To the women I met at coffee today…

My favourite coffee shop is always busy on Friday mornings. The quiet self-absorbed hum of weekdays is replaced by laptop-toting high-schoolers, mother and toddler pairings and friends catching up over a hot tea or craft coffee.  The upshot, for this writer, being the requirement to sit in the performance space couches, or the communal table and give up the retreat into my mind for something better, for connection.

As I folded myself into the couch in the corner today, next to a pair of women catching up on their love lives, I tried to mind my own business.  I opened my copy of Love Warrior, by the inimitable Glennon Doyle and started to read.  Reading Glennon is like reading the inside of my own head, my reflections upon which will take up another post (or two).  Reading Love Warrior in a crowded Friday-morning coffee shop is not conducive to quiet reflection, or, for that matter, even to dry eyes.

While my eyes were absorbing my inner teenage life narrative laid bare on the page for all to see, the sounds of my companions’ conversations washed over me… “I just want to get married” … “I’m 30, will I ever find someone?” … “Dating is THE WORST”…”Men just want to have sex, they don’t seem to want me!”.  At this point, I am openly weeping, let it be known that I am an ugly crier, no single tear gently coursing down unwrinkled cheek here.  No! I am the full works; swollen eyes, snot, and flushed snuffling frowning… hardly Friday-morning coffee shop material!

I meet my communal table-mate’s eye, and from I know not where, say,

I just can’t sit here and listen to this, you are worth so much more than you think! I know I don’t know you, but please hear me! You don’t want to get married! You want to be seen!  Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean being loved, but it can be the seal placed on a relationship of two who are fully seen and fully loved.

Our conversation was brief. We don’t know each other. We didn’t arrange to meet up again, but the encounter stayed with me. It raised more questions than it answered.  The stories of dates where within minutes, both parties have shuttered themselves up behind their own insecurities, the revelation that life is short following a cancer scare, the fear of being “left on the shelf”, while simultaneously seeing friends become increasingly trapped in controlling marriages, it was all too familiar.  In five minutes of vulnerability, we three strangers connected more deeply than many long-term boyfriends had, so afraid are women to show their true selves for fear of rejection.

I wish I could have had a day to love on these young women, to share how much they are undervaluing themselves, to chip away at the years of hiding and insecurities and let them glimpse the other side of the curtain of expectations that demand we follow the rules, that we be small, quiet and uncomplicated.  The Other Side, where women live large, loud, complex lives of abandon, where they follow their passions, serve their communities and the world is better because of them.

Dear Sisters,

I want for you, lives lived out loud, lives of consuming passion for your world and for people who SEE you, and love you in all your wild, broken complexity. I hope we meet again, but in the meantime, I hope you seek out voices that free you, that give you wings. Voices like Glennon, and the incomparable Brené Brown, wonderful, flawed, gracious women like Jen Hatmaker, and artists with the gift of honesty and self-compassion like Amena Brown and Nichole Nordeman. I hope we meet again and share our stories, to encourage one another to live boldly in a world that wants us small but needs us to be large.

Grace and Peace, 

Your Sister, Ally.

41 – Just another number?

I turned 41 this weekend.

How did that happen?

The funny thing about that question is that the assumption you probably made when you read it is that I am in denial about my age, that, perhaps, I am going to rail against aging and bemoan the youth that is lost.. etc. etc.

I will not be so prosaic… I hope.

I love being 41.

There! I said it!

Over the past year, it is as though I have passed through a veil into security, confidence, a little more self-knowledge.  I didn’t expect to actually wake up and feel different, you know, the way you think you will on a “big” birthday like 16 , or 18 or 21.. or even 30! Yet, somehow, this weekend, it is as though I really did feel different.  I don’t believe that there is something magical about the actual day, but rather that the introspection this season has afforded me is allowing me to walk in more fullness, more courage, more passion.  I know who I am, I know who I can be and, I am confident that I am on a journey worthy of the telling.

When you are struggling through your 20s and 30s, it seems impossible to hear the gentle voices of secure identity, voices who long to share the joy of freedom with you… you who are so concerned with the way the world sees you…  you who cannot hear the Still Small Voice for the clamor of your life.

Oh, how I wish I could have heard!

How grateful I now am for those dear friends, who planted themselves, gentle and firm, within the whirlwind of my 20s and early 30s. How honored I am that men and women of God stood in the raging rapids of my arrogant proclaiming and anguished wailings and spoke, “Grace and Peace”.  How I treasure brothers and sisters who could see through the maelstrom and steady the quailing, fainting heart within and say to me, “Take Courage”.

Those seeds of Grace, Peace and Courage have slowly, subtly rooted.  They have continued to grow, stubbornly reaching up, through marriage and miscarriage, through babies and on into teenagers, through stifling restriction and joyous release.  They have grown into great trees, and, like the tree that has grown slowly from sapling to beauty in our backyard, I am a little awed by their presence, sudden-seeming in their fullness, in their insistence of their place, in their confidence.

For me, 41 is not just another year, but seems like a beginning of sorts.

Come along for the journey and let’s see where the road leads!

Grace and Peace,

Ally

 

Grief & Hope

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD 

The Lord is my shepherd, 
I shall not want; 
He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside still waters; 
He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness 
for His name’s sake. 

Even though I walk through the valley 
of the shadow of death, 
I fear no evil; 
for You are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life; 
and I shall dwell in the house of the 
Lord forever.
Psalm 23
Sometimes it is hard to write about life when it is so intense and personal, not to mention confusing.  Today we found out that what we had hoped was just a difficult pregnancy was, in fact, a miscarriage.  I have come to despise that word, it implies some kind of carelessness, thoughtlessness or lack of preparedness, it brings to mind other uses like “miscarriage of justice”; and I think to myself, “NO! That is not it at all!”  We have lost our baby and while they were with us they were deeply loved and wanted, there is no word that adequately covers the sense of loss, of emptiness and sadness in my heart.  

This is a season which I will long search for purpose in, and may never find it, however one thing I know; that our babe has been spared the suffering of life on this earth, and while I may never hold her (for some reason, in my head, she has a female voice), she has been taken into the greatest joy of life in the presence of God, eternal, wise and loving God.  I am sad, but not without hope, weeping but assured by His presence that Joy will come in the morning.

Thank you for all your prayers and loving support, I never knew how truly loved we were until this week, you have all blessed us beyond words.

Yours in hope
Ally