both and

DISCLAIMER: This post includes complaint but not lament. It is a No Pity Zone. I’m just keeping it real and have a feeling a few in my tribe can relate. Are we clear? I love you people. Okay, now, read on…

I had this idea about life after divorce. I thought once the dust settles, the dating life would be fantastic. I thought if I could just get through this really crappy time, I just knew it would be awesome. There would be dates and trips and parties and fun! As soon as that Facebook status moved to Single, there would be no stopping me! I’d join That Online Dating Site and I’d be inundated with men wanting relationships with me! I’d better buy some cute outfits in advance because I will have places to go.

tweet this.

tweet this.

It’s not like that.

The reality is, for many of us, single life is just life. Simply put, there’s a lot of down time. A lot of time where our date is Charles Shaw (don’t judge) and we find ourselves flopped on the beige couch on a Saturday night binge-watching Sex And The City. Or worse: Wife Swap.

I know, I know. People say, “Give it time.”

“There’s someone out there for you.”

“I know this great guy you might like…”

And worst of all: “We pray every day for the right man to come along for you.” Please pray for the Ebola victims, not for this.

In my limited experience of dating at this time in my life, I can tell you this: it’s exhausting. The small talk, the telling the same stories, the having to be funny/charming/cute. The Spanx! Don’t get me started. The Spanx alone are enough to confirm one’s calling to a convent. (But may it be in Provence, please, dear Lord.)

Some people love the fun of dating. Of meeting lots of people. Of just getting out there to have fun. Turns out, my original Facebook fantasy doesn’t fit me to a T. I’m not like that. The thing I want, I think what a lot of us want, is companionship.

I like getting dressed up (read: Spanx) and going on fantastic dates. But I want to do it with Someone. Someone I know in the deepest places of his heart and mind and who knows me in the same way. Someone I’m not trying to impress. I don’t want to be on my best behavior. I want us to be comfortable enough to not be perfect or witty or clever or trying so dang hard. I want to watch a movie on the couch in drawstring pants and no mascara and make a run for French fries or another bottle of wine. I want to have conversations that matter and conversations that are ridiculous. I want to laugh with him at potty humor even though it’s not lady-like. I want to talk about the places we fall down and the ways we get back up again. I want to talk about how we can change the world and really mean it.

I know a lot of women in this space want that. So what do we do in the waiting? I don’t know. But what I do know is… who are we kidding, I got nothin’. I know nothing.

Those days that feel hopeless and lame and sad and you’re just trying to keep it together…

Then those days when you feel all SJP at her cool New York best and you’re awesome and really okay.

All those days are part of it, I guess. The “Where are you, Someone?” days and the “I’m crushing it!” days. All true.

I’m nothing if not a big hairy ball of contradictions and I’m in all of that. My thoughts swing from one extreme to the other through the course of 24 hours. And what I do know…okay, this time I really do know at least one thing… is that it’s all going to be fine. We are going to be fine. Better than fine. We may not figure it all out, but we will be wondrous in the confusion and beautiful in the trying. No matter what.

In fact, I’m pretty sure we already are.

-ld

I googled "corny love images" and got this.

PS: I searched “corny love images” and got this.

alabaster

There’s a story told in the gospel of Luke about a woman with a “sinful past” who came to Jesus while he was eating dinner at a Pharisee’s house. She brought with her an alabaster jar of perfume. She began to weep, kneeling, and wet Jesus’ feet with her tears. After drying them with her hair, she broke open the bottle of perfume and poured it out onto his feet.

The religious guys around the table were astonished at this display and thought for sure, if Jesus knew about this woman’s past, He would be as disgusted as they were.

But no.

He knew. He knows.

He told her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

It doesn’t say in the passage, but I imagine it went something like this… A room-full of Really Good Men. They really do think they know what’s best and how to be good. Follow the rules. Check the boxes. Nothing wrong with that.

But in walks a woman, into this room of Really Good Men (Ballsy, no? Back in the day, women and dogs were pretty much on equal footing), and all she wants is to connect with Jesus. She wants to give him the most valuable thing she has. She knows who he is. She knows of his capacity to forgive, to restore, to love. Tears of relief fall, of gratitude, overwhelming tears of “I can’t believe you know me and still love me.”

And then she breaks open this alabaster jar. A tremendously valuable thing and once opened, is broken forever. She pours out precious perfume onto his feet, as if to say, “This is everything. This is all of me. Take it. Please. It’s yours.”

I imagine the room has gone silent. Some of the religious guys are shocked. Some are waiting indignantly for Jesus to respond as they would. Some are just hoping she’d hurry up and leave, cuz this is awwk-ward.

Here’s what I think: I think Jesus smiles when he sees this woman. I think maybe he gives her a look that says, “I’m so glad you’re here. It’s ok. Come close.”

And then perhaps, he lifts her to her feet, holds her face in his big Jesus hands and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” I want to think he even whispers in her ear, “Don’t worry about these dudes. I got this. Go in peace.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “Now, why exactly did you do the things you did? How did you get to this place?” No questions about her past. He already knows and it’s a non-issue. He offers her peace. Healing. Restoration. Grace. Dignity. Love.

This woman. This brave, brave woman. She has no fear. She’s so desperate, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. Yes, she’s lived a hard life, been around the block, all that. But what I love is that she comes to Jesus, in a room rife with judgement, with everything she has. Vulnerable, humble, broken, like that alabaster jar, she pours out the depths of her soul. She says, “This is it. This is all I got. And it’s all yours.”

We don’t know her name, but she made history. She’s a hot mess, but she’s in the freakin Bible.

I want to be like her. I want to courageously come to Jesus and say, “Here. Here’s everything. Will you please take it? Take me?” Complete surrender. And my hope, my prayer, is that he will smile and hold my face in his Jesus hands and say, “I’m so glad you’re here. Come close. Your sins are forgiven.”

And then he’ll say, “Go in peace. Peace to forgive yourself and forgive others. As I have forgiven you.”

I’m learning to walk in that peace and forgiveness, understanding my worth, even in my brokenness. It’s then, at my most vulnerable, when I most powerfully sense God’s gifts to me: his scandalous grace and outrageous love.

daring rescue

tug-o-war

I really didn’t think it would go like this. I really thought God would show up and everyone would see how good and faithful He is and there would be this grand celebration of His goodness and faithfulness.

I guess I thought wrong.

There was a Great Big Prayer I was certain God would answer. Other people were skeptical, but I knew, just knew God would answer it in an amazing God-sized way and people would shake their heads in wonder and be awed at His provision. I really had no doubt He would come through in the way I planned.

Maybe that’s the problem.

I kind of feel like I was betting on a horse. A long-shot for sure, but I put all my money on him and cheered as hard as I could from the stands and I envisioned myself hooting and hollering as he rounded the stretch. I’d be shouting, “You can do it! I know you can do it! GO!” He’d burst away from the pack and people would be on their feet and they wouldn’t believe what they were seeing! It was sketchy for a moment, but he’d show everyone what he’s got! The crowd would roar with excitement! I told you he would win!

It seems God doesn’t work that way. Maybe God isn’t a trained monkey who performs on my command to the amazement of onlookers. (Mixing metaphors, I know.) Maybe the answered prayers He delivers aren’t necessarily a way for me to prove something to other people.

I’m sad. I’m so disappointed. The Great Big Prayer was a good thing and it was important to people I love. I don’t understand the outcome. But even as I write this, I wonder if maybe He’s saying something different to me. Maybe He doesn’t need me to direct the way He shows up for other people. (Really, God? Because my plan was brilliant.) Maybe He is answering the Great Big Prayer not in the way I suggested, but in a way I need to understand. Maybe there’s more to this than I realize.

Here’s what I know: By His very nature, God is good. His love is unfailing. He wants great things for us. He sees. And He is involved.

When I look at the circumstances, it’s easy for me to doubt those things. And then I try to control or bargain or just plain give up hope and get angry. But I have seen Him do the miraculous in the past and I know He is a God who keeps His promises. I know this because I have experienced it.

That tug-of-war between faith and doubt is real. I move toward what I know to be true, then I’m yanked back across the mud pit and doubt seems to be winning. I’m knee deep in the muck and can’t get the traction to climb out. I so long for that daring rescue that pulls me out of the pit and onto soft green grass. Stable. Firm. Unmoving.

There is no bow on this. I don’t know if there will be in the way I envisioned. What I know is that without a doubt, God is working. I’m trying to remember to trust Him not based on what I see, but on His unchanging character and His unfailing love. I have no idea how things will work out, but He reminds me that His plans are not my plans; they’re better.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

-ld

a blog by any other name…

The second question friends ask after I tell them I’ve started a blog is usually, “Millywhat?”

I know. Unusual name. But there’s a story. (There’s always a story.)

I’ve debated about if or when I’d tell that story here. There’s something kind of fun about keeping you guessing. I’m sure you lay awake at night trying to unravel the mystery…

I love they way the word sounds. It’s whimsical and fun and a little silly. It feels kind of girly and kind of odd. Exactly like a certain friendship I have. Let me explain.

Over 30 years ago, I met Lisa in high school. (Can I pause here for a moment? I think someone did the math wrong. I could not possibly have been in high school over 30 years ago. I digress…) Lisa sat next to me in Mrs. Moser’s biology class. We both were slightly shy and slightly dorky and became fast friends. We pined over boys. We worked together at Nordstrom (where the addiction began). She taught me how to drive on the freeway and once on the sidewalk. Because neither of us had a sense of direction, we often got ridiculously lost. But we navigated the triumphs and heartaches of those important years, and we freakin’ laughed our faces off most of the time.

Somehow, I’m not sure how, we came across this name, Milly Pang. And we thought it was awesome. It quickly became the name we each answered to. It morphed into one word: Millypang! Sometimes it was MP and if we were feeling especially sassy, just Milly.

Time passes and friendships evolve. Ours has and it’s endured miles and years and life kicking the crap out of us. It’s also made us both better.

lucynethelThose kinds of friendships from years ago are valuable and rare, where you know each other’s parents and you remember each other’s first car and first boyfriend. Or those friendships from later, but no less important years of college or early marriage or new babies or your first home in the same cul-de-sac. Those people who, if you could pick your family, you would pick them. They weave in and around your life and give you a sense of personal history and of belonging. Of being known.

What about you? Who is that person for you? Is it someone you are in touch with now or have time and life caused a drift? The latter isn’t a bad thing. That person or people still helped shape who you are today. Those friendships are still important, even from a distance. What if you reached out? What if you dropped a line and just said “Thank you.” Or “Tell me about your world now.” No big declaration or grand gesture. Just connection. Doing something like that may totally confuse the person or it may make their whole day.

So the name of this space is a fun, happy name. Moreover, it’s a tribute to those people who are important to us. To those who help us become who we are meant to be. To this day, I’ll call Lisa and she’ll answer with a resounding “MILLYPANG!” It makes me smile.

-ld

let’s pretend

There’s a scene in the movie Hook where the Lost Boys have captured a grown up Peter Pan, though they don’t know it’s him. Pockets, one of the smallest boys, gingerly approaches Peter who has been kicked around and beaten. He slowly removes Peter’s glasses and looks at his face very, very carefully. Pockets touches, pokes, and stretches Peter’s skin, studying this weathered, middle-aged man kneeling before him. With his small hands holding Peter’s face, Pockets’ own face slowly lights up and he exclaims, “Oh there you are, Peter!”

I’ve been there. That moment when someone recognized who I was. The Laura beneath the pretending and striving and holding on to someone I wasn’t. “Oh there you are, Laura! I’m so glad you’re here.”

I’m pretty sure we all go through those periods where we want to fit in. Where we think we must squeeze into a certain mold in order to be liked and included. (No? Just me? Ah well, okay. Anyhoo…) This was me much of my adult life. Something in me felt less than, not quite there yet, not quite enough, or worse, too much. I unconsciously fell into the thinking that if people really knew me, they’d run for the hills. If people knew what I really thought or felt or if they saw the scars from old wounds, they’d hightail it out of my life quicker than you can say, “Isn’t there a 12-step program for this?”

So I pretended. I got really good at it too.

There was that time I decided to be Perfect. Seriously. I decided I would be Perfect, and all would be right in the world and God would love me just a skosh more and people would see me walk by and they’d sigh and say, “Gosh, I wish I could be Perfect like her.”

50s-momHere’s how it went: I only drove 55mph on the freeway. I only listened to Contemporary Christian Music (because, you know, “garbage in, garbage out”). I never left the house without a full face of makeup and lipstick. My clothes were smart and put together and appropriate and mommy-chic. I never said bad words. Not even words that were substitutes for bad words. In fact, I had no need to because I never got angry or frustrated. Don’t you see, I was Perfect.

F’real. I did that. Being Perfect lasted about three days.

Okay, so even though I couldn’t be Perfect, I played the part of the good Christian mom and wife. I tried hard to cook really healthy meals with the requisite ratio of protein to vegetables. I volunteered in the classroom and in Sunday School. I tried to throw fantastic birthday parties for my girls (pre-Pinterest, I wished for Martha Stewart to make her face shine on me.)

Now, I’ve come to the understanding and acceptance that I’m good at maybe three things. And all that cooking and crafting and patience-having-with-six-year-olds ain’t them.

Over the years, all the striving for perfection didn’t make me more likeable. It just made me exhausted — and probably pretty boring. So I quit. A good friend of mine suggests we quit something every Thursday. One Thursday, I quit trying to get people to like me.

As I began to peel off the facade, it didn’t sit well with some people. Things shifted. I no longer played the unspoken yet agreed upon role in our relationship. It was uncomfortable at best and gutting at worst. But I knew, I just knew, I could no longer pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I began to realize that putting on a smile and faking it was at the expense of who God created me to be. When I tried so hard to fit in, it left me truly lonely and feeling like a failure. But when I set all that down and allowed myself to be honest, that’s when I felt I belonged.

When I let my guard down, those close to me finally saw me. Me and all my ugly stuff. The hidden, shameful, messy stuff. The stuff that make all of us real. Those friendships became deeper and more honest and more full of life than when I allowed no one to truly know me. Oh, there you are, Laura!

So I stand before you now, a recovering perfectionist. I’m a bit of a mess, really. But I’m a contented mess. I’m a more-comfortable-in-my-own-skin mess. I’m no gourmet, but my children have not starved. The snacks I bring for their sports teams are beautifully wrapped by Grandma Kirkland. We may be a little behind on the whole college prep thing. But as I’ve stopped playing the part of Perfect, I think my girls are learning to be themselves, trust their gut, and not pretend to be someone they aren’t. We’re all figuring it out together.

Oh and guess what? There are days I even go outside without makeup. (Okay, a little mascara never hurt anyone. Baby steps.)

-ld

flying lessons

birds

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly

Into the light of the dark black night.

 

A bird with broken wings, black feathers, yearning to break free. Singing into the desolate darkness. That paradoxical refrain, “…into the light of a dark black night.” An image comes to mind of a sliver of moon or winking stars behind the clouds, the slightest glimmer of something more.

I’ve always loved that song. I’ve read it’s about the civil rights movement and some say it’s about South Africa. It reminds others of the afterlife, breaking free. Regardless of the interpretation, it’s a song of pain and of hope. It’s a song of testing and overcoming. I hear it and it fills me with the idea that I too can courageously fly.

As I have moved through the pain and brokenness of divorce, this song has resonated. There were moments when I doubted the light would ever come. When the agony was visceral and all I saw was darkness. Friends assured me it would get better, but I didn’t believe them—I couldn’t believe them. There was no room in my heart or head for hope. So my friends held that hope for me. And slowly, so slowly, I realized they were right. There would be a moment or a comment or a song that offered the slightest glimmer of light. Of breath. Of something more. These glimmers began to multiply and pile up and glow and reflect all over me and one day I realized I was standing in the Light. Full Light that cast out the darkness. I looked around and stood up straight and took a deep breath. And I took wing.

I’m not suggesting that all is rosy and life is perfect. Nope. I’m recognizing the miracle that I’m still breathing and laughing and crying and living. That I fall down and I have the strength to get back up. That through this season, my wings were broken yet I am healing.

Part of that healing for me is writing again. And part of flying for me now is sharing my writing with you. This terrifies me. It’s one thing to pour out your heart and your brain into your laptop with secure passwords. It’s a completely different thing to put it out there for folks to read. Here’s my baby…do you think my baby is pretty? But somehow, I feel like it’s time. Thank you for being part of this journey.

I believe that no matter how dark our surroundings, there is always the slightest glimmer to be found. We all have our blackbird moments, and broken wings or not, the Light finds us. We limp our way towards it and we learn to fly again.

-ld