Life Spilled Over.

I came home last night motivated to get my life our apartment in working order – a clean kitchen, washed, dried and folded laundry, sorted mail, dinner on the table by the time my husband arrived home. Recently I’ve not been disciplined as often as I should be about these things, and it leaves me with a nagging, constant guilt that eventually becomes impossible to ignore.
So I was nearly done making dinner, a quick batch of carbonara pasta, when I realized at the worst possible moment that I had no parmesan. The pasta was cooked and waiting. The zucchini and bacon were already a little overdone. What to do? In a nerve-wracking attempt to salvage my hard work I took the only cheese I had, feta, and mixed it in before I could change my mind. The result? It was not only edible, but oddly delicious. [Note for you culinary nerds that might be wondering: no, thank God, I had not stirred in the egg yet. Not sure how that would’ve turned out. Anyone tried it?]
My dishwashing attempts were likewise thwarted. Aside from the obvious liquid versus dry granules, there are significant differences between dish soap and dishwasher soap. I swallowed my sneaking suspicions and used the liquid dish soap since we were out of the dishwasher soap to save myself an extra hour of washing by hand. Result? My dishwasher was foaming at the mouth, spilling suds all over the floor. You can imagine my surprise as I flipped on the light to grab a glass of water. Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn’t filled the entire dispenser with the liquid soap, but oh well. To my own surprise, instead of freaking out like I’ve been prone to do on several pithy, fleeting occasions lately, I laughed out loud, alone in my apartment. And why not make a slip-n-slide mop the floor while I’m at it? My kitchen floor is now nearly clean enough to eat off of.
There on my hands and knees in the suds and scrubbing away at long-neglected grime, I thought once again about how hard it’s been for me to stay motivated during the last few months. With my mom struggling harder than ever against the cancer and the subsequent treatments and surgeries, I’ve been worried, angry, depressed. I’ve allowed the what-ifs and the should-haves to keep me unsettled, insecure. I’ve let two dominant, separate and equally loud voices to split myself apart, one that tells me,
“Stop forcing the moment and admit your fear. Cry. You’ll feel better.”
and the other that argues back,
“Get up. Move on. Forge ahead. Don’t stop for anything.”
And as a writer, these two voices have left me unproductive and indecisive. One part of me says,
“Write when you want to. You can’t force yourself. Wait for the lightbulb.”
and the other chides my artsy immaturity,
 
“If you’d just make time for your writing on a daily basis, the words will come. Make your passion your priority.”
Which is right? Which is better for me? Which will help me keep going?
With no right answer unveiled, I’ve let my habits become dormant and my emotions ebb and flow unchecked. I’ve been quiet around here, afraid of being too vulnerable, afraid that admitting anything will mean that I’m asking for a pity-party, wary of all the awkward flubs that people make when they don’t know how to handle a person’s grief.
I haven’t wanted to see the silver lining in anything for awhile, far too exhausted and angry to think that good things can come from this, soul-growing things, eternal things. What I want is a healthy, happy, whole family that can think about the next few months, years, even decades without the elephant in the room to block our perspective. What I want is normal, in the here and now.
Maybe it seems silly that screwing up dinner and accidentally Ajax-ing the linoleum gave me some much-needed perspective on my inner battles. But there I was on the kitchen floor, up to my elbows in normal and the residue of everyday life, suddenly and strangely comforted by this awareness: I can’t control any of it. And for once it wasn’t a hopeless feeling, but an understanding that things can still turn out well even if they don’t go as planned. I can work hard, or I can take the time I need to let my emotions run their course. Either way, I’ll be okay.
It wasn’t a sickly sweet silver-lining that obscured the reality I’m facing, just a comfort to know that I can find motivation to do the simple things, be happy in the moment, and still find reasons to laugh about the mess that I am, inside and out.

Poem: A Prayer for the Balance.

I asked to know real Grace.
It is my namesake
and I have a feeling I need it.
Instead,
I fight.
I break things.
I break.

So I ask,
God, what can this mean?

Is it a name,
or a thing that lives and breathes?
Does it pardon me, or teach me that I’ve been wrong?

On Sunday mornings,
I believe that there is more to it than a church pew.

On other days, I am caught.

Between hospital beds
and the place where harsh words are said,
in that precarious, miraculous balance
between life 

and death,

I then feel it sustaining me.

Birthday Blessings.

This Thursday my mom will turn the big 5-0. Birthdays are always special, but this one feels especially victorious. She’s made it through a hard year struggling with treatment after treatment, surgery after surgery to combat her metastatic breast cancer.
And so we thought, what better reason to celebrate this milestone than with a surprise birthday party full of friends, family, flowers and good food?
flowers 2 cakes 1
My aunts [my dad’s sister and his brothers’ wives, and my mother’s sister], cousins and I emailed, called, schemed, and prayed for months to plan the party. And then we baked, and cooked, and whipped, and frosted, and decorated, and talked, and laughed.
bakers
It took a lot of prayer, a lot of planning, a lot of lying through my teeth and maybe more frosting than one body should really consume in one weekend, but we pulled it off. She was surprised!
No one spilled the beans, even though most of the party guests saw her in church yesterday morning. In faith, we refrained from canceling it even though she spent a few days in the hospital last week.
And in faith, we celebrated, thanking God for a beautiful day full of energy and joy and time together.
family 4
the suckrows
friends
hugs
Tina by cakes
It was everything we could have hoped for. I’m a happy, relieved, thankful kind of exhausted.
Maybe you and your family have reason to worry, to wonder what the next few months and years will be like, to think that maybe now is not the time to celebrate. I know how that feels.
But this weekend, all my fear and concern and doubt was replaced by something much more important :
Faith.
Faith to believe that even though it seems like a time to fear the future, tomorrow will be a good day. Faith to believe that life is worth celebrating, even when it’s hard. Faith to believe that He knows our hopes and plans, and He’s working on our behalf.
So, don’t hesitate to celebrate. Do it now. Do it while you can, even if you can’t be sure what today, tomorrow, or next week will hold. Do it together, because family is our best resource for support and strength.
Pray hard. Make memories. Eat everything. And whatever happens, choose to celebrate.

The Rain.

rainy drive
Driving home from Michigan yesterday I finally found an exit that took me to the lake shore. I’ve tried before and gotten lost in loops of highway exits and side roads as my GPS chirps in the background,“recalculating, recalculating…” This time I muted the thing, took an exit I haven’t taken before and discovered the road I remembered from our honeymoon to St. Joseph, Michigan. In my memory the water gleamed blue with sunshine as husband and I said good-bye to the only vacation we’ve taken since we married nearly two years ago.
I stopped and got out of the car, grateful to stretch my legs and let the breeze air out my shirt, drenched in sweat from a drive with no air-conditioning in 85 degree weather, and to reflect on my trip home and the road ahead of me – what I was returning to and what I was leaving behind.
The aquamarine waves lapped quietly, disappearing into a hazy sky. With the sun shining and calm winds, it was hard to fathom the ominous storm forecasted to strike the midwest. Supposedly I was headed straight into the thick of it, but from where I sat things looked peaceful and incapable of being disturbed. I wanted to sit there forever, the sun and I defiantly waiting for a sign from the darkening sky to prove the weatherman right or wrong. I know that meteorology is a science, but for how often they are wrong I wanted to believe that the storms wouldn’t come.
I sweltered the whole way home, watching the sky grow darker and gray, fraught with clouds. In the distance I could see the slant sheet of rain spill over the southwest.
At long last I pulled into the lot of my apartment, and the sky, heavy with thunder, broke open in a downpour.
I stepped from the car, lifted my hands open-palmed to the sky.
For once it felt good to let the cold drops wash over me, engulf me in its soaking breeze, let the rumble of thunder ripple from my spine to my toes.
What else am I to do but welcome it now?

[Photo.]

God Gave Me a Zeppelin Shirt.

engagement photo
I’m not very good at letting myself feel things when I should. At least that’s how I reprimand and rationalize myself when the feelings just won’t stay stuffed down. I’m hard on myself. I think we all are, in different, debilitating ways. We want to function. We want to fulfill expectations with a reality that will make us feel better about the things we just can’t control.
We want to compartmentalize.
Relationships here.
Work there.
Emotions in the corner.
Insecurity somehow slips into each of those tightly bound spaces and unravels everything. The what ifs and the fears and the happy possibilities become tangled into a magnificent twist of confusion and worry.
We understand nothing.
We do nothing.
I do believe, in optimistic and maybe naive moments that we can work our way out of self destructive habits. I want to believe that each of us can learn to live in the moment and see outside of our selves. And I know, like a blind man feels with distinction a tree, a face, a hand of something he cannot see, that God is there, is present in my day-to-day guiding and protecting and providing for me. But I also feel the gravel, the steep hill and rushing currents as I work through the hard, unknowable, incomprehensible things. Each movement forward feels shaky and precarious. I don’t like being unable to see the end of the road and I don’t like not knowing how long it will or won’t take to get there, wherever there is.
It’s these thoughts that catch me when I’m alone and squelch my solitude, my peace. And so last night, there I was, alone in my thoughts, putting away dishes before friends came over for coffee and listening absent-mindedly to Led Zeppelin in the background, when my husband came up behind me to dance – a regular occurrence. He placed his hands on my hips and swayed to the bass beat and for a minute I let him, lost in the song and remembering how exactly we wound up here.

It was my love for Led Zeppelin that made me impulse-purchase a really rad t-shirt right before I went to college. And it was the t-shirt that made Matt notice me from across the classroom way back in the day [2005] when we were just two kids, trying to survive college and find someone whose music taste didn’t make us vomit. And it was those early spring nights when we listened to vinyls and cassette tapes and talked about we had in common that made us realize: there’s no one else that we’d rather rock out with than each other, forever and ever, I Do, amen…

And now here we are, adults, married, dealing with day-to-day life together and wondering, each of us, where we’re headed and how to get there. And it’s not always glamourous and he’s not a famous rockstar [yet] and we’re flat broke, and he sometimes comes home to find me weeping into a couch cushion or zoning out as I stand over a sink of dirty dishes, but we have each other and that’s really good. Because I had no idea that buying a Zeppelin shirt would be the catalyst for changing my life and meeting my future husband. And whatever happens or doesn’t happen – real or in our insecure imaginations – we have that opportunity to stop in the midst of it and see how far we’ve come. God provides, in surprising and subtle ways that we aren’t capable of imagining or orchestrating on our own.
I need to stop, listen, dance in the now, where I’m safe and sound in what He’s already given me.
I am not alone.

[Engagement photo taken by this talented dude.]