Clara’s Dedication

This post is late. Months late. But I wanted to post it, because when I looked online for ideas of what to speak to a child at their dedication, I didn’t find much. So I wanted to share the letter we read to sweet Clara in front of our friends and family on the day she was dedicated, March 1, 2015. 

DSC_2232

It was a busy, snowy day in March. We woke up in Dowagiac, did church, jumped in the car, stopped home (Grand Rapids Home) to change and then pulled in to the parking lot at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville for Clara’s dedication service.

We were spread thin from the business of the day and the service had been cancelled once before due to weather. We rushed into the room where the service was to be held and met up with family while I quickly changed the tiny lady of the hour into her dedication dress and tights.

Then all of the sudden it was time to get started and the officiant from church stood before us and spoke in to life what it meant to dedicate a child to God, as a community, as a family.

Continue reading

God Quilts with Mother Love

soul blossoms amy butler quiltI’ve seen a lot of great posts on Mother’s Day circulating the internet this week. Many advocate legitimate reasons why this holiday does more harm than good.

I understand these perspectives and in many ways I agree with them..

Often, Mother’s day hurts more than it helps, and those of us who have lost mothers or who never had one in the first place understand that with sharp clarity. We go into this holiday feeling like the outcasts, the ones with no one to celebrate, no one to celebrate us.

Anne Lammott said it best (have a I gushed about her enough lately? Get used to it.)

“But my main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat.”

There are so many people who kept me afloat after my Mom died and while she going through her long process of disappearing into depression. Continue reading

How to win friends and Influence People. With Guacamole.

Banners

Adorable banner cut by Noelle and created by WildOlive

My husband Kel is one quarter Mexican, at least we think he is (no one really kept track of genealogy in his family.) Regardless of whether or not it’s true, Kel FEELS one quarter Mexican, which is why he is famous for his enchiladas and why he always asks to throw a Cinco De Mayo Party.

Last night was no exception as three families with children and cheese dip in town made their way through the doors of our home to share a meal with us.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

And of course I made a massive bowl of guacamole.

Why? Because we are famous for our guacamole, it gets requested often. Sometimes we theme dinner parties around these requests, seriously. It’s that good.

Our penchant for guac started while I was working at On The Border, a chain restaurant where, if you really want to annoy your waitress you can request to have your guacamole made table side. This is instead of say ordering a less expensive bowl of house guacamole for $3 less.

So as this was a menu item I was trained on how to make great guacamole while chatting up my restaurant guests. It was so good, so fresh, it blew my mind.

So, we started with the On the Border house recipe, without raw onions which are Kel’s kryptonite. 

Then we went on our Honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta and discovered even better guacamole while on a snorkeling excursion on a wooden sailboat. This is not just because we were margarita tipsy, the guac was THAT good.

I snuck down to the galley and bothered the cook with my limited spanish for an ingredient list, which he graciously shared. This is why we now add garlic and onion powder.

So, because I love you and because well made Guacamole is good for the soul I am going to share my recipe with you today.

Let’s pretend you’re making it for 4 people, you can adjust accordingly.

makingguac

Some people wear purple medical gloves while chopping spicy peppers. Hi, I’m some people.

1) Slice two avocados lengthwise, using the sharp end of your knife, twist out the pit. Scoop them into a medium bowl with a soup spoon.

2) Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lime over the avocados and sprinkle roughly 1/4 tsp of salt on top as well, while you prep your other ingredients, the salt and lime will break down the avocado while you slice.

3) Dice roughly a shy 1/4 cup each of tomatoes and cilantro and one medium jalapeño pepper, set aside.

A NOTE ON JALAPEÑOS: When you chop them, take out the seeds (the spicy part) or your guacamole will be spicy. If you want it spicy you can leave them in, or add hot sauce, but in my very professional opinion, guacamole shouldn’t be the spicy portion of the meal. Also not a bad idea to wear gloves or at least wash your hands thoroughly after chopping all spicy peppers, some people I know have gotten juice in their eye, at the own college graduation party and cried off all their makeup.

4) Sprinkle a decent amount of garlic and onion powder (powder not salt) over your avocado and then, using forks, spoons or whatever you have on hand start to roughly work through your avocados. Chop them up but don’t mash them as good guacamole is still a bit chunky, creaminess will happen on it’s as tis the nature of ripe avocados.

5) Fold in your veggies until well incorporated and then taste to see if you’d like to adjust the seasonings, I almost always add more salt and lime. Remember that it’s infinitely easier to add more seasoning than it is remedy over-seasoned food. 

6) Serve Immediately with chips to hungry and appreciative guests.

finishedguacduct

Ingredient List
2 large, ripe but not overripe avocados.
1 Roma Tomato
1 Jalapeño Pepper
I bunch cilantro
1 Lime
Salt
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Bonus 3 Guacamole pet peeves
1) No fresh ingredients, no tomato, no pepper crunch.
2) Adding mayonnaise or sour cream to it. Sorry guys, avocados are creamy and fatty enough as is.
3) Lemons over limes. I even know it’s more authentic but for me, it’s gotta be limes. Sorry.

Do you make guacamole fresh? Buy it from the store? Love it? Hate it? 
If you make this, check back in, I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t miss a post, use this handy box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…

Love Showed Up: Hugging Strangers in Public Bathrooms

I hope you’ve been enjoying these Monday posts on Love Showing Up in life, at times when we need it desperately. 

I’ve been noticing this common thread in each post, in each moment we find to breathe thankful prayers for grace in the midst of pain, it’s this: when love shows up we feel less alone.

Our darkest burdens are easier to bear, our worst roads a bit shorter when love shows up. 

Today I want to tell you about one of the most unlikely moments in my life, a moment when love showed up to remind me that grief and pain are universal burdens, that even though grief is rightly referred to as the loneliest journey of life, it doesn’t have to be, not always. We can find each other and divide the pain with our presence.

steakBW

It was only two days after my Mother had taken her life, and I was 28 weeks pregnant with our son. We were back in Michigan after a miserable 22 hour road trip, to plan and attend her funeral alongside hundreds of other confused people she left behind.

My dear friend Lisa had called when we were making the drive up and didn’t ask so much as told me: “Hey, when you get here, I think you need steak.”

This is important when joining grieving friends on their journey, sometimes you tell them you’re helping rather than asking them, we are a stubborn people who prefer to deny our needs. 

I replied with a small laugh, because I wasn’t a steak lover per say, but I managed something like: “Sure, why not. Let’s go eat steak.

Turns out that part of the reason for the steak was Groupon related, but who says you can’t be a good friend while still being frugal? 

After I’d arrived home at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, managed a full but fitful night’s sleep, helped plan a funeral and gone to the mall for funeral appropriate maternity clothes, my friend Lisa picked me up for dinner.

We had a long drive to the steakhouse in Rockford and we picked up another friend, Becky on the way. Alyssa met us there and together we sat down in the golden light of the restaurant to order drinks and listen to the waitress explain the specials in mouth watering detail.

Nothing distracts my weary soul like great food, so as she went on about searing, herbed butter and the chef’s lifelong passion for steak I fell slightly in love with her. Having been a server for a number of years, I have a deep appreciation for menu knowledge and attentive interaction.

The meal progressed and Lisa and I order the London Broil with Bordelaise Sauce, Asparagus Spears and Yukon Mashed Potatoes. She talked me into adding caramelized onions, no regrets there.

It all melted in my mouth, danced on my pallet, sustained me, gave bits of joy.

I found myself gazing at my friend’s glasses of wine, thinking if ever there was an evening where I could use the comfort of wine, it was tonight. Why did I have to go through this pregnant?

At some point, or likely several points, in the evening I got up to use the bathroom. Too many delicious glasses of water I suppose. On one of these trips I ran into our waitress coming out of the restroom and I stopped her to thank her for her excellent service.

…Telling her that after moving to a small town in Oklahoma, I missed and deeply appreciated fancy food and vast menu knowledge.

She asked why we were back in town and I tried to vaguely reveal the details of our trip, of my mother’s funeral, without divulging too much.

Unexpected tears started to well up in the corners of her eyes, which was briefly awkward for me because I’m not always good at comforting other people to feel better about my grief.

Then she let it out: “My mom is in the end stages of cancer, in Hospice care and I’m living at her house. I’m the oldest and everyone looks to me to handle things, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m terrified to lose her.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, it does suck, but you’ll get through it, I lost my Dad about five years ago and it’s not going to be okay any time soon but your life will keep going, you’ll find joy even. I promise. Just don’t carry everyone else’s burdens without taking care of your own, without processing your own grief, don’t be pushed around by everyone’s expectations of you.”

Then we hugged. Right there in front of the bathroom sink.

I peed and returned to our table, awkwardly trying to explain my interaction with the our server which probably sounded something like: “Our waitress’ mom is dying too! I’m not the only one. That feels better somehow, not that I’m happy about it. Anyway… how’s your food?”

Even though that interaction was three and a half years ago, I still think about it, still give heart space to that server, wondering how she weathered her storm.

Our embrace in the bathroom impacted me, I felt less alone in losing my mother young because of our three minute exchange.

It’s true that grief is one of the loneliest journeys we walk in life, that no two losses are alike, even when they center around the death of the same person.

Yes, grief is lonely, there are times when we will feel naked and alone in our pain. Yet sometimes, we are given companions on the journey, for a minute, for an hour, for longer.

My friends around that evening table divided my grief, not just during that dinner but throughout the journey with their presence at the funeral and their words over the phone.

My time with our server divided both our griefs for three minutes, perhaps even longer.

Yes grief is lonely, but we are not alone, millions have walked this path and millions are waking up to walk it today.

It’s normal to feel alone, but if you can look for it, to be open your pain, love will show up in a thousand surprising ways and each time, if only for a moment or two, your grief load will lighten.

May we be a people who divide the sting of death with authentic, loving presence and sometimes, with steak.

Has love showed up to divide your grief?
How have you divided the grief of a friend?

This post is part of a series called Love Showed Up, check out the other submissions and if you are interested in submitting please send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com. We’d love to hear about how love showed up in your life. 

Don’t miss a post, use the box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my recommendation…

Soup and Pie (On Observing The Anniversary of a Loss)

soup1

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the day we lost my Dad (for more on this click here). I can’t wrap my head around this number, some days it feels like I’ve spent my entire life without him and then other days I still go to call him.

Thoughts of the March we buried him still haunt me, many of my memories are of staring down at my black ballet flats, on the funeral home carpet, on the painted concrete of the church, on the freezing grass at the cemetery.

Head bowed, soul overcome

In the end it all happened, it’s not a phantom or a figment of my imagination. He is gone and I am here, with a family and a life he isn’t a part of and cannot touch or enter into except in memory and remembered wisdom.

Softly in spirit sometimes, although usually painfully absent

The first anniversary of his death was hard, we all gathered at the cemetery as a family and words were spoken over the shiny, black marble headstone. We shivered and felt lost, still unable to believe that he was gone and not quite sure what to do about it. A year, a year without David, without Dad.

Gathering those who remember, this is one thing to do about an anniversary of loss.

The second anniversary of his death was possibly harder, we were newly married and I was in my last year of college. I called a few friends and asked them if they would join me in my grief, if we could eat my two favorite comfort foods together (soup and pie) and laugh or cry as needed, as the evening led.

They came into our apartment slowly and I tried to smile and reassure them that this wasn’t going to be weird. But was it? Would it be weird?

Some brought cards and flowers. There were 8 of us all together, or so, my memory is hazy on certain details. We shared soup from the restaurant down the street and store-bought pie.

We sat on couches, plaid hidden under slipcovers, and in a semi circle on the floor. With our warm bowls gathered in front of us I looked into the eyes of each face and thanked them from the depths of me for their willingness to come, to remember and to weather whatever this was.

I think I mentioned my Dad a few times but it was no formal service of prompts or intentional remembering. It was simply a gathering of friends who loved so well that they were willing to enter into the awkward unknown of my grief.

Willing to say “On this Day where darkness feels eminent, I will bring light into your apartment. I will share a bowl of soup over something hard.”

When it comes to remembering a grief, marking a day that has permanently marked your life all I can tell you is this: Remember and Invite.

Don’t pretend it’s not the day that it is, be open with your friends and coworkers that this date on the calendar (which may seem ordinary to many) is a dark square on yours. A day marked with loss.

If they know you, they’ll know the weight that the day carries but in the telling you will create an openness, a vulnerability, an invitation that gives others the knowledge they need to love well, to offer grace.

You point to this day and say this? This is going to be a tough one to weather and I wanted you to know. 

You can even take a step farther and say “this is what I need.” … if you know… and you won’t always know.

This is when the brave ones will enter in and do their best to love well, bring your favorite latte, cover you at a meeting, take you out to lunch, send you a text, a prayer, a hug, a grace.

Be open, do something, do what feels like the right thing to do to abide .

Honesty, Openness, Invitation, this is my best advice for observing loss anniversaries well.

Thank you for reading, I honor and deeply appreciate your heart and your eyes. To have each new post from this blog delivered to your inbox, enter your address in the box below. 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…

Love Showed Up: Breathe in, breathe out

Elora Ramirez has been a friend, role model and lovely presence in my life for a while now. She’s the founder of Story Sessions, a community of women (of which I am a part) who support and encourage each other in their lives and writing journeys. Her leadership is changing lives friends, in the most tangible ways.

8324810506_d60841f0b3_z

She texted me one morning in June.

“I don’t know exactly what you need, but I’m praying for you and am here. Whether that’s bringing you lunch or picking you up to escape—let me know?” 

It was two days after receiving the call that the birth mother would be keeping her son. This was the second broken placement and in so many ways, hurt far more than the first one. We’d seen the picture, held the hope, created the space and laid open our hearts. And now, ashes. That’s all that remained.

I remember getting the notification of my friend’s text and then staring at the baby clothes hanging in the closet in front of me, the numbness overtaking every limb like a heavy liquid.

“I guess lunch sounds good. I should probably eat something.” I replied, burying myself deeper into the covers on my bed and closing my eyes. Closing my eyes, I didn’t have to remember. Closing my eyes, all I saw is what I felt: darkness.

Within an hour, she was at my door with cheeseburgers and milkshakes. She put the bags and the cups on the counter and then pulled me close for a hug. I couldn’t say anything, hadn’t been able to articulate any phrases or sentences or words for days, and so I just stood there. She didn’t let go, she just kept breathing.

Almost like she was trying to remind me how to move forward: breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

I ate lunch and made small talk, but soon I just needed the quiet darkness of my room. I told her I was going to take a nap, and she just smiled. I whispered on my way out of the room, “thank you—for bringing lunch. I don’t know if you’ll be here when I come out or not, but it was good seeing you.” 

She didn’t leave until almost midnight.

She stayed and read on my couch while I tried to rest, and held my hand when I gave up on the silence and walked back into the living room with tears in my eyes. We painted our nails, I asked about the book she was reading, and by the time my husband came home I felt more like myself than I had in days.

And then, as if sitting me in the midst of sackcloth and ashes wasn’t enough to remind me of hope, she went home and penned a blog post that still brings immediate tears to my eyes.

I know most people don’t know how to respond in the midst of heavy grief, but in this moment, love came down and showed up in the form of someone who is now one of my best friends and people. It’s more than acknowledging the heavy days are heavy—it’s coming over and offering to carry the load for a bit, even when the person doesn’t even know how to move out from under the weight of grief. And in this moment—I felt seen. Loved. Held.

2014-03-06 09.03.37What if your story could change the world? Elora believes it can. The one you’ve been hiding under your heart’s bed, afraid that a little air will make it a monster you can’t escape? That’s the story she wants to hear. That’s the story you’ve got to tell before it sucks the air right out of your lungs. It was this belief that prompted Elora to launch Story Unfolding, a respite for tired artists aching to be heard. She also runs Story Sessions, a community for women who create. She’s written a novel and writes out her thoughts and the holy & broken on her blog

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series, there is so much goodness here Use this handy box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…

Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it.

What Mental Health Isn’t

IMG_0101

In my life “Mental Health” has been an elusive thing.

Until just this past year every doctor I’ve seen has said something to the effect of: “Have you considered… <insert trendy new pill here>”

Just this past year I had a doctor tell me: “With your case history and the way your mom passed I don’t ever see you off an anti-depressant. If we had a pill to cure breast cancer and your mom had died of that, wouldn’t you take it?”

Sure, but it’s not really the same, is it? My mom didn’t just die because she was sick, it was this messy cluster of pain and problems.

Like losing my dad to a heart attack and losing parts of her daughter in a car/train accident while struggling with depression.

And this is the point at which mental health becomes really hard to figure out. Am I struggling because I’m sick or am I struggling because this is hard, because Life. Is. Hard?

I would never dream of deciding that for another person. Ever.

It is never my place to say “Here is where your life issues and baggage stop and your chemical imbalance begins so this is what you should or should not do.”

I can’t even figure that out for myself.

But I have figured out one thing in this past year of counseling and life and delving deep into past to discover some foundation core beliefs that are throwing me off.

I have figured out what Mental Health is not.

I always thought that mentally healthy people, people upon whom doctors would never dream of handing a Rx for antidepressants must ooze sanity, logical thought and even keeled temperaments.

But that’s not mental health… and that’s not humanity.

Here is what mental health isn’t, what it doesn’t mean:

It doesn’t mean you never yell at your spouse.
It doesn’t mean you don’t need to make lists to get things done.
It doesn’t mean you never sob for no particular reason over the state of things.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like hiding when the world feels too big.
It doesn’t mean you never get overwhelmed when life feels unstable.
It doesn’t mean you never need to call a friend, right now just to unload and vent.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like walking around with an L on your forehead because you feel like such a mess you may as well proclaim it.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like finding the bottom of a tub of ice cream

These things are not signs of mental illness, they’re just part of being human. Yet for so long I thought that they were things that were categorizing me as “not quite right” when they were normal, human reactions to the big feels of life.

I’ve come to realize that my old idea of what mental health looks like involved two things

1) Not really needing people.
2) Not feeling big feelings out loud.

This is not mental health, this is not human. 

Mental health involves healthy coping skills and healthy coping involves living well in community and feeling your feelings even when they’re really inconvenient.

And they’re going to be inconvenient.

It would be so nice if grief, jealousy, insecurity, sadness, fear, anger and frustration would only come out at the appropriate times but that’s not life, at least it’s not my experience of life on pills or otherwise.

Life happens at messy and inopportune moments and so does it’s corresponding feelings.

If I could share one thing on this topic, it would be this: It is good to feel your feelings. It is healthy, needed and natural…. normal even.

Life is a roller coaster of big feelings and we are meant to be stretched and grown and stressed and sad and thrilled. It’s terribly inconvenient but it’s really important to feel these and go there and know what’s really going on inside us.

We learn how to identify and express emotions in preschool and then sometimes it feels like we try to undo all that as grown-ups.

When your feelings get to a point where you can’t cope or where they are having a negative impact on those around you, then it may be time to seek help, but don’t feel all wrong just for having them.

It’s not my place to speak to anything you’ve discussed with your doctor. You will only ever find me supportive of your choices in that respect.

The only thing I really have to say is don’t assume that your big feelings and inconvenient emotions mean that you’re sick, feel what you need to feel, go to counseling, get to the bottom of it.

The journey to understand your feelings and negative beliefs about yourself, the world and God is worth every moment and penny you invest in it.

It’s the most worthwhile time and money I’ve invested in years and I suspect I will continue to invest in my mental health so I can be the big feels, slightly unpredictable wife, mother, writer and human person God created me to be.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 7.19.53 AM

Just last month I went to a doctor who has seen me for the better part of my life and she told me this: “If you feel like the anxiety is too much, then call me and we will talk through it and figure out the best plan. But you seem to be really self-aware and stable,you’re doing really well.”

As I drove home, I sobbed, because in the journey of living my life and not following in my mother’s footsteps, those were some of the most beautiful words anyone has ever said to me.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…

Love Showed Up: Leave Room for Yes

Amanda Williams and I have been connecting online for what seems like forever. We actually got to have a date a few weeks ago after which I fell asleep with a full heart because the gift of deep connection and an evening of “me too” doesn’t happen every ol’ day. Today she is sharing some of that lovely heart with you and I hope you’ll walk away with that very same deep, full, “me too” feeling. 

IMG_9587

“We’re coming up. We leave tomorrow.”

I tried to object but ended up crying and didn’t bother trying again. The truth was I was relieved. So. Very. Relieved. The truth was I needed exactly what they were offering. Not a task to be done, not a meal in the crockpot, not another sincere I’m Sorry. I needed all of it at once. I needed them.

They were two of my very best life-friends and they still lived in the town where we went to college. They would leave their families the next morning to drive six hours north on a day’s notice to do nothing other than carry my burdens. They were coming there to be me. 

The 18 months prior had been tremendously hard, and I’d never before been more aware of the separate and distinct life roles we each hold, the way they overlap and bump into each other in the course of everyday life. But the day before this phone call – the day my daddy’s struggle ended and he went Home for good – on that day the roles collided hard, loud and jarring like an interstate pileup. He was gone, really gone, and all four of me – the daughter, the sister, the wife, the mother – we all needed our room to grieve.

And so they arrived just as they said they would. They appeared at our door when the kids needed watching and disappeared when it was time to sleep. They’d made arrangements to stay with a friend in town so we wouldn’t have to entertain, and they brought sandwiches to my mom’s house on that awkward day in the middle, when the myriad of planning is done and all that’s left is to say goodbye. They thought of everything and did it so quietly, so effortlessly that it hardly allowed me any space for guilt, one of my go-to feelings in helpless situations.

There was a magic about this, come to think of it. They gracefully toed the line between asking and doing, not waiting for my permission yet allowing room my yeses.

My two friends gave so much in those four days it still fills my eyes with tears. They fed my little people and changed my twin boys’ diapers. They swept my dusty floors and did my piled up laundry. I’d not prepared for them at all, of course – cleaning house was not on the priority list in those last months – but they entered our mess as if they didn’t notice, picking up where I left off and doing whatever needed to be done. They bought me feminine products, for crying out loud. They did it all just so I wouldn’t have to.

It was love in action, love with no hope of payback.

When we decided it best not to take the littlest two to the burial – an overnight trip to East Tennessee – they made phone calls. They called their own husbands and checked in on their own small children – 4 between the 2 of them – and they stayed another night so we could go without worry.

For four days they filled in for me as Mom so I could be fully present as Daughter. It was an invaluable, unspeakable gift, and I will never forget.

People always ask what you need when you’re grieving, but it’s such an impossible question to answer. You need nothing and everything, you need companionship and space, you need room to feel all the joy and the anger and the sorrow and the stillness all at once. It is an impossible question to answer.

Sometimes, in the worst times, you just need someone to be you so you can just be. 

In the weeks that followed we sent out the thank you notes the funeral home gave us, the ones with Dad’s name embossed on the front. I procrastinated sending theirs because, well, procrastination is what I do. But also, how do you say thank you for a blessing flung that wide? I finally found some “Up a creek… That’s where I’d be without you” cards – because inserting humor into tense situations is also what I do – and I sent them with a movie gift card tucked inside. It was lame, but it was something. And I had to do something.

They entered the rawness of my grief and tackled the enormity of my need, and I sent them to the movies. It was a Lloyd Dobler moment (“I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”), but I knew they’d understand.

Friends like those always understand.

photo copy

Amanda Williams lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and three busy children — twin 4 year old boys and spunky 6 year old girl. She is a writer, a procrastinator (just ask Leanne) and a lover of coffee, grace and wine. Amanda shares stories of imperfect motherhood, faith and writing on her blog, Life. Edited., and is Editorial Director of the online devotional community She Reads Truth.

 

Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it. 

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series! Use this helpful box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…

Big news, Big fears and lots of feels.

I think that some of the best news you ever get to announce in life is usually two parts excited and one part scary.  Like pregnancy or a book deal or a big kid job… exciting but, pretty scary and fraught with thoughts of inadequacy.

I have news like that, news I’ve had to keep under wraps for a bit… while things became a little more…. official.

Our family is planting a church.  Technically Kel is, as it’s going to be his full time work, but this sort of thing is best done as a family endeavor.  

2636531073_c7a43487fe_z

It’s a church replant in downtown Grand Rapids, in a 100 year old building that is sitting empty right now. All except the food pantry in the basement (something which makes me feel better about everything)

We’re going to be moving to an area where the schools are a little sketchy and I won’t be able to leave my car keys in the ignition anymore.

And I’ll be an official pastor’s wife, with all the expectations and feelings that go with that and trust me when I say that I am feeling all. the. feels.

This journey doesn’t kick off until January, so right now we sit in a time of in-between, more optimistically a time of preparation… I guess. Kel is so ready to start the somedays I wonder if his head is going to explode with excitement and really beautiful, tender, God-given ideas.

Even among the scariest moments of anxiety over this church planting journey, I believe that God is working through Kel. That He is in this.  It gives me something to hang onto when the ride feels a little too wild and I sort of want to get off.  

Some moments I wonder why the city needs another church just like most days I wonder why the internet needs another blogger. Some days my melancholy gets me all “lamentations-ey” and I start in with the “meaningless, meaningless… a chasing after the wind” talk.

Other days I yell at Kel and tell him that our family isn’t strong enough to do this right now.  Although in my bones I truly believe that God calls us to do the hardest tasks when we feel the least equipped, the weakest, the most wobbly.

I know that we’re experiencing an attack of sorts. I hate even writing about that because so many of us got SO SICK of that phrase and concept: “I feel like the enemy is really trying to attack us right now.”

But does that mean that it stopped being true? Continue reading

Grief is awkward

because grief is awkward.

……  because grief is awkward……

Recently I moved back to my hometown.  Back to the place where my parents are buried and the most painful parts of my life came to pass.

It was easier to hide from and avoid the details when I was 1,000 miles away…  not always driving past the cemetery or over the train tracks where it all went down.

Yet, all of these little moments of remembering haven’t messed with me as much as this one:

I was sitting at my desk, at the office where I work a few days a week right now and someone stopped in who I haven’t seen for years, someone from my parents church.

We chatted about this and that and as he was leaving he said:

“Hey!  Tell your folks I said hi!”  

Inwardly I panicked. Boy was he out of the loop, I thought everyone in town knew our story.

Should I fill him in or just let it go?  He knew them, he deserved to know.

So I did what I have to do sometimes and laid it all out at once, the breakdown of what’s up with my family.

“I have a sister, but she was in a tragic accident and lives in a group home and my Dad died of a massive heart attack and then my mom took her life.  So I have a brother, but he joined the army and lives in Kansas for now.”

Deep breath.

Typically when I have to do this I am absolutely fine and it doesn’t phase me.  After all, nothing about my life changes in that moment.

But in that moment, remembering who we all were way back then and then explaining how it ended, It undid me. And when he left I hid in the storage room and cried.

It was awkward and painful.

Grief is awkward.

Usually the moment I explain my backstory is no big deal and it doesn’t hurt … much.  In fact, usually I end up feeling worse for the person on the other end of my story and find myself trying to make them feel better about it all.

This is always my least favorite moment of “getting to know you.

Grief is awkward.

Sometime this is because you find yourself suddenly hurting, stinging from an unexpected, painful memory…  in public.

 

Maybe a song comes on in church and you crumple to the pew and burry your head in your hands, or you see something while you’re out and about that brings everything crashing down on you.

The people around you see this and don’t know whether to intervene or let you have your moment.  They may wonder what’s going on, they may speculate or they may grab you a tissue… even if it’s tender and sweet… it may feel a little awkward.

This is because you suddenly have to “go there” with someone you may not be ready to “go there” with.

But this is life, and life is awkward.  It’s a big jumble of experiences we weren’t expecting and feelings that arrest and overwhelm us at the most inopportune moments.  

Since it’s bound to get awkward… here is a list (that I’ve developed from years of awkward moments) that may help you.

1) Breathe. If you stop you will pass out and that’s super awkward.
2) Gain perspective, everyone has experienced pain and can likely identify with what’s going on.  You’re not the first person on the planet to hurt.
3) Drop your shame, you have no reason for it, healing takes vulnerability and it’s not always pretty. Shame is just going to lengthen the process.
4) Remember that we were created for relationship and that this forced, accidental group therapy may very well turn into something lovely, if you let it.
5) When you say the wrong thing (like: “your mom” to someone who doesn’t have one or “do you have kids?” to someone who is infertile) apologize but move on in grace.  What you’ve just learned isn’t new information to the person you’re chatting with they’re probably okay… so you can be too.

Overall remember that life is just messy and uncomfortable.  You will fall apart sometimes, and it will usually be in public.  I think this is because God’s trying to teach us to be real…. although it’s not my favorite method of his. 

The more we all admit this messy awkwardness and stop pretending that grief and pain are quick and easy, the less awkward moments we will actually have.

And we will create authenticity…
And community
And generally feel less alone in the pain of it all.

And that my friends is a very, very good thing.