Monday, October 5, 2015

Breathing Life into the Future

Today I wrote an email and I was so happy with it because it held the genuineness of my own voice telling the truth. It had that tone that I feel like I've lost touch with for a few weeks.

I've lost my confidence recently. I have 6 unpublished posts lined up because I can't grasp the confidence to put them out there. They don't feel right. My voice seems to lack it's ring of power. But that email had the things I want to tell the world in it.  So I'm cheating and posting part of it here. (I hope the dear sweet soul I wrote it to doesn't mind.)


I was sitting on the floor nursing and staring out the window... just thinking. What probably draws me to writing is the desire to last. Life is just so short. So much of what we do is just undone or disappears. But if we write.... it lasts. Much longer. Longer than dishes or projects or anything. I don't think about this while I am writing.... but when I think "Why am I so obsessed with this?" I think that's the best answer I can find. Because it lasts.

This is part of the beauty of children too... I live beyond myself. Not in a selfish way. Not that I have to push my life into theirs... or that I use their lives to define mine and give it meaning... I just know that my life means more than serving my own dreams. I'm blowing a kiss of life into the future. No matter what scars I leave on my children (because, of course, I will) they will know that they are brightly, deeply, delightedly loved. They know that they can screw up and be loved, flourish and be loved, hate me and be loved, love me and be loved. They know they can stagger out into the world and stagger home again where they are loved. I really believe that this kind of unconditional love can shape history. I know that love can cover over a multitude of sins. I love the whole world while loving my kids well. 

I know you are not sure about having kids. I wasn't sure how to answer your searching questions before... I've thought about it... I wouldn't ever try to talk anyone into having kids or out of having kids. That's up to you and the universe. All i can say is that it is an act that makes you more human, more spiritual, more whole than any other act. It grounds you to the earth and spirits you into the heavens. It puts you in touch with your animal instincts and drives you to a blind faith more genuine than you ever imagined. 

People don't want to have children for many reasons that I deeply respect.... especially not being an especially child-goo-goo-ga-ga-loving person myself. But I have looked at Eames in the middle of his most difficult times and said, through tears and depression and everything, "I would go through the worst of this 1000 times just to be your mother again." There's magic there.

Don't make a choice "Yes" or "No" about having children. Just take what comes and look for the magic. 

Wishing you all the love. Lots and lots of love! Twinkling love. Earthy love. You have a great capacity for love. Mwah.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Change the World Like a Girl

Lemme talk about this girl who is rocking my world right now.

She's got a weird name. "Thermuthis." Yes, I kid you not.
Or maybe "Hatshepsut." Also weird.
The scholarship is a little spotty on exactly who she was, but you probably know her as "Pharaoh's Daughter." You got it: the one in the Bible.

Here's how the story goes:
Pharaoh wanted to curb the growing numbers of Israelites living in the land of Egypt, so he ordered the newborn sons to be killed. Not too crazy in those times. One mama hid her baby in a basket in the river to keep it alive. The baby was found by... dun dun da... Pharaoh's Daughter. And she decides to keep it. That baby grows up to be the liberator of Israel.

Real Talk:
Did you ever read this story and kind of think she sounds like a bimbo? Spoiled little rich girl? Legally blonde? "Oo look! A baby in a basket! Let's play house. I'll be the mommy & we'll keep this tiny human for a pet! Goody!"
That's just kind of how I always thought about her. She seemed so naive and clueless to me. Like, do you even know what it takes to raise a baby?!

Driving around a few days ago, I was thinking about Pharaoh's Daughter--- (dude... I can't do this any more... she needs a name... let's call her Hatty!)

I was thinking about Hatty... and I realized, wait, this girl wasn't just a middle school airhead who liked collecting cute stuff she found on the side of the road... she actually had some serious guts.

For starters.... She knew exactly what her dad was up to.
How do I know? Because the title given to her "PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER" didn't just refer to "one of Pharaoh's Daughters" but held a weight of distinction. She was likely his eldest and in line for the throne (or, rather, her son would have been Pharaoh... not her, 'cause she was a girl). Which meant, she would have been educated and in the loop about the political goings-ons of the day. She was in the know. Groomed for leadership. No bimbo.

And.... she knew exactly what kind of baby she had found.
She even says in scripture, "Hey! It's a Hebrew baby."
(How did she know? It's an anatomy thing. Wink wink.)
But even though she knew that this baby represented everything her dad hated as well as a direct challenge to her own political/social/familial security... she made a radical choice. To adopt him.

Here's a girl who is deciding her own politics, even though they fly right in the face of her family's beliefs and interests.
Here is a girl who is willing to give up her political power (her princess' birth right) to a foreigner that she found in a swamp (by calling him her son) in order to save a life.
Here's a girl who is taking a stand for social justice.
Here's a girl who is saying, "My family, my power, my position opposes everything about your life... but I'll risk the scorn, I'll risk the political jeopardy, I'll risk the wrath of Pharaoh... to do the right thing."
Here's a girl who is saying, "I can't save them all... but I can save this one."

Wow, Hatty. What a strong woman!

Suddenly I'm seeing this girl in a whole new light... and here's what I'm learning:

We can't fix it all... but we can do what's in front of us with integrity and, in doing so, completely change the world. Like... the whole world. Boom. Just like that.

If we make the choice to protect the innocent, uphold the oppressed, show compassion to the needy, put our own reputations on the line for the discarded.... we can literally change the course of history. It just takes guts and one small step in the right direction. Like Hatty.

We may never see it. It was 80 years later that the abandoned baby in the bullrushes came back to Egypt as Moses the Liberator... but none of that story would have happened without Hatty's ballsy faithfulness. Without Hatty's selfless love of human life, no matter what race, religion, color, politics, or power. Without Hatty's heart.

Even in a time in history when women were not given nearly as much power as they are today, Hatty's simple act wildly reshaped the entire fabric of history. It doesn't take power, fame, or platform. It doesn't require resources or recognition. You can do it now. You can start today.

To change the world, we only need Hatty's Heart.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Own Your Exact Life, Sisters

“Take all the hard parts—the failure, the losses, the wounds— and give them to Jesus for glory. He makes magic with those, I tell you. Those scars are a gift; they say, “See, I’ve been there, and here I am still standing and you will too.” They become badges of honor, agents of healing.”
- Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

Sometimes it hits me..... There’s a little bit of tragedy in all the brilliant, educated, powerful women who have been dragged out of their passions and squeezed into motherhood. 

I’m just being honest.

All their lives, they've practiced making their dreams come true. They are teachers, authors, artists, musicians, counselors, movers and shakers. And now they clean up the same messes, day in and day out. The meal messes. The legos. The pee pee sheets. The bath water. The smeared food.

Even if they’re tackling their corner with bravery and strength, it’s just a little sad, isn’t it? 

Sometimes I think it's worth saying out loud. It's worth stopping to recognize that there's a deep cost to the work we do here.

There’s also overwhelming beauty.
Wise words once taught us, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person should lay down her life for her friends.” For our children, we undoubtedly lay our lives down. Daily. 

We lose ourselves. We give up our dreams. We give up sleep and physical beauty and social recognition and freedom. We give up single-minded focus, task oriented behaviors, and showers. We give up simplicity. But we haven’t given up! 

Are we writing our own tickets to the future? Picturing it and making it happen? Seeing the world, putting it all out there, leaning in? No... at least for a season, no.
But how totally ballsy is it to have your first dreams taken away, and just not give up?
To accept that your dreams were smashed and see it as a redirection not an end. To take a deep breath, let it go, maybe grieve a little, and then start telling a new story. Holy crap guys! [Insert corny and obligatory phoenix-rising-from-ashes references here. ;) ] It’s beautiful.

Being determined to only have one version of your life may rob you of the magical experience of turning scars into praise songs. Trials into testimonies. Loss into limping leadership. Hurt into heroism. 

Look at all those women out there… the ones that “used to be” job titles and labels... now they don't have the security of a label and they do this raw, organic, natural work of birthing and preparing they next generations of the world... they do motherhood. Quietly. Invisibly. Their rewards are jelly kisses and holding sleep-breathing angels with floppy miniature bodies just five more minutes. Look at all the sparkling intelligence and leadership there. Has she wasted her life? No. Look at the bravery. She has allowed herself to be humbled, but not crushed. Knocked down, but not destroyed. She will rise up with greater strength, because she knows that nothing (no loss of identity, no pedantic purpose, no stooping low) can take away her worth and her guts.  

It’s a beautiful coincidence in the English language (or iiiiiiis it?) that “Testimony” begins with “Test.” This is it, ladies. This season of life is our Test. Allow it to make you richer, not thinner. Warmer, not colder. More, not less. Let it add to your character rather than destroy your dreams. This is not a detour, but an integral formation of fibers in the tapestry of your life and the tome of your story.

If you will hold loosely to that one perfect vision you had of who you are, the Lord will reveal that you are much more than you ever imagined. 

How Do You Find The Time?

I've been taking a mini hiatus from my weekly postings here to throw my efforts into finishing my first novel!!!!!!!! (Queue up the HALLELUJAH CHORUS. This has been a long time coming.)
All that just takes all the mental space I can spare.

But I wanted to write a quick and sloppy note to say:

People ask me all the time how I find the time to write while also running the motherhood ship.
There is often a hint of jealousy there.
Maybe a splash of self-deprecation.
Always a tiny sadness... a loss.

Motherhood costs us a lot of things. One of them can be the opportunity to engage in meaningful work outside of motherhood. Because, really, running the Home Show is beyond a full time job. Beyond.

We've heard it all before: The "I Can Do It All" thing is a lie. It is. But I still struggle to realize it. It's like the photoshopped supermodel. Even if her picture isn't telling me the whole truth, I still see the ideal represented and I want THAT.

So let me tell you the truth about my life... when I have a moment to spare between diapers and dirty sheets, meals and messes and hungry mouths, spills and errands and cooking and booboos... I don't clean up the trails we've left behind. I rush to my notebook and scribble.

And when the nap times come... I don't take my quiet hours to restore order. I read. I scribble.

My. House. Is. Always. A. Mess.

Which bothers me HUGELY because I am actually really OCD somewhere on the inside. But I can't. I just can't. There aren't enough hours to be the perfect housekeeper, the perfect mother, AND the creator that my Creator has made me to be.

In one of my all time favorite books (Where'd You Go Bernadette) the main character (who used to be a McArthur Genius Award Recipient for architecture) has developed an anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, a serious case of the weirdness, and an inability to accomplish anything at all following the loss of a child, the failure of a pivotal project, the birth of a rainbow baby, and the overwhelming sense of needing to be a good mother.

She writes endless letters to her former mentor spilling out loads of her pain and confusion (cloaking it all in goofiness and funny stories)... and her mentor writes her a one line letter in response.

"People like you must create. If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society."

That's me.

I have to create.
If I don't create, my soul curls in on itself and crumbles like a leaf baked in the sun.

It hurts me to live in a messy house. It irks me that I'm still 20lbs over weight. It plagues me that I don't plan and create lovely dinners of the caliber my mother-in-law raised my dear husband on.

But I have to create.
So I do.

If you ever, for a moment, thought, "Geez, she must be so diligent and energetic. She has something figured out that I don't." just.... laugh. Just laugh at yourself. That's hilarious. I'm the worst and weakest and the most disastrous, I think. But I need to create. God made me this way. So I have to compromise to walk my walk.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Spanx of the Kingdom

Moms are like the Spanx of the Kingdom. They are stretched, poked, tugged, a pulled in a million directions endlessly. They hold everything together and they always bounce back.

All this bouncing around like a rubber ball makes me dizzy. Pinging from crisis manager, to counselor, to disciplinarian, to nurse, to fountain of milky life, to faith healer, to personal chef, to housemaid, to encyclopedia of all knowledge related to the question 'Why?'... I've got whiplash!

Let alone my also-necessary roll as sultry bedroom temptress, career coach, and cute-funny-spunky-ambitious college-cool girl he married.

Oh, and social activist, welcomer and lover of newbies at church, filler of volunteer positions, bringer of meals to the suffering, taker-on-er of tasks to support the community.

Honestly... ok, honestly... I feel the bounce going out of my rubber where it is meeting the road.

I know what bouncing back looks like. The theory of bounce mechanics is downloaded into my motherboard. The science of balance theory is all recorded in my mainframe. Yes, I'm still operating in a bouncy way... but I'm going off of muscle memory here. And I'm getting motion sickness from the endless changing of hats. The swirling swapping of rolls has me feeling a little disconnected from what it feels like to just be me without anyone asking me for anything.

As the Spanx, I feel like I'm holding it all in, but my roll is to be invisible so the whole package can go on functioning. The dress is the main event. The family, the community, the world. They're the jam. I'm just the Spanx. When I try to look inside to see what makes me ME, sometimes all I see is everyone else I'm holding.

Yeah, I know, there's a way in which we are defined by Our People. I feel that. But... but... I don't know... What's my story? It's a question I keep asking. For better or worse. And the real question I'm asking is, Can my story be more than this? I wish it was more than this.

Aaaaaand..... dang it. Ok. God is sneaky..... Literally in the exact moment that I'm writing this, my son's movie song playlist is rolling on youtube, and this song came on:
"Look At Your Life Through Heaven's Eyes"

A single thread in a tapestry, though its color brightly shines, can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.
And the stone that sits on the very top of the mountain's mighty face, does it think it's more important than the stones that form the base?

So how can you see what your life is worth, Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man. You must look at your life, look at your life through heaven's eyes

A lake of gold in the desert sand is less than a cool fresh spring
And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy is greater than the richest king
If a man lose everything he owns, has he truly lost his worth?
Or is it the beginning of a new and brighter birth?

So how do you measure the worth of a man? In wealth or strength or size?
In how much he gained or how much he gave?
The answer will come. The answer will come to him who tries to look at his life through heaven's eyes

And that's why we share all we have with you, though there's little to be found
When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around
No life can escape being blown about by the winds of change and chance
And though you'll never know all the steps, you must learn to join the dance.

So how do you judge what a man is worth?
By what he builds or buys?
You can never see with your eyes on earth
Look through heaven's eyes.

Look at your life. Look at your life. Look at your life through heaven's eyes

Ok. I see it.
I can't own it today.
Today the bouncing back, the Spanxing, the hat swapping, the being-all-things-to-all-my-people has me feeling empty and meaningless and so so weary. But I see it. It's hazy... but I can see my life through heaven's eyes. I see the beauty somewhere under all the shit. I'm going to keep looking back to that until I've got the strength to take hold of it for myself.

I don't know where you are... maybe you're walking strong in your roll. Maybe the bounce has gone straight out of you. Maybe you're somewhere in between, holding it together, but feeling your elasticity beginning to strain. Here is what I can leave you with, no matter where you are: You are not invisible.

Your deep efforts are not unseen.
Our universal King has eyes for our hour by hour struggles. He is seeing the beauty when we can't even detect a hint of it. He's loving us when we can't love ourselves even a little bit. Do we always feel it? No. We can only try to slow our roll, listen to the part of ourselves that's saying, 'Stop, I'm not enough. I can't rise to meet this day anymore' and try to feel forward in the dark for heaven's eyes.

That's the true measure of bouncing back, right?
Not to keep muscling through, running on fumes... but to lean on a better strength, tap into a deeper source, look at our little staggering with the eyes of blessing that see value where we see none.

My feelings about this day haven't changed... yet. But I guess my goal has. I'm not going to try to bounce back, hold it together, wear the right hat. I'm going to try to look at myself with the mercy and love of heaven's eyes.

I'm going to let Jesus be the Spanx of the Kingdom. Not me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Help. I'm in Overdrive. Again.

How many "speeds" does a car have? I don't know. Do cars have speeds? Or just bikes?

Anyway... I only have two speeds: Working my ass off. And exhausted.

Leaning in with everything I've got, and laying on the couch nursing myself back to leaning in with everything I've got.

I have to force myself into a "downshifted" mental space. (See... I know a little bit! 'Cause... my sister drives a stick shift, so I don't have to.) Like, physically say, relax your face... pull back into a calm frame of mind... decrease your heart rate... let's take this slow.

Is this normal???

How many speeds do you have?

What is your most natural pace?

I feel like other people are so much better at treating life like an endurance race instead of a series of sprints. Having kids has forced me to get better at this. Motherhood is a ruthlessly daily task. Endlessly repetitive and either mind-numbingly boring or utterly over-stimulating and nerve-jarring. Taking the slow, deliberate pace... chasing a horizon that is two hours ahead instead of two years ahead... is brutal for me. It's not my natural mode at all. But I know that it is vital to my health to learn how to operate in a more metered middle ground.

Any tips for me?

Basically, could you just write this blog post for me? Thaddad be greeeaat. Thanks.

Your's Truly --

Going A Million Miles An Hour. Or Stopped.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Love is Utterly Contagious

She stood on the side of the road with a cardboard sign. She couldn't have been more than 20. She held herself humbly and very still. "Homeless Female. Anything Helps."

I bought her trail mix, gummy vitamins, and sunscreen chapstick. They seemed like good gifts for the street. But as I gave them over, I felt sick with the smallness of it.

Usually the homeless are men or older women and I--young and small--don't feel comfortable doing more than handing them some object to fill a need, giving a humanizing smile and kind word, and moving on. But I could see myself in her. I wanted to scoop her in my arms, bring her home with me like a cat nobody wanted, and make sure she was safe.

I drove home.

There is an agonizing ache in my heart that is new. Before I cracked myself open to loving kindness, the ache was dull. Now it cries furiously. It weeps that I am weak and cannot do enough. It squirms uncomfortably in the skin it has been given.
Before I turned up the audio on my heart of compassion, I could feel innocent. I could feel exempt. It could be someone else's problem. It is easy to find reasons to do nothing. Doing nothing maintains the status quo. Doing nothing protects my position as someone who has worked hard and earned my place in this world, looking down on the stupid decision makers, the rebels, the freaks. But crack open that window to compassion, and the cry of your heart will erupt! It is punishing and hard.

The temptation is to run from the discomfort, the friction, the dissonance.

Inside that tense space between "I did what I could" and "I can't do enough" is a lot of fear that makes us want to close the door and go back to the silence of doing nothing.

Can we agree to be conflicted and press on? What else can we do?
Let's try not to overthink.
Let's do it... whatever it is... no matter how small.

None of it is enough.

But love adds up.

One man convicted me to give willingly to the homeless whenever I can. A Buddhist Monk in a documentary film. Throughout the movie, whenever he passed anyone asking for money, he gave it to them. ALL of them. Even if there were 8 in a row... clink, clink, clink... in when his money into the cups. He never passed an open palm without pressing something into it. No questions. No judgements. No weighing of the pros and cons.

Love like that could change the world. It changed mine.

Even if it wasn't "enough", his act said: "I see you. I will bend my path toward yours and bend--however briefly--to meet you where you are." Seeing that demonstrated so simply radically changed the way I move through this world.

So I started acting on it... one by one... giving what I was able, when I was able. When I saw a need, I automatically assume that the Lord has called me to help meet it.

My husband started to notice.
Then he started to give.
I bet people at his work will begin to notice his giving, and then maybe they will begin to show love to the low also...

Because love is utterly contagious.
It has to be... because we can't do enough on our own. But we can do enough together.