Monday, January 9, 2012

At a 63-Degree Angle

My 7-year old has a loose tooth. Her top middle tooth on the right - well, it's projecting at a 63 degree angle. It's not all that loose really. It wiggles and it twists slightly but it will not push back very far. It gets stopped. I assume by the permanent tooth that's bullying it's way through.

I feel like that loose tooth sometimes while the speeding passage of time is that big, bossy permanent tooth. I want to cling to the child-days, the little girl ways. I want more pink and princess. More cuddles and snuggles. 

But time, it keeps on a-movin'.

My sweet girl is maturing into a young lady. She's a little less interested in tea parties. And yet, she still loves dress-up and make believe. Every once and a while she still needs Mommy to rock her and her Daddy's snuggles. 

But I see it. The moving of time. The maturing of a little one into an older one. And I find myself, in futility, trying to freeze time's rhythm. Like that protruding, stubborn baby tooth that's just not quite ready to come out.

I know one day my daughter will have all her permanent teeth and her former set will be but a memory. Until that time, I will let hanging teeth hang...and try to enjoy every minute of it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Frustration with Obituaries

I read an obituary this morning and found myself annoyed. frustrated. irritated. sad.

This woman, not even completing 6 decades of living, was so dear and loved. She left behind people who love and miss her deeply. People who are different because she lived and breathed and invested.

And I read her obituary filled with words that spelled out facts about her life. Like a middle school biography report. 

Isn't this how it usually is when you open the paper and see pictures of the deceased staring back? They are surrounded by words that relay facts. 

Where they lived. Where they died. Where they were born. The year they graduated high school. Their major in college. Their occupation(s). Their previous employers. Maybe some hobbies or interests. Family left behind.

Is that it? Is that what a life is reduced to? Is this what we choose to say of someone who has died? For most of us, this will be the last (and maybe first) piece of prose published about us. And this is it? That he likes to travel? Or she graduated in Wisconsin? That he retired from General Motors?

For 35 years I have learned and am attempting to unlearn this all-powerful lie...that my value is based on my performance. That what I produce defines my worth. 

I have heard the voices shouting that more is better...more letters behind my name...more achievements on my resume. I have succumb to the noise of society shouting success is about accolades and accumulation of wealth. This world we live in weighs one's importance upon that which can be produced, accomplished, performed.

And when I turn to the obituaries, the final words printed of someone keep feeding that lie..that a life is summed up by a list of information and achievements.

So, forgive me if this sounds like a soapbox rant. Or don't. But there is something on my mind. A realization that frustrates the heart of this recovering "over-achieving, people-pleasing, live-by-everybody-else's expectations" person.

What I realize is I don't want an obituary that talks only of the cold hard facts of my life. I don't want my photo from better days printed next to information one could look on Wikipedia if I was actually well-known.

When you bring my life to a boil and then leave it to simmer, I want to find that what is left has very little to do with facts that can be defined with numbers. I want life-filled words next to a picture of a person whose body is now lifeless.

  • I want rich, deep, soul-defining words there. 
  • Words that speak of my character. 
  • Words that help paint a picture of what I lived my life for.
  • Words that leave someone wishing they had known me, instead of words that tie up a messy, beautiful life with a tidy bow of facts and figures.                                                           
  • I want words emotive. 
  • Words that speak honestly. 
  • The good. The bad. The ugly. 
  • I want words that try to communicate the hole left because I am not there anymore. 
  • I want to know my life counted...not in years, but in love and hope and peace. 
  • I want words that prove my life's metric had very little to do with what society deems success. 
  • I want words that sum up my life in the hard-to-measure kinds of categories. 
  • I want words that move others and share what moved me.

I don't mean to imply that times and places are insignificant. Within the fact of where I graduated high school are lives of others that I influenced and influenced me. It's not insignificant, but the fact of when and where I graduate is meaningless unless the impact is known of being in that time and place.

We get it backwards. We think the facts tell the story. They don't. Just like I don't really communicate much to my husband by relaying the moment by moment details of what occurred in my day. Until I fill in the gaps - how those events shaped me, changed me, challenged me - they are just details, just a lifeless list of daily workings.

My goal is not to turn this into some cheesy, trite attempt to get someone to think about what they want people to say after they are gone. That's a valid conversation to have with yourself, but not here. My goal is to ask how well we honor the lives of those we love by choosing to keep writing obituaries the way we are used to seeing them.

What if an obituary truly communicated and didn't just report about a life? What if we really told the story? What if, knowing that column space in the newspaper is costly, we chose to use life-full words where dates and places used to be?

What if...

Nicole C.
belonged to Jesus. wife. mother. people-pleaser. sensitive. loyal. struggled with life. over-achiever. listener. talked too much. friend. faithful. creative. couldn't laugh at herself. passionate. believed in the value of others. sought peace. pursued shalom. withdrew when hurt. book lover who didn't read much. auditory learner. afraid of failure. loved to prepare and preach sermons. met God in nature. opinionated. indecisive. inconsistent journal keeper who loved to write. loved the toes of children. wanted you to know Jesus more.

What if...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lost and Found

I grew up singing "Amazing Grace". It is a song dear to my heart and close to my memory. 

A few days ago, I was enjoying a "good day". One of those days where I felt strong and able. Not in a prideful kind-of-way, but in a competent, equipped kind-of-way. It felt good.  Really good. The last few years, navigating the murky waters of mothering three, has left me listless, spent, drained, unsure and defeated. But a few days ago, my heart-sun was shining and it felt good!

I remember thinking that I felt like my old self again. That phrase "old self" is simply my nomenclature for the expanse of time prior to my world unravelling. A time when I held my head higher with confidence. When my shoulders didn't slump from weariness. When I had no doubt I had a contribution to make to the world. When I looked into the face of a new day and met joy, not failure. That was my "old self". And the other day, I felt that.

Little by little, step by step, I have clung to the One who is certainty. To the One who is all Truth even when I was hearing the Lie. The Faith-weaver was leading me long through a wilderness time. A desert place. A dry and thirsty land of soul. I haven't always welcomed it. I have thrashed in revolt. I have screamed in misery. I have crumpled in despair. And yet, the Faithful One has triumphed. He has not let me go. And I have not run too far from His reach. He enabled me to set my mind firmly on what little I knew was True when my heart-legs were buckling beneath.

And then I remembered this phrase I've used before...I am finding myself again. Yes, indeed, I am finding myself again. Pieces of a life I had before. Pieces of a life still ahead for me. Pieces that lay dormant among a field of emotional landmines. Pieces that scattered like shrapnel when the full weight of life accosted.

I am finding myself again.

And then I heard it. 
Old lyrics. New meaning.
Familiar words. Fresh insight...

"I once was lost but now I'm found".

Of course! Of course. Amazing Grace indeed!
This grace that extends not only for the lost one who has not yet responded to Shepherd of Souls but this is a grace that extends even to this rescued sheep that struggles. This sheep who has felt lost, whose footing has been unsure. The sheep who has been surviving, just getting through each day. 

I have been lost. 

And I am being found.

Little by little, in small, minute ways...The Shepherd is leading me. And His faithfulness had led to being found...little piece by little piece. Broken piece by broken piece. Healed piece by healed piece. Hope by hope.

It is amazing grace and it's sound is oh so sweet. 

Monday, January 2, 2012


Somewhere around 251.
That's how many books I want to read.
Books I figure will help me. challenge me. inspire me. change me. affirm me. 

So many and yet so little.
So little time. quiet. inclination. energy. want-to.

And I beat...beat...beat the drum that I should.
Should read. better myself. equip myself. up the ante.

I wear disappointment and think I'm missing out.
I take on guilt believing I'm not doing all I should.
Because, after all, there are books. good books.  
Ready to be read. Ready to be devoured.
And I am literarily starving it seems.

And then, sometimes, it occurs to me.
I'm intelligent. I'm prayerful (well, sometimes). 
And I have read other books at other times and learned a thing or two.
And so, maybe just maybe, I know a little more than I think I do.

Maybe those parenting books I want to read will simply tell me what I already know but don't consistently practice. Maybe those discipleship books will remind me of spiritual disciplines I've known and forsaken. Maybe those marriage books will encourage me to become re-acquainted with humility instead of fighting for my own way.


And maybe, when life allows, and the stars align or I just sit myself down and crack a binding, I will find words of wisdom waiting. 

Until then, I will try to remember that which I know to be true. 
I will be thankful there are others who make time to write things I want to read. 
I will keep adding to my list of books I want to read.
And I will try to not feel guilty that the list keeps growing.

nothing much really

Drinking and driving is a lethal combo.
So are new year's resolutions and my fear of failure.

Hence, my annual avoidance of writing down anything overly ambitious and labeling it a goal for the new year.

Really, why go there?

But every year, like a co-dependent, enabling mother of an addict, I scrounge my way into considering the possibilities of  the next 12 months.  And, but briefly, I contemplate what might be. What could be.

So, this year dawns and I, yet again, dip my toe in the waters of resolutions. And while I am not ready to dive in, maybe I will wade out a little and see if a wave catches me. Maybe. Or not. 

i can't decide...