I’m Not the Story Weaver.

I am a writer. Consequently, my general outlook on life is a series of archetypes, themes, plots, summaries, critiques… there’s a lot of pre-writing and re-writing going on in my head, and there’s no switch to turn it off. All the world is a stage, you know.

But it’s the endings I’m not good at. I’m a total sap when it comes to endings. Mostly, I envision that the story actually comes to an end, a resolution. I often realize much further on in my writing and reading that this is a false assumption.

Lately, I’ve begun to wonder about our fascination with the fairy-tale ending. We began by expecting it, and now we’ve become disillusioned with it, naturally.

But where does the fallacy lie in “happily ever after”?

Is there no such thing as happiness?

Or have we made a bad habit of ending the story at the wrong part?

So the prince and the princess get married… and???  What comes after that? What exactly constitutes the “happily ever after”? A fairy-tale prince or princess would never be unfaithful to one another. The prince would never be a deadbeat dad. The princess would never become a bitter, self-conscious old woman that drives her prince and her children crazy. They would never lose the castle, the talking livestock, and the pumpkin carriage in a faulty investment. They would never bicker or become alcoholics or abuse their kids. They would never die of terminal illnesses.

And yet, here we are. We live in a dichotomy of pure joy and pure tragedy. We find love and we find hate. We can’t get rid of the evil stepsisters and the villains; quite often we are our own worst enemy. We make the best decisions we’ve ever made, and then we screw it up.

Maybe it’s the ambiguity of it, the elusive “happiness” that leaves us confused and frustrated and empty when we try to live in the “ever after.” The brokenness wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did, and we can’t see how it could ever be right again. We have no pre-text for what to do when we screw up, so the “happily ever after” plan is eradicated.

Or maybe it’s that we’ve totally abandoned the possibility of redemption.

I yearn for the easy answer, the redemptive ending. I wish I could tie the strings of all our loose ends together so that our lives would never unravel as they so often do. I keep finding myself trying to weave it all together, tightly, to make it mean something, to make our stories and our selves whole again.

I think it’s better if I just stop trying to rewrite the thing. Life is beautiful and gripping and horrific and triumphant and tragic enough on its own.

I’m not the Story-Weaver. I need to just keep reading.

Confessions of a Twenty Something : I’m in Therapy.

I was 21 and had just graduated college. I was two months away from marrying my best friend, but I didn’t have a job and neither did my then-fiance. And I was completely insecure in the choices I was making. Should we still get married if we have no money? How can I earn money as a writer? Is that even possible? When should I go to grad school? I love my fiance, but am I capable of being a good spouse to him? Am I ready to be an adult?

How do I cope with all of this anxiety?

And I was beginning to notice things about myself. That if I was at my apartment alone without my roommate around, I was doing one of two things: crying uncontrollably, or laying on the couch like an overcooked vegetable watching reality television. My “anger management” techniques, though inherited honestly from my German-American family, were highly ineffective, unhealthy, and were not conducive to being someone’s spouse.

I wasn’t writing.

I wasn’t looking for a better job.

I was letting the negative things in my life strangle the positive things. I had a college degree I’d worked hard for, but I had no job. My confidence in my writing and my professionalism were rock bottom. I had a great relationship with my fiance, but I was terrified that I would ruin it with my obstinacy and insecurity. I had faith in a God that has consistently been faithful to me, but I felt unfaithful to Him by living in fear of the future.

And I knew my friends couldn’t fix me. 

So I went to see a therapist I knew. And we began to unravel a few things.

First: are you sure you want to get married? 

The answer was unequivocally and irrevocably YES. Yes, I did want to marry my best friend. Even if we lived with his parents for a few months while we got on our feet, even if it meant that we wouldn’t be able to go on a honeymoon or buy better vehicles or go to grad school right away, I knew with every part of me that we would be honoring God and one another if we chose to work through those things together in marriage.

Second: since I’m getting married, what do I need to do to be an emotionally stable spouse? 

All of us were raised with habits, good and bad. And then, at some point, we realize the unhealthy ones are getting in the way of constructing positive ones. We have to deconstruct the unhealthy habits – admit them, analyze that pattern of behavior, let go of it, and then try – painfully at first – to speak, act, reach out, apologize, forgive and encourage in new ways.

Third: how do I learn to cope with my mother’s unstable health? 

There are days when I’m overwhelmed. There are days when I feel numb to it. And because I am the oldest child and the only girl from my family of five, I will always feel responsible for the well-being of everyone else. I will, instinctively, suppress my emotions in an effort to accommodate those around me. I will, instinctively, believe that if I just “keep it together” I will find a way to fix the situation. I’m learning to confess my grief, my doubt, my fear. I’m learning to let my faith sustain me. I’m learning to be honest with myself and with others about how I feel in a given moment.

And I had to my ask myself this question:

Is going to therapy a sign that I’m broken, or that I’m healing? 

We reap what we sow. We have to do the hard work of uprooting the negative in order to make room for positive things to grow. There’s a lot of sweat and tears and patience and prayer involved. A lot of talking and crying and brutal honesty. To bear the fruit of a healthy life, I had to find the help I needed to unearth a better way of living. I hope each of you find the courage to do the same.

This post was written in conjunction with the blog series Confessions of a Twenty Something, hosted by Ally Spots.

Poem: A Prayer for the Balance.

I asked to know real Grace.
It is my namesake
and I have a feeling I need it.
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.
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
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 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.

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.]