We're all a bunch of signs

I saw him standing at a stoplight. There was a white poster in his left hand and a rosary in his right. He wore a hat to shield the sun. I couldn't see the front of his sign because his back was to me and my curious nosey self fidgeted in my seat, wondering what it said. I've seen plenty of folks holding signs. But the sheer fact I couldn't see his, made me want to park, get out of the car, and go take a look.

FOMO is real.

He turned when the light turned green.

"Is it a choice or a child?" That's all it said with a picture of a fetus.

I was impressed by this man standing all by himself in the hot sun. He didn't have a big crowd rallying behind him. He didn't even have a chair to sit down in when his legs got tired.

It made me want to write a sign too. Particularly now, as debates run rampant on the internet [I've learned to stop reading the comments].

I think my sign might say, "You are loved. Like, all of you. That bag of junk and mess you're carrying? He loves all of that."

Truth is, we all wear signs.

Some are more visible than others - things like mother, married, white. Those ones are easy to point out.

But what about the ones we don't wear written on a t-shirt or wrapped around our finger? The ones that run deep in our veins and are embedded in our story and history and experience.

Things like survivor, adopted, addict, lonely.

////

Our church had a women's night a few months back. A chance to go beyond the weather and what you do, to the things that make your heart beat.

In all honesty, I was reluctant to go because small talk really drains me. I've never been so good at it. I get awkward and uncomfortable and way too emotional.

It's the reason I stopped asking "How are you?" in college because I always got the same answer, "Great!"

And maybe, more than half the time people really were great. But it made me empty and tired because we're not always great, we're not always good. So I changed the question. I started asking, "You doing okay?"

I have those three words to thank for showing up late to many classes senior year. I always left those conversations uplifted and encouraged and not so lonely.

Because some days, I wasn't okay and it scared me to think I was the only one.

Of all the parts of that night, the moment that stuck were the signs. Women held large poster boards, walked across the stage, turned to the audience and showed their sign.

"I had an abortion."

"I struggle with an eating disorder."

"I lost my child in a car crash last year."

"I have an anger problem."

The posters kept flashing, one after the other. A guitar played softly in the background.

These women ripped of the facade, giving you a glimpse into the deepest, darkest, most heart wrenching parts of their story. The facade we so often wear for protection, particularly at church. The very place we're told and tell others to come just as you are.

It had to feel like standing in front of a crowd completely naked while you give folks permission to point out the parts they don't like.

I remember such tension in my heart because I'd see a sign, look up at the woman's stoic face and think, her? I thought I had her all figured out.

We think we have folks figured out real quick. Sometimes, we'll judge way before an actual interaction. Simply by the way they order their coffee.

I remember wishing that we always wore a sign.

Even though there is a reason we don't divulge every little thing to every single person. But I couldn't help but wonder, would we be less inclined to judge? Less inclined to compare and choose jealousy?

Because we are all fighting a battle. Each battle is different and unique but each is heavy and significant. Each deserves someone to grab your hand and say, "Hey, I see what you're carrying. And even though my battle looks different than yours. I promise to fight with you and for you if you want."

We are all a bunch of walking signs.

And I want to be better at this friends. Because it's so easy to choose judgement. It's so easy to look another woman up and down and think we have her all figured out. That we know the threads that make her whole.

And I think all of this is heightened with the way our lives are compressed into pictures with captions and hashtags and filters.

But I don't blame social media for this. At our core, instragram or not, we'd still judge.

So maybe it starts with sharing your sign. Maybe it starts with celebrating the sweet and the bitter.

I'll go first.

I quit my job. I quit a full-time with benefits job to do something weighing on my heart to try and give in too. And that terrifies me because it feels so counter-culture. It feels wrong. It feels like I should constantly be striving for more, reaching up high, gaining a new title, striving for new benefits and perks. But there goes that ugly game of comparison again, you know?

And truth is, I hate quitting things. It makes me feel like I am letting people down. 

I quit for a lot of reasons. One was to try a new role in a profession I've felt pulled towards. Another was to provide more time, right here with you, in this space. And to some, this is just blank white space. But to all the writers out there, you know it's so much more.

It's where I find purpose and direction. It's where I find God. 

Some days I get scared that I made a huge mistake. While others, I feel so good and hopeful and filled up in a way I haven't in a very long time. Truth is, I've talked to God more in the past two weeks than I have the whole year. And He's stripping things away. He's helping this restless beating heart grow. He's making it less about me and more about Him. And that all seems worth it.

////

Some days, things are really great. I'd rather choose joy and gratitude than heartache. But we can't deny the heartache.

And I think something happens when we share. When we turn our sign around and give folks a chance to read. Because chances are, there are words written on their sign too.

Words that need to be shared and heard and felt.

So, what would your sign say today friend? What might it look like to share that with someone?

xoxo

my back stoop

I crunched the numbers. I compared.

Wait, that can't be right.

I did it again.

Mmmk, it is right.

I let out a breath and looked down. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. If I do this [I'll get to this later, another time, another post] well, we can't save up for those things we talked about. Suddenly the thought of me making it difficult because of my silly dreams - became too much.

I can hear my heart shouting - you're dreams are never silly.

Maybe I was a wee bit dramatic. But if you know me at all, if you've been reading my words [thank you by the way] you've probably learned I am FULL of emotions, it's who I am.

It's who I've always been.

Matt went up to cut his hair. Yes, he buzzes that head of is, saving us 20 bucks a month. Love. that. man.

I grabbed my glass of wine and went to sit on our back stoop.  It had just rained.

I love the smell of rain.

Fresh bread from the oven and rain - two of my favorites.

It made me think of those times when I was little and I'd sit at the top of my driveway in the rain. I'd grab a lawn chair and umbrella and my stuffed animal or baby doll and watch the cars go by (disclaimer: there weren't many kids on my street to play with).

I'd pretend I didn't have a home, that I was wandering and stumbled upon this pretty house with well manicured bushes and wondered if they'd let me come in and have dinner.

In so many ways, I am still that little girl. A little lost, so very curious, and aching to be found.

I looked out and saw twinkling lights and our neighbors backyards. I wondered what folks were doing at this very moment too - cleaning up from dinner, bickering over taxes, cuddling on the couch?

Were they sitting on their back stoop like me? 

The door creaked open.

Babe..what are you doing? 

I needed some fresh air.

Do you want someone to sit with? 

This is one of those new marriage moments. One that feels so sweet and lovely and other days - incredibly uneasy and awkward. Because you see, when I was sad or angry or annoyed before, I could just sit in it and it didn't bother anyone. But now, it does. Now, someone aches to be part of it because they live in it too.

Now, someone so deeply desires to help and hold and carry the burden.

It doesn't really matter, I said back. 

It wasn't a yes or a no. Decisions have always been hard for me. I thought, if I left it open- the right choice of sitting and staying or going upstairs to bed would sort of just, figure itself out.

He sat. Of course he would. He's sweet and caring like that. 

One step below me, arms folded on his knees, eyes looking out at our little, tangly, messy backyard.

For a moment it felt like sitting on the stairs of his parents lake house - early in the morning, coffee mug in hand, watching dew lift off the water. It's one of my favorite views. It silences my soul in a way only nature and creation can. We'd sit and sip and be quiet. And I remember thinking, in that very moment - this is love, isn't it God? Sure, it's other things too - kisses and sacrifice and truth. But I think this is it too - sitting side by side in silence and feeling more safe and known than ever before.

This moment was not as romantic dear ones. This moment was annoyed and hurting and teary. I wanted him beside me but then again I didn't.

It felt like there wasn't enough space on our stoop for my worried, anxious heart and our two bodies.

I think, I actually do want to be alone.

He stood up. I could tell it hurt. I can always tell when my words cut deep and feel like a punch in the stomach. Because all he wants is to help and fix things.

And I resort to retreating and turning inward.

And I think friends, that sometimes, it's okay to do just that. There's a time for talking things out, for laying it all out there. But for me, this was not that time. Because as much as I wanted to say every little thing on my mind and heart, I couldn't.

I don't process things that way. I crave time time alone first. I sort of love time alone sometimes.

It feels crazy when I consider all the relationships I crave and need. All the dinner dates I love to plan and host.

But that's just it.

When I am with you - I want all of you. 

I want every nook and detail. I want to remember the part of the story when you stopped talking, looked down, and started folding a napkin in your lap.

My grandma Jul had this incredible way of making anyone feel as if they were the most important person in the whole world. In that little moment, nothing else mattered, nothing other than you and her and a cup of tea- no sugar, just milk, leave the tea bag in.

I want to know the sound of your laugh - each laugh you have. 

I want to see the shades of color in your eyes, and the way they change when you talk about your Dad.

And in return, like a good friend, I want to give you me too.

I want you to know that I love God and most days, feel so close to Him.  That this whole relationship over religion thing is all I need. But there are other times, when it's hard. When doubt and fear seep into my pores and all I want to do is run - run from this whole faith thing.

I want you to understand why I get awkward when asked "tell me about yourself " or "how are you doing". I want to give you an answer, trust me, I really do. I just struggle to weave it all together - to put in a box.

You want to know about me and how I'm doing?

Like, the real me or the person I sometimes fall into, when being honest and open is tough?

I want you to know that I find you fascinating and strong and full of light. 

I want you to see that I am trying to be better a human today than I was yesterday. I think we're all trying. I want you to know that I choose joy and gratitude every morning but the actual living it, the walking in it, yeah, that doesn't always happen.

These interactions, as sweet and hopeful and life-giving as they are, can be exhausting - in the best possible way.

So I sat alone, sipping my wine, closing my eyes, and humming along to "Oceans" by Hillsong.

It's easy to feel guilty for this. It's easy to feel like a big ol' jerk when I say to my husband, or friend or sister, "I think I just need to be alone."

But I think we need it y'all. At least I do.

Sometimes, to be the best lover and friend, it requires us to recharge, reboot and turn in. And that doesn't make us awful. It doesn't make us hopeless.

It makes us human - broken, thirsty, beautiful humans.

And trust that on your stoop or porch or coziest place in your home - you aren't ever really alone // the God of the universe holds you tight.

xoxo