I'm doing pretty good, how are you

I never really know what to say when the doctor walks in the room and says, “hi, how are you doing?”

Uhh, well, take a wild guess? Obviously not great?

So I especially never know what to say to the psychiatrist. Well, don’t wanna kill myself today but couldn’t get out of bed yesterday, so, you tell me maybe?

But today. Today I got to say, “I’m doing pretty good, how are you?” And I meant it, y’all. I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing well, but also, I’m doing good. When someone asks “how’s life?” I get to say “good.” It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to honestly and consistently answer that way. Every day isn’t great, but most days are good. I’m doing good days. I’m doing good. I’m doing good for myself. I’m taking medicine that’s good, that’s doing what it’s supposed to do, that’s doing good for my body and my brain.

I got to pet a dog while I told my psych that I’m good. What’s more good than that?

I’m marking today good, a victory, and hoping you are too.

05

Five years ago today, I watched my mom be carried out of the house by the EMS team. I had already heard her say “I love you,” for the last time. I had already held her hand for the last time. I had seen her for the last time. By the time we got to the hospital, she was gone and the spirit that animated her body had already left.

I still have voicemails from her, so I can still hear her voice. I have notes and letters from her, so I can still remember how she talked and what she said to cheer me up when I needed it. I still have some of her clothes, so I can wear them and feel like I have a part of her. I have some of her jewelry, so I can still hear how they clinked together whenever she moved. I can listen to Amy Grant and Carole King and remember her singing along. I have videos of her, so I can remember how she moved. I have recordings of her singing when she was my age, so I can remember her voice.

What I don’t have is her, and even as I add up those parts, nothing could equal the whole. When people find out that my mom is dead, they often ask if we were close. The truth is, we were just beginning to be friends as well as mother and daughter. We had a pretty good relationship overall, but as I become further removed from May 7th, 2014, it becomes harder to accept that we’ll never be friends. We’ll never get to have a weekend away, a bottle of wine between us as we laugh, ask each other questions, as I learn from her wisdom. We won’t watch Gilmore Girls together ever again. We won’t drink coffee in the morning in our pj’s. We won’t go on walks with the dog. We won’t watch my kids grow up. My kids won’t know her.

This day is confusing. I have hope that I’ll see her again but all of the days between now and then are a shade darker than they should be. Nothing feels as bright as it should. But like I said in my last post about Rachel Held Evans, the only way to move forward when we lose a light so bright is to try to make each of our own shine a little brighter than it always has to make up for the one that’s gone. Maybe the world doesn’t have to be dimmer without the ones we’ve lost. I’ve spent five years trying to figure that out and I still don’t know if it’s true, but part of me really hopes it is.

#becauseofRHE

I’ve spent the better part of this weekend on twitter reading tributes to author, speaker, prophet Rachel Held Evans, who died yesterday morning. I’m a new-ish follower of hers, but the space that she provided to question and wonder aloud about faith has been like a breath of fresh air for me. She wasn’t afraid to state an opinion, apologize when wrong, assert herself when right, and offer words of encouragement to those who needed them. Watching her and learning from her was in itself an inspirational example of a living faith, but reading the #prayforRHE and #becauseofRHE threads on twitter is enough to light your heart on fire.

What’s incredible is the vast array of supporters, students, followers, friends, and cheerleaders she leaves behind, and the depth of impact she had on them all. Do they all agree with her on everything? No. Do they all support the same vision? Not necessarily. But the respect she gained from leaders across the world is a testimony to what can happen when honesty, empathy, humor, challenge, and invitation are employed with holiness and redemption at the center of it all.

As I walked from the car to my apartment tonight, all calm and quiet around me, wading through the softness and stillness of a spring night, I thought about what a bright light RHE was in this world. And I kept thinking about how darkness feels so much a part of grief. A light goes out, and we’re stuck in the absence of it. We’re stuck, until we look at her life, and decide that the only way to move forward is to take a portion of that light, each of us, add it to our own, and shine all the brighter in her honor and in honor of all the saints who have gone before us. When the light of a saint goes out, the world doesn’t have to become darker. We just have to strive alongside the Spirit to make our own lights shine a little brighter, or find others to light up alongside us. That’s Rachel’s legacy to me. She was a woman who wasn’t satisfied with her own light. She wanted everyone around her to harness their own to bring to this dark, dreary world the dawn of Easter morning every day of the year.

back to the bible

One of my most frustrating qualities is that I have a tendency to quit. When I wasn’t the best at soccer or ballet, I wanted to quit. When a job gets difficult, I want to quit. When my marriage is hard, I want to give up. I mean just look back through this blog and you’ll see. How many times have I committed to some blogging theme and given up just a few weeks in? Before I even give something my best effort, if I feel like I’m not going to be the best or not live up to my expectations, I want to quit before I prove to myself that I’m not good enough or quit before I can fail. Every time I start typing a blog post, I over-analyze and quite often end up scrapping the whole thing. I wouldn’t even call myself a perfectionist, just spent. Worn out. Tired of putting in the energy. Avoiding having to deal with deeper issues, working through difficult realities, confronting other less than desirable qualities.

And quite often, this manifests itself in how I commune and abide with God. I think I speak for many when I say that the current culture, Christian or otherwise, lends itself to a lot of introspection and dismantling of what before we might have considered pillars in the lives we live. How frequently are we pulled back and forth to different sides of arguments revolving around the same idea- the faith we claim? Read the Bible this way. No wait, this way. But understand this first, but don’t listen to that guy about it. That lady is wrong too. You’re being led down a dangerous path. No you’re not, you’re being held back by antiquated ideas. Listen to me. No listen to me. Read with this context, but don’t rely on it too heavily.

I mean, really. My head fogs up every time I start trying to untangle the knot that the Bible looks like sometimes. And being true to myself, I just. want. to quit. I just want to rest my eyes and my brain and think about pretty things that don’t hurt or confuse me. I want to ask questions that have answers, not more questions. Because sometimes, that untangling causes unravelling. And that unravelling causes panic. And that panic, chaos.


For as long as I can remember, my mom was a woman of the Bible. Hers was never neatly tucked away in a corner, but always within arm’s reach. Well-worn, well-notated, well-loved. How easy, I thought, it must be to read and understand. How simple and full of answers it all must be. She drew so much confidence from that book. She studied it, taught from it, revered it. She greeted every day with it and a cup of coffee. I have never been very good at self-discipline, so this was, and is even more so now, amazing to me.

But then she died. Her Bible sat, pen sticking out one end, on her chair in the living room for awhile, then got tucked away in a cabinet. I began to resent it, the institution of it. The reverence for it. It took me awhile to pick mine back up again. I didn’t quit believing, but I quit studying. Maybe I did quit believing some of it. That could take a lifetime to unpack.

But when you lose someone you love and admire, you start wanting to take on their characteristics. You want to wear their clothes, their jewelry, to feel the closeness again, to think of them and not forget them. You want them to see you, to see him or herself in you, and smile. The most precious words someone could say over you become “they would be so proud of you.”

So eventually I picked up my Bible again. I started making notes and asking questions. I started writing my doubts on its pages. I started finding hope. I also found despair. I found healing. I found more broken parts of me. I found my mom. I found Jesus again. I learned how to find the Spirit again in those pages and in me.

This past year I’ve been attending a weekly Bible study like my mom always did while I was growing up. Every week I felt like I was making her proud. Studying, discussing, learning, loving, crying, questioning. I think I finally started to find what she found in those pages.

Since she died, a lot of people have told me about how she led them back to faith. And now, even though she’s not here, I can tell you how she helped me unquit the Bible. How she led me back too.

I am bound

Five years ago, I got a call while I was at work at the library on campus. My parents were conference calling me and my sister, which was always a red flag. That meant bad news.

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I went to one of the big stairwells with giant windows and sat on a window ledge, shaking, waiting to hear what was wrong. Mom’s cancer had been up and down for two and a half years at this point, but now, apparently, it was an entirely uphill battle. A battle so hopeless, by the time the general is telling the troops, the white flag has already been waved and everybody is starting to pack it in.

Three months, maybe. One month, more likely. A final expiration date, to put it crassly, I guess. What do you say to that news? I don’t remember what else was said. I remember hanging up, quietly sneaking back to my work area to collect my things and leave hopefully unnoticed, and then walking home.

I sat on the couch crying. My roommate/best friend Lexi came home, on the phone, and immediately ended the call. My boyfriend (now husband, bless him) came over. I was all tears and snot while they prayed for me and my mom and my family. I hilariously remember the snot vividly. The three of us walked down the street to get margaritas from the Mexican place just off campus. Then Tucker and I took my hammock to Lake Nicol, one of my favorite spots in Tuscaloosa. We sat there covered by a blanket. I cried. It was cold. My face stung from the cold hitting the tears rolling down my cheeks. It was so quiet.

Either that night or the next, we were at RUF large group, singing “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.” Bad idea when your mom has limited time left to live. I wept, like actually wept, on the back row, Tucker and Lexi each with an arm around me. I’ve never felt so safe and so alone at the same time.

I cry every time I hear that song.

1. On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,

And cast a wishful eye

To Canaan’s fair and happy land,

Where my possessions lie.

2. All o’er those wide extended plains,

Shines one eternal day;

There God the Son forever reigns,

And scatters night away.

Chorus: I am bound (I am bound)

I am bound (I am bound)

I am bound for promised land,

I am bound (I am bound)

I am bound (I am bound)

I am bound for promised land.

3. No chilling winds nor poisonous breath

Can reach that healthful shore;

Sickness, sorrow, pain and death,

Are felt and feared no more.

4. When shall I reach that happy place,

And be forever blessed?

When shall I see my Father’s face,

And in His bosom rest?

I don’t have any sort of resolution to this day. Mom died six weeks later. She got to see His face, sure. But I still have to cry every time I think about it. So that’s March 18th.

Balloons

This is one of those topics that sounds great in my head but inevitably feels so lame when I see it typed out. So Jesus-y and preachy.

I always imagined that when you’re hard pressed for money, God would magically write a check made out to you and zap it into your mailbox, something akin to the tooth fairy. How else would it happen? Maybe raining money, or simply finding an envelope full of ca$h somewhere. Is that so much to ask?

But instead, what I’ve found is that He sneaks it in by making you work for it. Ugh. Such a disappointment. (please don’t report me for blasphemy) You may know that over the last few years I’ve cobbled together a patchwork-like collection of jobs that mostly have very little to do with each other. I work for a church, I work for a stationery designer, I do a little designing of my own, I work for a couple of florists in town, I babysit, I worked at a biscuit place briefly, I worked at Paper Source, now I just teach lettering workshops there, I worked in a showroom as people bought thousands and thousands of dollars worth of beautiful homewares. I’m probably forgetting stuff. As you can imagine, it’s not a dream salary. So sometimes things get tight and I start panicking about money and finances. The bank account keeps getting lower and I am a bundle of anxiety bopping around like a balloon ready to pop if you hit it just the wrong way.

That’s usually when I get an email that goes something like, “Hey! I need some extra help this week, do you have time?” AND THEN I MAKE MONEY. The balloon slowly deflates to a more manageable size (because let’s be honest, we’re all anxiety balloons all the time to some degree) and bills get paid, the gifts get bought, the dinner doesn’t get cancelled, the tithe doesn’t empty the checking account. It took several of these well-timed employment adventures for me to realize that it wasn’t mere chance but a beautiful orchestration of care and teaching.

I care about your bills getting paid. I care about you being able to keep that coffee date with a friend. I care about your anxiety. I care about your balloon metaphor, that was cute, good job.

That’s God. He thinks my metaphor was cute.

But also, remember that I care about you. Remember that if you are that balloon, it’s for a good reason. I want you to learn to trust me. I want you to remember you can come to Me before you pop and I’ll make sure you don’t. I want you to learn that I’m here, waiting to hear your voice directed to Me.

God really likes this balloon thing. (Okay but really am I getting blasphemous? All in good fun, y’all. Pinky promise. I’ve got some embarrassing moments that prove He’s got a sense of humor.)

Weird self-praise aside, I really do believe these things. I pray a lot more now, and I reap the benefits, believe me. I never thought I’d be one to piece together several different jobs to try to make a whole one. I’m not great at it yet. It’s hard and exhausting. Establishing boundaries isn’t easy either. But little by little, job by job, one-off by one-off, I’m learning and trying new things and hoping that soon I’ll see why. But I at least have a piece of that big picture, even when I have to work for it.

Hi hello, it's me

Only a few weeks into the year and I am majorly struggling with this blogging commitment. I have started and scratched three different drafts of my next post?

Quick aside- there is a mom a few seats away from me at this coffee shop with two fairly boisterous little boys, and the woman across from me has been shooting them the side eye every time they squeal while also emitting a quite audible “UGH.” Mama over there ain’t noticing, but UGH lady is changing the side eye game, you guys. I am in love with this seating arrangement.

Okay back to the point. I thought I would feel so freed by putting the proverbial pen to paper each week, putting all of the thoughts swirling around in my head somewhere else where I don’t have to keep them in line anymore. But it’s hard. Everything I try to write feels so contrived, so “wow, stop trying so hard,” so forced. Who wants to read these things? Who really cares? How self-absorbed am I to think I have so much wisdom and wit to share with the world that I’ve been depriving it for so long?

This is why I always scoffed at people who started blogs. I mean it goes to show you that whatever you scoff at, you become. I swore I would never be the girl to get married straight out of college, to never live on her own, but hi hello, it’s me. I never thought I’d be the one to suddenly think, “how and when did I gain this weight? What’s wrong with me?” I never thought I’d be the one to struggle with suicidal temptations. I would never be one of those people. But again, hi hello, it’s me.

Maybe by the end of this year I’ll have learned how to not use blogging as an excuse to ramble barely-connected thoughts. But I’m already a week behind so anything goes.

52 is a lot

I have a good friend, Linda, who blogged once a week for the whole year in 2017. Usually when I “commit” to something like that, it doesn’t last. I tried to do something similar where I talked about a different color every week, but didn’t make it. Scroll back through these posts to find the failed attempt.

But what is January without (hopeless) resolutions being declared left and right? So here we go. I’m blogging every week for 2019. I kind of cheated last week and posted something I wrote in late December, and I’m cheating this week by introducing my intentions, but so far so good? 2 outta 2?

So what is to be expected? Great q. Usually I turn to the blog when needing an outlet for sad times, so probably some of that (hey, last week). Maybe reviews of Gilmore Girls episodes (I usually skip most of season 2 but I’m really feelin it right now. Holler if you wanna chat about it.). Maybe some more goals and aspirations. Who’s to say?

Have I written enough for this to count as blogging? I think so. See you next week. And the next one. And the next one. And the next one.