are lovingly and without malice, foisted right in our faces. These messages arrive in glitzy envelopes, picture cards that are downright movie set quality and letters listing feats of epic proportions. They come to us innocently. But the emotions they evoke are quite the opposite of the beauty they display.

Don’t tell me I’m just envious because that is not it. Don’t tell me to “rejoice with those who rejoice” or don’t rebuke me with some trite saying like “hey, you’re not dead yet.”

This isn’t self-pity or envy. This isn’t a sad miserable soul trying to garner attention and a tiny violin serenade. This is me admitting my globe broke and it hurts like a mother.

Let me hold the base of my broken snow globe and weep. Allow me to look longingly at the scene that will never be again. Help me by gently picking up the slivers of glass alongside me. Don’t offer to go buy another one. That would never make me feel better anyways. Just let the hollowness be. *

*Maybe you know a person like this. What can be done?

Invite me for a coffee. Wrap me in a warm hug. Drop a non-glitzy card in the mail just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Be mindful of your message when you send out that card or letter. Most of all, don’t forget that not all of us will have a happy holidays this year (even if we might really like to). It may be your broken globe year one day.

broken-globe

Getty Images

Lace up

I lace up. It’s been a while. This will hurt.

I know the pulsing aches that will come afterwards. I recall my “clear the cobwebs” cough and that feeling that my lungs might implode.

I’ve been in this exact spot so many times before… knowing the pain, resisting yet relishing it. A strange mental tug of war goes on. I hate taking those initial steps before my muscles have warmed, my rhythm kicks in and I feel the wind on my cheeks.

In that moment, nothing can motivate- not new kicks, catchy tunes or a cool wicking tank. That step over the threshold only happens as an act of sheer willpower. I will run today.

But once that first step is surmounted, the momentum builds along with my adrenaline. I look forward to the exhilaration, that sense that I can glide across the pavement like a fleet footed gazelle. I crave the endorphin rush because in that moment I feel like Super Woman.

This is life.

Sometimes, the season is a grueling marathon- 26.2 arduous, never ending miles. You long to give up, content to be a non-finisher. But somewhere in the back of your mind, a voice says keep going.

Some days, the wind is at your back, you’ve consumed just the right amount of carbs and your twitch muscles are twitching just right. You’re out of the blocks at the gun, setting a PR for your fastest 5K.

Only rarely is life like one of those fun color runs where you feel just peachy because at the finish line, your sweat serves to attract the billows of colored powder, making you look like you’ve been to a rave.

The truth is, we are all running an ultra (in runner’s speak, that’s 100 miles- only the true hardcore crazies attempt these). Within this ultra are hundreds of little milestones, (some good, some bad), roadblocks and refreshment stations. How do we manage? Training and groundwork- in every form- faith, self-talk, someone to run with, conditioning, proper clothing, understanding the terrain, etc.

No one is going to hand us the victor’s medal. We have to run hard, fight for it and keep going even when it feels like the race is extremely rigged or when our muscles feel like burning sinew. Rest assured, there’ll be wafting breezes and down hills along the way. Then there are those people who run alongside us for short or long periods of time, speaking into our lives, words that carry us to the next rest station.

Some of the legs of this ultra will be gladly forgotten, others cherished for the sheer feeling of invincibility. All add up to the race we were meant for.

As for me, I intend to run my very hardest.

Ode to Depression

Lately, I’ve heard of so many women who are plagued with anxiety and depression.

I get it. I spent the better part of my adult life, being under the influence of that great, unshakeable, black cloud. I also had a fair share of hit you out of nowhere, heart-racing, palms-sweating anxiety.

Perhaps it is our curse or society’s creation of the noteworthy female- the perfect woman- super woman- who deals with her monthly roller coaster ride of hormones with finesse, who balances the growing and variegated demands of modern life with a perennially cool head, who gives and nurtures, asking nothing in return, who tends to her outward appearance with poise, who accomplishes lots and lots of stuff.

Whatever the cause, when this sadness or panic overtakes us, we feel helpless, possessed by it, even. Some of us hide it. Some of us self-medicate. Some of us try and struggle and fight against it- to seemingly little avail.

This ode is for all the women who understand the battle; all who wish it might be different and don’t give themselves permission to get rid of this demon on their back. And for those of you that don’t deal with either of these things- read this. You need to understand and have sympathy.

To hell with you, depression!

You can sink right back

Into the deep, dark hole that you are.

 

Heavy, my chest rises and falls

Like an incredible weight pressing down

That makes each intake a struggle.

 

I hate you, depression!

You steal days away from me

Like a languishing, wasting disease.

 

Slippery, I grasp to hold on to something,

Anything to climb up from the bottom

Of this dank, slimy pit.

 

Leave me alone, depression!

You hang over the top of me

Like a dark cloud that shrouds the sunlight.

 

Gripping, your tendrils have wrapped themselves

Around my legs and arms

Keeping me prisoner from movement.

 

You don’t own me, depression!

You try to trick me into believing

That I’ll never get through life without you.

 

Menacing, your influence lurks,

Like an invisible evil spirit

Whose black soul sucks the life from me.

 

I take my life back, depression!

Because I can and I will

Because I want to live free

Because there is more to life than this

Because a smile looks better than a frown

Because this is a fight I can win

Because bondage becomes no one

Because I am worth something

Because my strength outdoes yours

 

Because YOU DON’T DEFINE ME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Fire Marries Gasoline*

This marriage should have caution tape around it.

Yeah. It’s sometimes a bit hazardous over here at my house.

What if I told you there were a few times in 23 years I drove off in my car and plotted leaving but just couldn’t find the nerve?

Marriage isn’t a subject that I often write about. Not because I don’t know stuff. It just feels weird because marriage (lived out) is about as variegated as the number of plant species in the world over- far too many ways and means and methods for any type of rubber stamp approach. Let’s face it, whether you’ve been married 2 months or 4 decades, it remains a bit of a mystery how 2 individuals unite as one unit and (mostly) cohesively live life together.

Now add into the mix two driven, high strung, high energy, “perfectionistas” and crap- it gets kinda messy at moments.

Some days I find it nothing short of a miracle that we’ve made it this far intact (and IT IS a miracle of God’s grace and mercy).

Picture this- a nice intense crackling fire. Close by sits a red can full of gasoline, almost near enough to combust at any moment. That’s us- fire and gasoline.

“You cannot settle something without fighting about it.” That is what I said when we were first married. I’m fairly certain he thought, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?!”

And so, for the first portion of our marriage we did a fair share of that. Equally head strong and heart strong with a splash of misconstrued marital bliss and a dash of young naivety.

Then somewhere half way in, I changed God changed me in some pretty huge ways. It was slow and excruciatingly painful. Yet it morphed all of me, including the wife part.

So there I was, far from where we had begun, in new uncharted territory, getting a kind of “relationship do-over”. It felt exhilarating and frightening all at once.

Without any pretense or know-it-all-ness, I can tell you it is possible to live within combustion range. What is equally crucial are both separate time and together time; time to pursue things we love and time to pursue our love.

To differ vehemently also takes the bigness to embrace the differences; “fight” hard and fight to preserve the treasure you’ve been given. Prize clear, honest communication above all else.

I got married for life. When I signed my name on that certificate, I really signed my name before God to do everything I (rather mechanically) said in those vows.

And I’ve learned that as complex and challenging as it is to live near combustion, fire and gasoline are equally beneficial to each other. Uniting one substance to the other creates a better, hotter, sustainable fire.

That’s us- better together, even with an occasional need for caution tape.

*This title was inspired by the Sia song, “Fire Meet Gasoline”.

Tug-of-war

My mental tug-of-war goes something like this:

I make progress, inching my way to the winner’s line. Then without warning, I am swept onto my posterior- ouch!

I am dusty and weary, but the worst part? My pride is hurt. I was SO close to victory, to bearing the necklace of the winner. Now, I’ve not only lost, but I am groveling. Defeated, fine dirt in my mouth and eyes. Angry. Disgusted. Done.

I can’t say how badly I want to walk away and throw my hands up in the air- be done with the struggle altogether. Do I grab the rope firmly with both hands and try again? I give myself a mental badgering for being so weak-willed, so wishy-washy, so on again, off again.

I know what’s right but in all honesty, some days I don’t give a flying leap if I do it.

I’m mad at my husband’s insensitivity to my needs.

I’m hurt by a mom who has shunned my kids because they are “bad influences”.

I’m tired of continuous financial struggles.

I’m frustrated by the insincerity I see in people all around me.

I’m loving self more than God.

I’m thinking “I’m all that” or (like Jekyll and Hyde) I am thinking I’m so evil, I can’t stand myself and am sick of trying.

So there I go, again, ignoring the tug I feel in my soul to pick up the rope and put my back into it. No biggie. I’ll right this wrong some other day.

I know what’s right. Today, I dig in mentally and spiritually. I am firm in both my stance and my grip, armed with my spiritual armor. Ready for the fight; my opposition becomes clear to me. I am prepared for him. (Some days he comes in such a guise that I think he is actually helping my side.) Valiantly, I tug, and then I wear. The sinew in my arms burns hot. My grip on the rope loosens and defeat is imminent. NO! I scream inside.

Thinking on my feet, I picture my Savior hanging on the cross- dead for me. Where the wooden beam is stuck into the hard ground, has bubbled up a spring. Clear, beautiful, refreshing, the water of grace is gushing out- unhindered. All I do is draw a draught for my weary soul to drink in. Immediately, my struggle quiets. The rope seems to glide my way effortlessly. I rest.

Why do I forget that my victor’s crown is already won eternally? Why don’t I recall that my Jesus fights with me in His humanness, knowing full well my struggles, yet having resisted them all in His perfect deity?

Next time, I promise myself, I will RUN to the fountain of grace sooner and find the living water to assuage my thirst for something better in my struggle.