I have never known what it is like to be at an utter loss for words – those of you who know me may laugh; those of you who don’t know me – know it’s a highly accurate statement. I love words. I use words. I enjoy using words intentionally – to say exactly what I mean to say, nothing more and nothing less.
Words carry power – perhaps more power than anything else in the entire world. After all, words are the driving force behind every battle, the catalyst to life-long loves, the quieter of anger, and the medium connecting past to present, and present to future dreams. Words give expression to our very existence, making us a part of our broader community, cementing our roll within that community, and alternatingly growing and damaging others and ourselves. Words carry power – power to heal, power to excite, power to destroy.
And so I have spent a great portion of my mental energy over the course of my life understanding words – learning how to use them well, priding myself on my ability to articulate thoughts and feelings concisely, and enjoying the challenge of creatively using my words as I’ve developed my writing.
But the past 3 months have brought me to a new place – a place where words have no longer been enough, where my vocabulary insults the depth of my emotion, where attempts at expressing the unexpressable only end up demeaning my true self and leaving those who have listened with only two options – trite answers or silence. Over the past months, words have failed me.
A thing happens when words fail – ears begin to open. Ears of the heart and ears of the soul begin to open. When the mouth and mind fail, the heart and the soul expand. But be warned, the heart and the soul will expand with whatever is in them – be it sadness, joy, mourning, hope, or overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. The mind and mouth are good at deceiving – especially good at deceiving themselves. But the heart and the soul never lie. So, when the words fail, and the mouth and mind stop fighting for coherence (whether it be out of weariness, or willingness to purely be), the soul and heart can finally be heard.
I haven’t had a picturesque life, but I have had a beautiful one. I didn’t have a traditional childhood, but I would never trade the one I had. I won’t ever be made up of just one place, but I am increasingly comfortable with simply being made.
This year has…well, I’m at a loss for words. And when I let my mind and words rest, the heart and soul swell – and this is what they say:
I have known sadness – but now I know sorrow
I have known loss – but now I know grief
I have known pain – but now I know suffering
I have known impermanency – but now I know uncertainty
I have known the reality of my humanity – but now I have embodied it
I have known anticipation – but now I am learning hope
I have known belief – but now I am learning trust
I have known strength – but now I am learning courage
I have known patience – but now I am learning perseverance
I have known happiness – but now I am learning joy
I have known rest – but now I am learning peace
There are feelings too deep to express. And I think they always contain an element of sadness, mourning, or loss. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasured things in her heart – things too deep to share; and I think they were beautiful things, but I think she treasured them with an element of sadness – knowing they were too beautiful to remain untouched by pain. When we experience feelings of elation or joy too deep to express, I think we still try. There’s no risk in trying – if others can’t fully understand, it doesn’t detract from our joy or elation. But if we attempt to express a deepness of pain and sorrow, and it is missed or mishandled by others – we are wounded more.
And it is for this reason (plus many practical ones) that I’ve been mostly silent the past 3 months. But now, it is time to state the facts – and let the words do what they will.
We’ll be moving back to the US before the end of this year. We’re not exactly sure when, though sometime before Christmas. We’re not exactly sure where, though we’ll start out in Sacramento and visit LA. We’re not exactly sure what we’ll do, though we are making progress on the job hunt. We’re not exactly sure why this year has gone so badly, though we do know it has gone so badly. But we are learning hope, we are learning trust, we are learning courage, we are learning perseverance, we are learning joy, we are learning peace.
As I’ve allowed my heart and my soul to swell these past months (more out of exhaustion than bravery to face my self) I have been overwhelmed. I strive for purpose, for meaning, for my piece in the bigger picture – we’re constantly seeking to define ourselves, to find our reason for existence, our purpose in the future. But I realized this – unless I live my moments with the deep belief that I was created exactly for this moment, I will never be satisfied.
When my children are both screaming, and dinner is burning on the stove, and my husband is late walking home from work, and I know there have been armed robbers targeting commuting pedestrians – that is the moment I was created for. And, in that moment, created for only that moment. To have patience with my children, realistic expectations of myself, and trust in my God.
When my friend calls in tears, and it happens to be during my only solitary hour of the day, when my list of things to do could easily take hours – that is the moment I was created for. And, in that moment, created for only that moment. To let priorities re-align, to have ears to hear, and selflessness to support.
When my husband comes home, needing a place of rest – and I’ve cried throughout the day – hidden in the bathroom away from tender and easily scared small eyes and hearts – that is the moment I was created for. And, in that moment, created for only that moment. To let sorrow and strength co-exist, to offer encouragement not out of my own largeness but out of my equal smallness and subsequent safety in my God.
When series of small trials undergo a metamorphosis and emerge as a substantial problem, demanding some sort of substantial life change; and I realize I have no reserves left with which to make a decision, because I've spent all my strength on the small trials - that is the moment I'm created for. And, in that moment, created for only that moment. To allow God's strength to be perfect because I'm completely weak, to use the mind I've been given to consider the information I know, and to sacrifice the seemingly stable and reasonable for the truly important and valuable - despite the fear I may feel.
When my 7 hours in bed has been interrupted by 6 wake-ups from 2 children, and I almost literally collapse from the exhaustion, and that little 2 ½ yr old boy cries out for the 7th time – that is the moment I was created for. And, in that moment, created for only that moment. To have patience, to muster physical strength, to pray for rest, and to comfort little hearts that have no other comforts.
When the thought of publicly sharing what can only hint at a year full of loss – loss of dreams, loss of ideals, loss of self-security, loss of being limitless - makes me hide for weeks, and want to literally run away to the mountains – this is the moment I was created for. And, in this moment, created for only this moment. To face my own reality with dignity amidst brokenness. To share our uncertainties with confidence, because I know God has never left our sides.
And when there are dozens of ‘good’ moments every day – moments full of beauty, full of love, full of grace - those are the moments I was created for. Little arms squeezed tight around my neck, little heads leaned peacefully against my chest, little squeals of delight filling apartment hallways, tender glances from a husband full of strength and courage, words of encouragement from friends near and far, Kenyan sunshine streaming across the parquet floor, warm breezes perfectly touching skin, smells of Kenyan summers in early October – and in every one of those moments, those are the moments I was created for. And, in those moments, created for only those moments. To savor, to breathe deeply, to feel joy, to celebrate with others, to heal from the painful moments.
My last entry talked about how motherhood is all about living fully in the now, because the now is of paramount importance to the future. But I think this truth extends to all walks of life. Now is of paramount importance, now is why we were created. And if we live fully in the now, with acknowledgement of who we strive to be and where we’ve come from – we get closer to realizing our future, and minimize the chances of regretting our past.
During a commercial break in a show I was watching earlier this week, a notice popped up that read, “content will return shortly”. On one level it seemed like a humorous parallel to my life – content will return shortly. But, in reality, the content never stopped. Yes, the big picture is much less clear. But the content remains – in snippets and moments, many of them too deep for words. Moments I was created for.