Don’t let go…

I was going through some older photos and came across this one…and it reminded me…

It’s an ongoing process – this process of choosing to see the light.

Sometimes I find myself being piled beneath the layers of this life – the stress, the anxiety.

There will always be broken places, there will always be flaws, there will always be aches, always missing pieces.

But if I only look to those, I miss the beauty in front of me…the good, the joy, the hope, and the light that shines even in the darkest nights.

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through, don’t lose hope.

Do what you need to do to shift your focus, to find the light…and keep choosing it again and again…and no matter what, don’t let it go.

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Why I Write

I’ve often been asked why I write. As in why I write here. For you.

I suppose it’s one thing to write for yourself; about your life…about your struggles…about your fears…and lock it away in some private space. But it’s an entirely different thing to write online…to write for the entire world to see.

And so, for nearly 4 years, you’ve asked…and now, I’ll answer; it’s not pretty…it’s not romantic…and it’s not eloquent. But it is the truth.

I write because – when I was young – I used to have an imaginary friend. My imaginary friend had a quiet, invisible voice. And that voice made living in this world a lot easier for me. That voice came out in my childhood journaling…it anchored me – looking back – it saved me.

I often felt very alone as a little girl. As though I had somehow been dropped somewhere that I wasn’t meant to be.

I would watch everyone around me make friendships…make plans…make room to belong. And I never felt like one of them.

I had some beautiful people in my life…but something always felt different. Every connection always felt somewhat at arm’s length.

I was never someone’s safety net. I was never really someone’s best friend. I was never someone’s first choice. Even if they were mine.

And loneliness became a very real thing for me.

If we’re being super honest here…this early feeling of disconnect left me with an insecurity that looks a little something like this…

There is a constant underlying belief within me that I care more about others than they do about me.

I feel like the person who is easy to forget about.

The person who is easy to walk away from.

The person who can lift out of other people’s lives without them even noticing.

And for a long time, it made something inside of me physically hurt. It brought a pain that never really went away. It haunted every friendship that I had. But with age and with God, I learned to become more at ease with my sense of separateness.

A knowing began to fill my soul that I was never really alone at all…and most of the time, I felt okay.

Until I wasn’t okay.

Until the days when I would remember that I’ve never been in someone’s wedding party. Or that I’m not the friend that someone calls when something exciting happens to them. Or that I’ll never be a collection of inside jokes from a lifetime of growing up together.

It’s in those times when the aching spaces would feel very deep and very hollow.

But it’s also been in those times that I’ve come to realize that – for some of us – relationships can be a very polarizing experience.

We crave it and we fear it.

We are healed by it and we are destroyed by it.

We need it and we resist it.

And somewhere in the middle, lies that innate desire we possess to be tethered to solid ground.

But, when I was a little girl…I didn’t know how to sit through that discomfort. I didn’t know how to understand my place in this world. I didn’t know that – even in isolation – we could find strength together.

So, I created someone who did.

That someone had a quiet, invisible voice and was the embodiment of two words that made me feel a lot less alone…

“Me too”

And that’s often all it took. The simple knowledge that I wasn’t standing in the shadows by myself.

And because of this…I write. Here. In this space. For you.

I write because of the air that lingers between us.

I write because of the truth that lives in that space where one of us ends and the other begins.

I write because in our own unique way…we’re all connected.

I write because I believe these are two of the most powerful words in the English language. Two words that blow over us and wrap us in the comfort of all our common threads. Two words that can reach down into the darkness and pull us all from the wreckage.

But in order for those words to exist…someone needs to blink first.

And so I write.

I write because I have come to believe that sometimes – we all need an invisible, quiet voice to share the most beautiful of whispers…

“Me too”.

Together

Sometimes I sit here…staring at this screen…and I just don’t know what to say. Because sometimes, it’s just not easy. Sometimes, what you want to say and what you feel just aren’t on the same frequency. Sometimes, what pours out of your heart doesn’t always pour out onto paper.

And then fear. Vulnerability.

To me, fear always felt like a hostage situation. As though I was somehow handcuffed to circumstances I couldn’t break away from. And all the while, I’d forget that I also possessed the key to those very same handcuffs.

I was both the hostage and the one holding myself captive.

There’s something incredibly overwhelming about being brought to your knees in pure gratitude. About having your vulnerability bring people together. About being a part of something so much bigger than your self.

There is something incredibly overwhelming about being seen. For all that you are. All that you were. And all that you hope to be.

When I look at it, I am reminded of a fundamental truth…a truth that I nearly let pass me by in my river of sadness. I am reminded that while our own walk with God is just that…our own…our walk through life was never meant to be taken alone.

Because that’s what this life is really about. Crying together. Laughing together. Living together. Reaching out to the heavens…together.

My dear autism and special needs parents

My dear autism and special needs parents:

On the days you feel your worst,

remember that you are beautiful

On the days you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, know that you are brilliant

On the days you feel exhausted and can’t go any further, look back and see how far you’ve come

On the days you feel you can’t handle another battle,

look at your scars and be proud of the ones you’ve won

On the days you feel alone, know that you never are…

Even if you don’t think you can push through, you can – one step, one breath (one coffee, one set of eye pads) at a time💙

Sleep is so often something we don’t get as autism parents. Our kiddos can have a particularly challenging time falling or staying asleep.

For a while our challenge was the staying asleep. Now it’s BOTH falling asleep and staying asleep.

I often wonder how long it takes before the human body can’t take anymore…

I wonder how long I can function on such little sleep.

I wonder how my child can have so.much.energy. without having slept.

And then from somewhere, the strength keeps coming.

Moment by moment, breath by breath, I hold on to hope.

Hope turns the impossible into possible…and sometimes that’s all we need to get us through.

Hope for this moment, hope for this day. Hold on to hope my dear friends.

For The Mom Who No Longer Feels Beautiful

(Written June 2015)

The other night I was taking a shower and gazing down at my post baby body. I’ve always been hard on myself about my physical appearance; in fact, I have been mean in the way that a person can only be mean to herself.

For over a year I have loathed my body for basically rejecting my pregnancy and forcing the early delivery of my baby who already had to fight harder because of his heart. Instead of cataloging each of my flaws and all the ways I am not as fit, or toned, or as tight as I used to be, I was thinking about how I feel beautiful. There is another side of the post baby body, the beautiful side. And actually, that side has nothing to do with physical appearances.

When I see my son smile at me, I feel beautiful. When I see myself through his eyes, I’m pretty darn close to perfect.

Now does this mean I actually look particularly beautiful and perfect these days? No. In fact, some days I look like a certifiable hot mess. I still have all these crazy baby hairs growing where my normal hair used to be. Hair that has regrown is now being plucked out by little toddler hands and if I could ONLY keep my boobs IN my bra AND in my shirt…if you have a toddler you will understand. My child’s hands get stuck on and attract everything. I am a source of constant interest – picking, grabbing, pulling, yanking, poking – every part of me is fascinating. Despite them being the “tightest and toughest” my OB had seen, my stomach has not totally returned to what I now appreciate as my pre-baby abs. I have dark circles (hallelujah for Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Corrector!) that I never used to have and I swear – no, I KNOW – I am getting wrinkles. Maybe you can’t see them but I know they are there. But I can tell you this, when I am playing with Luke, and he is laughing at something I did or said, if you held a mirror up to me in that moment, I would fully expect to see my very best self staring back.

To him, my physical appearance is completely irrelevant. He doesn’t care what I wear, how soft or hard my body is – in fact, I imagine he likely prefers it soft. He doesn’t care if I wear makeup, fancy clothes or have my hair done or even if I’ve brushed my teeth before early morning kisses. He doesn’t care because I’m his person. When he cries, when he needs his mommy, it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing a stained t-shirt that hasn’t been washed in days or I’m decked out in an evening gown. Mom is mom whatever she looks like. I am comfort, I am reassurance. I am his constant.

There will probably come a day when my appearance will matter to him. One day when he is a teenager (or before) I’ll be the mom whose appearance either reinforces his status or threatens it. But for now, I’m his everything. I am perfect to him. And there is something about looking at a truly remarkable little person who you helped to create, that can make you feel darn beautiful. And when he looks at you with huge, soulful blue/green eyes and puts his arms out for a hug, well, frankly it makes me feel stunning. It’s one of the most fabulous things I’ve ever known. And my body – it was a home, and homes are meant to be lived in with nicked trim and scuffed walls, each with its own story to tell. I would rather be well-worn and scarred from love than be “perfect” any day.

Faith Renewed 

It’s Spring. And I’ve been caught in my own deep winter for far too long.

The leaves have long since fallen, nature unclenching her fist. And I am brought back to the resounding discomfort that often comes with letting go. The pain of watching something fall from a tightened grasp.

Winter came.

And for me, Winter stayed.

I knelt on the ground, picking up the crumbled and crisped leaf, its vibrant beauty lost from months of cold and snow and rain. And that’s when I realized it – I have been caught up in my own cold winter. Clenched fists, fighting, struggling to stay on that limb and not fall to the cold, barren ground beneath. Hanging on to the bud so tightly, I lost sight of what comes next…

Spring.

An incredible time of growth and renewal. A time when all that once was, turns into everything it can be. A time that could never exist if the trees were not willing to release everything in their due time.

Nature does not resist letting go because it’s afraid of the loss. Nature embraces letting go because it creates space for something new. Something beautiful. Nature does not endure in the name of grief – it endures in the name of possibility.

Sometimes we have to let go of the beauty we once created – a person, a place, a deeply rooted dream. We have to breathe like blowing wind, carrying remnants of seasons past, leaving the ache of absence behind.

We must believe in nature’s greatest act of surrender – trusting that after every cold winter, Spring always comes.

…And I haven’t done a great job of believing.

Trust me when I say, you don’t want to see me right now.

My eyes are tired and swollen from crying. My hair is an unruly mess. My skin is dry and cracked. I’m dehydrated and depleted from surviving on caffeine. My barista has seen more of me than my friends and my at-home coffee Ninja has been on overdrive.

Lately, I don’t even recognize myself.

All I can ever think of is my bed. Sleep. And yet it never comes. My mind racing – it’s like a penned horse, bucking and jerking for the longing of unbridled freedom and the serenity it brings. I’m stuck in the confining corral of my own mind.

I think of all I need to be, want to be, to everyone and for everyone. For myself…whoever that is these days.

I’ve spent months walking through my own personal desert as crisp and cracked as that fallen leaf, and feeling as though at any moment, I would crumble to dust, pieces of me scattered and lost forever. I’d never be whole again.

I never expected to find myself here and I’ve had a hard time finding my way out. I’m still not sure I have the right map…

The landscape was treacherous and the elements fierce. Sleepless nights, discouraging days. I was afraid, isolated, lost. I was angry. I was hurt. I’ve tripped and fallen so many times, the bruises evident for months. I’ve even broken pieces of myself along the way.

But I have not given up. Or rather, He didn’t give up…and I merely pressed forth with His strength.

Sometimes it’s hard to know who you are in the midst of what everyone else believes you to be, or NEEDS you to be.

But that’s one thing the desert is really good at – it lets the sand blow against your rough exterior until finally, you uncover what lies beneath. It forces you to sit with the really hard questions so that you can sit with the really honest answers.

Answers and honesty your heart has known and tried to bury beneath the facades of “I’m okay” “I can handle this”…I’m handling this…right…?

Because sometimes – we can’t. Sometimes our handle on life and what it’s dealt us is the very thing that breaks us…we can break by our own hands. We resist the help we desperately need. We spread ourselves too thin, too often.

We want to do it all and be it all. Not for martyrdom or accolades, but because it’s who we are – we are conquerors, we are survivors, we are lovers and healers and we want it all to be okay. And sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, it’s not that we no longer want the dream we’d once envisioned, it’s that we don’t know how to let it go and accept the new one.

We cling to the beauty of that leaf, and when it withers away, we are so consumed by the Winter – the loss – that we fail to see the transformation taking place before us. We want to get to the other side without feeling the harshness of Winter or the hot desert as it burns and wears us away.

We push it aside. We cover our ears. We hum a tune so loud we hope it drowns all the noise; sometimes, it drowns us before we can drown it. We punish ourselves repeatedly for what we cannot control.

And then, God reminds us of his faithfulness. He restores us.

We seldom become the people that we are all on our own. We become those people through love and encouragement along the way. We become those people because of those that open their arms and hearts to us when we are finding our way in the darkness. They may not have the map, but they have the compass. They don’t let us forget that Spring will come and with it, the promise – the gift – of renewed hope and faith.

Diagnosis Doesn’t Define Love

Here’s the thing – and it’s a big thing when the doctor says those words. When the details play over and over – and over again – in your mind for hours at time, days, weeks, years to come. Here is what I want you to know and believe with all of your heart. To lift yourself from the muddled depths of grief, sorrow, guilt and anger, you must first make room, and sit with it. Allow the tangled waves of despair to wash over you, in all of its rawness, embrace it.

And then, you stand.

A diagnosis explains and defines a lot of things, but never does it define love.

So love until you’re running dry, until your heart bursts. Love fully for every day with which you’ve been graced. Stand tall and rise with burning love ❤️