The Forgotten Ones

A year of reconfiguration. 

From when my world was blown open. 

And I’ve done most of my thinking in empty parking lots. 

Perhaps this year, your world was blown apart. Grief. Heartache. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Addiction. Death. 

There’s a hole in your life, and it’s in the shape of your worst shame, your worst fears, your worst pain. And every good, joyful thing keeps slipping right on through the rend.

And now, it’s at Christmastime when perhaps you feel the most displaced.

You dream of home, but maybe you have never really had one. You dream of home, but maybe in yours there’s a gulf between you, and the ones you love. You dream of home, but the faces of the ones you long for have faded with the fires of time into nothing but ash.

You dream of home, but maybe it’s more that you’re wanting a place to belong, a place to rest, than a place to lay your head. You want a place to set down what ails you behind walls that feel safe. 

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It’s allegedly the most beautiful time of year. Meanwhile, you feel like a sojourner. Like you’re driving down rows of homes slowly and silently on snow covered streets. Headlights illuminating the pavement, your muddied reflection in the window. You’re outside looking in at the joy of families, of people.

And it’s worse than realizing that you don’t have what they have. You’re beyond feeling the ache to have what they have. You feel like maybe, it was never for you. You want a plug for the shame-shaped hole in your life, and it can’t be filled.

You felt forgotten this year.

Others were allowed to carry on, while you just carried pain.

You’ve worn the mantle of hardship this year, and you’ve really just wanted a place to set it down. Maybe it’s been longer than this year that you’ve been carrying the luggage for loneliness. 

You’re in a place where pain feels like the primary nerve, and you forgot what it feels like to belong so much that when your heart beats in your chest, it’s actually thudding hard against hope, and with the reality that you were made for more than this. 

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We think our pain sets us aside and ostracizes us. That it casts us out, like a vagrant flung out into the night to skid across the sidewalk beneath streetlights where no one sees them. That we have to carry our anguish alone. That it discards us.

This is the lie of pain that I have become versed in on dozens of starry nights, in empty parking lots while groceries melted in the backseat, and the streetlights were the only ones who knew.

In the place where I finally breathed. Where I exhaled. Alone. I let it out. My anguish. Where it couldn’t hurt anyone. In between running errands so that I didn’t have to stop. Where I didn’t need to bother anyone. Where no one might miss me for an hour.

This was and is the wall I built tediously. Encased inside the mistruths of pain and grief and hurt and anger. The belief that the only one who should have the burden of what hurts me is…me.

After many days of feeling forgotten and discarded. Like my pain was a hot potato for others that they didn’t want to end up stuck holding. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. Who could have even said what I needed to hear?

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The lies of pain. The ghosts of failures past that tells you it won’t ever be the same. That it might not even be worth it anymore. That tells you that you are a ship lost as sea, already forgotten and mourned before you’ve even sunk.

It took many internal dialogs with myself and with God while the radio crackled for me to see. To see how many things…never really belonged to me in the first place. That I wasn’t just grieving something lost, I was really grieving what I really am: my humanity. And grieving the reality that I controlled nothing.

I was grieving that thing that left a hole in me, wondering why God wouldn’t just patch it for me. When the truth is that we are actually the patches that belong in HIS tapestry, and have been all along. He doesn’t fill our holes, He makes us a part of his woven glory for all of the tomorrow’s. And each imperfect square tells a story of how He has hemmed us in.

It took me a while to realize that my pain doesn’t shut me out. It is my pain that actually gives me a seat at the table, and a portion beyond words.

Especially at Christmas.

We forget that Christmas was really about saving. About the frailty of humanity. About needing something to fill us and plug our holes.

The peel of the bells pierce through the dark of the night telling all to come close.

A star in the empty skies that shone forth the way.

Angels and heavenly hosts that illuminated the crests of green hills dotted with their flock, and bid strangers, the least amongst them, to not be afraid. Not anymore.

I remember that the shepherd went out to find that one last sheep, and left the other 99 who were safe while he did. And it was His joy to do so.

I remember the father who welcomed back the prodigal son who left, and got lost along the way in his own mistakes and pride. Whose redemption had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with a Father’s unwavering love.

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I remember that no matter where I go, where the wings of the day take me or where my days might eventually end, that there is nowhere hidden I could go. Because I have been seen since before I came to be. And because nothing is hidden from Him. 

I remember Mother Mary of sorrows. At the foot of a rugged cross wondering why, and what it must have felt like for her three days later. 

I see time and time again that being in pain, is never reason enough to not be found. Never a reason to be forgotten. That it is never a reason to be lost entirely.

I see time and time again that pain is actually the reason that God came for us. That the author of all of me must know what it means to hurt. That to taste sorrow is to taste God.

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We find that we weren’t forgotten at all. We had just forgotten who are. 

Or maybe, we had to learn who we have really been all this time. 

And when we arrive at the place we were always been destined to be, we find He has already been there. Before us. Each step measured, each point charted in His map of the stars and eternity.

Every beautiful AND hurting thing named. 

And our heart will not beat so that we can live. 

It will beat because we are named.

Because we belong.

Because we are free.

Because we are home. 

 

 

 

 

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How You Will Actually Spend Your Summer “Vacation”

Have you felt it yet?… The sweat? Namely, the boob sweat?

That means summer is here, mommas! Rejoice! Salve, Maria?! Don’t the longer days sound just great??

Or how about blue crabs covered in Old Bay washed down with a cold beer? Or American flags flying everywhere in your sleepy small town? And you can’t forget late nights spent chasing fireflies in bare feet. At least, those are my go to summertime fantasies here in Maryland.

Now, we take a moment of silence to reflect on how we made it, moms. Or at least, how we’ve almost made it. There are probably still teacher gifts to buy, more class parties to make it through that are always smack dab in the middle of the day, and did you get tricked into chaperoning half a dozen field trips this spring??

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The month of May is a catastrophic marathon that tests the mettle of any parent’s sanity.

But you can do this. 

If you send your kiddos to school, you probably signed a million and one worksheets this year, fielded parent-teacher phone calls like a high-powered CEO, and made a dozen gluten-peanut-GMO-covfefe free snacks for class parties.

If you homeschool, you made it through another year of arguing to get reluctant bottoms in chairs on time each day. You were parent, teacher, principal and jail warden all wrapped in one.

Now it’s warm. The birds are singing. The schedules are clearing. It’s summer.

Which is great, right?

How easily I forget how this plays out every.single.year.

The first few weeks are a welcome respite from our hectic daily routine. But after the first week, the children are “bored”, the house is a wreck and my sanity starts to deteriorate faster than the universe at the end of Infinity War.

Every year, I forget that I actually need to be proactive about how these summer days are going to play out if my sanity is to be preserved. But, as usual, reality and reason need to rule the day as much as our idealism. 

But summer vacation is hardly a vacation. Think of it like an in-office work casual day. Most of the same stresses are there, just everyone is allowed to wear casual clothes.

 

How you will actually spend your summer

So here, parents. I made you this list of what you’re actually going to do this summer. (Results may vary)

You will spend your vacation:

1.) Settling petty sibling disputes over the television remote.

2.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was sitting in that chair first.

3.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was breathing the air in the kitchen first.

4.) Planning to take your kids swimming. Then spending two hours trying to get to the pool because they all need help getting into their swim suits and you have to hazard spray them with sunscreen. About the time they are dressed and you are packed, you’ll realize you are out of swim diapers for the toddler.

5.) Killing mosquitoes.

6.) Wondering why the car smells the way it smells…like salty feet covered in stale juice.

7.) Staring at the magazines in the grocery store checkout line trumpeting celebrity beach bodies and tropical vacations while you purchase a box of Pop tarts and boxed wine.

8.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored.

9.) Listening to your children tell you they are hot.

10.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored AND hot.

11.) Yelling, “for the love, IN OR OUT!!!” after your children have come in and out of the house nine times in the last thirty minutes seconds.

12.) Killing house flies.

13.) Struggling to put sunscreen on your octopus-armed toddler.

14.) Forgetting to put sunscreen on yourself and getting burnt.

15.) Having your children swat at your sunburn for five days straight.

16.) Telling yourself that when you don’t brush and/or blow dry your hair between the months of May and September, you can say you have beach waves going on, so it’s all good, just don’t mind the nest of birds and scattered pop rocks up there.

17.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off the bathroom floor.

18.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off the bedroom floor.

19.) Remembering that you left a bag full of damp towels and swimsuits in the back of the car last week…

20.) Helping your child squeeze their ice pops to the top so they can take a bite. Then watching them squeeze so hard all the ice falls out.

21.) Watching $12 worth of ice cream melt all over your children.

22.) Bathing children who have sand in hidden crevices scientists haven’t even discovered.

23.) Finding sippy cups that were carelessly tossed under a seat that have been baking in the sun and now have a pulse.

24.) Making thirteen trips to and from the car at the beach.

25.) Wondering why you are the only mom you know who seems to sweat more than Evander Holyfield.

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26.) Yelling, “CLOSE THE DOOR! WE AREN’T AIR CONDITIONING THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!” as realize you have turned into your parents so your life is over now.

27.) Wondering what happened to all of those people who used to party at the MTV Beach house.

28.) Worrying if the neighbors just heard shouting curse words at the dog through the open windows.

29.) Having your children interrupt your favorite song on the radio with questions about chicken nuggets.

30.) Wondering which child walked off with your sunglasses.

31.) Realizing you were jamming to Nelly and Beyonce fifteen years ago, and now you’re asthmatic after inflating all three of your kids beach balls.

32.) Telling your children not to run at the pool.

33.) Putting your kids to bed late after a busy day, thinking they will sleep in…

34.) Only to have them wake up earlier than usual and, also, hangry.

35.) Sitting in traffic.

36.) Trying to make up answers to all of your kid’s questions about when you’re going to take them to the: zoo, splash pad, pool, museum, movies and…

37.) Shaking a pound of sand and dirt out of your children’s shoes. Sweeping up sand off the floor. Vacuuming sand out of the car.

Here’s the truth. Summer has a magic all its own. Just now that you’re the parent, the magic is going to feel different. So, so different.

Now we have to look a lot harder to find the good stuff.

Like, picking up seashells with your little one.

Having a viable excuse to eat watermelon and cantaloupe for dinner.

Watching your children be overjoyed at the sight of fireflies.

The smell of salty hair after a swim in the ocean and coconut sunscreen.

A glass of wine on a warm summer evening.

Watching your kids eat ice pops, drink little huggies drinks and nom on ice cream, and it reminding you of your glorious summer days of old.

 

See? What did I tell you. Magic. You just have to look for it.

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I’m Really Tired

Hello. My name is Mom. And I am really tired. 

It may sound as though I am just paying lip service to being tired. That I am trying to relate myself to you on some base level, from one mother to another. I can assure you that I am doing neither of those two things. 

As I walked down the stairs this morning and an army of dishes, waiting to be washed, called out to me from the kitchen, I realized that I would have given my left kidney (not the right one, for some reason) to have someone show up and play house for me today. 

Because I am really very, very tired. 

Some parents or people wear “tired” like some sort of badge of honor. They joke about wanting more coffee. They talk about needing “mom time.” They speak of how “frazzled” they are. But then you come to find out that they just ran a 5k marathon, baked 85 gluten free bagels for their kids fundraiser at school, and on occasion moonlight as an aerospace engineer. 

Yea. Tired. Sure you are. 

Then there are us. The very, very tired moms. 

We don’t go on and on about how tired we are. We don’t go on and on about how we feel like we are surely be bleeding from our eyeballs by now. About how we threw cereal bars at our children’s head the other morning, and basically let them fend for themselves for breakfast. 

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Because I am not proud of myself.

Because being tired really means you’re too tired to talk to someone else about how tired you are. 

So, when they ask you “how you are doing?” in an attempt at conversation, and you want to give them the true answer. That you woke up to find the baby’s diaper had leaked everywhere, and then had to rush the oldest child out the door for school because you both spent the morning finishing last night’s homework, and then you caught the dog chewing on your bra (again), you instead just give up and tell them, “fine. I’m fine.” 

I am not proud of myself for leaving the house last night to meet a friend for a bite to eat with food in my hair. Or that I left the house with food in my hair, and then carried on a twenty minute conversation before it was discovered.

I am not proud of the fact that I left my house in a pair of maternity pants last night because that was the most expedient option, though it actually made for a good decision since we were grabbing something to eat at Taco Bell. 

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I want to write a cute post about how tired I am, but that would be disingenuous to you moms (and dads) out there who are really tired. 

There is nothing cute about tired. There is nothing cute about leaning over the edge of the counter with your hands in your hair and just wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else. 

My toddler is feral. She drowned my phone in the bathtub a little over a week ago, and she believes anything that is on the floor is a mountain to be stood on, even at her own peril. I am sure now that she has an invisible third arm that she uses for evil instead of good, and that she believes the floor is lava, and her only hope is to be carried around all day. Carried when she isn’t trying to stand on my dining room table to swing from the chandelier, that is. 

We keep getting notices home from school, threatening the end of the world because children are popping up everywhere with lice. As I was scratching my head against the front door trim this morning, I suppressed a shutter and allowed myself to just not even go there. Because if I do have nits in my hair, my best option, the less painful one, is to just shave my head like Ripley in Alien 3. 

I hate that when I log onto Facebook, and I see people with photos of their vacation, their overnight stay at a Bed and Breakfast, or their Sunday spent playing video games because it’s raining outside, that I die a little on the inside. That I become incensed. 

I hate that sometimes, I think everyone else gets to have a life except for me. That is, a life free from the threat of lice, the perils of bra-chewing-dogs, and mornings spent only being obligated to wake yourself up and wrestle pants on to yourself.  

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There isn’t a way to make it all better. You don’t want anyone to say anything to you when you’re feeling this worn out. There is nothing they can actually say. 

You want someone to give you a blankey, a cup of warm milk and to send you off to bed. There is no way to talk yourself into feeling better when life is like this. There is only waiting for things to start to resemble a normal existence, the hope that one day, things will either change, or you will change and be able to cope better with what life is throwing at you. In this case, lice. 

The truth is that we are tired because we are fighting the good fight. We are doing work. 

This is not necessarily thrilling work, unless you count the thrill of discovering that your youngest child now knows how to unlock the back door. This is not luxurious work, unless you can sort of count that yogurt your toddler threw at your face as a facial. 

But this is good work. 

We are tired because we are doing good work. Kind of like Batman. He didn’t have the help of being a demi-god in a red cape. Sure, he had billions of dollars and a butler. But he is human. He bleeds just like us. 

So, we can rest a tiny bit easier know that we are sort of like Batman. 

Just whisper to yourself “I am the night,” when things get real, parents. 

Onward.