Friday, February 13, 2015

Hide and Seek

I've been touring preschools again and sadly, somewhere along each tour the subject of "the lockdown protocol" comes up, a protocol in which both teachers and students are trained. This is the protocol where kids are taught to hide under their desks or in closets in effort to mitigate a threat in the building. My heart feels queasy just thinking about my babies hiding under their desks shaking in fear.

We were not made to hide. We were made to be found. We were made to be seen, in all of our vulnerable beauty.

This is why I adore playing hide and seek right now with my three and four year old boys. I begin counting 1-2-3-4...and they go scurrying down the hall in search of the perfect hiding spots. Upon reaching 20, I shout out, "Ok, here I come, I'm coming to find you!" I don't even make it halfway down the hallway before I hear the pitter patter of their footsteps as they burst forth, exclaiming, "HERE I AM! I'M RIGHT HERE, MOMMY." My heart melts. Every single time. "Yes, there you are! I see you."

They are so excited to be found. They have no fear of being seen. There is no shame, no insecurity, no fear to stop them.

"Here I am. I'm right here."

And they don't say it in an attention seeking way. They say it with a desire to be seen in the known sort of way; a desire for connection with me, the seeker. It's pure and innocent. Authentic. Vulnerable. Free.

And just as kids grow older and they learn how to hide and stay hidden in the game of hide and seek, so too it seems that we all learn to hide in life somewhere along the way. Somewhere we receive this message that it's not ok to be seen or known. Because we may be met with hurt or judgment or rejection. So we hide. We hide our strengths, for fear of being too much. We hide our weaknesses, for fear of being too little. We hide. And we get really good at staying hidden, shaking in fear.

But what happens when the hiding one is met with the loving eyes of the seeking one? When the hiding one hears, "I found you. I see you. I'm so glad I found you." Then perhaps the hiding one feels a little less afraid of being found, of being seen, of being known.

What if we met each person we encountered, whether stranger or friend, with the love of the seeking one, "I want to find you. I see you. You are worth finding. You are worth knowing."

And what would happen if we let ourselves be found, be seen, be known, really known? We run the risk of being hurt, yes. But we also run the risk of being loved. And that, my friends, is a risk worth taking.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Showing Up

As we approached the expansive green field, we saw it, the swarm of about a hundred 3 and 4-year- olds, all eagerly awaiting to find out which soccer team they were going to be on. My oldest, not quite four yet, clung with vigor to my leg, filled with what I imagine to be a perfect little combo of bewilderment and terror. There was a part of me that just wanted him to walk right up and grab his orange shirt and sit down with his team. I wanted it to be easy for him. I wanted him to feel comfortable. I wanted him to feel like he fits in. I wanted him to like soccer. No, I wanted him to love soccer.

But there was also a part of me that felt very connected to him in that moment, that moment where he was clinging to my leg and saying, "Mommy, you come with me to get my shirt" and "Mommy, you come with me to the team circle." And that feeling of connection is what led me to say, "Yes, I'll go with you, Monkey." Because doing new things is hard. New places, new people, new experiences. That's hard stuff. It's hard because we don't know what to expect. We don't know how things will go. And we don't always know how we're supposed to act or what to do. I get it, buddy. In this moment, you feel vulnerable and vulnerability is often scary. And vulnerability is beautiful. I get it. You know why I get it? Because I often feel the same way when I find myself in new places and new experiences. I do.

And just as my little man has been finding his way in preschool this year, and now at soccer, I am finding my way in motherhood. I had to give myself permission to be anxious and uncomfortable at preschool drop-off at the beginning of the year. Just as preschool was new and unknown for my boy, navigating the world of preschool parents and relationships was new and unknown for me. How will other moms perceive me? How do I connect with these parents? What if I don't fit in? What if I don't dress cool enough (because let's face it, running tights are not that cool. or flattering. at all.)? What if we do things differently in our family? How will the teacher perceive me? What if I am misunderstood? I hate being misunderstood. What if I say the wrong thing, or I say something that doesn't reflect how I really feel? I wish, just like I wish for my little guy, that I didn't care about these things, that I felt totally comfortable in new places. I wish new experiences felt like a breeze for me. But they don't. They don't. They feel uncomfortable and I almost always feel vulnerable. So, if they feel that way for me, I can only imagine how terrifying they must feel for
Mine is the one standing no where near the ball.
He's just finding his way!
 my little not-quite-four-year-old. It's good for me to remember that. It's good for me to identify with how he feels. Because it reminds me that the best thing I can do for me, and the best thing I can do for him, for both of my kids, is to keep showing up. I can give myself permission to feel vulnerable, to feel anxious, AND permission to be brave and show up. (Thank you, Brene Brown for helping me to realize this! If you haven't read her book, Daring Greatly, do yourself a big favor and check it out here.)

"I can see your anxiety, little man, and it's ok. It's ok to be where you are and feel what you feel, and...I may not be the hippest mom or say the right thing or be on time, but I will show up, for me, and for you. And hopefully, in doing so, I will model for you what it looks like to live bravely into life, new experiences and all."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Story Lines

I shared a sweet moment the other day with my oldest son. We were outside and laughing about who knows what, when he moved close to me and gently placed his finger in one of the creases beside my eye, asking ever so tenderly, "Mama, what are those lines on your face?" "They're smile lines," I said, knowing this was not the end of the conversation. "Did you draw those lines? With a crayon? How did they get there? Do I have smile lines too?" he fired off in his usual inquisitive three year old style. I paused. And I thought for a moment about those smile lines, those wrinkles on my face. And I thought about how exactly one month from today, I will turn 40. That's four decades I've been on this earth. And then I proceeded to answer his questions one by one, as best as I knew how. "No, I didn't draw those lines, life did. And not with a crayon, but with moments. You see, Monkey, you know how you're about to turn 4 years old?" He nodded and reminded me of his intense desire to have a sea turtle cake for his birthday. "Well," I continued, "I am about to turn 40 years old." He chimed in, "whooooaaaah, that's a lot bigger than 4. That's more than 20!!" I probably would have been o.k. without all of the emphasis on how big that number is. "Yeah, it is more than 20. Forty is a pretty big number and it means I've lived a lot of years, a lot of life. And each one of these lines on my face tells a story from my life." I could see the wonder in his eyes as he exclaimed, "there are a LOT of lines on your face!" Thank you very much. "Yes, there are. I've lived a lot of life and there are a lot of stories behind those lines." Always wanting to know more he asked, "can you tell me some of the stories?"
"Each wrinkle and line tells a story of once upon a time,
moments where we did laugh and love, worry and weep;
each wrinkle, a mark of life running deep." ~MLM
I began to tell him about some of my memories from childhood, the good, the hard, the confusing. After a few minutes, he and his 4 minute attention span got bored and moved on to the water table, where he was quickly immersed in his own story-telling, epic tales of how the scorpion crossed the desert to sting the snake and so on. And I, I was left sitting there in a moment of quiet, thinking about all of those lines on my face and the stories they represent. They tell stories of times when I laughed and times when I cried; stories of heartbreak and trauma, triumph and healing; stories of friendships lost and friendships gained; lessons learned and mistakes made. They tell stories of when I was worried and mad; nervous and glad, times when I didn't know what to expect and was anxious about the unknown; stories of when I wanted something so bad and stories of unfulfilled expectations I didn't even know I had; stories of accomplishment and joy, and those of failure and disappointment; stories of faith, and challenge, and growth. Yes, there are a lot of stories behind those lines. Would I love it if some of those stories were absent from my life's repertoire? I absolutely would. And yet, I know that together all of those stories and moments have made me who I am today, for better or for worse, imperfectly beautiful, just like the lines on my face.

I admit, forty for me feels a bit like the halfway mark. Not that there are any guarantees that I will live to see eighty, or tomorrow, for that matter. But turning forty is giving me pause, pause to look back and to reflect, to take inventory of my life and my relationships. Just as I am looking back, I'm also looking forward. I'm asking myself what it looks like to embrace getting older and all that comes with that, and to age gracefully, whatever the heck that means. And I find myself wanting to let go and throw off all of the things that hold me back from being my real self. I don't really want to be successful anymore or spectacular, I just want to show up and be the best me, the one I was created to be. And in the moments and the days, of which there are many, where I am not the best me, I want to own it, and rest in the grace of knowing that I'm still in process. I desire to live each day more and more authentically, with actions on the outside that are congruent to what I believe on the inside. I hope that my face is radiant and my love is strong as I live into the stories yet untold. I don't want to hide those lines on my face or the parts of my story that don't shine, but rather set them free as part of me, imperfectly beautiful, wrinkles and all.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Pain That Connects Us

Warning: This is raw and unedited, and not super thought out either. But when I don't know what to do with my feelings, I write. This is what came out.

I began writing a post after the Sandy Hook shooting, but I never finished it. I never found words that seemed to adequately capture my feelings and thoughts. So, with tomorrow being the one year anniversary of the shooting, I sat down to write again, one year later. And just as I picked up my pen, a notification flashed across my phone screen, "School shooting in Colorado. 2 injured. Shooter is active." My heart felt as though it literally had sunk to my feet. My chest tightened, squeezing the tears up and out of my eyes. "NOOOOO. Not another one," I cried, as I'm sure so many did when they heard the news. I had to just sit in it for a minute and feel the pain. Not because I like to feel pain but because I need to feel pain.

You see, I don't know or pretend to know what it's like to receive a text from my son that says there is a shooter in his school and he is safe, for now. I don't know what it is like to be emotionally strangled by hearing the news that my son was one of the ones that didn't make it out alive. I don't know what it is like to be a teacher, who risks her own life to protect the lives of her students. I don't know what it's like to be a student who witnesses the shooting of her classmates while trembling in fear beneath her desk. I don't know what it is like to be a first responder who has to carry a child's limp body to an ambulance. I don't know what it's like to be a doctor who did her best to mitigate the gun shot wounds of a 5 year old, but was minutes too late. I don't know their pain first-hand and I have not been in their shoes. I don't know their trauma. But I know my own pain. I know my own trauma. I think about these people, real life people, real life trauma, and the horrific things that they've experienced and the tears pump out even faster and harder. I don't do this to re-traumatize myself, I do it to re-connect to my pain so that I can connect with theirs. Because I think the place of pain is a place shared by the whole of humanity, a point of connection in a world of differences.

There's a reason that even those removed from the situation hear this news and we feel things, real raw things like rage, sadness, fear, and despair. We may not know anyone anywhere near this shooting and yet if we pause and take it in, we feel things. Because it touches a place in us that we all have, a place that holds pain and grief. We've all experienced loss in some way in our lives. Whether it's the loss of a person, or a job, or a dream, or the loss of innocence or safety, loss is loss, and we all know it to some extent. And loss is a strange beast, we all experience it differently and we all navigate it in our own unique way. And loss comes in waves, much like the tide, in and out. At bay one minute, crashing down on us the next. Yet there are no tide charts for grief, we don't know when it's coming or going, it just comes. And I think the tragedies like the one at Arapahoe HS today, the ones that we've become far too familiar with, touch a place of loss in us, as if removing the wall of a dam, allowing the waters of grief to once again barrel towards us, overwhelming our souls. And some respond to it by crying, others feel a deep sense of despair and hopelessness, some turn to prayer, grunting out the rawest of emotions, some feel anger and want desperately to place the blame somewhere, anywhere. Some take action, in any way they can, in direct defiance of the feelings of powerlessness that grief can so quickly effect.

We all do grief differently. And sometimes we wonder, "why is that person so upset by this? He didn't even know anyone at that school." Because that's not what the pain is about. Because when we see tragedy, be it near or far, personal or not, it touches a place in us, and has an uncanny ability to connect us to our own pain, our own loss. And one might at first think, "well that sucks. I don't want to feel pain. I'm going to do everything possible to avoid THAT." But what if we let it connect us to our own pain? And what if we let that pain connect us to each other? What if as we passed people in the grocery store, on the street, at our workplace, in our home, what if we recognized them, no matter how glammed up their Facebook timeline might be, as people what have known loss, and pain, and brokenness? How might that change how we see each other? Maybe it would simply allow us TO see each other. To really see each other. Maybe it would soften us and our responses to one another. Maybe if we allowed ourselves to see and feel a connection with people at the point of pain, we could then hold space for each other, safe space to let pain out instead of burying it deep within. What if we met pain with love, not answers, not judgment, not ignorance, just loving space to hold the pain.

This may sound like shrink talk to you. I admit, it does sound a little warm and fuzzy. Except that I've seen it work. powerfully. I've seen people hold space for each other and for me, allowing the raw discomfort of pain to emerge, only to be met with love, and thus transformed into hope and healing. I've known it first-hand. I've known how tremendously powerful it can be to have someone see through my anger or cynicism or sharp words, only to recognize the pain in me, coming out sideways. And to have that met with love and space in which I could freely kick at the walls of my pain until it bled light, wow, that has been powerful. Because of those people I have known healing. I ultimately credit the healing to my Maker, but I believe that those people were in my life for a reason and acted as vessels of healing, and for that I am so grateful.

So, I am not saying, that in response to this or any other tragedy that we shouldn't DO things, like work to pass laws, or increase funding for mental health, or improve safety protocols. I guess I'm just saying that I think we have more power to affect change than we realize. The opportunity is right there in front of us, in every interaction we have. You might be angry at me for saying this, and that's ok, but I really don't think that stricter gun laws or greater access to mental health or arming our teachers with guns is going to cut it. It may help or may not help things or prevent some tragedies. But when people are broken and in pain, the pain is going to come out somehow, some way. So what if we started by looking around us, pausing to see, really notice and see the people right in front of us? And what if we connected at the point of brokenness and pain, armed with time, space and a love that wins? This is just as much a challenge to me as to anyone, but what if???

Sunday, June 30, 2013

3 years of Lessons, Love, and Laughter - A Tribute to My Son

Sometimes with writing, I don't know where to begin, so I never do. But today is my oldest son's third birthday and I couldn't let the day pass without sitting down and writing some of the things that have been stirring around in me for a while. It's a tribute to him and all that he has taught me over the last 3 years, not all of it easy to learn or think about, but needed. So, B, this one's for you, for you to read someday, many years down the road. It might not be perfect or make complete sense, just like your mama, but it is heartfelt.

My Dear B,
When I was preparing for motherhood a little over 3 years ago, I pondered the many things I wanted to and hoped to teach you someday. I honestly didn't give much thought to what you would teach me, let alone how much you would teach me. But wow, have you ever taught me a lot!

You have reminded me of what it means to be brave, to try new things. I am struck by your courage as I watch you jump into a large pool, water covering every inch of your little body, and then you pop up out of the water with a smile as big and bright as the sun on your face. You have reminded me that often the things that seem the most scary at first are the most exhilarating. I love, love, love your sense of adventure.

You have also reminded me of what it looks like to empathize with and care deeply for other people. I witness this nearly every day as I see you do things like cry when your brother gets his shots or ask me every day for a week if my eye (that I scratched) still hurts and if it feels better yet. I recall the first time that it hit me how deeply you feel. When you were just two we took you out on a boat and you bawled your eyes out every time you saw me or your Daddy fall down on the wakeboard (which I'm sad to say was quite often). We were ok, but you didn't know that and you thought we were hurt. And you hurt because you thought we were hurt. Some people might mistakenly see you as a crybaby, but I see you as one who empathizes deeply with others, especially in their pain, and it quite frankly is one of the most beautiful characteristics I've ever witnessed in anyone. And you are only 3. B, I hope you never stop feeling deeply, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and hurting with those who hurt. It takes courage to keep doing this, which is why I'm glad you are brave too. Because to feel deeply for others means you will hurt deeply for others. And hurting, as you know, is no fun. And sometimes when people feel hurt over and over again, they want to shut it down, so they won't have to feel the pain anymore. But I hope and pray that God gives you the strength and courage to keep you compassionate and vulnerable in the best of ways.

B, you have also shown me what it's like not to hide, because you don't even know how to hide yet. Somewhere along the road from childhood to adulthood, we learn to hide all that we don't want others to see, our weaknesses, our insecurities, our wrong-doings. We hide out of fear, fears of all kinds. But you, B, you haven't learned how to hide yet. I absolutely love playing hide-n-seek with you because I tell you to go hide and I count to 10 and before I can even open my eyes, you come bursting out of your "hiding spot" exclaiming, "here I am!!" Yes, there you are, my bright, beautiful, authentic, and unafraid boy. There you are. While at some point you may learn what it means to and how to hide, I hope you never do. You are too beautiful to be hidden.

B, you have definitely taught me more about sea animals and construction vehicles than I ever expected, or in full disclosure, desired to know, your thirst for knowledge knocks my socks off. It keeps me humble too. There's nothing better for the ego than having a 2 year old correct you and instruct you on the difference between a stingray and a manta-ray. Mind you, I will never confuse the two again. Yes, you are a little smarty-pants, but more important than smarts is your tenacity to keep trying and the problem-solving skills you use when you do persevere. My whole insides leap with pride and excitement when I see you place a puzzle piece in the wrong spot, and frustration creeps up, then you it again in a different space and realize that it fits. The way you marvel at yourself every.single.time and proclaim, with hands raised in the air, "I did it! TA-NA!!!" (your version of ta-da). Yes, you did. You did it because you kept trying and you didn't give up. And while there are situations in life in which giving up might be the right choice, I can tell you that many of the best things in life are not "gotten" on the first try. So, always give it one more try, and you just might get  it. Thank you for the reminder, buddy.

B, I could go on and on about the things you've taught me these last 3 years, but I want you to actually read this someday and I need to save things for other birthdays. SO, the last thing I want to thank you for teaching me on this, your third birthday of yours, is perhaps the one I'm most thankful for and it also brings the most tears to my eyes. In many of these other areas, your lessons to me have been reminders of things I maybe already knew but had lost sight of a bit over the years. But this lesson is one that you have taught me for the first time. It's a journey kind of lesson, but you have sent me on my way. It is the lesson of letting go. And that is perhaps one of the scariest things I've ever written down and while I want to keep learning it, I hope to God with all of my being that it is never fully tested. But here goes. I used to be somewhat fearless, and not always in a good way. Like, Nana and Papa had a celebration the first year that I made it an entire year without going to the ER. I was 23. I love that you are brave, B, but I'm counting on the fact that you are smart too so as to not land yourself in the ER as often as I did. Ah yes, the letting go. I once was fearless, and then I experienced some pain and losses and the fear began to creep in. And then into my life walked someone really amazing, aka your Dad, and I realized I now had something really big to lose, and the fear in me grew stronger. And then I got pregnant with you, after a long time trying. More to lose, more to fear. When they told me that you weren't getting fed in the womb and that you needed to come out a week early or else you might die, the fear soared (though it's still debatable whether that fear was actually medically warranted, but that's another story). Then you were born and it was like, holy frijoles, it's my job to keep you alive (or so I often let myself believe). More fear.

And then there were all of your skin reactions, the allergy diagnoses, the epi-pens, and that day last fall, when you were just 27 months old and your airways almost completely closed and they told us that we got you to the hospital just in time. I've never been so afraid in my life. But that's when it finally happened. All that built-up fear needed a place to go and it just kind of erupted. And that's when I realized, like deep in my heart realized, that I'm not in control, despite my best efforts to convince myself that I am. And I realized that  you are a gift from God; That God loves you even more, way more, than I do, which I can't honestly wrap my brain around; that you are God's, and it's my job to do my best to take care of you, and I can assure you, I will do my darndest. But that ultimately, it is God who keeps your heart beating, and your airways open, and wakes you up each morning with all that energy that I can't always handle at 7am but am sure glad you have. Yes, you have taught me, or shall I say, have begun to teach me what it means to relinquish my illusion of control, and trading it in for trust in God and his deep love for you. Big, huge knot in my stomach right now as I write this, but one that leads me to pray the prayer that I have prayed over you and your brother every day since you were born (it was spoken to the tribe of Benjamin but we include your bro in the prayer because we totally failed him in the name department. Not only did we not give him a biblical name, but more importantly, we gave him a name that means dark and hairy and well, with his white like the sun hair, yeah, big-time name fail. But don't tell him that just yet, k? I'll confess to him in one of his bday tributes down the road). The prayer I pray over you every night, "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long. The one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders." - Deuteronomy 33:12. I think about this and I am reminded of both my desire to protect you from everything awful and bad in this world. But I'm also reminded of the reality that I won't be able to. And that is a very painful reality for me to swallow. See, just because God loves you, B, doesn't mean that nothing bad will ever happen in your life. God doesn't promise us a happy, perfect, pain-free life. But he does promise to walk us through whatever comes our way. And I've had just enough hurt and loss to believe that promise. And I hope you believe it too. Thank you, B, for teaching me how to let go and to live into faith and trust on a daily basis. I hope that no matter how big and dark the storms in your life grow, that you are reminded that the sun always still shines somewhere above the clouds and I hope that you keep tracing rainbows in the rain. I hope we both do, whatever comes our way.

I love you, my strong, beautiful B. Happy, joyful, 3rd birthday. Love, with all of my heart, Mom

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Tragedy Unites

Tragedies like the one in Boston are wild, unbelievable, strange occurrences. Yet they have a unique way of bringing people together. We feel connected to the tragedy in various ways, strangely wanting to be close enough to feel like we are a part of something. But fearfully wanting to be just far enough away that the tragedy doesn’t actually touch us directly. But what is it about tragedy that draws us in? I admit, as a runner, as a mom, as a human being, I was drawn in earlier this week. Though I felt rage and sadnes at what I saw, I could not stop looking. When I first got word of the bombings, I immediately wanted to feel connected, first to my family, then to my friends, then via social media, to the world. Why? I believe, at our core, we all want to feel connected, we want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. And tragedies bring us together. But why? Maybe we somehow feel unified in our disbelief, our sadness, our anger, our fear, and those feelings have one thing in common: vulnerability.

So tragedy has a way of bringing us together because when tragedy strikes, we feel raw and vulnerable, so vulnerable that we are stripped away of the pride and prejudices that keep us apart on any other day. We are connected at the core of our humanity. On Monday, when brave men and women ran straight into the bomb area to help those wounded, do you think anyone said, “wait, are you a Tea Party member? Because if you are, I can’t give you my shirt to stop the blood gushing from your leg because I can’t stand the Tea Party.” Or, do you think that those heroic runners who finished the race and kept running on to the hospital to donate blood stopped to ask, “Um, is this blood going to be given to a liberal? Because I refuse to give my precious blood to a filthy liberal.” NO, I guarantee you that people did not pause to give thought to the race, religion, or political party of the person they were helping. They saw hurting, vulnerable people, and in their own raw vulnerability, they ran head-on into the darkness with light and love. Tragedy has a way of stripping us down to our most vulnerable selves. And when it does so, we come to find that we have a lot more in common with each other than perhaps we once thought.

On this 14th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, I am reminded that I was not in the school when the massacre happened. Yet I found myself living smack dab in the middle of that community working with Columbine students and their families a year later. I was not in NY for 911, nor do I personally know anyone who died in that tragedy, though some of my family lives in Manhattan. I was not in the Aurora theater when someone opened fire on the innocent victims inside, but I do live in Colorado. I do not know anyone who was directly affected by the Sandy Hook shootings, but I have a son who I am preparing my  worried little heart to send off to pre-school next year. When most tragedies happen we can find ways in which we are somehow connected to them, maybe more accurately to the pain and fear that those tragedies render.  I believe deep down, we want to feel. We want to be vulnerable. We want to feel anything other than alone. We want to feel connected. We want to feel understood. We want to feel loved. But vulnerability isn’t usually very comfortable. And daily life often doesn’t force us to be vulnerable.  We can live at the surface far too easily.
But tragedy has a way of shaping us forever. As does the way we respond to it. We proclaim such statements as ‘love wins’ or ‘we’re stronger together,’ and they are true, yet it is that person who has run into the darkness and come out the other side into the light for whom those statements hold weight and take on deeper meaning. It is that person who has allowed themselves to be stripped down to their most vulnerable state, exposed, and in that place has both offered and received love and help. It is that person who knows both the depths of tragedy AND the depths of love and beauty.

Like I said, I haven’t personally been directly affected by any of the horrific tragedies we’ve seen in the last couple of decades. But when I think about the ways pain and tragedy have directly touched my life, I wouldn’t wish those things to happen on anyone. Yet, I can honestly say that going through those things has made me both stronger and softer, and they have caused me to love deeper. Or at least to try. I still struggle or perhaps I should say, resist vulnerability. It is so much easier to keep my walls up, my pride and prejudices as my shields. Because in doing so, I live under the illusion of control, the idea that I can keep pain at bay, prevent myself from feeling any kind of hurt. But what I have come to learn, stubbornly as I may, is that it is through the deepest hurt and pain that we find the deepest love, connection, and strength. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Sunrise

I had a blog post whirling around in my head after the Aurora shootings. I actually wrote out a post on a Starbucks napkin after Sandy Hook. For some reason or for many reasons, I never actually posted them up on my blog. But today, the day after the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I had to write. First I had to run. I woke up to about 8 inches of fresh snow and 24 degree temps. On any other day at this stage of the game, that probably would have been enough to keep me inside. But I knew that I needed to run on this snowy morning. I needed love to win out in my heart over fear and anger. And the two spaces in which that most consistently happens are running and writing. Running seemed like the most fitting option for today.

Darkness still filled the sky when my alarm went off this morning. I stalled and snoozed, a little more so than usual. I finally talked myself into getting out of bed, throwing my running clothes on and strapping on my shoes, Yak Trax already attached. The air cold, my muscles still stiff from yesterday, I ran into the darkness.
Because, as Bruce Cockburn so aptly puts it, sometimes you “got to kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight.” So I kicked and I ran, and the light came as it always does each morning. It wasn’t even a full-on sunrise, not even close, more like a heavy, foggy, grey light, but it was light and light is the only thing that pushes out the darkness.

And so on my run, I was reminded of how we, or at least I fear the darkness, the ugliness, the messiness of this life and world in which we live. And often times all I want to do is run away from the darkness. But sometimes you can’t outrun the darkness. Just as if you were to run West in attempt to out-run the sunset, the darkness would still catch you, the sun would still set and darkness would eventually fall around you. But what if we were brave enough to turn around and run straight into the darkness with the light of love, like the many courageous individuals who turned around and ran back into the bomb site to help people yesterday? What if we were brave enough to face the darkness, to wrestle with it, and kick at it, knowing we would come out the other side into the light of the sunrise? Because no matter how dark, the sun does always rise. And being a believer in God, I hold fast to the belief that his mercies are indeed new every morning.

What does it look like to run into the darkness? Sometimes when I run in the dark, my headlamp seems like such a small light in the midst of such vast darkness. But it is light nonetheless. It lights my path and it is light enough for people around me to see it and hopefully not run me over. I believe that light comes in the form of love. I believe that a major way God expresses love is through people loving each other. I believe that no act of love is too small, for it still casts light in a dark world. And collectively, all those little acts of love make for some big, bright light. And that light chases the darkness away. Love wins. But love is messy sometimes. It might include acts of kindness, but I believe it goes beyond that, deeper than that. Love sometimes looks like stepping into someone’s messy life and just being there, shining light and hope. Love sometimes means saying the hard things and sometimes it's receiving the hard things said to you. Love sometimes means needing to let go of pride, anger, control, judgment. Love sometimes means admitting you’re wrong even when you want so badly to be right. Love sometimes means forgiving when everything in you wants to hold on to the hurt with an iron fist. Sometimes love means speaking and sometimes love means not saying anything at all, no matter how much you want to defend or defame. Love often means sacrifice, of one’s time, of one’s energy, of one’s needs, and perhaps even of one’s own safety as many brave ones demonstrated for us yesterday. Because life is messy, love has to be patient. It has to be. This is hard for me. Really, all of it is hard for me, really hard, all of the time.

But I don’t want to run from the darkness anymore. Because, like the sunset, it always catches up with me anyway. I want to run with the light of love head-on into the darkness and love hard with those around me until nothing but light remains. Who’s with me?