Just Keep Livin

In our modern age and particularly in our American culture we avoid death; we like to pretend we can somehow outwit the grim reaper – create a magical potion or a pill or a procedure that will enable us to live forever. We’ve stuffed death into quiet convenient corners: hospice, ICU rooms and nursing homes & then we fit the dying into our schedules as they prepare to leave this earth. Not a single one of us gets out of this grand and beautiful thing called life with breath in our lungs. Not a one.

This truth is deeply embedded in my soul after learning that death was imminent for my unborn baby who had suffered a stroke, and after lying beside my 33 year old husband as cancer ravaged his body; a strong man affectionately known as Superman to those closest to him – and Superman died – the suffering of this earth & the beauty of the afterlife so translucent as he communicated with angels & those who’ve gone before.

Death will tap each of us on the shoulder. Maybe we’ll feel the tap, tap, tap from the devastating effects of cancer, or maybe an accident will bring life to a screeching halt, or possibly Covid will be the villain we’ve feared all along or perhaps we’ll be one of the lucky ones who passes away in our sleep – death by old age – but every single day we’re blessed with time, we also move one step closer to the clock striking midnight – with or without a magical potion. And the only way to outsmart death is to live: eating, drinking, folding laundry, sweeping floors & reading bedtime stories, because through movement, our choice to face another day, we honor the life still present in our lungs, and we honor our Creator, and we honor those who’ve already breathed their last.

Just keep livin

A Virus Manifesto – What this hot mess may be telling us about ourselves.

This Halloween picture we took a few years ago feels more & more like reality lately. The end of the world, every man for himself, protect you and yours, Armageddon.

Ryan & I thrive off a “live off the land” ideology – it makes us a bit giddy – making bread & soap & homemade wine & growing food. It’s why we lived in rural TN for 6 years. But – there is an unsettling fear when this lifestyle is forced upon us by the threat of a virus. Maybe the fear has been manufactured by the media or perhaps by our internal desire to survive at all cost but what I’ve found interesting is this – along with the fear is a bubbling of anticipation.

I’ve tentatively posed this question to a few people – barely whispering

“Do you feel it too? The tingle of expectancy?”

Afraid that maybe I was the only one who felt the silver lining, but I wasn’t. There was agreement – yes, there is a sliver of anticipation attached to the anxiety and fear.

And why? What are these emotions telling us?

I believe these feelings are screaming out our desperation. Desperate to return to the basics. Desperate for our lives to have meaning; desperate to defend our loved ones in the face of danger; to act valiently & courageously & have someone come through for us – that’s why books like The Road and Grapes of Wrath are world wide best sellers and movies like Armageddon and End of Days sell out at the box office and The Walking Dead is on its 10th season – we are achingly desperate to have something replace the never ending scrolling & online shopping & google searches & accumulating & acquiring & rushing, and, and, and…. & we detest our habits, but our addictions hold us firmly tethered to their poison & now we see this world wide catastrophe – everything everywhere shutting down & we’re being forced into our homes with our loved ones – like cattle forced to the feed lot – & we see it as an opportunity, a glimpse, of maybe stering our lives back on track & that’s exciting.

We are so ready to defend our children against illness rather than against online bullies and pornography which seems like a battle we can not win. We are so ready to have meaningful conversations with our teenagers because we’re actually home for more than 5 minutes. We’re so ready to protect our loved ones within the safe confines of home & we’re so ready to make meals together & gather for family games & educate our children & kick the ball on the front lawn. We’re so ready to have time again.

Our hearts are screaming to slow down, but we have no idea how to make it happen and this – THIS may be our ticket out of the craziness we call life.

Go home.
Exhale.
Stop scrolling.

Practice gratefulness & contentedness & patience & self control – manna for the moment – values buried in the madness of modern life. Be still & silent. Teach your children these long lost arts: reading & baking & looking one another in the eyes as we speak.

Do what matters. Be in life fully with those you love.

Whether this madness pans out to Armageddon or fizzles in a few weeks, let’s examine our lives. The busyness, the constant stress, the depression. What is our heart aching for in these troubled times. Family? Peace? Joy? Follow that thread as we collectively hunker down. Not detracting from the hardships many are enduring but perhaps these might be self induced & aren’t really serving us to begin with.

Myself included.

Just keep livin

A Resurrection Only Occurs After A Death.

When Ryan and I met in 2010 we were in a season of death with the passing of our spouses, & this death included a burial of lifelong dreams and expectations.

The next few years we enjoyed a resurrection as our lives merged and birthed new realities: our marriage & family, a simple life in rural America, the birth of a book, a teaching career, a non profit & another child. Lots of growth & beauty.

We now find ourselves back in a season of decay; broken bodies over the past year: Ryan’s, mine, and Luke’s; broken ideals and dreams as we restructure & determine how we’ll proceed, lots of unanswered questions and concerns & the burial of systems that no longer serve us emotionally or spiritually, and we wait because we know. We know because we’ve been here before – this is familiar soil, deep & dark & rich soil where we’ve been planted and now we await our reemergence into the light.

We wait for our resurrection.

And we are confident that it will arrive in due time because that’s how life works.

Everything remains in motion; a continuous movement of death and resurrection, waves upon waves washing away the brokenness and moving what remains to the shore – natural disasters and coronavirus and despair not excluded – it’s all involved, collectively and individually; ashes to beauty and back to ashes again, circular movements until the maestro sweeps his baton for the last time & bows his head in holy reverence, that moment when his beloved creation leans into the finality & releases a labored breath – bursting through the birth canal into an everlasting resurrection.

And until then?

We just keep livin.

Gathering

The past couple of months there has been a lack of peace in my home, and I often thought, this mothering gig really isn’t my thing anymore. 4 teenagers, one with profound special needs, a pre teen, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, and a four year old who has no lack of confidence. It was a lot. Between health and job and hormonal issues which led to emotional issues and arguing and backtalk and snarkiness and bad attitudes and the older kids teaching the younger kids things they had no business knowing; the whole thing was a big honkin cup that overfloweth… or perhaps, it was more like a kitchen sink or the bathtub spilling over & it was causing significant damage. And we – the parents – should have immediately steered the ship back on course, but instead we bickered & bitched & complained as we held on for dear life to the raft boat the kids threw us when they made us walk the plank.

This sudden change in the family dynamic was attributed to a few circumstances: one, everyone was getting older and hormonal and becoming more opinionated & two, our move to an urban community where the kids had opportunities for activities, sleepovers, and jobs and the focus slowly shifted from the family unit – a strong unit we had in rural America where we relied heavily on each other because it was all we had – to individualized focus “You take care of you, and I’ll take care of me” & as long as the older crew took ownership of themselves: jobs, food, school, homework, play – we didn’t question much. We reasoned it was simply a stressful time in our life and “this too shall pass” and then…

Then, a few weeks ago, I said to my husband “I really miss family dinners.” You see, with the introduction of jobs and late nights and neighborhood kids to play with and everyone fending for themselves, and in turn each individual grabbing a bite to eat here and there, dinner time as a family had become almost obsolete – the rare exception in our family since our conception in 2011. For 8 years, we have religiously sat down at the dinner table and enjoyed a meal together – religiously until the move this past December. When Ryan and I married, we knew this tradition would provide a foundation to our success as a blended family – the art of gathering around a table for a home cooked meal and offering a blessing for not only the food we were about to eat but also for his faithfulness through our lives. We knew that the table would provide the foundation for community and connectedness in our newly blended home and the absence of the table would only leave a void and disconnect.

We recently reincorporated family dinner night. It looks a little different than it did in rural America, and we eat later – around 6 now because of play time with the neighborhood kids. We’ve made it a requirement for any child who is home that evening, and my oh my, what a difference we’ve seen already. Attitudes have changed and lightened as we laugh around the table partaking in fresh pasta and warm bread. I like my kids again & I think they might like me too as the focus has shifted, and we get to know each other on a heart level – on a real level- rather than just co-existing.

There is so much chatter in the world today about how lonely we all are, how depressed and isolated and longing for community, and this is not only true for ourselves as adults, but it’s desperately true for our kids. Our homes need to be safe places of respect & connections and what better way to foster these desperately needed essentials than around a table? What better way to encourage conversations? And what better way to show love than to invest our time, our most precious commodity, in them? Give it a try. You won’t regret it ❤

Just keep livin.