Gawd. Forever 21. I haven’t been in that store since I was… well, probably since I was 21. My friend, Bridget giggled out as we meandered the sidewalks of East Lansing, determining which stores were worth our time as we waited for our dinner buzzer-thing to let us know our table was ready.
Bridget and my other friend, Emily, two high school friends, had both reached out to me since learning of my season of hard. Bridget, I haven’t seen in over a decade and Emily, I’ve seen once in a decade. It’s amazing how love always finds it’s way to you when it’s most needed.
Emily chauffered my ass and we met Bridget mid-way between our cities. We laughed our way through dinner, recalling memories of make out sessions gone bad, a senior spring break trip full of endless shenanigans and the many bad haircuts throughout those years. We wrapped dinner with a shared dessert and by the end of the meal we had entered into a space of honest and vulnerable words; sharing where we think God fits in all this crazy beautiful hard life stuff.
We hugged. Promised to not let it be a decade again and hopped back into our respective cars, each making our way back home.
By then, night had fallen and Emily and I sat in the stillness of the dark together; sharing our stories. There was a point where I claimed:
It’s just like everything fell grey. I mean, I can count my blessings I can. I’m even content. I find meaning and all that, but it’s just that life has this grey filter I can’t lift…. Emily, have you ever had this? I asked, with such sincere hopes I’d find someone who could stand in the lonely road of life and hold my hand and let me know I wasn’t so alone-ish.
Yes, Kaylee. I know that grey, she said with a calm to her voice.
Something in that moment happened to my soul and my body completely relaxed. I wasn’t so alone as I had feared. It was as if my entire being took a deep breathe and with the exhale my spirit just sort of snuggled into the seat of her car. (A heated seat, by the way. One of heaven’s most precious gifts to the world, I swear!)
I liken it to the Wizard of Oz. she continued. The movie goes back and forth between grey and color. The first time it changes it’s a big deal. It’s huge. And noticeable. But then you sort of just get used to it as it changes. Slowly the color comes back in. But the grey can wash over at any point too. It just kind of comes and goes. But you start to just not notice it as much. Three years later, I can still get the grey.
Thing is. When the motley crew got to Oz, Oz just showed them who they already were. They already had courage, heart and smarts. The journey had been full of color AND the grey parts, but that was the point.
I thought maybe you know this grey too. I thought maybe you’re in the grey and it’s hard to imagine color again. I thought maybe that it feels a tiny bit lonely. So I thought I’d tell you, you’re not alone. You and me. We have grey today. We might have some color. But there is grey.
Thing is. In the beginning of the movie, these words are exchanged:
Auntie Em: Help us out today and find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble!
Dorothy: A place where there isn't any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain...
On the grey days we dream of somewhere over the rainbow where bluebirds sing and troubles melt like lemon drops, right? I used to think that if I got it right enough or if I followed the rules enough I could get to the lemondrops, but as the movie progresses this scene happens:
Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I - I think that it - it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em - and it's that - if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
There’s a song I’ve listened to a million times during this season; it sings: It's hard to tell if my eyes are open, when all I see is dark. It continues on to play: I used to dream of a life so lovely, there'd be no room for tears. Now letting go is the hardest part. There is no fight left on the inside. But maybe that's where I should be.
I’ve listened to this song and each time I keep thinking why would God want me to be in a place so dark, with no fight left. But I’m starting to see it.
Dorothy wanted to escape the grey. She wanted a world full of color. But she learned that if we chase, if we reach out, we miss the here and now.
The deep pain of loss in my season means there was something deep to grieve. It means I once had something I loved. And now it is gone. Seasons do change. Life continues on. The grey only informs me of the beauty I once had. The grey is an invitation to sit and honor and celebrate that which was something so lovely. Letting go of that is HARD, and also, it is hard to let go of my dream of a life without pain.
But the other day, in thinking about it, I pictured it like God had reached down and dug a HUGE scoop out of my heart. Like there is this big VOID, this HUGE hole in my heart. But then in the quiet of my heart I heard: this is the space I will fill.
I believe in a God so beautiful and creative that he gave us grey as a way to honor the sacred of life. He gave us grief as a way to show us just how much we had. And then promises to fill that big ‘ole hole with color once again.
I’m learning not to chase. I’m learning not to run ahead of my heart.
I’m learning to just sit in my own backyard and celebrate the life in and around me.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
Today, may the grey of loss be a sweet reminder of what you once had. But may the hope of color fill you up until it overfloweth, or maybe it just lights a little candle in a really dark place. That whole overflowing thing might not happen for a long time. Maybe today you just need to light a candle to know that when color does happen, you’ll have light enough to see it.
SONGS FOR THE GREY: