How to be broken.

You hold everything in, believing the lies you had to tell yourself to stay quiet and silent for so long, so you could cope with the weight of your heaviness.

You carry it, mostly alone. You can let someone else in, one at a time, wrecklessly. And spray paint your story across all kinds of relationships in the hope that someone sees the entire thing so they can tell you what it really means.

You hold on to all their words about you. Turning them over until they become the recipe for your survival. You are thirsty. This is your living water.

Then you stop.

You might be sick. You might be weak. You might be running and fighting and surviving but never thriving. You are on borrowed time.

You know this. You can see your shadow and you’re terrified of her. She has been waiting for you, she wants you to come home to her.

You keep going. You aren’t giving up. Not now, not when you’ve worked this hard to be this afraid. These wounds are now your proof of life. You’ve come this far, no way in hell you’re turning this ship around.

But then, she breaks you. In the middle of all the noise, she gets louder. She’s come for you. It’s time.

You tear wide open, unzipping yourself from before; you sing her song of desperation and let her tell you what to do next. She demands the one thing you’ve been keeping secret. How you’ve been reading lines for this very moment, casting yourself as the understudy for years while no one was really paying attention:

She says … “Remember.”

And then you do.

Next

Over eight years ago we bought our Faithful House. I wrote about this on my blog … about how this house taught me about weary bones and being brought back from the brink of the edge. How I felt, driving aimlessly around our town looking for a home we could afford to purchase, that this home would hold something so essential, so completely life giving to our family that I could trust God. That what I had dreamed of, what I had heard in the whispers of my soul – I hadn’t made up. I hadn’t heard wrong.

This house was our Faithful House. God is faithful. These walls, this foundation, this fertile ground we grew up and out of – it bore so much fruit in our lives. Memories and being woven together as a family and sleepovers and friendships and the gift of hosting. We’ve shared this home with so many people, whom we love, this house knit us back together after the storm of life ravaged our hearts. This home held us together through life crises and helped me flip decades from 20’s to 30’s. This house was a dream maker, a hospice for our souls. And we have loved her so much.

In April of 2020 we made a list of the Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves for a new home in my journal. We very much wanted to buy an existing home that we could do some (not a ton of structural) work to. We wanted the same amount of yard, or more, and more room inside the home. The kids each got to give us their input and then we kind of laughed at each other and were like, what now?

I’ll tell you: months of looking. Seeing every home we thought might fit the bill, our rock star Realtor was always available. We started looking at land to build, because, as it turns out, we were very serious about moving. But we started to feel weary in the search. It’s definitely a sellers market, so homes we would look at inevitably had multiple offers within days. We were ready, but we just couldn’t justify any of them as the place we wanted to fight for.

I had to wrestle all kinds of demons about what it meant to find the house we wanted, if I was “allowed” to have a home like this or if we “deserved” it.

But now it’s time to move. So we sold this faithful house. In a whirlwind 29 hours from listing to signatures. The house we bought is another blank slate that we can’t wait to pour into.

Since I can remember, I’ve never pictured my life beyond the age of 36. That was just the number for me. My mom’s life changed dramatically for her at age 36 – and I think it just stuck with me. If I can make it to 36, I’ll have lived. We’ll be closing on our new home days away from my 37th birthday. God. He writes the most beautiful stories.

He let me do it all. He let me write life lists and cross off items as if I was the author of it. He let me have my babies, and He let me heal from the pain of my past. He let me have a beautiful marriage and a man who never saw anything but beauty in my mess. He let me go, and watched with wrapt interest in my love for this world as I came running back to Him, enamored with what I saw. What I had learned. He held me as I wept over loss and healed my broken pieces with compassion and understanding. He never told me I did it wrong, He never told me not to. He waited for me to walk – and then He went with me. EVERYWHERE. God. He writes the most beautiful stories.

This new home is the home my children with leave from. They’ll leave as adults, carrying their wounds, accomplishments, their tender hearts and their future hopes and dreams.

They’ll leave my nest and return to me a beautiful creature in flight.

Thats what this new home is.

It’s next.

March 17 // Coronavirus Quarantine Day 2

March 17, 2020

We got this. We can do this. Yesterday was … how do you say … hard. I think the vast amount of information I had been taking in finally caught up with me. That and coming to terms with the loss of privacy or alone time hit me hard yesterday. But today is a new day and already I’m feeling better.

March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020

Yesterday started like I’m sure every day will start for the foreseeable future: the kids were awake before me checking their email and getting a jump start on their studies for the day. Or pinteresting. It’s hard to tell. I made my coffee, did the dishes, sat down for a minute and then freaked out.

Aaron has been able to set up an at-home office here so he’s generally only a hundred feet away, in the tinyhouse in our backyard, and he was getting our daughter signed up for some online learning, among other things. Like I mentioned earlier: the vast amount of information I had, to this point, been digesting really hit me. Add to this the onslaught of new accounts to sign-in to, more online systems to learn and oversee and the general sense of overwhelm I started to feel: this is what broke me.

March 17, 2020

I politely asked for everything to please stop. As in, stop sending me invites to new things. I cannot with the amount of tasks at hand, give a shit about a family slack channel. Also, please leave me alone. We don’t have any carrots in the house and how am I supposed to make the lunch I planned without a carrot to chop?! WE NEED CARROTS.

I went there, guys. I went dark. Everything fell apart over a slack channel and carrots. There were actual tears. And then we made lunch (a new, different lunch plan) and the kids were getting along and I announced we would be LEAVING THE HOUSE TO FIND SOME NATURE FOR A WALK.

March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020

It. Was. Awesome. So we hiked Sanctuary Woods (with most of Holland) and driving away from the house in a car felt like rebelion. It was naughty and I wanted the chance to explain to everyone who saw us that we were just going to a park, away from people, to be outside.

After our hike, there was more school work to complete and then a lot of down time until dinner. I put my headphones on and disappeared for a while. I started drinking wine and feeling better and texting family and friends.

March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020

The kids learned how to play Jacks and we ended up watching old home movies for hours past their bedtime, which is relative at this point. They finally went upstairs and Aaron and I sat there staring at our phones with a mindless show as background noise. It was a day. And we got through it.

Coronavirus Quarantine Day 1

Quarantine day 1

Yesterday was the first day of my kids’ schools being canceled. We have one in the public school system (high school) and another in a private school (middle school). Our high schooler doesn’t have any instruction from school yet, school just … stopped. And our middle schooler has a school-issued laptop where emails stream in with instructions and google-classroom work and the engine keeps moving.

Quarantine day 1

I decided to pick up my camera and document the everyday moments of the quarantine. I’m immunocompromised as a type 1 diabetic and we’re staying on top of the information available. We had expected school to be canceled and in my 24 hours of prepping mentally for it, I had grand ideas of schedules and menus and regular exercise. We did go for a walk yesterday, I did make a bunch of food, as planned, but I spent a lot of time on my phone digesting new and ever-changing information. I listened to hours of podcasts with headphones on in the same room as my children while they did school work, called friends or read. We played a game, Aaron went to the office and recreated an office here at home. At one point, I took a shower.

Quarantine day 1

And then it snowed.

We watched a movie together before sending the kids to bed and all my anxious energy finally had a place to go: up and out of me. Suddenly I realized that I would have to repeat today all over again. And again. And again. I haven’t had any feelings of panic about this situation until last night. It sounds irrational when I write it, and selfish. And yet, here I am. In day 2 of some weird version of Ground Hogs Day.

The upsides are this: I’ve always wanted to try homeschooling my kids. At exactly these ages, which is weird and awesome and I will rock Home-Ec like no other. Personal Finance, Credit building, How to obtain a mortgage, buy a house, balance a checkbook. I’m here for it. We’ll plan a garden, bake bread, and dance in the living room.

I haven’t decided how yet but I want to use my huge picture window in the front of our house as some sort of message board. “Free bread” “We’re all in this together” or just opening the blinds and turning all the lights on when it’s dark outside and slow dancing. A moving picture for whoever needs one that we still get to be held, loved, wanted, needed and together.

Here’s to life

Today marks the 15th year since my dad died. He had lung cancer, diagnosed about 17 months before the cancer took his life. In those 17 months of knowing he was going to die, he really lived.

Number ONE!

And so did I. I got engaged just before his diagnosis, then married, and when he died, I was pregnant with our first child, a daughter. We had just found out she was a girl, it was one of the last lucid conversations I had with him. Told him I was having a baby girl, what we planned to name her (at the time, which isn’t her name now). He was in his hospital bed in the living room next to the windows and all this natural light was flooding the house. Everything was brighter those last few months. I, of course, didn’t live at home anymore, so I was visiting sitting on his bed next to him and we watched the ultrasound video together. We both cried. I knew the hardest ending of my life was coming and in the midst of it, the very best beginning was already on her way.

Four and half months after he died, I gave birth in the middle of the night. There was almost no light in the room. I wore my dad’s watch and my mom was in the room with us. She came out perfect and I later learned the cord was wrapped around her neck. In those moments I didn’t know how serious it was that she get out NOW, my doctors were patient and careful with me. Everyone in the room knew why it felt heavy … and then all of a sudden she cried. My mom was crying, Aaron was crying, my breath was taken away, she was here! She was here. She was finally here, with me.

Jessica meets Pappy

Those first few months and years are really blurry in love and pain. Grief is a weird salve, life is often a great distraction. But I can’t help but wonder if in those four and half months after he died and my daughter was still in the womb, did they know each other? I know how that sounds, and it’s ok. I’ve made peace with where my grief goes sometimes. But she’s always known who Pappy is. She has always known her grandpa. As a very little girl, she would have dreams about him. I used to think it was because we kept him alive for so long, in memory. We would talk about him and tell her stories and remember what it was like when he was with us. But then, 3 1/2 years later our son came and he did the same thing.

Some of the most important men in my life

Life hasn’t turned out how I thought it would when he was still walking the earth with us to listen to my hopes and dreams. In a lot of ways, it’s better, in other ways, it’s just different. New, undiscovered. Things I hadn’t even known I could hope or dream for are now my life and I credit most of that awareness to the time spent with him. To being a student of his life. Watching him love, and hunger for living.

He was well enough to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, with my birth-father. I had both of my dad’s flank me as I walked towards Aaron on a beautiful August afternoon.

Given away

364 days later he died.

That was 5,478 days ago.

I’ve missed him every single one.

But here’s to life: to learning how to live with no regrets, how to be generous in our love, time and efforts and to always picking up the check. To letting the people you love know, often, how much they mean to you. To chasing every dead end road we can find. To doing the weird thing, like packing it in to a motor home or camper for 6 weeks and traveling the country. Why? The answer is always, always: Why not?

Why not live this messy life wild? Why not capture each emotion on a mountain top? Why not take hundreds of photographs that maybe only ever take your own breath away, but make you remember what it’s like to be breathless? Why not say yes? Why not say no? Why not?

In the fifteen years of time passed since Wayne walked here with us – my grief rounded her edges, my writing found a rhythm, my heart softened towards love, and my regrets and mistakes that held me hostage have lost their teeth.

Now instead of being sad that he isn’t here, I am so, so thankful that he WAS at all. Whatever he was for me, I started to wonder what I was, we were, for him. And I have so much happiness in knowing that we were actually everything.

We sure were lucky to have him, but he left totally fulfilled. Maybe early, but ready.

And damn it, if there was ever a way to go. That’s it.

My dad and I