What I Want

Pittsburgh–Where the three rivers meet.

Some days are flesh days–red and pulpy—when skin scrapes against the moments of life until I cry out from the chafing. Breath collides with the air around me and bruises those I love, shatters me into tiny pieces and I am no longer whole, just a whisper of what I’m meant to be.

The alarm sounds at 4:30 that morning—calls me to ready the care package that would get us through the travel. Four bottles of water, two pepperoni rolls, a baggie of fish-shaped cheese crackers, some oreo cookies and my books. It would be a long bus ride and I hoped to get some reading done along the way. Some writing too…I think, as I finger one of the journals my friend Ann sent me.

I sit alone but not alone on the bus, looking out the window into the dark, grieving. We cross over the Kanawha River at dawn, her breath rising in misty legs to greet the sun. I close my eyes against the approaching day and try to pray. But the thrum of the voices of thirty or so fifth graders drowns out my thoughts.

We are heading to Pittsburgh—the city where the three rivers converge. My son has been excited about the field trip for weeks…and I? I dreaded. Taking a day away from life always sets me in a foul mood. I get behind. Behind on work, behind on laundry, behind on writing, just behind…and there is no one but me to do the catching up.

All the while I have these bodies clamoring for pieces of mine and sometimes I just want to run away. On these flesh days I groan in my humanity, I whine.

Why are the things that I want always pushed aside? Why are the things that I want always the things that aren’t allowed?

I ask Him this in the silence of my heart as I sit still on that bus, smiling and nodding at another mom.

Do I want too much?

I’m feeling broken from the latest No, but not angry this time. It really didn’t surprise me. But I’m left feeling that there is something wrong with me.

Am I asking the wrong questions?

I sigh and readjust myself in the small seat that will be my spot for the next four hours. I try to remember how it felt in my husband’s arms. I try to know the love in his embrace.

You’re the best mom in the world, he said. That’s why we need you here.

There is a time for everything. This I know.

If I get the chance to go to Haiti and help the people there, do you think I should? I asked Teddy during the tucking in a few nights before.

There was no hesitation.


But why? I asked.

Because you’re my mom, he said. And something bad could happen.

Oh, honey, said I. We mustn’t let fear make our decisions for us. We have to pray about it. Ask God to help us decide. What if I can make a difference in someone’s life? What if I am needed? What if God wants me to go?

He hesitated.

I’ll have to think about it, he said.

But the answer was no. And Dr. Wright was so gracious about it.

I do a lot of things now that I wouldn’t have done when my girls were younger, he said.

I feel the rightness in the decision. Feel God’s confirmation. But still my flesh cries out.

I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it, I told my friend recently. We laughed, knowing.

We pull up in front of Heinz field and the kids start to clamor. I stretch my legs. I look at the cityscape and remember.

A street fair, luxurious party, the black dress and the optimism of youth.

My son’s head bobs in front of me.

Suddenly I realize there is no other place in the world I would rather be than right here with him.

This is my life. The one I have chosen. The one given me.

It is the life I want. 

And it is beautiful.

Here’s my photoplay for the week…read all about it here:

to hide behind
to mend the tears

to catch the light

Thank you, Claire!


  1. says

    wonderful to ask and to hear the answer of a child.

    not many us do this.

    we easily see the good in what we want and not the good in what we have.

    you write reminders.

  2. says

    I am thankful GOD always knows and does what is best for me…even when I am pleading for something else. HIS plans are always wiser and better. Great post, Laura. Your posts always speak to my heart and this one was especially timely.
    Hugs, andrea

    PS: Sitka has an award for you at All Gods Creatures.

  3. says

    Amen, sister!

    Do what you can, with what you have (not with what you want to have), while you are able…that saying has been on my mind a lot lately.

    From the sounds of your wonderful story, you must be heeding the advice too.


  4. says

    Lovely post, Laura. We sometimes think the answers we receive are not the ones we need. Usually, though, they are the best answers for us.


  5. says

    I didn’t have the wisdom to ask, so during those middle years, others got the best of me and my family the dregs. I’m trying to make it up now. You are wise. Thrashing things through to the other side is brilliant.

  6. says

    wow….you’re amazing to have so many thoughts while on a field trip bus….a time for everything…hmmm. We all have our things that we want….stomp feet…when we want them. :o) What value we can give our kids to ask such things…open up communication…well written….I still can’t believe all this on a field trip bus…those were crazy days long gone for me.

  7. says

    I clicked around until I found Ann’s post on Avodah.,thinking how many times we forget.
    Because it is all worship.

    I imagine you were filled and filling in ways yet known.
    And that you asked the ones who you probably knew would say the “harder” truth,
    I’m thinking you knew the answer.

  8. says

    OK… you were so kind and gracious and very lovely regarding this day in your son’s life, but let me give you my take.

    Two words I hate to hear coming from my kids’ lips…

    Field trip.

    I’d just sooner birth a baby; I’m not kidding. And now I’m feeling very sorry for my parents who spent thousands of dollars educating me to be a teacher. Honestly, I hear you on this one. I just wish I were better about being with my kids on a field trip. At home alone, all is good to go. But throw other “cherubs” into the mix?

    Not a good fit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll love your kids for an hour or two, but don’t ask me to raise ’em. It’s all I can do to handle the four I have.

    PS: You do realize I’m being a bit funny here, don’t you? Truthfully, kids are the richest blessings we’ll know on this side of eternity; they will also be our perfection in the end, of that I feel certain, at least for me!

    Love you.

  9. says

    Oh, and these are all good questions you’re wrestling with… one’s I’ve spent hours with on my knees before God with a few sturdy tissues alongside. You’re not alone, friend. Live on to see what’s coming… it’s going to be good.


  10. says

    so very full of life ..asking the hard questions gets harder. Your photos add so much to the feel of the post…thread is such fun to study..a great metaphor

  11. says

    Oh Laura – this rings so for me. I had thought that by this season of my life I would be able to do all those things I had always wanted to do. Somehow, it just hasn’t worked out that way. There are days I feel like throwing myself on the floor, kicking and screaming about wanting to do what I want to do for a change.
    I seem to have to learn over and over again that I have to surrender everything – even my time – to Him. I don’t know why, knowing Him, that is so hard.

  12. says

    Laura – this is so moving. To be where God places us even though our flesh at times desires more. To yield to that journey. Your words, your heart, so beautiful!

  13. says

    laura the way you notice him moving in your life is what startles me most about your writing, each time.

    as for the photos. i like. very much. they surprised me in a really good way.

    i especially like the in focus/out of focus effect on the thread and the light on the glass photo.

    thank you for being so open to learning.

  14. says

    What rips me up sometimes is that what I want, they’re good things, aren’t they? Yes, there are moments when I’m not so selfish, and what I want for me is really a good thing not just for me.

    I think I could cope with His no-ing, not now-ing, maybe not ever-ing better when it’s truly just me I’m clamoring for.

    The desires are good, and whether He chooses to fulfill them in this moment, it seems, He still works them in us one way or another.

    I doubt really that any of that made sense. I think I’m making an art form of being incoherent of late.

  15. says

    It is amazing how such contemplative thought can occur on a field trip. I used to be too absorbed with the task of making sure everyone stayed together and we made it through without injuries.
    My last field trip with our oldest son was nostalgic. He was graduating sixth grade, one of my dearest friends was chaperoning with me, and we were moving to Arizona. I treasured almost every moment of that trip.
    The times we’ll have alone to do what we want to do will come too soon. Glad the Lord gave you the grace to enjoy what treasures you have now.

  16. says

    Wow. I read through this post once and then again straight away. Your words really sunk into my heart, I think because I am thinking, pondering, wrestling with many of the same plaintive questions you are. Why God? Why not now, God? Somtimes I, too, get a clear answer, as you did on the bus. Sometimes not. But I still think it’s good to ask God the tough questions. It’s conversation with Him after all — and that’s better than silence or no relationship at all.

    Thinking of you tonight as I read this lovely post…

  17. says

    Not that I’m partial or anything, but I’m glad you found reconciliation in da burgh. 🙂

    Also, thanks for contributing to PhotoPlay. I always like to see what you have for us at HCB.

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