Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Embracing the Chaos


Many of us traveled home for the holidays.

Now that we’re collectively back in our little comfort zones, taking our familiar walks and stirring our morning coffee, the unknowns of 2024 have harbored some odd, niggling thoughts from the old year.

January, with its clean slate and championed New Beginnings, still carries echoes of our past.

If you traveled home – whether in real time or in your heart’s memory, there is much to ponder.


“Home” is a siren song, a magnetic pull to a place that launched us out; gave us life skills; anchored our hearts and tethered our memories.

To come home, looks different for each of us – yet there is a blending of shared experiences. 

To come home is to find a place at the table with …

Skeptics and believers.

Scholars and shepherds

Ragamuffins and the self-righteous

The misunderstood, the marginalized

The frightened and the furious

The jaded and the curious

Those displaced by divorce or divided by death

The addicted and ashamed

The wounded and the healing

Those stuck inside the In-Betweens


And there in the distance beyond the Not-Knowing, await the shadowy mysteries of a New Year.

Just how do we embrace this yo-yo mix of emotions?

How, I wonder, do we reconcile the co-existing of joy and sorrow? The lingering light and the shadowy darkness?

I say, let’s embrace it all.

All of it.

A new year is a mingling, a sweet and salty flavor of …

Light and darkness

Warmth and chill

Pleasant and bitter

Calm and chaos

Anger and forgiveness

Anticipatory and … stuck.


Why not cling tightly to it all, in one fierce group hug?

The celebrations and the mourning.

After all, grace comes in when we let our expectations go.

We all carry a story of grief-changing-everything.

My story, though now (thankfully) restored, holds sacred space for a time when the kids didn’t want to come home.

And they didn’t.

It was Christmas. The first Christmas after that Shattering August Day when their dad died.

Before Time heals, Grief intensifies: my daughters barely recognized me as a solo parent. I was still Mom, but I was Mom Without Dad.

It must have been just too weird for them. They’d lost their dad and they’d also lost half of me.

For the girls, to be absent from the holiday table, was not so much that they were rebellious. It was a lot more like they were navigating their way through pain. Each of their paths was different and each of their journeys pulled them further and further from me – a desperate flight from the sense of family we all so keenly needed.

It wasn’t just one bereft season – the longer we were at an impasse, the wider and deeper and more painful the gap became.

It would be years before we would find ourselves around a common table again.

There was likely that secret promise hard-wired within my children: “Mom will always be there for us. We can return home when we are ready.”

And they did. Eventually, they did.

Though reconfigured with an empty chair and a heartful of memories, we are a family again.

Maybe this brokenness, this disconnect, this empty chair – will always be with us. Not prominently, not painfully, but quietly woven into the joy as a reminder that we are made for more than this.

In your own flight from others who still need you, please pause.

In your haste to get past the hurt, look up.

Look around.

Those people at the office? Your friend tribe? Your stand-in-the-gap families?

Let them center you.

Allow the holy hush of a quiet evening to encircle you. 

Sit leaning slightly forward into mercy. 

Embrace the chaos.

Let go of the expectations.

After all, grace comes in when we let our expectations go.

In the grit and the dirt of living, we have hope.

We have fresh, earth-covering snowfalls.

We have …

New beginnings

Interior reset buttons

The power of forgiveness.

Do you have an empty chair and a heartful of memories?

Sit quietly with that discord, giving it too, a place of honor.

Are you sorting through the friction, the disagreements inside your own family?

I invite you to lean in and be astonished when a melody emerges.

You will sing new songs; some will be a little off key.

Sing anyway.

Your heart can hold it all.

This blog is also published in the January 2024 edition of Silver Magazine.