Vocabulary lessons.

The 6th grader in this house has a new vocabulary list this first week back after Christmas break. She studied it last evening, and so this morning, on our pre-dawn drive across town to her school, I asked her about the new words, knowing she’ll have a vocabulary quiz at week’s end.

“Versatile,” she said. “Jostled.”

I smiled as she told me in her own words what these new-to-her words meant. And then she said, “Perspective.”

I stopped her cold, with “Oh Mads! That’s a great word! And a really important one!”

I could tell that 1) she thought I was little cray having gotten so excited about a word before the sun was even considering rising, and 2) she was not interested in my excitement in her still-adjusting-to-back-at-school fog.

So I (likely wisely) let it go. But I’ll come back to it with her one day.

Because perspective is a mighty, mighty thing.

Perspective is often so deeply personal. Whatever baggage you’ve got (and dear ones, we all have baggage–the trick is to keep it contained, preferably in a carry-on size rolling bag that can be discreetly put aside now and then and not a steamer trunk headed to Hogwarts…), whatever life experience it is you bring to the table, cannot help but shape how you see the world. I am convinced that so much of what we struggle with in our families, in our communities, in our churches, in our nation, hell, certainly in our world boils down to our inability (or flat-out refusal) to see a challenge or opportunity from the perspective of another.

Anyone who knows me well at all knows that my favorite movie of all time is The Breakfast Club. It was on network TV last night–which was the very best surprise at the end of a long day, even if it was severely edited for language. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve watched it, and I caught it about 20 minutes before my favorite scene–the one where the barriers finally start being torn down between the movie’s five main characters and they begin to discover how very alike they are–all of them bizarre and anxious and afraid and jacked-up by various forms of peer pressure. Predictable, I suppose, for a John Hughes teen-angst movie–but no less profound in its exploration of what it means to be caught between your inside and your outside, unable to see anyone else’s truth because you are trying so desperately to hold on to some image of normal to present to the world. Five vastly different perspectives just trying to hold on…when their hope really lies in discovering what makes them all not so different after all.

Perspective can get lost so easily. This happens to me when I am tired. Or hangry. Or (sweet Jesus!) a combination of the two.

When I am tired I lose two things that it generally serves me well to keep close and active–my sense of humor and my capacity for seeing the big picture. Suddenly everything is awful and hopeless and I can see no way forward and I completely shut down and lose any additional bandwidth for any sort of problem-solving or conflict resolution or compassionate response to whatever I’m losing it over.

I believe with everything I am that our lives are just varying degrees of small roles–even if juicy and plot-affecting–on a much grander stage of human history and being. That said, my first drama teacher taught me that no matter how small your part might be, you play it well. As well as you are able. Because you never know when you might get to steal a scene and change the course of things.

Big picture. Tiny but crucial roles to play.

I also believe with everything I am that laughter is an even better medicine that we know, and that it should be used liberally, as often as possible, even if it sometimes born from a dark place inside you. Those who know me best will tell you that my humor can be pretty damn dark at times…but what I know is that it has in many ways saved me.

Comedy and tragedy are so very closely linked. Another lesson I learned from drama class.

And…perspective is more easily shifted than we often realize. There are things I would have risen up in all sorts of righteous indignation about when I was 20-something and thought I knew everything. Now that I am 40-something and think I probably know nothing at all, I am finally and blessedly learning that there is so much that just does not matter. So much we get bunged about that really is not worth our energy. So much we nitpick and argue and whine about that isn’t the real issue at all. So much meddling and judging and assuming…when we’d be far better off to simply accept that not everyone rolls like we do and acknowledge that every day, every single other person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Perspective. It’s a good word.

And as I’ve said, a mighty thing. I’m glad my girl is learning it early–far earlier than her mama did, that’s for sure. I pray she keeps it…sees the perspective of others…allows her own to be malleable as she grows and learns and experiences this awful/beautiful/terrifying/gracious life.

Some days, holding on to some sense of what perspective brings may in fact save her.

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the possibility of beautiful and new…

(9am, NYE)

My whole life, I have felt as if the days before the new year, especially New Year’s Eve itself, were this long stretch of time-out-of-time. And this day the longest one, because at its close, something new happens. In a split second, one day it’s the last of what has been, and with the stroke of midnight, a whole new year is born.

Maybe that’s weird, but even this morning I feel it. As if tomorrow is forever away, and as if anything can happen in the next 15 hours.

In 15 hours I could drive to New York City. Or fly to Galway. Or repaint a room in my house. Or get to my college roommate’s house north of Atlanta in time for a glass of wine before dinner. Or binge the whole Defenders limited series on Netflix.

15 hours.

The truth is that it will be filled with normalcy. Laundry and household stuff this morning. Some shopping this afternoon. Dinner and a movie later. And eventually I’ll sleep and when I wake tomorrow morning…something new.

At least, the possibility of it.

And this is really true of any day–any moment. If you have not already learned that life can change–in ways both crushing and exhilarating–in the actual blink of an eye, well…one day you will. It’s in these moments that we learn what we’re really made of, of course, and where we learn the reality that nothing is guaranteed in this life and that, trite as Hallmark movies make the sentiment seem, every second really is precious and most sacred.

Just yesterday I said something I wish I had said differently–or not at all–to someone I love. I woke up at 5am thinking about it…and already determined to make it right today. Because this is what it is to be human. We mess up. We make mistakes tiny and huge. And then, if we’re lucky, we get to try again. We get to strive for something new.

This is what I know: that beautiful possibility exists. That there is always a way forward. That nothing is written in stone, except the Love that sustains us and holds us close always. That every day brings with it the opportunity to fall in love or get your heart broken. That our lives are over in a matter of seconds when compared to the age of the universe and yet…yet…we are capable of so much world-changing goodness in those seconds.

It isn’t that you have to be a hero, or rise to the name recognition of Ghandi or Pele or Oprah. It’s just about knowing that in us is more strength and resilience and ability than most of us ever realize, and sometimes the best use all that can be put to is simply living. Through the normalcy of laundry and dinner prep and paying bills to the golden moments of family laughter and hands held and the perfect glimpses of grace we sometimes get when we’re with the ones who know and love us best.

I started writing because I believe stories matter. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. And I believe our stories help us understand the world and our place in it. Claim yours as the old year fades away and a new year is ushered in. As Brene Brown says (paraphrased), it is the bravest thing we do–owning our story.

Look, I have no idea what’s on the horizon for you this new year, what this next chapter of your story holds. But I trust in the goodness of this world God has made, and so even if there is also heartache and pain and anger, I trust something new and surprising and good–really, really good–will come your way.

But even more, I hope you know how loved you are. How much you are capable of. How much you matter. How much less a world we would be without you.

Happy New Year, y’all. It’s a really, really jacked up time to be alive most days. But also beautiful and new things happen. And I, for one, don’t want to miss those.

December’s moon.

Even the word “December” rolls off my tongue with a hint of peace and blessing. For as long as I have memory, I have loved the dark and quiet days of this month, even as malls rage with shoppers and traffic is loud and angry and calendars are too full and expectations about family gatherings and gifts to buy crowd our hearts and make our brains hurt.

December 22, Louisville, KY

In the evenings, it seems, the madness fades, and the blanket of winter’s first days wrap themselves around the earth with more comfort than threat. More mercy than chaos. More invitation to rest and renew than keep up the frantic pace of a consumer-driven holiday season.

I write with a scratchy throat and congestion and a headache. With blood pressure a bit higher than normal as I transition from one professional setting to the next.With the grief I will always carry for my Curly Girl and her life’s losses an especial load during the holidays. With my heart aching for loved ones who are hurting, and for whom the next several days will make that hurt worse–the death of parents, the awfulness of “sharing” your children post-divorce, the fear of job loss, the threat of illness, the burden of difficult finances. None of this heaviness of life disappears just because it is the Christmas season (and has been since October if you let Hallmark or any department store define it for you).

And yet it is exactly this heaviness of life that Jesus came to share with us.

It is exactly our broken hearts that Jesus came to heal.

It exactly our jacked-up, messy, never-quite-what-we-planned lives that Jesus came to be part of.

Emmanuel. God-with-us.

There is very little in this life we can do that is more powerful than offering our presence to someone in need. No “fixing.” No “helping.” No “right words.” No “If you’d just do this…maybe this…” No “Just think positive.”

Just presence.

The mighty and restorative mercy of simply showing up, and saying, “I’m with you. You are not alone. And I will be here, next to you, in the quiet space of shared breathing, hands held, and the silent companionship that only those who know and love each other well can find comfort in. For as long as I am needed.”

December speaks this promise to me–in beautiful moons and soft gray skies and evenings that fall steadily and softly across the mantle of our busy days and beg us to rest. December asks us to remember how loved we are. To see past the hustle and bustle and into the very good news that God has not forgotten us after all and into our midst has come the truth about what it means to love and be loved.

If your heart is feeling the bruises of its broken places throbbing tender and with remembered ache these days, know that you are not alone. And know that I am praying for you. I am. Even as I pray for those I love best in these beautiful and brutal days.

And I will hold you in my heart as I sing (sometimes to myself and sometimes right out loud in the car) a song my beloved Indigo Girls wrote and performed that speaks more deeply to my soul than I could ever explain:

One tiny child can change the world
One shining light can show the way
Beyond these tears for what I’ve lost
There’s still my joy
There’s still my joy for Christmas day
There’s still my joy for Christmas day

Joy, my friends. And peace. And if you happen to be not quite sure that you are loved, that you are not alone, step outside as I did tonite, and take in the glory of that gorgeous December moon…bank on its constancy. Trust its presence. Let its warm light bathe you in the promise that all around is the goodness of the Love that created us. Pulsing. Present. Full of grace.

And remember that it is precisely for all that feels so broken and worn and hopeless that Jesus came to be among us.

Again and again and again.

Bare.

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan, 
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

–In The Bleak Midwinter

I have a Japanese maple tree in my front yard. I adore it. It’s classy. Well-sculpted. And it turns the most gorgeous shade of burnt red come late fall.

Right now it is rather bare, the beautiful red having turned ordinary winter brown, the leaves thinning out, and the gnarled trunk and twisted branches made plain as a result. I somehow love it in this stage, too. Perhaps because I know it tells me winter is coming. It hasn’t quite, to Kentucky–we’ve had some cold days. Even a short ice storm. But the true still, dead quiet of winter has yet to arrive. And despite how crazy everyone I know thinks I am for this, I crave it.

Mostly because I think it has something to teach us–the desolate landscape, the stark branches etched against a grey dusk, the air so cold it seems to silence the earth itself. 

I think it has something to teach us about pain. About what it means to be at our most vulnerable. About stripping down to the very basics of what makes us who we are so that we might remember what matters most. I think it has something to teach us about waiting. About living in the current state of dark stillness until something new and wondrous has space to make itself known, until the days lengthen once again into firefly twilights and we remember what the sun feels like beating down warm on our shoulders. 

Nothing forces the frenzy of our lives to slow down like a good, deep snow. I know, I know–I say this from a point of luxury–a warm home, plenty of resources–but perhaps that’s part of my point. I recognize my immense fortune more readily in winter. I’m free to revel in a snow day. Free to see the poetry in the bareness around me. Free to wonder what it is this season of dry, crunchy, iron-cold greyness might have to teach me about setting aside that which has been so that that which will be has room to spread its wings and usher in the promise that spring brings of all things new. 

I am, for the first time in a very long time, not responsible for anything Advent-related on a Sunday morning this year. It is a waiting time for me, too–time between jobs, time between the calendar years, time between what has been and what will be. And last night I heard the words to my most favorite Christmas song, being sung by a group of teenagers, and I felt a familiar lump rise in my throat and tears dimming the corners of my eyes. 

In the bleak midwinter…

It’s so easy to see the bleak. Around our world. In our own communities. In our own lives. It’s so easy to feel the stress of this time of year, the expectations to be merry, dammit, and find the perfect present and throw the most Pinterest-ready party closing in on us in ways we sometimes don’t even realize. 

But what I know is this. The road to Christmas…to Emmanuel, God-with-us, is long. And winding. And it never goes quite as we expected it to or prepared for it to. And I remembered this today when Facebook, that most blessing-and-curse of all social media, reminded me that two years ago today, my Curly Girl and I were making a gingerbread house. An expensive, delicious, edible one. Purchased at Whole Foods after three other stores failed to have what we were after. Real gingerbread. Real icing. Decadent candy. 

Her father had died just a few months prior, and I had spent most days wondering how in the world I would help her face Christmas. And I would have driven all over Kentucky that night, and blown my entire month’s grocery budget, to find the gingerbread house she was imagining, so determined I was to help her know even the tiniest bit of Christmas joy. 

Fast forward two years and here we are. Hearts still aching some days, but joy intact. By the blessed grace of a God I do not even begin to understand, but that I believe has been with us every single step of the way. Loving us, holding us safe, and helping her see, in myriad ways, that she will never, no matter what, be alone. 

Life will be, some days, some seasons, some years, so very bare, my friends. So dark. And hopeless. So twisted and unsure. 

But the certainty of Christmas is that God cares enough to come and be among us. To come and dwell in our hearts in the most unlikely of ways. To show up. To be present. Even when our hearts are breaking and we cannot find the strength to believe that one day it will be okay again. 

Even then. 

And always. 

Emmanuel. God-with-us. 

Until the barren landscape has once again sprung into life so beautifully new. 

Wait, my friends. Wait. It is coming. 

Risking Life

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

–The Risk of Birth, Christmas 1973, Madeleine L’ Engle

****

Madeleine L’ Engle’s work is so important to me, has been such a formative voice in my life, has filled my imagination and inspired my thought for so long (since at least age 9), that, as you may know if you have been following along here for a while, I named my daughter for her.

For me, the name Madeleine carries strength, creativity, grit, compassion and hope, the things I want most for my precious girl.

This poem of hers has been a go-to for me every Christmas season since my early twenties, a refuge and prayer both when the world feels too much, and when I’m so weary of caring about the heartache all around that I simply, “want to stop feeling,” as I said to one dear to me this last Sunday night.

Being alive can hurt so dreadfully.

I think this is exactly why God came to us as a baby. Vulnerable, capable of feeling pain and sorrow and heartbreak. I think God wanted us to know, “I get it. I know…I’ve created you and given you life and called you to live in relationship with each other and with the world around you and I’m so sorry–but some days, it’s all going to feel awful and you’re going to think I’ve made either a huge mistake or have a very sick sense of humor. Some days, you are all going to screw it up royally and I can’t stop it…but I promise you, I promise you I’ll be with you, even on those days, and the best thing I can offer you as a sign of that promise is by coming to you just as you are–a human being.”

I wonder sometimes if it was really God’s plan for Jesus’ life to end up as it did. Or if maybe God held out some hope, even until the very end, that we humans would behave better and straighten up and understand who Jesus really was and live our lives accordingly.

Of course Jesus was no ordinary human. I heard a wise woman I know say recently that we like to talk about Jesus’ humanness, but really, he wasn’t quite like us. She used the word “magical,” and while that isn’t necessarily a theological word, I knew what she was getting at–he was different. Extra. Like us but also not.

Anyway, my point is that there’s a risk involved, always, when you’re talking about human life. So much beauty and so much pain, both, possible.

I find myself craving the respite of beauty lately–whether its curled to watch Harry Potter for the millionth time, or laughing with my Curly Girl, or being held safe against the world for even just a moment, or hearing a piece of music so lovely it makes my soul ache, or exchanging air kisses with my almost-6-year-old niece over FaceTime, or seeing the moon rise full and glorious over my backyard…these things, they are small, but they are also everything and they keep me going.

In other places, for other men, women, and children, there is very little, if any, respite to be found. Every day it seems pain and anger erupt somewhere new, or the situations that have been on a slow burn finally boil over into chaos.

Along the southern border of our nation…. In the aisle-between-bitterly-divided-parties of what passes for “our” government these days…. In our families, struggling to survive job loss and divorce and a completely out-of-whack healthcare system…. Despite our fears of gun violence, human trafficking in our own backyards, and opioid addiction…. In our own hearts, as we struggle with how to celebrate Christmas in the midst of it all–wanting to fill our children’s stockings with their hearts’ desire, but also wanting to instill in them something of the mystery and power of Immanuel, God-come-to-be-with-us….

The great risk of having been born is the pain of living. Loss and betrayal and hate and death.

And, the great gift of being born is the joy of loving. Intimacy and connection and support and community. 

The paradox of blessing and curse made plain, the reality that joy and pain rarely exist except side by side proven true. 

And so my great prayer as the Christmas season begins is that grace will be made plain, even amid the dumpster fires of our lives and world.

That love will come pouring down, filling up the broken places of our lives and washing away enough wreckage that room will be made for God’s mercy to do its redemptive and healing work.

That we will take our cue from a Love willing to risk everything to help us see truth, and that we’ll risk loving, too, even when it seems the most lost of causes.

That we will find a way past the anger and hate and into life. No matter the risk. So that we might hear anew the promises that we are not alone. That we are loved.

And that God is with us. Among us. In us.

You do not have to be Wonder Woman. Or Superman.

Y’all know I’m a from-the-get (as in all 20 years) fan of SVU, right? And that my woman crush is forever and always Mariska Hargitay/Olivia Benson, right? And that if I ever actually meet her, I’m confident it will be so embarrassing because I’ll promptly burst into tears and be unable to speak, right?

Right. Ok, well, with that made clear…

Everything I love about her is really being explored in this 20th season of SVU. In particular how it is that she manages being a full-time single mom and the head of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit. And how she does both these things as her body ages.

An episode a couple weeks back really dove into this stuff, as Olivia’s son Noah gave her typical kid-who-has-been-through-a lot sass, and as she got winded chasing a perp down a busy city street and as a result did not catch him before he harmed someone else, and as she sits at her desk, alone, wondering who she is beyond mom and cop–as if those two things alone are not fierce forces of nature or “enough.”

Her faithful comrade Fin Tutuola comes in to check on her, and as she vents her fear and frustration he says to her, “Liv, nobody is expecting you to be Wonder Woman.”

She looks up at him, steels her face says, “I do.”

“I do.”

Oh Liv…preach, sister. 

This last week has been a lesson in “I actually cannot do everything and be everything to everyone at once,” for me. A lesson I need reminding of often. Yesterday, especially, I struggled with this. The expectation is all mine–no one else’s, but still, this innate desire I have always had to want to be present for, in any way I am able, the people I love best and whatever work it is I have been called to.

I am not Olivia Benson, but her desire to be both the best mom and the best professional she can be resonates with me deeply, and I’d even add, “also the best friend or partner.” And I know what it’s like to feel as if you’ve not measured up in one capacity or another, that sinking feeling that maybe you actually can’t do it all, and what that does to your sense of self.

Nobody expects me to be Wonder Woman.

But I do. 

Ok, two things here…

One, I am tempted to say, “Raise your hand, ladies, if you feel me here,” because I think women are especially susceptible to this “I must be all things to all people,” way of thinking. But I also know men–good, caring, amazing men–who struggle to feel as if they are holding up their end of things, as if they are managing it all–work, home, kids, bills, etc.

Second, it isn’t that my priorities (or yours) are not straight. I am fully committed, at the end of the day, to the truth that my daughter is the single most important job I have. But I have other important relationships too. And I career I really value and often feel has been pushed to the side. And writing I want to do. And home projects. And…and…and….

Y’all get it. I know you do. 

And so this morning, this is for you–all the tired, stressed, overworked, too busy, and feeling-less-than-amazing moms, dads, caregivers, twenty-somethings learning the art of the hustle, grandparents managing retirement and their grandchildren…whoever you are…if, right now, you feel like you have to be Wonder Woman (or Superman)… Hear. This. (as I repeat it firmly to myself):

You do not have to be Wonder Woman (but it’s fine to wear kicky red boots if you want, just because…).

You do not have to be Superman (although, again, if a cape helps…have at it).

No one is expecting this of you. I swear. 

You are YOU, and I bet you are probably doing your best. And if you are thinking to yourself, “I wish I had it all together like that one person (whoever that person is)…” let me let you in on a little secret…that person does not have it all together. I promise you. Something in their life is lacking attention.

This life, it is a delicate balance, a tricky dance we do to manage it all, and I have finally and blessedly learned that the cobwebs in my lampshades do not matter anywhere near as much as the relationships that give me life, and that keep me whole, and that I give the majority of my spare time to. I’m okay with the lampshades lacking attention as a result.

You do not have to be a superhero (even as their stories have a lot to teach us about how to be human). You do not need a giant house. Or the corner suite. Or a fancy vacation to an all-inclusive resort over the weekend just like those other people. Some days what you need is to know that it is okay if your best is simply putting one foot in front of the other, because forward movement is forward movement, even if it feels slow as those proverbial molasses.

Look, y’all, the desire to keep up, to fit in, to excel, to be on our way up somewhere (even if we don’t know where that somewhere is) is so strong. I get it. But what I also know is that I am not, in fact, Wonder Woman, or even Olivia Benson. What I know is that I am not perfect. And neither are you. And in our imperfection we all have this God-shaped hole in our hearts that longs more than anything to be loved and to belong.

And this is what matters most.

Be kind to yourself today. Take a deep breath. List five people/things/situations in your life you are grateful for and whisper a prayer of thanks for those people/things/situations. Hug someone you love. Eat something you really enjoy. Just…breathe. And remember that you are loved. And that you belong.

I promise, I’ll do all these things today, too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the kids sing…

Yesterday morning I attended a special service at a local school for Veterans Day. I did so to stand with and be present for a vet I care for deeply and of whom I am really proud. But, as one might suspect, it gave me space and time to reflect on other veterans I’ve known and cared for, including my own grandfathers’ World War II service and my cousin, currently serving in the Middle East. My heart swelled. My eyes welled with tears. Simply from gratitude and pride–and the sadness I also feel that any of them have had to go to war at all and what it has cost them.

An hour later, back home, and flipping through my phone, I found myself in tears again, spilling over this time, as I read about the Thousand Oaks shooting, especially as I read that the shooter had been identified as Marine. A veteran.

My heart simply could not handle the ugly dichotomy of the honor and gratitude I had just seen expressed that morning for veterans, and the utter heartbreak of what I was reading about another veteran.

Still, today, I am raw from it.

And this is only one way that the world has broken my heart this week.

One. Way.

I’m weary of such heartbreak. We all are. It’s obvious everywhere. We’re scared and sad and tired, and that gets manifested in myriad ways–some especially beautiful, like helpers and heroes doing what they do; and some especially harmful, like the way social media erupts into something nasty and dehumanizing and altogether painful when crises emerge.

It is completely pathetic that I faltered, just for a second, before walking into Kroger yesterday–not the same Kroger, but a mile from it, where a couple weeks back two shoppers were gunned down in a violent expression of hate.

It is completely pathetic that the doors to my daughter’s school stay locked–even during a production of the school musical when proud parents and families are streaming in–because the threat of other such violence is so real. I’m so grateful for the extreme safety precautions. And so horrified they have to be put in place to begin with.

I do not have time for such fear. I do not have room in my heart for such hate. And I do not want to hear another word about whose fault it all is.

I want it to stop. I want us to be the country I know we can be. I want peace and freedom and equality and justice and love and wholeness for every. single. one. of. us.

This was my frame of mind as I took my favorite budding actress to opening night of Disney’s Little Mermaid, Jr. last night.

Last night she played a sea creature, tonight she will play one of the lead roles–Flounder–and we’re bursting with excitement and stage nerves over it. I’m so thrilled for her…and yet…last night, my heart hurt so much I could barely sit still, could barely concentrate, as I finished my volunteer usher responsibilities and snuck in just as the curtain rose on the first scene.

I don’t remember much about the beginning–I was antsy, distracted.

But then…then…Under the Sea. Music cued. Brightly colored costumes lit up the stage. The student actors broke into smiles and gave themselves over the music, swaying and dancing. Sea creatures came pouring in through the side doors and the audience lit up at the novelty of the creatures sashaying and twirling down the aisles. I watched Curly Girl-turned-bright-pink-fish go spinning across part of the stage, her joy in doing it absolutely shining.

I was so taken by the beauty of this amateur production’s energy and fun that I even forgot my stewing irritation at the theater-goers using their phones to record the moment despite specific instructions not to do so (I’m kidding. Sort of. Okay, not really…).

I thought to myself–as I always do when I watch my girl and her peers do their thing–you know, when the kids sing, suddenly everything feels like it might one day be okay again.

When the kids sing, room for hope begins to carve itself out in my heart.

When the kids sing, it is possible to remember beauty. 

When the kids sing, it is impossible not to smile and be thankful. 

When the kids swing, my heart is at rest, even if just for a moment, and I can remember that all is not lost. 

Their singing does not make the ugly and painful go away–not by a long shot. But it does come up alongside the ugly and painful, even if quietly, and say, “But also this.”

But also this.

Because damn, the world is making it hard to hope.

But damn, they make it so easy.

We have to do better for them, y’all. We have to nurture and protect their precious hearts and minds, even as we let them grow and become.

My heart is still hurting today, this is true. But alongside the ache is reality of all that keeps me going in this life, all that beckons us to remember why life is so sacred. So beautiful. So worth it.

When the kids sing…they shine enough light that I suspect, if we’d let it, it could show us through the darkness.