A few weeks ago I sat in a circle of amazing women – college juniors and seniors – and tried to answer some of their big questions. Their hard nitty gritty questions. They asked about marriage and balance and how not to lose one’s self.

We sat in the student lounge where my husband teaches and had the lights dimmed down enough to invite candor and we shared more than just hot apple cider.

They asked questions that took me back to cross roads moments in my sophomore year so fresh in my mind I could still remember how the decision tasted – of cherry blossoms. I walked a mile of them when I chose Peter.

So I look at these beautiful women with so much of the future still gift wrapped before them and I tell them the truth.

I tell them that I was the girl who swore she would never marry. The girl who was so angry with the church who couldn’t translate the grief of a widowed husband or the loss of an 18-year-old daughter that she ran away.

I was the girl who ran away from every whisper of who she “should” be and determined she would write her own story.

It would not include children.

I tell them it’s ok if that’s your story. It’s ok for now and where you are and that the God who holds them gentle in His hands is not afraid of this twist in the plot. He is patient. He is kind. He believes all things. He bears all things. And He is gifted at surprise endings.

Mine came when I turned 30 and all I wanted for my birthday was a baby. I’d been married five years by then. And no one was more surprised than me.

I tell them when that baby boy was born in South Africa and they placed him on my chest as the sun was rising I’m certain I heard it – I’m certain I heard my patient God whisper to me, “See, I saved the best for last.”

And today when I sit surrounded by left overs and the dishes I should have wiped and loaded into the dishwasher hours ago I am at peace with where I am. But that the journey was a long one and I was usually in a rush throughout.

That there were broken nights of hacking sobs as I tried to figure out my place on the map of motherhood. That every minivan driving mom was a reflection of what I thought I should be, but wasn’t. I was certain they had it figured out and if only I could get in on the mystery of balancing it all, of having it all.  I didn’t even have the minivan, for goodness sakes.

I wanted to work and to mother and to have all my laundry actually put away on the same day I washed it.  And my failures felt amplified by everyone else’s seeming easy success.

But appearances are tricky imps and I let them run riot far too long in my un-perfect, day care-necessary, long-commuting, endless-laundry, upside down life until Pete put a stop to it. One night over our pock-marked kitchen table he just told it to me gently,

“But Lisa-Jo, no one’s got it all figured out. I don’t even think that’s possible. We live in a broken world. We bear the scars of sin. And this side of heaven I don’t think you’re ever going to find the perfect balance between every aspect of your life.”

I repeat that truth to 15 pairs of watching eyes. I hope they believe it. I hope they are freed by it. I hope they let go of desperately trying to arrive at a destination that’s not even on the map.

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
Madeleine L’Engle

So I sift through my stories and show them my dead ends and remember each and every step of the way that brought me to here – on this couch that travelled with me back from the Southern hemisphere.

Here where Jackson never remembers to put away his shoes and Micah’s snoring on the floor next to his radio.

Here where the baby will cry at 12am precisely.

Here where Peter will get up before the rest of us to catch the train and here where he will try to sneak home at noon for a lunch date with me if we’re both lucky.

Here.

Where being wide-awake to each moment of the desperately precious here turns out to be much harder and more wonderful than the dream of having it all.

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