Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You're Ok. Oh You're Not Ok? ... Ok...

Lately my mom and I do a lot of laughing when we first start a phone call. Maybe not so much laughter as wry chuckling.  Why?
"How are you?" or some similar question is a natural opening line in a phone conversation.
The problem is that lately the answer ranges from "meh" to almost tears.
Some seasons are just rough.
We have this mistaken image of people that if they aren't bleeding or bruised or bandaged up, they must be fine.
If they aren't crying or raging or whatever-ing as an outward show of emotion things must be a-ok.
Why is that?
Real grief... despair... hurt... anger... whatever-ing makes most of us uncomfortable!
Sometimes it has to be "ok" to not be "ok."
Back forever long ago in this season I started using the phrase "sit in the suck."
I used it for my friends/family who could really let me actually be the mess that I was at that time.
I will never forget standing in the back of church one Sunday and being asked if I was doing alright by one of these friends.
I, out of habit, said I was fine.
She looked straight at me and said "really?"
No. I was not fine.  Bless her for calling me on it.
We are quick to need people to move on when they are hurt.  This is a fast paced world where information gallops up and past us before we even really digest it. Actual grief and suffering is highly inconvenient.
It's why some celebrities who have been dead for 10 years constantly get re-dead on Facebook.  Poor Bob Denver... RIP - but yeah 2005.

                I had a point, I swear.

Ah - we need to be the people who can help others move on by sitting in the suck for a while.
It is ok to be a total mess.  Don't stay there. But if you never let yourself actually go there, you also will never fully be ok again.
Talk to people and then really listen. Don't take "fine" at face value. We are way too busy when we never actually take time to hear what is behind that "fine."

We are in a big mess in this world. I really believe that a lot of it comes from the habit we all have of talking past people, talking at people, and scoring points at other's expense. We have talking points instead of relationships. We have stands instead of friends. We are right. You are wrong. Unfriend me if you don't like it...

We must be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," (James 1:19).

Stop. Sit with me here for a minute. Step away from your social media and go BE somewhere. Read a book to a senior adult who lives alone. Help someone with their groceries, just because you can. See that mother whose kid is pitching a fit for whatever reason.  Solidarity nod to her and hey, can you help?
Or just listen.  Ask someone how they are and really listen for their answer.

And that person - the one you can't stop thinking about right now - they NEED you to BE for them.  They need you to hear them and not be thrown by their hurt, or bad news, or anger.

We have each other.  We should always have each other's backs.  We are all in this together.
Please make it ok for someone to be a not ok mess today.


Monday, January 23, 2017

One Year

It was a year ago today that my phone rang in the early morning hours.

"You need to get here sooner than we planned."
        "We have time. But you need to get here."
It was freezing cold outside. Al's car had flat, and we had left it in a parking lot.  But we needed to get it out of the weather and into the garage.

"You need to get here."
         "Everyone is coming... we want to wait for you to say goodbye."
We waited for a touch of daylight so we could change cars and head south.

It's an odd sensation. It was a week that had lows and medium lows. We knew by mid-week that things weren't great. But we thought we still had time.

"We will wait for you. But we will need to say goodbye."

The freezing cold. The quiet ride to my hometown. The cold walk from our car to a hospital room.

"Take all the time you need." "We can wait as long as you need."

The whispered words. The peaceful breathing sounds. The calm.  The hushed moments of trying to take in every second.  I needed to remember every moment, every sight.

In that last week, many of us couldn't be there with him. So we had made a sign to leave for - when - he woke up, with all of our pictures "You are not alone."

The beeping of machines and continued sounds of a hospital room echoed.

The moments that follow are sacred in my memory.  Shared stories. Laughter through tears.
And always the touching of hands, shoulders, heads... the patting.  Patting is our thing.

One year later - every sight and sound is etched on my heart. It's a record of a day that I still have playing on repeat.

I have said it before, probably because I read it somewhere, that great grief is the leftover from great love.  My brother, he loved well. So we grieve with intensity still. If you were his people, you knew you were loved. He was a fierce protector.  He was a big dude but he also had a big heart. He was a mess. But aren't we all? He had a wicked sense of humor.  In my mind I can easily hear him roaring with laughter as I did one crazy thing or another. He was my big brother. He was one of a kind. When you're little you think that your big brother hung the moon. When you get older, you realize they aren't perfect but there is still always something special about the person who paved the way for you in the family... in life.

"Take all the time you need."

Ok. I'm still here, taking my time.  Still loving you.  Waiting until I get to see you again.

Love you big brother.


Friday, January 20, 2017

New Year, Same You - My Word for 2017

I think this is the latest that I have ever done one of these posts. I usually have my "word" and start mulling it over in early December.
This year, I didn't even have a hint until New Year's Eve.
One last time I'll say, 2016 just stunk for me.  Around Christmas Al and I started to talk about the good things from the year.  That's only natural when you're fixin' to wrap up a year.
It was tough.  We really had to fight to start the list.
It was not a lack of blessing. There are about 1000 good things in any DAY that we are blessed with.  I am not unaware of that.
But it was a tough, tough year.

Ringing into 2017 sees the re-routing of our dream for a family. Good things are coming in other ways on that front. But so many of the things I had really fought for, really prayed for, and really worked for - not happening.

Ringing in 2017 brings the close of the first year without my oldest brother. It's a big gap in our lives.  Great love brings great grief.  And we have mourned.

Ringing in 2017 brings the new chapters of foster care into our lives.  We cannot even imagine what that means yet.

What word could possibly stand in for all that I hope for this year?

It's actually two interlocked words.


2016 was pretty much all about chaos and death. Some years are just like that. Some years you skate out of December with no emotion left.

2017 is about new life. It's about really living. It's about walking a little lighter with decisions finally set.  It's about letting go and thriving.

Live... Life

He's got this.

John 10:10
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.