A letter

Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

The lost art of saying “hello”: To be a stranger.

In New York Summer on June 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm


I’ve been “the stranger” way to many times in the last 4 years, as you are well aware. Moving is not for the faint of heart. But, while I dreaded almost each and every time we went church hunting, gym hunting, park hunting or friend hunting, I can finally look back and say, “Thank you.” I know it seems like an odd thing to give thanks for, but it has changed me and will continue to change me, forever I hope.

I was at a conference this week and was once again “the stranger.” Though I’m much more comfortable now with this scenario than I was a few years ago, I still dread walking into a place for the first time—not knowing a soul. And, in this particular situation—I ate lunch amongst many picnic-ers—alone. Yes, I could have forced my way into a crowd, but after a failed attempt to reach out, I didn’t have it in me emotionally to try again. It’s okay. I’m fine. It was a beautiful day, and I had a great sandwich and two adorable boys to keep me company. What I wish I could tell you is that this hasn’t happened before. But as you know, it’s happened more times than I wish to admit, and I haven’t always been fine.

I have driven home from many events—hot tears pouring, my heart aching, just wishing for a friend—wishing someone would have said hello or saved me a seat. I remember standing in a buzzing room at a women’s event everyone in a cluster of friends, but never being invited to join in. I felt like my five-year-old self who didn’t get invited to the birthday party.

I often wonder what happened to the simple skill of saying “Hello?” Forget saying hello. What happened to a gentle head nod or wave when walking by someone you know, or even passing a stranger. Was this not at some point cultural etiquette? Could it be that we pass people every day longing for a “Hi”, a smile or a hug?

I wish I could encourage everyone I know to go somewhere new, alone: visit a church, go to a new workout class—just go somewhere where you don’t know anyone.  I would wager that it’s probably been awhile since most people were the stranger.  I’m sure most have forgotten what it feels like to be unknown. I’m sure most have forgotten what it’s like to be in crowded room not knowing where to go or who to talk to. I’m sure most have forgotten what it’s like to sit alone. I know I have at times. I’m a guilty party. It’s why I’m thankful for the last few years—and for Tuesday.

My prayer is that I won’t forget. I want to be the person that always finds the stranger. I want to be the person, that at the expense of my own comfort, makes someone else feel more at ease, more wanted—noticed. I want to be aware. I want to intentional. It doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with everyone, but I could be friendly.

Funny how we have one of the best examples of this kind of love, and we so easily forget. We know a man who is the best at noticing people. He’s the best at including people. His friend circle isn’t closed. He took me in, and I was wretched.  It changed everything for me.

Your friend,
Bep

When “pause” is necessary.

In New York Summer on June 22, 2015 at 11:35 pm

I’m really loving this growing, learning, and baby-stepping. It’s inspiring, and it’s working. I can see some progress. It might be subtle, but it’s there. My thinking is changing. I keep telling myself to keep taking the little steps. Little steps are what will eventually land me at my big goals. Changing is good. We need it. I need it. I want to be different than I am now. I know it will take time, and I won’t wake up tomorrow “there,” but I’m not where I was yesterday either. I’m happy about this.

Today, I hit a wall though. I felt tired. I was overwhelmed. My mind was racing. List after list of things I needed to do were swimming through my thoughts. A bunch of mundane tasks had piled themselves on my to do list for the day and though petty, they seemed intimidating. It’s odd how little things can suddenly seem so big. Right? I decided to use the carcass of my chicken to make broth for chicken noodle soup. Brilliant, I know.  The only problem was, I started it two and a half days ago and it was still simmering. The thought of finishing this task was almost too much. The thought of folding and putting away load after load of laundry was also crushing. Oh, how we dislike days like these. Then I remembered what my dad always said, and it is pure gold: Take a nap and change the world.  So, I did.

Funny, the world waited for me. It was still here. Laundry was still here. So was the soup. But I was better. I wasn’t overwhelmed anymore. Not a lot had changed, but things were different. Hitting “pause” does not come easy. At least not for me. But its essentialness is unmatched. Yes, we should work hard. And we do, obviously. Yes, we should dream and achieve and conquer mountains, even if they are only laundry. But, on occasion, we should remember to hit pause. We should take a survey of our souls. We should evaluate our “fun meter” as dad always said. And, if we find it depleted, or our souls weighted, we should rest. If we find ourselves spinning, we should have the maturity to pull the reigns and take a breather.  If we’re going to last longer than today, if we’re going to thrive in life’s journey we have to learn this: Sometimes rest is best. Sometimes we have to take a nap so we can change the world.

Maybe you should too!

Bep


  

We’re turning ten. Old love.

In New York Summer on June 18, 2015 at 12:43 pm

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I know we are too young for this to be true, but it’s no lie. David and I are turning ten! It’s our ten-year anniversary. I can remember it like yesterday. We smiled, laughed, cried, and danced our hearts out. It seems impossible that ten years have come and gone—for all of us—but it has. We’re those people young people meet, and think to themselves, they are old, they’ve been married a long time, and they have kids. I used to think it. Didn’t you? I would tell them if I could that life is more beautiful now. I’d tell them that old love is gold. They might not believe me, but I don’t want to go back in time. Happier days are not behind me.  They are with me now.  I’m living them.

We were such babes, and I don’t just mean how we looked. And, we were madly in love in the most authentic of ways.  Everyone knew.  I’m glad.  Not many people fall in love the way we did, and in my book it’s just perfect. Funny how we find ourselves back in New York thirteen years later going to church just down the street from where we met. We might have to pop in the lobby of the New Yorker tonight just for old times’ sakes. It changed our lives forever.

In lots of ways, nothing has changed. Everyone still knows we’re crazy for each other. I’m glad. We’re still just as spontaneous, just as much dreamers, just as much risk-takers, and just as much best friends. The thing that’s changed is our love. Our love has aged, and as with most aged things, it’s only gotten better. I was so out-of-my-mind in love with him then, I couldn’t imagine “better.” I couldn’t imagine liking him more. I couldn’t imagine better love, or deeper friendship. I couldn’t imagine loving life more now, because then was so good. All these years later, I’d tell young onlookers that on June 18th, 2005, David Engelhardt made me the happiest girl in all the world. I’d also tell them, he still does.  I’d tell them this: That These are the days, and so were those.  As we both know, the best is always yet to come.  Always.

Reminiscent,

Bep

No wise person ever wanted to be younger. —NATIVE AMERICAN APHORISM

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Erasing weekends. Dancing out of bed.

In New York Summer on June 16, 2015 at 11:24 am

Morning, friend.  Birds are chirping and summer’s early cool is creeping in through cracked windows all around me. I’m hunching that today is going to be a good one. Yesterday’s humidity hung in the air like wet laundry the entire day. But, just before bed, we heard the rain bringing with it a twenty degree temperature drop—thus, this glorious morning cool—my favorite. Hope you’re getting some of the glory too. Wish you could join me on the sunshine couch and we could sip coffee for hours and laugh. This will have to do for now.

David and I have been on a journey of erasing the weekend. Don’t worry, I’ll explain, and before I go on, let me just reiterate, it is a journey.  We’ve been reading and listening and talking, then reading and listening and talking some more—late into the nights. Much of our conversation has been discussing the tragic practice of “living for the weekend.” We’ve been gifted a beautiful life, yet we spend much of it surviving to get to the better day. Of seven days do we only really live on two? Do we have that much unhappiness to escape? Do we have that much disdain for life that we can only endure til the clock strikes five on Friday? Most humans live this way, or at least have lived this way at times, myself included. But, I for one, won’t for long.

Not only is it tragic for me, but for the Big Guy upstairs. I’m sure His thoughts for me are far higher. I’m sure His heartbeat for me much stronger and deeper. Yet, we settle for this disgusting bill-of-goods our our world sells, and we’re blind to it. I was reading in Romans this morning and this time my heart read familiar words differently:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

It goes on in much more detail. You should read it in new light. How beautiful. How refreshingly convicting. How liberating and freeing. This practice of placing of my whole life before God—the laundry, the long work days, the date nights, the grocery shopping, the early mornings, the late nights, the milestones, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I think my offering has been a few days short for quite a while.

My kids seem to have this down pat.  They wake with the sun, full of smiles and kisses.  Sol immediately dresses, wants breakfast, and is eagerly happy to face his day. Leon wakes with more words that one can possibly imagine, following David around telling him all his dreams and schemes.  They don’t shy away from Monday like I do, or I should say, have been in the habit of doing.  It’s not that they don’t look forward to family movie night—they do. We all should. It’s not that they aren’t excited about Slurpee park dates—they most certainly are. But while they love all these things, they also wake with wonder, dancing out of bed, ready to LIVE another day given whatever it may bring. And they don’t worry about it beforehand. Maybe it’s why He tells us we have to be like children to enter His kingdom. I’m starting a “Thank God it’s Monday” club. (or Tuesday, Wednesday etc.) You should join.

I’ll write more soon, but groceries beckon!

All my love,

Bep



Doing the hard work of–work. Baby steps.

In New York Summer on June 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm

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I woke up yesterday with housework staring me straight in the eyes. I decided it was a stare-down I wasn’t going to lose. I swear half the household items snuck out of their places and scattered themselves throughout the house while we slept. I still don’t understand how a house that was clean days ago can suddenly be a clutter. My finish-by-lunch-goal was a complete failure. You can only push lunch so far into the day and it becomes dinner. At 2:30, nowhere near being finished, we ate lunch anyhow. I know you didn’t believe me before, but you probably do now–my house really was that dirty. See, I am growing in mess.

My hardest chore yesterday was getting the boys to do chores. Lord, help us! As we both know, it’s so much easier to just do it yourself. However, if we want boys that have work ethic–if we want them to be men that conquer mountains–they’ll only learn to work hard by–working hard.  Thus chore training, and many conversations on what it costs to buy something you want: bucks.

Speaking of things wanted, Leon has decided he would like a pair of Air Jordans.  In pursuit of this desire, we had a business meeting earlier today to talk about their summer lemonade stand. We’re hoping this equation is a success. I’ll keep you posted. “Two bucks for one cup and three bucks for two cups.” He’s got it all figured out. He also wants people to be able to buy a toy for only a quarter more. He said he wants to be generous. I’ve been trying to explain to him the importance of “profit” while still encouraging generosity. As you can see we’ve got a ways to go, but we are at least on the journey.

I’m journeying in my own life as well.  If I want abs, I’ve got to do the sit-ups.  If I want a clean house, I’ve got to pick up a rag. If I want a smokin’ hot marriage, I best be tending the fire.  We all want the goods, right?  We want obedient children, but don’t want to discipline or instruct. We want great relationships, but don’t pick up the phone or invest the time. Leon frequently quotes “Do not fear the man who practices 1,000 punches in one day, fear the man who practices one punch for 1,000 days.” Bruce Lee is on to something, something real good. The little things equal the big things. I will not be the sloth who refuses to roast his prey. I’m going to do the work. And, I’ll start with what’s in my hand, for it’s the diligent hand that will rule.

So, how about it, want to baby step with me this weekend? I’m starting with sweets. Not eating them that is! How about you?

Bep

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Proverbs 12

Grace-Juice.

In New York Summer on June 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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So there I was, dinner made and plated, beverages poured, silverware set, and family seated. David asked Leon to pray. His prayer that night was sweet and heartfelt as always. He prayed for each family member and a need they might have. He prayed that David would make $15,000 a day. Yes and amen to that! He prayed that Sol’s tick bite would be healed. Also, yes and amen to that also. (That is a story for another day!) He prayed for Alex’s work. What would his prayer be for me? I was eager to hear what blessing would burst from his little heart. I listened. “God, I pray mommy wouldn’t be so frustrated all the time.” I smiled softly and caught David’s glance, his eyes wide. I felt like running and hiding under my bed. His words held a mirror to my heart and cut deep.

Saying the past few days have been rough is an understatement. It was a sweet prayer, but not exactly what I hoped my child will think of when it comes to me, their mother. I felt defeated. I felt like a failure, and was wishing there was a way to resign. All that night and yesterday it was eating away at me: episode after episode of bad days and patience-less moments playing and replaying through my mind and heart. I felt frustrated at being frustrated and upset at not always being the mom I want to be to these little people God’s given me–these little moldable souls.

After much angry pondering, I realized that Leon will be fine. I don’t think he’s scarred for life, though he’ll need Jesus like we all do. He’s not keeping a tally board under his bed chalking up all my moments of frustration. He’s quick to forgive and has a heart the size of the moon. And, there are way more happy and laughter-filled memories than not. I realized the person that’s not fine is me. I’m the one keeping score. I’m the one in this last season who remembers all my bad days. I remember the times I raised my voice and regretted it later. I’m the one who’s hated who I’ve been. I’m the one who hasn’t forgiven myself–who deep down feels like a failure in this whole journey of parenting. I desperately wish parenting would allow me to take a couple of years off to go back and get my degree in “momming,” but as we both know, “momming” only comes with on-the-job-training.

I feel like Jesus sat down across the table, poured me a huge glass of grace-juice and said, “Drink it.” I want to. I’ll feel so much better when I do. I’m not exactly sure how to do it, but I’m going to start sipping today. I’m remembering their tender hearts are more important than spilled milk, sinks full of cornflakes, and the entire house being a toy box. I’m remembering I’m on a journey. I know I won’t be perfect, but I’ll keep growing. Sufficient grace. In weakness, perfect power. Sigh.

He’s my on-the-job coach. He’s so gentle in His nudges. He’s so kind in His tone. He’s so patient. He’s all the things I need to be to myself and to my kids. I guess if He’s with me, I can’t fail. Now to believe it.

Sipping grace.

Bep

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Earthly scars. This side of heaven.

In Spring in New York on June 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

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I’m thankful it’s this week. I’m thankful my Mama is here and that last week is over. I’m thankful–the spilling and brimming kind of thankful. I’m not sure any of us were prepared for last week. I thought I was, but I was proven wrong.

It’s not that we haven’t had to trust before. You know we have. This side of heaven we have faced the possibility of loss before, several times. This time felt different.  Maybe it’s that I’m more adult now. Maybe it’s because we had a few weeks to think about it. Maybe it’s because we knew too much about the surgery and what she was going to endure. Maybe it was because it is my own mother. Maybe it’s because moms aren’t supposed to suffer. Maybe it’s because I wanted to remove her from the experience altogether. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want her to have this scar. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t prepared to imagine life without her. I guess that’s not a maybe.

I realized, tears pouring last Tuesday, that I wasn’t actually fearful. I felt peace. Yet, through peace, I knew there was one outcome I didn’t want to face, even if He was with us. I was trusting. My raw emotions weren’t the absence of trust but the reality of my human heart. I know God holds us. I know He was holding her tenderly through the whole process. He was holding us each so tenderly. I know He knows the times and seasons. I also knew there were no guarantees other than His goodness. I’ve known His sustaining grace in so many paths. I was just not ready to walk that path. Seeing her face across the screen just wasn’t enough. I wanted to touch her and squeeze her so tight. We both sat the night before, with dad, tears streaming, trusting Him with the gifts most precious this side of heaven, each other. This loan of life we live on earth, isn’t what we are ultimately made for. But it is what we are living now. And though one day it will seem short, our earthly days are real. Though one day we’ll feel no pain, we experience both pain and joy in the most tangible ways right now.

That our hearts were made to love this deeply is amazing. And to think that we are only tasting a touch of its wonder, halting. The beauty of loving even through tears, is a gift. And His heart for us so much more than we could ever imagine. Eternity will be incredible, but earth a gift. In the deepest sense, I’m cherishing these earthly gifts.

Brimming in multiple ways.

Bep

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Visiting the past.

In Spring in New York on June 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm

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We just drove past a huge COOK OUT billboard and instantly we were taken back to Bonte’ and Lee’s front porch.  Hickory, how we loved you and the life we shared in that season. David can still remember the feeling of the wood on his bare feet, and I can feel the heavy moisture clinging for dear life. Those were the days. It’s been eighteen days shy of a year since I’ve seen Bonte’. I’m not even sure how that happened. Well, actually I do. My heart might burst seeing them tomorrow, and we get to meet Ms. Margot James Watson for the very first time. We might just eat her.

Driving those roads again, the ones we drove so many times before, is strange. It’s an achy, happy feeling. Our life in Virginia and law school seems so distant, though some of its memories still feel near. As you well remember, those years for us were laced with hardship and surprises, with loneliness and life-long friends, with beauty and pain.

Familiar places are good for our souls. They remind us of things forgotten, and give a peace to our hearts that few things can. I was realizing during our drive that the best thing they do though, is remind us of where we’ve come from. The good times in life then, were gifts hidden in a challenging season. I didn’t even want to go to Virginia. But, then in the end, though I was elated law school was complete, much of what Virginia held made it hard to leave. So much richness was waiting for us there. So many friendships that surprised me. So much growing we didn’t know we needed. So much steel being built in our bones.

Revisiting this chapter, put wind in my sails.  It reminded of the goodness that waits for me in this season, too. We can so easily forget the faithfulness that carried us to now.  Right?  We might not be able to see all the goodness just yet, but we’ll for sure look back and see it.

I know we are both good at reminiscing for the sake of nostalgia, but I think we need to revisit the past from time to time in a different way. Not because it’s always pleasant, not because it’s entirely good, not because it was perfect or pain free, or that we did it all right. We need to look back and see the faithfulness. We’ve made it a long ways. We’ve gained strength, we’ve grown, we’ve loved more, we’ve grieved, we’ve rejoiced, we’ve conquered mountains, we’ve aged and grown in wisdom, and though we have some scars, they even prove that we have healed.

I guess this might be the very reason they built altars of remembrance with stones. So they didn’t forget the goodness.

What do you remember?

Bep

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