It’s a Chili Night

Have you ever gone to bed and lay there wondering why you can’t fall asleep even though it’s late and you have a lot to do the next day, but the laundry has been done, and the dog has been taken out, and you found the paperwork you have to take with you tomorrow, and…OH NO YOU LEFT THE CHILI OUT AND YOU MADE A QUADRUPLE BATCH SO YOU COULD FREEZE IT SO IF YOU DON’T GET UP AND DEAL WITH IT RIGHT NOW YOU WILL LOSE A QUADRUPLE BATCH OF CHILI, thus ushering you into the next hour of heart-pumping adrenaline which will keep you from sleeping even though you finally did that thing that you’d forgotten to do that was keeping you up in the first place?

No? Just me?

We’ve been in Bozeman for two months now. Just a touch over two months. Just long enough to start to realize you aren’t actually on vacation with everything you own, but you do, in fact, live here now and you have a local bank account to prove it. Except normal life really hasn’t started for us yet like it would have if we were still living in Oklahoma and that’s a weird thing all in itself. Social media, for all the ways I love it for keeping up with people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, has been stabbing us in the heart for the past few days as we watch the life we once had begin again. Without us.

School starts late in Montana, but it’s funny to hear people here talk about schools in other places and how early they all start. It’s all relative, I suppose. September 8 is our magic go-time. My girls have transitioned as well as you can expect four teens and tweens who have been moved across the country to transition. They miss friends. They miss the familiar songs of our old church. They miss the familiar everything.

And I understand. And I don’t know if they cried on Thursday when school in Oklahoma began again or not, but I did for them and my heart aches on their behalf. There is a true grief aspect to a transition like this that hits in waves. Sometimes it hits when one of us says a common phrase that A2 used to say and we all laugh a second and then get quiet because…he’s not here with us anymore. Sometimes it hits when we watch a movie that has a theme or a scene that hits a little too close to home in the betrayal or loneliness category. Sometimes it just hits because it just does.

Leaving a hard situation helps because you don’t have to think about it all the time anymore – it’s not constantly in your face anymore…but it also makes it easier to just stuff the hurt away. And when you stuff the hurt away…eventually it has to bubble up again and so it does. This is one of those weeks it’s spilling over.

The songs that theme this time waffle between Sheryl Crow’s Change  and Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You and Wayne Kirkpatrick’s It’s Me Again.

Basically, I’m the same mess I’ve always been in a much prettier setting.

And yet, at some level I can’t even name or explain we are still being sustained. And the hurt and the need is drawing me back to the Word again in a way I haven’t been drawn to in a very long time.

And so I will continue to cling to the promises of the only One I know who will keep them. And I continue to pray through my impossible list. And I continue on.

Okay, maybe I’m not as strong as I pretend to be
Okay, maybe I’m just as insecure as everybody else

But I tell myself, maybe
I can work it out alone
And no one else will ever know

You there, watching and waiting with the patience of a saint
While I wallow in self-indulgent, paranoid philosophies

But I’m no Socrates, baby
And in the end it’s like a marathon
I’m running straight to you

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
It’s me again

Tonight, while all the world is sleeping I will roam the halls
Consumed, with the obsessions of a terminal insomniac

Under attack, save me
From the poets and the poltergeists
Playing in my head

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, me again

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Me again

So you tell me not to worry
But I’m a frightened little child
With a strong imagination
That can always be found
Running free and wild

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, it’s me again

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Bozeman, Bozeman, Take Me In. Are You Aware the Shape I’m In?

During the month of May my family succumbed to the Whole30 eating plan, which was equal parts crazy and brilliant. Brilliant, because we were moving, so I was able to either toss or give away everything that was non-compliant with the plan, but crazy, because we were moving, so I was also packing up the kitchen and cooking became more and more difficult as the month wore on.

Still. We did it. And now that we’re traveling for three weeks, we’re kind of in a maintenance mode until we settle again, at which point we will likely do it again. For a stress eater who is under a tremendous amount of stress and not able to eat all the things, I needed another outlet. I began cross stitching again, a craft I haven’t done in easily fifteen years or more. I called it stress stitching and I just completed my second project last night and prepped for a third. It’s been a great project during this interim stage of living, as I can stitch while conversing with people, or while watching a movie, or while traveling if I’m not driving (this is less likely because we’re moving with two vehicles and I’m usually driving one of them). Still, it’s been good and I’m liking the mental release it provides while simultaneously producing a tangible outcome, one I’m happy with, one I will frame once we land somewhere again.

Ah, the blank slate. It’s a metaphor for the summer, really. As we put more and more distance from the physical location of Oklahoma City and the pain that locale still represents, I find myself thinking about the pain of the past few months less and less and thinking more about the people we loved while there, who loved us too, who we will miss (are missing), as well as the hope of what it is to come. There is healing in the distance that I’m not sure would ever be able to come without it.

As we look ahead to what is to come, I’m finding a scary hope spring forth in my heart that our family is entering into a season of jubilee and God will put a spiritual salve over our hearts and heal so much of the hurt. I’m not so naive as to think we will never be hurt again nor never hurt anyone else again, but the blank slate makes me hopeful in a way I haven’t been for a long time.


Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones that need to know
We are headed north

One foot in and one foot back
But it don’t pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return

Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in
Are you aware the shape I’m in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in

I Need My Stories

For a variety of reasons I’ve lost my voice this past year. I’ve alluded to it before, but I’m not the gal who will become famous for writing about sorrows when they come because when sorrows come I clam up.

And I’ve clammed up for the better part of a year.

We’re moving to Bozeman, Montana in June. We’re leaving Oklahoma in a little over a week. This chapter that held so much potential four years ago has now come to an end and we’re turning the page of a new one with no idea which direction the author intends to go with the story.

I was recently asked where I was blogging these days and I said, well, the same spot. It’s just that I haven’t been blogging. I said I hoped to find my voice again once we moved. He said he hoped so too, that people needed my stories.

I don’t know so much about that. I don’t think anyone really needs my stories except for maybe me. I need to write to process, write to ponder, write to remember.

I don’t have any regrets over letting things go here for a while. There are seasons for everything, even silence. My kids are older now and it’s not as easy to use them as illustrations because they, you know, would read about it and I respect them too much for that. I have really great kids and I’m continually amazed at how God is shaping their lives in the midst of so many things we wouldn’t have chosen to use as shaping tools. God is funny in his working of things that way. We’ve worked hard to cultivate a relationship of trust with them and I don’t plan to break that now.

When I first started keeping this blog, oh, some 12 years ago, my intent was simply to share stories and if they resonated with someone along the way it would just be a bonus. Years passed, and I got caught up in the stats game and the compensation game. I saw potential for this space beyond what I was able to procure simply from sharing stories, so I shifted. I got free stuff. I paid some bills. And I sold out my writing space.

I didn’t like who I was as an online writer at that point. If I want to share with you that I really love Target then I will do so without needing Target to send me a $50 gift card for saying so. So I’m done with that season too.

I’m actually not sure what this space will become again, if anything again. My domain expired two days ago and I called to renew it and as I was doing so, the guy I was talking to was all, “So, half-pint house…is this some kind of beer blog?” I started laughing and said, “No, but you are the first to ask me that one. I used to get more hits off of some rapper name Half-Pint and I’m sure I was a disappointment to those doing the google searching.” I went on to explain it was a literary reference with a nod in the direction of Little House on the Prairie.

*crickets*

He had no idea what I was talking about. And that’s okay. I don’t know what I’m talking about half the time either.

Our time in Oklahoma is coming to a close. As much as I hate the way it came to this and still feel pain over the situation that came about that caused this and still struggle with certain people who caused it to be so, I no longer view the past four years as a wasted space. I was given the privilege of helping my dad care for my mom during her last weeks of her fight with ALS and, as hard as that was, I’m thankful for that time. I wouldn’t have been able to do that living anywhere else but in Oklahoma. And the 14 kids we cared for during the past 2.5 years in addition to our own would not have crossed our paths ever either. And they might not ever cross our paths again, but I’m thankful for the time we did have with them and for as long as I can remember their names and visualize their tiny faces, I will pray for them. And for the people we became friends with who really are sad along with us at the way things transpired and that we have to leave, I remain thankful. For there are a lot of them. And we will miss them. And I’m glad our paths intersected during this small span of 4-years.  For our girls who made friends and are now having to leave them, it’s difficult to watch them grieve, but it’s part of the process of living. And just like we said with our foster kids, if it doesn’t hurt when they leave then we didn’t do it right, then the same is true of our relationships. If it doesn’t hurt us when we leave people in Oklahoma then we didn’t do relationships right either. And while we certainly didn’t do that perfectly, it will hurt. We will miss many.

As we enter this new season that’s what I want to convey the most to my kids – the hurt isn’t bad, and we can’t be afraid of pain. I want to live and love well both the place and the people of Montana so that one day, if we are ever called to leave that place as well (and trust me, I do NOT want to keep up this moving spree), then we can say we had no regrets. We did what we were called to, came to do, and stayed to do.

The Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers

If you take my heart
Don’t leave the smallest part
I’ve no need to live if you’re to come up gone
An as my life turns to a song
And if and when I treat you wrong
No I never want to hurt our family

And I would give up everything
No this is not just about me
And I don’t know a plainer way to say it Babe
And they may pay us off in fame
Though that is not why we came
And I know well and good that won’t heal our hearts

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

Now if I’m walkin’ through the rain
And I hear you call my name
I will break into a run without a pause
And if your love laughs at your dreams
Well it’s not as bad as it seems
Either way one of them has got to go
And if you take of my soul
You can still leave it whole
With the pieces of you own you leave behind

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

And I would give up everything
And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

On Hurt and the Pain of Risking our Hearts for Kids in the System

Two days ago we dropped off our two little guys, A2 and J1, at the educational care center we’ve been taking them to for the past 9 months and, with tears, we said good-bye, knowing we would likely never see them again.

Craig wrote about this here here in his post, The Comfort of Sovereignty. Shortly after leaving the care center, we received a text from Ben Nockles, of the 111 Project, and he asked us if we would share about this final chapter of our Oklahoma foster care story at the Foster Care Forum the next day. Here’s my portion of what we shared:

Three years ago I hosted a Compassion table at our then-fledgling church. Compassion is an organization I care deeply about and we’ve sponsored children through that program for over a decade. That Sunday, not one single person stopped by my table or picked up a packet. Not one. And, as a good Christian often does, I became self-righteously angry. I’m talking ANGRY. So angry that when our pastor, Doug, announced he was going to the 8308 conference later that week (what was then the Foster Care Forum) and that he hoped members of the church would also attend, I went out of spite, knowing that nobody else at our church would probably go.

That’s a great motive for going to something that is designed to soften your heart towards the cause of kids in crisis, right? Well, there it was. I went and God opened my heart up in a way I never expected. He opened up the hearts of my entire family in a way we never expected. And nine months later we welcomed a new child in our home. And over the course of the next 2.5 years we welcomed 13 more. Some we had for a very short time, some we had much longer. One set came to us twice. We loved and we lost and we loved again. And we lost again. That’s how this gig works. You can’t lose what you don’t love  and if you aren’t willing to love big and risk big then maybe you should think about a different cause to get behind. Foster care requires everything you have because it takes all of the good intentions of every program ever designed to help and it deposits them in your front door, at your kitchen table, in your spare bedroom and you have to do more than just know it’s what you should do…you actually have to do it.

That first year I wrote a lot about our experiences on my blog and I attended the Foster Care Forum again, this time to stand up here and give an account of our first few months. Last year Craig did the same.

Yesterday we said good-bye to the 2yo and 1yo we have cared for for the past 9 months and it was a fresh heartbreak for us because like so many of our plans that don’t go in the path we intended, it was never our desire to hand them over to another foster family and yet…that’s exactly what we had to do.

Shortly after we said our good-byes to two little boys who did not understand why we were crying, nor that we would not be back to pick them up, nor that we would likely never see them again, Ben asked us if we would share some final thoughts here today.

We said we would and the first thought that popped to mind came from Galatians 6:9 which says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

And that’s the thing: It’s so easy to get discouraged in this work, in spite of the worthiness of it, for it is work. And after 2.5 years of it combined with other real life heartbreaks like losing my mom last year to ALS and Craig losing his job earlier this year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to become discouraged.

Discouragement comes when you give a child back to a broken system, or parents that are only JUST able to function well enough to keep their kids out of the system, or to new foster parents, you lose touch altogether. We have no idea what has become of the majority of the kids we’ve had and we likely never will.

And yet…we are told to press on, to not give up. The harvest will come, we just may not get to be the ones to see it happen.

If we’ve been asked once we’ve been asked a hundred times if we plan to step back into foster care when we move to Montana and for the longest time I’ve said I just don’t know. I gave away everything we have collected over the past 2.5 years (and when you need to be prepared for ages 0-5, boys and girls, all seasons it amounts to a LOT of stuff). The only things remaining right now are the small shirts and socks that are still working their way through the laundry cycle here and we still have our original baby crib left. Three months ago we were planning to hand that off too. Now it has reserved seating on our moving truck.

We don’t know what the next piece of the story looks like for us – could be respite care, could be fostering again, or could be in a support role, for we know how desperately those things are needed. Regardless of how it plays out there, one thing is for certain – we will not look back at our time here as a wasted one. We will hang our little green hand prints of all 14 kids on a new wall in a new state and we will pray – for those we’ve had as well as the thousands of other kids who are living that story. And we will pray for you, that you will step in and be a voice for the voiceless; a parent for the parentless, and that you would not grow weary in the work, for in due season we will all reap…if we do not give up.

Special thanks to Ben Nockels and the 111Project for this going-away gift you see up above (the HURT letters) acknowledging our foster care efforts in Oklahoma. Ben honed in on our family’s mantra that, “If it doesn’t hurt when we give kids back, we’re not doing it right,” and the large “R” represents our goal to redeem hurt in the lives of kids. This is easily the most “hipster” decorative piece we own, and we’re excited to hang it with the 14 framed handprints/footprints we’ll hang somewhere on a wall in Bozeman. Humbled.

When a Writer Doesn’t Write

It’s no secret to people who know me that my last year has been a hard one. And I was sincerely hoping that one year after burying my mom that, not that I wouldn’t still be grieving, but that things would at least be looking a little less bleak. But my husband lost his job earlier this year and the process of unpacking that has been painful….to put it politely.

For a writer who isn’t writing, and to now be in a situation in which I’m not at liberty to wrestle out loud, I’ve been stuck for a long time. We were lying in bed one night and I was just sobbing. I finally composed myself and said, “I just can’t decide which is worse right now: watching my mom die from ALS, sincerely thinking that Child Protective Services was going to come to our home and remove our own children after being falsely accused of some things by a birth mom, or being completely blindsided by people we previously trusted, as we were in January.

Craig looked at me and said, “Megan. You can’t rank those things. They are all bad. They are all so terribly bad. The only thing we can do right now is control our response to them.”

And I know he’s right, but honestly…when you’ve been so badly treated by people, the only initial response is anger. It’s like I’m grieving another death in my life. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. Now I have to believe it, but I don’t want to believe it, but I am believing it and I’m so hurt because the people who hurt us are people who know better.

I’ve been sporadically seeing a counselor this year. I think I’ve gone to her three or four times now. Even she said to me after a few meetings that she wasn’t sure I needed to come. She said something to the effect of, “You’re processing all of this well, it’s just that you keep getting more and more really bad things thrown at you to process.” Indeed.

So here we are, with our Oklahoma chapter coming to a close. We still have two foster boys who were supposed to go back to their parents last week but now can’t and so they are still with us and will be until we move, at which point we will have to hand them over to another family which will be another loss that we have no control over. Here we are managing yard sales and packing and cleaning and house prepping and getting ready to start one of the processes I hate more than almost any other one: showing and selling a house. #StickAForkInMyEyePlease

I’m not sure about the blog. I pretty much gave it up this year and I may still do that even now. The things I need to write…the things I need to communicate…and the people with which I want to communicate with…are all off limits.

It’s a masked life and I don’t do fluff and rainbows very well.

Instead, I bury myself in the psalms and I continue to cry and pray and put my head down and push through it. God, please bring us through to the other side in one piece.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple…Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!” ~Psalm 27: 4, 7-9

Kids and Social Media

To the casual observer, ours may seem a lenient social media family: Craig and I have both kept a blog of some sort since about the time Al Gore invented the Internet, and we were early adopters of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (kind of). Pinterest? Not so much, but that’s okay; one can only handle so many cyber distractions at a time.

Our kids (we have four daughters, 16, 14, 12, 11) are allowed to have Facebook accounts when they turn 13, as this is the age allowed by Facebook to have an account and we’re not proponents of teaching our kids that it is okay to lie about their age so they can be there. They also have Instagram accounts, which is kind of funny since neither of the two who have one has a phone or any kind of mobile device, so we’re all constantly logging in and out of my iPhone to see what’s what in the land of selfies and dinner selections. The girls enjoy spending time on Pinterest, but they’ve gotten a lot of fun crafts out of the deal so I’m good with that.

For each account, our girls understand that their parents have their passwords and can and will do a random check periodically, and if they’ve deleted a bunch of stuff, then they will lose access to said accounts. We’ve also guided them in lessons in avoiding narcissism and how an occasional selfie is fine, but the majority of people (tweens and teens in particular) really overdo it. We’d rather they use their accounts for observations and thoughts about the world around them and not just about them. And if we ever catch them with a Snapchat account, they will lose electricity and battery-powered everything for the next five years.

So far it hasn’t been an issue. Our girls are fairly self-aware and we’re grateful for the way they’ve embraced being sensible online. I mention this because, somehow, I’ve found myself Instagram friends with a fair amount of tween/teen girls and I am constantly wondering if their moms are following their feeds. Every post is a selfie or some quote pining over a boy they desperately wish would notice them and wondering what they can do to get his attention.

It’s the stuff of seventh grade diaries, only it’s public and it includes pictures. I get it; I was a seventh grader once. But the difference is that, once upon a time in one of my more clued-in moments, I had the great pleasure of burning every single one of my junior high diaries and all the hormonal turmoil I had penned into the pages – no harm, no foul. What these girls are posting will live on publicly indefinitely for anyone who wants to see.

Parents, we need to be paying attention. We need to be guiding better here than we’ve been doing. We need to be helping young girls who aren’t able to do this on their own yet to guard their hearts. We can’t just hope for the best and see what happens. We have to steer things a bit while they navigate these waters. That part of what it means to be a parent.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Let’s help our kids (and ourselves) keep this in mind as they (and we) choose what to click and post.

Fostering Expectations

Screenshot-2014-11-11-22.44.37

I don’t begrudge their mother their title. She is their mother. She should be called Mom. But they live with us and they hear our girls call me Mom and so I also get called Mommy. Craig gets called Daddy. And slowly, over time, the names start to lose their true meaning. The names have less to do with the people who will love them unconditionally and care for them for the whole of their lives and more about the people who are taking care of their basic immediate needs at this moment in time and likely will change a few times. Titles transfer. Attachments weaken.

When we began this foster care journey and had children in our home for 2 weeks or 10 days or 1 month, we loved and we lost, but we always knew it was coming and that knowledge built in a guard that made the leaving just a teensy bit easier than one would otherwise imagine it could have been.

But your heart can only do that so many times before it either grows too soft or too hard. And as hard as I tried to hold off, I gave in and I parented. I didn’t simply take care of them; I parented them. And I got burned and never wanted to do that again.

But then August came and we got two babies. And I’m not going to lie – they are sweet babies, but the sentinel keeping watch over my heart is very committed to the process of my protection. I’ve been caring for these boys, but not really parenting.

To parent is to risk. And it’s a risk I’ve not been willing to take with these little ones. Not yet. And here I stand, on the cusp between too soft and too hard and I’m feeling myself making a choice, one I am reluctant to make, but love calls for it. I must parent until their parents are better able to. I must provide love in addition to theirs. We must move forward in this hard life in a way that others do not, cannot, and will not understand.

As author and musician Michael Card says, “Jesus doesn’t accept volunteers; he calls disciples. Following is a command, not an invitation.”

And so we follow, even though we know what it eventually means for us. Again.

 

 

Missing Milestones

Dear Mom,

Truett is getting married tomorrow. Maybe you know that or maybe you don’t. I have no idea. I think you had an idea earlier this year that it was coming and it it’s here and it’s super fun, except for this void that is noticeable to me because you aren’t here. Because you would have LOVED this. And you would have been a major presence here. And I wish I could somehow communicate that your lack of presence is felt.

The world is still moving and all of us are moving right along with it and there are days we’re pretty normal, I’m pretty normal, and then all of a sudden we have something major happen, something you would have absolutely loved, and your absence screams to me.

And so I cry tonight because I still miss you. And Michelle misses you. And Dad…oh, how he misses you.

And I just needed to say that tonight.

Love, Megan

Me and Amy Grant

Screenshot-2014-09-29-22.26.28

We took our kids to see U2 at Busch Stadium in 2011. It was their first rock concert and we felt all kinds of IT for making sure their first concert as a killer one, never mind the fact that Millie, who was still 7 at that time, spent the majority of the evening with her hands over her ears and eventually fell asleep. None of that matters, though, because, darn it, we took her to see Bono for her first concert.

Compare this with my own first concert experience. Farrell and Farrell. People in a Box, anyone? Matching hot pink jumpsuits? We were cutting edge for mid-80’s Southern Baptists in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not to be outdone, I also saw The Imperials, Sandy Patti, and The Bill Gaither Trio before transitioning over to some of the heavier stuff like Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.

Oh, Amy Grant and your leopard print jacket on the Unguarded album…you got me. You sang from my heart. And I sang it back into a hairbrush and recorded it on my boom box while pretending to be a DJ for KXOJ (K-eXcited Over Jesus) on 100.9 FM in Tulsa.

And life was good…until I made a move in an unfortunate direction and burned all of my Amy Grant and Smitty tapes and records in the same barrel that took my Rainbow Bright doll and my entire collection of Pegasus figurines. Thank you, Bill Gothard.

But then I made a move back toward reasonableness and repurchased my music collection, this time on CD. And Amy sang my heart once more, and I would sing along with her while driving around in my 1990 Grand Prix with my spiral-permed hair and my Baptist-hipster floral jumpers.

And then… she got divorced and Christians all over walked away from Amy Grant. And I did too…for a season. I think my discouragement was equal parts trying to reconcile my strongly-held views on sacred Christian marriage (a full three years into my own at the time) with what seemed to me a public failure of someone I had looked up to for so long. Suddenly, what I thought to be a given for the life of committed Christians no longer was.

But I’m sorry I walked away for a while. Here’s the thing: I’ve never met Amy Grant. I’ve never had a personal conversation with her to ask her about her life. I do know she continues to write songs that speak into the center of my soul and I can listen to them, believing she has really wrestled with the hard stuff of life and come out on the other side with her faith still intact. This gives me a hope that I can’t find on Christian radio today.

And that hope continues to compel me to sing along with Amy and the new album of killer dance mixes of her songs while driving along 235 in my hipster mom-Honda and my gray cardigan sweater, processing the hard of life in the midst of the everyday everything else.

Sometimes Hope is a Dark Shade of Pink

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I gave up writing for lent. Okay, I didn’t really do that and that’s a bad joke anyway. I gave up writing this year because of the way writing takes me to places in my heart I have not wanted to go to again. Indeed, as I started this post last night, I needed to process the hard again, but while I was doing that I was also reminded of the grace again. Because like it or not, they do tend to go together much of the time.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis says, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

Ah, and that’s the thing. I accept truth in my head, but my heart is a much harder sell. When I look back on 2014 my immediate memories are the sad ones, and…sometimes I think I actually want to dwell there as though that’s all I’ve been given this year, just bypassing the grace altogether. I think accepting grace this year means accepting the loss too and I’m not sure I’ve been willing to do that…yet.

But now I risk it. I look back and I see the grace in this year: In a friend’s second marriage, in canoeing on the lake of the camp that should have burned to the ground two years ago, in taking my still-grieving dad bowling and seeing a momentary joy come back into his eyes, in seeing success at a job I started doing just for fun, in watching the artist in my 12yo start to blossom, in…so many other ways.

It’s there. It’s all around me. It’s that dark pink shade of hope creeping around the corner of my despair.

And I’m just now coming to terms with the understanding that I don’t have to give up one in order to embrace the other. They were meant to be experienced together.

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
 The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.