my why.

This month in Angelic Magazine I wrote a vulnerable piece about being a child of divorce. It was birthed out of a moment at my dad’s wedding, post-vows and post-reception. Just me, God, and my broken story.

I knew it would hurt some people to read it. I fought with myself over a desire to water down the hurt, and truly, I’m not sure which side won. I also fought with the words that kept wanting to whisper, “I’m sorry.” For being broken, for being hurt, for being unhappy that two people had chosen lives apart from one another.

And from those words, and conversations with others, I’ve wrestled with my why.

Why do I write here?

Why do I scrawl words in my journal? 

Does my story matter?

And the thing I’ve been learning is this: if I apologize for my words, I may as well apologize for my story. And then I may as well apologize for me.

For being me.

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The sometimes broken, always being redeemed, me.

The one who is hurt by her parents’ divorce.

The one who is hurt because he walked away.

The one who still takes pills because she refuses to let depression win. 

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I strive for perfection in my words but what matters more is sharing my voice. I do not want to apologize for my voice anymore. I do not want to wait until the broken pieces are glued back together so that no one else cuts themselves on the edges.

Because here is the thing: we cannot heal on our own. I can only cling to hope when I acknowledge my brokenness and my need to be rescued out of it. And hope is the thing that binds us all together, the rope that leads us to Jesus and His redemption.

Healing is messy. We’re going to get hurt. We are going to get offended. We’re going to get it wrong.

But I can’t heal unless I invite others into the mess. You can’t heal unless you invite others into your mess. And the way I make sense of the mess is to scrawl words across a page, when I realize my words are not meant to be hidden, to be watered down, to be tucked behind an apology. Because my story is your story and unless we start sharing our stories, we’ll remain in our corners:

broken and bleeding alone.

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So this is my promise to stop apologizing. I promise to keep writing words on pages. And I promise to keep inviting you to the table,

to break bread and break open

to carry our burdens and broken pieces

together.

Blending

I vividly remember sitting alongside the shore of the St. Lawrence, listening to the church bells signify the noon. I was wondering if anyone else remembered that day – July 25th – the day the two came together as one and promised a lifetime of love.

Did anyone else notice? Did anyone else, as tears slipped down, offer a prayer of thanks for the beginning to an ending?

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When she first left, I prayed for days, for months, even years. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and I’d lift weary heart and hands to the only Holder of my pain.

Months turned into years. Temporary turned into permanent. And you start to forget what it used to be like. You start to forget what it used to be to use the word parents in the same sentence.

There is a tree outside my window, and at the top, half of it blooms gloriously against the blue sky. The other half a stark contrast, is brown – grey, almost, as leaves no longer bloom.

It’s the visual reminder to me that a part of me has died and a part of me still lives. I don’t always experience the death – but there are moments, days, when the ache in my heart bleeds into my bones and my body remembers in a way my memory fails.

There will be a day soon, when people will gather to celebrate that ending and rejoice in a new beginning. And surely, there is much to rejoice over. Yet I cannot hold one without holding the other. As much as I will rejoice on that day, there will be a part of me that will grieve and weep, too.

And maybe that is okay.

Perhaps there is a way to experience both death and life together, like the tree, and hold them both close. Perhaps there is a way to hold the parts of me – the dead, grey limbs and the long, bushy branches – as parts of the whole,

as brokenness that blends and makes one what was deemed irredeemable.

 

 

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I stir the pot in front of me, watching the yellowed carrots and parsnip twirl around in the wake of the ladle. I offer up prayers to Jesus, laying down heavy burdens as I stir. Knowing that there is a paper waiting to be started in the other room but my soul needs this chicken soup instead.

I pick each piece of meat off the cooled bones and drop it into the broth. Growing up, I remember her doing it so well. We would wait anxiously for the pot of soup on the stove, her famous chicken noodle soup. Each time it was a bit different, with a little more carrots or a few more noodles, whatever was found in the pantry. But each time it tasted like only her soup could. I wrote down the recipe the first time I moved away, on a faded pink index card tucked into my recipe box. But recipes made with a pinch o’ this and a pinch ‘o that never could be written down.

When that Crack in our family appeared so long ago, a lot of things washed away in the aftermath. A lot of dreams sifted away. And so did the memories – even the good ones – because somehow they were marked with a Loss now, too.

Years later – sometimes they slip back in. Sometimes it’s the feel of a chocolate milk container that brings me back to when I was five. Sometimes it’s the feel of chicken beneath my bare fingers, bringing me back to cool winter nights and a mother’s famous soup.

I make that soup my own way now. I add parsnips and rice and my own concoction of spices I find in my cabinets. The pink index card with my scrawl and her words rests inside my recipe box, and I make the soup with a little bit of soul and a little bit of hope. Sometimes murmured prayers, too.

And the thing I’ve learned about memories is sometimes they have a way of finding their way back to us. Sometimes it’s years later, when you think you’ve tucked them back into the recesses of your mind where it doesn’t hurt so much. Maybe those memories are just waiting, waiting for the time when you’ll hold them precious again. Waiting ’til your heart’s a little more healed so you hold them close, let the tears go, and remember –

the warmth of the wood stove, smell of soup in the nearby kitchen. Cracked and scarred wooden floors beneath running feet. Blankets nestled over the floor’s vents, heat trapped to warm up cold bodies. Fallen Christmas trees anchored to the wall. 

Somehow they all hurt a little less with a pot of chicken soup on the stove,

made with just the right amount of soul and a little bit of hope.

 

 

Unexpected Welcomes

The memories are vivid. I hadn’t really expected them to welcome us onto the campsite. I hadn’t even expected the swarms of mosquitoes, really – but least of all, had I expected the memories. Blue tarps covering the leaking tent to protect us from rain. First tastes of gelato. Grumpy, drenched family members. Raccoons visiting in the night.

It was our last family camping trip.

And as I stuff newspapers into my teepee of kindling, I wrestle with the familiar feelings of sadness that I thought had long since disappeared into previous chapters of my story. I am not ready for the grief and the tears to revisit.

Meg sits across from me, the fading fire flickering in the darkness, as I offered her my questions and my sadness. How do you be okay with sadness? I wonder. How do you know when you’ve finally moved forward? Or can you move forward and heal and still be sad?

“I just don’t know,” she says. “I just don’t know if it will ever really go away.”

And before us the fire is dying, and I try and I try to get it going again. The embers are bright but the flames are few.

“You can let it go,” she says to me.

Oh but I can’t. I am determined. The one thing I cannot seem to ever control is grief, or push away my sadness even as years pass me by. But the one thing I should be able to succeed at is starting a damn fire.

But I don’t.

So we brush our teeth, and we slip into bed, and it isn’t until we’ve finally quieted and settled onto air-filled mattresses that we see it.

Flickers of the fire, reflecting onto the tent. It’s finally alive.

And maybe, that’s just it. Maybe I need to stop fighting sadness and putting it into pretty boxes and scripting it out on timelines. Maybe, maybe, I just need to be and let life and God lead me as I fall into moments of sadness. Maybe it doesn’t get better but it sure does get easier. And maybe this heart of mine needs to stop questioning feelings and just let them be.

And maybe it’s when I stop fighting, and trying to fix things, and just make everything better – just like that fire – that’s when healing and new life and beauty come alive.

Hold, hold, hold.

When I got the phone call from Dad saying that Mom was moving out, I was at work in the library. I saw my phone light up with his name across it, and normally I wouldn’t answer my phone at work. But for whatever reason, that night I knew, with a dreading feeling in my stomach, I had to pick it up. So I did.

And mostly I remember the stumbling words, the tears on the other hand, my gasps for breath. And as Dad hung up on me, unable to finish, I too hung up and headed for the door, the tears already forming in my eyes. My hand grazed the front desk and I mentioned to my friend behind the counter that I would be back shortly. It was all I could do to find the door, find my way to the centre courtyard, and push my way into the cold, fall air.

I collapsed on the ground. I wailed and wept and stared at the stars in the sky. There is horror in grief, you know? That encompassing fear of what is to come, what will never be. It all crashes down in one, horrific move.

I don’t know how long I was there, but I knew I had to move and go back to my desk and leave work early. As I walked through the door into the foyer of the school, I saw my friend coming from the library after me. I collapsed into his arms and I cried, and I shook, and I whispered what had just become my life, and he held and held and held.

Before that night, had someone ever come to me, and told me that their parents were splitting up, I probably wouldn’t have known what to do. I probably would have uttered something senseless, like that it’s for the best, or God would use it.

And just for future reference –

Those are probably the worst things to say. Please don’t ever say that loss is “for the best.” Or that “God has a plan.” Quite frankly, it just makes me want to slap the words out of your mouth.

But I can tell you what we do need, us kids who walk brokenness in our family tree.

We do need to be held. Held, held, held. And told that it’s not okay. It’s not fair. It sucks. It isn’t right. You’ve been wronged and I wish there was a way to defend you and give you justice, but I can’t and there may not be that chance this side of heaven.

You can whisper that you are sorry that we don’t have a safe place. You can whisper to us to still hope for marriage and not hurt inside at another’s family dinner. You can tell us that love wasn’t best exemplified by two imperfect people; but Love is found in a Person, who has our name written on the palm of His hand.

You can fight for us. You can hold our hand when new dates are brought home; you can cry silently with us when new family trees are born that we don’t feel a part of. And maybe never will be. You can feel the weight of an empty chair at a wedding or funeral or family dinner, because the words will never be spoken but you will whisper in the silence that all is not right nor will it ever be.

Just be our fighter, our holder, our constant. Enough people in our lives tell us not to feel the way we are feeling, whether it’s a month after the boxes or packed or if it’s five years. But not enough people tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt and be figuring out a way to hold this brokenness in your hand and just be okay. It’s okay that fall brings with it memories of loss that are so heavy in the cool air you can almost feel them unfolding again before you.

It’s okay. And if no one else will be that for you: I will be. It’s okay. It’s horrific. It isn’t fair. Let me cry with you. Let me weep over what is not nor ever will be.

And I will be there, and I will take you in my arms and I promise to hold, hold, hold.

Brick by Brick

Sometimes I spend too much of my time building up little walls around me to protect me from hurt.

Brick by brick I lay them down. They are things like

cynicism

walking away when I should stay

hiding behind anything that protects my imperfections from peeking through

relationships that fill the loneliness void but do nothing to fill my heart

I don’t know if you are anything like me. But sometimes I peek over the walls and I wonder what life is like on the other side. I wonder what life is like when you risk getting your heart hurt to know that you did everything you could to win his heart. I wonder what life might be like if I stayed even though the protective part of me is whispering to myself to run. I wonder what life might be like if I created healthy boundaries with others, even if it might mean losing them in the process.

Continue reading “Brick by Brick”

Puzzle Pieces

The razor is dull.

I knew it was before I packed it. But I packed it anyways.

The water is rushing beside me as I rub the conditioner on my legs. I can hear her outside in the living room, as we all rush around to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. My brother is shaving in the sink behind me, and I hear my sister ruffling through her makeup bag in the hallway. The smell of turkey is wafting through the house.

As I slide the dull razor up my leg, it hits me.

That familiar punch of sorrow.

“It shouldn’t be her out there,” I whisper to God in the midst of the running water. I hear my dad’s girlfriend again, and I swallow the lump in my throat. “It should be my Mom.”

He gently responds, “I know.”

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Continue reading “Puzzle Pieces”

Signs of Blessing, Too.

The sign welcoming us into my hometown appears before us, a beacon on a hill that I had driven by all my life. I’m excited to show one of my best friends where I grew up, giving her glimpses into the life I had before I knew her. We pass by one of the side streets, blocked off for construction, and I make a left by the restaurant, immediately feeling enveloped by the maple lined main street.

We make our way down the road, and I find myself pointing out landmarks as we turn onto the street where I grew up. I tell her of neighbours as we round the corner, feeling myself driving as if on autopilot. And then I see the large green evergreens, the pool peeking out from behind, and I feel my breath catch as I’m brought back to a lifetime ago. We get closer to our house, and I slow down, feeling my heart hurt as we approach. I study the grey siding, the new gardens in the back brightening up the large backyard. I see evidence of the new family that’s moved in; the new deck, the different cars in the driveway. In every way it feels as if someone has taken over my life, has moved in while I was away. I swallow and pull the car ahead away.

We’re silent for a little while, until I point out the place where my dad’s childhood home once stood. I wave to an old neighbour and then we’re driving past the public pool and I’m remembering T-ball games and babysitting trips to the park. As we turn back onto main street, heading out of the village, I feel the tears well in my eyes and I grip the steering wheel harder.

“I think what makes everything so hard,” I hear myself say, “is that it feels like I lost my whole life.” As the words leave my mouth, I feel her hand on my shoulder. “I know,” she answers quietly, and I’m infinitely grateful for the absence of empty, sympathetic words.

I can feel my sorrow and grief entering into the car with us, and I sit with them for a moment. I feel the weight of sadness and my heart is heavy. As the maple trees disappear into my rearview mirror, I swallow my remaining tears and look ahead. “Please God,” I feel my heart pray, “some day let those memories not just be signs of loss. Let them be signs of blessing, too.”

Sitting in the Graveyard

My heart is heavy tonight. It’s still beating …. but it’s bruised, and it’s a bit battered, but it still beats. And I am listening to that sound, as if it is a lifeline, uttering a prayer of thanks with every new sound.

Because sometimes life is so hard.
And it takes leaving your country, your home, your family, your friends to be in a space where you can finally feel that. It takes losing all of the things that hold you up … to be in a place where the only place you can land is in His arms.
It takes being in an unfamiliar place, I think, to finally venture into grief and let yourself feel. Because when you lose something, it’s easy to walk around the grief, to stare at it, to wish it away, to pray it away, to lose yourself in the familiar because grief is anything but. 
But you can’t bring building supplies to the graveyard. There’s a season of life, when dreams have been shattered, and you have lost what you never thought you would, that you need to sit in that grief and that heartache. 

And although it’s scary, and it hurts, I might have finally walked into that graveyard. For a long time I’ve sat and stared at it’s gates, and there have been moments when I’ve dared venture in, but the truth is, being sad and feeling my grief is the hardest thing to do.

But I think I might be ready to sit. I think I might be ready to leave my building supplies behind and just sit in the graveyard. However scary and painful that might be.
Because I am reminded that however scary it might be, however dark it might seem right now, the sun will rise and illuminate even the darkest and scariest graveyard. I know, for my hope rests in Him, that there will be a time when the sun, in its beauty and glory, will remind me that I too can rise.