One job…

The other night, I sat with friends who have weathered dozens of life’s storms together and apart. We gathered in the aftermath of a wake. We had hugged a husband who was saying goodbye to the wife of his youth, children who had lost their loving mother, women who had lost a familiar friend, and a community rocked by a sudden loss. After we dried our tears and gathered our emotions, we drove off to a quiet space for dinner.

We sipped our wine and picked at our salads. Words can be hard to find when the weight of the moment overwhelms. Together we grieve, and separately we bear our own burdens. Each of us faces our own set of challenges, still we gather for solace and encouragement in this long friendship.

Eventually, the conversation pointed to me. I confessed my fear and my exhaustion. They offered words of encouragement and love. I know that these women love me. They have walked with me through a thousand days, maybe ten thousand. We’ve known each other for over twenty years. We have born witness to each other’s days of celebration and heartbreak for a long long time.

When my friend levels her gaze at me, she speaks right to my heart. “I was twenty-four years old when my two-year old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Somehow, I knew what I needed to do.” “They told us to gather the grandparents, because they were not certain about the future.” “They did not know what they were asking,” she chuckled. “The chaos that ensued, was ridiculous. I was able to handle it because I had one job. I was going to take care of my baby.” She smiled at me, “but twenty-some years later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt completely overwhelmed and lost.”

That made sense to me. I know that if this were any of my people, I would roar like a mother lion! I know how to nurture, protect, and defend. I know how to create calm and order when life gets out of hand. I have a very strong skill set around these things. There is no doubt in my mind that I would know what to do if this weren’t me.

But it is me. Just like my friend described, I feel a bit lost in this moment.

She looked at me and continued. “You have one job. You must take care of yourself. You must arrive at your surgery as healthy and whole as you possibly can.” Heads nodded in unison at this wisdom. Yes, that is exactly right. My job is to gather my resources so that I am as strong as I can possibly be when I face this surgery. Okay. I can do that.

I don’t even have words for the relief that these words have brought over the past few days. I have shared them with my husband and children. We must all come to this as strong as we possibly can. So, I am taking responsibility for my energy. I’ve cleared my calendar. I have scheduled a massage, and some time alone. We’ll be gathering for family dinner on Saturday, but I’m not cooking and they aren’t arguing. I am filling up my days with beauty.

I’m noticing. It is one of the things I know fills my cup, the simple beauty of the natural world. The buds on the trees outside my window are almost ready to burst. The green shoots are peeking out from the left over crusty snow, and there are periwinkle blue flowers growing along the path to my office. The smell of the mulch pile, the sound of the birds fighting or loving in the tree, the melodies of the music I’m playing on repeat in my car all soothe my soul and fill my cup.

I am so grateful for so many words of wisdom and love I’ve received over the past week or so. Notes, cards, text messages, and long conversations have tended my heart and soul. I am humbled and awed by the ways people have poured out concern and love. I am so grateful for so many. But for now, I will be guarding my calendar and my energy. I’m gathering strength and resources for the journey ahead. I have a job I need to do.

Better in March…

I landed in March, completely exhausted and depleted from the travel, the turmoil, and the grief of our fearsome February. March is my birthday month. One of my favorite months of the year… except for the weather.  And yet, instead of filling up my calendar with fun events and social outings, I found myself carving out white space on the calendar. Long slow evenings at home, slow Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons set apart for rest have been the slowly refilling my cup. Continue reading “Better in March…”

Making connections…

I am a connector. There is nothing I enjoy more than bringing people together. I do that around my dinner table, through small groups, scheduled meals, and impromptu gatherings. For many years, the main way I accomplish this has been through weekly gathering. We’ve opened our home for the better part of a couple decades to small groups of people who make room for each other and prioritize connection through a weekly meeting. These small groups weren’t our idea, we first were gathered up in a group that opened up the world to us as a young family. We found that we weren’t alone. We found that behind the Sunday morning smile, other families struggled to figure it out too. We found company for the fun days and friends for the hard ones. We remain deeply connected to many of the people who have done life with us through these life-giving groups. Continue reading “Making connections…”

Pottery class…

I’ve been dreaming about getting my hands in clay for years. I imagined the feel of the pliant clay running through my fingers as I shaped the soft block into a useful container of my choosing. In my daydreams, I envisioned hours spent calm and centered before the wheel. I was inspired to register for a class at my local art center last fall. The first night, I walked into the unfamiliar space eyeing the wheels set up in two rows facing a center shelf. We gathered around the glazing table and quickly received the basic instruction. We needed clay, which came in 25-pound bags and we needed tools, a small sponge, wire cutter, and various wooden and metal hand tools. The smell of clay filled the space. Continue reading “Pottery class…”

A look back…

The departure of 2017 has left behind a welcome calm. As I navigate the first weeks of the new year, I have spent quite a few hours tucked under my fuzzy blue blanket in my worn overstuffed chair. Usually, the week between the holidays is mine to reflect, evaluate, and plan. This year, those days were given over to people I adore, as we flew across the country to spend precious time with my Oregon family. So, I’ve redeemed slow Saturdays, a snowstorm, and quiet mornings catching up with my soul after a year of turmoil and transition. Continue reading “A look back…”

A matter of focus…

I’ve been fascinated by photography since I was a small girl. My grandma and grandpa Malone always had the newest technology which meant they had a super 8 camera when I was a child, were able to snap Polaroid pictures and wave them in the air, and they had every kind of “instant” camera you could imagine. Thin wide cameras with tall flash bars on the top. Thick cameras with color film and a twisting flashbulb, and eventually they had cameras with the flash built in. Even now, one of my favorite things is to look through the boxes and albums full of pictures. It’s like diving into a time machine. Continue reading “A matter of focus…”

The middle…

the mess,
The emptiness
and discomfort
and letting it
be there
Until some
Light returns

– Ann Lamott

These words speak to a reality in my life these days. Life has shifted in new and uncomfortable ways. We are in the middle, deep in the dark place, before the turn. We left one certainty and have not yet reached the other side. In my favorite books, this is where the hero takes heart and stands firm in the face of insurmountable odds… and presses on to victory. Continue reading “The middle…”

Beautiful mess…

Not long ago, life took some unexpected turns that have had us hustling and running to catch up. We’ve spent time in hospital waiting rooms and stale cafeterias. We’ve shown up for a variety of tests, both invasive and benign. At the end of the testing we faced the verdict, which brought relief and a wait for a fix. We’ve prayed together and alone, we’ve updated everyone who cares, and we’ve had impossible conversations about what happens if the worst happens. I watched them wheel this man I adore past the swinging doors. That hour lasted a lifetime. When the procedure was done, they released us back into our lives. Continue reading “Beautiful mess…”