July 18, 2017


If you want to understand something about grief, borrow my sweet Millie’s dolly Maeva.

Millie came to me this morning, Maeva in one hand, a comb in the other.

“Mama, will you brush Maeva’s hair for me? It’s too tangled.”

I looked down at the dolly she set in my lap and sighed. I knew that was an hour of brushing. Yes, a full hour. A labor of love for the girl I love so much. It’s not for me that I find myself camped on the sofa, working through the tangles in Maeva’s hair and thinking about the tangles I’m working through in my heart.

Brushing a dolly’s hair is basically working through the grieving process.

I try to take a bit of hair to begin with, but the hair is so tangled I can’t even get a small handful free. It’s hard to know where to start, but I know if I don’t, the hair will stay tangled. So I do the best I can. It’s an awkward start. There’s a lot of pulling at the tangles to work enough free that I can start working the comb through.

Finally, I have a little bit of hair away from the rest of the tangled mess and I start the process of separating each hair from the rest until I’m holding a small bit of shiny, straight hair in my hand. I can comb through that little bit easily now. But this dolly has way more hair on her head than any girl needs. For a brief moment I consider giving her a haircut to match Millie’s hair. But even though taking scissors to her hair seems easier, all that hair would still be tangled.

There was a point in my grief I didn’t talk to many people about. I wanted to run away. I was so broken I didn’t want to carry on the life I had been given. It would have been easy to take the scissors to my life and cut myself off. But my heart still would have been tangled. And I had two little people that needed me to start the process of separating the strands of my heart. These are who kept me getting out of bed and going everyday.

I’m not even halfway finished brushing the dolly’s hair before I need a break. My legs are falling asleep from being crossed under me and my hand is getting a little sore. I set Maeva down next to me and stand and stretch. I go and pour boiling water over a tea bag and hop in the shower while my tea steeps.

In the shower, I run my fingers through my own hair. Unlike Maeva’s thick, dark locks, my hair is fine and thin. I’m reminded that grief doesn’t negate grief. I’ve had to remind myself that when I’ve been tempted, in my darker moments, to say to someone complaining about their spouse’s less desirable quirks, “At least he’s still alive!” I’ve also had moments when I have gently reminded to a friend of this after apologizing for talking to me about her failing marriage.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

“It’s ok, I’m always here to listen.”

“I know, but you lost your husband. I should just be thankful for life.”

I looked gently into my friend’s eyes, “Just because I am working through a huge grief, it doesn’t mean your grief isn’t real or meaningful.”

Grief doesn’t negate grief. We all walk our own path, and we all have to face our own obstacles. We’ve all traveled different miles. We’d do well to have more grace with each other and stop comparing our griefs against another’s.

I finish dressing after my shower and head for the kitchen. My tea is the perfect temperature. I take it and sit back down on the sofa and pick Maeva back up. There is a stark contrast between the smooth, shiny hair I’ve combed and the knotted, tangled side still waiting for me to work though. Sometimes those tangles in our own lives are noticeable. Sometimes though, like when I pick up Maeva and the smooth hair falls over the tangled hair, hiding all the knots, we can’t see the parts of our lives we’re struggling with.

Another friend, also in the midst of marital struggles, recently told me that she can’t talk to anyone about what she’s going through because people see her picture-perfect family and can’t believe anything could possibly be wrong. But when you turn over the dolly and brush the smooth, brushed hair away, there’s still a tangled mess under there. Brush away the smiles and the lives we present to the public and you’ll see mess in all our lives. Picture perfect only exists in photos, not in real life. Be gentle, my friends, with one another.

I’m now halfway through untangling dolly’s hair. Sigh. I don’t really want to be doing this anymore. I just want to be done. I remember expressing the same exact sentiments about grieving. But if I stop now, all my work will had been for nothing. And if I try to speed up the process I will just rip hair out and do more harm than good.  I grab a larger chunk of hair. That doesn’t work either. The only way to get through this is one little bit at a time. In grief, one little day at a time. One little hour at a time. One little moment at a time.

I can see progress. I’m getting there.

Millie walks into the room and sits down beside me. Her hand reaches out and she gently strokes the smooth hair.

“It’s beautiful!” She quietly murmurs, running her fingers easily though the brushed half.

“What about this half?” I ask her, hold up the unbrushed, tangled half.

Her nose wrinkles and she halfheartedly tries her fingers in that side but they just stop in the tangles. “Ugly.” Was her assessment. She goes back to petting the smooth side.

“But it’s the same as that side, isn’t it? It’s just not brushed yet. But it will get there.”

She thinks about that for a minute and then her fingers slowly return to the tangled side and she feels all the knots, “It will be beautiful too.” She gets up and runs back into the room her and Sam are watching a show.

“Yes, it will be,” I think to myself. Not sure if I’m talking about dolly’s hair or my own healing heart.

I have left the worst of the tangles for last. Sigh.

Another 20 minutes and the unforgiving and unyielding tangles are finally smooth over Maeva’s head. Finally.

The mess has been put right. The tangles untangled.

For now.

In a week, Maeva will likely need to have her hair brushed. The braids that I quickly twisted into her hair will be taken out. Millie loves to see Maeva’s hair cascade around her shoulders and watch it flow as she lovingly spins her around.

The thing about mess is - mess means life. Mess means love. It’s much cleaner to keep Maeva on a shelf. He hair would never get tangled up there. If I kept my heart to myself and never opened it up again it would be much safer.

But we’re not here to be safe.

We’re on the Earth to be free and wild and to live fully and love recklessly.

I return the braided dolly to her waiting little mama, who takes up her beloved dolly in her arms and hugs her close. Her smile both thanks me and rewards me for finishing the task. All of a sudden, an hour of brushing didn’t seem like such a waste of time. Love is never a waste of time.

Did you hear that? Love is never a waste of time.
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July 2, 2017

all this adulting

It’s a very strange thing to go from living the life you always dreamed of to losing almost everything and starting all over.

I’ve heard people say adulting is hard.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time introspecting. Who am I and what do I want out of life? These are among the most common questions on my mind.

I was confident in my role as a missionary pilot’s wife. Homeschooling mama of 2. Mission project videographer. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do. But now, none of that fits anymore. That’s not me anymore.

Driving 7-hours from one place to another in my 32’ tiny house RV today, I relished every mile. Washington. Oregon. Idaho. The Pacific Northwest. Home. Driving over the Blue Mountains I took in the beauty of this place I grew up in. The last time I lived here, I knew where my place in life was. Oh how things have changed.

I gave myself a year to wallow. A year to cry. A year to give myself an extra measure of grace and a year to feel all the feelings. Not that any of that ends a year after losing your husband, but it was my year to wallow. I thought the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death would be almost as hard as the day he died. Instead, it was almost liberating. I gave myself permission to wallow, and then I gave myself permission to step of out the wallowing and live again.

I still wallow at times. I still cry every once in a while. I still sometimes find myself in need of grace - don’t we all? - and I still have LOTS of feelings. Don’t get me wrong. I left behind the state of constant wallowing but not grieving. I’ll miss my husband till the day I die.

Life for me is much better as I begin the second year of widowhood than it was the first year. There’s not as many firsts. I feel more nostalgia and less searing pain in my heart. I no longer need medication to help me keep it together. Things are much improved.

But there is still so many hard things. Finances. Parenting. Decisions. Oil changes. Travel.

I still don’t have a life plan. I’m impatient and feel like I should know what I want to do with the rest of my life by now. But I don’t. This is an area in which I just have to remind myself to give myself a little grace.

I’d really like to do grad school. But financially that’s not possible. I’d love to go back to overseas missions. But I don’t feel God calling me back to the jungle as a single mom. I’d love still homeschool my kids. But I’m only just barely keeping my head above the water and need to start working soon or else things are going to go downhill. I’d like to start working but I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to live.

With two little lives depending on me and me alone I want to get it right. But I’m not sure what “right” is quite yet. If anyone has a road map for life I could really use that right now. Or tuition for grad school. Snort.

This life is nothing. I’m nothing more than a little leaf on a big maple tree. Life is fleeting and over so fast. Most of us will never be remembered in future generations. A few generations will pass and then I’ll just be a box on ancestry.com with my name under it. It’s not a greatness that will be remembered that I want to strive for. It’s the quality of character and integrity and love that I want to pass down to the boxes under mine.

My wallowing is over. But my life isn’t over. I want to live. And love. And embrace all that I can while I have it. I might not have a life-plan, but I have a love-plan. And I’m OK with that for now…

I’ll pause here to give a little update for those who have made it though my ramblings thus far. I’ve been widowed a year and 2 months now. We have lived in our tiny house RV for 9 months now. Winter was HARD. The rest of the year I actually rather love living in my 320 square-ft of a tin can. Samson the great dane is a year and 3 months and I haven’t weighed him in a while but he’s an impressive beast. Our kitty Moses was killed (we don’t know from what) but little Mary is still in Tennessee waiting for us to come home. We have been on the road for over 6 weeks, driving from TN to Washington, Canada, and a whole slew of places along the way. I met a very nice gentleman a little over 2 months ago and we are in a relationship. He lives in Idaho but if we can find him a job in TN we might be able to talk him into moving.

The children are doing amazing. These little people never cease to amaze me. Their stamina and endurance and ability to rebound are quite impressive. They are such troopers and are excellent little travelers. They continue to grieve in their own ways. It comes out and then they move on. Then it hits again. And they just keep right on going again. Sam is 6 and Millie is 7. Sam is obsessed with dinosaurs and Millie loves horses. Sam starts kindy in August and Millie will be in 2nd grade.

Ok. That’s my update.

I wish each of you peace and love. And a break from adulting when possible.
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