Coffee, Complexity and Conversation

In downtown Kalamazoo there is an odd little building nestled on a triangular piece of land where we could meet and share a cup of roasted goodness inside the Water Street Coffee Joint.  If we were to meet there this morning you would need an umbrella, because it is supposed to rain.  As we sit and catch up here is what I would share about what’s been in my heart.


Elly, my youngest daughter was born the summer before Katy, our oldest daughter, started her senior year of high school.  I remember thinking then that one day the older three kids would all be gone and it would be just Mark and I with the little girls.

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That day came this week.

Our “original three” are all living outside of our home and it is just Mark and I with the girlies.


I made less coffee in the morning.

We only ordered one pizza.

I have three rooms available for guests to come and stay.

It was quieter as we watched a little television and then locked up the house for the night.

I remember thinking after Elly was born that about the time the “original three” were leaving the house I would probably be moving into menopause along with its accompanying symptoms.

Last night my window was cracked, allowing the 40-degree night air to cool the room, as my husband slept under layers of blankets I laid awake, welcoming the cold air.

I am aging, along with my children.  Katy is the age I was when she was born and Allison will graduate from college this year…. can I be that old?  Elly just lost her two front teeth…can I be that young?

Some days I smile at the simplicity of life with my little girls.  I make lunches, I sign homework folders, and I brush and braid their hair, read to them and say their prayers.  It’s sweet and simple.

Some days I laugh, so I don’t cry, at the complexity of it all.  Five children separated by seventeen years.  Four girls born to a woman who had no sisters and a big family to wrap my arms around when I grew up with just one brother.  I don’t know what I am doing; I have nothing to model this after from my childhood.  Sometimes I feel a bit anxious and overwhelmed, something I have learned to tell Mark, who welcomes chaos like it’s a gift to be opened and enjoyed.   He meets my anxiety with his smile and offers to order pizza or open up the hot tub, reminding me that sometimes a simple choice can restore the reality that life is good even when it feels a bit wild and overwhelming.

Recently I was told that I have a gift for nurturing others.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but as I sat with that idea I realized that the complexity of my life has grown something beautiful in my heart.  I have become a woman who has learned to offer nurturing.  It’s taken decades to grow, and the presence of five children to love and be loved by to cultivate the soil of my heart so nurturing could grow.

I will be mothering children for years to come.  Today my thoughts go to when there will be grandchildren to welcome while the little girls are still living at home.  I know the complexity will not end, the chaos will continue, this is my life.   I am learning that my arms are big enough to hold those who are in my care, and my heart is a safe place for them to come and rest.  I love that and the coffee we’re sharing.

How about you?  What would you share over a warm cup of something on a cold, rainy morning with a friend?

Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12).  Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids.  After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.  Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.