There's a Deb Talan song I love called "Comfort."
One of my favorite lyrics from the song goes like this:
"In days to come, when your heart feels undone,
May you always find an open hand---
and take comfort wherever you can."
Life has been kicking my butt the last couple of weeks and there have been lots of tears around here, and not just mine.
I have felt defeated.
Stressed, worried, and sad.
Sometimes I've felt like I'm failing, and I want so much to do it right - especially for my kids, because I adore them.
I've snapped, and I always hate that version of myself.
And you know what else?
It's hard to watch your people when they're struggling and going through hard things, too.
My shoulders have felt really heavy and weary.
And even though I feel assurance that current worries will work out -- it always does and God is good -- I've had a couple of weeks where I feel like it is all I can do to get through the day with anything left.
I feel so emotionally depleted, and I find myself wishing I could be more and do more, and that I always had the right answer or perpetually responded with patience and love.
I've broken down and sobbed in front of my children, and I always feel bad about that, too.
But this is life, right?
Up and down, round and round.
It's one big mix of everything: good and bad, hard and soft, happy and sad.
I suppose that's what makes it such a ride.
And I'm grateful for the (many!) pieces of comfort I find along the way.
Like on Sunday evening.
My heart had been touched that day.
And when we came out of church, it was partly cloudy and windy.
But, just 4.5 hours later, when I looked out to the street, the wind was blowing hard! and it was snowing.
The deck was fast getting a fresh blanket of white.
New friends had unexpectedly stopped by, and because we talked for a while, I found myself doing the dishes later than usual.
I turned on some music, scraped plates, rinsed dishes, loaded the dishwasher, swept the floor, wiped things down. The kids were hanging out and we were taking note of the storm.
And in the middle of the cleanup, my phone beeped.
It was a text from my sweet neighbor, Ralph.
He's 85 and one of my very favorite people, a blessing I've counted again and again in my life.
And it just said this:
It made me happy that he would text me about that; that we have conversations about the weather or food or ice cream or a gospel snippet or hot peppers or gardening or our mutual love of chocolate or books or poetry or our families or some piece of music. Sometimes we slip in a four-letter word here and there and laugh. I love him. So much.
But what he didn't know was that my dad and I would often talk about the weather---especially snow storms. It wasn't uncommon for him to call me on a snowy morning, early, to see if I'd seen the fresh flakes yet, or for us to talk on the phone about a pending storm.
Somehow getting Ralph's text felt so familiar, and like a sweet, tender mercy from a man who is another father to me.
Even writing about it now makes me cry.
Or the gift of sunshine today.
I have had several long (and hard!) conversations with my children lately.
And at the end of yet another one, and more tears,
we spent some time outside.
The sun was shining and I lay down on my back on a blanket in the back of the yard, closed my eyes, and felt the sun on my face. One of my sons was talking to me and this little gal promptly went in the house, grabbed a blanket and pillow, and came and parked herself beside me.
I dished up bowls of ice cream for all of them and we sat there talking.
And I soaked in that golden peace.
I started reading To Kill A Mockingbird with the kids last week.
I haven't read it since I was a teenager, and I've pretty much forgotten everything except that I loved it.
Reading it tonight, I was laughing out loud.
We all were.
Harper Lee, I love your writing.
And my children are loving your writing.
And as I switched the laundry tonight, I found myself feeling peace then, too.
Even though I don't know how things will sort out, there is a familiarity in these tasks that grounds me and makes me grateful, even if the tears seem to keep coming. These simple things connect me to my heart and what really matters there, and the people I love the most.
And after everyone was tucked in tonight, I came upstairs and heated up water, brown sugar, butter and salt, and mixed it with flour and yeast. Then I added some wheat flour, turned it on to the counter, and began to knead while listening to a favorite tune in the background.
There's something really comforting about predictability:
I know that if I combine flour and yeast and water and salt, a little butter and a little sugar, turn it out and don't add too much flour, something good happens. You get a beautiful-feeling dough that's absolutely right: just sticky enough, but soft and smooth.
And I know that no matter what else is hard, when I open the page of a book and begin to read to my children, we all feel peace.
It's like what Ralph said:
Open the drapes.
Keep your eyes open.
There is always beauty to be had.
And I find comfort there.