It matters

When my kids were younger I vividly recall acquiring some words that were not really words into the fiber of our family’s vernacular.  I can’t remember who started it or how it became part of the thread of our story, but one of those words was the contraction for “am not”.  Homeschooling our kindergartener and pre-k while listening to a 3 year old rattle off contractions was pretty adorable and it sounded something like this: “Do not- Don’t.  Can not- Can’t. Am not- Amn’t.” I have to believe I tried to correct the error of their ways, but that is beside the point as the legendary word “amn’t” lingers in the Hicks’  household vocabulary to this day.

Another one of those phrases was a stand in for the phrase “it depends.”  It sounded something like this: 

Me: “How do you want to celebrate your birthday this year?” 

Child: “It matters. Can I invite my friends?”

Now, I know you grammar sleuths may be squirming at the very use of the incorrectness of this grammar, but all of those “it matters” really started to allow the weight of mattering to settle into a home where we could easily miss those moments and the very things that mattered to those right under our own roof. 

Fast forward to two years ago and a friend inviting me to a Johnnyswim concert on a whim.  I was not familiar with the band but as a musician I love learning about new music.  The lyrics to one of their song says, “If it matters let it matter.  If your hearts breaking let it ache. Catch those pieces as they scatter, know your hurt is not in vein.”  The song caught me off guard and tears started to fall from my eyes.  Waves of grief and remembering those mattering moments of multiple transitions, culture shifts, shattered pieces in our own story, broken relationships around me, walking with those who were grieving the loss of loved ones, and so much more.  Stories of shatter and naming losses.  The song ushered in an invitation to grieve that which I had no idea was simmering under the surface needing to be tenderly seen. 

It does matter.  Life is lived in the big and small moments.  Sometimes in the seemingly insignificant everyday moments to us someone else may be experiencing some really big moments that matter greatly. Often it is in those “before and after” stories we tell that we face the significance of the shattering of what mattered to us so deeply. Before cancer, after cancer.  Before the affair, after the affair.  Before losing a loved one, and after losing a loved one.

  1. What may be some of those before and after places in your story that may need some attention? 
  2. How do you care for your broken heart and those mattering moments in your life?
  3. How might you tune in to see past the surface layer in the small talk conversations of those in your circles to seeing the heart layer that communicates to them, “I see you. You matter. Your broken heart matters.” 

It can be easy to be crippled by fear as we notice someone dealing with a significant life event or loss of some sort and we can often stumble over our words not knowing what to say or not wanting to make things worse.  From my experience, hope and healing comes from sitting with others in the sacred space of the shatter, naming the losses, and holding space for the significance of the mattering moment in their journey. It matters.

Photo credit: unsplash-logoKelly Sikkema

Living Abroad

I have had the privilege of living abroad with my family of six for a couple of seasons over the past ten years. Living life as an expat helped us acquire the skill of learning to embrace a unique language of one who is from everywhere and nowhere. The impact of this in the context of building relationships can be difficult, especially in the small-talk arena. There is a looming and awkward silence experienced when asked by an unknowing yet interested party, “Where are you from?”, or another favorite, “Have you always lived in Cincinnati?”.

Truth be told, this is our FIFTH move back to the Queen City and our kids have determined that Cincinnati is the easiest and fastest answer to the “Where are you from?” question, though they do often enjoy throwing in some crazy stories of eating scorpions on the streets of Beijing, spending Thanksgiving in Bali where their mom -that is me!- came face to face with a cobra,  and eating chicken rice at a hawker center in Singapore. There is a fine line between over sharing and realizing that your “normal” life experiences have not been the same “normal” experienced by those in your current circle of community. Yet, our experiences connect us to a global community and can be normalized by another circle of friends from another season of life -often in the virtual world!-  who can recall and remind us that we are indeed, not crazy, and those things really did happen because they experienced them with us.

Building relationships and fostering connection in every season has been significant in our family’s ability to not just survive the transitions, but to thrive within them. Creating time and space to invest in the lives of people throughout our journey has always yielded exponential rewards and yet has also caused some of the deepest heartache as the inevitable goodbyes loom at year end transitions with expats moving to new locations, and some, as we did, returning from host to home cultures. The final transition “back home” was surprisingly the most difficult and the most lonely.

What are some of the lessons I have learned through those seasons of our story?

  • It is important to name the reality that there is both good and hard that comes in the excitement of leaving for a new adventure and the heartache of grieving what has been left behind.  People, places, sights, smells.  We carry memories with us through all of our senses and can be reminded of those things in an instant with one simple and often unexpected awakening of the familiar which can sometimes be disorienting.  
  • We are all on our own unique journey in life and can easily fall into the comparison of “if only”. Those “if only’s” can steal our joy and keep us from embracing the beautiful gift of today.
  • You take yourself with you wherever you go! Take time to invest in developing healthy self-care strategies that incorporate your whole person: body, mind, soul, and spirit. By proactively taking time to foster resiliency in your life, you will be better equipped to navigate whatever your next adventure may bring!

How are you connecting with community in the here and how of your story?

What are some of the lessons you have learned about embracing the unique gift of your story?

Helping individuals, couples, and families navigate transitions in life is a passion of mine.  Taking the time to name the beautiful experiences while also identifying the difficult is restorative to the heart, mind, body, and soul.  Whether it be in the form of debriefing from cross cultural settings, navigating difficult relationship or role transitions, I consider it an honor to walk with individuals throughout varies places in their life’s journey.