In dripping wet clothes, I hastily scanned the meager selection of office supplies at my local drug store.
What item was so important that I had to go out at 8pm in the middle of a thunderstorm to get?
I didn’t even know.
But what I did know was that in less than 24 hours, sixteen family members would be coming in from four states to celebrate Natalie’s high school graduation.
And during that time, those sixteen humans – age seven to eighty-two – would be sitting at one table for the first time ever, and we might not be that way again.
So, when my heart urged me to seize this rare opportunity, I drove through the rain to the nearest store, trusting I’d know what I needed when I saw it.
It was the pad of neon-green sticky notes.
As I took them into my hands, a favorite lyric from Passenger, by Noah Kahan, played in my head:
“I think I've found a way to keep myself whole
I write my fears on green notes
I swallow my doubts away and watch them grow old.”
I thought about the pad of green notes on the merch table at Noah’s concert in 2019. Judging by the number of contributions inside the binder, concertgoers in every city had accepted his invitation to write down their feelings, a practice that Noah said saved him. Natalie had created her own version of that in 2018. At age fourteen, she’d begun collecting fear-fighting quotes to combat anxiety as she prepared to leave her comfort zone.
Almost nineteen now, what she needed as she faced another scary step into the unknown became clear to me.
With green notes in hand, I dug through the store’s supply of journals. At the bottom was the only one that said, “GOOD THINGS ARE COMING.”
Even the watercolor cover, in shades of pink, sea foam, and blue looked like my girl.
On the day of the celebratory luncheon, the sticky notes were in the hands of family members. Small fingers with chipped polish and elderly hands with age spots, clutched their offering.
For Natalie – the first grandchild, niece, cousin in our immediate family to graduate – each person had selected one word for her to carry with her and why they’d chosen it.
One by one, we went around the table. As people revealed their word to the graduate sitting beside me, themes emerged. Tears formed. Laughter ensued. Memories stirred. Strengths shone.
For someone who detests the limelight, each person’s captive attention seemed to hold her in comfort and ease.
For someone who had to be the strong one in our family this past year, each person’s layer of armor seemed to bolster her up.
For someone who keeps her emotions in check, each person’s vulnerable offering seemed to give her permission to be fully human.
Later, I placed the journal of GOOD THINGS ARE COMING in my daughter’s bedroom. I flipped through the first sixteen pages, now decorated with green sticky notes and familiar handwriting. I wondered what day in the future she’d turn to these words to carry her.
I didn’t have to wonder long. The impact was visible last weekend at her college’s summer orientation.
As Natalie and I stretched our legs from the long car ride, she commented on how glad she was that we would be together that day.
Somehow she’d missed the fact that the student itinerary was different than the parent schedule, so I reluctantly broke the news.
As someone who is resistant to change and finds small talk awkward, I waited quietly as she processed this new information.
After a moment, she told me she would be okay and why. That is when I heard several of Her Words from the journal of GOOD THINGS:
When it was time for us to separate, Natalie went off with a wave and her ever-present pink water bottle for security.
After taking in several hours of information, parents were invited to attend a variety of breakout sessions. My body indicated I definitely needed a breakout session, but it was not in a building.
From the back of my car, I pulled out my beloved, sky blue HOKA orthopedic shoes. I then headed down the hilly campus road.
Within ten minutes, I noticed a row of fixer-upper homes. Dividing the houses from the edge of the college campus was a heavily trafficked road. As I walked further, the brightest yellow of all yellows caught my eye. The color was being painted on the front steps of one of the homes.
I watched as a painter with a handkerchief tied around her head painted a few strokes, then stood back to evaluate.
I waited for a lull in the traffic and then hollered out, “I LOVE THE YELLOW STEPS!”
Giving no indication she heard me, the painter wiped her brow and kept on painting.
Cupping my hands around my mouth this time, I tried again.
“I LOVE THE YELLOW STEPS!”
Not even a glance in my direction.
Frustrated, I found myself estimating how long it would take to walk back to the entrance of the college and make my way to this street, so I could compliment her work.
Just then a bead of sweat slid down my back. I looked down at my dressy romper that GAP obviously did not design for hilly walks and summer heat waves.
“Just sit down… breathe,” my heart coaxed.
While sitting in that shady spot, I realized…
Right now, there’s a person painting joy on weathered steps.
Right now, there’s a person holding her security pink water bottle while making a friend.
Right now, there’s a person writing his fears on green sticky notes.
And right now, there’s a person inappropriately dressed for walking, marveling at the colorful ways human beings cope to overcome the gray.
I looked down at my feet, remembering where I was one year ago, unable to walk more than a few steps and about to be hit with a crisis of epic proportion.
As I wiped away a sweaty tear, I gave myself one word:
I’d never really understood the magnitude of that word until now… because it is what carried me, every single day for the past 365 days.
When I didn’t know what new pain the day would bring… or what new shock would knock me off my feet… or what new cloud would move in, I got myself up with one word.
As in, “I am here, and showing up is the first step to overcoming anything.”
Before leaving my shady spot, I looked back at the yellow steps, then up at the college on the hilltop. I knew then it was time to allow myself a page in the journal of GOOD THINGS ARE COMING.
It only took sixteen green sticky notes, a set of yellow steps, and a pink water bottle to see GOOD THINGS ARE ALREADY HERE.
And what a glorious rainbow of hope they make.
My friends, being able to produce my first-ever audio journey in the midst of such a challenging year happened only because this unique 8-session series consists of every insightful tool, healing mantra, and coping exercise I was using to get up each day, support my family, and do the work I feel called to do. This latest work-of-heart, SOUL SHIFT SESSIONS, released on Tuesday in both CD and digital format on SoundsTrue, Audible, Amazon, and many other retailers. I am so encouraged by those who have begun listening and are finding the cover design to reflect the peace, healing, and companionship found inside the journey. As I shared on my Facebook page, the current algorithms are only allowing my posts to reach a small fraction of my almost 500K community. Unfortunately, this will have devastating effects on my ability to meet the goals set by my publisher. By purchasing SOUL SHIFT SESSIONS, attending one of my retreats this fall in North Carolina or New York, purchasing a print, or sharing my posts, you are helping me continue my life’s work and support my family. I am grateful for you.