In the Middle of a Walmart

When I walk into the store, I see her near the clothing section, making her way into the aisle. She spots me, and with one hand wrapped around a skirt and the other around her purse, her eyes follow me as I make my way towards her. She doesn’t say anything until I come close to her, and her face softens. “Ang,” she says, using the nickname she’s used for as long as I can remember. “You are so beautiful. Do you know that? You really are.”

I brush off my mom’s words, but she repeats them, emphasis in her tone this time. We change subjects and move through wardrobe options, and it isn’t until later, as I climb into my car and drive away from her, that I realize something about that moment. My mom has always been someone who uses her words to convey our worth. Our relationship has not been perfect, but she has never failed to remind me she loves me, to tell me how proud she is of me, or to tell me of my beauty. All of us kids have laughed when, out of the blue, she tells us in a time of silence, “Guys – I love you!” or when we receive a text message in the middle of the night reminding us how much she cares for us. We’ve taken her words for granted, I am afraid.

Three days ago, I am amidst a project for work, paint splattered across my hands and caked beneath my nails. My co worker sits across from me, and as we methodically work, we ask questions. Questions about family and loss and love. We talk about family dynamics and relationships. Conversations flow as does my paintbrush, up and down, finding the masterpiece hidden in the cardboard.

“What is the love that you wanted from him?” she asks me, her face soft and inquisitive. I’ve never been asked that question before. It shocks me to the core, and I look at her, as I had just laid bare the heartbreak that you sometimes carry from hoping for love and never receiving it. Of seeking it, doing your best to earn it, but it never being enough.

Of always feeling as if you weren’t enough.

And so I look at her, shocked at her question, but even more shocked that I do not know my answer.

And then, three days later, I do.

And I find the answer in an old box store called Walmart. I want to tell her, I know the love that I’ve always wanted. It’s the love you don’t always get from everyone, but when you do you cling to it. It’s the love that tells you you’re beautiful in the middle of a row of cheaply made cotton skirts. It’s the love that tells you you’re the best thing that’s happened to her at midnight when you’ve just finally fallen asleep. It’s the love that puts down the phone, looks across the table and says, “I miss you. I’m proud of you. And I love you.”

In the moments that that love finds you, it wraps you in grace and safety.

That’s the love I wanted. I still want. 

I might never receive it from him the way I wanted to. But I’ve got it. And I’ll cling to it, but only so that I can give it away, too. So that I can pour it back out and whisper I love you’s until they are imprinted on hearts and ringing in ears. I’ll whisper you’re beautiful’s until they’re the words that stare back at you in the mirror.

It’s the love that I want, and the love that I’ll give, too. Love that doesn’t let you go to sleep until I’ve told you you’re loved. The kind of love that sometimes find you, of all places, in the middle of a Walmart.

 

Loving with Hellos

We are sitting in the basement. He is on the red steps, and I sit across from him on the old, unsteady bed. The air is damp, as basements usually are, and we are opening hearts and questions and unknowns. I ask him the hard questions – I am a lover of hard questions – even if, in a way, I fear his answers won’t be what I hope. But it’s his heart, and I love his heart. Even if his answers, his questions, his dreams are different than the ones I hold deep and close to me.

“Ang,” he says to me, a lifetime of stories and heartaches and shared DNA laced in his words, “no matter where we are at in our journey, I will always love you. I want you to know that.”

I’ve been thinking about love lately. Not the romantic kind, but the human kind. And I’m thinking how we live in a world of goodbyes. We live in a world where doors shut and stories end and people walk away.

But we need the kind of love that stays. We need the kind of love that says hello, not goodbye, over and over and over again.

It’s so easy to leave. It’s too easy to say goodbye. When dreams don’t mesh, when we don’t see the same way it’s too easy to start something new.

But I think sometimes it’s better to stay. It’s better to promise a hello, over and over again. It’s what Jesus does: He keeps loving, keeps staying, keeps giving new mercies each morning.

Brand new hellos.

I want to love in hellos. An eternity of them. I want to be the stayer, the greeter, the one that remains. I want to be the one that doesn’t write the ending of chapters lightly; the one that keeps the pen nearby for the next page. I want to be the hoper, the journey-er, the one that promises on red scratchy basement steps, “I promise to be there. I promise to keep loving. I promise that we might not be on the same page, and we might not see eye to eye. We might be heartbroken but we’ll be heartbroken together and we’ll keep loving. We’ll keep staying. We’ll keep saying hello.”

We’ll keep saying hello.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

The other day I stood in front of the Father’s Day cards at Shopper’s and looked through each of them. You may not know this about me, but I have an inability to lie, even with greeting cards. I read each one, and if anything doesn’t strike me as something I would honestly say to someone, I slip it back in its place. This year I found a funny card for you, because I couldn’t find something truthful to grace the cards I looked at.

And I say this, not to hurt you, but because I have realized that I have built a lifetime of expectations for you. I have stacked them, over, and over, and over again and watched them come tumbling down like a tower of Jenga blocks.

Most days I have pointed the finger at you. Until today, when I realized I am the one that stacked them there in the first place. You are just the one who pushed them down.

We are two broken people. I have expected you to be something other than that: I have hoped, and I have prayed, and I have looked away from your brokenness. But you are just a broken person attempting to raise another broken person. It’s why both of us need Jesus.

I am sorry for stacking the expectations in front of you. You probably didn’t even notice. You haven’t noticed the tears or the hurt on my face. But I think I am learning love is when you go back. When the Jenga blocks have fallen, and the tears have stripped away the makeup, and instead of running away you go back. And you love harder. And it hurts more. But you get it because that’s how Jesus loves.

So, I want to thank you for being the one to help me learn: love is when you go back. Love is when you stay. Love is when you beg on your knees for Jesus to pour more grace in you because you have none left to give.

I love you, Dad. I love that you have conversations with strangers and the look you get in your eyes when you make a joke. I love that you enjoy your own company and that even though you may not always say it, I know that you love me deeply and hope for the best for me. And I will always, always, be thankful for that. I will always be thankful for the way you teach me that roots are important. You can only be a wayward wanderer for so long. I am proud to have your last name, proud to be a social butterfly just like you, and proud to be a country girl deep down.

We are just two broken people. We will keep hurting each other and we will keep making mistakes. But I promise to keep coming back. I promise to keep loving you and I promise that I will always stay and I will always hope for the best for you. Always.

Love always,

Your daughter.

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”

Those Hands of Loss

It’s at the top of the stairs I find myself falling, falling into the hands of loss. It finds me in these strange places. There is makeup to be put on, my bag to be unpacked, my rain jacket to be found. But I can’t move. It always seems to be that in the moments when I least want to hear them that I do: I hear those memories echoing in the silence of a quiet house. I wonder at the pain it must bring to be a parent in an empty house, one that was never supposed to be empty. I wonder and hurt at the intense loneliness that this breaking brings.

My hand drops from the knob and I take the stairs. One at a time, I whisper to myself. That’s all. Just one. step. at. a. time. And it’s hard not to fall over, in this grip of loss, because it’s only in these rare moments loss has its opportunity to stare at me face to face. Oh sure, it seems to always be there, but most days it seems more like an unwelcome companion.

It does not always have the boldness it has today.

And I walk by the boxes that fill the basement, and the boxes contain the memories that refuse to be left safely inside. Because there are journals open, with her scrawl across them, that remind me of that other life. There are letters and framed photographs that once graced the wall of a family home. They once told a story. And now their story is in a box, in a basement, hidden away.

And I stop walking. Because loss is too heavy. It stops me in my tracks, and I’m frozen there until the crunch of gravel in the driveway outside brings me back.

Because there’s makeup to be put on, a bag to be unpacked, and a jacket to be found. And so I leave the journals and stories in their boxes. And I walk away.

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.”

When Water Washes Away Your Words

When we had the flood in the basement, it washed away not only books, drywall, shoes and clothes, but it washed away something very precious. It washed away my words.

It was a blue journal, with purple binding along the side. On the front was a tree, raised leaves that I can still feel on my fingertips. I remember the moment in the bookstore, slipping it out of the bookshelf from among the myriad of others calling out for my attention.

In that journal were my words. It held words from the ending of my time at university, and the beginning of my trip to Africa. It held tears. It contained joy and triumph. Across its pages were the paintings I had created with my words, bits of my soul slipped in between the strokes and lines.

I long to live a life not only in the present, but a life that looks back, too. My journals let me do that. They let me see where I’ve come from, because as I see where I’m coming from I see where I’m going, too. I want to look back and see how life, how God, how people have shaped me. I want to remember who I was then so I can know more deeply who I am now.

The water stole my journal, blurring the words and marring the book with destructive mould. The book was slipped into a garbage bag with junk, the meaning and worth known only by me.  It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I’m struggling to remind myself that the process of holding my pen to paper was just as important as the end result of the filled journal. I’m trying to remember, and be thankful for the fact that although water stole my words, it can never steal my voice.

{But still my heart is hurting a little bit to know those precious words have slipped away forever.}

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. 

Homesick

The other day, Alece put words to my thoughts in this post: Heart Homelessness.

I hadn’t really thought about why I have been feeling the way I have been. I’ve felt like I was floating. I have felt like a part of me has been missing … that the roots I have placed in this life have been uprooted. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, really. Not here, not where I used to call home. And I don’t feel at home any of my friendships or relationships. I just feel like I’m here … but not really.

And of course, I am reminded that this is not our home. We are made for a greater Home, where someday I will travel to and meet my Saviour.

But here … right now, I still desire that earthly home. I still desire to feel a place where I belong, where I feel safe. Where I feel protected from the chaos and turmoil that constantly flows around me.

And so lately, my heart too has felt homeless. And I haven’t quite figured out what to do about it.

But yesterday, I went on an adventure with three girlfriends. We travelled to a town nearby, and walked by a river late at night. It was dark, and spooky, and there were Canadian geese threatened by our invasion of their home. And at first, my heart felt anxious. It was a place unknown and a dark night.

Yet as we walked along the river, and turned back to head towards where we were parked, we wandered along a row of houses. Each were silent, blanketed by the darkness and late hour. But one house stood out to me, a house with candles in each window. It was welcoming. The candles shining through made me imagine that if I were to knock on that door that very moment, the mom of the house would welcome me in, allow me to have a shower in one of the bathrooms filled with potpourri, and show me to the guest room. And would have welcomed me, a stranger, in.

And for some reason, something in my heart shifted. I didn’t feel so homeless anymore.  It was like that house reminded me that someday, I would be home. I would find my place where I would let my roots once again settle. I would find that place somewhere in this world where my heart would be at rest, I would feel welcome, I would feel safe. Safe.


And it’s okay that I don’t feel that way now. But someday, I will.