Good-bye sweet girl.
These are the words that were silently spoken by my heart this morning as I watched my daughter leave for school.
I stood there, from our front door, watching her walk away. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The chilly air kissed my face and my bare feet were planted on the cold, wet concrete steps. My heart felt like it was stuck in my throat and tears, like prisoners, tried escaping down my cheek. All at once it felt like a decade had passed me by in the blink of an eye.
Today my baby is 10.
I remember the days, they don’t seem all that long ago now, when I would find myself dreaming of a time when my kids would be more independent. I remember anticipating the days where all three of my children would be able to feed themselves, get dressed on their own, and do basic hygiene without any help from their mama. And I realize, a little despairingly now, that my dreams have come true.
So, I’m turning the big “40” here in a few days and while this milestone birthday can be a bit depressing for many, I find myself excited for this next decade and all that it will hold. Honestly, turning 30 was kind of hard for me. And yet, as leery as I was heading into those years, some of my greatest personal growth occurred during that time. Here are a few things I have worked hard at in the last decade that have also enriched my life immensely.
1.) Girlfriends that love fiercely.
One of the best things about being this age is that I’ve learned how to choose well when it comes to my friendships. I’ve discovered that great friendships don’t just materialize, they are made. It takes time and energy to form a deep and lasting friendship. A friendship that’s worth anything to you has undoubtedly endured misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a few bumps and bruises along the way. But that’s what makes them so valuable. You’ve invested your time and a decent amount of work into the relationship. You’ve taken risks and have shared vulnerable moments together. If it’s a truly deep friendship you have probably had to lovingly correct, ask for forgiveness and possibly even work through moments of jealousy. But strong, healthy friendships go there. They do the hard, deep work because they know the reward is worth it. These friendships, the ones that love fiercely, that go the extra mile and are committed to digging in and doing the hard work when life calls for it, these are amongst the sweetest gifts God gives.
“All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”
The lyrics to the Beatles’ famous song play like a soundtrack in my mind. A classic. It’s a catchy feel good song. Each beat like an anthem declaring itself to my heart.
Everywhere I turn lately, it’s all I hear. Love is the answer to everything. We are love warriors and we have hashtags stating #loveisloveislove, Madonna even chanting it at the end of her speech at a recent women’s march. “We choose LOVE! We choose Love! We choose Love!!!!” She screams this into the very same microphone that only moments before amplified her thoughts of blowing up the White House.
And I wonder….Is this really all we need? Is this the love we need? If we just chant the word enough, or if we scream it loudly from a microphone, or maybe if we hashtag it to death, will something change then? Will the word love be enough to heal our our broken hearts? our communities? our country?
It seems as though love has taken on a loftiness about it as of late. Tenuous in nature, it is sweeping across our nation making unsubstantiated claims. It has become an abstract, vaporous idea that invites people to adhere their own personal definitions to it. Suddenly, love can be whatever you’d like it to be. And while this idea presents itself as being inclusive and freeing, I believe it does us a disservice. How can we all claim that love is the answer when our definition of love is so vastly different from one another?
It’s been eight years to the day that my father-in-law passed away. And the old cliche, “time heals all wounds” this many years out, seems both true and an awful lie all at once.
The sharp pang of loss, the kind that took our breath away for days, weeks, and even months after isn’t our daily companion anymore. We have whole blocks of time where we don’t even think of him. But it’s never truly gone either. It’s in hiding now, jumping out and scaring us at will. The realness of it sometimes settling in on us again like it did the very first time. Because there will never be another ANYTHING with him.
Maybe you feel it too?
A heaviness from life’s struggles and unmet expectations covers me like a weighted blanket. Residue from hurt and pain over the past year lingers and makes a case for me to climb up under the covers and never come out. I’m tired. And maybe a little sad. And admitting it only seems to add shame to the mix.
But I also have joy. Not a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling dripping with sentiment, but a settled assurance, a quiet confidence and a determined choice.