The Same Ache

The Same Ache

I was halfway through sweeping up the crumbled edges of leaves carried in by my kids’ feet when it hit me that gratitude can feel a lot like sadness. These are grateful days, with the light slanting golden and rust through changing trees and our hours full of the things that matter most. The grace of it presses and aches in my chest the way grief did before in the unexpected leaving of home and community and ministry. And I remember again the abundance in letting go. The winding weight of those long months carved a canyon to welcome this rush of beauty now. Somewhere along the way the bitter ache bled slowly into the sweet, and I couldn’t tell you where one ended and the other began. Grief and gratitude aren’t separate. They’re one continuum, one story. They both...

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When Your Healing Story Turns Out to Be an Epic

When Your Healing Story Turns Out to Be an Epic

The leaves are stubbornly green. The calendar says October, but the weary heat is still spread thick, like someone forgot to pack up summer and put it away. It’s exhausting to wait while a season hangs on long after it was supposed to change. October holds echoes of a lot of loss for my family. Most years hope sings over the echoes, coming in on cool autumn breeze while the trees glow a golden promise that all things are being made new. But this year the hot air is still, and the leaves are just curling brown on tired branches. It’s like the Carolinas have forgotten how to move forward in the wake of the hurricane’s trauma. Oh, beloved Carolinas, I understand. Trauma’s a funny thing. Sometimes it feels like the turning seasons have wiped most of it away, and then...

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When Grief Changes Clothes

When Grief Changes Clothes

A friend asked me the other day how I’m feeling this anniversary of my mom’s death. It will be seven years next week. How is it already seven years? How is it only seven years? My friend knows something you can only know by experience: that every year grief looks different than the year before. The first anniversary’s grief was still wrapped in breathless disbelief that it really did happen. The second was hollow and tired. The third didn’t hurt as badly, but the fourth was like being hit by a train. This year’s grief is like an echo of all the words that would have been spoken, the things my mom would have said if she had lived to see my girls growing up and to witness the courageous ways we’re choosing healing over bitterness. Grief has a large wardrobe, and it...

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Dust

Dust

My friend gave me the gift of dust. Layered years of it covered photo albums, scrapbooks, and drawings, and as I transferred them from deep shelves into moving boxes, the dust clung to my hands and shirt like tiny, sacred bits of her family’s story. There were pictures of my friend with her college sweetheart as baby faced newlyweds. And then there was her pregnant belly, and then little stairstep kids. There were pictures of her husband grinning, surrounded by family not long before his suicide. And then there were her kids circled around her like the petals of a quiet flower. There were pictures from the years so many friends came around and held them tight. And then there was the newer wedding album, snapshots of redemption, with smiles so wide their cheeks...

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The Antidote to the American Dream

The Antidote to the American Dream

I was balancing my seven-year-old’s bag of popcorn on my lap when my phone lit up underneath it. We were on a special mommy/daughter movie date while my teenager was at play rehearsal, so I glanced to make sure it wasn’t something important from her or my husband. It was a text from Joy Wyse, a friend and fellow writer, and one of the first lines caught my attention. “I have decided that Biblical praise is very unAmerican.” UnAmerican. I had just told my husband a few hours earlier that I’ve been having a hard time American-ing. We’ve been back in the States for over a year and a half, but I still struggle with the pace, the expectations, the driving children all over the known universe, the constant motion. I’m tired of being tired every evening. And every...

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Before

Before

Before Bethlehem, there was the road. There was the dust and there were the jolting steps over rocks and ruts. There were deep ligaments pulling and joints aching and feet swelling and a husband drooping weary as he watched his bride wince and shift. I wonder what thoughts rolled in Mary’s mind as Life rolled in her womb. Maybe the voice of the angel telling her not to be afraid. Maybe the whispers and stares, people she’d known all her life who now refused to look her in the eye, believing shame was hers to own. Maybe she was nervous about what lay ahead. She’d never had a baby before. And this wasn’t just any baby. Or maybe a tangled combination of all of this ran circles in her head, the size of her feelings pushing at the edges of her heart as surely as the...

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