She tried to keep it in. She’s a people-pleaser. Like me.
She didn’t want to hurt our feelings.
“Baby, what’s wrong? You can talk to me about it.” It was last Friday night, the first night in our new-to-us house.
Once she knew she had permission to be real, the floodgates opened.
The tears came flying.
“I just…I just feel like we’re making a mistake. Are we making a mistake? I miss our old house…”
It was sandwiched between raw emotion, but the answer to her question was what she was pursuing.
She wanted reassurance. She wanted someone to tell her it would be OK.
Her question cut me to the core.
A lot of this was my idea after all. This whole moving thing.
We’ve done a lot of it in her 12 years of life. This is her 6th house. Not exactly how I would have drawn it up 12 years ago, but it’s how our story has unfolded.
This time, we didn’t have to move. There wasn’t a new job, not even a new city.
We moved less than 5 miles away. Same city, same school district, same lots of things.
But to her, we might as well have moved to Italy. It all felt different now. The things she had grown comfortable with in our old home were gone. The hallway to her room was empty. The bedroom she made her own was someone else’s now.
There are far greater struggles in our country, in my own life even, than moving homes in a relatively safe, kid-friendly, Midwestern city. I get it.
But last Friday night, when she cried and cried wondering if we were making the right decision, I had to tell her something.
I had a couple choices.
My first, most natural inclination, was to smile and encourage us all to power through it. Try and fix it. Try and tell her about all the amazing memories she’ll make in this new house.
Optimism is a gift, but it can be a dangerous curse too. My rose-colored views can isolate those around me who don’t share that view, or at least as often as I have it.
The second, most real inclination, and gratefully the one I chose, was to hug her and not try to rescue her. That’s not my job. My job is love and lead her.
The most loving thing I could have done in that moment was to cry with her and say, “I don’t know baby, we might be. But tomorrow is a new day. I believe we’re here now for a reason, but it’s going to take time.”
I’ve made a million mistakes in my life, likely even in the last month. I don’t think it is, but this may be one of them.
But in the mistakes, I’m learning not to smile my way through them. I’m learning to lean into them, find out why I made them in the first place, and trust the mistake is part of the story that’s unfolding in my life. For my good.
And bigger than that, I’m convinced that part of living a meaningful, adventurous, courageous life is stubbing your toe fairly often.
Sure, you can avoid the pain by not moving, not taking action and playing it safe.
But like the mat we had on our front porch in our now old house says, “Let New Adventures Begin.”
This morning, she came down the stairs, after we had dear friends to our new house late last night, and said, “This is growing on me. For sure.”
The new adventure has begun, even if it comes with some question marks and bloody toes.
I didn’t see her all day until we got to the ballpark at 7:30 last night. She came with a friend on the team, so I didn’t see her after work.
“Let’s go ladies, start throwing, get loose.”
I’m a loudmouth on a baseball or softball field. Maybe the most annoying assistant coach in the city.
Always yapping, encouraging, jacking around.
“Hey dad, what position am I playing tonight?”
“No. Are you serious?”
“Yeah, you’re on the hill.”
“Stop, I can’t pitch. Who is pitching for real?”
We went back and forth like this for a few minutes until I got firm and direct with her.
“Listen, your team needs you. Step up, quit being scared and let’s warm up your arm.”
She was afraid of walking too many girls, not getting enough outs, and having the whole place watch her while she took the mound.
I’m not going to make this about her, it’s about me and you. But she killed it. Struck two out in the first inning, struggled in the second but then in the final inning struck out two more.
The Dodgers won, the girls had a blast, and she did something brave.
On the way home, over the pop music that was blaring, I said to all of our kids, “You should each do one thing that terrifies you every day.”
I could see her little smile in the far back, she knew exactly what I was saying.
But our son, said, “why dad, why would we do that?”
The perfect invitation for me to tell them the same story I’m telling you.
We’ve been tricked into thinking the easy, safe, predictable route is the best. It may be a good route, but I’d argue it’s not the best.
Standing on the mound with our knees shaking a bit feels more uncertain. Eyes watching to see if you’ll stumble or shine.
The route calling you out of hiding and into doing something meaningful. Something terrifying.
The route that calls fear a liar but gives you the courage to take the deep breath and windup your delivery towards home plate.
Do one thing that terrifies you today. I think you’ll be glad you did.
For 13 years and a couple months, it survived the same nightly routine. In four different cities and six different houses.
Walk in the door from work, hang the keys on the hook, take the phone and wallet out of the pocket, take the wedding ring off.
Say hi to the kids, give Brooke a kiss, change out of the work clothes, cannonball into the chaos pool.
I have this weird thing. When I’m home I don’t want my ring on my finger. I want it sitting on the shelf until it’s time to leave again.
I knew it when it happened. Brooke was upstairs and I was doing a few dishes.
Our youngest was jacking around in the little basket by my wallet and ring. Scrounging for change, gum, Chapstick, something.
She didn’t mean to, but she knocked my ring onto the floor. I should have stopped then, but I kept working.
“I’ll grab it in a second,” I thought.
Twenty minutes later, I was somewhere entirely different when my memory jogged.
Went back to find the ring. No dice.
Maybe it slid behind the counter or got kicked into the dining room. Nope.
Maybe someone put it in the basket instead of on the shelf or hung it by the keys. Nope.
I called our youngest in, surely she used it in the play kitchen or had a memory of what happened once it fell. Nope.
I called a family search party. Surely with seven of us looking, it will show up in no time. Nope.
We tore the house up. I was a scavenger. Knowing it was right around the next corner.
But it never turned up. Not after hours, days or weeks.
I’m not a jewelry guy so the absence of the ring caught me off guard. After all, I had gone without wearing it around the house every evening and weekend for 13 years now.
But it was always on that shelf. Or one like it.
With it gone, I felt naked.
I found myself reaching to fidget with it, like the phantom cell phone ring. I missed it.
After several weeks, Brooke insisted a get a new one.
I’m cheap so I looked at some of those silicon athletic rings. Even ordered a $20 one from Amazon.
When it arrived, it was too big. I guessed on my ring size because it had been 13 years and change since I needed that information.
So I kept leaving the house every day feeling naked.
Late last week, I got home and began the usual routine. Well, the adjusted, ring-less routine. Keys hung, phone out, wallet out.
Around the corner came our youngest. The one who had seen the ring most recently. Even though that was several months ago.
“Daddy, close your eyes. I have a surprise.”
Assuming it was a half-chewed piece of gum or some other 4-year-old treasure, I complied.
Eyes shut. Hands out.
Then she delivered one of the most precious gifts I’ve received in years. At least the last 13.
Once lost, now found. In a random drawer Brooke was cleaning out. Who knows how it got there. It doesn’t matter.
I acted like a complete idiot. Hollering, jumping, throwing kids around.
Our middle one even said, “I knew you’d start screaming.”
Of course it’s not about the ring at all. It’s not the value of the metal. Or the character of the design.
It’s about the marriage.
It’s about the time the ring was on that left finger when each of our five kids was born.
And when I twirled it when I admitted ugly things about myself in marriage counseling.
And when it clanged and almost broke a wine glass when I clumsily toasted our first decade of marriage.
And when it tapped nervously on the steering wheel when I knew we were in bad shape financially and didn’t know how to tell her.
And when it sat on the shelf each night for the last 13+ years when she told me we’d always be alright and that our vows weren’t lip service.
They’re lived out in real life. Through thick and thin.
While my wedding ring sits atop that shelf in its rightful place again. Because marriages are worth fighting for.
I don’t run enough. With the amount of chips and salsa I eat, I should run more.
But when I do run, I take a couple rights and the little city streets open up into the big country.
Where houses are more spread out, driveways are gravel and fences aren’t wrought iron.
The sky feels a bit bigger and the volume a bit quieter.
I don’t run far, but it’s enough to see a horse or two, catch a deep breath of fresh air and then hope this farmer is working.
Most of the time he is.
I don’t know how old he is, but if I were a betting man, I’d say his mid-80’s.
His apparel is as predictable as his work ethic. Overalls over top of a plaid shirt.
I don’t know this man in particular, but if he’s like the farmers I’m fortunate to know in my family, he teaches me a great deal without saying a word.
Responsibility. Resourcefulness. Community. Work ethic. Sticktoitiveness. The list is endless.
But the one phrase I think of every time I see this man?
“Work the field, pray for rain.”
An author I like penned that sentence. It describes this man. Waking up every day, doing his work and trusting the rain will come.
It’s a powerful reminder on control.
Life is crazy. It’s hard, unpredictable. But incredibly worth it.
Often, I get caught up in wanting someone else’s land, being bored with my own, or worried the hard labor won’t produce fruit.
This farmer reminds me that I don’t have the power to make it rain.
What I do have is the ability to work the field, this little patch of life I’ve been given, then sit on the porch with a lemonade or cold beer and pray for the rain to come.