Good morning. Good night.

“You look awful!”

He steps in to get a better look.

“Like, (perplexed pause), you look like you are about to die!”

He leans in even closer.

But before he can find a way to further articulate his horror, we both burst into side-splitting laughter.

“This is what I need him for,” I think, as I look down and realize that I’m still in my pajamas at 7:30. . . PM.

There is a pile of wrappers that used to contain the canister full of dinner mints that have sustained me all day long.

This was . . . a day. Ya know? And if I’m being totally honest, I’ll say that I have a lot of days like this. I’m not the mom who wakes up and has her make-up on before she gets the kids out of bed in the morning. I’ll never be that mom. I wish I were that mom. But guess what? Reality: I’m lucky if I get my make up on before our semi-annual family photo session, forget the drop off line at school. And that’s ok with me. (Sort of. . . . Well, most of the time. OK. A good percentage of the time. Like say, 35%.)

On days when I’m feeling particularly spread thin and frazzled, I remind myself that I’m a part of something. Something that matters. In fact, I’m a part of a lot of somethings that matter, and I get to live them out every day, with my entire soul. That means something to me. It really does. So yes, I’m still in the stars and stripes that I put on at 10:30pm . . . yesterday. And no, I’m not ashamed (I’m a little ashamed) to be admitting that out loud. (Actually, you know what? I did it on purpose. It makes going to bed again a cinch.)

______________________________

Dear, sweet, strong, brave, bat-freaking-crazy, zombie face Natalie,

Every day, as you break up fist fights between your children, stop and look at them (but not for too long, or there will be blood). Stop and really look at them, and remember that they are yours. You made them. And you get to keep them, forever. That’s a something to be proud of. 

As you look at the pile of dishes that is stinking up not only the kitchen but is sneaking it’s way into your living space as well, remember, you survived on dinner mints today because you wanted to, not because you didn’t have enough food to eat. You have a kitchen full of dishes and a pantry full of food to put on them. Why you chose to subsist on dinner mints is a mystery of the free world. But every girl needs to keep a little mystery in her life. So, good on ya! This is all a something to feel very grateful for. 

When your husband tells you you look like the walking dead, wrap your arms tight around his neck, because if it weren’t for him, you would drive yourself right into the ground with how hard you work every day, and you know it. His love and hilarity are the solitary reasons you stay sane and keep your head square upon your shoulders. That is a something to cry tears of joy about.

When you are starting to doubt the wisdom of your 3 month long email strike as you see unanswered messages spilling out the front door and onto the neighbor’s lawn, remember— each one of those emails (except the stupid ones from Living Social and K-Mart) represents one of God’s children that you get the absolute honor of loving on for a few measly minutes of your big bad day. That is a something you need to appreciate as a gift. That is a something you need to remember to love.

When you are losing your mind trying to coordinate all the logistics of your crazy-beautiful life, just look around at all the SPECTACULAR people who are constantly rising up to help, to encourage, to support and to sustain your efforts. YOUR life is FILLED TO OVERFLOWING with not only somethings but someones who love you fiercely. . .far more than you deserve.

 

Above: Discussing Metta (loving kindness) Meditation with Mom after a particularly hard night.

 

 At the end of a long day of hustling like your life depended on it, when your 10 year old asks you to come and not only listen to him practice his drums, but sing vocals for him as well (WHAT?!), remember, migraines.are.awesome. (That’s not a something. It’s just torture, by the way. But it is evidence of a life full of love and belonging. . . and THAT is a something you could never live without.)

And when you didn’t get dinner on the table, and your house is nearing disaster status, and your laundry is taking over the bathroom, and said bathroom smells like number one, and you are exhausted on a cellular level, and despite going a million miles an hour—all.day.long—you really aren’t sure what you even accomplished . . . remember, you have opposable thumbs, and that is neat.

Hang in there, sister. Your life is beautiful.

xo,

Self

PS Want to join me in an upcoming something that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of? Come see me and two of my most treasured and respected friends (Tamara Lackey and Jen Bebb) in Brooklyn, Nashville or LA for a day of encouragement, straight talk and practical, sustainable application that is sure to get you from where you are now (10:45pm in yesterday’s pajamas?), to where you truly want to be (10:45 pm in yesterday’s pajamas, but eating ice cream too??).

All joking aside*, this event is not to be missed. Find (real) information here: What If Conference | The Day Camps.

*Note: this is my last scheduled speaking engagement of 2013.

When you really love something, when you really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately LOVE something, it’s always shocking to wake up one morning and realize how long that thing has been gone from your life—how far away it feels—how foreign—how . . . irretrievable. When you finally find the courage and resolve to go after what you’ve lost, when you finally realize that life without it is worse than the horrifying reality of what will be required to get it back, there’s a part of you that believes that once you “jump back in,” you’ll be simply overwhelmed by the utter rightness of it all. “I’m home!” your spirit will cry!

Here’s the truth that I have found: It will hurt, this process of righting wrongs, of chasing our bliss, of restoring what was lost, of building what we hope has the potential to be. Once you’re in the thick of all the searching, it will be hard, and it will hurt. You’ll feel clumsy and unsteady, insignificant and small, and the journey will feel very, very long and unyielding. To paraphrase Robert Frost—the woods will seem dark and deep and there will be miles and miles (and miles) to go before you’ll sleep.

But where there is love, there is light. And light, my friends, is ALWAYS worth fighting for. Once you get back in the ring, the entire universe will begin to conspire together for your good—in absolutely miraculous ways. And out of nowhere, you’ll start receiving signs. Trust them. These signs will validate the stirring in your heart, and they will give every ounce of the courage you need. My sign was delivered to me by a stranger. In the exact moment my heart needed it the most:

“Please come back to the web. If only you knew all the people that you were encouraging, lives you were touching, the way that God uses your pain to shape others lives, to comfort those who feel the same. I know you will probably never know the depths of the way that God is using you, your story, your writing, your talents, your gifts, your trials, your sufferings….but I do hope and pray that you come back and process more with us. There needs to be more hope and truth out here on the internet….and more voices like yours. Thank you for all you have done here…you are a gift and a blessing and a teacher and a mentor and even in a way, a friend. Thank you.”

I’ll be back to writing (blogging) tomorrow (well, and today, as it would seem).

(Deep inhale, soft smile.) I’ll see you soon.

Getting ready to move, and I found a box of things I kept from the hospital after Gavin died…

Inside was a picture one of the nurses took of me holding him as we said goodbye. It was an interesting experience, seeing that again. Anyone else would likely have struggled to look at the image…found it morbid, probably.

His edema made his skin taught and paper thin. He was intubated and covered from top to bottom in tubes and wires (the highest IV was in the skin of his head and the lowest was inserted into the top of his right foot—then there were countless other tubes and wires littered across the space in between—so, in this case, “from top to bottom” is not used as a figure of speech). His coloring shows clear evidence of how close death loomed—literally moments away.

I’ve never been able to look at the picture myself for longer than a glance without turning my head, and I am his mother. . .

But this time was different.

I not only found myself able to look at the image, but I lost myself inside of it.

For the first time ever, I looked at that boy, in that physical state, and I didn’t want to turn away. In truth, for the first time ever, I saw so.much.beauty there.

The image didn’t disturb me at all. . .there was so much love in my heart— longing, yes, and also abundant love—overwhelming in proportion.

I wept tears of joy at the peace I had found.

_________________________________________________

I share this for those who mourn—no matter the cause.

I share this for those who are in the darkest parts of the trauma called “grief.”

There is hope.

There is another side of the tunnel called grief—for it is, as they say, a tunnel, not a cave (though I know there are days, weeks, months, years even when it certainly does not feel that way).

Someday, you will be able to open the box of the darkest hours of memory, and the terror will be gone.

There will always be remnants of sorrow and pain, it is evidence of our very humanity, evidence of the depth of our love, but the terror, the horror, the racing heart, the crushing in your chest, the inability to recall and look at certain events of your past without the threat of complete physiological and emotional overwhelm. . . that can change.

It can.

The change comes in and through a God, a literal Father in Heaven, who knows and loves you perfectly.

Ask.

Wait.

Exercise patience (though I know, the wait can be excruciating).

And through his perfect love and grace, you can find peace, even understanding, to free you from that darkest part of the grief and pain by which you are bound.

I KNOW this is true, for I have lived it.

It took a miracle, but thankfully, we live in a world that is full of those.

xx,

N

I’ve spent the last 6 months wondering how I’d ever return to the world wide web. I’ve been afraid, ashamed, discouraged, confused.

I’ve been a million things, but none of them was ever “ready.”

So, here I am. . . reluctantly breaking radio silence, after nearly 6 months of static.

I missed you. I did. And I’m so sorry for deserting you. I am.

I’m nervous. Of all the ridiculousness there ever was, I.am.nervous.

It’s like I’m coming home to a long lost friend. The kind of friend who once understood me completely and loved me without condition. The kind of friend who, once upon a time, would have been there for me, no matter what. . . But it’s been so long. What if things have changed? What if it’s simply been too long? What if I’ve muddled everything?

I’m afraid.

In fact, my heart is pounding through my chest. (And tears are streaming down my cheeks. . . which really embarrasses me—full disclosure, remember? It’s my thing. Or have I been away so long that you’ve forgotten?)

“This is absurd,” you say? I KNOW! You are ABSOLUTELY correct. This is absurd. We’re talking about a BLOG here, and a peripheral one at that! I.hear.you. I feeeeeeeeel you. And, despite it all, this is exceptionally hard. Picking up the pieces and beginning again where I stand is hard in a way that I could never, ever have anticipated.

It hurts to worry that no one is left to listen. It hurts to admit that, well, even if you are still there listening, I just don’t know what I have left to say. And THAT? Well, that’s the most horrifying admission of them all. . .

So, why today? Why not yesterday? A week ago, a month ago, six?

Why am I suddenly ready, today?

Oh, I’m not. Ready. Not at all.

But enough. Enough. Because this isn’t about me. It has nothing to do with me at all.

I’m here today for you, Adler. For you, Sarah. And for you, brave, selfless McKay.

I am here today, for you.* 

 

Friends, please share what you can (I’ve been here, trust me, every dollar matters). If you can’t share monitarily, please, help me spread this video as far and wide as the ocean is deep.

Let’s help give this family the miracle they so deserve. Let’s help these beautiful brothers grow up together.

Let’s fix Adler, together.

 xx,

N

*Sarah, McKay, Adler and the rest of you sweet kindred stranger-friends of mine, I pray so earnestly that you receive a miracle. I pray with every beat of my heart that God hears my prayers. I pray fervently that His perfect will is aligned with my own. And I pray, with the entirety of my broken heart, that your miracle looks far different than my own—I pray that your miracle ends with happily ever after. . . together. . .forever. . .here . . .now. Infinite love, and the most heartfelt namaste, Natalie