Sunday Dinner

by Diana

This reflection is part of a series of essays about walking with my mother through the end of her life and the dementia that is slowly eroding her mind. Others in this series can be found herehere, here. and here.

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The sun streams in through the French doors on the south side of the building, adding warmth and light to the carefully set dining tables. It’s a lovely space, recently redecorated, with linen napkins popping up out of the water glasses. My husband and I eat lunch here every Sunday, joining our moms for a nicely presented 3-course meal.

There are floral centerpieces on each table, assembled every Wednesday morning by the people who live here, under the gentle direction of two volunteer Garden Ladies. Today’s bouquet consists entirely of white rosebuds and looks lovely as we take our places around the table.

I must say that the dinner guests are an interesting assortment. All of them are over 75, most of them over 80. A few – like both of our mothers – are over 90, moving closer every day to the century mark. They move slowly, these diners. A variety of metal walkers are lined up along each wall and I always hold my breath until all the stragglers are safely seated at the table of their choice.

Last Sunday, we counted 12 residents out of a possible 15. One is out to eat with family, one chooses to remain in her room, and one – my mother-in-law – is too sleepy to sit up at the table. One of those missing is a singer. During past dinners, we’ve heard the battle hymn of every division of the US military, “Home, Home on the Range,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and a few we don’t recognize.

This Sunday, however, that voice is missing. At first, it feels like a relief. A quiet meal! But after a while, the silence becomes thick and cumbersome, like a too-heavy blanket on an overly warm day. We are the only guests at this particular Sunday lunch — the visiting spouse who talks gently to all at the table, the daughter who lives locally and her husband, their voices are not here today, either. It is just us, three of us at our table, and we run out of conversation early.

We’ve spent a lot of Sundays in this place over the last two years. A lot. And we’ve fielded the same questions from the same persons over and over, as we slurp the small cup of soup, cut the meat on our moms’ plates, and enjoy a small serving of dessert.

“So, where do you live?” (This is the standard question for at least three of the women residents, asked approximately every three minutes throughout the meal.)

“And, what do you do?” (This is more likely to come from one or more of the gentlemen, not with the same frequency as the geographic locator.)

Much harder to hear is this one: “Have you seen my mother? I’m sure she was just here.”

From my own mother, these are the most frequent conversational gambits:

“Have you heard from ________?” (Insert various family members, usually by clues offered, not names remembered.)

“How are all your kids?” (Again, not by name.)

“Did you go to a different church today?” (No, Mom, we went to the same church we’ve been going to for 17 years.)

By the end of this week’s meal, I am screaming inside, desperate to be done, forcing myself to stay in my chair. I cannot explain this overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, this slow panic that rises from my gut. I just recognize it when it happens. And I pray my way through. “Lord, have mercy. Give me your eyes to see these dear people. Keep me in this chair!”

I breathe deeply, smile at my mama and say, “Shall we go back to your room and visit a while?” She readily agrees, so off we go.

Slowly. Carefully.

Stopping, always, to say thank you to the aides who have served us, offering a smile and a gentle touch. These are the days I thank God for the social niceties that have remained with my mother, the moments when I feel the knot in the pit of my stomach begin to unclench ever so slightly.

I will visit again, at midweek, taking my mother out of the unit for an hour or two. We’ll eat lunch outside, up by the pool, if the weather is nice. Or, I’ll take her to a nearby restaurant. And I’ll worry over each step she takes, about folding and stowing her walker, about making sure she’s warm enough.

Yet somehow, those mid-week visits are easier for me.

Maybe because I can pretend a little longer. Pretend that Mom is merely getting older and frailer, that she is not moving away mentally, that larger and larger pieces of herself are not lost, never again to be found, at least, not in this lifetime.

But Sunday dinner? With every bite, I am reminded of the truth. Pretending is not allowed.

 

 

 

out of ash

by Suzannah Paul

mess

The trunk is full of clothes for the Salvation Army, and the recycling overflows. Mail piles, junk drawers, closets, toy bins: it’s all fair game. I’m the culling, sorting, take-no-prisoners arranger of disorder.

Well, today I am. Even Type Bs have their breaking point, somewhere between la vie boheme and utter chaos, and I found mine sometime after the furnace broke and the vomiting started.

Three day weekends aren’t the same once you have kids. I mean, it’s a long weekend all right, but not like it used to be when we’d stay out late, just us, and linger in bed all day next. These days, Jim works weekends, and I’m home with the monkeys, who are too sick for adventuring but not too sick to bicker and pick each other raw.

Try as I may, I can’t make them calm their hearts, but if my counters are clear, perhaps I’ll calm mine. Our house, which lately looks like it’s been hit by a tornado, is a metaphor for every furious squall I can’t control, so I’m starting with what I can. One shelf. One dresser. One pantry.

We lit a bonfire with the Christmas tree and toasted marshmallows in the flickering blaze. I’m tackling my temper next.  Every blood-soaked strand is fuel for the fire.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

A way through the wilderness. Streams amidst the wasteland. I’m trusting spring lies waiting beneath winter’s dormancy and toasting to cleared clutter, setting fires, and the new life which arises out of ash.

 

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Fire Season

by JenJ

drought

It’s hot and dry here. And hasn’t rained in months.

The sky is no longer blue…there’s a tinge of yellow and brown that thickens the air.

It’s heavy and weighty and many find it hard to breathe.

I go about my day knowing it’s “over there” and I’m in no danger. But I forget that the air quality can impact me in ways unseen. And at any given point, the wind can change directions and send the fire my way.

There are casualties in fire season. Things are lost, loved ones can be harmed, and a dark toll can settle onto the survivors. There is a constant level of threat that looms.

Thankfully, in these parts, firefighters know how to handle ever changing winds, deep dry periods, chemical fire retardants, air support, and lack of water. There are tools they employ that regular citizens don’t have.  A garden hose can nourish the land, but is no savior when a fire sweeps in.

It’s late for fire season…but that’s not unexpected given the drought. We usually expect it at other times, but are not surprised that it has a mind of its own.

 

A couple of months ago, it came on slowly – the darkness, the heaviness, the threat looming. I chose to ignore it; it was “over there” and I wasn’t really in danger. But some big (great) things happened all around me and just like that the wind changed and I was right in the line of the fire.

For a while, I minimized what I was going through and rationalized it as a blue period. I pulled out my garden hose solutions (keeping busy, focusing on others rather than myself, shopping, eating), but they didn’t keep the fire at bay.

One day a friend checked in and really wanted to know how I was doing. Opening up gave me my first breath of fresh air in weeks. Reinforcements were called in…friends took me to dinner, made me laugh, listened and offered insight. I relished in that care for days.

It brought relief.

It brought shelter.

It brought the knowledge that I was not alone in the fire.

And before I knew it, the darkness was gone, I felt lighter, and I felt safe.

 

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When Aloft is a Lie

by Gretchen

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I could drive to my children’s school in my sleep. From mid-August to early June, I hook our van into a zipline. We sail there, I sail back. I sail there. We sail back. Two of the roads we travel border a bald eagle reserve. The north side and the west side roads skim the limits of human intrusion into their world. Terse warning signs and barbed wire fences keep curious eagle watchers away. Vehicles may not stop or park along these roads. The eagles tolerate noisy streams of SUVs and delivery trucks, but apparently not people with binoculars.

The land is mostly bare with stubby anonymous bushes and shocks of punk rock yucca. About two dozen towering cottonwoods hold tight, hugging a snaking ditch leading to a large lake to the south and east of the reserve. I understand why the eagles chose this spot to live. They need strong trees for their outrageous nests and good food all around. Prairie dogs are the fish of the land and fish are the prairie dogs of the water. Diving up, diving down, with eagle eyes and splayed talons it’s a feast all around.

When the school year begins, the cottonwoods are lushly green. The massive nests are difficult to see, even though the eagles build them near tree tops. Leaves hide, shade, and cool the eaglets hatched in our imaginations. We assume they exist.

Autumn arrives and the cottonwoods yellow. Winter comes, and they undress.

Bare. There are the eagles. There are the nests.

I want to violate all kinds of laws by halting my van and leaping out to gawk. But I don’t. I continue my drive, piloting us through Colorado’s mosaic of winter weather. One day, it’s brilliantly sunny. The next, gnashing cold. Wind pounces from the tip-tops of the jagged white mountain peaks to the west. It catches us as we travel. The van sways.

The naked cottonwoods are cathedrals and the eagles are stone gargoyles. They do not move, even though they are lashed by long-toothed winds carrying snow. The eagles are still and patient and brave. Their food is hunkered down, near the silty bottom of the lake or in brittle dirt burrows. I see the stoic birds and wonder if they are hungry. Are their talons itching to snatch? Is their sight atrophied? Are their wings stiff? Are their feathers brittle?

More than once on our school trips, I’ve thought about the imagery in this verse:

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

It speaks of the kind of endurance that only comes from hope in God’s promises. It’s also a reminder you will grow tired. You will be weak. You’ll be pummeled, drained, dejected. You’ll hear optimistic voices and feel prods in your back. Carry on, they say. Pick up the pace, renewal is here if you just take it.

But those bald eagles I see can’t force the end of winter or repel blizzards with their glower. If they have a memory of summer, it’s not enough to bring summer. No prairie dog is teased to the surface with rays generated by avian optimism. I’ve often wondered what kept them there when other animals and birds flee through hibernation or migration. If Isaiah saw the eagles I see in winter, would he chose them as a way to illustrate perfect freedom?

The winter wings aren’t moving. Tattered plastic grocery sacks are the only things soaring. Aloft is a lie.

So I drive and drive and drive through winter and into spring. On warm days, the eagles are gone on their hunts. Brutal winter forces eagles into a position of perching. There’s a time to be perfectly, quietly, terribly still.

But I don’t think the eagle ever doubts what she can do when a signaling, shifting sunrise comes. Winter is over. She senses it’s time to let go of the bare branch. A leafy bud pushes through at the very spot she clung to, warmed by the heat of anticipation before the sun is fully up.

Stories Can Heal. Stories Can Harm.

by Luke

typewriter

Preface: This is a story about stories, and the context here deals with family dynamics, but I think it probably reaches a bit further than that. You be the judge.

_____

When is a story just a story? When is it a weapon? When is it a shield?

_____

I was young, a bad mix of stupid and cocky. Social Media was a fairly new phenomenon, and I had no idea the…permanence.

I said something brash. I did something stupid. Someone got a picture of me doing something stupid, and recorded me saying something brash. The next thing I knew, people were liking and sharing the stupid thing I’d done, and saying horrible things about me for the horrible things I’d said.

The experience was unpleasant, to say the least.

A few years later, I’d largely forgotten about the experience when I was bored at work one Friday and googled myself. There it was, in full technicolor, years later.

Like it had happened the day or the week before.

_____

There was a time once, not so long ago, that I told a story that wasn’t mine to tell. I changed names and details to protect the innocent involved, of course, but I still took something that didn’t belong to me. I turned someone else’s pain into an object to be used for my own validation. But while I’d felt a twinge of regret in the beginning, the more likes and retweets and shares it got, the less conflicted I felt.

It was not OK.

I took it down.

But the damage was already done.

_____

We talk a lot in our house about consent, but we do it in ways that a 2 year old and a 4 year old can understand. We talk about respecting space and getting permission. We talk about the golden rule, about treating other people the way that we would like to be treated, and about seeing God reflected in the face of the Other, whoever it might be in that particular moment.

_____

The other day I saw yet another story by yet another blogger that co-opted the story of a child in order to prove a larger point. It included pictures that were, to say the least, unflattering of the child involved.

It all sort of hit me at once:

What happens when one day that child grows up and discovers the permanence of the internet?

What happens when they see all of the jokes made at their expense?

What happens to all of the lessons about respect and consent and agency when that child realized that their lived experience was reduced to a series of jokes or rants in order to validate their parent?  

What then?

____

We bloggers and readers and commenters, we instagrammers and lurkers, we tweeters and facebookers, we have the power to shape a culture.

The question is, what do we want that culture to look like?

When we write our truths, publish our photos, or update our statuses, we have a choice. What is it that is important to us, especially when we’re telling stories that don’t belong to us? Is it our own validation, or empathy for the others involved?

Are we appropriating someone else’s story for our own sake?

When we read, when we comment, when we click like or retweet, we have a choice. Do we reinforce the culture of shame that these sorts of posts often perpetuate, or do we work toward building something better?

Do we choose to validate? Do we stay silent? Or do we speak up?

The answers to these questions tell us a good deal about this culture we’re creating will look like. 

_____

Afterword: Look, I know that we’re not going to fix everything that’s wrong with the Internet with one blog post. I know that my voice is small and insignificant, just one among many (and probably in the minority for that matter), but I think that this is a conversation worth having. I think if we’re going to have a broader conversation about bullying and cyber-bullying, then things like this should be a part of that conversation. I think if we’re going to create a culture of consent, online or offline, then it starts in places like these.

So please, let’s have the conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

 

Featured image by MikeyMcKay licensed under CC BY 2.0

Epiphanies

by Seth

flame

Between the coffee shop and the classroom, Professor Atkinson caught me by the shoulder. I turned to find him mouthing words, but the Beastie Boys were asking “watcha, watcha, watcha want?” over through my earbuds. I held up my index finger, apologized.

“Do you think Amber will be coming to the Law Review dinner tomorrow night?” he asked. I paused, considered the question. Committing Amber’s attendance to such an event was a precarious endeavor. This annual dinner was, you see, a semi-formal business meeting of sorts, an evening when the editorial staff of the Arkansas Law Review passed the torch to its predecessors. It was a low-key torch passing (all such legal torch-passings are because fire, you see, comes attendant with a myriad of liability issues to be contemplated), and was generally regarded as the most boring law school function of the year.

I recall fashioning some white lie, some exit strategy for my wife who would much rather spend her evenings reading Elizabeth Bishop than attend some drab dinner dressed in legalese. Atkinson looked at me with concern, grabbed the inside lapels of his cardigan with both hands, and said “I’d rather like her to attend if she could.” Then, he turned and walked back in the direction of the law school.

I reached for my cell phone, called Amber and said, “I hope you don’t have plans for tomorrow evening.”

*****

A former seminarian from Georgia, Atkinson was a gentle man who had eschewed a life of the cloth for one at the legal bar. He had been a standout at Yale, a contemporary and friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. After completing his legal education, he’d tried his hand at private practice, but finding that it did not suit his personality, he began exploring a more academic path. When the Clintons made their way back to Arkansas for a brief stint as visiting professors at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Atkinson followed. He’d not followed the political ambitions of his friends, though, and once he set foot in the Ozark mountains, he never left.

A romantic and renaissance man, Atkinson was a man of varied tastes. He was a pedagogical genius, a man known for saying that “all of life is a teachable moment.” Aside from teaching, though, he tended to his sparse but well-kept gardens, collected art, devoured fine literature, and was active in the community. He was a man of deep faith, too, a man committed to the notion that the greatest gift God had given was love. Love should be identified, nurtured, and tended to, he thought. He had found the love of his life, in fact, and had lived in a committed relationship with his life partner, Mike, for many years.

Atkinson was a man of great foresight, too. He was adept at spotting storm clouds on the horizon, and he had taken great interest in my relationship with Amber. To digress for a moment, Amber was studying Poetry and creative writing at the time, and the two of us had begun to carve out separate but equal lives. I spent my time lost among dusty legal volumes, and she spent hers at house parties that wreaked of liquor, and pot, and poetry. We were adrift in those days, and though I had not yet the eyes to see it, Professor Atkinson did. He’d often stop me after class, inquire whether Amber and I were connecting, whether we’d been eaten dinner together that week, whether I’d invested in our marriage. 

“Meet her where she is,” he’d say. “A poetic woman is worth keeping.”

*****

Professor Atkinson met us at the door of the lazy Fayetteville bistro, took Amber by the hand and said, “pardon all these ambitious paper chasers. Aside from your husband, they are the most boring companions. I’m so glad you could make it, and I have a surprise for you.” With that, he turned, clinked a water glass with a fork, and declared to the small group, “thank you all for coming. Please have a seat and let’s begin.” He waited for each of us to find our respective table settings, composed himself, and then, with a flair that can only be described as theatric, he recited the following poem by EE Cummings from memory.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I looked across the table, and Amber’s eyes welled with the tears of someone who’d been singled out as beautiful. Atkinson surveyed the room with the smile of grandfather. He said, “I’d like to thank you,” and then he paused, eyes drawing a bead to Amber, “all for coming this evening. I hope it is a pleasant evening with your colleagues and friends.”

It is odd to think of it now, how the good professor sensed the growing distance between Amber and me in those days. He knew that I had not yet learned to nurture love, and on that spring evening, he set out to teach me. He could have done it with words. “It’s the little things,” he could have said. “Give her a note in the morning; pray with her; read her poetry,” he could have said. Instead, though, he taught by example, by hospitality, by EE Cummings.

And through that one simple act, God spoke.

(now the ears of my ears are awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

 

Image source.

May We All Believe Again

by Melissa Greene

eyes

I am lying here next to my daughter who is blissfully sleeping.  I am watching her chest slowly rise and fall, hearing her heavy breath escape her beautiful lips.  She is hardly. ever. still.  I’m smiling because I rarely have time to behold her in all her little glory.  In fact, she’s been going 100 miles an hour since moment one of her birth. She’s so full of verve.  She beholds life, wide eyed, in all it’s glory.  She soaks it all in and then runs to the next moment with even greater expectations.  Her middle name could be “go” instead  of  ”Faith.”  Her faith is instinctive.  She is an inherent believer. Right now this little one believes in magic and in wonder; in love and in restoration; in trust and in hope.  She is in Eden.  She is our little glimpse of the “kingdom”.  I think all of our children are in fact.  Our little archetypes of grace.

I read a magnificent book a couple of years ago by Samir Selmanovic called “It’s all about God”.  In the book Samir says,

“Our children are gazing at us, hoping in us.  Theirs is the gaze of God.”

That quote resonates so purely with my spirit.  It makes so much sense to me because I have learned so much about God, and thus love, by watching my children. I realize that my Hutch and Haven wake up every day looking at me.  They are looking at me with trust.  They are looking at me with love.  They are not watching me and expecting me to fail them.  They are not looking down at me waiting on me to make my next mistake.  No–they are gazing at me with hope, and I believe their gaze is a beautiful representation of what God’s gaze is towards all of us. It is not one of disappointment. It is not one of shame.  It is not one of disgust.  It is one of remarkable love.  One of grace, that sees wholeness.  One of hope.  Because we are God’s created beings, born in God’s image. God sees the beauty, truth and goodness present inside of us all even in the midst of our brokenness.

Today as I watched her sleep, and read consecutive posts online–from a recent celebrity’s “hurtful words”, to “what sin is” and “what scripture really means”, I realized that I need to become a believer again. For as another year passes, it’s time to be reminded.  It’s time to stop, let go and look ahead.  I need to believe again in love, magic, wonder, restoration, trust and hope. And I need to actively live those things out.  I need to capture the beauty of the season of Advent, which we have just engaged in as a Christian Church, and I need to let the spirit of advent unveil in my life…daily.  I need to stop being caught up in the argument and start trying to be a solution.  I need to speak life, words of healing and be present to any that I can.

I need to constantly attempt to be what I was placed on this earth to be–what we all were placed on this earth to be–a representation of love.  An illustration of hope.  A life full of light.

You see, in the month of December I have come face to face with both heaven and hell.
In the prisons of Florida I saw hell in the eyes of those who believed they are without hope, undeserving of a future and unworthy of love.  I have seen the personal hells of friends who at the height of their success, long to be both accepted for who they are, unconditionally loved and are still left feeling unfulfilled for all they need and want to be.  I have heard hell in the words that Christians have used to speak “truth” to someone they don’t agree with.

But I have also seen glimpses of heaven–celebrations of Advent, Christmas and the Holiday season seen in churches, malls, movie theaters and homes. I have seen heaven in those that ring the bell outside of busy Walmarts in hopes of loose change. I have felt heaven at a memorial service of a dear loved one from our church as those that experienced her life then celebrated the gift and light that she was.  I have felt heaven while lying in my bed considering the gaze of my child, and thus my God.

So the one thing I need in this new year is to believe again in goodness, truth and beauty and to exemplify them in my life. I need to seek to be goodness, righteousness and justice with every word and action I convey.  I need to be a seeker of truth, knowing I will never capture it wholly and thus always being willing to comply when truth rings at my heartstrings in an unexpected way and from an unsuspecting person.  I need to display beauty in my words, my art, and the whole of my life.  I also need to be quick to claim the beauty of God showcased in all of creation.

Despite what I read, hear or see I will choose to have confidence in love, in hope, in God and in humanity.  I will pray for patience for both this world and for myself…and for my girl as she eventually wakes up not from her nap, but to life.  As she slowly realizes that Eden is not our present reality and that we are far from thy Kingdom fully come.

May we all awake to our present opportunity to BE all we were crafted to be.
May we all willingly accept this responsibility of letting love guide us.
And may we all, believe again.

 

 

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I Throw Excellent Pity Parties

by Andrea Levendusky

cherries Last summer, a funny little cascade of events happened. And by funny, I mean I ate my way through a bag of Oreos and cried under my blankets for a good day and a half. That kind of funny.

So let’s start with the first.

One: I decided to leave the urban dwelling I came to love and adore because my niece and my nephew asked to live with me while they lived their glory days of college. I (being the totally awesome aunt that I am) said “ABSOLUTELY,” and decided we were well on our way to outgrowing our 4th floor flat anyway. My daughter was sharing her bedroom with my 19-year-old niece, which really only worked for about a day, if I’m being totally honest. A college girl’s belongings + a four year olds curiosity = you do the math.

We began apartment and house hunting. But it was all dependent on which school my daughter got into.

And then the next fun event happened.

She didn’t get into either of the schools we were banking on. The ones I was already budgeting for, planning on, researching like a mad woman.

The first option was quickly removed from the list because I’m not rich and the school had to decrease their financial aid packages. (The real question: who can afford a $20,000 Kindergarten tuition?) As for the second school — her name wasn’t drawn in the “lottery of names”.

Can I just say that the process of the lottery for schools feels like a mix of that short story by Shirley Jackson that we had to read in high school and The Hunger Games. The day I entered her name into the school’s lottery, the attendant stood still with the black box in her hands, looked straight-faced at me and said “Good luck in the lottery.” To which I replied, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” And then we had a lovely little staring game until I grew uncomfortable with how legitimately serious she was.

Three: A month later, I lost my biggest client (because they hired in-house and apparently New York is too far of a commute to San Antonio. Whatever.) I handled it as any professional freelancer would — I said “Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.” and then hung the phone up and had a full-on panic attack.

Four:  My parents decided to relocate to my city, find a place to live, and move in with me.

Cue Billie Holliday’s “Solitude” blaring out of a small iPhone dock while I laid on the floor of my apartment and stared at the ceiling, tears rolling into my ears. I throw excellent pity parties.

I don’t like it when good things unravel. I’m not a fan of feeling out of control.

—-

I’m not sure about you, but I can trace 98% of my issues back to one thing — pride. In whatever form it comes (arrogance or insecurity), I am prone to being self-centered. I would try to come up with a reason as to why I am this way but I’m just gonna go ahead and tack it on the board of “I’m human” and assume that most of us are really good at thinking about ourselves most of the time.

When I realized we had lost a large chunk of our income, a place to live, the schools I wanted and that I was going to be living with my parents again, I felt like a failure. A complete and total failure. (And I’m not going to tie a bow on this one — somedays, I still do.) Not being able to make things happen how I want things to happen by this point in my life might be one of the most heartbreaking things for me to admit.

So last summer, my parents moved here, and we moved into a house together. All of us. Grandparents. Me. Kid. College kids. We found a home with a yard, trees, a fireplace, lots of rooms, and space for each of us to find quiet and solitude.

But I felt ashamed. The voice in my head nagged — Look at you, it said. 30 years old. A single mom barely making ends meet. You are a Lifetime movie. But one of the cheesy, depressing ones. One of the movies that everyone makes jokes about and pretends they hate, but you’d probably watch with a bottle of wine because GOOD LORD THE DRAMA and it’s SO PITIFUL.

Yes that voice. Perhaps you know it. It probably says awful things to you too, and yet we all listen as if it’s going to change its mind.

It was the day we moved that was the hardest for me. After eight years of being independent and calling the shots for my own home and surroundings, I was back in the kitchen arguing with my mom about dishes, schedules and the color of the carpet. At one point it seemed I had taken leaps and bounds forward in life, but now, I felt 15 again. Friends and family had unloaded all of our things and I hopped in the cab of one of the trucks with a brother to vent.

“Ugh,” I groaned (just like a 15 year old, mind you). “I can’t believe I’m living with mom and dad again. I’m so embarrassed.”

He shook his head. “God provides,” he said. “Not always how we want him to. But he meets needs. Would it really make a difference if He provided anonymously? Isn’t it even better that it’s through your parents? The ones who love you and care about you?”

I nodded, choked back the tears, and fiddled with my hands as my pride knotted in my throat.

—-

It’s been six months since we gathered under this roof to call it home, and it hasn’t been perfect. It’s been messy, humbling, hard. It’s been loud and busy, fun and happy, cluttered with things and arguments, and then cleaned with grace and patience.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had company in the mornings,” my mother says. Her tea is hot and the teabag rests on the spoon next to it, just like it did for the first 18 years of my life. “It’s nice to have someone to visit with again. I’ve gotten so used to being quiet while your father sleeps.”

It’s in these moments that I realize in accepting a helping hand, I’m actually just holding another hand. Perhaps in my accepting, I’m giving as well. I’m picking up the tiny pieces of tiny strings of things I thought I wanted, and realizing that what we have is very, very good. I spend afternoons working at my desk while I watch her out the window, kicking the sky wildly as my father pushes her on the swing and I’m laughing, shaking my head at how I ever worried that we would be the worse for this.

Sometimes life never works out quite as we think it will. Sometimes God provides in ways we don’t want him to. Sometimes it feels like a death blow to my pride. And sometimes, that’s the best thing ever.

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