cripple me.

yesterday i cried.

like a big baby, last night, i wept.

for a while now, i’ve been saying, “i need to find a meeting. i need to find aa in tulsa”.

last night, i did.

and i was weepy there with gratitude that i felt like i could breathe with others who understood why sometimes i can’t.

but it was last night once i got home that i groaned from dark caverns.

i went running yesterday afternoon, like have done every other monday and thursday and saturday since the beginning of the year. i ran and ran, and as i was processing the day as the anniversary of the day i was the “girl in the green dress”, i was also so consumed by the awareness that i was no longer safe. secure, yes. safe, no. it’s been there for a while, this desire to escape, to run (and not the good kind). this need for one more bloody mary sunday with my bff. and for one minute longer than i should have thought about it, i wondered how possible it would be. how feasible it could be. if i could even get away with it.

and then i went down that road in my mind. i played it out.

and the answer is i couldn’t. can’t.

there is nothing – not one thing – that would make picking up that first drink worth it. i heard someone say early in my recovery, “i know i have another drink in me. i don’t know if i have another white chip in me”. i have worked too hard to live as a sober person. i don’t always do a good job of this, even though i’m not drinking. some days, all i have is, “i didn’t act right, but at least i didn’t drink today”. and somehow i’ve accumulated whatever 7 months and some months and some days equals. at this point, i’ve spent more days sober than i did in active alcoholism.

i understand now that i deserve sobriety. i am worth being sober.

deep in the night within the same 24 hours on the other side of the day -that is, before i walked in to a meeting, so the night before- i woke up to this post by christa black. i did not know christa well, but she and i were a part of the same church family in new york about 12 years ago.

before i started therapy. before i went into full-blown addiction.

before she went on tour with michael w. smith. again.

and i do not know this kind of grief. to write so raw and beautifully so early on in what can only be described as the worst form of torture, my heart aches and breaks for her.

but i do know what it’s like to be making eggs or running or vaccuuming or reading or breathing and to be hit from out-of-nowhere with a desire for strong drink at 9:00 in the morning. or to spend money that i don’t have. or to find someone who would offer temporary pleasure. i do know what that’s like. that desperate need for a fix, for an escape, for whatever else you want to call it. to be numb. to not feel anything because you feel so much. all the time, you feel so much. too much. and now i know that feeling life so deeply when i used to not feel it at all, is not not normal. it’s the not knowing what to do with my feelings, or how to handle them, or thinking there’s something wrong with me for having them at all when there’s nothing wrong at all, that can make a person loo-loo.

i don’t want you to worry.

i won’t go back.

i can’t go back.

but i just need to be honest.

because if i am only as sick as my secrets, then i need to tell the truth. my truth.

and don’t try to understand it if you can’t understand it. it’s really okay, maybe it’s better if you don’t. i’d rather you just say that -that you don’t understand, but you will honor this in me- then pretend like you do and make up words or thoughts that aren’t true and real. you don’t have to do anything with any of this. i’m just processing and you don’t have to get it. but if someone might, and i think someone might, then i hope this helps you.

a few weeks ago, i shared my sobriety story with the undergrad substance abuse class. i only got as far as, “and then i got sober” and class ended. it was the first time in 7 years and some months and some days that i had publicly, in person, shared out loud what it was like. but i didn’t get to the part about what it’s like now. i’ve been invited to come back and share the rest of my story. i honestly don’t even know what i would say, so i’m glad for the time to process the last several years through the filter of my sobriety.

i loved hearing and telling my own story and remembering but not reliving that girl i once was. who i used to be but never really was, only to return to who i was made and was always meant to be. and isn’t that the case for us all? most of us, anyway? i loved hearing her story because that girl is precious to me. and i loved telling it because i am not that girl anymore, the one who “took a sabbatical from (her) brain”, as john hobbs says.

back to my run.

as i played out the story in my mind yesterday, i pretty much sprinted all the way back to the store. (and by “sprint”, i mean ran only just a little bit faster.) i was suddenly overwhelmed by how close i was to the edge, and how desperate i had become. i almost ran straight to my car, but i was the only one there in my group yesterday, so i knew i had to be seen just so no one would worry that i hadn’t returned. (i’m not sure if that would have actually happened, but i wanted to be a responsible adult.) and then i sat in my car and begged siri to tell me when and where the next meeting was.

i yelled at siri when we couldn’t get on the same page. i kept saying one thing, she heard something all together other. dammit, siri.

and my cousin texted me right around this time. the last time she texted me, about a month ago, she gave me permission to get mad at god about some things he and i haven’t talked about in a real long time. and i did. i got mad. and then i got tired. and he won. i basically let him. i wasn’t fighting to win, but to gain understanding. i relented without getting many answers, but enough that i knew i was okay not knowing again.

years ago…as in, maybe 15, i told a girl i went to college with -i had been her r.a.- that she couldn’t get mad at god when her dad died suddenly.

she was pissed then at both god and me, understandably.

it hasn’t left me that i ever told her that.

i can’t believe i ever told anyone that.

this time, cousin said, “get to a meeting.”

i told cousin to leave me alone.

but i made it.

i did make it.

i walked into a beginners’ (which there were none even though we all are) eighth step meeting. “made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

i didn’t mean to stop going to meetings. i got sober in my hometown, and faithfully went to meetings daily if not twice-a-day for over a year before i moved to eastern north carolina. as suggested, i didn’t make any major decisions or move anywhere in my first year. i broke other rules/not rules, but i did not break that one. when i moved, i attended meetings in my new town for a while, but it just wasn’t the same. all meetings are the same, in theory. but not all meetings are the same. i wanted them to be, but they weren’t. at that point, though, i found myself back in church again. and if our sobriety is based on our spiritual program, then my spirit was still actively growing.

the last chip i got was when i put together 3 years.

i’ve been sober now for 7 years, and some months and some days. i could do the math, but i try to make it a point not to do math at all.

that’s a long time to go without working any steps or holding hands with strangers who are family, crying with one another and laughing together and drinking not great coffee and holding space and allowing silence for one another.

the last meeting i attended, i took the youngest of my mom’s six sisters with me. she wanted to go, so together we went.

she died tragically a year later of stage four alcoholism. the same summer i went through the stuff that led me into the deep calling deep which the deep used to lead me into the middle of the country. her death was a part of that whole glorious experience, and i mean that in earnest now. her death, actually, led to more life for me. (i need to tell you the whole story of getting out here, soon. this will make more sense then.)

my dad died a few years before that, dropped dead of cardiac arrest from congestive heart failure, manifest from a lifetime of hard living. i’ve told you the story, but i mention it now because i wasn’t actively tending to my recovery when my dad died. i was still seeing karen, but i wasn’t attending meetings at that time.

i moved to the middle of the country a year ago. i wrestled, i strived, not with my disease but with not having really lived away from home for the first time ever in 35 years and so i was re-learning myself. i didn’t know that was going to happen when i got here, and before that i felt like i knew myself pretty well. i have no doubt i am right where i am supposed to be. i am still growing spiritually, and i am asking a lot of questions. i am thawing out from the trauma of what i experienced a few years ago. i am returning to myself, making my way back to where i got a little bit lost again.

and i need meetings.

i have friends here who love god and love me. i have people with whom i can be honest. i have found some who see me, whom i have shown me, and others who i don’t need to see me. these are those into whom i get to look deeply and say, “you are loved. and you are enough.”

but i have not made this connection yet, the one with people who are like me in this way. broken and bruised and painstakingly honest and terribly vulnerable, so painfully aware of our character flaws, and wanting to be and become better, one day at a time in the fellowship of true grace.

yesterday, a friend posted on facebook, “Melancholy is to depression as eccentric is to crazy. A few extra zeros make all the difference.” (quite honestly, i don’t know what the part about the zeros mean.) but to this, i replied, “You put words to what I was thinking about earlier tonight…sometimes we just get to grieve and feel pain, deeply. It’s necessary, and we can’t afford to miss out on it by just calling it depression when it’s not. (Alternately, we have to be honest with ourselves when it might be/could be/is.) Sometimes we just get to feel all of our feelings, though. I’m so grateful for that. (And just because one is quirky or eccentric, doesn’t mean one is cuckoo. Alternately, one who is certifiable may not appear to have any eccentricities at all. Most cunning, baffling, powerful of all.)”

perhaps my favorite part of being sober is that i get to feel all my feelings now. i’m not depressed, just sometimes i get sad the way normal people get sad. (and i’m not crazy, just quirky. or, as it turns out, just a woman.)

when i stopped going to meetings, i left off on step seven, which is to “humbly ask god to remove our shortcomings.”

i hadn’t yet made it to step eight.

which is exactly what we studied last night, what i walked into.

and i have blamed others and victimized myself, pretending to but not really owning my own part in the wreckage of broken relationships.

as someone pointed out last night, step eight is just to make the list of those we wronged when we were drinking. that’s it. we’re just making a list. kind of like the fourth step. it’s just the list. the next step is the decision about what to do with the list, how to best make amends, and then to do it. there are also those we have wronged while maybe we weren’t drinking, but perhaps not sober, either. i probably have as many people on this list as the other, many of the names are the same.

but last night, what i grieved deeply when i came home was that the one person i abused the most violently when i was drinking was my dad. and how he’s not here any more to ask for forgiveness and to live out our amends together.

this is to say nothing of how, together, we lived next to and worked together while we were both in active alcoholism. or what it was like growing up in an alcoholic home that preceded my own search for an escape route.

but for the first time, i grieved not being able to ask his forgiveness for how i yelled and cussed and punished and hurt my dad in my anger and depression.

he’s dead. he’s dead, and all i could do was cry and ask, anyway.

and to ask god’s forgiveness also for not honoring my dad better.

i honor him now. and before he died, i stopped being mad at him and we had sweet days that neither of us knew but i think we both suspected and i kind of did know that they were our last ones together.

i know he forgave me then, even before i would have asked. i know he understood my anger toward him…toward everyone…even if we never really talked about it. i know he understood it because, along with a deep well that could be filled with all manner of liquor, i inherited an intense capacity for feeling deeply. and if there’s a way for him to offer forgiveness now then i choose to receive it, because i know he would offer it freely. in fact, it probably wouldn’t even be a thing for him.

but it’s a thing for me, now.

i heard him say in my heart, “sweet pea” like he used to call me, or when he didn’t have other words. but that was all. and it was enough.

i’m not going to drink.

but, once again, i realized i’m still learning how to live here on this new playground with my new playmates with the gifts and tools and talents and quirks and dreams and clumsiness that god has given me which i can now offer to others, leaving room in my bucket for what is offered back.

because we all need each other. i need what my friends here at school and work and my people back home and across the universe and what my global aa-family presents to one another, to better live together. simply, to breathe.

i don’t have the 12 & 12 in front of me right now, but the last page of the chapter on the eighth step concludes with a thought about how this step will isolate us from each other if we continue to live under any amount of shame or blame of not making things right what we made wrong. not the wrongs done to us, and of course there were some and we have to forgive because we get to. because we have to. but these are the wrongs for which we were responsible.

in my fear and insecurity, both as a sober person and when i wasn’t, i have pushed people away at different points in my life. people i know who really love(d) me. i was afraid that if they got too close, they wouldn’t like what they saw or they would find me a fraud or i would clobber them with my co-dependency. i was afraid i would be too much or not enough and once they discovered this, they would end up leaving eventually, so why not just make it easier and create the distance myself?

i still do this. that is the raw, honest truth. i am not proud of this. and i will make amends with those, to my knowledge, i have hurt in this way or in others over the years. and i am working on standing still and not walking away from those god’s given me to love and to trust him and not them with the outcome of our relationships, even as i hold on loosely to them but hold on nonetheless.

because my soul can’t afford to live in that kind of isolation, the kind that’s afraid of being abandoned or rejected or just left alone in life. god does have me in a season of stillness, and i do have and enjoy and appreciate my alone-time. i’m in an incubation period right now, and it’s necessary for me to stay hidden in his wing. there is a difference between staying hidden and polarizing oneself because she is plum terrified of the outside world and feeling all of her feelings out there inside of it.

none are islands, and we are not made to live on one.

and that’s all i have.

please, please, please cripple me
so i cannot keep running away
away from you

{elenowen, cripple me}

hey, p.s. i don’t always post here. sometimes i have these random inspiring moments that i share on facebook, just in a status update. less thought and time goes into these posts. it’s less of my processing, and i guess they are bent more toward encouraging and exhorting others. i was going to tell you that you can find me there, but i just remembered my page is set to private. blah. if you can find me there, and you’ll include in your friend request that you know me from here, then i’ll be glad to friend you there. i say more there than i do here, regularly. just an invitation to share life if you want to. unless you seem creepy. xo

here and now.

two years ago, after my dad died, i signed up for pottery and dance classes. seeing now what my heart was going through, i can’t believe i had the wherewithal to know that i needed to feel the earth in my hands and under my feet. i needed to feel grounded to…something, anything…since the man i had been tethered to all my life, whose name i still bear, had suddenly…disappeared to heaven.

i needed to feel connected to the earth, to this life.

and, for the first time, it didn’t matter not one bit if i made pretty or even useful things or learned my recital-dances perfectly well. (it’s a good thing, too, else the perfectionist in me would have had a complex regarding both.)

my head hears my great-uncle’s voice saying sometimes, when you think you’ve lost your way, go back to the place you last remember. you’ll find your way again. perhaps my time and life and routine are still recovering from the last few months.

i have to fight to stay connected sometimes. if i’m not careful, i’ll just sort of…drift…and not think too much about what i’m doing or with whom, as if i don’t really care.

but i do. so much, sometimes too much. deeply, i care.

i know it’s a tool of the enemy.

i know isolation is the primary weapon in his arsenal against me, perhaps against us all.

and he will not, has not won.

so i fight extra-hard for a sense of connectedness lately. to stay in touch and see people and do things i don’t feel like doing simply because i don’t feel like doing them. yes, because it’s christmas…also because of…just life

and i know it will pass.

but…in this moment…i also know that this isn’t my battle to fight. that my job is to surrender not to the enemy, but to the one who already fought for and won me so i wouldn’t have to fight for myself. i don’t have to fight at all but sink back into the loving arms of the one who fought for me. and won.

i guess it’s both/and, in a way. like drinking, for example. god’s not going to make me not drink. i have to remain vigilant to maintain my sobriety. i fought too hard for to keep it this long, i can’t get lazy now. even so, the second and third steps are to recognize god and surrender to him. and if my heart is fast after him, then i won’t make decisions that will lead me to drink again.

and isn’t this what it’s about? that this whole big…thing…isn’t about us? that life is all about being connected to god and to others?

thankfully, i have some of the best friends a girl could have who see this without seeing it and know it without me saying anything and they call not because i’ve been disconnected, but just to be connected.

to be present, in this moment.

here, now.

and i am.

got five minutes? join me and other bloggers over at the gypsy mama’s house for five-minute friday. always, like today, i have revelation in those five minutes of where i’ve been or where i’m headed or to whom i belong. 

my one suggestion is that you read before you write, so that the words of you heart aren’t filtered through others’.

as always, feel free to utilize a comment block in this space if you don’t have one of your own. you are welcome here.

in my knower.

this is the story of how i knew my dad was going to die, even though there was really no way of knowing how or when my dad was going to die at all.

when my grandparents died 6 months apart from each other in 2002, my dad, along with the board members of our non-profit organization, which was the operating entity of our conference center, made a motion to sell the facility.

at that point, contributions hadn’t been enough to sustain operations as they had been while my granddad was alive when people were giving to his ministry vs. the general operation of the business. it was around this time also that the state, which was easily over half of our business, decided to withhold funds for outside meetings.

my dad was just tired and understandably ready to move on.

it took a few long, stressful (read: painful, grueling, can’t eatsleeporbreathe) years, but the facility was finally acquired by a wonderful couple from chapel hill who remain some of my most beloved friends. i had said all along that their acquisition was the next best thing to my sisters and i taking it over. there had been other suitors – developers and people who had grand vision for their own agenda. but, the truth is, it was and is a place where god dwells and simply isn’t purposed for anything else. even today, the howell’s continue to honor my granddad’s vision for aqueduct while making it their own place of ministry.

meanwhile, before they bought it, life at the ‘duct was incredibly tense and business was extremely low. for an already physically unhealthy man who was no longer emotionally invested but felt the stress and responsibility every moment of every day, it was taxing to say the least.

our new proprietors took over in the summer of 2006, but my dad stayed a few months to help them transition comfortably. (i had also been working there for almost two years, and would stay on with the new owners for another year while they got their feet on the ground.)

my dad’s last day at aqueduct was october 31.

it was also the day i turned in my application to duke divinity school.

i got sober one week later.

my dad leaving aqueduct and moving away was the best thing that could have happened for our relationship, which had become so destructive and codependent. we loved each other very much, but we didn’t love each other very well at all. he was my boss and my neighbor and we were both active alcoholics at the time. if he was a lit match, i was gasoline.

at the end of the day, i stood quietly weeping in the doorway after our staff had gone home and waved at my dad as he drove away for the last time from his life’s work of nearly 30 years.

it was in that moment, for the first time, i knew that i knew that i knew that my dad would be dead within five years if he did not make significant lifestyle changes. that was, specifically, what my knower knew.

we buried my dad exactly 3 years from that day.

exactly 2 years ago yesterday.

 in a strange twist, i actually didn’t realize his last day at the duct was 10/31 until i was sifting through some old emails over the weekend and found one he had written after he left that day. makes this story that much more real to me now.

it had always been his dream to be a songwriter in nashville. in recent months, he had reconnected with some college friends who invited him to come play some gigs with them, which turned into a prolonged visit while he made arrangements to move. we were all so, so happy to see him go. we even threw a roast for him at aqueduct before he left. friends from all seasons of his life showed up to cheer, sing and send him off in the early part of 2007.

and there was, of course, cake.

unfortunately, this dream would be fulfilled when he was in the worst physical condition of his life. i hated for him that, as much as he loved being there -and he did. he loved every. moment. of being there.- that he didn’t have the energy at that point to keep up with the busy life of a professional in the music industry. he had given over his dreams to help his father and raise a family and, while i know he wouldn’t have made a different choice, i wish he had been free to fight for himself sooner.

he had wonderful friends in nashville; we still keep in touch with some of them. in a matter of two years, his two best friends became ‘uncles’ to us. they all showed great care for him and were concerned for his well-being; as well, they were supportive and encouraging and championed his talent.

he was. so. gifted.

i didn’t dwell on the message god put into my heart when i watched him drive away that day. in fact, i hadn’t thought much about it at all. i didn’t make an effort to pray against or rebuke or dismiss or hope against it. i didn’t live or treat him as if that were true. i was aware of the thought, but i didn’t hold too tightly too it. it was beyond my control and much too big to wrap my mind and heart around. plus, hello, it was weird.

but then my whole family gathered together at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in the mountains for a long weekend in the fall of 2008. it was the first time we would all be together as a family since my grandparents died in 2002. auntie foo-foo and her husband stan, my dad’s {now estranged} brother, as well as molly anne and john, sarah hope and hannah grace. at the time, i was selling make-up behind a counter and it was free gift time, so it wasn’t until the last minute i realized i would have about 48 hours to spend with them all so the sociopath and i drove up to surprise them. we went straight to my dad’s hotel room. he had no idea we were coming, but it made the whole weekend complete for us all.

dad was using a cane then because of bum-knees and i heard again the same message i heard two years earlier: unless he makes significant lifestyle changes, your dad will not live five more years. still, i didn’t worry over it – how can you? i mean, what are you supposed to do with that? – i left on a shelf in the back of my mind. it was a gorgeous fall weekend in the north carolina mountains and our family drank each other in like sweet apple cider.

the following spring, my dad and i received an invitation to speak at a cfo camp in florida where my great-uncle would also be speaking and auntie foo-foo would be leading music with my dad. this particular camp was purposed to honor the ministry of my granddad, which is why we were all invited to participate.

it was during this trip that my heart softened toward my dad in a new and different way. the trip where, on the way home, i asked my great-uncle how i could love my dad better.

it was clear to me during this long weekend that my dad wasn’t in good shape. i didn’t know at the time -or ever- how long i had left with him but i made a decision then that i didn’t want to spend however long that was punishing him. i didn’t want to be angry at my dad any longer. all the years of hurting each other for our own self-destruction was water under the bridge anymore. i wanted to love him well.

i wanted to love him as well as he loved me, which was always without measure, judgment or condition.

he told us it would be his last cfo. even knowing then what i knew but didn’t know, i didn’t assume it was because he knew he was going to die.

my boyfriend (different boyfriend) and i drove out to see him in nashville that summer after he had knee replacement surgery. it was the first time i had seen him since camp that april and our time together was sweet and easy. we talked about music, friends, life and went on a boat ride commandeered by ‘uncle billy’.

and it was special.

it was awkward, too, but i didn’t resist the awkward. if we didn’t have anything to talk about, we just sat quietly. my dad was very easy in that way. no pressure, no expectation…one could just easily be with him.

before i left, he prayed for me and we cried together. 

when it came time to go, i knew -i just had this feeling without drawing from what i, you know…knew- that it would be the last time i’d see him.

i cried halfway home.

it was our last good-bye. 

that was july.

sarah hope and hannah grace were going out to see him for labor day. he begged me to come with them.

but i couldn’t. didn’t. i didn’t want to.

conveniently, i made plans to move that weekend.

but i was secretly thankful because i knew i couldn’t say good-bye to him again. and while i would give anything to have more time with him now, i made the right choice for myself.

we continued to have strained but good conversation in the weeks that followed. we were trying. rather, i was trying. his love never waivered, despite my best efforts. but i made more of an effort to build with him.

i called him when i got my first (only) tattoo for my birthday. he laughed with sheer love for me. i wanted to include him in my life more, which he more than willingly obliged…those aren’t even the right words…it was like i was feeding him again from my soul and he was enjoying every morsel. that is, i had deprived him of so many details of my life that he soaked up like a sponge all that i would offer him.

and even so, even for all the not talking i offered him over the years, he still knew me best of all. i am my father’s daughter, after all.

sarah hope, hannah grace & i skyped with him from my apartment in mid-october so i could show him my new digs. sare and i agreed he looked the best we had seen him look in a really long time. we got disconnected from him that afternoon but i planned in my head to call him that weekend which i, of course, did not do.

10 days later, a precious sister-friend who lived in his home called to tell me he had been rushed to the hospital, that he wasn’t breathing.

it didn’t even occur to me that ‘not breathing’ might mean dead or even unconscious.

i was at work when i got that phone call but decided i wouldn’t over-react, i would just wait to get the next update. i had fearfully chased ambulances to the hospital with him in them before and this was the first time i consciously made the choice not to freak out. his body had long survived years of hard living and i knew this time would be no different. 

he was my dad and dad’s just don’t die when a single girl is only 32.

except that they do.

little did i know just how different it would be this time.

i think i left work early that day to shop for our halloween party, but my boyfriend had the presence of mind that i lacked to drive me ‘just in case’.

the next phone call i received was from my uncle who said, ‘i just talked to the doctor. they…they did everything they could.’ we were in the left turn lane headed into my apartment. i just screamed and everything went into slow-motion from that point forward.

it was exactly like you see in the movies, except…not. 

i learned earlier in the year that he had congestive heart failure and died the way that we were told he would go, which is that his heart would just stop one day (cardiac arrest). but we weren’t told when. in fact, he didn’t tell us much more than that and i didn’t think to do any research. i just didn’t know. i thought it was something you could live with for a long time, like being hard of hearing.

i talked about what happened after that point last week.

i’m not a prophet or psychic or a medium of any kind.

to know but not really know in advance was only a sweet gift from heaven. in hindsight, i see that god was preparing my heart, little-by-little in those three years prior, for that day. i wouldn’t have been able to handle it otherwise. while it was a devastating and traumatic shock, it wasn’t really a surprise. and since i knew but didn’t really know, god gave me the grace to rebuild a suffering relationship with the only man i’ve ever loved in the meantime.

i went to visit his grave last thursday but i have no connection with him there, mainly because he’s not even there. but i don’t even have a connection with him in the town where i live because we never lived here together, even though he is from a town nearby. but i am closer to him now in the daily than i was ever before. i can hear him laughing with me, cheering me on, singing over me, championing me from beyond the veil.

he now heads my cloud of witnesses and we can love each other so much better, without any filter whatever. i know that that which was still broken between us can only be fixed between us in this way.

and for this which my god gave grace for my knower to know, i give thanks.


year two.

hApPy AnNiVeRsArY, dAd-O!

love you more than there are words in my heart to express.

miss you more than there are stars in the sky.

* * * * * * * * * *

thomas earl tyson

(may 25, 1950 – october 27, 2009)

chicken pox.

today’s not the day, tomorrow is.

that is, the second anniversary of my dad dying.

i made it through my year of firsts and, lord willing, as of tomorrow i will have made it through my year of seconds and will enter into my year of thirds before my year of fourths.

i have known this day was coming, i have felt it in my bones all month long. i’ve been holding my breath and biding my time and anxiously waiting for it to come and go the way you wait for a stomach virus to pass.

i know the anticipation of the day is worse than the actual day. sort of like fridays, only in that case the anticipation is better than, not worse.

have i told you the story of how he died? it was sudden. as in, he died in his chair. at his home in nashville. while he was writing an email to my sister molly. in an instant.

we knew he had congestive heart failure and were told his heart would just stop beating one day, but we weren’t given any timeframe. that’s not to say, though, that he wasn’t given a timeframe but he didn’t share it with us. (i keep forgetting to tell you the story of how i actually did know he would die, even though i didn’t know when. i’ll try and remember to tell that soon.)

my uncle said he had heard him clicking away, went upstairs to get something, and my dad was slumped over in his chair by the time he came back down.

his email was about my great-uncle bobby, who was -you guessed it- a methodist preacher (with a penchant for strong coffee and dirty jokes). uncle bobby had been battling brain cancer and wasn’t expected to live much longer. my dad told my sister that uncle bobby had always been 15 years older than he was and he couldn’t imagine a day that he would no longer be 15 years younger.

and then he starts a new paragraph, have i ever told you the story about how uncle bobby almost got arrested for indecent exposure?

and that’s where the email ends.

and we realize my dad literally died laughing which is incredibly suitable for him.

his wit was unrivaled. he had The Best Sense-of-Humor. The Best. he was the funniest man, a fantastic storyteller. and so kind and sensitive. he had The Best Heart of Anyone I’ve Ever Known. except, i guess, it just wasn’t best enough.

and i’m glad he died this way because he was a terrible patient and had a low threshold for pain. blood made him woozy and it makes me woozy, too.

our relationship was so complicated.

so complicated.

but there was always, always love between us, even when there wasn’t.

i am so much like him in all the best and worst ways.

even sarah hope, on the day this all went down, said she knew it was especially hard on me. (which is to say nothing of how hard it was for them, but he and i just had a different kind of relationship than either of my sisters had with him.) i thought this was really sensitive of her because she lost her dad on the same day i lost mine.

and tonight, i find myself wanting to scratch the itch. like trying to use my arm that fell off two years ago and it is a desperate, hopeless, helpless feeling which i’m grasping at words to describe.

i just miss my dad.

i was a girl too young to lose her father who was too young to die.

and yet, years of hard living landed him in an early grave.

did i tell you how his musician friends in nashville called us when he died? they told us that they couldn’t all make it to north carolina but they wanted to honor him, so they asked us if we could come to nashville where they would have a memorial service for him in his home, if that was okay with us.

we, of course, could think of no greater way for him to be honored and made arrangements to leave the day after his funeral.

when we got there, all of his singer-songwriter and musician friends came in and out all day. some stayed all day. by nightfall, there had likely been 250 people there.

he had only lived in nashville for 2 years.

some of his friends took us ‘out on the town’ the next night because they knew we needed it and he would have liked that.

last week i took hannah grace with me to meet a friend at barnes & noble. hannah grace, in true tyson-form, went to the next table over to ask an older woman what she was doing (she was knitting) and if she could try it (she could). before i knew it, she was on the lady’s lap so i went over to make sure she was okay. (i mean the lady, not hannah grace.)

also in true tyson-form, i started talking to the woman and her husband who, when he found out my name and exactly who my people are (‘i’m tommy tyson’s granddaughter’), he wanted to shake my hand. you would have thought i was zsa-zsa gabor. (my friends tease me that i can’t go anywhere from north carolina to california that i don’t run into someone i know, or make a connection somehow. i love this about my life and the who, what, where and how i was raised.)

(did i just say i was like zsa-zsa gabor? what on earth…?)

sarah hope met me a little while later and i roped her in to the conversation also.

turns out, not only does mr. mack know everyone in our family, mr. mack works part-time for the funeral home we have used for everyone who has died in our family.

i was in love with the funeral home director (but not really because…ew) and told mr. mack how mr. turnage had been so kind and treated us as if we were the first and only funeral/burial he had ever managed. he agreed how wonderful the family was who managed the funeral home.

to illustrate this point, mr. mack goes on to respectfully tell us a story about how ‘some time ago’ a family wanted to drive their ‘loved one’ up and down franklin street in chapel hill – on the middle of a game day. which also happened to be halloween. and how mr. turnage had wanted to honor that family.

well, we howled.

because that was us.

(literally, it was my sister’s idea and desire, which i know pleased my dad.)

(as much as a dead man can be pleased.)

he was a tar heel through and through.

we are also the family that had a birthday party at his graveside on what would have been his 60th birthday a few months later.

he wasn’t even 60 years old when he died.

and it’s weird how everything happened in slow-motion that week, even though we were going a thousand miles a minute without rest and i started smoking again then because my nerves were shot to hell.

i ran into a friend in a parking lot that i hadn’t seen since college who had heard the news and we just hugged and that was it and she was gone and i was gone.

and i ran into a woman from that church and she didn’t know but how would she have known and so i smiled and was gracious and that was that.

and on the morning of we went to starbucks and i saw a high school friend who runs his parents florist in the center of town and he came to my car and does this every day but that day was different because it was my day and he gave me that look that he knew and he knows and was sad and sorry and said, ‘we’re going to take care of you today.’ and i’ll never forget that, sweet henry, though you probably don’t remember now.

and our precious sister-friend grace, whose name is exactly what we needed and her daughter bella was just that, who opened up her home to us to come and go between here and there or to sleep or call or make arrangements or change plans or cancel this or schedule that.

and my cousin tim and his family and all the tyson’s said come. here’s chili and the coffee will be on all night. we love you. and we sat back in love and laughter all night long and i’m sure i dozed off in the comfort of cousins who knew and loved my dad long before i ever did. and they showed up and were present and let it all just be, the way only family can.

and all the phone calls we had to make and texts and messages we received and there’s just no way to think about or thank everyone who showed up during that time.

you smile and say thank you and genuinely mean it and you do the best you can and that’s about it because it’s almost like a tunnel and everything and everyone is spinning around you and you’re just -i just- was trying to remember to put one foot in front of the other.

and the strength you have to go through it when you have no strength at all…we just did it, with so much more grace in my life than i’ve ever had before and haven’t had since because i knew all those services and smiles and tight hugs and sad glances were for them and not for me because my time was when i was alone or in quiet spaces with my good family and couldn’t be shared with anyone else, if it could be shared at all.

and i was sad for them, too. i was sad that they lost their friend who, to some, was closer than a brother. some deeply grieved their loss and i’m so glad i could see past my own sorrow and recognize theirs. i think of his two best cousins, gene and george, and his best friend since kindergarten who just couldn’t bring himself to come to the funeral and that was okay because i knew and i know.

most all of my mom’s sisters were there and so was my granddad and several of my cousins, even though my parents had been divorced for 10 years, but they all adored my dad because he couldn’t not be adored.

and my sweet momma sat with us because she had loved him since the third grade and she went through it with us but gave us space because she knew she could only walk with us down that road to a certain post but not beyond. what a good momma i have, to not impose and just love and understand and be there for whatever we needed, whenever we needed it.

(have i told you that he died on what would have been their 36th wedding anniversary?)

this is therapeutic for me, y’all. i hope you don’t mind.

i’ve been cranky and snappy and on edge ‘all week long’.

(i was talking to my friend julie earlier tonight and asked her how her ‘week’ has been. and then i realized it’s only tuesday.)

i don’t expect much will change til the day comes and goes, so i’m trying to just remain quiet and still and batten down the hatches til it passes like a hurricane.

meanwhile, i’m sure i will continue to try to scratch that itch and grow my arm back out to no avail and i will miss my dad and want to call him -

…it’s weird when you consider not speaking to someone – not hearing their voice or seeing their face – for two years…

and i will want to touch him and laugh with him and just sit and wonder and ponder and dream with him because he was so good at doing those things and i was special to him.

for now, though, i will just cry for want of missing him.

i know this is all a rambling mess, y’all, but i just needed a warm place to lay my heart and head without having to sound eloquent or look pretty or even organize my thoughts and tell my tales.

thanks for being a safe place for me tonight.

love, me

come close to me.

welcome home, it’s good to have you near

the rest that you’ve been looking for, you’ll find it here

you’re so tired from running against the wind

and fighting battles you can’t seem to win

all you see is hopeless destiny

and you say you have gone as far as you can go

say no more, lay down your heavy heart

and let me love you while your teardrops flow

come close to me, come close to me

and we will see this through, yes we will see this through

come close to me, i’ll stay with you

and i will be with you til the dawn breaks through

come close to me

you’ve been my friend since your life first began

and nothing you can do would change my love for you

you need to know just how i really feel

i’ve never let you go, i never will

come close to me, come close to me

and we will see this through, yes we will see this through

come close to me, i’ll stay with you

and i will be with you til the dawn breaks through

come close to me

my dad wrote this song and it was the most requested anywhere he went. he and i would often {try to} sing it together but i usually couldn’t make it through without crying. it’s title is ‘come close to me’, but we would always hear ‘play welcome home’. and we would. we would try, anyway. (even now i can’t write it without crying crocodile tears for the first man i ever loved.) it is the one song he wrote that reminds me most of him, and the one i hear in my spirit as i think about abba welcoming him home.

i hear the lyrics differently now, as i hear the lord singing them to me and to you, and i suppose that’s the intent of the father. rather, i suppose it was the heart of my father -my dad, i mean- in writing this song, to communicate heart of abba for the tired, the weary, the broken. the ones who try but never quite make it. the ones whom jesus loves. 

and so this is what i think of when i hear the word, ‘welcome’ now.

welcome home, it’s good to have you near.

the rest that you’ve been looking for, you’ll find it here.

come close to me

-all words & music are copyrighted by tom tyson & danny shepherd

this is my entry for this week’s five-minute friday, hosted by the gypsymama. if you have your own blog, you are invited to link up over there with your own post. and if you do not have your own blog, but would appreciate a venue to write, please take advantage of the comment space here. you are most welcome. 

yip-yip dogs & styrofoam walls.


first of all, thank you. thank you for the variety of sincere responses i received yesterday, either through your comments or through private emails and text messages. honestly, i didn’t know how to receive them yesterday, which is why you didn’t hear back from me individually. not because i didn’t appreciate their content but because i actually forgot that i had scheduled that post and had intended to take it down! :)

on friday, when i wrote that post, your comments would have been exactly what i needed to hear. thank you for listening to the lord on my behalf and for sharing pieces of your hearts with me. that message was every bit where i was when i wrote it 72 hours ago and not too far from where i am today. but i have since gained perspective and have had an internal shift that i’m going to try to put into words for you. (and for me.)

for one thing, can i just tell you? GOD IS SO GOOD. truly, i can’t even believe how much he loves me sometimes. he is so sweet to me.

i told you i had an appointment with karen on saturday. mind you, i hadn’t seen her since before christmas and we had to reschedule our last appointment from last saturday to this past saturday. so it had been, like, a month or more since i last saw her. i hadn’t even seen her since i had the revelation about the fortress, the father-god part -none of that- so we had much to catch up on.

i actually read to her yesterday’s post (which, remember, i wrote on friday).

she laughed at me, which was to be expected.

really, she laughed with me. (one gift i am really thankful god has given me is that i have learned not to take myself too seriously and to laugh at myself often.) as i stated in my post, and she very graciously pointed out, it was the first experience i’ve had when i wasn’t able to push someone away with my defenses. she pointed out further, though, that my friend standing steady as a tree and holding up that holy spirit mirror was pivotal for me as it only made clearer my response system when my trauma is triggered. there was more that came from it all, but it’s better left unpublished. suffice it to say, it was just good, as my appointments with her tend to be.

and i also want to say this: y’all, we’ve all experienced trauma in our lives, in some way. i am not some exception and mine is not unique; it just so happens that i only recently became aware of (what i didn’t know) were the effects of it (ie, being afraid of being hurt). also, i think i’m pretty clear when i’m talking about my relationships with former boyfriends but you can imagine that there might have also been trauma growing up in a co-dependent and addictive home. i do not blame anyone for my ‘trauma’, so this isn’t about forgiveness, resentment or anger. all of that i’ve worked through over the years. at this point, though, it’s about my triggers and my coping skills. the way that i cope when trauma is triggered in me is i start barking (like a chihuahua); i build walls (of cardboard and styrofoam). for example, a certain family member has often told me ‘you’re just so angry’, which has been really bothersome to me because i was obviously acting angry but didn’t feel like i was an angry person. i certainly haven’t wanted to be angry. so, karen and i identified on saturday that this was part of my coping mechanism - i start barking when i am triggered by someone or something associated with my trauma.

i don’t know why god is doing this work in me now but, if you’ll remember, it all started when i had just gotten past the first anniversary of my dad’s death. i was learning to breathe and walk again at that time. so it’s kind of like i’m learning now how to appropriately deal with life so i’m not triggered by what i might physiologically relate to as ‘trauma’.

does that make sense? i hope that it does. i also hope i haven’t made myself out to seem like a crazy person.

karen and i also talked about the father-god message i received from the lord a few weeks ago. more sweetness there.

and i told her about the fortress. she was blown away like i was. as we delved deeper, she pointed out that, even within the mighty fortress that is our god, we still build our own fortresses therein. this was poignant for me because, even as i have felt safe within the fortress

okay, i just realized how hokey i must sound to anyone who doesn’t have a mystical background or to anyone who’s just joining us; y’all, please come back tomorrow if this is too much for you. consider this a private journal entry as i process through my experience since writing yesterday’s post on friday. bottom line: we all come from different backgrounds and indoctrination, but in the end let’s just agree that it’s all about jesus, whether you can appreciate my cookiness or not, okay?

anyway, even as i have felt safe within the fortress, the image i have in my mind’s eye is of me hiding at the top of the tower. god is saying, ‘you’re safe! run and play and enjoy your kingdom!’ and i’m content to stay in the top of the tower and enjoy the view from the window.

yes, exactly. like rapunzel.

but we’re not meant to simply enjoy the view from the watchtower, are we? we’re meant to run barefoot through the grass of the kingdom promised us and explore and have adventure because we are safe in the kingdom that is god’s.

she said that god has blown a hole through my private fortress and so now it’s time to sift through the rubble. figure out what belongs to me, and what is actually a result of trauma in my life. and to allow  myself to explore the fortress, see what’s out there for me, to ask god what he is showing me or what he wants me to know. this each day following my visit to the well. so, that’s my assignment until my next appointment. good, no?

when i left, she said i was looked much lighter from when i came in.

and i was.

but my day only got better.

so. much. better.

took a little moment to see an old roommate, my precious friend boom-boom. she and her husband, clock-clock, have moved back to north carolina recently after she moved to south africa to marry him, followed by a stint teaching teachers in the uae. one of the most precious souls on the planet, that one is.

i had to cut our visit short because that morning plans started shaping up for a trip to nashville to see shawna and my friend lisa would be calling that afternoon to talk about it. so awesome. so exciting. no idea what god’s doing, just that i want to be a part of whatever it is. we’re leaving sunday, weather pending.

okay, but THEN.

i had sent a message to my friend rebecca that morning who has said, ‘let me know when you come to town so we can get together!’ i knew her husband for a few years before meeting her when they were out and about over a year ago. we have since connected over email; i think, initially, it was over a story i told here. but she is my new-old friend. LOVE that girl. love her, love her (my new) friends. she is an administrator for the worship center, which is a new…well, worship…center in durham, nc. i knew my friend marissa would be leading worship there that night and had never been so i planned on going that night.

what i had forgotten about was that there was a healing conference going on. we made plans to visit that afternoon, and at that point i had already missed most of the conference and only planned on attending the evening session, which is when the minister talked about…

(are you ready for this?)


{don’t you know how SET-UP BY GOD i was!?}

i don’t think her message would have resonated with me if i had not been discussing this with karen for the last two months. could i have gotten something out of it? absolutely. would it have been life-altering? probably not. i have never heard the message of the spirit of trauma, at least that i can remember. her main thrust was how trauma affects us physically, and she prayed for people to be healed and they were.

in the end, though, anyone who still needed or desired prayer could come up to the front.

i pretty much ran.

this part is sort of funny/sort of not: a very kind man came to pray for me and, y’all, i froze up. my arms were crossed, i couldn’t get anything out of my mouth. when he asked what i wanted to be prayed for, i paused before uttering ‘trauma’. and he prayed briefly for me but could sense my timidity -or whatever it was- and when we got done, he asked why my arms were crossed. at that point, i smiled and thanked him and said, ‘i am so sorry, and thank you so much, but my trauma is related to men and i just don’t think you’re the one-’ cutting me off, he said, ‘i know just the right person.’

and how!

y’all, the woman who prayed for me…over me…into me…i’m not even sure what to tell you about that. i’m wary of using the word ‘deliverance’ for some of you because i know the first thing that will pop into your head is my head spinning and green snotty vomit and levatating and mess like that. i was fully present, she was fully present, god was there…it wasn’t anything wild or crazy, so when i say ‘deliverance’ try not to think of anything scary. how’s this – i left there knowing i was set free. also knowing i still need to continue this process with karen, and alone. but there was a shift in my spirit that night related to that and then some other things she just felt led to pray, which were also spot-on. told me to be fearless and what that would look like (sooo needed to hear that) and spoke over my call to ministry (whatever that’s supposed to look like; so far, this is it, friends).

i even saw evidence of the change on sunday. my mood was different, my temprament more relaxed around certain folks. i had no defenses and no {styrofoam} walls. i didn’t have my bark ready. i didn’t react the same way to anything or anyone who might have previously been a trigger for me. i didn’t spend the day anxious that i was going to haphazardly step on toes while deliberately trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. i was able to enjoy myself; i was nice, i was pleasant. i literally felt free. weight lifted.

i went through a deliverance and healing program about 15 years ago and then went through the same one again a few years later (it was the ‘thing to do’ at the time, in both cases). the second time i went through it, i knew i had been set free from the things i carried into it, but i was keenly aware that i would then have to learn what to do with the hole that was left where the trouble had once been.

so it is now. i know i am free from any spirit of trauma (there she goes again, that whacko, with her cooky spirit-talk) but i need to continue doing the work of learning how to live apart from it. it has literally been a lifetime -from the womb- of a life spent in fear and and either experiencing trauma or learning how to cope with it. i know that change has come but i still need help learning how to manage the change so i recognize my triggers quicker and don’t react in fear with my former tools for coping.

and i still need to go this alone. that is, without a partner. (for now.)

so, do you see what i mean when i said that i didn’t know how to properly respond yesterday? i hope you’ll forgive me for keeping quiet. i knew all of your hearts were good and you said exactly what i needed to hear when i wrote it.

but then saturday happened.

and i am free.

did this trigger anything in you (other than ‘this girl is a freak’)?

perhaps you are aware of your own triggers and trauma?

what is your story about deliverance and healing?

what’s your favorite ice cream?



how deep.

starting with the youth retreats i attended in high school, i have often heard the ‘father-heart of god’ message. that god the father is not the same as our earthly father and our experience of the man we call ‘dad’ is not a reflection of the father’s love for us.  in fact, there is no way to compare the love of the father to that of our earthly one, whether we had a ‘good’ one or a not-great one.

i can imagine this message could have gone any direction for kids who grew up in dysfunctional or abusive homes. if their hearts were unable to grab a hold of this message, it was probably difficult to seperate a nice, loving and good father from the one who was never around. or, worse, was around but unavailable.

for all the times i heard this message, i knew i needed to hear it. but…and i don’t really know how to explain this very well…i knew my heart needed this message but there was…some inexplicable piece missing…in order for it to connect deeply for me. i could never really grab hold of it and apply it to my life. it’s not that i associated god the father with my dad on the earth…or maybe i did?

maybe i did, actually. maybe that was what was ‘missing’ for me. while i had a wonderful, loving father, his vices kept him from always being emotionally available. it was hard to know sometimes which man we were going to meet when he came home from work, or which one he would turn into by the end of the night.

mind you, i can’t imagine how difficult it was for those close to me to be around me when i was an active alcoholic. i mean, i can -because i grew up in it. i guess i’m just trying to say that i don’t judge my dad for this (anymore) because i became it myself and had a different understanding of the disease and greater compassion for him through my own recovery process. and so i don’t say any of this to be disrespectful of my dad; i only tell you this because {i’m now realizing} this is the association i made with god the father. because isn’t this our only real point-of-reference?

{he was absent. sure, he loved me. but he wasn’t close. he liked having me around but just don’t bother him, mare. kind of stay out of his way so as not to upset him. you don’t know what kind of day god has had, so just be quiet when it comes your turn to see him. get in and out quickly because he has other things to do. and don’t ask too much of him because he really doesn’t have the energy for you right now.}

does this message sound familiar to anyone’s heart?

i need to say that i know, on this side of the veil, that my dad did not want to be this kind of father. his disease -our disease, rather- made him this way, i know this. he couldn’t help himself and he couldn’t be helped. and it’s okay. i’m okay. he’s okay. we’re okay. on this side of the veil, he loves me so well.

but for all intents and purposes, i related to my father god the same way i related to my dad on the earth, the way that we all do until we know better. (evidently i’m only now knowing better.)and so perhaps {now} i understand why it was difficult for my heart to make this connection to what my head understood. in my head, i knew god the father was different, but because of the specific association, it was hard for me to grasp that my Father was anything but tired and disassociated.

last week, i told you about the fortress. but there’s more that i left out. not on purpose, i just hadn’t felt the weight of this part of the message enough to share it.

but i do now.

as i was journaling about the fortress what i felt the holy spirit was impressing onto my heart, i started to fall asleep but heard in my heart that there was still more.

what i heard in my spirit the following day was, not only that god was the gateway and the keeper of the keys but that, where my dad did his job the best he could, god was now taking reign. that is, i would now have the eyes to see him this way. i would never know again what it meant to feel afraid, unsafe and unprotected. that he is my protection and my safe-keeping. that there, in my fortress that he built, he is keeping me safe and so i am free there -to be and move and have my being. in him. alone. in my fortress where he keeps me, where i am his princess and he is my king. i’m not hungry for attention and feeling neglected, i understand that i will now experience the lavishness of his love in a truer, deeper way.

and so it seems i am now on a new part of my journey with the lord, just on the fringes of understanding what it means to know god as my father.

to know him ONLY as loving and kind, not distant and moody. to experience him as my protector and defender in a way that i’ve never experienced. i don’t have to be self-sufficient; he is truly my provider. i don’t have to be afraid to allow him to love me because there are no strings attached and his love is immeasurable and he will not haphazardly hurt me with his love.

in a way that only he can and no human ever could.

has your heart wrapped around this message? like, truly?

{what marvelous love the father has extended to us! just look at it—we’re called children of god! that’s who we really are. -1 john 3:1 (msg)}

bellevue: one crazy thing.

in considering the beginning of 2010, i am thinking about how my sisters, brother-in-law, our friend/brother adam and i spent the end of december and the better part of january going back-and-forth to nashville preparing my dad’s house to be sold. now, almost a year later, i am simply in awe of how my sisters and i accomplished all that we did in such a short amount of time when we really had no idea what we were doing at all.

we had a WONDERFUL mother-daughter realty team. truly, they were incredible. we followed all of their suggestions in order to help the house sell better. nothing short of divine providence afforded us a little bit of money in my dad’s death that we could use to update his house while we continued to pay his bills, but once we took care of the necessary changes we were left with just enough to pay for 2-3 months more of bills before our well would run dry.

and i mean duh-ry. as in, that was it. we would have nothing left -absolutely nothing. like…NOTHING.

and did i mention none of us had ever sold a house before? as a matter-of-fact, between the three of us, only one of us was at the time or ever had been an actual homeowner.

we had no idea what we were doing. and yet every time we needed help, god always -always. every. single. time.- provided just the exact right person or solution for the project at hand. most of the time, our answers came in completely random ways that could have only been from the lord. to begin with, we called my dad’s mentor and best friend, a former cma president (which is only to say that he had been around there long enough to have these kind of answers), to find out who he would recommend as a lawyer for my dad’s estate and we ended up with the finest and most well-known estate lawyer in nashville on our side who, along with his paralegal, saw us through every step and was actually very affordable (as far as lawyers go) and very accessible. before we chose the realty team, we met with another one for posterity’s sake. he was also exceptional but the mother-daughter team was just dynamite. they were sensitive to us, but extremely professional. they also came as a referral from the sister of one of my sisters and my bff’s.

{in case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of business to manage when someone dies from day one and you have no idea how to do any of it until it happens to you.

you don’t have to be a realtor to know that selling a house in the dead of winter during a recession is no small task, especially as we were limited to weekends to get everything done that needed doing. our realtor was gracious enough to meet with subcontractors on our behalf during the week in order to get the house painted and new carpet put in. additionally, my dad (and all of his friends and anyone who found refuge in his home) was a smoker, so the odor permeated his walls and carpet, which obviously had to be addressed. thankfully, the paint and carpet people were able to take care of this with not very much trouble (that i know about). my dad also had a pool which needed new lighting. and while we were at it, our realtor suggested that we update all the light fixtures. and buy curtains. which we did. and we had new windows put in where some had rotted. oh, and something about the heater needed fixing. and the locks needed changing.

{in case you didn’t know, a pool and a smoker’s home are not big selling factors. a pool can either make or break the sale of a house. and, by the way? the smell of smoke is nearly impossible to extract so if it’s not done properly, it is also a deterrant. we were dealing with both issues. WHICH WAS AWESOME.}

my point is this: THERE WAS A LOT TO BE DONE IN NOT A LOT OF TIME. and for every solution, there was also a blip in our plans. like, SNOW AND ICE, for example. or the, ahem, home improvement store that underestimated and, therefore, RAN OUT OF CARPET before they finished the job. (seriously, how does that happen?) nevertheless, to what is now my amazement, we got it all done. all of it. every single bit.

once the house was ready, there was another weekend of snow followed by superbowl weekend. so we were set back a few weeks before our realtors were able to schedule an open house on a sunday afternoon in february. the day before, another agent brought a potential buyer to the house and returned the next day BEFORE THE OPEN HOUSE BEGAN to make a cash offer for 93% of our asking price. i was standing in line at a theatre waiting to see the movie based on my cousin’s book on a 3-way call between my sisters and our realtor, negotiating a real estate deal. the buyer needed an answer by 5:00 that day and, to be honest, she was a little bossy throughout the whole process and she got everything she asked for and we felt a little bit jipped but, in the end, we signed a contract and were done.

sort of.

before we were really ‘done’ she gave us a list of things that would just be impossible for us to take care of from a distance so we ended up offering her a cut off the top to take care of the estimated amount of her needs. fine.


sort of.

our closing date was slated for march 29. the week before we closed, our realtor called me. some pipe somewhere downstairs had burst and flooded the kitchen and the new carpet, ruining both. turns out, the new buyer was going to change the flooring in the kitchen, anyway, so we just had to get the water out. and the carpet? Best Realtor Ever called some guy somewhere who was able to come and professionally get all the water out. i don’t know how, i don’t know who, but it got done and quickly.

when i tell you that we experienced one crazy thing after another in getting this house sold, i mean to tell you…it’s a wonder any one of us didn’t throw ourselves off the u-haul and onto the funny farm on the way home. seriously. it was quite an experience, one that surely must have prepared us for FUTURE REAL ESTATE ENDEAVORS.

i think we were all, including our realtors, either on our knees praying and/or holding our breath during the time the final walk-through was taking place.

and on march 29, as scheduled, we were no longer homeowners.



and then the floods happened one month later.

the absolute worst of it occuring in bellevue.

which was the area where my dad lived.

believe me when i say i am so, so sorry for the woman who bought our house. from what i understand, every house in that neighborhood was under water.

in no way were we rejoicing that it wasn’t our burden to bear.


when i think back on that time,

on what only god could know as we were dealing with and laughing about and agonizing over one crazy thing after another

i can only thank him because i don’t know what we would have done.

except that i might have driven myself to nashville and thrown myself right into the flood because i don’t think i could have taken one more thing happening related to that house.

this is just one example of this (or something like it, usually on a smaller scale) happening to me all. the. time.

{and so goes the circus that is my life.}

when i look back on certain times of life’s insanity only to discover the sovereignty of god.

{at this point, i just laugh. or cry. or both.}

and then i thank him.

{but usually not until it’s all over.}

can you think of a time, in this last year or another, when you experienced a torpedo of events only to look back and say, ‘thank you, god’? did it build your faith or break you down?

p.s. when i was running spell-check after i finished this post, my computer froze up so i had to escape the screen without saving it.

fortunately, it had automatically saved as a draft.

(see what i mean? a circus.)


the plight of mary.

I met my precious friend Wendy when I just happened to sat down at Table 11 on the first night of the She Speaks Conference in July. The women from this table keep in touch now, supporting and encouraging each other in our journeys of faith and ministry. (How did I come to be so blessed, God?) She sent out a request to some of her writer-friends to contribute to a devotional for the women in her church. This season, they are focusing on A Mary Christmas in a Martha World.

I’m not going to mention any names, but someone missed the part that our devotionals didn’t actually have to pertain specifically to Mary & Martha because that would have made just too much sense.

Someone thought our devo’s had to specifically relate to Mary & Martha and that someone wondered how in the world all these women would pull 25 different topics from basically one story.

Conveniently, that someone is the only one who misunderstood the assignment and, therefore, is the only one who actually wrote their devo based on just about the only story to be found about Mary & Martha, sisters of Lazarus.

Here is someone’s devotional, now FOREVER PUBLISHED in A Mary Christmas in a Martha World.

Oh, to be able to laugh at one’s self…

{When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. – john 11:33 (nlt)}

The difference between Martha’s and Mary’s responses to the death of their brother Lazarus is especially poignant to me today, even though the story has actually been close to my family since I was a girl.

My dad died suddenly just over a year ago, so I get Martha’s response. I especially understand that of Mary. When tragedy strikes, it is natural to default into familiar & similar spaces. To withdraw. To be quiet.

I love that Mary waited behind when precious Martha went to find Jesus because someone had to do it. I understand now that Mary didn’t go with Martha not because she was upset with Jesus; she was upset simply because her brother had died. Her soul was quiet. She just did not have the energy to follow her sister.

Sweet Martha’s strong faith wasn’t challenged. She chose to believe that Jesus was the resurrection and the life, just as he had always been. Mary, however, needed still to know. Mary needed His touch, His attention. Something else, something more.

Jesus was neither threatened nor upset by Mary’s plight.

Neither was he indifferent.

Even so, when Jesus called for Mary, she went to him because she knew in her head what her troubled heart could not believe. I am struck that the crowd followed her as she mourned on her way to see Jesus. In her sorrow, she drew their attention straight to Jesus. Jesus himself was moved by Mary’s grief.

As I consider Mary’s heartbreak, I realize I too have known on a cerebral level what my heart has had trouble believing – that Jesus cares, that He hears my cries, that He was sad for my dad’s passing, even as He welcomed him home. My prayer is, even throughout my mourning, others might have seen the hope of Christ in me. And in my sadness for missing my dad, Jesus has moved closer.

My prayer for you is that you would be able to just get real with Jesus this season. Jesus can handle your questions and tears; they don’t knock Him off His throne. He is neither threatened nor upset by your plight. And he is not indifferent to you.

My hope, friends, is that your head would know even what your heart yet may not and that, even if your soul is quiet, you would respond when He calls for you and know that He is close.

Will you let this little community pray for you as we move closer to the day we celebrate the birth of The One who came to save you?

I would be so honored.

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