This Is Us

She Gets That.

People have been sending me quotes from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are for awhile now. An excerpt in an email here, a meme or two tagged on Instagram there. I received the book for Christmas and I wasn’t brave enough to open the spine. Until the book, sitting on my coffee table for weeks, began to whisper at me. I started reading slowly, in January, feeling the weight of such honest words in the pages.

Ann calls us to share in her practice of giving thanks. Much like what I do here, she was desperate to see the good in an aching world. Her list of 1000 things carried me through big questions and the small details in routines, laundry and mess. I’d digest a chapter each morning, while sipping my coffee and watching the sun rise.

Her beautiful prose made me stop, think, ache, and praise. Praise God for all of the good that is granted to us when we just lift our chins to the sun. Or the rain. Or the trauma lingering in our hearts. What happens when we say thank you to God for the experiences we have been given – no matter how painful.

Nothing new here. Not a new concept. Just a radical practice we must do every single day.

The weekend of my birthday I was so caught up in the message of chapter two that I brought the ingredients of communion to my birthday dinner.

On a snowy Sunday I wept into these pages, Ann’s words – Eucharisto – causing me to remember my dad delivering the communion message in front of congregations. Me sitting in the front pew as a five year old, legs dangling from the church bench scratching on old upholstery. The same girl turned teenager, new church, now cold metal chairs, same bread and grape juice. Same version of the last supper. Gospel of Luke. Same truth.

How long had it been since we broke bread and drank from the cup in remembrance of him? In remembrance of the promises that Jesus brings to our lives? Too long. I’m still wrestling with a Jesus who would choose to take good and holy things away from us. Away from me. Ann gets that.

Now grown woman, near thirty, sitting at the kitchen table dotted with turquoise plates. Same bread. Now wine. No father. He’s gone, but the memories remain, my voice picking up where he left off, taking over the verses with less command and familiarity than he. Practice, it will require. Still Luke.

I finished the book this week. And so, inspired again, I have been giving thanks.

Thanks for another birthday. For my health and my dreams of what I want to accomplish this year. For a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. Gulp. What a privilege.

Whispered thanks in the grocery store that we have an amazing bounty of food to choose from. Thanks for the resources in my bank account to fill a cart without concern.

Thanks for Cara Cara oranges and for lunch with my husband at an overflowing Whole Foods. For the holes made in Ciabatta bread. For thick slices of cheese.

Thanks for friends who come to watch a Super Bowl. For my mom who opened up her house to us. For buffalo chicken dip and celery crunches and puppies staring curiously at the t.v.

Thanks for the woman who wanted to get rid of her piano and the man who daringly saved the beautiful instrument in a warehouse for twenty years.  For the dusty tarp protecting the instrument. For the father-in-law and friends who take time out of their day to move the music into my home.

Thankful for boxed cake mix turning to batter, swirling red, mixing chocolate, cold golden egg yolks pooling in a bowl.

Thanks for white cream cheese frosting on knives licked clean.

Thanks for the brilliant creators of This is Us and the reminder that we, my family, that me, that I, have come so far in this process of grief. Thankful for healing and hope and tears.

New music. Old memories. Thanks to raw writers who inspire and breath life into the aching areas of my bones. For the chin tilt that prompts a smile. Thanks for the reminder and choice to delight in the magic of suds in my sink.

The keys, just waiting to be played.

IMG_5951

Thanks that we get to play on.  How beautiful.

 

Advertisements

To-Do or Ta-Da

Do you ever schedule time on your calendar to watch your favorite t.v. show? As of 1:16 pm on Saturday (now people, that’s right now) I’m two weeks behind on This is Us, a week behind on Grey’s Anatomy, and APPARENTLY a full season behind on Stranger Things.

I want to sit down and catch up on t.v. but then I think, well that’s lazy isn’t it when you’ve got a to-do list a mile long.

But what if watching This is Us is on my to-do list? Then I’m not lazy. Then I’m productive. So ha.

I saw on LinkedIn the other day that Gretchen Rubin was encouraging us to write “Ta-Da Lists” rather than “To-Do Lists.” Here’s her podcast. Well this is a fun idea, isn’t it? Let’s write down all the things we have accomplished. In all honestly, listening to the full podcast is on my “To-Do List” because podcasts are 40 minutes long. I like the shift in language though. I’d love to scream Ta-Da! I’ve gotten all of these things done.

For now, here is my to-do list:

IMG_5673

I’m sure you all have similar things on your lists, because they are reflections of lives being lived.  I know mindfulness is positive, but our culture tells us it is not sexy to have a piece of lined paper that just says “Be.” Being – that’s all I’m doing. Being. I can stay in that space for approximately three minutes before the urge to do kicks back in.

All that to say my brain feels full and the pursuit of beauty feels a little squelched by my pretty lined notebook paper with pencil notes in cascading order.

Maybe there is beauty in making lists, in sitting at a computer, in getting caught up.

Maybe there is beauty in adding fun, rest, and indulgence to the list.

Maybe there is beauty in watching This is Us.

Damn. It’s the best show on t.v. right now.

Maybe there is beauty in laughing at my own neurotic tendencies to push and push to get things done.

I watched a webinar at work this week for a new product they are pushing called Getting Things Done. A bajillion dollar industry to help people stay focused and organized. In it, the presenter told me that most people have a capacity to remember 7 (+ or – 2) things they have to accomplish at any one time. Any more than that threshold, and our brains dump it to the back.

That’s why I write things down. I’m sure though, since my list is longer than seven items, that I’m probably forgetting something.

In other news, I’m beginning to think about a creative project with grief. I’d like to connect with delightful illustrators who would be willing to help me bring my little grief gremlin idea to life. If you know of someone who is taking on new work, I’d like to chat with you! Bonus points if the artist, too, has experienced significant loss.

Landon Barbers' Grooming Kit.png

No, that sounds bad – I just think an artist will understand my spark a bit more if they’ve had grief gnaw at their heart too. Please send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com and I can explain my hope and vision for the project.

Now. Back to my list.

 

 

 

 

Thank You For Asking

Raise your hand if making new friends makes you nervous.

I, myself, am a big fan of the established clique. Shamelessly admitting that I’m much more comfortable with my few life long friends, the high school gang, my girls from college.

Yet, as you grow and (gulp) approach the end of your twenties, those life long friends aren’t always as accessible as they once were. Time and jobs and new spouses pull you in different directions.

The Girl Scouts have it right. Make new friends, but keep the old. It’s just easier to make friends when you were in that stinkin’ troop.

One of the bravest things Dylan and I did last year was join a community group at our church. Feeling raw and clinging the cross, we signed up for a weekly gathering of other twenty somethings – young marrieds – you know, the people I rolled my eyes at when I was twenty three.

But at twenty seven, I was feeling desperate for a new community, a place of belonging, and for hope. For socialization with people who were not so entrapped in our feelings of grief and scarcity.

Over the last year these couples have become our friends. We aren’t at a place of complete leaning – vulnerability takes time and trust and repetition. But we are on our way towards walking through life together – one Thursday night at a time.

This Friday, I was invited to one of the girl…. gal?…. woman’s? (we aren’t girls anymore right?) anyway I went over to one of my new friend’s homes and we spent hours talking about life, about our relationships, our jobs, our paths.

And in the middle of the conversation, in a quiet pause, one of the women asked, “Do you mind if I ask about your dad?”

Now these women have known my dad passed, and known that 2016 was brutal. Yet, we had never delved into anything more than surface questions. It is hard to go deep sitting in a co-ed group of twenty people.

“No, I do not mind.” I responded “It is the most comforting thing to share. Thank you for asking.”

And thus began a conversation that was a glimpse into my process, in the sharing of truth in loss, in taking baby steps towards a deeper friendship, and that was a beautiful thing.

A few months ago, I saw this picture. Some grief center created the meme.

FullSizeRender (3)

Thanks friends, for taking the time to learn more about me, for honoring that he did live. Thank you for asking.

Also, have you been watching This Is Us? OH MY GOSH get to it. I had been holding off for fear of the intensity the commercials portray. Then, one weekend, Dylan was away and I watched six episodes in a night. Even though we had been planning on watching the show together, I jumped right ahead. I’m all caught up and Dylan is upset with me.

The show is beautiful for thousands of reasons – it’s real, raw, true – the characters complex. And the way they depict grief and its after-effects as they meld in with the celebration of life just makes me feel so much less alone.

This show, it’s a tear jerker. I want to be friends with Randall and Kate and all of them.

SPOILER ALERT – don’t watch if you don’t want to know what is happening in the show.

This week marks the one-year anniversary without my dad. And people have been asking me, “What are you going to do to mark the day?”

We are going to take the steps to honor legacies. Slow down. Take a walk. Wear a hat. Have more fun. Definitely eat a cheese burger. Be like Randall as he takes a stand.

You can stop at 2:32.