Word of the Week

It was a online cute photo fest over the weekend, wasn't it?

The sweetest family photos we've ever seen at church, children decked out sitting next to the Easter bunny, and even grown-ups too posting pictures of themselves hiding eggs in their backyard.

Beautiful dresses at church. Children in green yards holding Easter baskets. And happy couples in front of their homes.

11051976_10153218128364168_4230054250175471521_nWhen we see these photos posted, we start to make assumptions about people's lives. What's the state of so and so's marriage? How are their kids doing? Oh, they must love their new church!

And on a day like Easter, it's as if everyone's life goes from a frazzled mess to beautiful in only the matter of a day.

I mean, I had no idea my friends could die such beautiful eggs!

On Sunday, I  joined in all the celebration and posted a picture. And it was a good day!

Lovely friends who hosted Kevin and I on Saturday night, two great worship services at church, an unexpected Easter basket from Kevin that I found in the floorboard of the car on the way home, a causal lunch with some good friends in the afternoon and some down time in the evening.

But I think the smile on my face was about something deeper than all these things. The stories that led to the photo are beyond what any 140 character tweet could articulate.

If you and I could pull up a chair right now and chat, I could tell you stories.

They'd be stories about hopelessness, loss and wondering if I could ever find my place in a state I never planned to live.

They'd be stories about perseverance and vulnerability-- trusting in the fact that resurrection was indeed possible when it finally came.

They'd be stories of 4 moves and one house that finally felt like home.

They'd be stories of gratitude for a landscape that I once scorned but now overwhelms me often with its beauty!

Most of all they'd be stories about death-- dying to what I thought my life was so that I could see what was right in front of my eyes.11026090_10153221244464168_7074515083582394503_n

And I don't think it's just me.

All our photos tell stories that aren't communicated, that go beyond the surface.

When I think about the dear ones that I love, what I want most is hear more of these stories.

I want to slow down, drink more coffee slowly and listen.

I want fewer days to go by where I don't connect in meaningful ways. I want to get more of my news from real life conversations, not Facebook.

So, let's get together soon! Let's not allow the photos we post to speak for us.

Few of us intentionally set out to hurt those we love.

But we do.

Angry words come out of our mouths.

Jokes that seem funny to us, offend.

We forget birthdays.

But even worse than this, often our exclamations of joy can rub deeper wounds into a loved one's pain.

I know I've been guilty of such.

But, the clash of pain and joy is not something you learn about early in life.

From where I sit, I believe, it's often a lesson that tackles us in our 20s and 30s when age no longer equals simultaneous activity with our peers. College, relationships, birthing, etc all come (or not) at a unique pace.

My first hint of this lesson came when I visited a mentor's house while home on a college break.

My friend suffered from depression (though I didn't have any idea what this meant back then) and toxic friendships. She really needed a friend to sit and hear her pain. It had been a tough week.

But she was my mentor, so I wanted to tell her my stories before any of that.

So, I charged right in.

I pulled out a photo album I'd put together and started showing her what I'd been up to. Pages after pages of posed pictures and happy faces. I was so proud of the new college friends I'd made.

But I could tell as we neared the end of my "show and tell" hour that sadness found its way to her face. Though I didn't have the courage to tell her what I noticed, the truth was this: my joy rubbed against her pain.


A year ago, I sat with another friend, a peer who was visiting my home for the first time.

I was so excited that she'd come to visit that I was eager to share all those things you can only see when you are in a person's home. I gave a tour, especially of our new basement remodel. I showed her the framed pictures in my office. Hours later I pulled out old pictures from the upstairs bookshelf including my wedding album. On auto pilot, I told her the stories.

But again, the same thing happened.

As much as my friend tried to engage what I told her about the happy day in Southern Georgia when I became a Hagan, by the last couple of pages she was done.  My friend loved me, but she was single. She didn't want to see any more pictures of me in a white dress.

Whereas my wedding album told a story of a fulfilling union for me, my wedding album to her said, "You're alone."

My joy rubbed up against her pain.


I've been on the other side of this conflict too.

Friends have gone on and about their babies, and then sent more emails about baby #2 and #5.

My Facebook feed is full of ultrasound pictures (even some in 4D!)

And invitations to baby showers fill the mailbox.

It's joy rubbing up against my pain. It's a stomach sinking, crappy feeling that I am learning how to endure.

Because at this juncture of the Hagan household, children in the home is not something we can have (though we want).

Every time I hear stories after stories of pregnancy and "the cutest thing" my child said today from a well-meaning friend, I want to be happy and supportive. Yet, my heart aches.

But, I believe in community.  I believe in sharing in the joy and pain other's lives. My faith gives me this desire.

Is there a way to be better and ask others to be better in return?

There many not be easy answers. If any answers at all.

Our world is full of both joy and pain.

All I know is this: "I'm sorry" and "How can I be a good friend to you? with a spoon full of self-awareness is a good start.