Go Into The Light, Brave One

I think I have seen every episode of Friends at least a couple times. Some of them I’ve probably seen a dozen times – I especially love the Thanksgiving episodes and the ones from the season where the main characters have switched apartments.

One of my favorite Phoebe moments is in an early episode and it’s the one where Mr. Heckles dies. She senses that his spirit is still in the building, and she yells “Go into the light, Mr. Heckles!”

There are people who believe that when we die unexpectedly or with unresolved issues, our unsettled spirits wander until that business is settled – until maybe their loved ones are safe or they can pass along a message to those of us still here – and only then do those people pass over into the next life. I’m not sure what to think about that, other than to say that I think it’s possible there are ghosts.

But what I do believe with certainty is that those of us in the land of the living often choose to wander around in darkness. Darkness can be a toxic relationship, a job we don’t like, grief, addiction, anger. (Even the Old Testament Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years before entering their promised land.)

When bad or disappointing or unexpected things happen in our lives, we experience a time of emotional upheaval. And after we survive that initial upheaval, we make a choice – consciously or unconsciously – to wander around in the darkness or to get up and seek the light.

Googling “light” shows you a couple of basic definitions:

  1. the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible,
  2. an understanding of a problem or mystery, or my favorite…
  3. something that makes vision possible.

Light requires action. We turn on a light or turn on our headlights. We light a fire. Or even, we arm ourselves and fight with a light saber.

The commonality is that light requires our action.

Light makes things possible. Light not only can give us hope, I realized recently that it actually kind of requires our hope first.

We will wander around in darkness until we decide to seek the light. And if we make no decision to seek it and take no action to seek it, the truth is we are stagnant in darkness.

We have to want and fight for the vision that is possible.

We have to be brave.

It takes bravery to hope in light, especially when we are surrounded by darkness. It takes bravery to seek light. It takes bravery to turn on light. And even, it takes bravery to fight with a light saber.

So today and every day I say to myself, to my girls, to anyone who’s wandering in a darkness or a wilderness in our land of the living: Go into the light, brave one.

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WWJD? He’d Nap.

Have you ever sat in a car or house while it’s pouring rain and looked across the street at dry ground?

Rains and storms both fascinate me and frighten me. I think it’s odd that people freak out because we live in an area subject to hurricanes but they think nothing of living in an area subject to tornadoes. Both are relatively unlikely to happen to any one person, but every single time I’ll place my bets on surviving a storm I know is coming.

Sometimes we can see storms coming straight at us. Sometimes we see a storm and we can avoid it. But mostly it seems like storms surprise us – it’s sunny and we’re enjoying a party, but suddenly we hear a crack of thunder and the rain starts pouring.

Sometimes storms pass quickly and sometimes they linger. Sometimes they’re loud and intense and we become frightened, and sometimes they’re a lazy rain for a few days and we get a little cabin fever.

Sometimes storms cause a flight delay and we’re angry and frustrated, but we get to vacation-land soon enough and forget all about it. Sometimes storms cut power for months and we have to fight for our lives and fight not to despair.

The thing about rains and storms that we must always remember – or rather, that I must always remember – is that they have a beginning *and* they have an ending. I get hung up on looking back at every little detail to try and see where a storm began. I want to understand what signs I missed, what exactly happened, if there was a way I could have prevented it or avoided it, who or what is to blame for it…

If I deserved it.

I think deep down I am wired for Old Testament Christianity. Wrath and vengeance and punishment. My go-to reasoning is that every storm must somehow be caused by my disobedience or my sin or my lack of faith. I have to constantly remind myself that there’s a New Testament and a Jesus, and He’s pretty calmly and clearly explained that we live in a world that’s not perfect with people that aren’t perfect and that sometimes we will encounter storms.

And He even showed us how to weather storms – He was on a boat with a bunch of guys and He settled in for a little faith-filled napping. Now I am not into thunder and lightening, but I am all about napping. I don’t get to nap as often as I used to, but I absolutely love napping. I cherish it. And I seriously love rainy days where I can nap under a heated blanket with a good book. And so in a storm I have to remind myself that one my favorite pastimes is also the way Jesus showed me to weather a storm.

All of my looking back and reasoning is not necessarily the best use of my energy. It steals my ability to nap. Sometimes you just need to outsource to a meteorologist to figure out what caused the storm while you go about the most important and most urgent work of cleaning up the debris left by the storm.

Clean up debris. Nap. Clean up. Nap. Clean. Nap. Clean. Nap.

Sometimes when I’m cleaning, I’ll look across the street where there is no rain. I’m jealous. Why is there only rain on this side? Why isn’t it raining at her house? I’d love to tell you I am a person who takes the high road, but Old Testament Beth has a deep need for vengeance. But more importantly for this topic, Old Testament Beth also has a deep need for understanding the why.

The truth is: rain happens.

Rain happens everywhere. When I look across the street and don’t see it raining, I can look with tired eyes and anxiously wonder why. Or I can look with eyes that have napped and are rested, and see God’s reminder that rain has a beginning *and an end.*

That’s a blessed assurance…

Watching and waiting

Looking above

Filled with His goodness

Lost in His love

This is my story

This is my song

What Will You Whisper, Brave Girl?

I have really missed television.

I have not had time to just watch TV in forever. However, I have continued to faithfully record shows on my DVR even though I had no real intention of watching them. So if you ask me if I watch The Bachelor and I say yes, what I really mean is I watched the seasons between when Ella was maybe 4 years old and up to Audrey’s birth.

As things have calmed down a bit in recent weeks, I have started to watch TV again. I had forgotten how easy it is to get lost in something for an hour. To become engrossed in the lives of people who aren’t real, in locations that aren’t real, in scenarios that aren’t real. I had forgotten that the emotions good TV can evoke are very real and that’s, I think, because in every show or movie we are secretly looking for two things:

  1. The character who is most like us.
  2. The character who is most like how we’d like to be.

I am completely captivated by The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s the story of a group of modern-day women, hugely successful in walks of life ranging from neonatal care to biology, who are forced into servanthood in a world run by men who are focused on possessing women as property, controlling women’s faith and sexuality, and populating a world with children they can raise with a specific set of rules and values. The women are stripped of everything, literally and figuratively, even including their names. The handmaids take the name of the man of their household – so the handmaid in the house of a man named Fred becomes Offred, meaning Of Fred. She is the property of Fred.

I am a little behind at this very moment – about halfway through the current season. You may have watched the powerful unveiling of names weeks ago and it’s old news for you now. But I just cannot stop thinking about it. Up to this point, the handmaids have mostly all addressed each other by their Of “Man” names, but following events that make it clear they will not all make it out alive and that they need to support each other, some of the remaining women whisper their real names to each other.

With the whispering of their names to others, they remind themselves they are more than property.

With the whispering of their names to others, they start to become a group of women that supports and trusts one another.

With the whispering of their names to others, they start to become a community of women who can rise and stand together.

With the whispering of their names to others, they bear witness to what has happened – their lives cannot be forgotten and their stories cannot be erased. Should they not make it out alive, they can be remembered as the person they were and not the servant they’ve become.

With the whispering of their names to others, they are no longer completely stripped of their identities and their stories.

That’s what all of our lives are, really. Stories. Some of us are better storytellers than others, but the better tellers don’t always have the better lives. In fact, I suspect the opposite is most often true.

Some of us don’t share our stories because we don’t have the words. Some don’t share because we believe that our stories have nothing to offer others. Some don’t share because we don’t think anyone will understand. Some don’t share because we believe that bad things only happen to us and we are alone and no one cares.

Those are all lies.

We all have words. We can all learn from each other. We can all support one another, even if it’s simply by listening. And bad things happen to all of us at some point(s) in our lives. No one is exempt from, shall we call it “occasional crappiness?” And the truth is that occasional crappiness is not unique to us and has pretty much always been experienced by someone else.

The real reason we don’t share our stories is not because we’re introverts or we want to keep our personal business private. It’s because we don’t like our stories. They are not the stories that we envisioned for our lives or that we wanted to be true about our lives – so we don’t share them. And sometimes deep down, we think we’ve failed somehow and our stories are a reflection of that. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes – oftentimes – it’s not. Sometimes bad stories are simply life’s occasional crappiness.

And the problem with not sharing our stories is that we cheat ourselves and others of all the benefits and power of community. Of togetherness. Of shared experience. Of healing.

Who better to pray for a person or family with a cancer diagnosis than a person who has faced that? Who better to pray for healing from addiction than those who have felt the grip of addiction? Who better to pray for someone grieving than someone who has grieved?

Not only does sharing enable us to tap into the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone, it enables us to support and to pray for others around us. We need to be a lot less afraid to share our stories, for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. We need to be a lot more brave. Not just brave wannabes.

This is my whisper: I am Beth. It’s been a long time since I’ve used my beloved family name – Fite – but my name is soon changing back to Beth Fite. I am imperfect. My life is chaotic. I am currently making my way through some of life’s occasional crappiness.

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Brave Girls ARE the storm.

Urban Dictionary has some very interesting – and some pretty hilarious – definitions for family.

  • It’s not necessarily about who’s blood you have, or who you’re forced to spend the holidays with. It’s about people you love and they love you back.
  • A bunch of people who hate each other and eat dinner together.
  • People you love who love you back, not necessarily blood or biological, but you trust them and they trust you, and they take care of you and you take care of them.
  • People who get into your business.
  • Family is not defined by shared DNA. It is defined by the people who love you as much as you love them; they are the ones you call and the ones who will never let you fall. They are the ones you trust with everything and anything, and you know that you will never let each other down.

I lucked out big time in the family department. I grew up in a household with parents who loved me, who worked hard to provide for us, and who spent their time with us and their energy on us. I came home from school to parents who asked me about my day and then we all sat down to dinner together every night. My Dad is a prankster who can make Grace seem longer than any Catholic mass, my sister is a donut thief, and my Mom has a super-secret personal Scrabble dictionary that allows her to spell balloon with one L and win by 142 points.

My family isn’t perfect, but we love each other unconditionally. We are a unit, we can trust each other, we can count on each other, and perhaps most importantly we are ourselves with each other.

It never once occurred to me that my girls would not have that family unit – that home with Mom and Dad and those secret inside jokes and shared experiences only the 4 of you know. That complete trust in their parents and that freedom to be themselves at any and all times. And more than everything else that I’ve fretted about and worried about and been sad about in the last 8 months combined, I have mourned that.

I have mourned that my girls will not have the family unit they should have.

The family unit they deserve.

Frankly, it really pisses me off because it was stolen from them. It was stolen from them by people who made very selfish choices and thought nothing of the impact their decisions and behavior would have on two innocent children. But as the anger has subsided a bit, I’ve thought a lot about the fact that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce and so at least half of our nation’s children grow up without that intact family unit. Why is that? How does that happen? Is it that people in our time have turned away from faith, that we’ve normalized divorce on TV, we play too many video games or spend too much time on our phones, we’ve sexualized everything on all kinds of media, or we’re smoking pot legally in all kinds of states? The list of possibilities seems endless, and yet it seems like none of those things are it.

And so I began to wonder…if we don’t come from a “whole” family unit or our family unit is broken in some way, do we really value family as much as others? Because how can you really know what you missed out on when you never had it?

And are you then more likely to grow up and enter into relationships which are more likely to end in divorce? Statistically speaking, you can find numbers to support the Yes and the No sides of that question. But as I’ve rolled all of these things around in my head over and over and over again, I’ve started to think that I am not sure that people who are raised in a “whole” family unit and people who are raised in a “broken” family can even really understand the life of the other. And if that’s true, can someone from a “broken” home really even grasp what people and children will miss out on if they don’t grow up in a “whole” family unit? Maybe not?

Maybe not.

Maybe. Not.

And if that maybe not is true, then I can’t be as angry about something that people don’t even have the ability to understand. It’s like being mad at someone for not understanding Spanish when they have never read or heard Spanish before. And suddenly my sail has less angry wind in it.

That’s how this process works – the divorce/grief healing process. It’s a repeated assessment of an angry wind in your sail, until one day you’ve been through all the reasons for angry winds and all the angry is gone.

Brave girls don’t run from those reasons. Brave girls think about those reasons one by one. I can do that. Brave girls get through all of the reasons for the anger and then the anger is gone. I’m not there yet.

My aunt and my cousins visited us this weekend. I absolutely love time with family. I love sitting and talking for hours. I love overeating and telling old stories and taking photos and laughing at bathroom jokes. I love getting to know the children of my first cousins – the girls I was so excited to see each Christmas that I would stand at my Mama’s front window and count cars until theirs pulled into the driveway. They have children now – boys who are almost grown – who love history and games, who have jobs, who are kind and thoughtful, and who giggled with my daughters in a pew at the back of my church. I love that we worshipped together.

We are a unit. We have shared DNA running through all of us. I may no longer be able to give my girls a “traditional” home with a Mom and Dad and board games after dinner. But I can give them family who love them and who they love back. Family with whom they have shared experiences. Family with whom they can look at angry waves and stand surrounded by angry waters as they feel angry winds hit their faces. Family that makes them feel so loved, they can face that anger and then turn away from the chaos and smile.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.”

The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.”

 

Falling Masterpieces

I am currently trying to teach my 7-year old how to ride a bike. I use the word “teach” loosely, as we are not making a ton of progress. I have basically just been running alongside her holding on to the bike as she either laughs with glee or begs me not to let go.

As I’ve mentioned this challenge to others, I’ve gotten all kinds of ideas on how to actually teach her – put the training wheels back on, use a sidewalk that’s smooth, hold the back of the bike, try letting her walk the bike instead of putting her feet on the pedals. I initially thought all of these ideas were great. They have all failed. My daughter is determined to ride without training wheels and I am determined that I can teach her to do it.

This is not just about riding a bike. I need to be able to teach her without the help of a husband. By myself. Sad but true – that’s what will currently make me feel brave and accomplished. Audrey needs to conquer her fear of falling. That’s what will make her feel brave and accomplished. We were both frustrated and trying to hide it from the other. But a couple days ago, everything changed when we fell.

We fell because I took my hand off the seat for a couple seconds. I thought she would soar ahead and realize she could do it on her own and all would be right with the world. Instead what happened is when she realized I’d let go she became really frightened, and she turned around to scold me. When she got distracted, she fell. And when she fell I tried to help and I also fell. And then she got really seriously angry and shouted at me.

Giant Mommy Fail.

Then my neighbor said something that struck me. He suggested we try on grass because a fall is easier and less scary. Something clicked in my head and what occurred to me is that I actually needed to teach her about falling. She needs to know that it’s OK to fall and that falling is not a failure. She also needs to know the way to fall so she’s least likely to really hurt herself, and then finally she needs to know how to get back up again. I needed to teach her how to fall.

We are all going to fall in life. And while I may still laugh at a couple of spectacularly funny tumbles that happened 35 years ago at Haygood Roller Rink, for the most part what is important – what says something about who we are – is how we get back up. One way or another we show our kids how to fall and get back up. We either do that intentionally or unintentionally. We show them by how we live our life. We show them when they see us face our fears or avoid things that make us fearful. We show them when we laugh at ourselves or when we berate ourselves. We show them when we admit we need help and then ask for that help.

Sometimes falling isn’t even our fault – it just happens to us. Someone accidentally runs into us. Someone purposely trips us. Someone around us doesn’t see danger and we fall as a result of their poor decisions. In these scenarios, we show our kids how to fall when we decide to take the high road or when we publicly point fingers. One of my jobs as a parent is to show my girls how to fall and to show them how to get back up.

I have a good-sized bruise on my leg/ankle from my recent fall with Audrey. But the next night we went back out again. This time to a park with freshly low-cut grass, after showing her the right way to fall. Without any guidance about the best way to help Audrey, Ella channelled The Three Stooges and comically fell over repeatedly. My teenager might be smarter than me.

Audrey’s current bike-riding status: work in progress.

My current fall and get back up status: work in progress.

According to Pinterest, which I dedicate too much time to when I should be sleeping, we can be a work in progress and a masterpiece at the same time. Pinterest doesn’t know who said that, but somebody on Pinterest definitely said it – so I’m going with that.

Big sister shows little sister how to ride a big girl bike.

Spring Is Coming, Brave Girl

It is late winter right now. Not early winter. Not mid winter. Late winter. That part of winter where you start thinking that every frost could be the last one and you start thinking about planting things because spring is so close you can feel it in the afternoon air.

It’s currently 92 degrees as the sun sets on the last day of June in 2018. It was a sticky bra and limp hair kind of day. But in my head, which is where I spend a lot of my time right now, the end of winter is approaching. I am eight months into separation and probably five months from divorce. It’s felt like winter since October.

I chose this wordpress theme because the visual is perfect for me right now. I am redecorating my house so that it feels different and home-y and more like me, as opposed to the old version of this house which was decorated for me + someone. The theme is farmhouse meets country meets antiques – I suck at decorating and yet I like how it’s all coming together. Barn wood and old books and even a pickle crock. The trees in this theme are winter trees, but the sky is blue and there’s no snow on the ground and the sunset is blanketing a grassy field with color. This picture says Spring is coming. It’s not here yet, but you are certain it’s coming.

That’s where I am right now. I am at the end of winter right on the cusp of Spring. I am feeling more like me. I am getting more accomplished outside of just surviving. I find the funny again. I genuinely laugh out loud on a regular basis. I enjoy all my favorite things again – reading and binge-watching TV and shopping and family outings and Amy Schumer and Pinterest and shoes and political tees. Darkness still creeps up on me sometimes, but it’s happening less and less often now. I’m back to driving with the windows down and the music turned up.

My life is not at all what I expected. And yet I am still the same. I am Beth. I am Ella’s Mom and I am Audrey’s Mom. I value faith, family and people above all else. I love my job. I love the people in my life. I believe in service and giving and community. While I have never not known and loved Jesus, I am not yet at a place where I am always filled with faith. I am a mixture of faith and planner. By that I mean I have always been able to visualize my future – and so while I thought I had faith, the truth was that my “faith” was closely tied to my being firmly planted and thinking everything was under control and on schedule and according to plan. Until October. Until winter. Now my future is not at all what I thought it was going to be and I don’t have everything all figured out.

I’ve been surviving winter, but I’m more than surviving now. Spring is coming. And it’s an opportunity for me to really be brave. I’ve been building up to it. I am not a wimp and yet I am not yet brave. I’m a Brave Girl Wannabe.

Ella and Audrey and Brave