The Bravest Women I Know

Recently I’ve come across the writing of Glennon Doyle Melton.  Both in her book, “Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed” and her blog she talks about how life can be both brutal and beautiful, ‘brutiful’, and often at the exact same time.  Author Ann Voskamp calls these same moments the Ugly-Beautiful in her writing.  Those moments when pain, suffering, fear, grief and sometimes death hold hands with precious, beautiful, amazing and holy.

And in those brutiful, ugly-beautiful moments we have a choice.  We can embrace them and move through them open to all that God may want to do and say in them and through them.  OR we can suit up with our own version of self-protective armor and move through them on our own terms, closed to any outcome other than the one we want.

Last week I was privileged to witness one of those moments in our family.  With very little warning, but a whole lot of drama, tears, and heartache my oldest daughter had to make the decision to have her beloved dog of almost 10 years, Oreo, put to sleep.

For twelve excruciating, sleepless hours she stayed by his side as he suffered through uncontrollable seizures and difficulty breathing.  She whispered sweet words of love and affirmation as she continually pet him in an effort to keep him calm.  She bore witness to his struggle.  She didn’t turn away.  She didn’t ask for anyone else to do it for her.  She walked through every single ‘brutiful’ moment with Oreo

When the sun rose the next morning she knew that she didn’t want him to suffer like that anymore.  Liv Loo, Sophalopes, and I, made the painful trip to the vet’s office.

An hour later, after Oreo’s condition had deteriorated further and arrangements had been made, the vet let the girls know they didn’t have to stay if this was too hard.  But they couldn’t leave him.  As long as he was still breathing they were staying with him.

And so they sobbed uncontrollably, whispered love in his ears, pet him and looked him straight in the eye as the life left his tiny frame.  They bore witness to his suffering and to his passing.  And I bore witness to their love, their bravery, and their refusal to surrender to their own heartache.  As his heart stopped beating their hearts split wide open.

It’s a very difficult, gut-wrenching thing to watch a living thing, human or animal, give up its life.  But they never looked away, they were generous with their love and their presence.  They moved through each moment as it came and embraced it as profoundly necessary and holy.

Love stared death in the face and didn’t flinch.  Brutal and beautiful met, grabbed hands and wrestled.  And it was one of the most sacred moments I’ve ever witnessed.

Our little Make Stuff Girl truly is made of tougher stuff than I knew.  And the Everything is Possible Girl who confidently moves through life unshaken by those things that make her different, well she’s my hero, too.

They are the bravest women I know and once again I am humbled and honored to be their Momma.

How I Know

This morning (at this writing) we woke up to 8 degree temperatures here in North Carolina.  Just a few days before Christmas I rode around town with my sunroof open, enjoying the breeze.   The forecast for this weekend includes temperatures in the 60’s and a week from now there is the possibility for a Wintry Mix.  I think our state motto should be changed to “The Schizophrenic Weather State” or “The Multiple Seasons a Week State.”

Schools were delayed two hours due to extreme cold so we took full advantage and slept in. You need all the rest you can get to work hard at staying warm.  A few minutes before I headed out to warm up the car Sophalopes started looking for gloves.  After several minutes of searching the dark recesses of our closets all we could come up with was one white glove and one brown one.  I had no idea I am the only female in the house with a matching pair of gloves.

Soph suggested that we stop at the grocery store on the way to school and see if they had any.  I thought it was an odd place to shop for gloves, but she thought she remembered seeing some.  So off we went. (Just a quick shout out for the Most Awesome Husband Ever who bought me a car with heated seats!  This “tushy-less” wife was very happy this morning!)  After a quick 30 seconds in the store she came out empty-handed and got back in the car.

I looked down at my leather-clad hands and as a Mom I knew it was one of those moments when you make the ultimate sacrifice for your child.  With a tear in my eye and a quivering voice I quietly offered up The Best Leather Gloves in the History of Leather Gloves to save my child’s precious hands.  I just knew generations from now people would be talking about this Momma Moment and how brave I had been.  Especially if she follows through on her plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.  I could be THAT Mom one day!

I really expected a huge smile as she lovingly took my offering and a gave a heartfelt, “Thank you.”  Instead, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “These will be fine.”  These.  These.  “These” are the one white glove and the one brown glove.  The mismatched pair of gloves was fine with her.  I silently wondered how on earth this profoundly self-assured, confident young lady could possibly the daughter of such a mess as me.  Keep in mind she is the one who really tried to talk me into buying the yellow tube top dress back in the summer.

When we pulled up at the curb at school I watched in amazement as she gathered her things and got out of the car like nothing was amiss.  I looked her in the eye one last time as I tried to hand her my matching leather gloves and said, “Are you sure?”  And she just rolled her eyes and said, “Mom” in that tone of voice that reminds me she is closer to adulthood than I am sometimes.  She closed the car door like she does every day and walked into school like everything was right in her universe…with her mismatched gloves.

And everything is right in her universe because she knows she is not defined by her gloves…matching or otherwise.

Unfortunately, 31 years ago if I had been in her shoes (or in her gloves), I wouldn’t have worn any gloves in 8 degree weather if they didn’t match.  I would have been HORRIFIED.  To stand out in any way was a completely paralyzing thought to me.

So this morning, when I watched her walk into school that’s when I knew that I knew in the depths of my soul just how big my God is.  And how small I am.  While I have written this wrapped in humor and a bit of self-deprecation, please know that my bottom line is deep and profound:  God is so much bigger than me, my mess(es), my mistakes or my ability to screw things up.

Amen.

Mark 10:27 (ESV) ~ “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.'”

Important Update:  Just so no one thinks Sophalopes is completely devoid of any fashion sense…when she got home that afternoon she did ask that we go shopping for matching gloves (and scarf, and head band).  She is now all set for the 60 degree weather coming this weekend!

What If?

What If?

“…love by its nature seeks union.  With the grace of recognition comes the awesome and alarming awareness that Jesus, the incarnation of the furious longing of God, wants more than a close relationship with you and me; He seeks nothing less than union.” ~ Brennan Manning, “The Furious Longing of God,” p. 68.

What if we lived like this statement is true?

What if the whole point of our creation is to be loved by Love Himself, to be one with Him?

What if we embraced the Truth of Song of Solomon 7:10 (NASB):

“I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.”

What if we truly believed we are the beloved of God and He doesn’t just want to meet us and have a casual friendship, He truly DESIRES us?

What if we lived naked and unashamed?  No hiding, no covering up, no fig leaves.

What if we lived in deep, abiding, restful union with Christ?

What if this is abundant, reigning life?

What if this is what it means to be Fully Alive?

I’ve Lost It

So in late 2012 I asked the Lord to give me a word for 2013.  He didn’t.  He gave me three words: Engage, Embrace, and Enjoy.  The same thing happened the year before, at the end of 2011.  I asked for a word for the coming year and he gave me four words:  BE More, DO Less.

In 2013 those three words (Engage, Embrace and Enjoy) echoed everywhere for me, all the way to the very end.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Lord meant by those three words, but in the end I realized it wasn’t my job to figure it out, it was His job to REVEAL it.  And He did, ALL YEAR LONG.

So as the year began to close down and the season of Advent arrived, it became apparent that those three words were an invitation to live in each moment with the Lord regardless of my circumstances.  To engage, embrace, and enjoy each and every moment with whomever I was with and in whatever was happening.  Even the ugly moments.  Instead of hiding from the unpleasant and the ugly things to lean in to them with the Lord and allow Him to speak and heal.

For me, the Christmas season has historically been a time I feel the intense and overwhelming need to put on my armor and hide.  For many, many reasons:  the shopping, the expectations of others to get the perfect gift, the pressure for everyone to behave and perform and get along because it’s such a wonderful time of year.  And it is a wonderful time of year, but the pressure and the expectations that it be perfect and that everyone smile and be happy make me want to crawl in a hole and come out with the groundhogs sometime in February.

But this year was different for me.  The revelation of Engage, Embrace and Enjoy really started to take hold in my heart, partly through 31 Days of Advent in October. 

This year I also felt a real sense of release to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy from Popey (even though he didn’t know it).  Early one morning in December I called him at work and this is how the conversation went down:

Popey:  “What do you have today?”

Kimmie:   “Pam’s Christmas party (side bar: my FAVORITE EVENT AT CHRISTMAS EVERY SINGLE YEAR because the only expectation is to have FUN!) and then more shopping.”

Popey:  “Have fun.”

Kimmie:  [Heavy sarcasm] “Well, you know how much I ENJOY shopping.”

Popey:  “Well, you need to enjoy your life.”

Then I promptly hung up and burst into tears because in his simple reply I heard a precious invitation from the Father, yet again, to enter into each moment and enjoy it for whatever it is and whatever it brings.

So I called Popey back:

Kimmie:  “Thanks for telling me to enjoy my life.” [Sniff.  Sniff.]

Popey:  “You are welcome.  I have to work now.”

So off I went engaging, embracing, enjoying.  I had a blast through the rest of the Christmas season.  The Saturday before Christmas I even ventured out one last time for some last minute shopping and enjoyed every minute of it (for those of you who know me in the 3D world, this is nothing short of miraculous).  I rode around town with my sunroof open (that’s what winter in NC is like – very schizophrenic) listening to my satellite radio and just enjoyed being out, in public, with people.

I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all the good things God has blessed me with that I just sang and wept.  I cried like a little girl.  One of the things I was most grateful for is a husband who loves me, wants God’s best for me and gives me the space to figure it out (mostly because he’s not sure what to do with me or for me, but also because he loves me).

So I finally figured it out, right?  Well, I thought so.  But in the interest of keeping it real and honest and not hiding my version of crazy…here’s the rest of the story…

The Sunday after Christmas Popey and I were enjoying a quiet, delicious meal at home, alone.  He grilled the most fabulous steak I have had in a LONG time (he is known in certain circles as THE GRILL MASTER…which is the other main reason I love him, besides his money and his body (wink)).  We had a little wine.  We were both enjoying the evening, when I burst into tears.  And the truth is I am not entirely sure why.  I was just all of a sudden overwhelmed with an intense sense of loneliness, sadness, fear, and regret.

I didn’t just cry for a minute.  I cried the ugly cry…all night…and most of the next day.  And I am still not sure exactly why.

The bottom line?  Even in the confusing, ugly and less pleasant place I found myself in at the end of the year, I still hear the whisper of the Father inviting me to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy.  To lay down the right to understand everything, figure it out and fix it.  I hear Him saying, “Just lean into it with Me.  Don’t hide from it.  I’ve got you.”

I asked Him for a word for 2014.  He didn’t give me one.  He gave me two:  Fully Alive.  I think He’s showing me this week, even in the middle of the ugly cry, what it’s like to be Fully Alive.  Fully Alive doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be fixed and neatly tied in a bow.  Fully Alive may be ugly and painful, but the operative word is ALIVE.

As opposed to DEAD.

Dead people don’t feel.

Alive people do, even when they don’t understand what they’re feeling.

So here’s to being Fully Alive in 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly!  I admit that I have no idea what that means at this moment, but I am ready to see what the Lord wants to show me.  And I am willing to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy the process, no matter how dazed and confused I feel along the way.

A Re-Run: The Deceitfulness of Fine

The post below was one I published earlier this year, however I wrote it six months before it ever found its way to the world wide web.  And I still think about it almost every week.  Not the post itself, but my need to live wide-open, honest, brave, real and vulnerable.  To engage, embrace and enjoy every moment that I move through, in Christ.

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I am learning to be honest (primarily with myself) about my emotions. I’ve actually been in denial most of my adult life that I even have emotions! Somewhere in my southern, Steel Magnolias upbringing I bought into the lie that we (Bible-believing, genteel, southern women) aren’t really supposed to express our true feelings. If we did it might hurt someone’s feelings or worse make someone look bad. This may actually be a chemically induced problem by all the lipstick and Aqua Net I grew up with, but that’s a whole other issue. The result is that when I am asked how I am doing most of the time my answer is, “Fine.”

F-I-N-E…a potentially deceitful four letter word. On the surface those four letters seem quite innocuous. When used appropriately they convey the correct message. According to “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary” (available free online and in my opinion the gold standard of dictionaries), fine (adjective) is defined as follows:

1. Small; thin; slender; minute; of very small diameter; as a fine thread; fine silk; a fine hair. We say also, fine sand, fine particles.
2. Subtle; thin; tenuous; as, fine spirits evaporate; a finer medium opposed to a grosser.
3. Thin; keep; smoothly sharp; as the fine edge of a razor.
4. Made of fine threads; not coarse; as fine linen or cambric.
5. Clear; pure; free from feculence or foreign matter; as fine gold or silver; wine is not good till fine.
6. Refined.

When I limit the state of my well-being to simply “fine” then I take away the full dimension of who I am. I reduce my life to small, thin, slender and minute. I give it the appearance of being clear and pure and free from foreign matter and refined.

To be honest about how I am would be to admit that there is a LOT of “foreign matter” (I think that is a polite way of saying dirt) in my life and I am not refined. It would mean that I am not perfect and in dire need of help! In fact, I am often common or worse, vulgar and rough around the edges, even though I try cover it up with lipstick and hair color.

What’s wrong with admitting we have dirt? What’s wrong with being common, rough around the edges? Absolutely nothing! Those are the things that make us human. They give dimension to our lives. They make our lives less, “small”, less “thin”, less “tenuous.” They also demonstrate our need for Christ.

When I pretend I have it all together I am telling the world and God that I can take care of myself and I don’t really need a Savior.

To admit that I have dirt in my life, that I am not always (in fact most of the time) fine invites people to see who I really am. It opens the door to relationship. Who wants to be friends with someone who always has it together, or at least appears to (because we all know they are faking, right)? Grace says it is ok to be honest. Grace says I am loved and accepted even when I am not fine. Grace invites me to freedom from the confining prison of fine.

And the next time I ask how you are, I am expecting more than fine. Wear all the lipstick you want, but answer me truthfully.

How do you respond when people ask how you are? Is there anything that keeps you from being honest? What do you expect to hear from others when you ask how they are? How do you invite others to be real with you?

Taylor Swift & Momma Grace

It’s a little hard to segue from an unintentional series on how I am only now starting to know myself and how I really don’t know what to do with my emotions, but here’s giving it a shot.

I am in a bit of a nostalgic season. Since school is back in session (O summer where have you gone????) and I now have one in college, a high school junior and an eighth grader, it has put me in a reflective frame of mind. All of this reflection has made it more and more apparent that my role as a mom is changing, it’s a new season, and it is hard for me.

I don’t mean it’s hard in the something-is-terribly-wrong-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do way. It’s hard because I don’t do change well, in fact I don’t like it.  I REALLY liked it when my kids were little. Even though I was completely clueless back then, I at least felt like it was a good Momma day if everyone got to and from school, ate three times, wore clean clothes, bathed, brushed their teeth at least once, and squealed with laughter while rubbing their bare feet on Popey’s bald head at bed time. In other words, I was pretty much in charge of everything in their lives, including their fun.

The hard part for me is transitioning from being the hygiene-police to whatever it is I am supposed to do now. My inner Momma wants to daily insert myself in every area of their lives. It’s hard to watch them struggle and find their own way, whether it’s in relationships or work or school or just trying to understand who they are and where they fit in the world. And let’s face it, it’s really, really hard to not tell them how to drive. Every time one of them backs out of the driveway I have to take a deep breath and push back tears. It’s not that I want things to always stay the same, I just miss my little girls.

We are in that season when, even though they all technically live here and put our address down as their legal residence, for the most part they are never home. They are either at school, at work, at church or hunkered down in their respective rooms doing homework. Or hunkered down in their respective rooms avoiding homework. I have learned that if I park myself in my bedroom at the top of stairs (I work on my bed a lot and have a direct line of sight to whoever is coming up or going down) or on the corner of our big red couch then I can catch a momentary glimpse of them as they are coming or going or grabbing a snack. It’s not much, but I will take what I can get. I miss my girls.

So last week one of our daughters had the chance to go see Taylor Swift’s concert in Greensboro, NC. She had the tickets for months, but the excitement really mounted around here as her iPhone counted down the final days to the concert. The afternoon she left with a friend and her parents to go to the concert I walked with her out to their car. When she got into the car I just asked if she would text when they got there and then again when they were on the way home. What I wanted to ask was that she text me every five minutes so that I would know she was alive, but I restrained myself. You may think I am joking, but God really has done a work in me.

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...

As they pulled out of the cul-de-sac I felt a twinge of regret that I had not bought a ticket and was going with them. But at that exact moment I realized I could really use a nap and there was no way I would have made it through a concert and the drive home (much to my family’s dismay I am often in my PJ’s by 7:00 pm and I am usually in the bed by 8:30 every night reading or watching TV).

A couple of hours later I got a text that they were there. I breathed deep and grateful relief. Then I got a text and photo of my daughter and her friend in their seats. Then I got a text about the first act. And then I got a text about the next act. And another text and another text. And then more texts when they got in the car to come home, written in ALL CAPS TO COMMUNICATE HER JOY AND EXCITEMENT.

My 16-year old daughter was having the best night of her life and she texted me through the whole thing. I receive that grace.

In this season of the struggles, the miscommunications, the misunderstandings, the stretching of wings, the venturing out, the trying on of new ideas and the shirking of old ones, the wrestlings of faith, and the pushing against the goad, I will gladly receive what they choose to share. I will celebrate who they are becoming. I will wait for them to reach out and embrace them when they do. I will be grateful that in all the moving forward and out they still reach back sometimes just to touch home base, just to share familiar love even just for a moment.

I receive that grace.

By the way, in all of the concert-texting-excitement my daughter made an executive decision to make me her manager. I am now tasked with making her famous and planning her world tour. I am so overwhelmed with emotion I can’t decide whether to eat ice cream, make sandwiches or send her an ugly, imaginary plant. Stay tuned for all of her concert dates and locations. But first I think I need that nap.