Sometimes perfectionist slips in here, only wanting to present that part of our life which is pretty and organized and complete (even in thought). I try to sit down and write out the drafted in-betweens, the messy [emotional, physical, spiritual] process of our life, only to walk away with a few words, an unfinished script. It’s not an intentional edit on our life, really. I’ve always struggled with writing in the process, writing in the middle. I find it easier to do something and then work backward through the process, like a recipe or a book, assessing the parts based on the whole, understanding the end from the beginning. I feel silly saying this now, as if any of us knows the end when we begin anything.
Earlier this summer, my sister and I (and our six kids) drove to the coast to meet our sister-in-law and nieces for the day. Storms over the Gulf caused more substantial waves and tides, which meant fun play for everyone and close eyes on the kids for safety. We left the day with salt and sand in our hair and minimal pictures, but later Kristen sent me these. As parents, we tend to focus more on the logistics of raising up people (an important focus, by the way), mostly conversing about everything from the napping and feeding schedules of infants to the nurturing of souls in childhood to the burgeoning and transitional landmarks of teen years. However, maybe the journey of parenthood is more than raising children. Maybe parenthood is also a deeper journey into ourselves, a teaching tool for our own hearts.
As I watched Olive stand fists to the sky, the fierce waves crashing her chest, I learn more about courage, about standing firm when life bring higher, stronger tides. Sometimes courage helps us overcome loss–a job, a house, a dream, a person. In the hardest seasons, courage roots us, reminding us to stand, to endure what is hard and pushing against us. Other times courage propels us out of security into something new, into deeper waters. This is every parent’s journey, every person’s journey. When the future paralyze us with fear–the fear of failure, the need for things to be a certain way, the idea of perfection–courage calls us forth. Sometimes we must move forward alone, a personal journey or experience. In the best times, we move forward with someone, hand in hand.
Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve been reading memoirs* one after another, wildly moved and bolstered by the face of courage in real people. Although with different voices and perspectives, each narrative has carried one single message: today is a gift; be brave with it.
*In case you’re interested or looking for something to read, I’ve recently read Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (I can’t recommend this enough.), A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor by Dana Canedy, Paris in Love by Eloisa James, and A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (currently reading). Before summer ends, I still hope to read: The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes (really gearing myself up for that last one–it’s substantial).
All images by Kristen Douglass.