What will you say when I die?

I found this a few months ago while driving around my hometown.  It seemed appropriate.

I found this a few months ago while driving around my hometown. It seemed appropriate.

I watched the subtle rise and fall of my chest yesterday and wondered:

What if it stopped? What if my heart stopped right now?

It was a horrendous thought. Horrendous because I’ve chosen to spend my days thinking about how to fill them, not how they will someday end. Recently though, I’ve thought a lot about death. Not in a morbidly obsessive way, but rather in a matter-of-fact-this-is-going-to-happen way. Because it will. Sooner or later it will.

I’d like to believe that I will grow old. That I will wear sweater sets, use a cane and take heart in singing to plants and playing games of Scrabble. That I will take my last breaths in the comfort of my own bed after a life well lived. That I will have earned my laugh and frown lines. And that my spirit will still be young and strong despite its vessel being old and weak. But there is no guarantee that my end will be this way. There is no guarantee that my last heartbeats will be slow and steady as they march toward my death. And quite frankly, that scares me.

I once had a dream about my wake. I was laid in a white coffin, dressed in an outfit I’d never seen and covered head to toe in thin lace netting. My hair was done up, which I never do, and my lips were stained a garish red. The room was wall-to-wall with people, but no one passed in front of my casket. No one wept or extended their hand to cover mine. And when the priest asked if anyone had anything to share, no one spoke. No one.

I woke in a panic thinking about the hairsprayed coiffé, the horrible lipstick and the deafening silence. And suddenly all the horrible things I’ve done and said lay before me like the countless pebbles on that tiny beach in Maine.

Just love these.

Just love these.

I remembered my childhood and the mountain of untruths I told. I remembered how I laughed with my friends at Barbara Denk who smelled, we said, but to whom we never got close enough to test out. I remembered how I yelled at my Grandmere after she’d asked me 209 times where my Papa was. How He’s dead seemed utterly cruel to share with her Alzheimer-ridden mind. And how I once told a boy I still loved him just as he told me he loved someone else. I didn’t though. I just wanted him to love me instead. Those are just a few, of course; there are pebbles that are more grievous and some that are less. But all of them bring me back to the admonishment of earlier this year:

You are a good person, Dani. But you need to be better.

It had been a terrible Saturday. I was very ill and had started to shake uncontrollably, as I nursed pain that felt like a forest fire moving east to west inside my upper abdomen. Bishop and Sister Hall arrived as I was in the thick of it. And before I knew it, Bishop anointed my head with oil and began to pray over me. The prayer was earnest and simple, imploring for the pain to subside and my health to return. I felt his hands shake a little upon my scalp and heard a hitch in his breath as he invoked the name of Jesus Christ and finally said Amen. As he stepped away, I felt my body go limp and saw a flash of brilliant blues and pinks. Then he appeared.

He was glorious as angels go: a beautiful strong nose, bright blue eyes a shade lighter than my mother’s, and a kind upturned mouth. His hands were unblemished and rosy, like the skin of a newborn, his fingers long and delicate.

He called me by name and shared with me some of my truths. And if I remember correctly, he reached his hands toward me more than once. Because I remember wanting to reach back and hoping that that is what Heaven feels like.

Then he slowly began to back away and said this, his last words to me:

You are a good person, Dani. But you need to be better.

When I came to I was crying. I immediately told my husband about the angel and what he’d said, to which he responded with tears. He later reminded me that I was being pumped full of powerful drugs, that I wasn’t well, that perhaps I didn’t actually see what I saw. But I wouldn’t accept it. He called me by name; he knew my heart. It was real. And he was real too.

I haven’t seen him since that day and I’m okay with that. Seeing an angel once was more than I ever hoped for and I don’t plan on wasting his advice and admonition. And while I know what I know and know what I saw, I’m still terrified of dying. I’m still terrified of leaving this Earth before I’ve done something worth remembering, something that will move people to cover my hands with theirs as I lay still in my casket. Something that will render me forever a passenger in the hearts of those I love.

And then it hits me: perhaps the something, the big thing, isn’t a big thing at all. Perhaps it’s calling to let you know you’re thought of, laying with you when you’re sick or helping you when you can’t help yourself. Perhaps it’s giving my seat up on the bus, buying lunch for someone in need or running after exhausted parents with their little one’s stuffed giraffe. Perhaps all the big things I could do would mean nothing if I hadn’t done the little things. If my heart hadn’t been right. If I hadn’t been right.

I wish my younger self could hear that. I wish she would have let herself be known in ragged form instead of the person-shaped mask used to make her appear whole. And I wish I could go back, hold her hand, and tell her the two things I haven’t always known:

It will get better.
And you will be better.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have taken an angel to figure that out, but maybe, just maybe, that’s why he came. To let me know that I’m on the right track. To confirm that I’ve made mistakes, tons of them, many of which I don’t wish to relive. But I’m on the other side of them now. And I’d like to think, I’d better for them, as well.

I don’t know when my last heartbeats are coming, it’s better that I don’t. But I hope that when they do you’ll put your hand over mine and whisper something to my heart, if only from the quiet of your own:

You are better, Dani. You truly are.

One of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen.  It's in L'Île-Perrot, Quebec.

One of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever seen. It’s in L’Île-Perrot, Quebec.

Tadeusz Borowski: Auschwitz Serial Number 119 198

Image courtesy of PAP/CAF via http://dzieje.pl

Image courtesy of PAP/CAF via http://dzieje.pl

I first heard the name Tadeusz Borowski as an undergraduate student in Amherst. At that time, I had rather sophomoric ideas of the horrors authored by the Third Reich and of its henchmen, and was scarcely aware of the songs of its survivors. Of course, I’d heard of Levi, Spiegelman and Wiesel. And I’d read Plath’s “Daddy” as a teenager. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the words I would read that semester. Nothing.

Our syllabus consisted of many required readings: Maus, The Destruction of the European Jews, Night, and selections from Chaim Kaplan’s diary. It also included poetry from Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan, Yitzchak Katzenelson and Dan Pagis. But the reading that haunted me most was Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. His words, his deceptively simple words and oftentimes frigidly detached account of the unimaginable, proved to lyrically amputate a chamber of my beating heart. Forever.

After falling into a Nazi trap at a friend’s apartment, Borowski was sent to Auschwitz in late April 1943. It is Auschwitz, then, that serves as the main backdrop for the fictionalized stories found in his brutally gripping book and about which the novelist William Styron wrote in his acclaimed novel Sophie’s Choice: “Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response. The query: ‘At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer: ‘Where was man?’”

Borowski’s words anchor deep into the most sacred of places. He shows what one will do for an extra bowl of soup or a proper pair of shoes. And challenges the more traditional roles of perpetrator and victim. He also weaves a thread of normalcy through the most abnormal and ghastly of circumstances.

In this selection, he writes about arrival at Auschwitz:

You have no idea how tremendous the world looks when you fall out of a closed, packed freight car! The sky is so high…
…and blue…
Exactly, blue, and the trees smell wonderful. The forest ̶ you want to take it in your hand. (p. 126)

The entrance to the main gate at Auschwitz I.  It reads "work makes you free".  Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust

The entrance to the main gate at Auschwitz I. It reads “work makes you free”. Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust

 

One of the most chilling features of Borowski’s prose is its icy delivery. It proves to recreate such intensity that the reader is often left breathless:

The lights on the ramp flicker with a spectral glow, the wave of people ̶ feverish, agitated, stupefied people ̶ flows on and on, endlessly. They think that now they will have to face a new life in the camp, and they prepare themselves emotionally for the hard struggle ahead. They do not know that in just a few moments they will die, that the gold, money, and diamonds which they have so prudently hidden in their clothing and on their bodies are now useless to them. Experienced professionals will probe into every recess of their flesh, will pull the gold from under the tongue and the diamonds from the uterus and the colon. They will rip out gold teeth. In tightly sealed crates they will ship them to Berlin. (p. 48-49)

Female hair found in Auschwitz warehouses after liberation.  Image courtesy of Polish National Archives via fcit.usf.edu

Female hair found in Auschwitz warehouses after liberation. Image courtesy of Polish National Archives via fcit.usf.edu

Here, he recounts the terrors of the crematoria:

Often, in the middle of the night, I walked outside; the lamps glowed in the darkness above the barbed-wire fences. The roads were completely black, but I could distinctly hear the far-away hum of a thousand voices ̶ the procession moved on and on. And then the entire sky would light up; there would be a burst of flame above the wood…and terrible human screams. (p. 84-85)

A door to a gas chamber in Auschwitz. The note reads: Harmful gas! Entering endangers your life. Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust

A door to a gas chamber in Auschwitz. The note reads: Harmful gas! Entering endangers your life. Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust

An Auschwitz  warehouse filled with shoes and clothing from those who were gassed upon arrival.  Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust

An Auschwitz warehouse filled with shoes and clothing from those who were gassed upon arrival. Image courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives via http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust

Omnipresent in Borowski’s stories is the theme of deception: deception by the Nazis, deception by both friend and foe and deception by strangers. That theme is magnified in the following: “It is the camp law: people going to their death must be deceived to the very end. This is the only permissible form of charity” (p. 37).

 

After being liberated in Dachau, Borowski lived in Bavaria, Paris and Berlin; finally returning to Warsaw in 1950. It was there, nearly 63 years ago, on July 1, 1951, that he gassed himself. He died two days later on July 3.  He was 28 years old.

Sadly, he was followed by others. Others who had peered into the soulless recesses of human eyes and lived to tell about it. Others like: Paul Celan in 1970, Piotr Rawicz in 1982, Primo Levi in 1987, and Jerzy Kosinsky in 1991. Surely there are others, many others. But these are those who survived to share their stories through a written medium. Those who left us with “Death Fugue”, Blood from the Sky, Survival in Auschwitz, and The Painted Bird. Those who live on in elegant typeface in books throughout the world. And through such, are immortalized.

After all these years, Borowski’s suicide still perplexes me. I wonder what went through his mind as he entered his kitchen, opened the gas valve and repeatedly inhaled. I wonder if he thought of his wife, who had bore him a daughter, Małgorzata, just three days before. Or of his friend’s arrest by Polish Security, the same friend at whose home Borowski himself was arrested 8 years prior. Or of the freight cars and the high, blue sky.

And I wonder what justice there was in such a death. And then realize it was not about justice but rather about hope:

Much of what I once said was naïve, immature. And it seems to me now that perhaps we are not really wasting time. Despite the madness of war, we lived for a world that would be different. For a better world to come when all this is over. And perhaps even our being here is a step towards that world. Do you really think that, without the hope that such a world is possible, that the rights of man will be restored again, we could stand the concentration camp even for one day? It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, paralyzes them into numb inactivity. It is hope that breaks down family ties, makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands kill. It is hope that compels man to hold on to one more day of life, because that day may be the day of liberation. Ah, and not even the hope for a different, better world, but simply for life, a life of peace and rest. Never before in the history of mankind has hope been stronger than man, but never also has it done so much harm as it has in this war, in this concentration camp. We were never taught how to give up hope, and this is why today we perish in gas chambers. (p. 121-122)

Tadeusz Borowski hoped for a better life. For peace and rest and flameless dreams. And perhaps, as much as he tried, it wasn’t possible. Perhaps Auschwitz and Dachau weren’t just horrendous experiences, set apart. Perhaps they became a part of him, like a song, and the only way to silence that song was by stepping on his own throat (20). Perhaps that was his peace.

Perhaps it was enough that he lived, survived and, above all else, loved.  He wrote: “I smile and think that one human being must always be discovering one another ̶ through love. And that this is the most important thing on earth, and the most lasting” (p. 110).

Perhaps there is hope in that.

 

WORKS CITED:

Borowski, T. (1976).  This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (B. Vedder, Trans.).  New York: Penguin.

 

A wife’s letter to her childless husband on Father’s Day

 

I lay in bed the other night, hands crossed over my heart and legs pin-straight, and thought of those words:

This is not about me at all, is it? This is all about you.

That’s what you said to me when I told you I wanted to have the procedure done. A procedure that would be risky, as any procedure is, but that might point us to what’s wrong. The answer to why our children are in the clouds and not here with us.

I was angry at you for saying such a cruel thing. So I went to bed in silence and didn’t tell you to sleep with God and dream with me like I always do. I didn’t kiss you or reach for your hand in reconciliation. I simply lay there, emotionally entombed, trying not to breathe too hard or feel too much as I waited for sleep to find you and take you deep into the hush of night.

But here’s what sleep whispered to me: you were right.

Much of the past six years has been about me. When I was pregnant it was all about keeping me healthy, happy and calm. And when I wasn’t, it was about the same. You took the brunt of my suffering and sadness. You held me when I cried and told me we’d be okay when I ran out of tears. You told me that I was more than enough, that the two of us were more than enough. And on Mother’s Day, when nearly everyone forgot to remember, you were there just as you always are.

Our first child would have turned five this year. My instincts told me she was a girl and this is how I’ve seen her in my dreams: a green-eyed chatterbox with my curly hair and your long lashes, running through a field of asters, buttercups and thimbleweeds. She’s always wearing a white eyelet dress with blue ribbon threading its hem. It’s soiled with what looks like chocolate ice cream and her knees are skinned. I hear her calling to you:

Daddy, Daddy, come find me.

Then she ducks behind a Black Maple, certain you can’t see her. You can, of course, and you find her, pick her up and swing her around as you tell her you love her. Then I wake up, still hearing your laughter, yours and our daughter’s.

I thought of this dream last Sunday as I watched you in the quiet moments before releasing your butterfly in the RTS (Renew Through Sharing) Garden.

Butterfly Release 2014_Ren_butterfly

And I wondered if you whispered I love you before you opened the purple envelope and let her fly away. A symbolic gesture of the sorrow we have felt and an acknowledgement of the tremendous weight of empty arms.

Butterfly Release 2014_butterflies

When I opened my own I sent some sadness with it: sadness for thinking my heartache went deeper because it could be seen and sadness for not honoring the differences in our grieving.  Because there are differences.

Perhaps you have always been strong because you felt you had to or because that’s just who you are. But I want you to know…

it’s okay to cry,

it’s okay to scream,

and it’s okay to shake your fist at the moon.

And it’s also okay to be silent. I know that now.

If we earned parenthood, if it was somehow based on merit, you would be a father because you deserve a child you can hold and touch and by whom you can be completely enamored. And you deserve to be called daddy in more than just my dreams. So, this Father’s Day, I hope you know how much you’re loved, both here on Earth and beyond where our angels reside.  And that it is about us.

Always us.

Always the five of us.

Butterflies_nook

 

First Love: What it Feels Like to Swallow the Sun

Image  courtesy of Izabela Zagaja-Florek via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Izabela Zagaja-Florek via Flickr Creative Commons

Last Sunday I visited my old church meetinghouse. It’s the building I first walked into with my high school boyfriend. The building I was later baptized in. And the building where I still find much solace and peace.  After Sacrament Meeting came to a close, I stood, stretched and saw a familiar face a few pews ahead. It was somewhat different, of course. Tears of happiness and pain do that. Years do that too.

As I made my way forward, I wondered if I was so different than I was then. If he’d want to see me. Or if he’d rather leave the past there. In the past. But I wanted to see him. I had wanted to see him for some time.

When we were younger, my heart spoke loudly, but my mouth never echoed its song out loud. Hurt and pain stayed because I allowed them to. Deception stayed too. And despite forgiving him long ago, I had wanted to see him. To see if I had truly forgiven. To see if I had healed my wounds with the salve of my own heart. And my own truth.

After niceties were exchanged, we sat for a while. He told me about his families: the one he’d been born into and the one he’d created. And he asked about mine. We talked at length about high school. How he’d been lost, which I had known, and how he was sorry for the way he treated me, which I hadn’t. And I felt like I should say something then. Perhaps that I was sorry too. But he continued on. So I didn’t.

 
When he smiled, I couldn’t help but remember how I’d felt all those years ago. How first love strikes when you least expect. How it feels like netting stars and swallowing the sun. And how you are convinced. So convinced. It will never end.

But it nearly always does.

Image courtesy of quotes-lover.com

Image courtesy of quotes-lover.com

My first love ended. And when it did I was inconsolable. I didn’t understand how we shared so much and then shared nothing. How I was no longer the other half of the WE we had been. How it was just me. Alone.

Eventually, I understood the need to close that door. And the need to walk forward and open another. Then another. Eventually, I understood that odds are good we could have never made each other happy. And more importantly: that just because you share the past with someone, doesn’t mean you’ll share the future with them.

And that it’s okay not to.  It really is.

Image courtesy of quotes-lover.com

Image courtesy of quotes-lover.com

There’s a reason it’s called first love. Because there’s supposed to be a second and a third until you learn what love really is. And what it isn’t.

Love is giving your last cherry Jolly Rancher and taking the burnt piece of toast.
Love is putting the lid down.
Love is picking up dog poop. Even though you don’t own a dog, but do own a lawn.
Love is sharing the fluffy pillow.
Love is watching hockey instead of Criminal Minds. Only to realize hockey is better.
Love is reaching for your hand when drifting off to sleep.
Love is taking the trash out before dawn.
Love is making sure you put toothpaste on both brushes.  And always kissing goodnight.

Love is all the little things…
that make up a life.

So now, when I think about my first love, I’ll think about this one thing:

I’m happy he broke my heart.

Because it led me to The One who would rather break his own than break mine.

And that is what real love is all about.

Why I Don’t Get Flowers on Mother’s Day

“Undo it, take it back, make every day the previous one until I am returned to the day before the one that made you gone. Or set me on an airplane traveling west, crossing the date line again and again, losing this day, then that, until the day of loss still lies ahead, and you are here instead of sorrow.”

― Nessa Rapoport

Moon blossoms

Last Sunday was one of those days. One of those days when your soul flattens and your heart folds into the smallness of itself. One of those days when vanilla wafers are chased by Jolly Ranchers and Dubble Bubble. One of those days when no matter how much you try, you just can’t find your joy.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day.

 

My children, unlike those of my friends and family, reside in Heaven. I never held them, diapered them or saw their faces. I simply imagined them.

Babies born in the womb

I still do.

 

But I’m not bitter. Just sad.
And longing.
For full arms and an even fuller heart.
For my chance.
To hear a child’s heartbeat and footfall in more than just my dreams.

And so this is what wraps my heart in hurt every Mother’s Day. When I see and hear mothers being celebrated and realize I am not among them.

I thought of this last Sunday as I sat among a small group of women. In celebration. Of them.

The conversation turned insensitive. To stillbirth and future pregnancies. For others.

And my heart screamed out:
Consider your audience!

As I squeezed back tears.

 

Whether by accident or design, being left out hurts.

It hurts when your place is on the sidelines.
It hurts when it’s easier to cry than to smile.
And it hurts when what’s been gained trumps what’s been lost.

It hurts.  In the most sacred of places. It hurts.

But then there are angels who remind you of your worth.

Friends in the shadows

They remember your scars.
And call you Beloved.
They bless you and your tiny citizens of Heaven with their love.
And their promise not to forget…

Never to forget…

That. You.

Are.

A. Mother.

a mother

 

 

**Post-write and pre-publish, I watched Lifetime’s global release of RETURN TO ZERO**

Image courtesy of returntozerothemovie.com

Image courtesy of returntozerothemovie.com

This is part of their mission statement found at http://returntozerothemovie.com/blog/

“While this film is intended for a wide-release to audiences regardless of their life experience, RETURN TO ZERO fills a particular niche for a market that has gone unserved — those who have or know someone who has experienced the devastating loss of stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.”

If you or someone you love has experienced such a loss, I highly recommend watching this film.

RETURN TO ZERO is raw, real and beautifully done.  An absolute gem of a film and a ray of hope.

For us all.

 

On Kind Of Being Mormon

Earlier today, somewhere between Elk Mountain and Laramie, we stopped at a gas station. Out front sat a well-loved mobile home surrounded by nothing but caramel-colored earth stretching for miles and miles in all directions.

WY

As the wind ushered me through the front door, I noticed a handful of mounted elk heads on the back wall and a cashier dressed in clashing camo.  He looked my way as I quietly debated the candy aisle:

“So… where you from?”
“Chicago.”
He looked shocked.
“What are you doing all the way out here?”
“We had a show in Vegas.”
“Well, how was it?”
“It was Vegas,” I responded as he nodded in agreement. “But at least we spent a few days in Salt Lake on the way there.”
“Are you LDS then?”
“I am.” Kind of. 
“Did you go to the Temple?”
“I did.”
Then I saw a smile stretch across his sunburned face.
“Wow! You’re so lucky!”

I wasn’t prepared for his last comment. And almost didn’t give it the attention it deserved.

Later at the counter, with Twizzlers in hand, I noticed a familiar scene on his television screen. It was from The Passion of the Christ.

“My missionaries told me I should watch this,” he said.
Those words struck a chord.
My. Missionaries.
I’d used those same words about 17 years ago. And I’d said them with the same tenderness and reverence that this man did.

My. Missionaries.

 

My religious background is interesting. Mom was Catholic, Dad was Agnostic, and Kat and I floated in between. We were “Catholic” with a flicker of faith, but little belief in rote practices and memorized speech. In truth, we were more interested in the dried gum art on the underside of our pew, than the homilies and the weight of the Apostles’ Creed.

We knew of God, but had no relationship with God. We didn’t go to Him. Not in joy. Not in hardship. Not ever. For all intents and purposes, He was a whisper of a thought, a being just out of reach.

Christ

Looking back, I think we were waiting to be…
Chased.
Charmed.
And Convinced.
But that didn’t happen. Not there.

I liked Father Shields and Father Jack, the latter of which was charismatic and accessible, two adjectives I never associated with priests or church hierarchy. Be even he, with all his passion, couldn’t imprint my heart with things seen and heard on Sundays too few and far between.  So, I wore pretty dresses, tried not to giggle during mass (which is harder than you think), and looked past odd CCD teachers, especially the one who scraped her nails across the chalkboard every week.  But I never felt what you’re “supposed” to feel at church. That lightening of heart and spirit. That sense that you’re not alone. That feeling that God…

Really. Is. God.

I never felt any of that.  Not until I attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Temple
Their teachings were different. Their scriptures were too. They had another book, called The Book of Mormon.

Books of Mormon
And believed in modern-day prophets and apostles, continuing revelation, and eternal families.

 
It was all a lot to take in, especially considering it all began with a fourteen year old boy, a grove of trees, and a vision.

first-vision
But I believed.
Despite my parents and friends’ objections.
Despite having mainly poor examples of what an LDS family looked like.
And despite my own fears of my future as an LDS convert.

I believed.

And so, on November 30, 1997, in the absence of my blood family and the presence of my Church family, I was baptized.

It was beautiful. Bittersweet. And beyond words.

Fast-forward 17 years. I’m at the Salt Lake City Temple. And it’s lovely. Lovelier than I remember.

Me_temple facade

Me_the Law

Tulips_Me and Ren

But my heart is heavy.
And I finally let it say the words that my lips won’t:

I am inactive.
I have been inactive for longer than I can remember.

I remember reaching out to people like me. People who fell through the cracks. People who were offended by church members or disappointed by church culture. People who were wronged by church leaders or folded under the weight of expectations. Who couldn’t be that good. That kind. That selfless. That obedient.

I remember what I’d tell them and that look they’d get. That look that said, you don’t understand. And honestly, I didn’t.  I was 18 years old telling people, who’d lived and loved longer and harder than I, that I understood. But I didn’t. I didn’t understand losing a spouse, a home or a child. I didn’t understand rape or same-sex attraction, incest or depression.  I didn’t understand the struggle to stay faithful. Because I was faithful. And it was a pleasure and privilege to be so.

I didn’t understand until I moved to Atlanta and left my friends, my ward and my comfort zone behind. In the beginning, I attended church regularly and even worked at the church bookstore, but I didn’t quite fit like I had in Illinois. There was no draw. I was no longer the golden investigator worthy of attention and praise. I was simply a member (which should have been enough, but wasn’t).

And slowly doubt started creeping in.

I moved to Utah thinking that would help, but I hated it. The place was not what I thought it would be. The people weren’t either. So, I blamed my unhappiness on that. But in reality I was different.

had changed.

Over the following years, I waxed and waned.
Bad things happened. Good things happened. I was strong. I was weak.
And God continued to chase me.
To charm me.
To convince me.

And He still does.

Despite identifying as LDS, I don’t attend the LDS church.

I’m the one the missionaries seek out and check up on. I’m the one who receives visiting teaching messages by mail which almost always end with, “I’d love to meet you.” I’m the one who fell (or jumped) through the cracks.

I still love the church.

I really do.

I just don’t know if I fit there.

And that is bittersweet.

My sacred place

“Go to the desk. Stay at the desk. Thrive at the desk.” -William Matthews

nook_lampshade
Everyone has a place—their place—where heart and breath slow, and stillness and contentment reign. Maybe it’s the inside of a train, the white sand of a beach, or a treasured bookstore. Maybe it’s a cushy chair at a local beanery, the zoo, or a bench at MoMa. Or maybe, if you’re truly lucky, it’s a space within your own home.
Since my mother-in-law’s arrival we’ve been working on my nook. Truthfully, I’ve been adding to my stash since last year, but I needed her expertise to bring the space to life. To make singular items create a mood and tell a story—my story.

And that’s just what she did.

nook_right wall_close
My nook is my sacred place.

nook_bear_chair_heart
It asks nothing and gives everything. It smells of sage blossoms and vanilla and is guarded by cheery owls and pink hippos. It highlights my love of polka dots and dresses, quotes and candles. And it houses a tribute to our three little angels, who watch over me from the halls of Heaven.

nook_babies
Generally, I go there to write, but it’s also great for naps, tears and counting to 10 (not necessarily in that order).
Everything there is a reflection of my heart and a representation of my spirit, from the decorative boxes holding pictures of loved ones to the small collection of books by my favorite novelist, Elizabeth Berg.

Elizabeth Berg
This place oozes me.

nook_closet
It honors my past and cherishes the possibilities of my future.
It brings the kiss of life to my craft and heart.
Four simple walls and a collection of stuff do all that.

nook_desk view

What a wonderful and blessed thing!