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“Nothing can be necessary that he withholds”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Last Friday, I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 for the entire 9-hour drive from Denver to Kansas City. Collectively my favorite record I’ve heard in ages, it just might have the power to pull me out of athletic retirement and train for another half marathon. Running would probably be good for me, seeing as how these days I’m wound as tight as a guitar string one pluck away from snapping up and whipping you in the eyeball.

In the past month, I’ve been in a lot of airports – Denver, Minneapolis, Austin, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago, Rochester, and Baltimore, to be exact. Between work and my far-flung family and friends, I travel more than the average person – and I’ve found that the only way I can survive the aggravation of airline travel is to wear earplugs at all times. Not ear buds – I don’t want music. No, I want to drown out everyone and everything, even at the risk of appearing rude to my fellow passengers. Oh, you just introduced yourself? UNACKNOWLEDGED. You’ll get over it one day.

But despite the irritation, airplanes get me where I want to go – which, this weekend, was upstate New York for 24 hours. While I’ve been a bridesmaid more times than I have fingers, “godparent” is a new role for me – and there was no way I was going to miss Colin’s baptism. He is 6 months of chubby, flirtatious perfection, and I’m honored beyond words that his parents would choose me.

Colin1

When the service was over and the reception was in full swing, I stole away to the edge of Will and Miranda’s dock on Seneca Lake. Their property is beautiful – it’s been in Will’s family for generations – and I needed to be by the water. At the risk of sounding all woo-woo, water affects me spiritually. It cracks my hard heart wide open. It’s a shame that Denver is so landlocked.

There on the dock, I thought about the stories that the majority of my friends are living, and how different mine is turning out to be. I tried to tell myself that it’s okay, I’m okay, that not having a family of my own is actually far less complicated and I should be happy for the simplicity of my little life. After all, as some well-meaning friends have told me, it’s dangerous to love someone so deeply – because then you have so much to lose.

Well. I’ve never been divorced. But I’ve never been married. I have never lost a child. But I’ve never had a baby. Hope unrealized brings with it its own invisible grief, one that doesn’t fit into an obvious category, the kind that solicits cards and casseroles. Could it be that things that haven’t happened can hurt as badly as things that could?

Because it’s one thing for all of your friends to get married. It’s another when they start having kids. It’s entirely another when they decide to be finished having kids… and you’re not sure if you’ll even start.

I know, cue the sob fest and the weeping ovaries. Except.

Here’s what I’m discovering: joy is found in connection, and connection comes in all sorts of forms. I might not be a wife, but I’m a friend who can and will hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to fly across the country. I might not be a mom, but I’m an auntie, and a dog lover, and now a godmother. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a hard worker who cares about the well-being of the people I work with. I’m a writer and a wanderer and a hoper and a dreamer, and damn it, I want to be one who celebrates the things worth celebrating, even if they’re not happening to me.

And until those celebrations are my own, I’m clinging to John Newton’s words: “Everything is necessary that [God] sends; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.”

Given that, I’m really thankful that God has sent Foxy Brains and Colin Warder and Southwest Airlines and red wine and Taylor Swift.

Don’t Give Up Zion

Friday, June 20th, 2014

My sweet nephew Zion, the ultimate miracle baby (besides Jesus), is now 3-years old. He is humongous and gorgeous and funny and emotional and snuggly (except when he doesn’t want to be snuggly) – and if you’re interested in learning more about this precious boy, you should peruse my brother and sister-in-law’s family blog. For as great of pictures as they take professionally, they are both darn good writers, too.

Zion has been officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and Jeremy and Ashley are fighting to get him placed in a school that will be the best fit for his needs. This is an expensive process, and some of their friends have started a fundraiser site for them. I know that all Parsons people feel weird and uncomfortable asking for help, so please know that this isn’t a demand or an expectation or anything. But I know that so many of you have followed Zion’s story since 2011, and have expressed so much care for this little boy – so I wanted to make you aware of this need, in case you want to pitch in.

DGU_Zion

If you need to have your heartstrings pulled on a bit, just watch this.

A few good men

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

The first half of 2013 was a busy time for the Parsons – my sister Becca got married in January, and my sister Sarah got married in April.

In the past, the thought of “brother-in-law” never really crossed my mind. I’ve had a sister-in-law (the world’s best) since I was 18, but that’s as far as my in-law reality stretched; I never spent much time thinking about what my sisters’ future partners would be like – probably because I assumed I’d have a husband before I had a brother-in-law. Courtesy chuckle.

But then, in quick succession, my younger sisters married really, really wonderful guys. Our family has grown by 2 this year (well, 3 if you count Becca’s new puppy the Grizz), and these guys have joined the circus that is the Parsons with grace and humor and generosity and care. I’m so thankful that we all love them (I’m sure they’re thankful for that, too – because we can be a cantankerous bunch).

My brother and sister-in-law captured Becca and Michael’s wedding back in January, and have done it again for Sarah and Creighton. The full post is here – and a glimpse is below. My favorite part (besides Micah and Tyler as hobbits, obviously, and Zion with the Grizz) is the look on Creighton and Sarah’s faces.

the day sarah and creighton got married. from WE ARE THE PARSONS on Vimeo.

In the words of Jo March, “I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.” And today, I’m thankful for the good men who love them, too.

Wedding day (not mine)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The other night, Becca texted Sarah and me this amazingly awkward picture.

It could only mean one thing. We belong on “Murder, She Wrote”!

…and…

Becca and Michael’s wedding pictures are ready!

Hop over to Jeremy and Ashley’s blog where they’ve absolutely killed it, proving once again why they are so worthy of being named one of American Photo’s top 10 wedding photographers IN THE WORLD (true story). They captured the day perfectly. Can you handle the feathers? The sunshine? Becca’s glamtastic hair?

And if you’re my Facebook friend, you may have seen my post on their wedding day:

Despite the great outshined/outshone debate, keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of that moment come to fruition. Tyler won. He always does.

becca and michael got married from WE ARE THE PARSONS on Vimeo.

Sisters getting married, and other reflections

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

It’s time to address the elephant in the blog-room: yes, my younger sister Becca got married last weekend, and yes, my even younger sister Sarah is getting married in 3 months, and yes, my brother Jeremy has been married for 12 years, and yes, I am single. Yes, this has led to some emotional moments for me, and yes, I sometimes wonder if I’m at all “marriage material.” Yes, I fear future holidays when all of my siblings are with their spouses and I’m potentially alone. Yes, comments that “It will happen when you least expect it!” and “You just need to give it to God” are largely unhelpful. Yes, I have thought about online dating. Yes, I have tried online dating. Yes, I quit online dating – because yikes.

Yes, I want and hope to be married. But right now, I’m not.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul, the Bible’s poster child for singleness, refers to singleness as a gift – and I always assumed that by “the gift of singleness” Paul was referring to a special ability, like being double-jointed or good at art. Like, congratulations! You have the gift of singleness: the cosmic capacity to be alone forever. Enjoy your life of loneliness and despair, because whether you like it or not, it’s what you were designed for.

I sure don’t feel like I was designed to be alone forever. Does anyone?

So it got my wheels turning. What if the “gift” that Paul talks about is not a special talent or competence, but an actual GIFT: a present. An offering. A package wrapped up by the gift giver and presented with a huge smile on his face, because he knew that it was good and that the recipient could love it.

Because I do love it. I love being single. You guys, this weekend I did so many things that bring me life: I made delicious soup and drank wine and went on a 9-mile walk and a 5-mile run, and I got a massage, and I went to a movie all by myself (which always feels so indulgent), and I took Toad to the park and cleaned the kitchen and did my laundry and stocked up on groceries and for nearly 48 hours, I barely said a word to anyone because that is what FILLS MY SOUL.

Singleness is not a consolation prize for those who aren’t good enough to be married, just like marriage is not a reward for being amazing, attractive, and accomplished.  Both are gifts in their own right. And the only way I’m giving up this good gift of singleness is if someday I’m presented with an opportunity to trade up for something even better.

Until then, I will revel in the luxury of spending however much money I see fit on pretty dresses for my siblings’ weddings, and welcoming new brothers-in-law to the family (they’re awesome), and knowing that at the end of the day, it’s pretty good to be me – just me.

The Murphys

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On Saturday, my sister Becca married Michael Murphy.

I know. Her dress is insanity. This picture is insanity. Jeremy and Ashley are insanity, and will be posting many more pictures in the future, I’m sure.

I am still reeling from bronchitis-while-bridesmaiding, 3 days out of the office, and all of the wedding festivities. I’ll see you back here when my brain and body have recovered.

Things you are dying to know

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

1)      I’m back from New York.  “Newsies” was the definite, absolute highlight of the weekend.  I smiled basically the entire time – that is, when I wasn’t tearing up (and then just letting the tears spill over) during “Santa Fe.”  If it’s even possible, I think I’m getting MORE EMOTIONAL with time.  Suitors to the left.

2)      In addition to getting good, quality time with my pal Val, a twist of serendipity brought Nashville Miranda to the city on the same weekend – something we didn’t put together until we were already there.  So fun to get some unexpected time with her and her awesome boyfriend, Brandon.

3)       Speaking of Miranda and Brandon, I like to think of them collectively as “Mirbranda.”  I’m waiting for it to catch on.  So far, I might be the only one who thinks this is a good idea.

4)      To complete my month o’ travel, I’m heading to Nashville this weekend.  Out of all of the trips I take, ones to Nashville are my favorite.

5)      Did anyone catch the Broncos game last night?  I did, because I’m so sporty.  GREAT GAME.

6)      I bought a 2013 calendar, and already have things to write in it.  Things like…

7)      BECCA’S WEDDING.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re gon’ have a weddin’.  Michael Murphy is joining our family in January, and we couldn’t love him more.

May I know whose hand I’m in

Monday, October 1st, 2012

On September 18th, we lost my grandma to pancreatic cancer.  She was diagnosed back in July, and even though we knew that death was coming, it still felt very sudden.

This past Saturday, we laid her to rest in Richland, WA, and then celebrated her life during a 2-hour service at the church she had attended nearly her entire life.  My grandma was widely loved, and the hundreds of people in attendance were confirmation of her gigantic sphere of influence.  She lived her life so well.

This weekend, I was reminded of what it means to be part of a family – the complicated parts and the beautiful parts, the uncertainties, the joys.  To belong to a family means you’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry and you’re going to roll your eyes – and sometimes, you’re going to do all three at once.  Especially when you’re all sharing the 15-passenger church van.

Anyone who knows me (or has visited this site for any length of time) knows that these days, my family looks different than I ever anticipated.  Maybe you feel the same way about your family.  Maybe things have not turned out the way that you planned.  Maybe you assumed one thing with such certainty that your new, unexpected reality causes nothing less than an internal shriek.

Family members were missing.  We are broken and incomplete.  This weekend held moments that were so potent with reminders of the way that things used to be, and will never be again.

People are quick to glibly label those feelings “nostalgia” – but that’s absurd.  These feelings are more important than that.  The lament and longing that come from the loss of a former life that molded you into who you are today are no small matter.

When I was dropped off at the airport yesterday, I told my mom and our friend Sharon, “Going back to Denver feels really lonely.”  And it did – it does.  I left my family members and the town in which I was born, and flew back to Colorado alone.  When I landed, I took the shuttle to the long-term lot where I’d left my Subaru, and headed back toward the city.

As I drove, I remembered that I was missing a show that I had initially planned on attending.  Peter Bradley Adams is one of my favorite songwriters – maybe even my soul mate.  Probably.  Is he married?  Let’s look into this.

PBA writes some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and I was crushed to be missing his show in Denver.  So I turned on his music, and listened to a song about the loss of place and of belonging – the loss of what was, what might have been, what can never be again.

And yet, his words have a hopeful, trustful bent: “If I wander ‘til I die, may I know whose hand I’m in.”

Of all of the ways I would like to be like her, this is the greatest: all the way to her death, my grandma knew whose hand she was in.  And prone to wander as I am, I hope to continue this legacy.

A sense of home

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years.  Fifty-seven.

She spent the entirety of her marriage there.  She raised her children there, from infancy to adulthood.  Her kids, her grandkids, and her great-grandkids have eaten in that same kitchen, swam in that same pool, and sat on that same front porch.  She has attended the same church, shopped at the same grocery stores, seen the same neighborly faces, and driven the same streets for a lifetime.

I recently sat down and made a list of how many times I have moved.  In the 12 years since I left my hometown of Montrose, Colorado, I have moved 18 times.  The longest I have lived in any one place is 2 years (a studio apartment in Seattle); almost all of my tenures have been less than a year.  A total of 13 scattered months have been spent with no address at all, squatting with friends or family for short fragments of time, all of my possessions boxed up in basements, garages, or storage units.  I am on my fourth set of friends, with countless other relationships far-flung around the world like a constellation.

Perhaps this is the norm for my generation, but at this point, the concept of home barely rings a bell.  I don’t know where my home is.  But I know that I crave it with every ounce of my being.

Last night, I went to Red Rocks for the first time ever, and heard James Taylor play “Carolina in My Mind.”  Before he began, he told the audience that he wrote the song in 1968 in London.  There he was, recording overseas, with the accolades and attention of some of his heroes (two of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, are actually featured on the track); by all worldly standards, he had reached “success.”  But even with his accomplishments, he explained, he had been so homesick – and that prompted him to write and record this song that so many of us now know and love.

Old or young, famous or not famous, home calls to all of us.

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years – but we know that her time here on earth is winding down.  Even for one with a very strong sense of home, she can’t stay.  What an ache.

But I believe that our true Home is more than just a spot on a map.  It’s more than geography and more than circumstance and more than time.  It’s where my grandma is headed, and it’s what James Taylor sings about, and it’s what my own heart longs for.  It’s absolute familiarity and comfort and permanence, a lack of insecurity and an abundance of joy – and it’s closer than we think.

In the meantime, while I’m in this life on earth, I am thankful for little reminders of Home: a cup of coffee in whatever house I wake up in, a flawed but precious lineage, and the songs of James Taylor.

Reminded

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

First things first, thanks to everyone who has called/texted/written to make sure I’m okay.  I am not dedicated enough to go to a midnight showing of any movie, let alone a Batman one – and in fact, I wasn’t even in Colorado on the night of the shooting.  I am very much okay, aside from being horrified along with the rest of the country.

I am reminded once again that this world is not a safe place.

Other things have been going on in my life – big events, changes of plans, last minute flights.  I spent the week in in Richland, WA, feeding ice chips to my grandmother, smoothing her hair back with a wet washcloth, sleeping on a too-small hospital loveseat.  I hate cancer with a passion, and in spite of missing a week of work, there was no doubt that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I am reminded once again that family always wins.

Life continues to feel fractured and imperfect, and “happiness” isn’t something that I feel much of these days.  But even when walking in the cold shadows, we are bound to come across patches of warm light – the trick is to just keep moving.  I am moving.  And I’m encouraged by the moments of warmth, and trusting in a hope that is bigger than circumstances.

I am reminded once again that “happiness” and “joy” are different things.