Thursday, January 27, 2011

I am not a dead fish.

Only dead fish go with the flow.
Andy Hunt

This post has been milling about in my mind several times over the past while. I have made numerous attempts to sit down and write something. The few golden times where I have a free moment, I want to simply get my coffee pot bubblin', get real pants on, have a slumbering baby in the swing next to my desk, and any number of other children playing, snoozing, reading, learning, loving around the house, and sit, and get it out. Just get it out. Get what out? I don't know, I don't know. But something is in there, aching and stretching and determined to get out.

And over the course of these last several days, those moments have eluded me. No luxury of getting real pants on by the end of the day. Coffee may get made, a cup may even get poured, but then it sits and like a lonely soldier, it waits with baited breath on the sidelines of the battle, biding it's time until it can fulfill the duty that it signed up for - and... nothing. Nothing. Cup after cup after cup goes cold, my arms full of babies and dishes and laundry and my heart heavy with the weight of what I want to share.

I used to blog as a way to journal and share my swirling thoughts mostly with myself, with anyone curious enough to read, and it was therapeutic. Actually, it was beyond therapeutic. With the events that transpired over the last year, the birth of our little Amos, I used facebook so much more as it was accessible from my phone while in the hospital, appointments, ultrasounds, and all of the scary and intimidating waiting rooms and hallways while walking a journey that was the most dark and terrifying path I've walked on this earth to date. Prior to that time, I used my old blog in the ways that were the most satisfying - writing, laughing, crying, sharing and spilling onto the screen an artful barrage of words and pictures and braiding a descriptive and joyful melting pot of imagery that was my life, my heart, my hopes, my battles, my victories, my enjoyment of all I had been blessed with - both simple and difficult all at the same time.

Ah, to even speak of that time in the hospital again hurts. It brings up these pangs of pain that I want to avoid, but I also want to dive in head first, share with others, and coax it to relinquish its grip on my heart - even though my heart is so much more full of love, of peace, of joy, of utter and complete contentment - but that pain - it is still there, still remembering, sometimes cradling my heart like a fragile, delicate little bird, and sometimes stomping on my heart to toughen it up again. To make it strong, and ready for the next storm, the next battle, the next uphill climb. I said to our marriage counsellor just yesterday that long ago I realized that it would be silly for me to think God has anything less in mind for my life than huge battles and huge ordeals and lots and lots and lots of stuff for me to deal with. For so many years, I would hear the phrase, 'you've really got a lot on your plate right now.'

And yes, I would have a lot on this philosophical plate that was my life.

(and I honestly do not say these things for anyone, anywhere to feel even the littlest bit sorry for me. Please, don't. I love my life, I adore every place that God has brought me to and brought me through. Some of those places still hurt like hell, but please please please don't feel sorry for me.)

I am a Registered Nurse. I worked my butt off as a single parent of my two oldest and precious, amazingly intelligent and interconnected children. I had to tell this story again in Joel's interview for a youth pastor position where both of us were interviewed by the search committee of people assigned this task. It was familiar, the sense of telling my story again - like an old blanket draped around my shoulders in a comforting and thank goodness I'm home kind of sense. I spoke of how I worked as many as five jobs at a time as well as attending full time university classes to have my work hours tailored to my schedule so I could be at home in the evenings with my babies. I spoke of taking the bus to school with my two little ones, my memories of running, exhausted, heart-pounding wecantmissthebus, feet pounding the pavement, legs and back and arms aching, sweating, crying down the street on slushy, muddy, wet and cold sidewalks with a baby on my back and a toddler in my arms (really, it was a toddler on my back and a full-blown child in my arms, Egan being 2 and Isaac being 4, but they were my little babies so in my memory, they were much littler), I spoke of my nightmares that would make me awake so startled in a weeping, terrifying, trembling cold sweat at night, nightmares of one of my precious children being accidentally left trapped behind the windows on the door of the bus as they closed, and the bus pulling away from me and the one I had in my arms. Agh, those dreams made me cry. To speak of those dreams makes me cry. Ugh, the pain - it was so much! It was so much to bear - and I was alone. I was alone - and I was strong. I was damn strong.

I didn't speak of the pain of where and when my first marriage went awry. I didn't speak of the betrayal, of the complete and utter shock of being smacked in the face of disbelief in the spot where my feet were planted. I didn't speak of the part I played in us getting there. 

Our old house.

I didn't speak of the saying goodbye to dreams and hopes in the selling of our house, and the children and I moving into a humble one bedroom apartment. I did, however, speak of the saving and diligence and empowerment I felt in paying cash for my car - and for two years of insurance coverage on my car - it was my sleek-little-shiny-black-sense-of-freedom - that I was ABLE. And that I was going somewhere.

I didn't speak of the unbelievable fulfillment I felt in working in the hospital with people who needed us as nurses, who needed me as a nurse. I didn't speak of the countless times I walked down the hall praising God for getting me there, the countless times I exclaimed 'thank you God, I LOVE this job'.

 I spoke of how I met Joel.

I spoke of how I had relinquished the control of my life - gave it all to God one day on my knees with arms outstretched - in my stairwell of the townhouse the kids and I had moved to. The reminder of this by hanging a set of car keys out of reach in my bedroom with a small sign that said 'God is the driver' It was a conscious effort to let go and let God; stop the sense that God was just my co-pilot. Not only was I not the driver with Him as my co-pilot, I had relinquished control so much that I removed myself to the backseat of the car.
Then I spoke of how I fell head over heels in love and got married while still so thoroughly and completely in love.

I didn't speak of the pillow I had from my beloved Grandma Harris that has soaked up so many of my tears, the silent witness that has been privy to every heartache, every trial, every new nursing baby, every joyful awakening to the sunshine in the morning - the pillow that has been with me for nearly twenty years that I had to say goodbye to, I think - simply because of the unsanitariness of it all (Yes, I know that's not a real word. Chill.).

I spoke of my frustration and anger at the injustice and great need in our world and overseas, and my passion for helping right here in our own backyards and on our streets and in our homes. I spoke of living in a tent when I was sixteen and the importance of wayward young people having a safe place to go. 

I didn't speak of my daily ritual working in the hospital of asking God to use me - to use me as a vessel that is so blatantly obviously full of His light so that all whose lives I touch today are changed - just that His light would be so apparent in me that people would have to ask, would be compelled to ask 'what is it about you?' And how many times this happened in my few short months of working in my role as a nurse.

I spoke of I finishing school, giving birth to our sweet Jacob two weeks after convocation, then nine months later going back to work when Joel was laid off, leaving my precious nursing baby Jacob at home with Daddy, then finding out we were expecting a new precious baby, working back at the hospital in labor and delivery until a short few months later. I was experiencing too many complications in the pregnancy to be working so many hours - so I needed to be done at the hospital in that role. 

I didn't speak of how I lost myself in the first two-and-then-some years of our marriage. I didn't speak of the fights with Joel. I didn't speak of the struggle with my weight, which I have never struggled with in my life - the extra twenty pounds hanging on for dear life - the pounds that at times I don't even realize are there until I see myself in a photo or in an unfamiliar reflection - and I don't recognize myself. I still don't recognize my own legs when I look down at them. In many ways I refuse to, because even now in my head I am saying 'they are not my legs.'
on the left - this is how I see myself - photo credit my lovely cousin Katrina Ketchum
on the right - my uber big pregnant belly

I was lost somewhere, uncomfortable in my own skin, until I found myself back in the halls of the hospital. This time not as an intelligent, able, wise and loving health care professional, but a a patient with a belly swollen beyond belief, and then as the mother of a baby tinier than any before him in my family, yet carrying more weight than he will ever know. I found myself there, again.

And the story between that - 
and now - 

is perhaps the one that... defines me the most?
defines us as a family?
rescued us?
rescued me?
tested us?
redefined us?
refined us. yes, that's it. Refined us. Refined me.

The story of Amos is a heartwrenching, soul stretching, infinitely painful and yet unbelievably joyful one that I am working on how to best tell it here. Like I said, it still hurts. So many days, back in that (#$%!) hospital room, I wanted to just scoop him protectively into my arms and run like hell - run away to the woods somewhere, with him, my wee oh so tiny precious babe, my other children attached to my skirts (skirts? Do I wear long skirts?) as we run, escaping the hospital, the needles, the tests, the constant 'there is something else wrong with your baby. no, he cannot go home.' and his diagnosis. Down Syndrome. I wanted to run somewhere where he was just my baby. I wanted so desperately for him to be allowed to just be my baby rather than this defect with 'multiple anomolies' (as his chart read) - where he had to be subjected to test after test and poke after poke - I thought if I was in the woods with him, he would just be Amos. Not Amos that is broken, not Amos that is imperfect, not Amos that needs umpteen more tests because of issues other kids like him have - I was aching for him to be permitted to be the loving little creature that grew in my womb and in my heart, the little lovey with perfect feet in his ultrasound picture. The baby with the prettiest face I had ever seen on a newborn. The little baby who so very patiently waited for me to get past my pain. Who looked at me with such trust, long before I could fully trust myself. Trust that I would come to the point I am at now.

The nurses - I became a nurse to love on people. I felt somewhat betrayed by my profession while having a child in hospital. Not by all of the nurses we encountered, but the ones who hurt us - they hurt me deep. I will (and do) speak of the good nurses and the good people - good people like Steph, she was one of the ones who held me before I fell to the ground. She caught my heart as fell to the floor, she was the one who lovingly and quietly either helped me pick the pieces back up, or bent and gently brushed them off, and rebuilt them inside my chest. She was the one who kept it all together for me - as if she had this end goal in sight of where I am now, and she held that vision up for me when I was on my knees in pain, in tears, and in labor.

Or there were the ones who sat quietly, urging me to pick it up, cheering me on in quiet prayers and telling me I could do this. I could do this. The nurses who wrapped my guts back up - both figuratively and literally (literally). And of my own Mama. My mama who came for weeks to take care of us.

Weeks. Care. Love.

So to keep plucking away here on the keys, clicking out stories of happiness with a capital H (thank you, Tara Whitney, for that one), when what I really want to share is:

"I am scared that when I truly share how I feel, no one will understand, and I will be alone.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a very private person. I am an open book. In person, I have no problem sharing personal anecdotes even with a stranger. I don’t take myself very seriously. I rarely get embarrassed. I have nothing to hide. I operate below the surface, meaning I don’t want to bother with small talk. I want to dig in and talk about THINGS. Too Much Information? Never. Not with me. I want to really know the people that come into my life. I want to be a safe place for them, so that they allow me in. And I am a lot of the time, and they do a lot of the time.
A lot of people just feel safe with me.
The problem is, I don’t often give myself the same safety net of myself. I have operated most of my life perpetually worried about how I come across. How others see me. I have obsessed for hours after a party about the things I have said or not said. I have chosen not to walk on a busy street alone, for fear of the eyes on me as I cross a busy intersection, and what they may sum up about me from a split second. I have chosen not to stand up for myself or my children, at times, to different authorities (medical, educational, etc), because I want to believe in them, I want to belong, and because I doubt myself. I have put others over myself and my own opinions and thoughts more times than I can count."

Ah, there. What she said. So I've been clicking out stories of happiness with a capital H, inspired to focus on the good in my life - thereissomuchgood, when what I really really want, and really need to do is dig deep. get dirty. rip it open, and deal. There is this pain, this comfort and familiarity of my unfolding and undulating story, the pain mixed in with the good. For example, this heaviness of my husband starting out on a new business venture at the same time as waiting to hear if he will be offered the long-awaited God'sbeencallinghim job as a youth pastor - and the long, lonely hours spent at home, in the house, alone with my four little beauties, no car (no sense-of-freedom), the extra twenty pounds on my body underneath and on top of it all - and a feeling of pretending that everything is always happiness, skipping down lollipop lane in the sunshine and gumdrops with beautiful cherub children, gorgeous, shiny happy people, cute outfits, a pretty home... and that ever underlying sense that this is not all there is.

Still - there is that story - our story - the story of intertwined pain and joy, wounds and sheer bliss - the sound of little feet running like mad and the uncontrollable giggles from our Jacob that set everyone off and bring so much sunshine into our lives. The deep, deep soulful wisdom that comes from Isaac in divine moments. The teary, heartfelt thoughts that pour from Egan when she feels so deeply. The smiling-with-his-whole-self from Amos that melts even the coldest heart. Seriously, even a glance from one of us while he's not in your arms and his face contorts into the hugest smile he can muster. Amos acts as if every time he sees you he is seeing you for the first time in a long, long time - and it is singlehandedly the most joyful moment of his life.

But today, the last few days, the pain was overriding the joy. The darkness was overpowering the light. But in order to get back into the light, after having spewed all that I just spewed onto the page - I now know I needed to do this in order to move on. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Maybe I was feeding my bad wolf. Kelle spoke of this in a post some time back. I have copied the story from here.

A Cherokee Chief’s grandson once came to him in anger, proclaiming loudly the injustice another child has committed against him in taking credit for his discovery of a water well nearby.

With a smile the chief began, indirectly preparing his grandson to lead the tribe with a wise Cherokee parable:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves,” he paused momentarily – meditating upon the predicament the Chief faces on a daily basis.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson of the wise Chief thought about it for a minute and then instinctively asked his grandfather “Which wolf will win?”

Delighted that his grandson had the wisdom to inquire, the Cherokee Chief smiled and countered with a whisper, 

“The one you feed.”

So with trying all this time to only feed my good wolf, I was experiencing a bit of a writer's block consciously denying food to my bad wolf, making every exhausting effort to focus and speak and write only things that spelled happiness with a capital H. In doing so, however, I was feeling a heavy weight, the weight of the actual therapy in getting it out so it is not there to feed my bad wolf.

Until today. I put my real pants on, tied up my hair, poured myself a cup of coffee and drank it - and wrote out my thoughts. All of them.

You good people who read and respond? You feed my good wolf, too. I hope I can also feed yours. 

My sweet baby boy is calling me, frantically pumping his tiny fists and smiling that gleeful smile in an attempt to catch my attention. My other little boy is exclaiming 'come on Mommy! let's play trains. 'N yet's have a tea party!'

I am off to play trains. And have a tea party. And snuggle babies, drink more coffee and await the arrival home of the other two lovely brown eyed beauties. Have a blessed day, and thank you for letting me share. Ah. Relief. Sweet and blessed, we can let our good wolves roam freely, and not just go with the flow. You and I? We are not dead fish. 

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing. It's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it. 
Margaret Thatcher 


final note: I was so engrossed in typing this out while Amos was asleep that, shamefully, I had no idea that this was what Jacob was up to the last few minutes.

oh, dear. at least it's washable marker.

Seriously. I am a bit freaked out since he was actually coloring on me.

Love it.


  1. I adored your sleek-little-shiny-black-sense-of-freedom car!!! A lot. So many good memories. And that photo of you devouring that caramel apple? I remember that Stampede day as if it was yesterday! I love your heart and your life - you will always be of my very best friends. Keep clickin' the keys sweet cous - you are an exceptional writer ♥

  2. Natasha Noeth MorrisJanuary 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Thank you, Thank you so much for sharing this. You are so not alone. As moms and children of The Heavenly Father, we have our own struggles. I wish I could put to paper my thoughts n feelings as you have. I have tried to journal, but it all gets lost/jumbled/exploded/mixed between my head n my fingers. My favorite part of your blog is were you pleaded for us to not feel sorry for you. I can so relate to this, we would not be who God has molded us to be, if we did not go through all that we survived. Talking about it helps give perspective on where God has us at the moment. The knowledge that we can keep going, because of what we have conquered (through His help). There is some negative-feeding the bad wolf in your story, but to every negative there is always a positive and when God is in control the positive is so much bigger. Your good wolf was fed the more satisfying/nourishing meal in every circumstance. God bless your heart my friend <3

  3. Hi Laura, I appreciated the wolf story. I'm glad I read the whole thing. Or else I would of felt sorry for you. But you know? I think it's ok for us to "feel sorry" for each other. The Bible talks about sympathizing with each other. Maybe those aren't the same things, I don't know. But I do sympathize or empathize with some things you wrote for sure. I love to write too. It's the only way I can get my thoughts out properly. I've never been one to speak my thoughts and feelings well. So thanks for sharing. Hope to see you soon :) love from your neighbour ;)

  4. LOL I love that you were so engrossed in your post that you didn't know he was writing on you?!?! LOL ... that happens to me sometimes too. :) Glad you got everything off your chest ... it feels so good, eh?

  5. Loved reading it all Laura...felt like reading one of those 10-page letters we used to write...where we bared it all and it felt so good to GET IT OUT ! feel closer to you that I know more of the story...and it IS inspiring and you ARE strong and a beautiful child of God. Lovely writing, thank-you.

  6. Woosh....that's my heart sinking and saying, "I DO understand when you share how you feel. You are NOT alone....I've lived (am living) this, too."

    Just reading this for the first time....catching up, I guess. So happy for you that you could put your thoughts into words. I still haven't written Nora's story, but feel like you've helped me release a bit of the pain by reading yours :) (Not sure if there should be a smiley face there or not).

    Thank you!!!


make no mistake, I am smitten with your words. please say hello, or pour something out - you will make my heart happy.

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