;Life

life__s_highway_by_alancross

i want to Live…

Yet,

i want to die.

Can i live somewhere in between?

i want to feel, yet,  i desire to be numb

Why can’t i just accept that life isn’t perfect, whether I’m numb or present?

Evil thrives in the presence of facades, yet, Grace illuminates through my Truth.

i like to keep my poison private, my beguiling friend, who binds and gags me.

Trying so hard to convince me to take darkness by the hand and pour another.

I want to Live because He died.  And oh what a waste it would be for me to exist hidden behind the mascarade of my lies.

The Truth has already set me free.

Through death, He Overcame

So that I may live my Life in the Light

;

My Life goes on, past the darkness and into Eternity.

The Heart Muscle

Nine years ago this month I found out a baby that was growing so powerfully inside me was dying.  The room I was lying in the crisp fall day the doctor delivered the devastating news to Alan and me, it was a pale color of bone white and mustard yellow.  An unforgiving ceiling had tiles with stains on them from cries I’m sure of women who had such verdicts read to them. Their tears had nowhere else to go but to try and climb away up to heaven so God could embrace them and take a bit of the gut-wrenching sorrow away.  But they never reached that far and they were now forever splattered one on top of another, like a handkerchief drained with lament after cry, bellow after the plea for a pardon that wasn’t ours to keep. Thousands of tear stains lined the ceiling tiles and mine joined them, wet, raw and unapologetically drenched with ache.

We named him Zachary and buried him next to his brother Jaden who we had said goodbye to only a year and a half earlier under a similar plot line.  I got pregnant, peace and joy surrounded us -love-hope-gifts abound. Tragedy stroke as the magic wand of life showed its power across my stomach. ‘Your baby is too sick for life.’  The light turned dark, perfection tainted, and joy flipped into the emotional counterpoint of the most intense part of the human heart we have to face. Loss.

The cold earth enveloped him and took him as its own.  A dark grey sky that day told me I’d have to wage again to somehow piece back again the fragmented puzzle my heart had become after losing Jaden only a year earlier.  Anger found me as the small amount of sunlight couldn’t even begin to try to thaw out bitter questions as to WHY? I would have taken such good care of those babies, I had proven before with my three sons that went before them that I am a mother who can and will give them more of myself than actually exists.  My soul is the sum total of all it’s ever carried within itself. My children are mine and I am them. So why would they be taken away from me?

When Zac breathed his last breath in a way so did I.  Or so it felt that way on that night where his delicate body was expelled from mine.  Having no idea how I’d breath again, I begged God for an answer as to how I could make amends to both myself and Him again. I was angry, spite ridden and determined to somehow forge a way out of bed into the life I knew I had to live.

I took up the intense sport and art of figure skating at the age of thirty-years-old. Dreaming of being a skater my whole life, I finally was given the opportunity as the Pleasant Prairie Iceplex formed in September of 2004.  I watched with anticipation as it was built from the ground up and trained hard so when the final sheets of ice were solidified that I’d learn a child’s sport as a woman.

My muscles ached and my pride was run over by a bulldozer as I couldn’t even skate forward or backward, but I didn’t give up not once.  I didn’t cave when I looked completely ridiculous to the world-class skaters who used the cutting edge rink to train for the elite competitions in our area, the nation and eventually the Olympic Games in 2018.  I stayed, I trained and I ended up making it! I was invited to skate in ice show after ice show as my forward moment transpired into spins, then jumps and finally into these things called dances across the ice that I put to music making my heart play out in front of thousands of people.

When Jaden died I skated a program that was a goodbye that healed my mind body and soul.  When Zac passed I knew I needed to do the same, but this time my poetic expression seemed more forced and angry.  I yelled out to my husband, “I don’t want to be doing this again! Skating a tribute to another dead baby. I don’t want this for my life again!”  Yet, I knew it was deeply important for me to allow my heartache to flow from me onto the fertile ice that had the ability to grow me back together again.

In my pursuit to catch the wind of that healing at record speed, I found myself pushing deeper and more muscular than I should have ever been doing.  I was producing 50 military style pushups in less than a minute. I wanted my arms to help me fly off the ice into such a height jump I could soar to heaven to drop off all the tears I just knew God wanted to take from me. My body followed, my arms chased and then it all came crashing down.

A pectoral muscle tear on the left side.  You know the muscle that covers your heart, the one that holds it all in so you don’t bleed your big beating heart all over the place.  That one. I had ripped right through it in my pursuit to not waste a moment to fight hard for my survival. To heal. To make myself feel awake and alive-an emotion that seemed to have a strong return on investment compared to the gut-wrenching grief that was overlooking my every waking moment.  Terrorizing through the protection of my heart through that muscle, I left the room to my heart with an open view to the world that it was unequivocally broken.

After charging through the strong heart covering muscle I sat in the ER convinced I was having a heart attack, going over in my mind my eulogy. A powerful goodbye to my kids.  It was without a shadow of a doubt that I was next to be buried under the tree with my babies in the frozen dirt, the pain was that intense.  Making eye contact with my husband Alan, I told him I loved him and that I was so so sorry. That I couldn’t bring him our two boys we lost, but moreover that I was going to join them. He needed me-the ones on earth needed me-but I was chasing on the curtails of death. I’d be with them soon.

Quickly the doctor dispelled my believe I was dying as she simply stated I had a chest wall strain and although it felt like I was dying, I was in fact not and would have many more days to fight through the grief of losing two infant babies. But more importantly, years later, to come into eventual joy in welcoming a healthy baby girl into our lives who would forever change the course of what we knew of life and mold all of our brokenness back together again.

This past week an injury I’ve been battling for over 9 years now reared its ugly head in my life again, bringing me to my knees with its torture that is like a soaring hot iron on my pectoral muscle.  The searing ache has brought me back to not only the physical pain of where this originated from but also the emotional wreckage of saying goodbye to another child I wasn’t meant to keep. I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I can’t eat. I only crawl up into a little ball knowing that just like it has in the past it will let up and I will be able to cover my heart again with my hand and couple it to cradle a different kind of ache.  The ache of loss that the anniversary of losing Zachary can bring year after year.

My physical manifestation of an emotional pain has followed me now for short of a decade.  When the leaves begin to fall and the crisp cool air of seasons changing reminds me of a time in my life where my whole world seemed like it was crumbling apart and couldn’t be put back together again, sometimes I can’t help but reside here.  Living in the brilliance of the shadows of light for so long now, I know this seeming death sentence isn’t mine to keep. My lost babies are in heaven and they are dancing with Jesus. My pec muscle will heal, soon the unbearable pain will turn to a dull ache as the barrier of my heart will become stronger and it will hurt less.

Life will often give us these reminders that the things in our past that once seemed as if they were going to wreck us… didn’t!  The loss that seemed inconceivable eventually dissipated into a beautiful story I can now share as a memory, share as a part of my beautiful life story.

Today, I guard my heart muscle that hurts with the ache of yesterday, I hold it deep in the expectation that it will heal soon.  As have many different areas of my soul since that cool fall day I knew I didn’t get to keep my sweet Zachary Joseph, just like I didn’t get to keep my darling Jaden Hope, it all eventually healed.  I now ride on the tides of my sights on what I do have. Four AMAZING children, the most loving and supportive husband I could have ever conjured up and a God beautiful life that has fulfilled so many promises to me that I can’t even count them all.

Tonight, I sit with a physical pain that has plagued me for almost a decade. But I reside in a place that despite great discomfort, I have more love and God-given joy that blankets all of life’s trials. It forms a magnificent heart muscle around my vulnerable parts that exist but doesn’t own me, that doesn’t define me, yet gives me the will to fight the good fight to find my way back into a sea of gratitude that is more vast than any pain life may bring my way.

Imperfectly, Perfect

My small four-year-old fingers are intertwined in her soft and silky long brown hair. In my ear, all I can feel is her warm breath as she inhales to sing another lyric of a song that makes every bone in my tiny body melt into her more. Love evaporates from her into me and molds me more into all that she wants me to be. The smell of her soft perfume permeates my senses and all I can do is melt into her and listen to each and every lucid lyric that comes from her soft mouth straight into my heart.

This is one of my first and very most treasured memories of my mother and I. In times of struggle and feelings I’ve lacked in self-worth, this memory has been one I’ve held on to many times throughout my life. The young remembrance of my mother’s love and her song all over me is really what I think of her when I dig deep into my memory bank. I haven’t thought of how clean our house was, what was served at dinner, or what she wore. My memory cave brings me back time and time again to the way I felt in her arms when it was just her and I. All that consumes me when I blanket myself with my memory of her is…love. Pure. Unapologetic, raw and beautiful love.

We as women get caught up in the idea we have in our heads as to what makes us a good mother. The pressure to be perfect has never been more intense and our own mind creates this version of what we should be to produce amazing children to gift to the world when we are done raising them. Having this preconceived notion that we have to dance a dance of perfection plagues this generation of mothers who are just trying in this life to do more than has ever been done before. We now have to add the task of providers, protectors, nurturers and loving creatures that will do and be what our kids deserve.

Is it ever enough?

A good friend of mine recently said that she thinks she is a bad mom. Now, this statement left me in shock and a bit angry. I mean, this woman is a GREAT mom who loves on her kids with every breath she takes,  kissing on them, planning great days filled with films of memories for them for when they are older. So, why does what I see as a perfect mom think she is, in fact, a bad mom get me so riled up? Possibly because I often times feel the same way about myself. The reflection she had on her defeated face was staring me blankly in the eyes that looked all too familiar speaking lies that can sink even the strongest of vessels.

This made me take pause at my own life. She said her house is a mess and she doesn’t cook really great dinners like you see on Instagram. Quite honestly if I was held to this regard I would be the worst mother alive. My house isn’t spotless (okay it’s a hot mess at the best of times) and I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for my husband Alan, we’d all completely die of starvation. Yet, as I sought out my reality in this encounter with my dear friend, I too have thought this of myself on many occasions.  But why as God see’s us as perfectly imperfect and that is enough for Him.

I’m a bad mom. I work too much and often times am writing when I could be spending time with them. They don’t have perfect little cubby hole things to put their toys in so their rooms don’t look like a hurricane just drove a deep dive through their bedrooms. I have vices I wish they didn’t know I had. I am tired and cranky at times and look like a zombie on the weekends. I’m sometimes quicker to anger than I wished and I don’t have them in five thousand activities that I’m sure would make them poised to be leaders of the free world.

Why is it so hard for me to hear my friend say those things about herself?  Although I can speak the same language to myself on more occasions I’d like to admit I have. Every time I sit in a deep sinking mud of self-loathing that wants to drown me, my husband reminds me of what a great mom I am. I do hear him and drag myself out of the messy quicksand and wipe myself off and try to remember that I do give them all the love I have. But, why is it so much more of a wake-up call now that I’ve heard my friend speak the bad mom language over herself? I truly think this is so because I see her as a perfect love for her 4 kids, so why do I not see that in myself? Why are we so impossibly hard on ourselves for being…well…imperfectly loving and capable mothers?

My oldest son who is 20 tells me that he appreciates all that I’ve sacrificed for him. My 17-year-old son tells me I’m his hero. My little ones who are 10 and 5 squeal with delight when I come home as I hug them longer than I’m sure they’d like. That speaks all it should, but at times it isn’t enough. I hold myself to this high and impossible regard that at time steals my joy because I can’t obtain the perfection that I have in mind for myself.

A messy house with unfolded clothes on the floor and dreams of play times that pass me by are always in the back of my mind but deep in theirs has to be the love I give them when I hug them. When I walk away early in the morning to work to provide for our family they see me laboring hard for us and the dreams I chase in the aftermath must mean something to them.  As a matter of fact, I know it does, as my (almost) grown children have told me so.

When you hold your baby to your heart (no matter their age) and allow them to feel the passion you have for them that is like no other it makes you a good mom. When you put down the distractions of the day to watch them play you truly take in the essence of motherhood. Breathing in the air that surrounds them is like filling your lungs up with oxygen and feeding your soul with enough water to travel decades in the desert.

When my daughter asked me tonight to sit on my lap, I immediately put my phone down, grabbed her on my lap and breathed in her essence as I sang a single lullaby in her ear. A messy house behind me, and my insecurity telling me that I need to be better, I recalled my encounter with my own mother and my heart lifted knowing that this is what she will remember. This is enough.

Soft sweet nothings sang in her ear with my love exploding all over her like a thousand stars lighting up the sky took over all my insecurities of what I have deemed it is to be a perfect mom. That is what she’ll remember and all I will treasure when it’s all said and done and I’ve given my best version of myself to the world.

Chariot of Sunlight

Storms surrounding me one year ago, I took up the arms declared to me that I had used in years past to run for cover.  Knowing that the sun was fleeting and the clouds were moving in fast, I had no other choice but to breathe deep and take in whatever there was in this life that could help save me.  

The hospital room was bleak, smelled sterile and formed around me faster than I could run from it.  I feared the consequences of asking for help. Did this define me? Was my weakness my downfall? Would this go down in my playlist of life as a weak cry to try to piece it all together?  My life that is. The past, the present, my future pardon I was crying out for. In that moment that I had asked for help, I found myself more lost than I had ever been, completely consumed in a scrapbook of the life I had lived so far.  One that had taken me on a fateful plank that ultimately drove me to the place that required me to be completely broken and bare for the world to see. I was loved and had loved thousands of years deeper than I could had ever imagined, yet was I  lost in the darkness of my own mind? I was chasing the hours and seeking the wind that was passing through my hair like a summer’s eve just venturing through, I had no idea how to recon a life that had brought me to that place. Shaking and alone, I was left at the doorstep of a seemingly closed door that I begged would somehow open in the depths of my despair.  I was asking for help to fill my atmosphere with a kind of air that I could take in where I believed I was enough to breath it into my lungs. But first I had to cry out. I had to be dark enough to seek the light and deep into the finding of my own failures that I could ask for a way to guide me through it all.

The beauty of it all is that I was able to find help.

Running toward life with both arms wide open I found people, places and coping mechanisms that brought me to the place I needed to be.  One year ago, I begged for refuge and I found it. In hope I rose to a place where God found me, He begged me to follow and I did.

For those of you who have followed me on my journey, you’ll recall that one year ago I was admitted to a hospital that changed my life.  A rallying cry of fire burned blazes inside me and a forever light took place that ultimately shone in the form of forgiveness and bounty. Love won and God awoke a part inside me that I never knew existed.  That of peace, surrender and a fight inside myself I didn’t know could forever change me.

One year ago, I sat humbly in that hospital room, celebrating a fade that didn’t occur.  Sadly one that doesn’t reach all who felt as dark as I did. Love was shining on me then, and it is now.  Never give up, never take defeat as a signal inside you that makes you give up hope. No matter what!

A few years back, I wrote a book about overcoming the most impossible of odds to find my way back from the brinks of the deepest kind of tragedy, the loss of two little infant sons.  God was a dismal light in my existence at that time, but nonetheless He was there. I just didn’t see it as brightly as I do now. My faith was weak and my idea of Jesus was confused.  Yet, God was there. In the smallest yet grandest of ways. He brought me through that time and I was able to write about it and publish a book that has touched the lives of many women who have buried babies.  Love is not something to take for granted, it is a gift that exists when we give up our arms against an intrusion that may surface when we find ourselves at the weakness of our circumstances. Love wins. God’s perfection exists when we surrender to Him.

…Which I did last year as I looked around a sterile hospital room that I almost walked out of to run for the door when it all became too real.  I saw the road in front of me and I FREAKED out. I didn’t want to march the path in front of me, put in the work and give up the vices that plagued me and brought me there. Yet somehow I stayed and surrendered to a gift that was being strung in front of me, one that would make me dig deep and go further than I wanted to go.  I knew I had to stay and be kept in a place that had the ability to teach me life saving techniques that would eventually save me. God kept me there that night, I surrendered and became more than I could have ever imagined in the act of giving up what I thought made me strong, yet kept me weak.

On the eve of the anniversary of the night I sought and found hope, I find myself nosologic.  I am thankful, but mostly I am in awe of what God can do if we truly surrender to Him, for today I am a healed woman.

Give up your arms that fight against your inner healing and find peace in knowing that when you surrender to whatever it may be, that you have the chance to not be separated from peace.  You have the right to claim it on you like chariots of sunlight that overtake you after a battle you had no idea that you could fight.

Live in the light and seek the freedom that can be yours.  As it has become mine.

The Music of God

I was raised in an intensely conservative Baptist Church.  Music in my church consisted of the following: Stand. Sing a hymn.  Sit. Pray. Stand. Sing a hymnal that both confused me and intrigued me.

Meeting God at this moment, I can say that I never did.  My voice cracked, the organ played on, my heart was stale and my head heavy with the pressure to sound good was always what played out inside my mind during the music part of my church as a child.  

Two and a half years ago the pursuit of God chased me down and ripped me away from a life of sin and self-loathing. I was met where I was as the Music Pastor sang his heart out. At that time I had no clue what was forming inside me, all I knew was it was an emotional encounter that I had no choice but to surrender to in the form of more tears than an ocean could produce.  

In that encounter, I embraced the Music of God.

The song at the throne overtook me and then Pastor Kevin spoke on the prodigal son leaving me in a place of overwhelming relentless abandon.  I gave my life back to God that night. Through the medium of art, I found my way back home.  

Words of truth filled my being and flowed from me, and at that moment, the song found me in an interlude grabbing me right where I was.  The Holy Spirit took me out of despair and repaired the years of a torn veil that needed to be mended by the ultimate seamstress. And that is just what God has formed my life into.  A reconciliation of my heart and a vision for the glory and service that God begs for me to live in.

As my church surrenders on a weekly basis to a song God has on display for us all to partake in, I find myself often uncomfortable.  Digging back into my childhood memory of song in the church there was no lifting of hands or a relationship at that moment with God existed, I find myself weary to surrender to it all.

I’m not on a level that the other people are on in my church where they quake at the song and dance in the light of surrender.  I can’t bring myself to bellow out to God in the form of physical relentless abandon like the people on stage do. Finding myself polarized by the fear inside me in the surrender of it all, I fall on a silence that makes me weep inside knowing that I really want to reside in that place. Where I don’t care that my eyes rain tears of want and desire for a God bigger than my insecurity where I can lift my hands and kneel at the throne of God.  I tremble at the moment, the movement and the call it has on my life, yet something always holds me back.

This past Sunday something happened.

I can’t even recall the song.  The beat played on, the lights danced with the drums and something majestic took place.  Voices lifted up. Music played on and in that, I found myself in the midst of it all. I couldn’t get caught up in the fear that plagues me surrounding worship; all I was left to do was worship God.

My God, you called me into your light.

The shadows turned to brilliance.

My God’s name was forever lifted high.

The silence on my heart was elevated and all I could do was praise him.

Dance, love, and feel the relentless love of Jesus in my life was all I could focus on.  Not that my hands weren’t lifted, not that I couldn’t let go like the person next to me.  All that was left was the intense desire to run after Him like He pursues me no matter what I do or say.

Today I find myself in the movement that God wants me in.  One where He has gifted me with the ability to truly praise Him in the form of song.  In that I pray someday soon from now I can lift my arms in reckless abandon to Him knowing that is His gift to me from Him.  A rare ability and moment to take in all that He has given me and all that He wants me to encounter in the form of worship that has no boundaries and doesn’t live in a place of calm.  One that calls me to let go of all that holds me back in this life and encourages me to fly free into the eternity He has created for me to live in.

Someday not far from now my hands will lift up as an offering like my heart is to Him.  Until then I know that in the waIt He will continue the everlasting chase He has on my heart and that in itself makes me breathe in His love and causes my lungs to sing.

Tremble

This past week I have been left with a flux of every emotion known.  A small precious infant life has been lost, silenced and taken too soon.  Questions flood and my bones have inquiries as the darkness quakes in its aftermath.  Why should a young mother bury her 4-week old precious baby girl that just came from her womb?  What kind of a Jesus would pardon such? How can the shadows find light when the ache supersedes the name we cry out to?

Finding her way through the thoughts of a burial of her husband stricken with a death filled cancer, how does she forth come and praise God in the forever darkness she has lost her words in.  As he loses his speech to illness, she cries out, “where are you in the darkness, God?” How do you speak when all of our words are of question that no one can answer.

A family member feels left behind, unloved and alone.  The darkness threatens to take her light and leave her succumbed to the fear of it all.  What if I’m not enough? How does she handle rejection at the hands of what should blanket her with its warmth and ultimate life forward?  She should be moving like a tumbleweed towards the sun, not feeling faced in an ever-turning journey backward.

The still that the sea claims screams out an answer that we didn’t expect.  For God has spoken and He tells us that even in the darkness of it all peace awaits our lungs that beg for His air.  It doesn’t make sense when we cry out, and when He is silent we scream, “your silence makes me fear.” Jesus, oh Jesus.  Help us see You in it all.

When darkness spreads through our blood how do we find reassurance, how do we silence the fear?  When we feel rejected and lost and we smell death at every avenue we take, how do we overcome? The light is dark, the loss is all we can breathe in and the sunshine is caught somewhere in the midst of it all, unable to shine her breath on the land.  The wake is asleep and the Jesus in it all feels confused and silenced. How do we find the voice we beacon as Your song in us?

Through the fear and longing is where we can find our greatest inner ability to fight the battle we have been left to wage on this earth.  It has never been easy and cannot be slighted with our diminishing faith. Yet, the struggle of it all is where the shadows come to light and His name is bellowed from the chasm of our own personal hell into the plethora of His Kingdom He has saved for us.

My hands hold the soft beauty of an aftermath of a storm that has produced a seed of life, free from rage and a wakeless darkness that trembles inside us.  I cannot answer why a baby would die, why a husband could be called home way too soon, or why someone who has given their whole heart to the world is rejected.  All I know is that in the midst of it all He has us, and He is enough.

His name is life and the black that this world can blanket us is overthrown by a rainbow that bleeds its colors over the silenced prayers that we feel fall unheard.

Jesus, we cry.  Jesus, we bellow.  Jesus we need. And in that, the darkness comes to light with sparkles, unimaginable fragments of what we are meant to be.  Even if it encompasses sorrow, especially in the midst of a disparage that brings us to our bloody knees, He makes it known that as we tremble He is our rock.  As we shake, He holds our peace, as we quake, He isn’t shaken.

The rage can be unforgettable as we question the why’s of our life, yet His peace can form our foundation until we can figure it all out and see our life in our peripheral vision that may not come until years later.  His tremble is within us, His shake brings us to the core of who we are. His love is always there as His name shouts, “It is Well. I have overcome. Have faith and jump with me as I get you to the other side.”

Until then your silent prayer isn’t unheard and in it all, His brilliance has to be found within us as we wait.  Be content in the time that we have to be patient until the tremble of God cracks and is only left at the wayside of all that is broken and barren within us.

The Roadmap

Recently after being offered a “great” job at a cosmetic surgery and medical spa my eyes were left wide open to an array of disturbing things that women (and men) do to try and hide the appearance of aging. This is my short lived experience in this world…

maxresdefaultHaving no clue whatsoever that I’ve gotten older physically, mostly because, I’ve rejuvenated myself on the inside, turned the clocks back and have found a new me…I assumed I still looked how I felt…YOUNG!

Oddly, it was brought to my attention that I have what they term as, “laugh lines”.  The complete and total joke of the name ‘laugh lines’ is the interpretation of that catchphrase.  Because apparently “laugh lines” are a bad thing!  Who knew that a laugh could be negative?  Only our society, right?

A few years ago, I was offered a “great” job at a cosmetic surgery and medical spa. Immediately my eyes were left wide open to an array of disturbing things that women (and men) do to try and hide the appearance of aging.

…This is my short-lived experience in this world:

Innocent cosmetic surgery worker after studying my face: “You can have those filled in, you know?”

Me:  “Um, what?”

“The lines around your mouth.  It’s what makes you look older.  They are called laugh lines”

Me:  “Um, what?  I’m older?”  My mind is spinning.  What just happened??  I think I look fine, I mean I did my makeup really good today (so I thought).

Innocent cosmetic surgery worker:  “You may have some prominent frown lines too.”

Me: “Um what?!”

“Yeah, the lines on your forehead, they completely show your age.”

Me: “And what exactly is my age?”

(Yeah, she didn’t answer that one.)

And for a second or two, I can’t answer that one too because I don’t live a life obsessed with numbers.

Innocent cosmetic surgery worker:  “Your eyes look tired and you have the lines on the side of them.  They’re called ‘crow’s feet and It ages you, but you are really ‘pretty’.”

Me: Okay this is getting “old”.

~Am I the only person who laughed yet cried a little at that joke?

“An injection can fill it up quick, then BAM you look younger!”

Me:  And you have had all this stuff done?  (Having no clue how old this person is by her picture-perfect face.)

“Yup, I have!”  She proudly declares.

Me:  And how exactly old are you?

She blushes, “Twenty-Six.  But, I hope I look as good as you at your age.”

Yeah right, you think I look old and tired!

And then and there I ran for the door-busting through it so hard it shattered into a million microcosmic pieces that I’m sure are still floating somewhere in the confines of space.

Let me be clear, crystal clear.  Unrefined, flawless diamond clear, because my rebuttal to twenty-six-year-old cosmetic surgery worker is:

*Laugh lines say I’ve found joy in my life.  So much accounted for overwhelming sunshine has blanketed me that I would never trade a laugh line in exchange for a youthful appearance that no longer is mine to have.

*Frown lines tell me I’ve met sorrow in my life-journey.  I embrace it, not abolish it.  Welcome its cry in the dark of the night, because that is how beguiling sadness is.  It gets you when you least expect it.  But, it has the ability to work even more powerfully than the elation found in life, because if you don’t know what it is like to weep how can you truly find the return to happiness?

*Crows feet indicate to me that I have actually listened to the people I love in this life.  Are you familiar with the contortion your face makes when you are intently listening to a beautiful and heartbreaking story a dear friend is telling you?  Then you hug her neck so hard it hurts.  Isn’t this what life all about, reacting in the moment that we are presented with?  None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow and I chose to seize the day.  Unfortunately, life does not come with a warranty and if life calls for me to ugly cry with a friend,  I’ll take the crows feet with honor and pride.

I vowed long ago that a mirror would never dictate to me my true reflection to the world.  So why would an aging me be sold into the world of seeking something I’m not any longer: twenty-five?

And trust me that isn’t a bad thing.  That is what is SO wrong with our society. Why do we not embrace aging?  Why don’t we hug it tight like a gift we’ve been given after precedence in the dark yearning to taste freedom after living in a prison of self-doubt and body shaming?

Why do we desire so deeply to look like we did when we were 25 at age 43?

How many women who have gone before us didn’t get to blow out those 43 candles on their birthday because they were taken too soon?  How many mothers left their babies unexpectedly and didn’t get to see them grow older?  How many people tragically weren’t able to embrace the beauty of aging due to an abrupt end of their life?  Tell their souls you feel “old” because you don’t look like you did twenty years ago and feel the universe shudder in response.

I want to be remembered for how I made people feel not how I look.

I want to leave the footprint of my perfect imperfections for they ultimately are my beginning and my end.

Our flaws make us who we are and I think that is why they are so sought after to cover them up at any cost.  NO one wants to stand naked in front of the world stating, “I’m messed up!”  In the super crazy social media, mass information age we have the choice now to portray what we want the world, not necessarily who we truly are.  Yet, our missteps and our disparage is what has the stronger ability to make us more relatable.  More real, more human.  It is in our imperfections that others can find their true selves. Not in a false beauty we chose to show, it has never worked that way, why would it now?

I love the lines that are apparently spread all over my face.  After this recent revelation, I cherish them more, try to hide them less and shout from the rooftops that “I am so blessed in this life!”  I have lived over four decades of love, loss, beauty, heartache, and a great big mixture of it all!

My face will show you that each roadmap of fine lines has lead me to a different destination I was meant to arrive at.  And every smooth patch will be taking me on a new adventure that I have yet to go on.

I am striving to be authentic.  A life free of fillers and Botox, the fake precedence some feel is needed to survive as a woman in this life.  I’m fine with taking my chances on what is real, for I find more beauty in the fine lines of life than the smooth ones.  The jagged times have taught me how to navigate heartache, earn resilience, and flourish.

Smooth is easy.  Youth is bliss, yet aging is a brilliant and stunning gift.  And I accept that precious treasure as if it were the reflections of pure gold at the bottom of a river chasing the sea.

Reckless Abandon of Joy

Shamelessly, I haven’t written in over ten months.  Blindly walking through a bliss that has followed me through the past sunup to sundown twenty four hour days of my life, my words have hidden up inside me like a treasure I was afraid to show to the world. Kind of like spring refusing to surface herself to the barren land, my gift has stayed on hiatus.  Why? Oh, why?

In times of lament, my power has been in my words.  Darkness bleeds from me and letters form sentences and struggle dances into the abyss.  Powerful, dark, intrinsic beads of life would flow from my essence, finding their way onto paper and flooding into the fight I would happen to be battling.  Yet, the past almost year, I’ve been silent from the world and found myself on the other side, truly in the sun basking warmth of the sun.
My muscles swelled from the fight of it all and my body caved into the goodness of a rest it had been brewing for forty-three years.  A season of contentment that quite frankly I deserve. Overwhelmingly, I welcomed her in, took care of her and danced the dance of acceptance as I encountered her.  But how do I reside with such after four decades of struggle and relentless pain? I took heritage in a season of time without my muse of sorrow, a sonnet trapped in a river that wasn’t chasing the storm, one that was flowing toward the sea.  Hoping for home, dreaming of sunshine and flowing into goodness. That is where I am, soaking up a life of smiles and a breeze in my hair that is warm and relentlessly faithful.

For, how do we reside in the quiet, when all we’ve ever known is noise?  How do we quiet the questions that there has to be a barren time coming, a cracked way at life that has to beacon a desert because that is simply all we’ve known.

The times of peace that have overtaken me have left me with a smile placated on my lips and a hug so warm you would want it on you for forever.  I sit here with a grin and a love so big you can barely imagine it if you’ve read my work. My words are usually heartbreaking and tainted with a loss so subtle yet powerful you cry at the mention of such.

I’ve been silent because I’m finally free and that in itself is heartbreaking.

Addiction, depression, anxiety, past trauma, guilt and a rampage had a deep home in me in the embedded places that should be kept for peace that only God can give.  Yet, I have hung onto it like the only casing I knew of life. I didn’t know how to live in contentment. It’s like I almost had to learn how to breathe again, walk forward, and see the orange and pink skyline that tells us it’s a brand new day!  When all you know is night, how do you accept dawn and welcome her warmth like the birds sing in praise to?

Songs have cascaded in my mind like, ‘I can’t write when I’m happy’.  ‘My gift is gone.’ ‘At least I had it at one time.’ All these statements have filtered in my brain as I’ve wasted many hours not writing while I have resided in the gorgeous foundation of a bliss that God says I should claim in me like the life He sacrificed for me. Today while visiting some of my blog posts from last year, by far the most difficult 365 days I’ve ever lived, it hit me.  I let my healing potion fill me up in the form of joyful ache, overwhelming cascades of syllables of a question, for why in times of pure bliss do they sit by the wayside?

In the times of joy, we need to find a way to shout it harder and faster than in the times we cry out.  We need to bleed it from our skin as if we had no more life to give. For that is the true testimony of what God really does.  He turns our darkness into light, our sorrow into joy and the pitfalls of life into a life raft that gets us to the other side.  

Through the shadows and ultimate breakdown of my life I have a story to tell.  Brilliance fought for me and God won a fight that I couldn’t do on my own. Now, I chose to shout from the mountain tops even more in times of triumph than in times of torture.  I couldn’t earn it, I didn’t do anything special, I simply relented. And in that, He changed me, turned my torrent into something spectacle that until now I haven’t been able to write about.  I am here, alive and brilliantly displayed for the world to see because God didn’t give up on me. No matter how hard I tried to destroy myself, He came after me, chased me down and did away with the grief I had defined as my life.

I see it, I don’t deserve it but grace doesn’t work like that, it seeks you out and finds you at your lowest to embark on a passage of truth and a voyage of greatness you have no idea exists in your life.  That’s where I’m at friends, and the vision from this side deserves more of my words than all of the wreckage my life has produced ever did.

Today, I find a reckless abandon in happiness, not sorrow, in joy, not grief, in love not anger.

I have weathered a ravaging storm and found myself on the side of peace after a life filled with a reckless kind of jolting agony that Satan loves for me to live in. I found the joy and now I will shout it from the mountaintops.  To speak the life Jesus has given me not just my cries, not only in my torment but to yell from my soul the gift of peace He has given me. He has gifted me the ability to tear down the barriers that held me back from fulfilling my grandest destiny.

As an author who lost her words because she was afraid of joy, take it from me, you have more to shout to the world in your times of praise to God after the storm than anything your defeat speaks to you.

Praise.

Glory.

My once Reckless abandon of Joy.

Isn’t that what the fight is for, and isn’t that what the final chapter should write?  Yes, resoundingly, and powerfully, yes, that is what this season of my epilogue should say.