Monthly Archives: May 2015

My Caroline

I went to Mardels today. I’ve been there exactly twice. The first time was last fall when Kara’s book came out; I had bulk ordered and found my way to Mardels to pick up my copies. The lady asked me if I knew Kara. “She’s my best friend,” I replied.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. Normally a strange thing to say, but I knew what she meant.

“Don’t be—she’s headed Home!” But as I said it, the tears came.

The well meaning lady gave me an apologetic look before I hurriedly left.

Today I approached the same desk for a hold. I don’t know if it was the same lady (I’m terrible with names and faces), but she handed me the book I had called about and put on hold. “It’s for my best friend,” I explained. She thought that was nice, and I turned quickly away before she could see my tears falling.

My mamma always said you could only have one best friend—that’s what BEST meant. The best. It is a superlative. But she wouldn’t tell me that now if she knew how God has blessed me in the friend department.

Actually, Mamma knew this best friend—the one for whom I bought the book. Caroline and I go back 22 years. old caroline and meI think. I’ve lost track. We met at church as kids and then we went to college together. We were RAs together. We have soooooo many fun and hard memories together. She was there when Mamma and Daddy died. She walked me to class so I wouldn’t be alone, always by my side as I struggled to navigate social situations. She got up with me in the middle of the night to play a prank on a friend, posting flyers all over campus that we had made advertising his singleness in a most unflattering manner (sorry, Kyle…). And when she got busted, she took the blame (to this day, I don’t know that anyone knew I was the mastermind/jerk behind that). We went on retreats together, drank our first margaritas together, had silly crushes on boys together. I mourned the death of her beloved brother five years ago with her. And then she moved back into town just as I was pregnant with my first baby.

Can a simple blog post explain how much a person means to another? No way. I can’t tell you what it means that Caroline is the most faithful friend. That she is always ready to drop everything to help someone she loves. That she painstakingly created a whole baby shower Blythe 076around Golden Books down to the smallest detail just because she knew I would love it. That when Baby #2 was coming quicker than we anticipated, she was ready to stay with our son overnight. That she is the friend I trusted to do that. And when Kara died, I opened my door one night to Caroline holding bags of groceries and snacks for the children.

Thoughtful. Loyal. Fun. Don’t even get me started on how generous she is and all that she’s given us over the years. She is a talented writer and historian. We can read literature together and discuss it on deep levels. We watch tear-jerkers and cry together; we watched our favorite the other night for about the 100th time.

Caroline is a social introvert. She is the best Dutch Bingo player I’ve ever met. She is meek and gentle when engaging others; however, she can be loud and irreverent and clever and hilarious. She is my funny friend, and whenever I need a laugh, she will deliver. She texts me one-liners from “The Office” and hilariously avoids using the word “moist.” We reference Seinfeld as though it were still on the air. If I say, “She smells like soup,” she’ll laugh with me. When she gets in a mood, she is cynical, but the best kind of cynical—snarky and sarcastic. She is delightfully snarky. But also encouraging.

I can’t tell you the amount of letters she has written over the years to love and support me. She has a gift for expression and edification, and she freely uses it to bless others. I tried to do the same for her, writing a sweet note to stick in the book I got her, but it wasn’t like hers. It fell so short, just like this post.

She is kind. Humble. Loving. Gentle. Funny.

This goodbye is hard. We’ve known for a year that it might be coming—that Caroline’s husband might be getting a job out of state. And now we’ve known for a couple of months that they are indeed moving. And then this morning Caroline and I set our goodbye date for this weekend. And I haven’t stopped crying.

God gifted me with this beautiful person, and now she is leaving. This is a lot of loss for my heart to handle. Thank God Caroline is not dying, but saying goodbye to a friend of 22 years feels unbearable. I texted my other oldest BFF because I knew she would understand. And she does.

How do I end this tribute to my dear Caroline? The same way I will say goodbye—trusting that Grace will meet us, Grace upon Grace.caroline and me

Remembering broken hearts on Mother’s Day

I have a mama in my life who is beautifully vulnerable. Who loves her children passionately and pursues them well. Who sends me texts about her fears and failures, who trusts me with her tears when she is sobbing after a rough mama day. I am honored to be trusted by her and to be a safe place for her. I love speaking truth into her life about her worth in Jesus, how well she is raising her children, and how hard we have to fight for grace and kindness in those dark moments.

She is my safe place, too. She understands the heart battles I face every day, and she is always available to remind me of God’s furious love for me. I love the mama-to-mama aspect of our relationship. I am praying that she will be well celebrated this weekend. And I am so grateful she has a family that appreciates and loves her and will shower her with adoration on Mother’s Day.

md4I just read the story of my friend’s friend’s baby who died in her arms after a short illness. I studied pictures of the beautiful child, clearly adored and desperately missed. Her mother’s heart poured out on her blog, wanting the whole world to know about this baby whom so few got to meet.

I have a friend who gave birth to stillborn twins last summer. Whose identity changed to Mother as soon as those girls were conceived, but whose loss is silent. No one on the street knows that she is a mother to those sweet girls who are waiting for her in Heaven. New friends have no idea that she aches with a mama’s heart to hold her children this Mother’s Day.

My sister-in-law has a silent loss, too. Seeing her adorable daughters in their coordinated outfits, no one would know that she is mother to a boy, too. Because Timothy is with Jesus.

And mamas who have suffered stillborns. The tragedy of never having seen their baby, much less held it. And yet they have an undying love for that child, and their perspective is forever changed because of that love and that child. md3Since my own mother died, I have been extra sensitive to people who don’t have mothers or who have mothers who have been hurtful and abusive. I think about what it is like for children to sit in school, their classmates working on macaroni picture frames and coupon books for free hugs, while they fight back tears and mentally prepare to just make it through the painful day. I once unkindly snapped at a saleswoman who suggested I buy a certain trinket for my mother for Mother’s Day; didn’t she realize not everyone has a mother?

md1I think about Kara’s sweet children and Jason, who has celebrated almost 14 years of Kara’s motherhood, and what Sunday will be like for them.

I pray for my friend whose family will gather at the cemetery, gracing their mother’s grave with flowers as they do every year.

So much brokenness. What do we do with it?

I actually don’t know. I don’t know how to love hurting people well. I try to show up—to be available, safe, kind, gentle. To listen to hearts and be a shoulder to cry on. I ask for stories about mothers who have gone to Jesus and babies whose cries and laughs can only be heard in their mothers’ hearts. I try to be present. But I fumble. I know that my efforts at comfort are clumsy.

It’s hard to trust hurting people to Jesus, to believe that He is Good and has Good intended for His children even in the midst of terrible loss. It’s hard to believe sometimes that God is near to the brokenhearted. It’s hard to trust instead of question God’s intentions and Sovereignty. And yet that is what we are asked to do. When I drop flowers off on Sunday for a friend—a mama—whose little one is in Heaven, I realize that the bigger act of love is trusting God with my friend’s broken heart and praying for His comfort. md2Let’s not overlook the hurting this Mother’s Day. Let’s remember sons and daughters who don’t have a mama, and let’s remember mamas whose sons and daughters are no longer here. Let’s pursue the hurting in love and grace, even when we’re clumsy and awkward. Let’s pray for the brokenhearted and ask God to help us trust his furious love. Let’s grieve together but choose hope over despair.

Quantifying the mundane

Quantifying the mundane

Last night my husband and I crawled into bed at 1:30, anticipating a few things for the morning: sore muscles, a smashed television, and a sense of pride. We laughed at how our life has changed since becoming homeowners and parents—we are never up that late anymore, and when we are, it’s not like it used to be when we had no cares in the world and didn’t mind an early morning because after work, we could just crash on the couch in each other’s arms. Now my work starts at 8a when my babies are ready to get up, and it doesn’t stop until 7:30p when they’re ready to go back to bed.

Two of our three expectations were met this morning: sore muscles and a sense of pride. Thankfully, we haven’t experienced the horror of the sound of a tv falling off the wall; as we were hanging it last night, I jokingly asked my husband if he were high. Here in Colorado, we have commercials that remind us all that while it’s now legal to smoke marijuana, it’s not legal to drive after we’ve done so. One ad shows a man whose television has come crashing to the floor—it’s legal to smoke pot and then hang your tv, but it’s not legal to drive high to get a new one.

No, my husband was not high. And we were too exhausted to experience much excitement after the 2-hour process of hanging that Vizio on a lath-and-plaster wall in our home that is 87 years old. And actually, hanging that television was one of the most stressful things my husband and I have ever done together in our 8 years of marriage. Holy cow.

But hanging the tv was the icing on the cake—we have spent hours repainting that room. It used to serve as our church’s praise team’s rehearsal/storage space, but with the addition of a studio in Westside’s new office, we have this little room back. It’s an inglenook, and I love it. So we borrowed a ladder, bought some paint, and I spent stolen hours here and there painting the beams on the ceiling. Then this weekend, we painted the ceiling and the walls. And mounted the tv.

Juggling a 3-year old and a 1-year old while trying to do this project was almost impossible. At least it felt that way. And when it was done, I took a quick picture and uploaded it to Instagram. LOOK! I wanted to shout. LOOK WHAT WE DID!! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS TO DO THIS?! And then I wanted to list all the challenges: babies, sick babies, 12-foot ceilings, vertigo, limited time, having to move the stinkin ladder every three feet, etc.  001As I was posting (thought not screaming my frustrations for my followers), I recalled an article in the Winter 2015 edition of Mockingbird that addressed exactly what I was doing. In “Optimization Nation”, David Zahl says, “Even the most mundane task can, when quantified, become a venue for comparison. That’s the allure of all this previously unknown information, after all—to chart ourselves (and others) to find out how we’re doing, whether we are improving or getting worse” (10).

So true. Here I am shouting my accomplishment to the world, and while the world may not care, I have at least graphed my work for my own sense of satisfaction. But to what end and at what cost? What standard am I setting for myself when even my most mundane tasks are under the threat of being measured and then, if not compared to my neighbor’s tasks, at least compared to my last mundane chore to see if it measures up.

But measures up to what? What am I telling myself when I quantify mundane tasks, when I tweet or IG or FB my every chore, meal, mood, or milestone? What pressure does this create for myself? What performance-based standard does quantifying the mundane create?

If only this were a Voscampian method of being grateful and counting my blessings…but I know it’s not. I see that sometimes, I am just so excited about finally finishing painting our inglenook. And that’s okay. But sometimes, I am looking for validation in the keeping track of the little things I do because sometimes I feel overlooked and unnoticed. I live a quiet life in our quiet bungalow and I wonder if anyone sees me or wants to know me. And oh, my heart yearns to be known! I want to be recognized and delighted in. So I try really hard. I try really hard to convince everyone around me that I am worthy of their love and pursuit. That I would be a really neato friend.

who are youI try to convince God of that, too. I miss the old days when I believed—trusted—his love for me. When I didn’t have doubts creeping in all the corners and cracks. Maybe if he could just see how hard I work or how much I endure or how clever I am…Maybe if he followed me on IG and saw my sweet house and beautiful children…

Typing it out weakens my resolve. I don’t really believe that God’s noticing my inglenook will catch his attention. I know that there is nothing I can do to catch his attention. Because I already have it—unwavering, uninterrupted love. Furious love. Love that can’t be quantified even knowing the sacrifice he made.

I am comforted and encouraged by Zahl’s conclusion:

What we learn is what we never quite learn, the message that is as bottomless as our need for it: God does not relate to us on the basis of how well we stack up…but on the largeness of his generosity, the gift of his Son, who ‘by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.’ (19)