Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives February 2017

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Processing Pain

One photo a week throughout the year. 6/52

My phone vibrates in my pocket and I want to dig it out to see who has sent me a text message. I’m puttering around my over-stuffed kitchen. There is hardly any counter space and there is food and mess and dishes for eight people, which means it pretty much always feels like a disaster, even if I diligently scrape and rinse and stow dishes away after every meal. On one level, I’ve made my peace with it. On another level, it feels like an irritant; a constant reminder of all that I’m not good at. I reason there is not much that can be done. The space is small and there isn’t much storage space.

It’s a problem in more than one area of my life. There are a lot of things floating around that don’t have a permanent place to land. I’m not especially attached to any of it, but dealing with clutter takes a special brand of focus and energy that seems to run in short supply for me. I care far more about connection and creativity to stress about which papers go in the recycle bin and which should be filed away, so all the papers live in piles wherever they might be least likely to be disturbed. I would like to say I know where most of the important things are. I used to be able to keep those kind of details close at hand in my brain until I started having kids. Now, it is possible that I might be holding a pen in one hand while I look around for the location of that same pen on the surfaces around me, frustrated that I can’t find something to write with. I joke with my husband that I sacrificed most of my brain cells to give birth to six beautiful children, and we both laugh because its partly true.

The sink water runs while I dry one hand on the towel near me to retrieve my phone. I read the words.

“I miscarried last week. It has been rough for me. Trying to reach out.”

I flick the faucet handle down and feel instantly powerless to comfort, powerless to help in any meaningful way. My chest tightens up and tears scratch at my eyes and I suddenly forget how to pick up dishes, rinse them and set them in the dishwasher. This isn’t the first pregnancy loss. Or the second, or the third even. With each one, I watch the hope drain out from afar, and it breaks my heart. Truthfully, I don’t know the pain in any first-person way, but I imagine it and feel whatever it is that one feels when wanting to absorb the shock that someone else is feeling in the midst of their sudden emptiness.

What do I say? What can I say?

I can’t land on anything solid.

One of my children dashes through the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement with a younger sibling in hot pursuit of some stolen treasured item that went down the stairs with the former. My guess would be it is a bouncy ball or a flip-open magnifying-glass toy, but I don’t care enough to ask or intervene.

I keep looking at the text and wish I could be instantly there, holding her head in my lap, stroking her hair gently, and praying for God’s comfort to meet her in the sorrowful moments—in this sorrow-filled season of uncertainty—while we both cry about it.

It seems unfair to encounter sorrow after sorrow when the desire of the heart is great. Maybe it is unfair, or maybe it is part of what is knitting us closer together. I have never miscarried, but I have seen other hopes die. I know the pain of loss in other ways and these reminders of it are what keep me tender-hearted and compassionate to others in their own seasons of struggle.

With all my heart, I wish I could find a way to help her around the pain instead of having to watch her go through it, but I’m aware that I don’t have that kind of power.

I fumble with my phone while I dry the other hand and manage a lame text in response. Lame because it accomplishes nothing, fixes nothing, and doesn’t make me feel any better either.

I sit down on the floor of my kitchen, my back against the cupboards under the kitchen sink. The only comfort I have ever found in these moments when my heart is deeply grieved comes from Jesus. It feels simplistic to put it like that, but it is true. When I discovered for myself that He shows up and enters into the wounded, hurting space to set a weeping woman free from lifelong fear, freeing her—or rather me—from the heavy responsibility to hold every last thing together, from the grip of despair, from the anger that drains all the beauty out of life…when I discovered that every last ache will one day be redeemed by the power of His all-consuming love; that was a day that changed everything for me.

I turn my heart inside out and beg for His sweet mercies to land close to the broken heart on the other end of this text thread. I ask Him with fervor to gather up her brokenness and comfort her the way He has comforted me in the lowest moments of my life. Tenderly. In the protective way of a good Father. Lord, in Your mercy, let it be so.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

1331. new shoes for all the kids — at 70% off, 1332. the beauty and mystery of transformation, 1333. late night dreaming-while-awake, 1334. seeing a vision coming to life, 1335. fabric for a new baby banner for a friend, 1336. engagement party for a girl I knew when she was less than 10 years old, 1337. a lasagna gift, 1338. roozy boozy showing me where her feelings live, 1339. hubba-la-bubba-la baby babble, 1340. purple birthday plans in the works

Family / Motherhood

Flourishing in Motherhood

One photo a week throughout the year. 5/52

We arrived to our weekly homeschool group a few minutes late, as usual. No matter how highly I personally value punctuality, I have not been able to reliably get myself and six kids to destinations on time since my youngest was born nearly a year ago. With all my heart, I want to arrive on time, but I’m only one woman and there are quite a few personalities in my family that frequently prevent me from finding success in that quest.

Still, every time I arrive somewhere late, I feel defeated.

The other moms are huddled in a circle, sharing pertinent announcements and prayer requests with the group. I’m late, but my friends open the circle and draw us in with warm smiles. I have one hand on the stroller where my little guy is squirming around, attempting to escape the clutches of his 5-point harness. My other hand pats the head of his 3-year old sister who is sitting on my foot with her arms wrapped around my leg while she warms to the new environment. The other kids have dispersed to look for their friends who are in the adjacent gym space, bouncing balls and running about with energy to spare.

I’m here. Whew. I’m here.

One sweet newcomer to our group begins sharing about the tumultuous journey of watching her elderly father approach death. His health has been steadily declining, and everyone expects him to pass at any time, but whenever the family makes peace with his passing, he rebounds back from the brink of death for a few days.

She tells us how it is hard to be caught between savoring the last days/weeks with him and mourning the life that is slipping away before her eyes.

Tears are streaming ferociously down my face. I genuinely feel for her, but there is also a moment where I realize that her vulnerability to share with our group has poked a hole in my brave-mom facade, revealing the raw and tender part of me that I’ve been hiding all week.

We comfort her and pray for her, and then I find the courage to say out loud:

I feel like a constant disappointment these days…

The rest of this essay appears on Kindred Mom…head over there to read the rest!

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:4-5 NASB

1321. essays received for Kindred Mom, 1322. a smoother week than last week, 1323. baby walking everywhere, 1324. valentine-making with friends, 1325. kid wonder’s night out with friends, 1326. small amounts of seattle snow, 1327. invitations, 1328. the growth I see in myself over time, 1329. compliments regarding my sons, 1330. jill briscoe talk – the importance of living our mission

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Finding My Voice

One photo a week throughout the year. 4/52

From a young age, they tell me I have natural talent. It’s nice for them to say, but I’m a quiet, reserved child, so I’m not sure about that. I like to sing but I don’t like drawing attention to myself, which means I never sing very loud. I wait until the music is turned up a bit or until I’m in my room where I can close the door. I listen to my mother sing harmonies and quietly try to imitate her, tuning my ear to the nuances of the music.

In the middle years, my life is tumultuous. My dad doesn’t live at my house anymore. He took my youngest brother with him, and nothing feels stable or normal. I cope by muscling out perfect grades in every class, unable (or unwilling) to accept less. Anything less than an “A” would expose the reality that I am crumbling on the inside. I am fractured—just like my family—and I sing to keep myself afloat. It is the only art I can make, partly because I don’t really have to work at it that hard, and I am fighting deep depression. Maybe they were right about the natural talent. I like to think it was God’s lifeline to me. He gave me a voice to explore so that I might learn how to explore other things that bring life and joy—little by little, inch by inch.

I go to college and find myself thoroughly deconstructed. I can’t keep up the perfection I managed to muscle in earlier years. Instead I crack open the rawest place and scribble lyrics of my deep brokenness, squeaking out desperate prayers and pleas for God to come and help me find a way out of the dark place, proclaiming a desire to heal long before the healing comes.

God brings me a man that takes me by the hand right out of that mire. We make love and babies and very, very slowly, light begins pouring into me. He disarms me with his humility and opens up the spaces I’ve curled in around. The fears that hold me with fury start losing their grip. Simple times, little faces, and rearranged perspective starts me looking for beauty in new places: the ordinary moments of every day; the miracle I am living.

I find a camera in my hands and start freezing everything beautiful I see. At first I think I’m going to be somebody bigger or better, but I quickly learn that seeing deeply is far more important than the constant pressure to prove myself…to myself. Behind vanity, sometimes there are worthy pursuits. Vanity, however, can set the less mature person in a compromised direction. My subjects smile into my lens and I see the vulnerable moment just before I click when they are asking themselves, do I look ok? Do my faults and fears show? Does my nice outfit and carefully groomed appearance hide my insecurity? No, it doesn’t. It does help me see for myself that I am not the only one that constantly wonders if I am (fill in the blank) enough, and I see a new beauty in humanity that only comes in a shared vulnerable moment.

My sweet neighbor teaches me how to sew. I never wanted to learn, especially when my grandmother wanted to teach me as a child. It took too much time and effort to make things look perfect. I just knew it, even though I never really tried. She shows me the way to embrace things that take time; the value in one step at a time. Now I experience a calm purpose as I wash, dry, iron the fabric, tear the cut edges to square up, measure, cut, align, pin, sew, and turn. The process is beauty to me.

For many years, I carry a cavernous hunger. I am desperate to be filled, even though all the food I devour doesn’t touch it. I eat my feelings, as they say, and love the starch, the carbohydrate, and convenience of things in packages. I don’t want to cook, because I’m terrified of being locked up in a chauvinist marriage. I tell my good man from the beginning, I am not your house maid. I am not your cook. He loves me anyway, and does all those things until I learn on my own that filling the hearts and bellies of the ones I love is one of the greatest joys, and that chopping stuff with a good knife is therapeutic.

I write words in every different place over all the years from the early to the present. Journals, spiral notebooks, and one blog after the next. I don’t call myself a writer because it is scary to own my voice. I avoid. I hide. I agonize. I stretch. I try to write again and again until the dam is compromised enough to fall down completely and bring the rushing water all the way through the previously dry channel. My voice is found, and while I am trepidatious about the power it wields, I know that I can’t rest until I help others find theirs as well.

********

Friends – I am eager to share a new venture with you. It is a project that is very dear to my heart, and I am believing it will be an encouragement to many. I invite you to check out Kindred Mom, a collaborative blog where many different women will be sharing about their motherhood experiences through story-driven essays. I would love your support as Kindred Mom is getting established. You can do any of the following:

> Follow us on Instagram and Twitter
> Join our Kindred Mom Facebook Group
> Submit an essay to Kindred Mom
> Subscribe to our Email List
> Read along as we begin sharing essays and let your mama friends know about the blog

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

1311. my husband’s constant (and sacrificial) support of all my crazy ideas, 1312. roozy boozy’s new haircut, 1313. hank starting to find his confidence with walking, 1314. big buddy’s constant hugs, 1315. riding together as a family (still new and quite exciting), 1316. seeing threads come together, 1317. making some new banners, 1318. met new neighbors, 1319. sermon on the vastness of God’s redemptive power, 1320. friends on the Kindred Mom journey with me