Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

Continue reading “Remembering hope when everything feels wrong”

Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way

I don’t know why I didn’t get it until that moment in the little theatre, sitting in the dark with the rest of the proud parents and grandparents, watching our 8- and 9-year-olds act it out for us.

It’s not sad. It’s beautiful. It’s gospel.

I’ve read the book. Seen the movie—the old animated one—dozens of times. Was in the play as a middle-schooler when my school put it on.

The spider dies in the end. We all know this. Our beloved Charlotte saves her friend Wilbur, the pig whose days were numbered unless someone intervened.

And then her time is up.

As a child listening to my teacher read the story for the first time, as a 13-year-old acting it out, as a mom listening to my husband read the E.B. White classic aloud with the baby draped over one shoulder and our then 6-year-old on his lap, I got the sadness of Charlotte’s Web. 

That’s what it was—sad. Books about animals always are.

But then last week, that little girl who once curled up with her dad to listen to the tale became Charlotte in a (highly anticipated) 3rd-grade, 30-minute version.

I sat there perched on the second row of that little corner theatre, camera in one hand and phone in the other, and watched her intently.

And my heart broke all over the place, because as she spoke her last lines in her little voice and the lights dimmed, I—for the first time—fully wrapped my mind around what Charlotte had just done.

I finally got it.  Continue reading “Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way”

The kids are watching [our response to those in need]

I guided our red minivan into the left turn lane, the one closest to the median, and the man standing on it, leaning against the traffic sign, looked up, searching for a driver in the line to lock eyes with him. His shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops on a cooler-than-usual Florida day, along with the cardboard sign he held, indicated need. I caught his eye and nodded.

I am the woman who obsessively locks whatever can be locked—the front door, the screen door, the garage door, windows, car doors. I stash valuables; I buckle my kids tight; I creep silently to the peephole when the doorbell rings, wary of strangers. 

The man walked toward the van as I rummaged around in the center console and the tote bag on the front seat. I’m a mom; it’s in my job description to travel with snacks. My 2-year-old daughter grinned at me in the rearview mirror, and I locked eyes with her, too. My fingers finally landed on what I knew was somewhere in the bag, and I emerged with a chocolate chip granola bar.

I wished I had more, but it was something. I need to make care bags to keep with me.

I rolled down my window and offered it to the man.

“Would you like a granola bar?”

He had a crooked smile, weathered skin, and kind blue eyes. I wonder what his story is, but does it matter? 

“Thank you, ma’am.”

My throat was tight and all I could do was look him in the eyes and nod.

I rolled the window back up as the light turned green and we pulled forward. I glanced at the rearview mirror again as my little girl strained against her carseat straps to watch the man walk away.

“Did you gave him a ganolga bar, Mommy?” (One of those words I secretly hope she mispronounces forever.)  Continue reading “The kids are watching [our response to those in need]”

Compassion

When we lost a baby in June of 2013, friends who had known about the pregnancy—my small, intimate circle of girlfriends and our church small group at the time—showed up at our door. They didn’t linger, just quietly dropped off food. Lasagna. Casserole. Chocolate chip cookies. Two gallons of the best Italian ice from a local place.

Hugs and comfort in the form of food. Acknowledgment of our loss, of our pain. An attempt to alleviate some of our suffering.

I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d been on the receiving end of compassion. But when I thought hard, wracking my memory troves for personal examples, this was the first to come to mind—perhaps because it was our first experience with deep grief.

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Continue reading “Compassion”