Somewhere between Traditional and Progressive

Hi!

Sorry, it’s been awhile. Life has been full of transitions and new. I am sure an update as to how our move to Charlotte has gone is more than due. To be honest, there isn’t very much to write about it. It went as well as a move could go. What is it like being in Charlotte? It’s different. It’s new. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, overall it’s just good. Isaac is thriving in his new school. Thriving in a way I hadn’t yet experienced with him and school. He is embracing this drive to do well in his academics, that’s kind of a first and amazing to see. Charles and I are doing well. Actually, we are kind of killing that married life as we lean into the ebb and flow of this new life. Generally, overall, we are just good.

Now that we are caught up, I have to admit I find myself a bit grumbly this morning. Not really irritated and kind of a little bit irritated. Irritated seems like such a strong word for what I am feeling….maybe I am more discontented. I don’t even know if that word works. Maybe…maybe I am just…..

Struggling.

That’s the best word. We are in search of a church once again. Weekly I find myself scrolling through the internet, finding churches, reading reviews, looking at locations, scanning websites trying to catch the heart of a place within the black words written across their white and colorful sites. Each week, I find myself more disenchanted then the week before. Less than excited to get up on a Sunday, get everybody ready and once again walk through the doors to be the new people. New to their systems, new to their culture, new to their atmosphere. Always wondering how Isaac is doing being the new kid in class, again. Even though he has got it kind of down to an art form, I hear questions/comments from him that he too is struggling. Can we come back to this church? What did you think of that one? Do we have to go to a new church? I liked that church.

Struggling.

I used to think it was that kind of simple. You know that I just liked it so I attend kind of simple. However, I don’t believe it works that way anymore. Atlanta woke me up. God reached into my boxed world, erased some stark, harshly drawn lines that constructed this “simple” Christianity and I know more now than ever, I see that it isn’t that simple. It’s like deciding to cut your hair, you know you think it will grow back, it’s easy. That is until you are growing it back and it hits all kind of various short and medium stages that remind you why you don’t ever cut your hair. You have that stage where it’s too short to put up and too long to not stay in your face. If you wear it up, you have to use copious amounts of bobby pins to keep all the stray pieces of hair from falling. If you keep it down it falls in your face, consistently demanding your attention. The evolution of growth is not as simple as we like to think it is. It isn’t boxed, there aren’t harshly drawn lines that clearly show the path. It’s messy, with lots of questions, and lack of understanding. To be honest, lots of time it leaves you standing somewhere struggling to put bobby pins into your life to hold the pieces of it together wondering what I am going to do with this in this stage.

Struggling.

I don’t know if I fit into a traditional church anymore. I know too much. I see too much. I question too much. I mean could I sit, listen and quietly agree to disagree every Sunday. I could. I also don’t know that I fit in a progressive church either. I am still walking my path, coming into my own beliefs and understandings. I mean could I sit, listen and quietly agree to disagree every Sunday. I could. It just seems as I face the week searching, I am faced with these two choices only. Maybe in the most childish places of my heart, I want to find a church that is evolving. That is walking the same path I am. That is full of people who are discovering their own trail. I want to find a place that isn’t as full of answers as they are full of questions. People who are open to understanding that the evolution of growth isn’t simple. It’s not drawn with harsh, clear lines that define your pathway. It’s lineless, open to letting your feet wonder out to touch others path’s who are near you but not yours. It allows you to pull from others journey, to see another way, examining where that way fits in the journey you are on. The journey, you are the Lord are consistently in connection about. It kind of demands for individuality, humility, the art of learning, and discovering. It requires bravery and the freedom to let go. In the childish places of my heart, I want to find a place that can hold tradition and embrace evolution.

Maybe I am asking for a utopia.

I don’t know.

I just realized this post won’t end with a resolve. There will be no nice wrap up to this struggle. I will question putting it out there, sharing with the world, letting them into my grumble. Then again, maybe I wrote this for those who are in the same place I am. For those who are looking for a utopia, who are evolving and longing for tradition all at the same time. If that is you, you aren’t alone. We are out here. Finding our path. Making peace with the evolution of growth.

Struggling.

20 Years

It has been 20 years to the year since Charles left Charlotte, NC. It was the only place he had ever called home. He was 17 when he left, eager to pursue the things he believed the Lord had put in front of him and a little bit running from the demon’s that seemed to haunt him there. It’s a whole long story, that all accumulates up to this, he left and he never wanted to go back. Although Charlotte has held his family, his history, and his memories, he has never wanted to return. Even as we have spent more time there over holidays and just visits with the family, we would breathe a sigh of relief as we drove down the 85, excited to get back to Atlanta.

Then something happened.

It was magical. That kind of electric magic that makes you believe in unicorns and leprechauns at the end of rainbows kind of magic.

We took a walk one morning around his sisters’ neighborhood. Hand in hand we ambled and talked inhaling the cool foggy air, admiring the fall colors still holding on the tree branches that begged to be rid of them. As we strolled into the cul-de-sac and started to turn around, I looked up at Charles and said:

“You know if the Lord asked us to move here I wouldn’t be against it.”

Everything came to a standstill.

“What?” Charles responded

“I would be willing to move here,” I repeated myself

Seconds passed even the air didn’t seem to move.

“Me too,” he replied

“What?” I said stunned

That’s when I felt it. An electric current that started to pulse between our entwined hands.

“What are you saying?….. Wait……What are we saying?”

That was it. That was the moment we knew, we were moving to Charlotte.

We spent the rest of the day and the next processing. Talking with each other, talking with Isaac, talking with family and friends.

There were quite a few things we needed to fall into place to make this move happen and they have. The provision, job, housing…all of it. So here we are two weeks away from our move.

We have been letting go of stuff, packing things, organizing things, preparing for this next journey we never considered.

I think I have also been grieving. You see Atlanta was going to be my forever place. I had resolved once the Lord moved me here I was not going to leave. I was going to raise Isaac here and he would raise his kids here, or at least they would visit us here. It’s just what it was going to be. We knew when we left Atlanta years ago to move to California we would move back. We just always knew. I guess my knowing stopped there and I never considered anywhere else.

I am going to miss it. Atlanta that is. Or at least I am going to miss what I thought it was. Which if you want to read about that, I wrote all about it here https://ourhighwayfive.com/2016/02/25/home-2/ when we first moved and I was sure it was forever. I etched vows into my heart about this city. I created a construct in which the only world my life existed was one that involved Atlanta. Funny huh, to hear about me boxing my life into some neat tidy lines. Sounds so unlike me…..*read sarcasm.

That isn’t what life is always about though. We don’t always get these neat lines of construct that hold our whole world. I should understand that by now. Well maybe I do, and maybe that’s why when that magical electric moment hit….I said yes. Maybe that’s why my yes hasn’t come with kicking or screaming, it has simply come with a, I trust you, Lord. I trust who you made me. I trust our relationship. Maybe even though I still have these boxes, these constructs, I am better breaking them down. Better at letting them be revealed, better at looking at them, and better at throwing them out once broken down.

Not to say I haven’t had a million moments of WTF Jesus. I am moving to a place I never considered, to live a life I have no idea about. Everything is new. I have no vision for what it would or could look like. I have been insecure, without understanding, and overwhelmed. I also have been more excited and felt more alive in what has seemed like a while. Guess breaking down those boxes isn’t so bad after all.

I am excited to live near Charles family….to have Isaac grow up with cousins, aunts, uncles, and PawPaw. I am excited for him to hear the stories and see the places his dad grew up, for their childhoods to intersect. I am elated for Charles to be able to go back to the place he ran from and live. I am excited for the hope of a full circle.

We are moving to Charlotte and that is about all we know these days.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy

It was the next thing I did after I pushed the start button on our coffee pot. It wasn’t your normal end of the season shirt. Generally, I pass those ones on to Goodwill. It wasn’t even one of those I am so much smaller now I can’t wear this shirt kind of shirt. It wasn’t even a shirt, it was an undershirt. One of those skinny strapped tank tops that you wear for layering purposes. I have had it for almost 9 years. Yeah, I know…too long. I couldn’t get myself to the place where I parted with it. It’s not like it was any good anymore. The elastic on the bottom was stretched out. There were holes, the fabric so thin it was see through. I had gotten all the use out of this shirt, I was going to get. Yet still, I couldn’t seem to let it go.

Until this morning.

I have been sitting in this place emotionally where I am just letting the heartbreak of having a child who died, be. I am allowing my heart to take this journey and process however that may need to happen. I have no time frame, no clue as what to think or feel, I just am where I am. Open, present, and engaged with my heart for whatever it may need. Last night I decided to do what I call hibernate. It’s basically where I ditch the boys, snuggle up in the back, and just breathe. Sometimes I write, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I watch tv. I don’t know what is so life-giving about that for me. There is just something about not having to be responsible for anybody. When I hibernate, Charles and Isaac run the house. They navigate meals, bedtime, or whatever is in the schedule. It isn’t always Isaac’s favorite, he loves it when everybody is together. He also gets it and always finds a way to sneak back at least 3 or 4 times for a quick kiss and snuggle. Don’t even know who I would be without that kid! So last night, hibernating, I end up watching some tv. It was Thursday, or course, Thursday. Grey’s Anatomy was on. Now I have not been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy for many years. I like the old school Grey’s, like McSteamy and McDreamy days. Matter of fact when Katie Grace was born, I went back and binged watched the older shows. There was something incredibly therapeutic about it; it was as if I could release my pain through Meredith Grey. The ache in my own life was too much but I could feel it through the dark and twisty life these writers gave her.

It’s been a hot minute since I have tuned in. Until last night in my hibernation. In the episode, they were showing a scene between Owen and Amelia. It’s a long twisted story I don’t want to get into and isn’t relevant to this story. Here is the part that is, Amelia was talking about a child she had that had died. Apparently, when she and Owen were married, he wanted kids and she wasn’t ready, part of the reason was facing the death of her son. As they were talking, she said something about finally being able to say his name, the freedom that it brings and the fact that the memory of him isn’t lost when more children are born. I can tell you 100% that is not what I expected to watch on Grey’s Anatomy. I just cried. I sat in my bed and let the tears fall. Somehow, someway, this fictional character on this fictional show gave my heart permission in a way my mind has not been able to.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

That undershirt I threw away this morning, is the last article of clothing I own that I wore when I was pregnant with Katie Grace. It seems so nonsensical to feel so connected to an inanimate object. It’s not like I don’t have things of her’s stored away in storage. Items I thin out each time we move or in each new season. I have at least 3 boxes of her. This undershirt though, I could wear it. I could put it on and remember her. I can remember being so massively pregnant with her. I can be in shock that this shirt, was able to cover her in my belly. Somehow this shirt became a connection to not just my pregnancy but also her.

I have tried to throw it away before. I just couldn’t get ever get close enough to the trash can to let it go. This hitch would happen within my heart, and I would go, awe there is no harm holding onto it. My mind would be speaking another story, reminding me how trashed it is. How there are holes and barely any fabric left. Yet still, I would put it back in my drawer and keep it in my rotation of undershirts. My heart unable to follow with the logic of my mind.

Things are changing though. This healing process, the timing that life has given, change is here, my heart is finally catching up to the logic of my mind. The more I stay in this place of heartbreak, sitting freely, safely, and fighting the impulse to be anything but present; my heart is fully feeling and healing. It is also releasing. It is letting go. Gah! It still makes me cry to write it. I don’t want to let go. That momma in me, that bear that fights, I want to hold onto what I know with her. I want to keep what life gave me. Life already took her, it can’t have anything else.

Yet in true Katie Grace form, doing what isn’t natural as a parent has been the only way to do life and death with her. Fighting to keep your children alive, healthy and well rounded, that is the intuitive drive. Not with her. It was almost always about letting that intuitive drive go, finding who she was, and following her lead. Here she is again, leading me into life, just as much as she led me into death.

Seven or so years ago, I was a new mom with a brain damage baby, weeping through Grey’s Anatomy because it was the only way to release the overwhelming pain of what my world was. Here I am today weeping through Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday because of the overwhelming pain of letting go was too much for my heart to bear on its own. It’s a full circle. The embracing and the releasing of life and what it holds, the good and the bad.

Leave it to life.

Leave it to Katie Grace.

Leave it to Grey’s Anatomy.

P.S For my die hard Grey’s fan, I wrote this two weeks ago so it was not last Thursday episode. Just clarifying 😉

 

Brokenhearted

“That’s really the question you are going to ask here….at Zaxby’s?” Isaac said his opinion apparent in his tone.

“Uh yeah,” was my only response. I didn’t see anything wrong with the question I asked. Yet again I also didn’t realize what emotional door I was opening or the conversation it would lead to.

Before I get into that I have to tell you I have been pondering this question my friend T asked me almost two months ago. We were on our six-hour drive to Kentucky, we started talking about kids and babies. She just said, “I know what your boys want but you know I don’t ever hear much from you about what you want. Do you want another baby?” I guess I knew that I hadn’t really talked about my own thoughts about it, I just kind of went along with, “What, yeah of course I do”. Her question made my heart sit up inside and look around though. What I saw was this spot that I don’t really actually talk about. I have talked around it, discussed aspects of it, but I haven’t verbally revealed that spot. That’s curious for me, we all know I talk about everything. I analyze everything. I find the smallest emotional issues and I dig into it, pushing it around, feeling it, doing everything to understand and come to a place of resolve. This though. I have just left alone.

Now that I am aware though, I have been looking at that spot for two months. I have talked about not talking about it. I have poked it a little bit, pushed the outside of it to see how tough the skin is, but I haven’t dug in.

Well until that moment at Zaxby’s.

We were just sitting there, the three of us, as it usually is. This question just popped into my mind out of my mouth: “Would you guys be okay if it is just the three of us? Can you be content if this was just our family?”. I didn’t expect my voice to crack or my eyes to well up with tears but they did.

They both responded with a resounding yes. Then Isaac asked his, “Really, here.” question. Then Charles paused and said “Wow, wait, I think yes. It just hits me in this spot to think that we wouldn’t have anymore.” (Did I swoon? Or course. I love a man who can identify his feelings and communicate them). We finished up lunch, hopped in the car to finish our drive to see his family in North Carolina.

The next hour was filled with the emotional banter of two parents trying to figure out where their hearts are. Charles kept asking me “What do you want? Do want another baby?” I kept replying “This isn’t about whether I want another baby. Of course, I want another baby. I wanted 4 babies. I wanted to have more than one right now. I wanted to keep both of the ones I had. This isn’t about wanting another. This is about can I accept how life is playing out with regards to our children.”

You see if I ran the world. I would have 4 kids, living in a house somewhere in the country. They would play outside all day and we would have family dinners at night. I would be spending my day’s navigating emotional conversations between them giving space and guidance, to help shape them into the phenomenal beings I know they were made to be.

I don’t run the world though. I don’t have 4 kids and a house in the country. Nobody is playing outside all day to only come in for family dinner at night. I am not spending my days navigating conversation between amazing little people we have been entrusted with. I am a mom of a 10-year-old, trying to figure out how to not be too much most days, and too little the other days. As Charles and I processed, I realized I am a mom who is having to figure out if it is okay to bring another life into the world who doesn’t know the life who left early. If a baby joins us, they won’t know Katie Grace. They won’t have the opportunity to hold her hand or kiss her cheeks or be in her presence. They will come into our family and never know this precious soul who changed who we were. It aches my heart in a way I don’t have words for.

In all honesty, when I first started writing this post I had to stop. Grief showed up in a deeper way than I had expected. I thought I had grasped something during that conversation with Charles, and I did, it’s just that there was more. As the words of the story left my mind and heart, this space opened inside me, and I realized….it isn’t just about can I accept how my life is playing out in regards to children.

It’s about my heart being broken.

We see professional athletes run on injuries or people in stressful situations whose mind pushes the pain of broken limbs or sprained joints out of the way to get them to safety. Our hearts are no different. I was dedicated to living life with Katie Grace, committed to loving her with all that I had even when I knew it was going to hurt at the end. For her entire life, I wrestled with the consequences of loving her thoroughly. Always seeing death looming around, letting the expanse of the impending pain known. Relentlessly I battled back somehow discovering the grit to keep pace with my girl, making sure that when she crossed the finish line of her life, she wasn’t alone. Her race is over though, and rightfully so, my place beside her is also over. All the injuries I suppressed, all the pain I pushed to the side, they have slowly made their presence known. I just didn’t realize how broken my heart is. I think because I processed so much to be so strong beside her, I just figured I was okay, my leg wasn’t that broken.

It is though, I gave that girl all of me. I fought self-preservation to stay wholeheartedly present and madly in love with her unto death. I went against norms to embrace new normals to make space for who she was. I raged against sterile environments to make memories with her, knowing they were going deepen our connection, hurting more when she left this world. I did what parents do, I did the hard things so that she had the best of what this world offered her.

Katie Grace was still with us when I made the decision in my mind that I would have more. I actually blogged about it because it was one of those I won’t live in a sterile world because I know something painful is coming moments. I just decided the trauma of her life wouldn’t stop me from bringing new life. So we stopped preventing and just decided what will be will be. That is where we have stayed for the last five years. It has been easy to write off the lack of pregnancy as life was stressful, or busy, or my body just not being ready.

Now here I am, finally realizing how broken my heart is. It cringes at the thought of loving a new child, not because they are not wanted but because it knows fully the depth of “what if something” happened. It is awakened the vastness of pain that comes with saying goodbye to a child too early. I think also, having another, is truly letting go. Bringing new life into this world, growing our family, is a huge step of moving forward. Right now we are this unit, this tight family of 3 who knew her, loved her, held her, and in a way it keeps her with us. This tender broken heart might just need time to let pain breathe now that it has been brought to light. Maybe all these years it hasn’t been a deficiency in my body but I simply needed time and space for my broken heart to heal

Time is simply something you cannot rush. I know we like to, especially in our culture these days. Yet you can’t rush it. Time is what gives us the space for our memories, our hurts, our victories, our failures.

Right now, I am breathing. I am let the tears fall. I am looking at this broken heart and letting it breathe. I am giving it permission to fully grieve and although it hurts my fingers to type, I am giving myself permission to move on.

I am leaving this post with a song I listen to strategically. It’s a song Isaac and I played almost every day after Katie Grace died. I would pick him up from school and when we hit our neighborhood, I would open the sunroof on our blue van, let him stick his head out the window, and play this song as loud as I could. Take a minute, listen to the words, they will tell you why.

Man Child and the Double Digits

The look on his face when he saw me standing there in the kitchen; saltines in one hand, small butter knife with butter on it in the other, was the dead giveaway.

“What are you eating?” he asked

“Saltines and butter! Why are you judging?” I sourly retorted

“Why are you eating that?” his tone giving way to disgust

“What do you mean?” I replied appalled. “Why wouldn’t you eat that?”

“Mom, that’s gross,”

“Well, it doesn’t taste gross to my emotions, okay,” I replied still a little bitter.

He just stared.

“I think I am sad that you are turning 10 tomorrow,” my voice cracking with the tears. “I just wasn’t ready for the emotions of you getting older. So these are helping.”

Smiling he leans into me, wraps his arms around my waist, and just stays. We chat a bit more about my favorite age so far, his laugh, his sister, how he should stop growing, and how it’s really okay he is getting older.

Today I am 10 years into parenting this guy. I am 10 years into discovering who he is, and today it seems as if we have turned a corner. This corner of grown-up and I can’t even. My heart is playing the movies of his toddler days on quiet repeat, reminiscing sub-consciously of goldfish, Wild Kratts, afternoon naps, Cars movie marathons, chubby baby cheeks, sweet innocent laughter, babyhood and being his favorite. He hasn’t been a baby for a long time, he hasn’t been a toddler for a long time, and technically I have this year and next left in elementary school, yet today, saying goodbye to that single digit age carries a significance my heart is trying to grasp.

Maybe it’s because we only have him. There is no one else in our house who will be nine after him. He is it. Embracing his age as an only child is like celebrating your oldest and grieving your youngest getting older all at the same time, apparently. What do I know though? Last night I was just a mom eating saltines and butter in my kitchen ignoring my feelings about my son turning 10.

To Isaac- Happy Birthday buddy!

You’re taller then anybody in this house prefers. Your shoulders are getting broader foretelling of the manhood that is coming. Your heart carries a wisdom that life granted you early and I can see your age catching you up. I joke that your dad and I are either saving for college or therapy, we aren’t sure yet because how easily I peak into this season and see the places I believe I am failing. I can helicopter parent like best of them sometimes demanding more then you have to give. I can also lean to the opposite extreme where I leave you to your own devices. My drive always is to find that middle ground where I helicopter far enough away. You son though. You are a treasure. This beautiful soul that I get to wake up to every day and discover. Although not a fan of school, you love your friends there. You are kind and considerate. You still love a good joke, and we are constantly navigating the seas of appropriate and simply too far. I can see you pushing for more independence, stretching for our family to make room for a new older version of you. You still love family movie night, game night, and pizza every Friday. Although my heart is processing today all that this double-digit holds, I am excited to see what is to come for you. To see more of God’s master design in you. I have called you man-child for as long as I can remember and it dawned on me today that now sooner than later, that phrase won’t apply. You will no longer be a man-child, you will simply be a man. Until then though….

Happy Birthday, Man-Child!

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