Friday, August 28, 2015

If I Fail... The Story Doesn't End

Dry nursing has got to be one of Dante's seven levels of hell.

If you have no idea what I'm even talking about... it's basically when the baby suckles at the breast but isn't actively getting any milk out. Nails on chalk board. EECCCH!!!!
If you have never experienced this... imagine a cat with a tongue made of sandpaper chewing on the tip of your nipple and humming the national anthem. Ugh.

I'm so tired.
After doing everything EXCEPT nursing to sooth him to sleep, we gave up and tried letting Oliver cry it out last night. Heart breaking. But I can't keep doing this! My level of tiredness is getting desperate. I can't keep waking up in the night this much.

It didn't work. I gave up. The nursing put him to sleep, but he angry nursed. (See above description.) By the time I crawled back in bed, my internal Hopelessness Meter was twitching into the red. My jittery brain took a while to unwind (which is like a new kind of torture when it's 3am and you know morning is coming fast). When he woke again in two hours, I was about ready to just turn in my mom card and peace out.

I have insomnia. It takes me a looooong time to quiet my mind and fall asleep. It's genetic, I guess. My dad has the same problem. The minute I begin to drift away.... WWAAAAAA!!!! Baby.

This is a hard stage.

With Dear Son Number One, this was the age (8-9 months) at which my strength began to buckle and I began to fall into depression. By 10 months old, the black water had swallowed me. A corner of my heart fears that the water is rising.

I'm not there yet (thanks be to community and medication and a husband who is now a skilled father and my Lord who has walked me through this valley of death before).... but man, it is nipping at my heels.

What are the weapons against depression? I truly believe it often starts with admitting that those shadowy hands are tugging at your heels. If you aren't afraid to admit that to yourself, then you'll be willing to take a nap if you need it, make a freezer meal if it helps you survive the night with kids, be gentle with yourself at the gym, recognize that your irritation is not your spouse's fault, take a few more deep breaths, spend some time with a book in your hands instead of a mop... all kinds of grace and mercy in all kinds of weird little forms.

So here I am... admitting it again... My Tired is a little more than just lack of sleep. My Tired is becoming bone deep. And I am not strong. But I am brave. I know that I can survive no matter what. I know that my weakness has been used to touch hearts in the past... so I'm not afraid of it. I will strive, but if my strength fails, Beauty and Love will not.

"He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. I am well content with weaknesses for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12:9-10


PS -- Little incredible acts of love have been lifting my spirits left and right this week.

A girlfriend just randomly gave me a shirt of her's that I was complimenting her on. (Tender love! Oh my gracious!)

Our pastor's wife knew I was going to have a long day alone with the kids, so she texted me around bedtime to make sure I was doing ok and give me the Mama-couragment. We clinked wine glasses through the inter-webs. (Solidarity is sweet!)

A friend from way back in college sent me a private message to tell me that my writing was touching her. (Ack! So kind to go out of your way to share good feelings!)

A friend at the park told me that my quirky joy was infectious. (Wow wuuut?! Cool. And weird.)

So while I am deeply tired, I'm also feeling INSANELY BLESSED. I'm glad there is space and grace for both of these feelings to exist fully in one life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Us is Cooler Than Me

"I like getting older, because everyone begins to have real stories to tell."

Wednesday night we were at a picnic in the park with some of our beloved peeps and some faces that were new to me. One gal was telling me the story of her name. Eliora. "God's Light is in Her."

I looked around the group and realized in a deep and moving way that every single person there had battled through a war story worth telling... most were right in the thick of another one.

Not to mention the fact that every single person at this picnic had wisdom and learning and skills to share. Sheesh! There was so much collected wisdom in that group, it would make you go cross-eyed! Military maps experts, professional musicians, mechanics, Bible scholars, artists, athletes, builders... good grief. And all of this from a very, very normal "hum drum" group of folks. Folks who would call themselves unremarkable. (Folks who are ridiculous and need to be told they're shockingly cool.)

When we stand on our own, the story can seem sadly simple. I'm just being honest! Unless I'm digging for the beauty, my life can look like just another over-educated, under-paid mom story. But, hot dang, when we come together!!!

Community is cool, dudes.

Community is the link that is sorely missing from our world today. Intentional, united, dig-into-your-uglies Community.

Why is parenting so traumatic? Because we try to do it alone until we figure out there's no such thing and find a mama tribe to cradle us through the good times and bad.

Why is marriage so dang difficult? Because we try to be everything to each other... and we can't. We just can't. We are not everything.

Why is loneliness an epidemic? Because you don't go to church, you dumby! (Real community goes waaay beyond church, but let's give credit where credit is due: here is a group of people that has been meeting together regularly for, say, 2000 years and counting? It's at least a good place to get your feet wet.) But more importantly... It's free. A building full of people ready to risk relationship and love and growth together... not to mention coffee, child care, kiddie arts and crafts, and live music WEEKLY... and it's fuuuuh-reeeee. Pssh! I don't care what you believe, I'd be getting in on some of that action for the coffee and childcare alone.

Why has career become so much more highly prized than doing regular life?
Why do we feel so pressured to be so perfect in an imperfect world?
Why is more stuff, bigger house, better clothes soooooo great? It's just stuff with a bigger price tag.

Dream with me here... could it be because we're missing a deep connection to real people? When we disconnect from people all we have left is.... Me. When Me runs out of energy, when Me pursues a job and fails, when Me doesn't have the things, when Me doesn't look the look... what then?

The only remedy for Me is Us.

Our story is beautiful and complex.
Our hands are always ready to help when the other can't.
Our dreams are always rising and falling in a symphony of hope.
Our connection means more than any self-promotion.
When we unite, it becomes clear that Me doesn't have to do it all, because that thing and that thing and that thing are someone else's wheelhouse. It's liberating.

My dearest Peeps.... if you do anything in the next five years, let it be to connect to community. It will radically impact your story. It's like a 1 step program to awesome.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blub Bluub Bluuub

Have y'all read the children's book, "The Pout Pout Fish"?

He always says, "Blub, bluuub, bluuuuuuuuuuub."

That's my brain today. Bless my heart.

Praise God for great friends that organize play dates so you don't have to come up with something to do with yourself... who don't even flinch when your offspring descend like locust and eat all the snacks.

Praise God for husbands who take children outside who have woken up too early from their naps against all odds.

Praise God for Windex... the weapon of mass fly destruction. So many dead flies.

Praise God I'm too tired to get up and reach for the box of cookies... the cookies will live to see another day.

Praise God for these harem pants... I feel "Euro Chic" while remaining in the functional equivalent of pajamas all day AND (bonus) avoiding the "leggings aren't pants" inner monologue. Winning.

But y'all.... so tired. So very tired. Just feeling worn down. My heart is full of joy! But my mind and spirit and body feel utterly sapped at this moment. When I'm with my children I'm exhausted. When I'm away from my children, I'm guilty... or rushing around trying to do ALL the errands/cleaning/excercise/meal-prep/etc before they come back.

Yes, I'm looking for grace. And I see it! And I celebrate it!

But I'm still so tired right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Goals Make Bad Gods

We're all 'aspiring somethings' until we make it.

Aspiring writer.
Aspiring surgeon.
Aspiring rhythmic gymnast. (I know you're out there somewhere! We're all jelly of your ribbon dancing stick.)

Somewhere deep in my hidden heart, I think I'm an aspiring pole dancer. So strong! So elegant! And the crazy shoes... mmm. (Dear Jesus, can I have a do over? Preferably with a thigh gap?)

You know what we are after we've made it?
After we've achieved the thing we were yearning for, leaning into, aspiring toward?
When we get there, we become... wait for it... "Aspiring Something-Elses."

Hi, welcome to the human condition. You will never be satisfied.

It can be both embarrassing and empowering to identifying we are aspiring to out loud. Especially when we may seem lightyears away from the possibility of grasping it... Like, when a 400 lb 80 year old says they want to run a marathon. You want to be supportive, but eeeeeh. Yeah. It's just awkward for everyone.

So I'll go first: I'm an Aspiring Writer. I have many pokers in this fire. A children's book, a middle grades fiction, and an adult novel. And my blog. My blog is my "writing gym" where I exercise my writing muscles.

(Speaking of the gym... On the way to the gym this morning I was an Aspiring-To-Be-Not-So-Fat Person. But after 20 minutes of running, I was transformed into an Aspiring-To-Be-Reading-A-Book-Instead-Of-Sweating Person. MMmmkay good.)

Back to aspirations!

They're pretty great. We live in a culture that prizes goals and going for it and succeeding enormously. (If you doubt me, please spent five seconds on Pinterest. For that life time dose of inspiration.... you're welcome.) And that's beautiful. But what if it all falls apart?

My aspirations used to be my God. They guided me in the way I should go. They defended me from the enemy of purposelessness. They defined my identity. They gave me joy. When I floundered, I reached out and grabbed the life raft of aspirations to lift me up out of the muck.

Life lesson number 439.2:  Aspirations make bad Gods.

They can be so easily ruined.
When they fall apart, so will you.
Plus, when you achieve them... Poof! They morph into something else. Talkaboucha' frustration.

I used to laugh at people who said that Jesus should come first. Because, how would that even work? I mean, we have to have goals and jobs and make our way in the world. If Jesus comes first... wouldn't we all be pastors? Or at least Bible School graduates? No thanks, I said. Jesus is my wing man, while I aspire aspire aspire.

Then Jesus gently let my aspirations implode.
My god wobbled and fell.
My framework for self-definition was destroyed. And really, it almost destroyed me. There was a season when I prayed many times for a truck to run me off the road because I didn't have the hutzpah to turn the lights out on life myself. All because my god died.

Now I'm kind of getting it... a little bit of it... it's growing in my heart... what it feels like to let Jesus come first. To prize giving yourself away over gaining recognition. To choose smaller and poorer if it means staying nearer to the hurting for love's sake. To choose less for the sake of of all of us. To choose low for the sake of the Other. To hold my rightness with soft hands and gingerness, for the sake of the Kingdom.  To submit to being weak: not trying to claw my way out of it to be awesome again, but asking God where he needs a weak warrior to bring up the rear.

Turns out there's a lot of us limping along here in the back of the pack. Turns out Jesus leaves the 99 to search for the 1 staggering beloved.

Turns out aspiration (a me center life) is a weak and frustrating substitute for a life inspired by grace, compassion, and love... a life that is about a bigger story than my own recognition and success... a life that is about bringing the love of the Kingdom to the world.

Now I aspire to be faithful. There is freedom there. There is grace for the failures. There is a strong helper for the long way.

And when I hit days like today, when I really have nothing left to give but faithful weakness... I believe God smiles and says, "Well done, good, faithful, and unshowered servant. Come into my rest and watch Project Runway with your mint chocolate chip ice cream. The laundry pile will make an excellent perch. And the blessing of God Almighty--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--be with you as you cry because your favorite designer got axed and Tim Gunn didn't save."

As a long-time, hard-core, give-no-quarter Aspirerer... as a lean-inner, a push-harder-er, a perfectionist of the first degree... can I tell you how radically beautiful that is?

It is.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shouting "Woooo HA!" at Suffering

My favorite thing my son says is, "Woooooo HA!"
A deft hybridization of "Woo hoo!" and "Yee Haw!"
Doesn't that just tickle you silly? Ridiculous. That kid... he's hilarious.

Today I'm thinking, there are a lot of things to "Woooo HA!" about in my life. There are also a lot of things that I completely hate. And it's not a neat, tidy divide. Very often, these two categories are inextricably intertwined... I can't have the "Woooo HA" without the "UGH."

I hate going to sleep at night knowing that I may be dragged from my nice warm bed many times... like, every hour. As I stagger across the hall, my bones ache and I just feel pissed. Hate it. UGH.
But when I'm curled up in my wing backed chair, in the dead of night, fogged with exhaustion... and it's just us. Silence. No distractions, and I'm pressed under the warm floppy-rag-doll body of my sleeping child... my heart is singing, "Wooo HA!" No one gets to love him like that but me.

I hate my stretched out belly.
I love that despite my imperfect body, my husband seems to GENUINELY see beauty in me. It's wild. It's insanity. It's amazingly beautiful and life-giving. "Wooo Ha!" And I couldn't have this unmerited favor without my flaws.

I hate weariness. Pressing through "not enough" every day. But I love naps. Naps are so sweet when you're bone-deep tired. I never loved naps before having children... now I dream about them with an intense passion only seen in starving people dreaming of food. Naps! Woooo HA!

I don't want to glibly to be all, "It's about your perspective, ladies!" because you can change your perspective all day (or, sometimes you can't, but that's another thing) and still hate where you are.
You can look for the bright sight, dig for the silver lining, stiffen that upper lip, and still despise the season you're in. It happens.
I'm really not a baby lover... they're precious, they make me smile, I can pinch cheeks and blow raspberries with the best of them... but ultimately, it's just not my jam. Most people groan in misery when their kids turn 2. For me it was the beginning of finding joy in parenting. But babies? Eck, I can savor every moment and still be screaming internally, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

Changing your perspective is not about making you love your circumstances, but it is about redeeming the things you don't love into a life you can celebrate.

Corrie ten Boom comes to mind. She had a knack for spotting the shards of mercy scattered through her shattered life. That didn't make her story happy, but it sure did make it beautiful.

Where is the small fragment of grace hidden in the thing you UGH?
Where is the itsy bitsy glimmer of "Wooo Ha" celebration in your least favorite trials?
That is the buoy that will float you upward through life's difficulties.
That is the fragment of heaven hidden in a broken world.

The utter softness of a baby's hand wrapped around your thumb when you're so tired you could puke? That is a promise of Christ's redemption of the world at it's finest.

I have a hunch that looking for grace is not about putting on rose colored glasses. Not about forcing ourselves to smile when we want to lay down and weep. It's about leaning into eyes that look up, over, and beyond the limping world and seeing where heaven peeks through.

You Might Be a Hipster Mom - PART ONE

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be A Redneck"... let's engage in some "steal like an artist" plagiarism and bring this little comic device into the modern age. 

If your baby is wearing skinny jeans, fashionable headwear, and leather moccasins but can't walk...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you consider fermentation a food group...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you've ever listed your Primary Care Physician as Dr.Bronner...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you pretty sure "Angel of Death" refers to the conventional grocery stores...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If most of your conversations include the word "gluten"...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you tried to do the house cleaning, but realized you were out of vinegar and gave up...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you've met your bacon in its first life and approved it's living conditions...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

And for the fathers out there... because, gender equality!

If your first child is an iMac and your second is a beard...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you've said the words, 'We're breastfeeding, so..."
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you let your 3 year old taste your beer because its craft brew... and therefore not real alcohol...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you answer the question 'When will you know you've made it?' with the words "farm", "goats", "off the grid" or "build my own house"...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

That's all I got for now! Please comment or write to me and help me add more. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Panic and Peace

Panic is back.

Whenever I reveal this to someone, the question that often follows is, "Why?" 
"Why are you panicking? What's got you worried?"

In the words of Jedi Master Yoda, "Panic or Panic Not; There is no why." 

Simma down now, Nerds! So, that's not exactly how the quote goes, but its close. 

There is no why. There is no reason for the total-body experience of feeling like you're wedged between fainting and dying of a heart attack while being dangled by your toes off a 30 story building.
There is no line of logic between stimulus and this suck fest. You can literally open your eyes in the morning and feel the sensations of panic in your body before a single thought has crossed your mind.

Panic is your body snatching the controls away from your rational mind and putting you into auto pilot for the sake of self preservation. It's goal is to keep you alive. Since panic is single-minded and seriously over-kill it sees everything as a threat. So, no matter how fine you may be, your body wants you to RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!! Pretty much the only place Panic wants you to be is safe at home in your bed. Even there it doesn't subside. Like a tornado warning, ARROOOGA ARROOOGA, it wants to warn you not to even think about getting up and going out in that world that's trying to kill you.

Panic is mean. I mean, it has good intentions, but it's the ultimate Helicopter Parent. And it isn't afraid to abuse you to get what it wants.

"What does it feel like?" courageously curious people ask.

First your head goes light and swirly. Then your elbows and knees turn to jelly and your heart starts lurching against the back of your ribs. Tightness constricts around your chest. You want to swallow a huge cleansing mouthful of air to feel the sweet relief of oxygen, but suddenly there's only a thimble worth of space in your lungs. So you suck in as many thimbles as you can because you don't want to suffocate. 

Worry comes first. Worry says, "What the heck is happening to my body? I'm going to faint. I'm going to faint. I'm going to faint." It makes it worse. But you're no fool... you calmly ask yourself if there is a reason you would be feeling like this out of the blue. Should I be worried?

Once you've determined that you're not, in fact, having a heart attack, you try to go about your day normally. Surely if you just shake it off, it will leave. But you still feel like you're going to faint. Imagine trying to go about the normal routines of life with children (breakfast, shopping, park, school) feeling like you are one thimble of oxygen away from passing out. 

The feelings don't stop. 
The feelings increase.

My best strengths do nothing for me in the face of panic. 

I can't research my way out. Panic doesn't care what information I have on the subject. It doesn't care if I know it's not a real thing. It doesn't care if I identify it as a bossy control freak who is taking away my life. It still takes over.

I can't think my way out. Panic sees my brain searching for a door to leave and starts chasing it, making it run faster than normal, never allowing it finish a complete thought... and, ultimately, it just laughs at me.

And I can't coffee my way out. Dadgumit, Panic, you even take away my best friends! Ugh. 

The only thing that truly wins the Panic battle is time. Mental gymnastics, breathing exercises, prayer, sleep, exercise. They may help, if your lucky, but I've never known them to stop the experience. If the panic holds on for days and days, your mental determination not to let it swallow you whole will begin to get weary and waver. Then depression can easily creep in.

It's a hard road. I'm not gonna lie. 

I don't have it all figured out, but if you've walked this road before or you're on it now... I want you to know you're not crazy. I am a gentle friend to you in this moment. 

Many people deal with anxiety for years and genuinely don't know what it is. They think they're sick... because you feel sick... but it's, weirdly enough, kind of all in your head. 
Our minds and bodies are connected. It's how we stay alive. It's how we avoid the lions and tigers and bears. It's how we learn to follow our instincts... because they're loud and messy and can't be ignored.

As much as we are children of God, we are very much made of earth. We are critters with instincts and chemical bodies. The shepherd turned king, David--who historically suffered bouts of epic depression and anxiety--says "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14).  

I find that beautiful and comforting. God understands the building blocks of our bodies. He did, after all, "knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139). We live in a broken world where the functions of our bodies (which are meant to preserve us) sometimes tear us apart. But God doesn't scorn us for our Panic. We do not sin for suffering anxiety against our will. 

Psalm 139 says he "knows my anxious thoughts." 
Psalm 56:8-9 says "he has put my tears in a bottle." 
Psalm 40:11 says "he will not withhold his compassion." 

Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28-30. "I have told you these things that you may have peace... I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Take comfort, sweet silent sufferers... with your bodies bashing you around like an abusive partner... God's eyes are eyes of mercy. His heart is full of compassion. He is not opposed to you while it feels like everything else is. Your body may not be on your team right now, but Jesus is.

That's all. Peace.