Beautiful Grief

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I sat slumped over on the hardwood floor. The sun was shining in slanty lines across the corner of the house that wasn’t in boxes. I stared there instead of the top of the staircase, where the life we built over the past three years – the one built up of 22 years of two people mushed together – sat waiting in a pile of boxes to be shipped off to a garage off Merrill Street. That pile hit me in the face as I walked through the door today. I started crying, finally. I sat on the hardwood floor, leaned against my husband, put my face in my hands, and cried. The weight of reality finally settled into me. It didn’t crush me. It kind of sat there next to me, warm and heavy. There was no reasoning with it, no escaping it, no telling it to wait awhile. The only option was to wrap my arms around it and embrace it.

I haven’t been able to put my finger on what this is supposed to feel like: moving out of a home we knew was not our home; packing up suitcases we will live out of for the next few months; realizing those same suitcases will board a plane that will take us far away from all of this that inevitably came to be just what it never meant to become: home. I think I’ve got a handle on it now. It’s supposed to be like this. This overwhelming, inconceivable grief that has lingered for a long time disguised itself as haughtiness and over-confidence. I have waited for it, begged for it, and prayed for it. Three days ago I wrote in my journal asking God for tears to come, for some kind of understanding to sit in front of me and let me hold it. Today I say, “welcome, old friend.”

Sadness is not an enemy. I haven’t been trying to avoid it, only spending the days trying to figure out how to reconcile with it. Tears and transition are soothing, in a way. For weeks I’ve been in a fog of opinions and cluttered emotions and loftiness that has been overbearing. I’ve felt how I felt in high school: a hot, tangled mess of a girl trying to figure out who she needed to be for the whole wide world. I hate that feeling. So I welcome sadness. I’ll invite it in to chat for a while. I’ll confront this letting go in an honest and raw way. It’s good because you can stare at it and scream at it and it won’t stare and scream back. It will just sit there with you until it decides to leave, in it’s own time. When it does, you’ll be scarred and new and beautiful.

There is beauty in grief, in the cathartic release of tears and the steady stream of letting go. I am glad for the capacity to feel deeply, cry loudly, and embrace strongly. Sorrow is a welcome friend these days, one that carries me through each moment and leaves me stronger and surer than the last.

Old and Full

“Job died, old and full of days.” Job 42:17

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I want that to be the  last sentence in my story. I want my days to be full and my life to have been full of them. At the end of it all, I want weather on my skin and glimmer in my drowsy eyes. Without want, without regret, and with so much joy I strive to exit time. Standing where I am now, I imagine what’s ahead. Brilliant uncertainty is littered all along the narrow road. There will be joy and there will be hurt. There will be dancing and there will be mourning. There will be sunrises and there will be sunsets. It might not all even out: the good and the bad — but abundance never promised comfort.

Most hard things I do are never satisfying until I’m done. I can’t really sigh relief until I’ve earned the degree, until I’ve reached the peak, until I’ve sent in the final draft. Noteworthiness doesn’t happen without a bit of sweat along the way. Even then, who’s to say what you’ve done will be noted? Job, I’m sure, wasn’t pondering the days of riches restored while he was being tossed among a debate of gods: The Creator and his adversary. Nor will I be grateful during terrifying bus rides, homesickness, questionable meat, and lack of electricity. But I will find hope in the rising sun, and I will sing praises on the days, in the moments, that I remember I’ve said yes to fullness.

This limbo-ish time before moving to Nepal has let us wade a while in wonder. We’ve had more time to prepare than life’s abruptness usually allows. Suffering is usually abrupt. I wonder what Job would have done if he’d had time to prepare for losing his family, his health, and his comfort. Unlike abruptness (which I’m sure we’ll confront some along the way), we see the hardship before us. We see long stretches of loneliness in a new culture, we see our bodies adjusting to new food, we see unfamiliarity and a lot more. Honestly, it’s hard to see past those things at this point. But it feels dang good to fight through the madness and take hold of heavenly confidence.

Because then comes the much anticipated excitement and freedom. Freedom to explore, to cook with new spices, to see the world in all of it’s wonder, and to love and embrace new surroundings and new friends. I’ll wrestle through the murky days of doubt to settle into the reality, the beauty, of fullness.

Making a dent requires taking a beating, fighting through the fear and the loss. I’ve tasted abundance, and it’s sweetest after the fire. I’ve learned we can’t avoid the flame, we can only numb the pain and cover up the burns. But numbing doesn’t come free. We may gain comfort but we’ll pay for it with abundance. The highest highs don’t come without a deep knowledge of the lowest lows. Those are the most exciting stories.

At the end of it all I don’t want to say I did what I could to just make it by with the least amount of scratches. I want to hold my scars high, for all to see, and know that I’ve said yes to fullness.

 

Saturday Showers

 

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I do hope that hand-made wreath graces your front door. Your first front door, where family and friends—who are are mostly family—will come through and sit around your table, propped on elbows and leaning closer to listen above the murmurs of the people you love all around  you and above your favorite song humming behind the gathering—a subtle ballad to bliss. I hope that skillet makes not-so-perfect pumpkin pancakes on a late and rainy Saturday morning and that those pancakes are the beginning of an agendaless day. Oh sweet friend, you’re radiant and lovely and full of that thing that makes him love you.

This good thing. This celebration: tossing tissue paper and tearing up over thoughtful, well-versed cards and dancing barefoot on the carpet to all the songs about love, is quite a way to spend a Saturday. And how you’re eager to herd us in to your cause, your Jesus-centered cause is the thread of it all. We’re here for you, yes, but we are here to champion, to celebrate the good thing that awaits a few weeks from now. The anticipation sets the theme for the pretty party and we are giddy to shower you with gifts and sweet words.

A hush of belonging sings about the room and that moves our hearts to  beat on the same note as you quiet the noise to share about the kindness of God and the rhythm of Grace in your story. Today is not tradition, but a day to delight in, to dance in. We will toast to that. We will dance to that. We will champion that, my friend.

These bags full of things will find places in cupboards and on shelves and soon things will turn into moments. There are high wishes throughout the room that those moments you find sweet will be embraced for as long as the moment possibly allows. These photos, too, you’ll look back at and remember. Maybe you’ll wish you didn’t make that face or wear that dress but you’ll remember that moment when we stood around you to celebrate you and to celebrate and to fight for the things that the world attempts to tear apart.

We are raising a glass to the conquering of a fear that will be conquered for a lifetime, and to the way you’ve drawn us in and shown us your heart. We are hoorah-ing to the little, most resplendent moments that will come from this marriage and we’re rejoicing that we get to be a part of it. Happy pre-wedding days, my darling friend.

I know, I know.

I know, I know.
Photo by Bridget Anne Park (www.deercircus.com)

I’m awkward. I’m quite different than the differences you all have from one another. I’ve always been the third person walking slightly behind the rest because we don’t all fit together on the sidewalk. And I try to ignore it because I was scolded to always be one of you. To dress right and speak right was to be right. Somehow, no matter how hard I tried I always leaned a bit to the left and I never quite matched your mold. I’m learning—slowly—over the last twenty something years to be ok with that. Sometimes that means putting your puzzle piece of a soul next to your peers and realizing you’re completely irregular. I’m irregular and perfect. I know I know.

But some days it’s hard. Sometimes those irregularities haunt me. Sometimes they threaten the people around me. I forget—because I’m so stuck in my own head—to love you.. to be intentional with you. And then I fail. I find myself constantly in this place of falling off the tippy top and having to grit my teeth and bear it: The long, stiffening, aching, painstaking, climb there—and apparently it makes me better. I know I know.

I’m not any shape of a cookie cutter you’ve ever seen. Every one of us is different from the rest and why is that so damn hard sometimes? I’m sorry I said “damn”… I know that doesn’t match my petite and polite persona but sometimes you just have to use the words that speak the loudest thoughts you’re feeling. I know, sometimes..everyday, someone is feeling the same feeling I’m feeling and that’s what makes us all the same. It makes us human… you and me… the same species.

I should have known. Why don’t we all stop kidding ourselves and bring our egos down to our toes and think of people instead of person? I am one person. That is huge and that is microscopic all in the same sentence. It is completely impossible to be me at the same time as it is the simplest thing in the universe. I am me. No matter how hard I try not to be I still am.

Fearfulness and wonderfulness were involved in the creation of me. Each shape of human was made in the image of perfection, no matter the imperfections that stain them. We hold the opportunity to reflect, magnify the perfection that we were made, molded to embody. I know I know. Why can’t I know always?

Home.

 

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I don’t know how to write a poem. This was going to be a poem, but I never ever understood poetry except for that it is beautiful. Instead, this is a story–or more like an excerpt of where I am. I am on my couch, in my living room which is a room inside of a loft inside of a big house off of a windy dirt road on the edge of town.

Before we were dating, Cooper told me I was home to him. Like the feeling of a cold beer in hand on a warm night, he told me. Home, as in familiarity — a lifelong friend that you just get. Now isn’t that poetic? He described home in the perfect way. It’s a comfort that is only understood by analogy and never completely comprehended by explanation. Home is when you’re with just the right people at just the right moment, and there is no pressure to do anything but love them and talk with them.

Sitting here has become my favorite thing. Sometimes it’s in the morning, when I force myself away from my ruffled and cozy mess of a bed and nestle into the very corneriest corner and peak through sleepy eyes at the grayness outside. Sometimes it’s when I’m eating dinner and Cooper has found the corner and I brought him and I a shareable sized bowl of spaghetti and we eat there because we are adults and we can do that. Sometimes its mushed between a bunch of friends late in the evening, just wishing time would go away.

The more I sit here, and have this view of the house (erm.. I mean.. loft), the more I fall in love with these four walls and the home-ness that happens here. I know it’s not necessarily this house, or this street, or this city, or this country that makes it home, but the culture we’ve cultivated here. The fact that it’s us and it’s normal is what makes me feel this fluttery feeling every time I take this seat.

 

Marrying you.

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photos by the lovely http://www.nickfrancisphoto.com

They always asked me if I was nervous. I said, “yes” every time because, well, wasn’t I supposed to be? All eyes would be on me. I would have to say words that made sense while people listened and watched. And “worst” of all, I was about to commit the rest of my breathing moments to existing with a single person.

The simple truth is, walking down the isle in a white dress, heels sinking into the grass, arms in arms with my father and brother as a guitar plucked its way through a melody I couldn’t quite make out, was the most effortless thing I’ve ever done. The second my cue began, I walked taller than I thought possible. I’ve always shrunk behind the achievement of people around me, hidden myself from possibility with insecurity, or painted the future in all sorts of shades of worry and anxiousness. But that moment, I’d never felt stronger or surer of anything.

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Certain-ness has always avoided me. I never let it near me. With all the choices I had, the majors to choose from the topics to write about the careers to pursue the outfits to wear, I was always confident I’d choose the wrong one. Nothing ever amounted to what it could be. I don’t know what was different about Cooper but I knew the first time he held my hand that I was certain about him. Maybe it was his inherent certain-ness that made me certain. He knew he’d marry me nearly a year before we started thinking about dating. He was like that. He knew his abilities, his limits, his desires and he loudly declared them. He’d always been that way. His assuredness complicated my life in a wonderful way. Now I had to choose to be certain of something or lose that something. And certain I was. I laughed. It seems silly — but my heart alone wouldn’t put up with the joy that was spilling out in my smile. My soul pulsed with confidence as I took the steps toward my groom. And Cooper nearly wept. “You’re the crier,” he kept saying. But it seems we both discovered foreign ways to express a foreign feeling of utterly unstained joy.

How beautiful. Cooper, my rock of a man, crumbled with joy at the sight of his bride. And I walked with so much courage. I think the fearlessness that led me down the isle is the same fearlessness I’ll have to have when happiness and security is scarce to be found. The thing I do fear is myself, that I will cower at the first glimpse of trouble. Yet because of that moment, that odd security that was unfamiliar, I know for certain about Cooper and I know for certain about our God. He dwelled in me as I vowed with a fire in my heart to follow my husband wherever he goes.

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It’s not simple, being married. I’m still a worrier. I’m anxious at everything and constantly needing to be reminded of the rescue that comes with Christ. And he’s still sure. He knows our purpose and our destination and that we are perfectly where we are supposed to be. The stark contrast of us is incredible. In ways we are the salves to one another’s aches and in other ways our frustration forbids us from understanding. But I’m never uncertain that he belongs right there next to me.

 

 

Patience, Darling

I prayed for it. I honestly yearned for it, when I realized I’d taken the long way. And by long way I mean the wrong way, thus turning around to find the right way. I had all day, why panic? I resisted my heavy right foot and willed patience upon myself. Anxiousness has a funny way of creeping under your skin and making a little home for itself there. It keeps you up at night, mind pacing to and fro. Yet some how, it keeps you from waking in the morning, the lengthiness of it all too intimidating. Forget that. Who needs it, anyhow?

Speed limit, oh how trying. I’ll mind it today. As I trucked a long toward the right way I looked around instead of down. You know, you notice things when you inhibit anxiousness. I noticed for the first time, on a route that I travel nearly everyday, a lime green fence. Who misses a lime green fence? I wondered why anyone would paint a fence such a color. I wondered what type of person lived beyond the fence and if the rest of their residence was painted peculiar colors. Patience causes wonder. Wonder is a little thing that causes bigger things to happen. Wonderful.

As I looked around I started to ponder. For some reason I started to ponder what it would be like to have a stranger as a pen pal. Someone who I didn’t know at all on any personal level to read my personal little thoughts. I thought that might be nice. It might be a nice way to share niceness with someone and to discover myself in a whole new stranger kind of way. How would I to present myself to this stranger? Would I be honest? Or would I take up the freedom of strangerness and create and entirely new self? Patience causes pondering. How thrilling.

A little blip in time. That’s what patience is. Minding the long way my gas light started to innocently yet eagerly blink at me. It would be nice if every long drive, every wrong turn, every stop for gas, every line to wait in, were treated as a little gift of forced waiting. Forced patience. That probably is what those things were created for, if we should assume such things were even created. I assume as much. Just as much as I would assume the most wonderful, pondering things take time and patience to notice.