Moving back to Texas after living in other states for the last 30 years has been such a blessing to me for so many reasons. Moving away from people we love, on the other hand, is always difficult to do. When I grew up with a single mom who worked a really hard job for not a lot of money, we moved around a bunch. From 4th grade through high school, we lived in 8 different places (apartments or rental houses). We would move every time the rent was raised. Because of that, I learned how to make new friends and how to say "goodbye" to old friends pretty well...but that sure didn't mean I loved having to do it. Being back in Texas this time of year (when we are finally getting a pretty great combination of rain and sunshine) is glorious, as the grass is green, the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are all peppering the medians and sides of the roads with color, and the butterflies are absolutely driving L.C. (our 3 year old yellow Lab) nuts. We take her and Kirby down to the Medina River (we have a park that runs right along the river in our development), and L.C. goes bananas for these butterflies. To say I am enjoying this spring time in the hill country is a massive understatement. Even better is having double-dates with dear friends that we've known for years to go hiking, golfing, and eating is great; and we are also making new friends in our development as well (thanks, in part, to our dogs making friends with new dogs and getting to know owners as a by-product). We have the perfect combination of going places I went as a kid growing up in San Antonio (we even made a commitment to get season tickets to Broadway in San Antonio for this year) and trying out new places or places I had never even heard of.
But moving means leaving beloved friends and family behind, as well, which is really tough. When we left Florida 11 years ago, it seemed like I was going to be sad forever. We had lived in the panhandle of Florida for 17 years (longer than I had ever lived anywhere in my entire life, even though we lived in a few different houses, there), and we had some pretty deep roots. As I have mentioned before, one of my dear friends (who worked with me when I was a principal there, and who, along with her three kiddos, would dog-sit for our three Labs) passed away a few months ago. Kelly was very likely a human being who was, to me, about as close to an angel as you can get. Not only was she a single mom raising three kids with the grace and humor that could only come from a deep faith that, no matter what, everything was going to be okay, she was so much to so many. I was truly blessed to know her, as was everyone whose lives she touched. Her "children" are all adults now, and I love being able to stay in contact with them, especially her oldest daughter, Hayden. Hayden and I have said several times that it is certainly no coincidence that when I text her and say, "I'm really missing your mom today", she will text or call back to say, "That is so weird because I was just thinking about calling you". This has happened on more than one or two occasions since December, when Kelly passed away, so it almost doesn't seem too unusual anymore. What I have found is the distinct need to not ignore that small, still voice inside that says, "Reach out", anymore. There is often a reason we are supposed to talk to people, I think, when we get that nudge. My advice to anyone who gets that nudge---don't ignore it!
I have always loved analogies. I love the literal meanings of things but also see huge value in finding figurative connections. That's why grief is so interesting to me, I think. While I miss Kelly so much, sometimes, my heart literally aches, I see the value in examining why I am feeling that emotion in that particular moment. What is it that I need to learn or understand from that feeling? Sometimes, as I have found out, it is maybe a tap on the shoulder to reach out to one of her kids or to another friend who loved Kelly as much as I did. But sometimes, it might be something as basic as I need to simply sit with my feelings of grief, understanding that the stages of grief are not linear but rather they take a few steps forward and two steps back. Why? I don't know. All I can say is that I have found peace with carrying some of Kelly's ashes with me (her precious middle child, Tavey, "gifted" several of us with a little vial full of "Kelly ashes" the evening before Kelly's Celebration of Life in January-----imagine a 20 year old being savvy enough, unselfish enough, and loving enough to not just be focused on her own grief but to get crafty enough to put together 10 of these little vials of ashes that would bring such peace and comfort to several of us blessed enough to received them), even when (maybe especially when) I travel for work or play to Wyoming or to Houston or to Tucson (Kelly always loved traveling and wanted to do so much more of it----what better way for me to honor her memory than to take her with me when I travel?).
During Lent this year, I gave up sweets but Dave also had the genius idea to take ON the experience of watching the series "The Chosen". If you have any interest in learning more about what Christians believe about Jesus and His disciples, I highly recommend it. What a perfect time to watch this series, as well. The other night, I was lamenting (not just figuratively but pretty literally) about wishing I had a milkshake just as we were watching a scene in which Jesus comes back to the apostles' camp after spending hours on end healing sick and needy people who had traveled miles to see Him. I had to laugh at the irony that I had just been whining about wanting ice cream when Jesus had just worn Himself out healing others. While I was a little embarrassed by the trivial nature of my "I want it and I want it now", I simply had to acknowledge that the literal fact is I am a human who is sometimes overcome with earthly desires. The figurative meaning is something I am still observing and learning from, particularly about how vocal I can be about my own petty "wants" and how quiet I can sometimes be in my prayers and devotion to God. Pretty ironic, huh? This blog is part of trying to turn that around.
I know that it is never too late to begin watching for signs, to wake up and smell the freshly mown grass, to hear the sound of the hummingbirds as they finally make their way to the birdfeeder in the backyard, and to see the wildflowers that seem to pop up anew on an almost daily basis. I just need to be ready....and willing. I need to look for the good, and I will be more likely to see the good in others and in this world; I need to pray for the good to occur for family and friends; and I need to show gratitude for all the things (both literal and figurative) that I have been given in this life.
I pray each of you is ready for whatever this season has in store for you. What is your need right now and how is it being fulfilled?
Happy Communicating! Now I'm off to go eat some chocolate Easter eggs----just kidding, we will very likely start watching a "The Chosen" episode now, instead.