Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Happy Endings

It's kind of funny when you think back to a year ago, isn't it?  A year ago today we were headed home from an idyllic three days on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and "home" was a beautiful big house on O'ahu with lots of space for my gaggle of kids to safely run around outside with all their many friends. We were filled up with goodness from our little getaway, feeling so happy our cheeks hurt from smiling. 

And then, literally as we were leaving Volcanoes National Park, something really hard happened.  We had a two-and-a-half hour drive back to the airport in Kona along a gorgeous road with breathtaking vistas.  But when I remember that day, honestly, I don't think about those views as much as I remember the lump in my throat and the ache in my chest, the crushing silence in the car, my hollow and awkward attempts to make everyone laugh.  

A couple months later, when we found out we were headed to Korea  I had to get an overseas health screening.  Basically, this is a re-hash of your entire medical history with the doctor to see if there's anything that might be incompatible with living overseas. I can't even tell you how much I was dreading it.  My doctor was exactly my age, a guy who had always seemed good at frank and funny, bad at compassion.  I'm pretty healthy, but my past has a couple big issues: an eating disorder in my early teens that almost cost my life, and a doctor's misdiagnosis that led to three excruciatingly painful days in the hospital seven years ago.  

I didn't want to talk about those things.  Not even a little.  By the time I'd finished telling the doctor, I was crying and shaking.  He was quiet for a minute as I sat on the exam table, twisting the paper towel he'd handed me for my tears in my sweaty hands.

Then he took a deep breath and said slowly, "I can see that was really hard... and very painful... and scary...  But I also look at you and see someone who is very healthy and who has five great kids!  So... I guess what I'm saying is, these are hard stories, but they have a happy ending.  Don't forget that."

I've been thinking about those words for almost a year now, wanting to write about them, but not being sure when or how.  Then today while I was working out, I listened to a podcast I enjoy -- "The Happy Hour" with Jamie Ivey.  She was interviewing Heather Avis  who struggled with infertility for years before adopting three children, two who have Down Syndrome. As I listened, I thought, This woman is awesome.  I wish we were friends.  

She was talking about a book she wrote that comes out next week on World Down Syndrome Day, the title of which is the hashtag she started on Instagram: The Lucky Few.  She also discussed something called the People First language where instead of describing someone by their abilities or conditions, you talk about them as a person first before the condition. For instance, instead of saying "a Down syndrome girl", you say "a girl with Down syndrome".  

I love it.  Isn't this truly what we all need?  I've always been vehemently against labeling my kids as anything like "The Smart One", the "The Athletic One", or "The Difficult One".  I don't want to be defined by what I'm good or bad at, what I've been through, what I can't do or what I struggle with.  I don't want words like "Anorexic" to describe me (which is why I haven't written about it before on this blog), even though my heart shatters every time I hear about someone struggling with an eating disorder because I know that pain so well, and if I could end eating disorders today, I would in a heartbeat. 

But at the same time, when I think about pain in my past, it tends to become my focus rather than the "happy endings", or what happened next.  I let the hard times color my views of the present, if not define my stories, rather than see the healing or how far I've come.    

I've waited so long to write this because for starters, I think of the wounds in the hearts of those who might read this, and I don't want to belittle that or sound like a Pollyanna.  Also, I'm not at all sure how everything I'm dealing with right now will end happily.  I've had days in the past few months when I woke up with a sense of dread, my first conscious thought honestly being, "I wonder what sh!tstorm is going to hit today."  

But I think that's exactly why I need to write this, especially today -- to have it down for myself even if no one else can relate.  What bothered me so much about the first book manuscript I wrote was that it was a total MEmoir -- who did me wrong, caused me pain, etc.  While it ended on a happy note, that's not what I want my story to be.  Similarly, I want to remember the beauty I saw that day a year ago -- acknowledging the pain, but knowing it doesn't define the whole story of that trip or my life since.  

I posted this picture on Instagram (taken on the Big Island) about a week after we got home with a quote from the poet Jack Gilbert, "We must risk delight.  We must have stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world."   

I want mine to be the story of what God did with a very flawed, broken girl, of the many extraordinary people He placed in my life.  I want it to point to His goodness and glory, not mine.   If somehow I can do that, I believe that however the story is written, whether it ever turns into a book or not, it will have a "happy ending".


  1. Oh my goodness, these words are beautiful, honest, and easy to read.
    Love this, and love you!!

    1. You're the sweetest! Love you too, girl!

  2. I love how honest you are. You are not alone in your struggles. xo

  3. I am so very, very glad we "risked delight" in having you. You continue to make that risk pay off with boatloads of delight. And I delight to read your blogs. Thank you.

  4. You are such a gifted writer-- always 'brutally-honest' about your feelings, your fears, your thoughts on child-rearing and your sincere faith! Though the revealing of some of these memories was very painful, it also will possibly be very healing not only to you but others who were not brave enough to admit it. You are a gift-book - with candid remarks and insight into motherhood, Christian morals tucked carefully to send with a lot of 'stuffing' to keep the contents fragile, yet useful to the receiver. Wrapped up in tender, sometimes torn or soiled ribbons of child fun, yet beautiful in color and aesthetic beauty to make it desirable and a 'best-seller'.Though it might not meet the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, it will be priceless to many. I am thankful for you- you are irreplaceable!

    1. Wow, thanks so much for the encouraging words, you are such an inspiration to me!

  5. God's light does outshine the darkness of life. :)


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