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Sisters, we got a puppy.

I KNOW. But here’s what happened. Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from Sunday school and when I got to the intersection where the Humane society is located, I felt the command to turn.

“Where’re we going?” Gabe asked.

“Let’s go look at dogs.”

“Are we getting one????” Annie squealed from the back seat.

“Only if there are puppies” I said. In the almost two years since Sugar crossed the Rainbow Bridge there have never been puppies at the Humane society. Not. Even. Once. But that day, there were four. Litter mates, surrendered without parents so only God knows a single thing about their pedigree–probably closer to ketchup than whole wheat. Two of them were all black, one looked like a black and white Springer Spaniel and one was colored like a German Shepherd.

He was the most chill. I sent Shea this picture:

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He texted “You had one job. Go to Sunday School. WHY ARE YOU AT THE HUMANE SOCIETY???.”

“God made me” I texted back. “I’ll explain when we get home.”

Other kids wait for their moms to say “Yes”. But my kids know when I text dad the picture, the deal is sealed. If it was up to me, we’d live on five acres and breed bassets. If it was up to Shea, we’d own a zoo.

Surely it is not news that our crazy sits on the front porch and hollers at the neighbors. What’s one more dog? Especially when he’s cute.

 

 

 

 

 

From One Jen to Another

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Dear Jen Hatmaker,

I just finished Of Mess and Moxie. Thanks for the laughs.

Like all good books, it taught me a lesson. I thought I should share it, because sharing is caring and all that jazz.

You wrote this in Chapter 21, How To (Part Four): How to do the laundry:

“8. Remember the darks! Yay, you! Despair at the light load in the dryer. This is like discovering the dishes in the dishwasher are clean. Throw load of lights on your bed to “fold in a few minutes” while you move the darks to the dryer. 9. Co-Sleep with the light load that night. Give them their own bed space, like a person.”

When I read this, even though I have Jesus in my heart, I judged you. I did. Who sleeps with laundry? I thought in my most OCD voice. Someone should tell Jen Hatmaker that laundry day is a process, not a string of one-off events where it’s ok to skip an event here or there. Wash. Dry. Fold. Place in various laundry baskets to be put away by minions when they get home from school. This is not rocket science, although it may have been informed by a scientific approach. For the love, indeed.

I read that chapter Thursday night.

On Friday, we picked up our new puppy. Saturday morning, I awoke at 6 am so that my son and I could drive 8 hours round trip to his play-off football game in cold and pouring rain. I left Shea home with the new puppy, the grumpy old basset hound, our two girls, a volleyball game and two soccer games. Divide and conquer.

My sweet husband thought he would knock out the laundry. He did four loads. He did them all the way to dry, good man. In the middle of that, I called in a panic because I had a flat tire on the 5 in the middle of nowhere Oregon. You may think my panic was about the tire, but it wasn’t. I needed my husband to find the nearest teammate traveling up the 5 and send them to get my football player.

(Full disclosure–there was a screw in my tire. I saw it two weeks ago. It was wedged in there good and I figured it would hold.)

The same time I arrived in pouring rain to watch a football game (new tire safely in place), he arrived in pouring rain to watch two pee-wee soccer games. We left the middle child at home with the puppy and she called no less than five times to give and get timely updates: “Dash pooped on the floor. I cleaned it. Is Gabe still winning?”

When we got home, my son jumped in the shower and my husband took him to a Halloween party. I sat down for a whole four seconds before the grumpy basset hound decided she’d had enough and started nipping at anyone who came near her. Took me a good twenty minutes to recalibrate her attitude, by which time the puppy had pooped on the floor, the five year old was screaming in a cold shower and I’d lost my drink. That is not a metaphor. I had a nice vodka tonic and I set it down and I can’t find it.

You see where this is going right? When I finally dragged myself to bed, there was all the laundry. My husband and I stood there looking at it in silence. Then he said “I’ll sleep on the couch with the puppy?”, I said “Yep”, shoved the clothes over to his side and climbed in to co-sleep with the laundry.

God is good, Jen Hatmaker. Grace is good. Humility too. Honesty. Sisterhood. And sometimes, co-sleeping with the laundry .

 

 

 

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Boys In Blue

The Dodgers are going to the World Series.

This is big. It’s not 108 years big, or 86 years big, but it’s still been 28 years since Kirk Gibson’s magical walk off home run in Game 1 of the ’88 series. I was 16.

Baseball is not my favorite sport. It comes after college football, NFL, College basketball (women and men) and the NHL. So sixth. It’s my sixth favorite sport.

But the Boys in Blue are my #1 pro sports team. LA girl. Legacy Dodger fan. I remember being at my grandparents’ home in Duarte for the ’81 Series win, watching my grandfather, dad and uncle hootin’ and hollerin’ as they listened to the radio on the patio.

(Of course that was the BBQ where my grandfather asked for sherry to pour on the steaks as they grilled, and my grandmother gave him a bottle they had emptied of sherry and used to smuggle vodka across the border from Mexico. The explosion burned my Papa’s eyebrows off his face and all I can remember is them laughing, so probably they were deep into the bottle with the correct label on it. Also my cousin, I believe as a result of PTSD from this night, deliberately sought out and married a San Francisco Giants fan.)

My dad had a friend with season tickets, so once a year growing up we went with Mark to a game. His seats were good ones, in the yellow down third base line. I learned to appreciate the pace of the game live and in person, the rhythm of pitches and shelling peanuts.

I came back to Dodger games in my 20s. It was the late 90s and a game ticket could be had for $6. My roommate would burst through the front door and say “Dodgers?” and off we’d go. If we timed it right, we could leave Long Beach at 6 and be in our seats for the first pitch at 7:05. I knew every approach to get into the stadium, but more importantly–I knew how to get out. And that’s saying something. If there were such a thing as the “7 F*ck Ups of the World”, the parking lot at Chavez Ravine would be one of them.

This was the era of Karros and Piazza, Nomo and Hollandsworth. Also Todd Worrell. That guy. Look, I don’t often feel strongly about sports figures but my antipathy towards Worrell is deeply seated. I watched my boyfriend Mike Piazza put a lot of runs on the board that Worrell gave back in the top of the 9th, with fast balls right down the pipe. Everybody knew. My grandma could have hit them.

When Shea asked me to marry him, I was less worried about his unbaptized soul than I was about yoking with an Angels fan. Mixed marriages are not to be entered into lightly. People have been known to get divorced.

In June, I took the kids to their first Dodger game, with Teresa and Mike. I used to go to Dodger games with Teresa and her mom when she was small enough that we carried her in. Total full circle moment.

But also, we were in LA for Sue’s funeral and she was the kind of Dodger fan who still listened to games on the radio. She and I decided last winter that we would take the kids and go the next time we were down. We went in her honor. Hard stuff.

Tickets are not $6 anymore and so the most affordable professionals sports ticket in town is damn near not affordable. The ushers no longer wear straw hats and chase down beach balls. The peanut guy, though–still cash only. I bought the kids hats and dogs. We did the wave and a group of drunk guys behind us had an inexhaustible supply of beach balls. It was awesome sauce.

And now here they go. A Dodgers-Yankee series would be something for the ages, but at this writing, the Astros are up 3-0 in Game 6 so we’ll see.

Either way, Let’s Go Dodgers. #ThisTeam #Dodgerblue

From Conception to Death

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October is Respect Life month in the Catholic church.

Like so many Christian churches in this country, we screw it up. And in the screwing up, we drive people away. And we’re too stupid to know that we’re driving people away.

Sunday, at a Catholic church in our valley, there were “Archdiocesan-mandated” petitions for signature after Mass. It was inferred from the Layman’s Minute portion of the Mass that to refuse to sign the petitions was sinful. This was supported by a reminder that the sainted JPII was the Church’s most ardent defender of Respect Life issues.

I was not at this Mass. I would not have been caught dead at this Mass in a church where the director of ministries has decided that boys and girls cannot serve on the altar together–which, by the way, is out of order with the teachings of the Church. And I can’t with JPII.  Plenty of former altar boys and choir girls who might have something to say about his commitment to respecting their lives.

But a friend was at this Mass, and she called me in tears.

“Do you think, less than a week after Vegas, that there was a Respect Life petition about gun control? Or a petition to recall the governor over euthanasia? Or even a petition for the President to help the AMERICAN CITIZENS in Puerto Rico? NOPE. Nothing on the death penalty. Nothing about North Korea. ONLY ABORTION.”

Abortion is a huge cultural failure and in Oregon our legislature recently passed a bill that expanded access to and coverage for abortions and birth control. The outrage is real.

But I have heard the same Knights of Columbus who organize these “Pro-Life” petitions talk about immigrants like they are the scum of the earth. I have heard them vow that their guns will only be taken from their cold, dead hands. I know they voted for this President who refuses to condemn white supremacists and that they scoff at the very idea of climate change.

So I won’t apologize for not picking up what they’re laying down. Their piety is false, as is their concern for life. If they only care about unborn babies, then their “care” is misogynist, political and economic. Shame on them for the damage they do to the heart and soul of our faith.

I will stand with the Sisters, and the young ones like Rebecca Bratton Weiss, who had the courage to call out the dark side of the Trad Pro-Life movement in our church, and lost her job over it, thanks to Catholic white supremacist groups Lifesite and Church Militant.

I will challenge the pretenders, on the sidewalks outside my kids’ school, or like my friend’s husband did on Sunday when he asked where the gun control petition was.

And I will reach out to those pushed away by the hypocrisy and try to show them that the church is faithful, even when her members are not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There You Are

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This is my reflection on going back to work.

I knew there was going to be a learning curve. I knew I was going to feel incompetent and frustrated. I picked it anyway.

And in the midst of week two of a twelve week training, as I listened to the very smart, very successful man on the screen talk about all the ways we can drive ourselves to make more money, I had to accept a truth: I knew what I was getting into. I may have thought I could do it half speed, or without being motivated by dollars, but I still knew I was going among people who get up every day to win.

The trainer is an Irishman, so as motivation he said “My sainted mother used to say ‘Everywhere you go, there you are.'” This fired up some of my co-trainees, but I shrank a little inside.

Here I am.

In this place that I picked, I have been lied to. I have been called “Doll” and “Sweetheart” and “Bitch” like it’s a compliment. I’ve been given unsolicited advice on how to have a good marriage from a man 10 years older than me who’s never been married. I asked another professional to wait 30 minutes so my client who was having a diabetic episode could force herself to drive to my office in her pajamas, and was told “No”.

People drink in the office. That part I don’t mind actually. What bugs me is why. Yesterday I woke up to write an offer for one client and list a property for another. I ended up 0 for 2 on the day, for various reasons out of my control. I have a vet client who despite all his “benefits” cannot afford to buy a home at a decent price point in our town. His wife has cried at my table. That’s why agents drink, or maybe it’s how they learn to say no to a decent request to wait a half hour for a sick woman.

I know these are the pitfalls of any profession which requires dealing with people on a daily basis. Teachers get jaded and burnt too. But I knew what I was about in the classroom. I saw the future of it.

Here I am.

Yes, I got into this to make money, but not for the sake of money. I have no desire to be the Top 100 anything.  I’m missing family dinners and practices and coffee with my friends. Right here, right now–super not worth it. Of course, I haven’t gotten paid yet. Maybe that will change things.

But I can’t help thinking that two paychecks into my teaching job looked like the same amount of work for a lot more compensation.

Am I whining? Sure. Maybe it sounds like I have the “luxury” of not being worried about dollars and cents. It’s not true. My husband makes a great living, but like most stay at home moms can tell you, we lived on a shoestring so that I could be there, and the kids are only getting more expensive, not less. It would be helpful for me to pick up the shoestring and make it more rope-like.

Here I am.

This is just a stop on the way to where I want to be. Three years to learn the job so that I can do what I really want, which is own and manage affordable housing in this city where landlords have no souls because the occupancy rate sits in the high 90s. Three years to create a philanthropic housing program for low income families. No, I’m not really sure what that means yet, because I’m busy learning about leach fields and urban growth boundaries, but I know that shelter is a basic human right and there has to be a way to help people get it that glorifies God.

The storm before the calm. The horse before the cart. Uncomfortable. Unsure.

Here I am.

 

 

Resounding Gongs

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Re-sounding: sounding over and over and over; impossible not to hear

A few weeks back I got into an argument on the sidewalk outside of school with another mom. It was religious and political and although I played dead for a loooong time, my silence was interpreted as disagreement and I was advised to speak to my pastor for guidance.

At which point I engaged the argument in my own fun style, and it didn’t end well.

She wasn’t rude. She wasn’t angry. But she was re-sounding. As soon as she perceived that I was only adjacent to her beliefs, I was under attack–not by what she was saying, but by the volume of words she spoke at me without stopping to listen.

This is not ok. I apologized for the way I lost my temper and we agreed to disagree. But we have not spoken since.

Because here’s the thing, and maybe she feels the same way–I can’t unknow what she showed me.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

I kept her at arm’s length because I feared this would happen. I keep a lot of people at arm’s length these days.  We are trying to raise our kids with gospel values, which I believe can be summed up in these lines from the For King and Country song Fix My Eyes:

(I’d) love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall, but above it all
Fix my eyes on you

There are many people around me, and too many sitting with me in church, who say and believe awful things, lies even, about other people. They say it in hushed voices or let nasty memes do their dirty work on Facebook. They have Not of This World bumper stickers next to political bumper stickers that are so awful you can’t believe they have the guts to drive around in the dang car.

For them, it’s not a problem.

For me, it is.

I’m supposed to love everybody and I try, but when it comes to friendships, what’s an appropriate line? I  never want to be so narrow-minded that I only surround myself with those who think like me, but I do want a foundation of kindness and charity in the people I invite to sit at my table.

The re-sounding gongs–those who fear so completely and constantly that every stranger is a villain; those who delight in a God so vengeful he would kill thousands of people because of sin; those who judge others without hearing their stories; those who work among the children of people they despise–can I shut my door against them all?

And if I do, how will they learn to change their tune and how will we ever make God’s kingdom come here on earth?

I don’t know. Do you?

 

 

 

 

This Post Has the F Bomb, But It Will Make You Laugh

*This post has the F bomb. But you should read it anyway.

This is me and my friend Marcy. I picked this picture because it sums us up, like Lucy and Ethel. Our greatest accomplishment as friends to date is that we both joined the country club pool this summer and neither of us has been asked to leave, not even once.

We used to have “real” jobs–the kind that get paid in cold hard cash and not peanut butter kisses. I taught high school and she managed a restaurant in Balboa, CA. We both married late, had some babies and decided to let our husbands bear the financial burden for a while. Then we came back to the workforce in pseudo-jobs, me as a daycare provider for a friend and her as a cook in a preschool.

A few weeks ago, as I was stressing over passing my real estate exam, she told me she was polishing her resume for an area manager job. And we were both dragging our feet.

Finally, I said “Look, we are college educated women. We can do this.”

And she said “I know. But why? Why rock the boat?”

Then we didn’t say anything for a minute. Not because there aren’t a million reasons why. For starters, we each have a child gravitating towards theater, which is more expensive than any youth sport ever invented in the history of the world.

We know why.

But we were scared. Change is hard. Always. Always. Always.

So I said “I’ll be brave if you will.”

And she said “OK”.

Three weeks later, I am happy to announce that we both have new jobs. We were brave.

And now we’re humbled. We don’t know anything about anything. We’re beyond Jon Snow. He at least knew winter was coming.

So please, please appreciate this text conversation, and forgive us for the F bombs.

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Happy Wednesday!

God Calling

I forgot to tell you a story about Vacation Bible School.

The theme was hearing God’s call in our lives. One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was have a phone call from God every morning to kick us off.

Joyce, our director of ministries, thought this was awesome sauce. Not because of the edgy, cool connection between technology and God’s message, but because she had just bought a foam cutter for the parish. To this day, which is all the days between when I told her I needed a giant foam phone until today, I have no idea what a foam cutter is. But Joyce used it to make me a giant iPhone.

I wrote a script. I asked Don to be God. We put a chair in the closet and gave him a microphone. Kelsey, our youth minister, made the phone ring. I just had to hit accept and say “Hello?” Five minutes before I did it the first time, I panicked and thought “This was the lamest idea EVER!”

I underestimated the five year olds, who have the most tremendous capacity to suspend disbelief in all of human nature.

When God said good morning, they yelled back at him “Good morning God!” And even though it was in the script for God to tell them “I love you”, one of the girls screamed it out first. “I LOVE YOU!!!!” Some of you evangelical Christians may not be surprised by this. But we’re Catholics. We took ourselves very seriously for 2000 years. Since Vatican II, we’re still learning to be ok when our spiritual emotions overflow.

The daily phone call from God became a thing. One little girl wrapped herself around my leg on day 3 and whispered “Do you think God will call us today?” On day 4, at the end of God’s call, I forgot to walk over and smack the “Reject” on the big foam and paper phone. Riley, an almost 1st grader who doesn’t miss a trick, shouted at me from 3 feet away “Miss Jen, you didn’t hang up the call! You are WASTING GOD’S DATA!!!”

And on the last morning, this:

Waiting on God to call.

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Jesus said “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus didn’t mean that we should be treated like children, although too many churches have interpreted it this way. He wanted us to believe like children, with a bone deep certainty that God is there and He is love.  He wants us to have that same selfish focus for Him that allows kindergartners to think God has nothing better to do on a Friday morning than call 70 kids at a VBS in Southern Oregon.

See God through the eyes of a child.

 

 

 

Big Things

 

 

Last week, I watched my 9 year old swim out to an anchored platform on a lake, climb up the mossy ladder and jump off again. By herself. Two days later, I took this picture. It was 9:30 pm and the water was pitch black, but their feet did not falter. They flew off the end of that dock like there wasn’t a giant lake monster lurking just below the surface. Then they taunted the monster by swimming out another 50 feet and diving down to see how deep it was. Their laughter echoed across the lake.

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These kids. They’re not scared of monsters. They’re going to be alright.

Which is why I am going back to work.

You can imagine the amount of prayer that has gone into this. Staying home with my kids has been the greatest gift of my marriage. I feel so blessed and grateful to my husband for making these 5 years happen.

But I always knew this was a season. My babies aren’t babies anymore. They jump off docks into dark water with complete confidence.  We’ve given them a solid foundation of me. Now they need to learn about we. How a family is a team and works together to get things done. How this mama is more than laundry and dishes and coffee dates. I have loved that life. I have seen the bounty and goodness of that life.

But it’s time to move on. Jump into the dark waters. Dive down and see how deep it is.

I’m ready.

To the Cougar at the Pool


Let me get this straight.

You really thought you were going to bring your perfectly make-up’d, perfectly coiffed, cougar self to the club on a holiday to lounge in the pool, flirt with the lifeguards and keep your hair dry?

Lady, you had one too many organic agave margaritas. There is a reason the rest of us are wearing ball caps. We all have salon hair. We all have dreams of keeping it safe.

It’s a pool full of water and kids though. The hats are really only a gesture, so that we can tell our stylists without sinning that yes we did take steps to protect the weave.

When you waded in with your drink in your hand, what did you think was going to happen? This isn’t Vegas. There were four babies in swim diapers. Water in your hair was the least of your concerns.

But no. You huffed and puffed in annoyance. You dropped an f-bomb or two. Most of the ball-capped mamas rolled their eyes at your expecting to stay dry in a pool and shooed their kids away from you.

It says something about you–and it’s not nice–that you are willing to be rude to kids, counting on the fact that their moms won’t confront you.

It must have surprised you to learn that sometimes, a ball-capped mama with her third vodka-poolwater-tonic in hand will witness you giving her kid and his friend the business along the lines of “You need to stop splashing. I already told you to stop. I’m not going to tell you again.”

She will get up from her seat at the table and grab a water cannon. It’s not hers but that doesn’t matter because she is going to war for all the mamas. You’ll see her coming and harden your face for a “chat”. She’s not coming for words. She’ll walk down the stairs into the pool next to you and load that cannon. Then she will hold it in the air like the freaking Terminator and say “What are you going to do, Gino?”

You won’t know–how could you–that this is a time honored challenge in her family. You’ll look confused as you wonder who she’s talking to. It’s hard to tell through her sunglasses under her hat brim.  Maybe Gino is that big guy across the pool laughing out loud. She waits for an answer. You’ll decide that your hair is not worth the mystery. You’ll get out of the pool.

Good call. Gather your things and leave with all the dignity you can muster. And next time remember: family-friendly pools come with a 99% chance of wet hair.

So bring a cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Darkness Into Light

It’s true that when it rains, it pours.

Or maybe in the midst of great loss, when we are at our most raw and vulnerable, we feel things with greater clarity but less coping skills.

I don’t know.

But I can tell you that in this month of sorrow, life has gone on. Annie graduated Pre-K, which means come the Fall, I’ll have three kids in all day school, three kids doing homework, three kids playing sports.

I made a major job decision that requires 150 hours of licensing.

And two weeks from now, I am in charge of Vacation Bible School, a function of my asking the director of ministries at our church “Hey, why don’t we have VBS?”

“No one to run it, ” she said. Then she crossed her arms, raised an eyebrow, and waited.

That’s worth a reflection. Months and months ago, God told me to say yes to VBS, even though he knew that at this very moment, my heart would be broken. I am on the lookout for why. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and God will do the rest.

Which leads me to this post.

This is our third Spring in Oregon, the place we believe we were called to move. The previous two Springs have been pretty and worthy of note.

But this Spring? This particular Spring that has been so, so hard?

This Spring has been MAGNIFICENT.

The sound of the wind in the leaves outside the kitchen window.  The tulips and hyacinth that surprised us in April. The tree that leaved into a giant sentinel in the backyard.

The lemon balm that sprouted in the garden area, good for stress and anxiety.

The green hills and full creeks. Fields full of calves and lambs. Poppies. Dogwood. And sweet Mother, the roses.

Can I tell you how Sue loved her roses?

I didn’t even realize how much I was relying on the nature around me to soothe my heart until Saturday, when I was sitting at the winery five minutes from my house and this view brought me to tears.

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And then I thought about how many times in the last few weeks, Gabe has said “Mom, it is so pretty here.” Or Annie has picked some lemon balm and walked around the house, breathing it in. How the girls headed out to the backyard with their friend Sarah to cut fresh bouquets of roses for our families.

All of those things bringing simple and pure joy.

This Spring has sheltered and fed and lightened us, a bountiful grace for which I am thankful.

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This was filtered using Prisma, which is why it looks like a painting instead of a picture

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You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. 

Psalm 18:28

 

Sorrowing

 

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My second mom died. Her name was Sue. I introduced her to you once.

She died on Mother’s Day, with her son by her side. It was sudden and shocking and we are bereft.

I feel like a rat trapped in a maze. Life needs to be lived, so I get up in the mornings and I live it on that very specific plane of existence where laundry gets done and kids get picked up and dinner gets cooked. But then I’ll turn a corner and bam. I hit the wall of her absence. And it hurts.

Two days ago, it was when Annie got her haircut and I started to send the picture to Sue, who is her godmother.

Today, it was five seconds ago when I typed that sentence and used the word “is”.

I remember this from when my grandparents died in the car accident. Hitting the wall of grief. I know that as time passes, the walls get padded, and hurt less. And that one day, they won’t hurt when I hit them. They’ll send a cascade of love and gratitude over my heart, that I knew her and loved her and was loved by her.

But not yet.

The walk through grief is just like any other journey. No way out but through. And something else: the amount of pain in the hole she left in my heart is directly proportional to the amount of light she was in our lives, and will be again, once we get past this part.

In the meantime, we do the sacred work of sorrowing.

The Bustle in A House

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –
                                                                                                      Emily Dickinson

 

 

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