What the Peanuts taught me about 2016.

The other night we were watching the “Peanuts” movie. Or ask my youngest son what we were watching and it may make you blush.

 

Those silly speech issues.

 

All seven of us were discussing who we thought each character would be in our family. Such a fun thing to do. Until they got to me. Then the fun and games were over. I wanted to be Sally Brown. Well, because of her impeccable style and come on….those curls. Who wouldn’t want to wake each morning and have those luscious locks? Yet my children quickly pointed out where I knew my heart was.

 

I was Lucy.

I was a “know it all” Lucy.

I have been for years now.

I had a solution and answer for everything.

Because somehow being a college educated, mom of five kids and married for 18 years, in a marriage that we can say is challenging, I seemed to take it upon myself to know more things than others.

 

I was a full blown Lucy, without the great dark hair.

 

Five years ago a dear friend of mine went through a horrible, life altering tragedy in her life. It happened to her. To her family. And yet what happened to her I thought I had all the answers for. I went into protective” I will kick your ass if you ever mess with my friend “ mode. I was not a good listener. I did not build her up. I reacted. I told her what I thought she should do and pointed out everything wrong that was happening. She would try crying to me and I would just get frustrated and tell her how to fix it. I sucked. I was a Lucy.

 

I look back now and think how many times in my life I have tried to control when others were in crisis. I have gotten behind my little advice booth and would gladly give it out, and didn’t even charge. It was really a lovely service I was giving.

 

I am embarrassed how many times I stood on my pride mountain and told those I loved how they should live their lives.

 

It was pretty lonely up there, on “Know it All Mountain”.

 

The more insecure I felt the more advice I gave. I felt so out of control that I thought I needed to take control.

 

And then this year happened. And  suddenly, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know who to ask or how to even utter it out loud. I googled for any article or book that could help make sense of our reality. Every time I looked for answers I kept feeling more shameful and not enough. I told my best friend there was no support group or t-shirt for what we were going through. No one was running a race or making a bumper sticker for the crap show we have been living through.

 

I thought I needed a Lucy.

 

And in reality my soul needed a Linus. A faithful friend who is quiet and sees the good in it all. Or a Schroeder who wants nothing more than to play you soothing music and help you at any chance he could get. I imagine he would diffuse essential oils, make you delicious meals, clean your house and then hold you while you cried.

 

Really the opposite of Lucy.

 

Not advice givers.

 

They are life-givers.

 

I have learned through this past year that what I yearn for. What we all yearn for are life-givers.

People who speak life and hope into our hearts.

 

When you are in the midst of realizing what you need to be healed and whole you need to surround yourself with those that breath life into your heart.

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1

 

One of my friends in particular is amazing at this. She will tell me who I forget I am. Reminding me of who she sees in me. She calls out life.

 

This is who I want to be. A life-giver.

 

One who does not remind me of my situation or limitations. But one who sees more for others than I see for myself. One who unveils the courage that is waiting to be released. A foot washer, a hugger, a listener, a bring wine over and sit on your porch girl, a text you in the middle of the night because you can’t breathe girl.

 

I want to be a girl who gives what has been given to her.

 

As a result of what we are walking through, I  have become highly sensitive to others walking through deep pain and grief. Entering into the pain and sitting there with them until the darkness goes away. Finding it a privilege to be on such holy ground. Because suffering is holy. It is messy and lonely but it is also where you will find the barefoot Messiah.

 

Last night we went around the table and said our goals for 2017. Which if you have ever done with your tribe, it is quite enlightening to hear what they deam a “goal”.

 

Let’s just say someone at the table wants “better hair” this year. ( yes, it is a 13 year old boy)

 

Don’t be jealous at the level of depth in our family. It is a gift.

 

When I told my family I wanted to stop being a Lucy they all kind of giggled at me. The youngest pointed out that I couldn’t be in a movie on TV. Thank you dear child, another dream crushed.

 

I went on to explain that we have all had the privilege of being loved deeply this year. By those that have not run from our pain and mess but have come closer with mercy. We have experienced such a life -breathing, foot washing community around us, that we need to learn how to give what we have been given. So although my goal is not as deep as others around the table, I still feel that this is all I am called to give in 2017.

 

Life.

 

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19
What would it look like if we all breathed more life this year and less advice?

Patches of Joy and Stretches of Sorrow

 

A few weeks ago I bought a new couch.

We had been needing another place to sit in our living room as it became apparent that asking your guests to sit on the floor was no longer cool when you are in your forties or not living in a yoga studio.

I had texted my husband and asked if he could find a truck to borrow because I had found the perfect one.

I had been looking for weeks. And then that Monday morning it was as if the thrift store gods were smiling upon me and the heavens opened up.

There she was. All seventy five dollars of her. Just sitting there waiting for someone to get butterflies in their stomach when they saw her.

When my husband and his friend went to pick up the couch they perhaps were not as excited about it as I was. They asked if I had seriously chosen this one, did I understand what color the couch was and asked what in the world was this going to match.

Nothing. It matches nothing. But it makes me smile. It bring me joy.

couch

I believe that God gives us glimpses of joy everyday if we are quiet enough to see them.

But I also believe that sometimes you need to actively bring joy into your life.

As soon as the couch was in the living room I texted my girlfriends and told them it was supposed to rain every day the following week so we needed to have an emergency coffee date on my new yellow couch to bring sunshine to our lives.

We needed a patch of joy.

What we didn’t plan for was what would happen between those days.

That Monday morning our world was pulled out from under us. Someone we love was in crisis and suddenly nothing was the same.

It was as if someone knocked the air out of my lungs. Out of all of our lungs.

A therapist not too long ago told me that when you are in crisis you need to imagine that you are in a figurative ICU. You are being isolated and all the rules have changed.

So what can you do for another or for yourself if you are in crisis or a figurative ICU?

-Quiet your world. Unplug and connect to only life giving music or words. House of Cards is not healing. Worship music is.

-Make your circle very small. You need to make a decision who you are going to trust with your tender heart. You may have a lot of “friends” on social media. That does not mean that they need to know that you are in ICU or why you are in it. Creating boundaries is one of the safest and most healing things you can do for yourself and those you are protecting.

-You can take people off the visiting list. This was one of the most freeing lessons I have learned lately. You can change your mind and decide that unless those around you are only listening, being present and offering healing words, they do not get your energy. Your time needs to be spent being affirmed and supported. You have no room in your heart to carry another person’s story or advice. While this may seem harsh you would never walk into a hospital room and ask the patient to also take the wound or disease you had as well.

-Say no. I have been saying this a lot. Even to really good things. Yes, I want to read to my son’s class every week. But right now I can barely muster going to the grocery store. Your new normal is enough and no one needs to understand why, except that unless they want to see you have a complete meltdown in the middle of story time, no is a complete sentence.

-You need a break. Yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office as he told my husband and I that the most healing thing we could do for our family was to go to a hockey game. Now maybe you are not a Midwestern girl with a huge crush on the hockey players. But whatever you need to do to take care of your marriage and yourself do it. As hard as it is to walk out of the ICU it cannot consume you. ( I am still working on that)

-Accept help. I know this seems to go against everything I just said about boundaries. But there is boundaries and there is chicken noodle soup. Some moments you are going to feel like you have it all together and you can make a freaking meal. And then the next moment you can barely breathe because fear has paralyzed you in the middle of Trader Joes. So when your precious friend walks in the door quietly and sets down a tray of homemade bread, chicken noodle soup and granola for the morning, you hug her tightly and tell her she is healing a part of you.

-Pray. I know. You don’t know what to say. It’s ok. You don’t have to say anything. Ask those you trust to pray for you. I called on my tribe to utter the prayers I didn’t know how to pray. Every day I get a message or a card in the mail reminding me that we take care of each other. There will be a time soon when someone else will need you. But right now. You need your people. You need prayer warriors storming the gates. You need those you trust to hold up your arms again.

-Grace. People are going to mess up. You will too. I mess it up every day. I say the wrong thing. I don’t say anything at all. I forget to say thank you. I say thank you for the wrong thing. I am learning to see every person and every situation as this. We are all doing the best we can in this moment. We are all stumbling through this with grief on our backs and we will fall. It is mercy that meets us and grace that brings us to our feet again.

-Find the patch of joy. When we are suffocated with pain and grief we have a hard time seeing anything much less joy. Sometimes we bring it to others and sometimes we have to create it. This afternoon I went to the grocery store to get fruit. I came home with flowers and jelly beans. They made me smile. When you have been in the ICU for an extended period of time or realize that you don’t know when you will be out you,  you need to pull joy in.

Sometimes joy will come in prayer.

Sometimes joy will come in homemade soup.

Sometimes joy will come in a nap.

Sometimes joy will come in prozac.

Sometimes joy will come in a long walk.

Sometimes joy will come in letting other in.

Sometimes joy will come in flowers.

And sometimes  joy comes in a yellow couch.

 

 

This song has been on repeat in my car I thought you might need it too.

Enough by Sara Groves.

In these patches of joy

In these stretches of sorrow

There’s enough for today

There will be enough for tomorrow

Upstairs a child is sleeping

What a light in our strain and stress

We pray without speaking

Lord help us wait in kindness

Fridays are for Grace.

I live my life unlocked. At least I try to. When we were first married my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco and did all of the touristy things. Except for the prison. I just couldn’t get on a ferry and end up in prison. But we did the chocolate and the pier and the trolleys and the bridge and all of the not going to prison things. One of the days after waiting in line for a bazillion hours for the trolley to come, I started to pass out popcorn to people.Random people. Every people. I had a large bag of popcorn and figured if my stomach was growling than theirs was too. This was the first glimpse that my husband had at my “there is no stranger in this world” policy. He stood back and watched me walk around and just offer to feed people. No strings attached, just buttery caramel hands and hungry bellies.

When we moved into our 100+ year old house ten years ago the first thing that I pointed out to him was how old the doors were. They were the original large plated glass doors with the original, maybe Abraham Lincoln touched them, door handles. Don’t judge, I am not good with history or numbers, I am just guessing.

Anyways, I made it very clear that we could not lock our doors. I didn’t want anyone breaking in and smashing the windows. So in my mind it was better to always leave our doors unlocked. My mother thinks I am crazy but I think it just is how I live. How I want to live. And how I want to teach my kids to live.

That our doors are always open. We live our lives unlocked.

As someone who had to wear her friends mothers clothing for an eighth grade dance ( yes you read that correctly) I know what it is like to not quite fit in. To stand on the outside looking in.

So I always wanted to make sure that my home was always too small to fit all the people I love.

And then this summer happened.

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and then held my head underwater.

Parenting became the hardest it has ever been. The ugliness that Satan wanted to kill and destroy everything in my marriage and family came boiling up to the surface. We felt like everything we had ever read in stupid parenting books never had a chapter on what we were facing. ( I also think that if you have not lived through teenagers you should not be writing parenting books. Ok. Now I will step off my soapbox).

Oh right, and then we left our church of twelve years.

Maybe not the perfect time to make that choice but it is where God was pushing us and everything in me wanted to pull back.

For the first time in my life I wanted safe. I wanted to lock my doors and stop sharing popcorn. I wanted to hide under my covers and binge watch every episode of anything on Netflix just to disconnect.

When my soul was aching to connect.

I was feeling all of the feelings. I had just started reading “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans and was screaming from the underneath the covers and locked doors “AMEN”!

I wanted someone to talk to and understand all of the feelings that felt to shameful to say.

When the kids went back to school and I was left by myself for the first time in eighteen years I realized that the pity party I was throwing for myself was getting lonelier and lonelier.

During all of my un-showered partying time I read over the years of therapy notes that I had written, hoping that something I had heard would make me want to get out of bed.

And then I read this….. “ Create what you need…….do not wait for others to give you what you expect…..create it”

It was also during this time that everyone had started arguing about whether we should allow refugees into our country. I may or may not have lost friends online and had family members block me. They had forgotten where I lived. That our block is filled with refugee families and some of our dearest friends are from other countries with stories that they could never fathom.

So it made me feel even more feelings. And a lot of them were anger.

And then one day I showered. And I got out of bed. Well I got out of bed first.

And I created what I needed.

I needed community.

I needed a safe community.

I needed grace.

I needed people who owned their brokenned.

I needed a space to be heard.

So I unlocked the doors and I started making popcorn.

Well, I made coffee. But you get it.

I made coffee and tea and bought pastries from a local bakery and I prayed over my table that people would come.

The first week eight people came.

And since then every week there have been more people.

More people and different people.

It is one of the most sacred times of my life. Opening up my home and gathering others around the table.

No expectations. No agenda. No judgement.

Just grace and caffeine.

Since I started this I have gotten so much feedback. Friends from around the country wishing they lived closer. People loving the idea wishing they could come. Wishing they could do the same.

You can.

We all can. We can find one morning a week to open our homes. To not worry about the crayon on the walls or the dust on the lamp that has been there since the first Bush was president. It doesn’t matter.

People want to feel welcome and welcome doesn’t mean clean.

In fact when people’s houses are perfect and clean I feel really uncomfortable. Maybe that is just the type B in me but for the love throw some cheerios on the floor!

One of the greatest gifts we can give people is hospitality. Jesus met the people he loved at the table. Not a perfectly set dining set. He met them in their brokenness. He met the outcasts and the prostitutes. He met the confused and frustrated. He met the questioning and the seeking. He met them all.

I want to be a home that mercy draws you in and grace finds you a seat at the table.

Will you join me? Will you be brave and unlock your doors?

GNO’s and NGO’s – how authentic community heals

 

I sat on the floor of her formal living room. I don’t think I had ever been in there before that night. We usually walked by the serious room and made our way to the family room. The room with the large couches and TV. The off white carpet between my toes in the middle of February that winter night. Hummus, nuts, chocolate laid out on the table before us. Chai tea steaming in the kitchen as we each took our places.
We had been having our GNO’s ( Girl’s Night Out)  for years. We would meet at coffee shops restaurants, bakeries. We each had our favorite spots and each month we knew it was something to look forward to. We made a commitment to the friendship that we would pick at least one time each month that we would all four set apart for each other. When I was in Africa I just pretended like they stopped. Like one of the four wasn’t there so they stopped talking and having any fun. That is what I told myself. That the fun stopped because I wasn’t there. Very humble of me.

These girls know everything about me. I am my best when I am with them. I sometimes am my worst as well. They have traveled across the world with me to Liberia and have seen first-hand the work of selfless people living their lives in servanthood. And we have been there when babies are being born or brought home. We have inside jokes that no one else gets. We also have inside pain that no one will ever hear.

That winter night as we sat on the floor around the coffee table I shook with fear as my truth was revealed. We had not gotten together as a group since I had come home two months before. Depression had stolen the normal rhythm out of my life. And the truth was is that I was afraid. I was afraid to be outside. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of night. I was afraid of myself.

I sat with my back slouched over with tears rolling down my face and admitted why we were here. In her home. Not out in public. Not dressed up and feeling fancy. Because what I was feeling was far from fancy, I was feeling raw and exposed. I had just told my truth. Told the truth about what PTSD was doing to my mind and my reality. I felt on that night that I may be saying goodbye to this normal. My life as it was I believed this too would be over. I was no longer going to function in their world if I were to expose the monster inside of me.

But this is the thing. When you have authentic relationships in your life. They don’t leave. They don’t follow any rules. They lean in. They see the pain and come closer.

So I told my truth. The truth that Satan was having a field day with my sanity.

The silence in the room was beckoning mercy to come forth.

Pain and truth had opened the door for a new layer of trust to be born.

And born it was.

These women sat on the floor next to me crying. Not for me. With me. They were entering into the pain and not leaving. They were not getting on their theological soap boxes and quoting scripture at me. They were not deleting me from Facebook. They were not thinking of a way to escape, they were crying.

They were putting a stake in the ground and deciding that what I was going through did not define who I was to them.
So we sat and we cried. We cried for the honesty that was revealed. We cried for the reality that things may change. We cried until I was done crying.

Authentic community does that. Someone very wise recently told me that “Authenticity is not bulimic truth telling. Digest the pain. Then share wisely.”

I chose very carefully who I told my truth to that night. I was living a hell inside my head that a casserole could not heal.

My pain needed a safe place to heal.

That night if I am being honest was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I was terrified that I was out of the house. I had come to the table a shell of who I used to be and yet the three most beautiful friendships were made clear.

They were my safe place. They were my net. They were where my truth would be sheltered and held.

That is what we all need. We all need those in our life that have seen us at our unhealthiest and choose to stay.

They may not agree with you. They may argue with you. They may even be Republican. But they stay. They stay and love you and laugh with you and heal with you.

They have become the filter I put every relationship through. How authentic can you be with me and how safe are you that I can be the same with you?

I believe very strongly that Jesus calls us into community.

But when he was at the table. When he was with his twelve or one on one is where true community happened.

It happens when we allow ourselves a safe place to be heard. A safe place to be understood. A safe place that is sheltered and held. A safe place where truth can be revealed.

 

Ham, peas and organic family

We called a realtor.

We made the decision to call her after another shooting happened within blocks of our house a few months ago. And I say another because people make bad choices and sometimes the media chooses to only show the choices made in certain areas. And before you get on your privileged soap box and pretend that it doesn’t happen around you. take a step down. Suffering and pain happen all the time. Money doesn’t take away emptiness. Horrible things  happen all the time and patterns of expressing it happen too. It sometimes just looks more politically correct but just as devastating. We just happen to live in the second largest city in Illinois and we live in the most populated part. With that said, we also live in the most beautiful part of the city. The part where no one looks the same. Where many different languages are spoken. Where many different countries are represented. Where there is a celebration happening on any given night till any given time. This city is filled with voices that are all trying to be heard. And if we are open enough to receive it then we are blessed enough to hear it.

But we called a realtor. And if I am honest my fear called her. Gratefully she is friend and so she overflowing with grace. Because this is a hard decision. We had a list a list of reasons why we should move schools, 4 bedrooms, a garage that closes, maybe a bigger kitchen, safety. None of these reasons make sense. They feel very superficial to me as I type them. Very first world problems. Very princess like. So we make the list and let it sit in our hearts. Months have gone by and we looked at other homes. We dreamed of a place where the kids could ride their bikes around the block and I wouldn’t have to follow them or say a Hail Mary every time they played out front.

And so we looked. We joined Zillow and got daily updates about homes that we were drooling over in a neighborhood not too far from where we were at. We talked and imagined what it would be like to have five children in their own rooms. Or a kitchen that more than two people could be in at the same time.

We also applied for jobs in Michigan. Again. Because if you know me at all you know that I am a mitten state girl who has been misplaced for the last 17 years. My feet feel planted when they are in the sand and I really want my kiddos to grow up with their cousins. My cousins are some of the most beautiful people in the world and I want my kids to feel the same way when they are forty. I also want them to have matching monogramed wool sweaters but that is a whole other story. So the husband applied for jobs that replies never came back from. And it is the middle of July and we are still here.

There is no for sale sign in our front yard. There are no signs of DE hoarding. Although I am pretending I am on an HGTV show and getting rid of everything….don’t tell the kids.

When we got married my husband was let’s say “ a bit overwhelmed” with the time my family spent together. And by family I mean grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. As husband likes to say if someone sneezed and we had a party. We did a lot together. Of course they came to all the sporting events. Every recital. Every emergency room visit. Every Sunday after church we were together.

Grandma would make a ham, frozen peas, peach jell-o salad, candied yams, and mash potatoes. Oh, and don’t forget the rolls. The rolls sopped up all the gravy. And then grandpa would be called into the kitchen away from watching golf and start up his electric knife. I would sit on the stool next the phone by the junk drawer and just below the police scanner and watch each week as he carved the ham with pineapples and maraschino cherries on top.

Every Sunday we knew where we belonged.

As we got older I am sure we complained. We complained about having to eat ham every week or playing with our cousins or only watching golf on the television.

I miss that now. Being hundreds of miles away from family I miss those Sunday afternoons. I miss pretending I was sleeping on the davenport while grandma gently scratched the back of my neck and into my hair. She would tell the same story. How when I was a baby this is how she put me to sleep. I miss that.

After moving to Illinois seventeen years ago I would cry every time my family in Michigan got together. Which was all the time. Or when I would call and happen to catch them having an impromptu pizza night. I ached to be home. To be around those that new me and the familiarity of comfort. The peace in the known.

This past Sunday I was laying in our backyard in a hammock we bought for me husband for Father’s Day. I was exhausted. It had been a physically and emotionally draining few weeks. I was texting husband that there was another job posting in Michigan that had just come up. I asked him to look into it and send his resume right away. Because that is what you are supposed to do right? Make a rash decision because that has to be from God. Why wouldn’t he want us to move back after seventeen years, it’s what I have always wanted.

And then husband said he would apply but…how can we move from this.

View More: http://snohling.pass.us/massie-vow-renewal.

This is what we have. We have a tribe. A village. A community.

A family.

Yes I adore my mitten state family. I miss them every day. I call them almost every day. I still ache to be there at every birthday and every baby being born and every softball game or even just someone sneezing.

But then this happens. Your family people become something so organic that you cannot imagine living anywhere else. So this is where we are.

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We squeeze in a little tighter. We pray a little harder. We work through the hard emotions and opinions of why we live where we do. But where we are placed is beautiful. No it is not gated and not everyone believes the same things. We don’t all look the same and celebrate the same. We don’t all have the same education or the same bank accounts. But we do have this.

We have each other.

 

( all photos by Sabrina Nohling )