a walk, a song & the return of joy.

It was just an ordinary Friday afternoon: Cancan and I had driven to the local BART station to drop off the car for Daddy.  See, we’ve embraced City Life for all its worth by only having one car – I, in return, toss labels like “sexy” and “living simply” and “eco-savvy” onto our choice of transportation [the choice of transportation that equals out to me getting the car most of the week], while the HBH (…rightfully) guffaws at the hassle of it all.  But there we were, on the corner of Ocean and San Jose; Baby strapped in the stroller, I checked to make sure the car was clear of belongings and subsequently texted Husband the address.  Earphones in place, I steadied myself for the long upward descent home, and then it happened.

Music started playing.

Mind you, I realize this is considered normal to the great majority of 21st century Americans, particularly those who pop earphones into their ears and wait for a listening reaction to occur.

But for me (First World Problem, First World Problem…), in order to save space on my phone, I’d purposefully not synced the itunes album on my computer with the album on my phone.  And then the break-in happened, and all of our pictures and my Masters coursework and that which could be considered my livelihood of writing and speaking documents were lost, along with the music, too.

And a slew of emotions ensued: I was angry and I was sad and I was bitter, seemingly all at the same time.  I mourned and I shook my fist and I grew paranoid at the very thought of the Comcast man parked obtrusively in front of our house, as the police said it was a group of thieves posting as service workers who likely broke in to our residence.  I drove around the block three times and then I parked in our driveway again, and I ran inside and grabbed the new laptop and the borrowed iPad because I would not let this happen again.  I cussed and I screamed, but then I pulled to the side of the road, and with deep breaths I said, FEAR, You will not get the best of me.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, come…

So here we were, just a couple days after circling the block, when the music started playing.

And walking up the sidewalk, I looked to my right to see if the sound was coming from the park, and across my shoulder to the other side to see if a parked car was playing the haunting, soul-searching echoes of the cello and its accompanying strings.  But then I realized that it was coming from my ears – my ears – and it was my music – my music – and with tears in my eyes, I picked up my phone from its hiding place, and I looked at the screen in disbelief.

Zoe Keating - check her out.  Photo cred: NPR.
Zoe Keating – check her out. Photo cred: NPR.

Somehow, the magical world of iCloud had saved my music, even if it took me six weeks to realize it.

So, my legs began pumping faster as the hill started to rise, purposeful, purposeful, as Hope started to sing its way into my soul, as Beauty opened my eyes to her Already-In-Existence self.  I listened to the mournful cellist, Zoe Keating, pour her own self into her stringed instrument, to my favorite of songs, “Sun Will Set,” and I was again reminded of new beginnings, each day, every day, given anew.  Grace massaged my tired shoulders as I pushed the stroller up the hill: the sun will rise and the sun will set, but tomorrow is a new day.  And with it comes the unimagined, refueling abundance of more Hope and more Beauty and more Grace.

The smile would not wear on my face, but grew with each step, the depths of its very existence filling my insides and reaching out its gnarled fingers to strangers I passed on gritty street corners, to the old man crossing the street with suitcase in tote.

Because I guess for a little while there, I’d forgotten what joy was like.  

But then – as often happens, I suppose – that gentle reminder, that loving nudge pushed its way in …and this time, I said yes.  And it wasn’t that my music was saved, per say, but it was that reminder of Hope Remaining, the combination of the song and the day and the loveliness of God cupping me in the palms of his hands, saying, I’ve got you.  

I’m grateful.

(I’m also really, really glad Apple products are smarter than the average user.  Ahem).

What about you?  What’s given you Hope lately?  What’s brought back joy and put a pep in your step lately?  

when the honeymoon is over.

Last week, I sat with a group of mamas who’ve walked with me and beside me over the past nine months since leaving ministry and entering into into full-time mama-hood.  Because when you spend just two hours a week with someone (or someones), that person enters into your life, and he or she sees the wholeness of who you are.  Collectively, you start to know each others stories, and week after week, like overlapping patterns on a wore and thread-bare quilt, there’s an interweaving of of our lives, experienced and shared and received together.

And it’s just altogether lovely.  

So last week, the mamas were asking me how I’ve been doing post-break-in, and I was honest: it’s still hard sometimes.  I still feel the weight of that day whenever I enter the front door and see the newly installed bars on our kitchen window, and the crowbar marks that noisily scraped our front door.  In my head, I know that the paranoia and anxiety have calmed and quelled (and will continue to do so), but the remnants of the day’s violation remain.  And I don’t like that – I don’t like it at all.

Mama Anne told the story of a sermon she heard once, about living in San Francisco – there exists a honeymoon period, in which which it’s all dreamy, all breezy, beautiful Cover Girl.  We’re excited that we get to walk more than we drive, and the loudness and the noise and the lights and the grit alights our insides.   We feel like we’re part of something bigger and greater than ourselves, and in the Beauty of this urban jungle, we claim a roaring, gripping sense of pride: I can live in The City, in an urban jungle, in mere 1000 square feet, because less is more – I mean, can’t you?  

Downtown San Francisco.  Photo cred: Wikipedia.
Downtown San Francisco. Photo cred: Wikipedia.

But then, like anyone who’s entered into marriage or started a new job or survived life with a baby after your partner goes back to work and the Meal Train Fairy stops dropping off piping hot dinners on your doorstep, the honeymoon is over.  Something happens and you question whether you ever really loved Her, and whether this marriage is really worth fighting for.

It becomes a matter fight or flight – so what are you going to choose?

Friends, I wish I could say we’ve chosen to fight.  I wish I could say we’re going to continue to enter into the grit and the grime, as we proclaim a zip code that’s not eight miles outside of the urban sprawl, but is in the thick of Living the Apparent San Francisco Dream.

But we’re not: we’ve chosen flight.

And here’s the thing: in my head, I know it’s the right choice for our sanity and well-being, for our family, for our future.  But I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost the battle.  I can’t help but feel like Suburbia won, like another Urban Dweller bites the dust because we weren’t able to cut it in The City.

And that is so lame.  

And so not true.

Because that is Pride and Envy and Arrogance rearing its ugly head into the portals of my mind again, making me think that I’ve somehow been cooler and sexier and better than those who haven’t chosen a particular zip code.

So Friendlies, let’s just clarify: I’m not cooler than you.  I still sport my maternity tank tops and wear yoga pants every other day.  I think that it’s hip to quote songs from the 90’s, and I think it’s really, really funny to have entire conversations and friendships based solely on sarcasm.  And that’s just weird.  I’m also not sexier than you.  The height of sexiness reached its peak about a week or two after the actual marriage honeymoon, when I’d worn all the new pieces of lingerie and decided that sweatpants were far tastier to wear as bedroom attire.  And finally, and with all sincerity, I’m not better than you.  And if I’ve given you this impression, well then, seventy times seven, I ask for your forgiveness.  Because no one should be made to feel like they’re less human than somebody else.

But all humor and tears and honesty aside, Pacifica, we’re excited to get to know you.  

Pacifica, CA.
Pacifica, CA.

Surf’s up, dude!

xo, c.

What about you?  Have you ever experienced the end of a honeymoon, or had to choose between flight or fight?  How did you respond?  

the battle inside you & me.

I left the library on Monday, blissful six hours of writing time under my belt, sans (precious, adorable, energy-filled) Little Man.  Driving down a narrow residential street, I turned the corner past our favorite neighborhood playground, and was about to turn right again when I came face to face with Mr. Mercedes Benz.  Our streets were perpendicular to each other, so as he cut the corner to turn left, and I went around the parked truck in an effort to turn right, we came head to head, narrowly missing each other.

Literally.

The hoods of our cars were almost kissing, a mere three feet between us, drivers squared up and ready to duel.  We were Talladega Nights, but set to broad daylight in a quiet, residential area of the City.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who are able to afford a $131,000 car payment – and maybe if I banked a million or two a year, I too would be sporting a Benz.  But then I’d also have my own driver (…and nanny and butler and personal assistant to boot), and I’d be spending every other month on a small island off the coast of Italy, so this kind of interaction wouldn’t necessarily apply.

But I digress.

Anger evident, he motioned his hands wildly for me to go to the left around him, for he obviously had the right of way.

I fought back, motioning for him to back up and admit mistake, as any kind I-almost-cut-you-off, I-was-wrong-you-were-right driver would do.  I also debated the logistics of hopping the curb to the right of his car, as the laws of driving would suggest, but figured that the innocent stop sign or the neighbor’s white picket fence would probably win.

We were head to head, waiting for the other to plead mercy, to let go, to give up the fight.  

And then I realized something: He’s fighting a battle.  

Even though at that moment, I wanted to win the battle so, so badly, I stopped fighting.  I stopped revving my engine, I stopped trying to be right, I stopped trying to win.  And as I drove past him, I didn’t even give him the bird, as I’m so prone to do when I think that the driving population is far from being for me, when the world is entirely against me.

But instead, I drove around to the left, and instead of a lone middle finger salute, I raised all FIVE fingers in the air and plastered a -mostly sincere and genuine – smile on my face and waved at him.

Like a good neighbor would.

Like any human being should.  

I feel like the phrase has been floating around the portals of America for a good while now; I’d heard it in sermons, and seen it in books, and lately strewn across Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram alike.  But it wasn’t until this last week that the depths of its truth sunk into my soul:

Truth.
Truth.

Because this I realized: I’ve been fighting a pretty hard battle lately too.  Experiencing the violation of a break-in has rocked me at times; even though I know in my head that we’re safe, that physically our house is more secure than ever, that mentally the chances of The Bad Guys coming again is slim, still I feel violated.  Still I feel scared and paranoid and sad and mad sometimes.

It’s like I’ve got my Berenstein Bears distorted green glasses atop my eyes for a little while here – so I glance at the backpacks of those we walk past on the street to see if they’re wearing my husband’s stolen one, and I peer out the window at every passing truck – are they the fake service workers the police said robbed our house?  

But then I stop.

I stop because I realize that these thoughts and feelings are normal for the time being, but they will not claim me.  This evil is powerless.  Instead, I acknowledge my own hard battle, and I lean into He who is my peace, the One who calms my beating heart.

I take a deep breath, and confetti-like grace showers my head, tickling my eyes and dusting my nose and covering my hair in all its New Year’s glory.

Somehow, this Divine Grace reminds me that the battle doesn’t just exist just inside me, but it’s inside every single one of us.  

And somehow this truth, this truth of Hard Battles inside you and inside me, inside Mr. Mercedes Benz and inside every other stranger and friend I encounter today, is healing.  It’s enough to make me realize that I don’t need to be right and win, that I can let go and practice kindness.  

Because you never know what might happen along the way.

xoxo, c.

What about you?  Can we fight the hard battles together?  Are you in?

Dear Bad Guys.

Booga booga burgler.
Booga booga burglar.

Dear Bad Guys,

I’ll be honest: I really don’t like you right now, and I’m generally a pretty Silver Linings kind of person.

I don’t like that your presence in our house, our home, is still constantly felt.  I don’t like that you rifled through every drawer and file and shelf you thought might contain something you needed.  I now understand the meaning of the word violation more than ever, yours the hands that rifled through my f*&$ing  underwear drawer.  (Cuss, cuss, exclamation point, exclamation point).

I do hope my Spanx were to your satisfaction.

I don’t like that we’re still discovering items you deemed more useful to you than to us, and I don’t like the headache of paperwork you’ve caused.  I hate that when I awake in the middle of the night to a strange sound, my brain is fraught with worry and my heart beats harder, harder, harder, and I wonder if it’s you again.  So I righteously shake my fists at the anger and I let myself feel the sadness and I acknowledge the fear that your actions have instilled within me.

Sure, much of what you took is replaceable, but my eyes glass over at the irreplaceable you stole: most of the pictures of our son’s first 14 months of life and my own writing and speaking and graduate coursework, all of which are likely lost and erased forever.  [One word to the wise, friends: DropBox.  External hard drives are apparently a wanted item in the thievery scheme of things.]

But Bad Guys, as I always, always seem to say and write and believe, even if I’m ever in need of a reminder or two, even though this whole situation is hard, it’s still good-hard.  Because Goodness and Beauty and Life still remain.  We’ve been upheld by the constant support of our community, by those who’ve held our arms when we can’t seem to raise them ourselves.  We’ve received texts and e-mails and phone calls from friends and family, their own actions an empowering and redemptive reminder of the peace and healing and calm Christ brings.  Your actions have banded our neighborhood together in a new way, even if it’s not the way we would have envisioned idyllic.  And most of all, Mr. Burglar, by breaking in to our house, you’ve reminded this whole little network of people around us of what is really important: that we’re safe, and that we have each other, for you’ve not won the war.

As I read this morning from a friend, and from the wise, wise words of Frederick Buechner: Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Do not be afraid.  So world, I embrace you in all your beauty and terror, in the good and in the bad, in the hard and in the easy.  And still I choose to lean into Life, and to shout, Bad Guys, you ain’t got nothing on me!

But seriously, could you get yourselves another day job?

Maybe someday I’ll hug you and sign this letter “xoxo,” but not today.

From, me.

What about you?  Have you experienced a break-in, a violation of sorts?  I know it’s not the end of the world, but it’s rocked us none the less, so I give myself permission to feel what I’m feeling.  Thank you, meanwhile, for holding us up.