For years, people have been telling me to say “no” to things. I do have a tendency to say “yes” so often (people pleaser, here) that I eventually hit my breaking point of “too much.” Those moments of hustle turn to an unhealthy boil and eventually boil over in an embarrassing meltdown of epic proportion on an unsuspecting victim. Example: the sixteen-ish-year-old drive thru clerk at Chick-Fil-A in the spring of 2015. I learned that new hormones + crazy training schedule + too much professional “yes” + no wallet = a cascade of tears and one free Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap with a diet lemonade.
Sweet Chick-Fil-A, where everything really is their pleasure, gave me my meal either as a generous gesture of hope or as a way to prevent me from holding up their flawlessly timed drive thru. Either way, once the emotional avalanche settled, guilt and sheer embarrassment set it. Luckily, this was the CFA in Cleveland, Georgia not the one in Gainesville where all my students worked. By the time, I reached “the tiny house experiment,” I knew that I had once again hit the familiar wall of “too much.”
Before enjoying my free meal, I called back to CFA to ask the name of the young lady whom I had just traumatized. I learned her name was Emilie and that she would be opening two mornings from now. I knew I had to rectify my behavior. Not only because I live in this tiny town with a very distinctive little yellow car, but also because it was the right thing to do.
Two mornings later, I pulled into the drive thru and greeted Emilie with a Starbucks latte purchased from inside our Ingles grocery store. I apologized for my epic meltdown and Emilie graciously accepted. But the guilt didn’t stop there. I also offered to pay it forward by purchasing the order from the car behind me. This was not an honorable or a noble gesture; it was a guilt gesture. You see this is where too much “yes” always leaves me; embarrassed, guilty, and thirty-eight dollars lighter. (And in case you are like me and are wondering how many chicken biscuits you can buy with $38, my rough calculation is 17! You’re welcome Cleveland resident).
March 17th will forever take on new meaning for me. No green, no pinching, no tradition. Just cold, and sterile, and numb.
I remember lying in that hospital bed in pre-op, this date last year, looking around at the nurses moving back and forth, no one was wearing green. Maybe it wasn’t really March 17th. Maybe this all wasn’t really real.
I didn’t even tell people that I was going to be out from work. It was exactly two weeks from the first procedure: a failed attempt at “naturally” passing the pregnancy. When I returned to school the first time, there were no cards, no flowers, no hugs from my colleagues and friends. Well, I remember one hug from someone so unexpected that I will forever look at them through different eyes; forever grateful they took the risk to share a moment of sympathy. Five young ladies, my beloved yearbook editors, had little offerings of condolences, sprinkled with their own heart-felt acknowledgements of my loss. But, I didn’t cry. When you are numb, you can’t cry. Instead I carried on, allowing the pattern and comfort of hustle to propel me.
So March 17th was just another school day. Sharing my grief had only been met with deafening silence; a double dose would not have helped. So, not sharing became my armor and shield, a guaranteed way to protect myself from the disappointment of expectation. The disappointment of not being known and seen the way that I had hoped my beloved friends and colleagues would have seen me: broken, devastated, lost.
If the last two years have taught me anything, it’s that God is listening . . . “intently” (anyone recognize that Pirates of the Caribbean reference?).
My year of restoration also turned into my year of nonfiction. If you had asked me two years ago about nonfiction I would have responded, “boring, historical fiction is the jam!” I am particularly a fan of all things Philippa Gregory. I recommend starting with her Tudor series, chiefly The Other Boleyn Girl. But as much as I love the balance of a little bit of history with a little bit of intrigue and a splash of drama, those works were not going to provide the level of restoration nor transformation that I was pursuing. That I was requiring.
While on Spring Break with my two best beach buddies, we found ourselves one morning on a mission at the local Books-a-Million. Just three weeks post D & C, I was still feeling the emotional and physical ramifications of my fourteen week pregnancy. In girl talk, I was puffy. I went straight to the health and wellness section looking for some plant-based remedies. Two coworkers had transitioned into a full plant based diet and were feeling noticeable differences, which we all could noticeably see. My interests were piqued. I bought two books along with a collection of works by C. S. Lewis. Not typical beach reads: Plant Strong, The China Study, and The Screw Tape Letters.
But those three books, which I quickly devoured in less than five days, spurred on a ravenous appetite for knowledge, answers, and inspiration. At year’s end I had consumed dozens of nonfiction works and just one fiction: the highly anticipated script, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (I mean, come on! How could I not?!).
My sister-in-law, who possesses such natural insight and foresight, mailed me a food memoir as a birthday treat come early May. I had never heard of this genre but was quickly captivated by the title, Bread & Wine, two of my favorites right there on the cover. The author, Shauna Niequist, was unfamiliar but I quickly dove in those short anecdotal chapters that each concluded with one of her favorite family tested recipes.
It wasn’t just Shauna’s love of cooking or the way she constructed language that drew me in. It was her voice. That eloquent but raw, vulnerable voice that invited readers to jump right into her messy kitchen, pull a chair up, and breath in the deep aromas of home cooked life.
Bread & Wine made me want to write and cook. Write and make grocery lists. Write and mince garlic, splash olive oil, and bake bread. But that’s not why my sister-in-law mailed it to me. Shauna bravely writes about infertility and pregnancy, grief and loss, body image and acceptance, multitasking and being present, fasting and feast. Her voice was my voice. It was as if she was spilling truth straight from my soul onto the page. Intertwined among the vignettes of her life were little golden nuggets of such precise wisdom that I gobbled them up as much as I did her Blueberry Crisp.
“These are things I can't change. Not one of them. Can't fix, can't heal, can't put the broken pieces back together. But what I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present; to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That's all any of us can do.” (Bread & Wine)
Within a week I was on Amazon ordering Shauna’s newest book, Present Over Perfect (STOP everything you are doing and order it now! Done? Ok, you may continue).
Thanks to Amazon’s little recommend feature, I was introduced to another anecdotal book by a quirky, non-traditional lawyer with a big smile (go follow him and “Sweet Maria” on Instagram for proof) and even bigger adventures. Bob Goff’s work Love Does dives right in the heart of what love does; it serves, it acts, it works.
Bob also unknowingly introduced me to my theme word for 2017 (drum roll, please) . . . whimsy ( I know, anticlimactic, blog title gave it away).
Bob writes, “Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It's about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That's what I want my life to be all about - full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.” (Love Does)
I tell you. When you proclaim a theme, be ready for The Holy Spirit to grab that theme by the celestial wings and make a way.
2015 was filled with planned, unplanned, but ordained adventures.
I wanted 2016 to be filled with restoration.
A safe theme, right?
To be transparent, I really wanted that word to fall out of scripture somewhere, you know, heavenly appointed. I’m pretty sure I even did several Google searches looking to make a prophetic connection.
That just wasn’t the case. Restoration had been on the tip of my tongue. Restoration felt right. Restoration is what I truly prayed for.
When I told my friends and family about my theme. It just sounded right. Jason and I were now living in this meticulously restored home that had been customized to fit our lives, to be our forever home (even though my father-in-law still thinks 5 miles away is too far).
Jason and I both could focus 2016 on the restoration of turning this house into a home, finding rhythm and balance to our lives that turned catawampus during the chaos of 2015. It would also be a year to find restoration and peace with this season of life: this I’m-about-to-be-thirty-two, nine-years-married, and still-empty-wombed season of life.
And hopefully, prayerfully God would answer the desires of my heart and allow restoration to come to my body so that 2016 could be the year we finally create a family.
Every year began with those expectations. Every year began with the butterflies and the “what ifs” of the year to come.
Again, God’s sense of humor, timing, and perfect will laid out a year that not even James Joyce could not have constructed (shameless literary plug: if you haven’t read Finnegans Wake add it to your GoodReads. His magnum opus took 17 years to write and almost every sentence is painstakingly crafted to be a pun or double meaning. Sheer brilliance! And if you don’t know about GoodReads, Google that first!).
Anyways, I’m not going to dive into the hairy details of 2016 (I’m already working on that memoir, true story) but I am going to reveal the most vulnerable part to showcase God’s grace; God’s restoration.
Sometime around the New Year or maybe it was even at Christmas, God allowed Jason and I to finally conceive. Before the marathon in November, I had sworn off all hormones. That was best for my running partners and best for my life partner. People said it to me all along (in fact, there is nothing that people have not said to me regarding pregnancy and infertility, I’m sure that will be a post for another day), “the moment you stop trying, it will happen.” Well, it did.
So many things from this past year are crystal clear in my mind but for some reason this date evades me. I’m sure I wrote it down in my devotional and I have counseling appointments I could go back and reference but sometime in early February, I just knew. It was that, am-I-crazy-with-a-hysterical-pregnancy-or-is-this-really-real kind of knew.
When all you do is count your periods and hold your breath, you quickly stop talking about pregnancy. You’re pretty sure everyone else wants you to stop talking about it too, so the space in between gets larger and larger and isolation becomes lonelier and lonelier. I finally found the courage to open my mouth in mid February to my counselor.
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation