Here we are. It is September. It's a perfect September day, actually. The sky is the exact shade of September blue that makes me feel like my mom is nearby. Not the sky toward the horizon, but the deeper blue that's two thirds of the way to the top. It's in the seventies, and the Sault Ste Marie breeze is in full play. This September, our third here, is the first that has felt like an Ohio September; probably thanks to the ghastly heat that made its home here throughout the summer. I have so many September memories. Budding first love, marching band, then later my tiny babes toddling through fallen leaves for the first time. There is nothing, nothing, like the first days of autumn.
I'm sad, though. It's going beyond the usual homesickness. This summer was a dream from beginning to end, so saying farewell to it is dropping a shadow on September this year. We just got home from Disney World, and everything is going to be a letdown after that, no matter where you make your home. August was steeped in and surrounded by loved people driving far to see us here, and my heart is feeling the miles from here to all the theres so keenly that I could (and do) just sit and cry at random intervals throughout the day.
That is just healthy sadness. Something to be expected when you live so far from home, but underneath the sadness there's a layer of harsh disappointment mixed with a still tender heart from letting Fierce out into the world. I smell trouble.
Depression is an old pal of mine. We got to know each other quite well in my latest teens and earliest twenties. Learning my way in and out of the shadows was a major part of my early adult life education, hard won with experience, support, and a lot of patience and tenacity.
Disappointment is a tough emotion for me for reasons I've not yet uncovered, and it often triggers a trip into Depressionland--like Candyland--only greyer and with less opportunities to skip ahead. Keep the creepy characters on the board, though. This time, the disappointment involves higher education, another flashing red warning light area for me. Put the two together and I'm in a ship taking on water.
This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.
I'm the little engine scooping water out of the boat with each repetition of the phrase.
I am enough. A phrase I nearly choke on in my heavier moments.
When I was roughly 17, there was this day that I told my dad and his friend, who were having a theological discussion, how unafraid I was. I felt it, too, this unwavering assurance that God had my back, and that nothing could shake me, because faith is just too powerful to be intimidated. That night I had one of the most disturbing nightmares I'd ever had. I told my dad about it, and he said, "I thought you were about due for a challenge."
In the midst of the moments that I don't want to get out of bed or leave the house these days, that is the phrase that keeps coming to mind, and it us propelling me forward. Am I due for a challenge? Hell, yes, and I'll take it head on, because I've found that my dad was right. When you make a declaration to the world, the universe, whatever, it asks you, "Are you sure?"
Are you sure you're not afraid?
How fierce are you, really?
Fear followed me relentlessly after that dream. It chased me back inside of a cave I didn't find my way out of for years--nearly a decade. It buddied up with a battle for worthiness and, together the two just about undid me time and time again. They never quite won. Not then, and not now, because Grace, the hero of every hour, has nestled herself deeper and deeper into my being with every passing year.
Honoring the wisdom of my teen self now is part of my daily walk, because I know now that my mouth was not being haughty. It was speaking a powerful truth. A truth whispered lovingly to my tender heart by that beautiful still small voice: Fear is swallowed up by faith.
What I didn't understand when I was a teenager was that the Are you sure? moment isn't a threat, it's an invitation.
Come on, come on, Grace cries, Saddle up! Fear wants to keep you safe and small, but I want to see you grow. It's going to feel risky. You've got to face all of your fears. You've got to be willing to fall. It's okay, though, because my first aid kit is pretty powerful, trust me.
I'm in, and I know there's no shortcut. The only way through today is through it. This has not stopped me from looking for a shortcut through the darkness over the past few weeks, but in my heart I know what's real.
The September blue sky. The memories of beautiful days gone by. Healing. Love that travels for miles and miles and miles. Love that just cannot be stopped. Peace that feels its way into brokenhearted disappointments. Silver linings. Showing up. Strength training. Grace's top notch first aid kit. Rest. And the willingness to be risen again by all of it, and through all of it.
So, just how fierce are you?
Let's find out.