The Struggle is Real . . .

Writing this blog has become an outlet for me as I process the loss of my daughter. It carries the hope of not only transforming me but others as well. I enjoy the process of producing the blog. I find comfort here. So, I was surprised this week with how much I’ve struggled to write the blog.

In fact, I’ve spent countless hours searching for the “perfect” topic. I’ve scrapped drafts of two different blog posts. And, I’ve struggled.

Then it dawned on me. Sometimes, the struggle is real. Sometimes, we just have to give ourselves a little grace. Sometimes, we need to refocus. Sometimes, we need to re-center.

I’m really good at doling out advice. But, this week, all of that advice applies to me.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activities celebrating Brooke’s memory. Her birthday was June 12th. On the same day, Professional Women of St. Tammany awarded two scholarships in her memory. A few days later, the Southern Yacht Club held the second annual swim-a-thon in Brooke’s name.

I’m tired. Not the kind of tired that can be wiped away with a nap. Rather, the kind of tired that settles in your bones. Can you relate?

This time last year, I was reading A Case for Hope by Lee Strobel and journaling about the scriptures that he highlighted in the book. What follows is an excerpt from my journal in June of 2017 – just a couple of months after the accident:

A Case for Hope – Day 10:

“For I know well the plans that I have in mind for you – oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The “letter” (scroll) containing this verse was written by the prophet Jeremiah. The scroll was addressed to the elders of the people exiled in Babylon. The essence of the message is “don’t waste your time in exile.” Even while in exile, God continues to lay a foundation for prosperity, hope, and a future. These are His plans for us.

This chapter of Isaiah seems to confirm my belief that my focus must remain on hope. The trickier part is to move from trying to focus one’s mind on hope/ a future – to living with hope. Truly living.

When does the day come when it no longer feels like living in a shell? When will the shadow be cast out? As I write that question it dawns on me that shadows are only seen in the light. On cloudy days, the shadow can’t be seen.

On the harder – cloudy days – the pain settles in a like a misty fog. On “sunny” days when the sun peeks out from the clouds, the shadow is still there. When I catch a glimpse of it, the shadow overtakes everything.”

Fast forward back to the future, what have I learned in the past year?

  • God’s plan for us is one of hope.
  • When the plan results in loss, hurt, or despair, it’s not God’s plan.
  • Hope doesn’t mean that all will be made (my version of) right on my timeline.
  • Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Hope is the firm foundation that paves the road between this life and eternity.
  • Hope is what assures me that not all of our days will be misty and blue.
  • Hope is the thing that destroys death’s power.
  • Hope is the guarantee that one day He will wipe away every tear.
  • Hope is the promise that eternity will overshadow every hurt of this world.
  • Hope doesn’t disappear on cloudy days.
  • Hope is the motivation to pick up the pieces and to try again.
  • Hope is the place where we can seek solace when the struggle is real.

SDG

Summer “Daze”

In the world of family law, summer is a battleground. Parents jockey for position in an attempt to manipulate visitation schedules so that they’d get more time than the other parent. Usually, they just wanted that unfettered time of lazy days devoid of the school calendar. School’s out. No homework. No responsibility. Just fun as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes, parents would be more particular about crafting a schedule, homing in on the “forgotten” holidays – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day. And, in South Louisiana where summer typically stretches deep into October, parents often went to war over “Parish Fair” Day – that extra Friday in October when the world of Washington Parish revolves around the fair. (Other parts might recognize this as the “county fair.”)

For those dealing with the loss of a loved one, summer can be a battleground. Even when the sky is cloudless and blue in the shade of a memory, shadows loom with the intensity of storm clouds. Read more

Brooke Was Here . . .

In a few days, it will be June 12th. Fans of red roses, peanut butter cookies, and beef jerky may be looking forward to the day as they all share June 12th as National [fill in the blank] Day. I’m betting that even the most avid jerky fan is surprised to learn of the upcoming National Jerky Day. For the rest of you, it’s probably just another day on the calendar. For a handful of us, it marks another bittersweet reminder that Brooke was here.

How do we celebrate without the guest of honor? Who makes the wish when there is no one to blow out the candles? When our loved ones are no longer here, we long to celebrate their memory and we wish that more people had been given a chance to meet them in person. Read more

Here Comes the Rain Again . . .

Raise your hand if you played in the rain as a kid? We did – all the time. In fact, my parents encouraged it. Can’t say whether it was the allure of not having to bother with bath time at the end of the day or the fact that it was cheaper than a “slip-n-slide” that made kicking us out the door so appealing. Or, maybe, it’s just the way they did things back then.

The last time that I recall voluntarily heading out into the rain was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. It was one of those soft, southern rains that sprout up on summer afternoons. No pomp and circumstance of thunder and lightning. No cold front to steal the warm air. I can’t recall what we talked about, but I can remember strolling around the neighborhood and splashing through puddles with my daddy.

Despite it’s questionable PR campaign, I love the sights, sounds, and smells of summer storms. The flash of lightning against an inky sky. A crack of thunder just a little louder than anticipated. Read more

We Belong Among the Wildflowers

Ah, Spring . . . that expectant time of year when everything comes to life – except when it doesn’t. I find myself living in Minnesota this spring, and winter somewhat overstayed her welcome, bleeding into that time earmarked for new life. And, it seems that Spring is melting into what Minnesotans call Summer. (If you are from the South, it’s not what you are thinking.)

Coming from Louisiana, I’ve really only met Spring in passing. She is more the fodder of poets and fantasy than reality in my own experience. The South has two seasons – hot and hotter. If you are lucky, you’ll find a piece of the South that experiences two extreme seasons – Winter and Summer. Both of which have the uncanny ability to show up the same calendar day.

Despite Spring’s marvelous PR campaign with baby bunnies and little lambs, Spring has lived up. In fact, we could skip May all together and most years that wouldn’t bother me too terribly much. May holds an awful lot of pain. Read more

Why are we hiding?

Most of you reading this will likely think of Halloween at the mention of masks, but where I’m from . . . “throw me something, Mistah.” (Or “Sistah,”) rules the day. For those unfamiliar with Mardi Gras, it is truly the greatest party on earth. From January 6th until Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) each year, the streets of New Orleans and the surrounding communities host parades and street parties. Families gather in the same spot along a parade route where they’ve gathered for years. Much fried chicken, po-boys, king cake, and beer is consumed.

The parades aren’t your typical ones where beauty queens wave from an open convertible. Yes, there will be a “royal court” on display, but there’s so much more. The bands are better. The floats come in elaborate (and often satirical) themes.

The riders are in costume. Masks are an essential part of their costumes often looking much like those cheap, plastic masks that are sold with children’s Halloween costumes. The masks add to the mystery of the parade so much so that most local ordinances require riders to be masked while on the floats. Parade-goers often join in the fun with their own extravagant costumes and masks.

Traditionally, masks were worn by during Mardi Gras to allow revelers to escape social judgment. No matter your social status – all are equal behind the mask. Our modern-day “masks” serve the same purpose. Not the masks worn by revelers; rather the ones that we don each morning. Those thin veneers that we never leave home without. Those facades that help us face the world. The smiles that say, “stay away.” Even when pain presses against our broken hearts, we create picture-perfect lives on social media. Snippets on Snapchat. Isolated updates on Instagram. Pithy posts on FaceBook. The perfect life tweeted in 142 characters or less. The lives we think we should have. The lives that we think will convince others of “nothing to see here.” Read more