Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.

Making Space for Love

FullSizeRender (2)Today’s blog is a re-post from earlier this year, in honor of the baby who inspired it. She’s 13 today. A gorgeously fresh 13.  She was a baby I wasn’t sure I was ready for after so much loss. Baby Number 3. And then when she finally got here, I am overheard on the video–my voice hoarse and strained from labor–in total disbelief: “It’s a GIRL? A GIRL??” What? All along I had thought her to be a boy. I sort of thought I wanted a boy. But instead, she turned out to be everything I didn’t know I wanted. My joy baby. She is all the best parts of me, only better. Her wit, her style, her humor, her sarcasm. She makes me laugh hard, every single day. I can’t believe she’s 13 today, but it’s hard to be sad because she just keeps becoming more magical…right before my eyes.

And as I’m typing this, said child literally just came in my room, looked at herself in the mirror, declared, “I am a mini you.” Smiled, and walked out. I should be so lucky.

Happy Birthday, Smush. Thanks for making life so fun.


I should’ve been resting, but everyone knows a hospital is no place for rest. My brand new pink tiny bundle of joy lay tightly swaddled beside me in the clear acrylic nursery crib. And even though I most certainly did feel all of the sweet and tender feelings a new mom is supposed to, there was something else roiling inside I wasn’t expecting:

Fear.

Fear of not having enough love for 3 kids.

Fear of there not being enough of me to go around.

Fear of my two older kids being cheated out of getting their needs met.

Fear of just not enough.

And that was it. Between the exhaustion and post-pregnancy hormones, the tears started falling and wouldn’t stop. I lie there in the dark with my hours-old baby girl and sobbed, knowing sleep wouldn’t come until I understood how it was all going to work.

And in the middle of the night, in my WAY overly emotional state, I remember thinking I had discovered the keys to the kingdom: We’re created with an infinite capacity to love. And when new people — babies we birth and babies we adopt, step-children and new family members, new friends and lovers and neighbors and co-workers, fellow travelers who were previous strangers — somehow make their way into our lives,

Our hearts expand and we make space for more love.

That’s it.

There’s no competition.

It’s not a tight squeeze or an ill fit or a just barely made it.

There’s no shortage or rationing.

We’re all in.

There’s room for everybody.

Our hearts expand and love makes space.

How small-minded and silly to think maybe my heart wouldn’t be big enough and strong enough and soft enough to love all three of my babies at once; To think there was a limit to my heart’s capacity.

But to be honest, I didn’t just think this way about babies.  I thought this about the rest of my love life, too. At one time or another, we’ve all experienced a love that made us feel as though this were it– we never would or could feel love like this again. And maybe we didn’t want to. (Widowed and divorced over here…remember?)

But wouldn’t that be so sad? To think love was so limited and exclusive? (A year ago, I would’ve said no. That’s not sad. That’s awesome. Love can go fly a kite or play in traffic.) Yet I realize everyday now that over the course of a lifetime filled with hundreds and thousands of people and experiences on our journey’s way, our hearts expand and love makes space. We have the ability to love an infinite number of people with infinite types of love. We never run out. The well never runs dry. Somehow, there is an indeclinable source.

I know, I know, I know. This from the same girl who, a year ago, wasn’t sure she still believed in love. This from the same girl who, last Valentine’s Day, declared herself her OWN Valentine. But as life (and love) would have it, this past year the people around me, both old and new, poured more love into my life than I ever would’ve imagined. And in spite of my weathered and worn out rose-colored glasses and snarky commentaries on love, my heart expanded and love made space.

And so Happy Valentine’s Day to you. I hope you can look back on this past year of your life too, and see just how much love is all around you–just how much space there is for love. And the good news is, there’s still room for more.

Why I’m Not Hoping My Kids Love God

images-33

My whole life I’ve always thought that loving God and raising my kids to love God was the highest form of moral and spiritual accomplishment. If I could just get myself and them to this head and heart space of loving God above all else, surely then we would live meaningful and happier lives.

But recently, in the middle of my own wrestling with faith and all things spiritual, I got to thinking, what if we all just learned to like God? You know, just get to know Him a little better and actually LIKE Him. And then see what happens after that?

It seems like when I’m commanded to do ANYTHING my natural inclination is to resist. I don’t think it’s all that different with love. I’ve perfected the art of loving someone without really liking them. We joke about it. You know the bumper sticker, “Jesus loves you. The rest of us think you’re an asshole.” Yeah. That. And He only loves you because He has to. He’s God. He loves everyone. The rest of us don’t really care for you. We care about you at the most minimal level so as to comply with the commandments. We tolerate you. We half-heartedly wish you well without really being invested in your well-being.

We teach our kids this same theology. Love God because we say so. Because the Bible says so. Love God because it’s the right thing to do. Love God because there might be scary consequences if you don’t. And by the way, do all this stuff He commands and expects of you. Because. We say so. This doesn’t really make God feel all that likable.



When I think about the people in my life that I
really like, I smile. Because they make me feel good about myself. They make me laugh. I love to spend time with them. I can count on them and I know they’ll always be there for me. They want what’s best for me. I trust them with my deepest thoughts and feelings. They know me. They hear me. They see me. The people I really like take good care of my heart.  They know I’m not perfect, but they keep coming back around because they see the value in me despite my shortcomings. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. They already like me just as I am.

This is what I really believe God is like. I really like Him a lot more than I used to.

And I’m convinced He likes me, too.

Religion and faith can be so complicated and messy. Talk about humanity screwing something up beyond all recognition. Sometimes I think God must look down and just shake His head as if to say, “This is so far off from what I wanted for you guys.” In the book Love Does, by the legendary Bob Goff, he says this about keeping faith simple:

“…I see myself floating in a massive sea of God’s love. The circle of His grace and forgiveness is big enough and the line leading to Him is long enough that I don’t always need to be measuring latitude and longitude to find myself. It’s a pretty easy calculation each day actually…I just stay somewhere in that circle.”

This. This is a God I like. This is a God I think my kids would like and want to know and spend time with. I want them to know that liking God is easy. Sure the Bible commands us to love God with all of our hearts. And I absolutely want that for myself and for my kids. But the path to loving Him is liking Him. And that’s where I’m going to start.

Love Me Extra Today


50f2c7e322f0fdc9889c9a484645b1d8

You guys- I saw this quote on a pin late last night when I was working the Pinterest graveyard shift (any girl will tell you- YES- that’s a thing) and it’s totally messing me up today. Imagine this? Imagine if love was really this simple? Imagine if we could just say to each other, on really tough days- stressful days- insecure days- sad days-overwhelming days, ‘Love me extra today’?

I love John Mayer’s music. And even though he was apparently a total DB to Taylor Swift, whom I. Adore. I’m trying to overlook that for a few moments here. (And Mom, I’ll tell you what DB means later.) His music is the perfect combination of passion and angst- and sort of  predictably, Heartbreak Warfare is one of my favorite songs:

If you want more love, why don’t you say so?

If you want more love, why don’t you say so?

But I wanna know: Can people really do this? Do you guys love like this? If you want more love, can you really just say so?  I’m trying to figure out if this is …legit. Could we really just tell the people in our lives so plainly on the days we need extra love? (Maybe you guys already do this easily and you know…it’s just ME that’s having an awakening here.)

I am a semi-recover[ing]{ed} self-proclaimed Queen of Passive Aggressive Behavior (I know. It’s not good. I’m working on it and I’ve gotten better. For real though.) For myself and other PA types, asking for what we need is hard. But this seems easy. Too easy. Even I could text this say this. I could have the courage to ask for extra love on tough days. And I could hear this request from someone else and not feel defensive or threatened or… like I was not enough.

I want my girls to know this, my boy to know this, the people in my life that I love and that love me–Because this isn’t just about lovers. It’s about all of us being able to identify our own needs and love better. When we ask for what we need, we’re loving better. This feels revolutionary to me. I know maybe it’s not– but the simplicity of it all moves me. Asking for more love. Saying ‘Love me extra today’ feels like a novel concept- A beautiful novel concept.

Simply ask for more love.

Somebody, talk to me. Tell me what you think.

Monday is for Lovers

Just preachin’ to myself today…Looking for a magic Monday…<3

Truly Julie

Love-Quote-of-the-Day10
Ahhh, my beautiful Monday. You, my love, are a fresh, new day to begin again. You are a totally smooth and sexy blank slate. You are a gorgeous, lithe white sheet of paper. I GET to have you and I cannot wait.  I’m choosing you on purpose. I’m choosing you with passion. I’m choosing you intentionally. And I’m going to breathe you in and love you inside out. Those nights I lie awake dreading your return? So done and over that. Look at me, first-born day of the week- look right into my sparkling green eyes: I love you. I’m consciously going to choose happiness over suffering today so that I can luxuriate in every.delicious.part.of.you. How could I not want you and all that you’re offering? So come hither, Monday. If how you spend your days is how you spend your life– then today– whatever it is, I’m going to…

View original post 46 more words

Grace & One-Way Love

grace-circus-letters-web-940x400I had a difficult conversation with someone this morning. Not difficult as in confrontational; Difficult as in emotionally raw. Vulnerable. Tender…Difficult. This person was needing and asking me to extend a measure of grace and without hesitation, although perhaps (and then again, maybe not) against all reason, or odds or…I don’t quite know…history? I freely gave it. I didn’t have to think twice. They did not specifically ask for grace– but that was the tone of our conversation. And I did not specifically say, “Here is grace. Please have it.” That is not usually how grace is exchanged. But there is a moment when one person has a need or weakness and another person simultaneously has the terrifying power to so easily and unnecessarily hurt or cause suffering…and chooses not to. And it is so soothing and tenuous and frightening. And I am not acting as a self-proclaimed Grace-Giver here– spouting off about it would be the antithesis to graceful. I almost feel as though I am observing it objectively– because let’s be honest and clear– I do not always give grace. And I do not always give grace freely. In our base humanity, there are times each one of us gives “grace” with many many spoken or unspoken conditions attached. And this is not grace at all.

And so all day long I have ruminated about the nature of grace. About what it means. What it feels like to give grace and receive grace. About unmerited favor. Undeserving mercy. And it has kept the tears close to the surface. There is something achingly beautiful and fragile and fervent about the nature of grace that is undoing me today.

6cc889098349daf806f65245c9d0af4fAnd perhaps that is why this morning’s conversation is affecting the landscape of my heart so deeply today. Because life is hard. And grace makes hard things easier.

What, exactly, do I mean by grace?

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.” – Paul Zahl, as quoted in William Tullian’s book, One -Way Love.

And so may we–more often these days–find ourselves on both ends of such love and grace. Because in the end, we are all just walking each other home. (Ram Dass)

 

It’s Easter Week and Love Wins

jr_sunriseIt’s Easter week, Peeps. Jellybeans. Chocolate. Jesus. Food. I’m Italian and Polish so it’s an ethnic fantasy of food. Something about this week has always felt special to me. There is an anticipation in my heart that feels sort of tender and raw as I think about the significance of Easter that is hard to explain. It’s different than Christmas. I’m not a huge Christmas fan. Christmas requires preparation that makes it feel like a part-time job for me and admittedly, I can never quite get entirely out of my own way to make it different. Easter holds none of this for me.

Tomorrow we will make our annual trip to Broadway Market- a Buffalo landmark for all things food, culture, and this week, Easter. I’ll make my girls get a picture with the Easter Bunny. We’ll color eggs. Make some candy. If we say it once, we’ll say it ten times that it’s the best ham or rye bread we’ve ever had. I think back to the people and places I’ve shared Easter with. Polish sausage with my Lithuanian and Polish grandmother. Easter Pizza and Pineapple Ricotta cake with my Italian grandmother. Years spent around my parents’ dining room table wherein my mom so beautifully and gracefully combines the best of these traditions. I think of Easters in Virginia where a best friend and I would Easter shop and then stuff and hide eggs late into the night–over tired and silly–making memories for ourselves and our kids. I think of Easters spent on Fort Riley, Kansas. Sunrise Easter morning service. Church potluck breakfast. An egg hunt. My little boy in a pastel plaid tie and my baby girl in a hat and bloomers. The ultimate small town celebration. Always smiling faces. Full tummies. Happy hearts.

And Jesus. I think, of course, of Jesus. Growing up, on Good Friday afternoon, we were made to play quietly and respect the hours during which Jesus was thought to be crucified. I suppose we probably hated being stifled that way–and yet as a grown woman, I’ve replaced it with watching The Passion of the Christ. It, too, is not a fun activity. I do not look forward to it. There is no popcorn. And yet I sit with rapt attention, knowing what my eyes are about to take in and how it will pierce and hurt my heart. Because I already know this story inside out, backward and forward. But I want to watch. I need to watch. I need to see and feel and be brutally reminded of my Savior’s love. The lengths to which this unstoppable love drove Him. For me. For this life I continually call my messy closet. I think of Mary. I think of her mother’s heart and it’s almost too much to bear. And so I watch because I forget. I’m ashamed to say just how very quickly, quickly I forget. I’m so much quicker to question. To doubt. To wonder. To shake my head, shake my fist, let my wild heart be shaken than I ever am to remember the cross. And I need to be reminded of how the story ends. The anticipation that builds in my heart as the movie is coming to a close. There is brutality. There is fear. There is death. There is grief. But then. Ahhhh then. It is glorious. He is glorious. He is whole. He is resurrected. And He wins. Jesus wins. Life wins. Love wins. Life conquers death and love wins. May my heart remember, there is life after death. And love wins.