Smack Dab in the Middle

I remember magic… My brothers and I playing baseball in a field in our backyard, ghosts on every base. A frozen marsh in winter time, ice skating for hours on end. Sledding down the biggest hill I’d ever seen. Tubing down the creek by ourselves. Hide-and-go-seek in the cornfields.

We ate fresh vegetables from the owners of our farmhouse—stuffed peppers and sweet corn and zucchini. We rode our bikes down windy country roads to the general store to buy penny candy. We didn’t go to school for 2 weeks because of the blizzard of ’96, and spent our days sipping hot cocoa and making snow caves for our wiener dog to run through. The goats next door were Daisy, like the flower, and Hilary, like the president’s wife, and they ate food right from our dirt-caked hands.

At night, my mom would go down to the basement one last time to stoke the coal stove with enough fuel to last the night. In the mornings, my brothers and I would huddle on the kitchen vent because it was the warmest one. I’d watch my nightgown, filled with warm air, billowing out around me.

At night, I’d crawl into bed and sleep facing the door in case someone crawled through my window in the middle of the night to kidnap me. I’d shut the window in the dead hot of summer in case lightning struck me in my bed. I’d close my eyes as soon as the light was off so I didn’t have to see the ghost standing, leg propped against my wall.

At night, I’d crawl into bed with my mom and whisper, “Are you getting a divorce?”

At night, I’d listen to my parents through the vent by my bed. “I’m trying, dear,” my dad would say. “I don’t like this,” my mom would say. “We don’t have a choice,” my dad would say. Hushed whispers about apartments in Florida, real estate investments, a lady whose name I cannot remember. I didn’t understand why these things made my dad so angry, my mom so anxious. At night, I’d crawl into bed with my mom and whisper, “Are you getting a divorce?” My heart racing, eyes wide open.

Two opposing feelings saturated this season of my life. At age 10, I was immersed in the most magical days of my childhood, and at the same time… I was terrified. How could these two things be so real at the same time?

When I think about some of the biggest moments in my life thus far, I see this same contradiction. When I was falling in love with my husband, I was also nursing a shattered leg and a shattered identity. When I had my first baby, I was also stepping away from a lifelong dream and a passionate community. When I had my second baby, I was saying goodbye to my mother-in-law as she battled cancer. There are few great, big celebrations in my life that aren’t holding the hand of sorrow, fear, or confusion.

I’m in the midst of one of these seasons. I’ve been in it for a while, if I’m honest. My kids are little and watching them experience the world and getting to spend my days with them is magical. But I also feel sidelined, confused by the monotony, the dulled passion, the lack of direction. I feel like I’ve been in a holding pattern, waiting for God to pat me on the butt and put me back in the game.

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I don’t have a pretty explanation for this season—I’m in the thick of it.

A few weekends ago, I spent a day with friends at a Creative Workshop. We wrote and we painted and we worshipped and we talked. During worship I had a mental picture of me and Jesus standing in the middle of the ocean, on the ocean, dancing—a light-hearted, playful, fun dance between two dear friends. This couldn’t be further from how my mind feels… muddled, confused, frustrated, tired. But I felt God whisper, Em – this is your heart… engaged, free, passionate, hopeful. To live in this tension of the mind and the heart is to live. Period.

Jesus’ journey to the cross was no different. In the same moment that he gladly chose death, he also experienced unbelievable sorrow. Connection and abandonment. Hope and heartbreak. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But for the joy set before him, he endured the cross… Despair and delight.

Here’s my question—can we be fully present in the tension? Can we embrace the magic and the beauty and the fullness in the same moment we acknowledge the frustration and confusion and the not-yet? I hope so. Because I am starting to see that it’s in this mystery that my faith is tested. It’s in this tension that my hope is solidified. It’s in this uncertainty that my character is refined. And our Father is here. He’s in it all.

We live in the in-between. We are becoming.

I think I’m really hung up on defining seasons. On trying to stamp them with a theme or an emotion or a slogan of sorts. I realize that I miss something when I try to do this. We live in the in-between. We are becoming. In order to soak in all that He is doing and saying, we have to start to get comfortable with being in process, always.

I’m not there yet—that’s my mantra for right now. Probably for forever.

I have a deep love for Dolly Parton. She is an angel (someday I’ll tell you all about working at her theme park and meeting her). She says, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” The rainbow—a symbol of God’s promise. We see a rainbow when the sun is behind us and falling rain is in front of us. The light, the glory, permeates the storm to show us the presence of God. That same tension. We stand smack dab in the middle of it. We stand between the sun and the rain and that’s where we see God’s promise.

I wonder, sometimes, if my days in the farmhouse would have felt as magical if my nights weren’t plagued by fear. Maybe the contrast created the intensity. Maybe that’s true of our day-to-day too, if we choose to stay engaged and present.

I want to get more comfortable with the tension. With the lack of definition. With the fact that magic and fear can co-exist in my little 10-year-old world, and magic and monotony can co-exist in my bigger 30-something-year-old-world. And maybe it isn’t so much about defining the season. Maybe it’s about standing in the middle of a rainstorm, uncomfortably soaking wet, while smiling and celebrating the rainbow in front of us. Maybe that’s the real magic.

Colorado Springs, CO

Emilie loves stories. Whether she’s reading, writing, listening, or telling them, she believes that our stories reveal the heart and nature of our God. Emilie lives in Colorado with her two feisty daughters and one handsome husband. She loves all things outdoors and summertime, her neighborhood and her people, and happy hour every day of the week.