Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dear Emotional, You Have Great Worth

This is going to be a very rough sketch. A little sea of ideas I've been chewing on. Not very prettily or pithily composed... But there.

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Emotional.
It's not a very useful thing to be, is it?

Not very high on the productivity chart. Not economically advantageous. Not a quality greatly sought after by employers. Not an attribute particularly coveted by the PTA... or by future spouses (man, I just love the way you sobbed in a puddle on the floor and felt doubtful about everything. That gives me life.... said no one ever.)

I'm emotional. Melancholy. Moody. Overly serious. If I'm smiling on the outside, I promise later on I'm likely to go home and think, "I'm a fraud!" and write poetry. Like a weirdo. My baseline self is just #allthefeels.

Not a day goes by when I don't think a thought somewhere on the range between "Being emotional makes me less awesome" all the way up to "Being emotional makes me such a worthless waste of oxygen."

And, really, I think society would agree with me. I heard a study on the radio that suggested that if we medicated the moods of more people, economic productivity would go up by so and so many billion dollars. The world would like to dispense with #allthefeelings and it would prefer you to make #allthemonies. Which makes sense. I guess.

Unless there is some kind of weird hidden value here that we're missing....
(Do you see where I'm going with this? Walk there with me... just for kicks.)

I just finished reading Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. Vincent was emotional. Moving himself forward by feeling... following that illusive impulse that stirs us toward irrational but beautiful things... feeling deeply every passion and every sorrow... empathizing and emoting and doubting and throwing himself headlong past doubt and into the arms of possible (though improbable) hope. He pursued, with as much force as he could summon, the thing that filled his existence with buoyancy: Painting. He hoped against all hope that he could achieve monetary success to justify his love of art. And when he couldn't... when he couldn't prove to the world, to his family, to himself that the thing he so dearly valued had "value"... he couldn't live in that world any more. He couldn't live feeling that every ounce of his passionate life had been thrown after something that proved, at last, to be worthless in the eyes of everyone else.

I found myself asking a question... Would it have been better for Vincent if he had been less emotional?

If he had been more balanced?
Less passionate?
Less moved by fervor and more rooted in practicality?

If he was only less emotional.
If he was only less of everything he was and more... normal...

He might have gotten a job as an art dealer and paid his own way.
He might have married, as he so wished to do.
He might have had children and lived a happy, healthy life.
He might have had better relations with his family.
He might have painted more...
He might have lived...
...But the paintings would have been dull beige arrangements of pottery and clogs.
...And his life would not have echoed, as it does, across history in haloed Starry Nights of manic yellow and deepest blue.

Artists, dreamers, feelers, hopers, creators. Moody moms that curl up in a corner with a notebook and pen random musings... It's harder to see our worth than it is to see the worth of, say, my super practical and productive husband.
But, Dear #AllTheFeels, your life is not without an intentional space in this earth. It's not. We cannot discount and throw away the value that Feelers bring to the story. The depth they add. The gravity they yield. The sense and sensibility that they splash, like a dash of salt, in the soup.

Salty. Yes, we are! A seasoning added to a society that might otherwise atrophy from lack of that heart wrenched spongey FEELING thing that makes us all puddle mushy and ridiculous. And tired! Being emotional will make you tired! You'll throw yourself into your love with everything you have... and rise to high heights... and then plunge to low lows... and everything will be felt and experienced with a purity akin to Tinker Bell who is too tiny to feel more than one complete emotion at once.

Being EMOTIONAL is a hard job... but somebody has to do it.
Somebody has to be "the masala on the situation", to borrow a Pakistani phrase my good friend taught me. 
Somebody has to be that extreme. That dash of purity and passion. That electric shock of Caring Too Much.

When I'm a ball of emotion (a literal ball... on the bed... somewhere under the blankets and that canopy of Mini 3Musketeers wrappers), I want to not look at myself and think, "You are a waste of a life."

I want to feel my feelings and then rise up, look at myself like I look at Vincent, and say, "You add something to this story."

My husband, god bless him wonderful man that he is, can be a little bit vanilla. It's the complexity of flavor that I bring to our relationship that brings balance to our lives together. He could have married a simpler girl... but he chose a spicy one. It cost him something. It's not the most productive option. But I can see, in our marriage, that I bring some beauty along with my chaos.

I want to look at my place in the world like I look at my place in my marriage... I'm the one who throws the masala on the situation. I'm the one who leans in. I'm the one who revitalizes and challenges and inspires. Who agitates and aggravates and calls us toward life, more life.

Dear Emotional, you are the spice of life.

Don't doubt your worth today. Don't give up fighting because you can't point to dollars and cents to justify the worth of this deep part of your being. You were, after all, knit (a very careful, tedious and intentional process) together in your mother's womb by the Lord. It's not by accident that he constructed you complexly. You are fearfully and wonderfully (sometimes more fearfully... but never less wonderfully) made.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

PS - Since The Day Isn't Done Yet!

Friends... someone let me know that my earlier post "It's Lunch Time and I'm Done" rubbed them the wrong way pretty badly because I didn't put a happy spin on it. 

I understand that. It was glum. No denying. 

So, let me be clear (and hopefully in being clear, I can also bring light to why I write in the first place)...

I write for myself. It helps me work through feelings. That's why I write MORE when I'm struggling and usually just post happy pictures on Facebook when I'm doing fine. 

The reason I share what I write on Facebook is for those of you who need someone to stand up and say, "Yes I have a happy home, healthy kids, safe country, good food, blessed beyond belief... but this day was a DIASTER. It is hard to mom. I just is. No matter what that looks like." 

I splash my weaknesses all over the internets so that the isolated strugglers out there know that they're not alone. 
I "promote" my experience, not because I think my experience is great. Not because I think you should take a lesson from it... but because I don't want anyone experiencing something similar to feel like they're the only one failing hard all alone on the kitchen floor. I feel like it's bigger than me. 

If I have learned anything in the past few years it is that (for me) suffocating a struggle under happy spins will only make it grow. You can't stay in your struggle. You have to work toward bravery and actively pick up your chin. But being honest and leaning into a difficult moment is like diving into cold water. It only hurts for a minute. Then you come up refreshed and you start to swim up stream again. 

If it bothers you (anyone out there) or you think it's stupid that I struggle in the middle of my miraculously good life, believe me, I'm right there with you. 

I'm learning to accept that maybe I'm just weaker than the average person... and not despise myself for that. 
I'm learning to accept my mind isn't as strong. 
That my will can be very weak, my nerves very fragile, my energy very low. 
Yes, I work against those things on many levels, but I continue to be less strong than many others I love and admire. 

I admit that I'm not the steadiest ship in the sea. But I'm still floating. I choose to celebrate that. I think sometimes it's just better to salute the efforts toward strength rather than criticizing the failures. I didn't always think that way... I used to be kind of a judgmental, pious bitch. Now I think just waking up and doing the basics is beautiful! And I think saying "This sucked hard" is beautiful too. Because it's the first step in standing back up.

We're in this together. All different. All the same. Different experiences... same general road. 

Sometimes I'll be strong enough to be hopeful. 
Sometimes I'm going to be a big mope. 

Take what feeds your soul and forget the rest. Because I love you. xoxo

It's Only Lunch Time... and I'm Done

My 3 year old climbed into bed with me at the crack of dawn.
He held up his thumb and pointer finger indicating a very tiny measurement and said, "I leaked in my bed a lil bit."

The little one wakes up and wants to nurse and fondle me. Because I am his property.
The big one is mad because he wants "blue cereal" and "red milk" and I'm too slow for his taste.
I must have slept wrong after feeding the little one at 4 am, because I can't raise my left arm without a blinding flash of white hot pain.

Strip the bed.
Wash the sheets.
Vacuum baking soda out of the mattress... because he leaked a "lil bit" last night too and the waterproof liner is in the wash.

Make everyone breakfast... which I didn't eat... because I can't lose weight. And yesterday I binged because I always feel empty. Not appetite. Hunger. Not need. Want.

Already feeling maxed out, I sat down with my cup of coffee.
One quiet moment before a long day of abuse.
Please.

But no.

I have a gravitational force that is very powerful.
I attract all the living bodies in this family.
They orbit me perpetually.
My magnetic pull draws them in... only the nearness of skin to skin will do... or there will be screaming.

In the process of orbiting as close to me as possible, my hot coffee (as yet un-sipped) was dumped into my lap. A scalding reminder that nothing is sacred. That I am owned. That I am a need filler first foremost and forever.

Comfort the scalded baby.
Wash my shirt.
Scrub the rug.
Redress baby... and he pooped.
Re-brew the coffee.
Do the dishes.
And it's lunch time... and the floor is littered... and I'm sweeping and washing pots and where do all these dirty spoons come from? And I'm trying to tally up the budget on the bathroom rennovation, and I feel like rather than being praised for the savings I have studied so long to find, I am being judged for spending money at all... and I feel that my best efforts are not enough...

And then the baby crawls onto the table... lifts a precious family treasure into the air and hurls it off the table... and it shatters.

And I'm sweeping again and mopping... and there is sauce splattered on the wall... and the big boy is behind me whining "Why? What happened? Why?"

And I cry.

I just stop and weep and shudder.
The snot drips down into the pile of dirt and broken ceramics and I'm paralyzed by the paralysis of my life.

Sometimes there is joy. But it is sweet and tender and hard to capture in words.
And sometimes there is this aching sorrow so thick and heavy that only words can swim the soul upward and out of it.

Rescue me...
That's my gasping cry to no one. That's my desperate wish that no one can answer.

I have gone so low.
I have become such a meaningless moment in history.
I am the rug on which the future of the world wipes it's feet.

I have one hope... that the pain in bearing children is not the way it was meant to be... and one day the Lord will redeem my life. If it were not for this hope I would never be able to stand up under this endless, repetitive, mundane, messy, fruitless battering against the rocks of my own futility.

One day I will try and succeed. Try and succeed. Try and succeed.

Until then, Lord store my tears in your bottle...
Let their bitterness remind us, you and I together, of this valley. And the valley will make sweetness sweeter.

Remember me, O God, according to your steadfast love.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grasschild

You don't have to matter or endure.
You don't have to last on through the night that takes us all.
One corner of the sky
Quilted to one thousand carbon corners
is all you're called to carry in your hands.
You are the tiny universe
that lays in your lap linked
to every universe that lays in the lap of ages.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Calling" is Not So Complicated

Dude... can we talk about not being enough and how wild it is that sometimes that's exactly what we need to bring to the table?

This week I've been preparing to speak/facilitate at a women's silence retreat.
And honestly I'm all, "Damn, y'all! What do I know about silence?!?!" (PS, Jesus does not mind that I occasionally cuss, because he knows it's in my head anyway. He did create language in all it's many colors. It does serve all kinds of useful purposes. That's all. Ok bye.) 

For days and days my sense of Inadequacy was translating into a feeling of Disqualification.

I know no things... therefore I should say no things.

I have no qualifications... therefore I should shut up.

And loudest of all, the voice that says: I'm a fraud. I'm a fake. I'm a poser. I'm a liar.

It's been a struggle FUR REAL.

Surely this opportunity landed in my lap by some horrible cosmic whoopsy daisy!?
Surely I should kindly and gently correct the universe's (read: God's) mistake by turning the opportunity down!?
Surely that would be the better Christian thing to do... humbly admit that I am not enough and step aside?

But here's what keeps calling to me out of the swirling clouds of self doubt...

"Dearest Inadequate, 
All I ask is that you show up with what you have."

Are we not waaaay too obsessed with "calling" these days, friends? Heavens!
Are we not waaaay too often like, "I want to do the thing, but I don't want to do the thing unless I know that I'm 'CALLED' to do the thing." And we stop.

We want to be so loudly beckoned onto a particular path and constantly confirmed along the way.
We want to be affirmed and affirmed and affirmed so that we can be fully confident that we have not stepped away from the will of the Lord....
And, Ya'll, I am really beginning to believe that he's like, "Errrm, I'm pretty sure that mostly I just asked you to walk by faith and not my sight. So, could you just... maybe... like, step into the opportunities I've presented with a little more boldness?
Could you just maybe use the strengths you have been given in little ways for starters?
Could you just maybe show up in faithfulness and trust me to take care of the rest?"

Got two fish and fives loaves of bread?
How about we get together and fed 5000 people?
How about at the end of this you stand back and say, "I brought almost nothing... so I know who deserves the glory here. But I brought something! I was faithful to show up. Hallelujah and bless my heart."

All that we have, we have been given. Whatever we are, we are beautifully, wonderfully made and there is a need for our voice, our presence, our smile. However battered. No matter how scarred. No matter how lacking. No matter how bumbling. No matter how small.

Bringing our little piece to the puzzle... Operating in our strengths... That's what it means to have a "calling". It doesn't mean Loud Voice Saying GO! It doesn't mean Everyone Applauding! It doesn't mean the road signs shouting THIS WAY.

It means saying "Yes, ok" to our strengths, and "Yes, ok" to taking them where they are needed.
No matter how uncertain we feel about that "Yes."

Maybe God will call you to say "Yes, ok" once... maybe twice... maybe a thousand times.
Maybe God will call you to say "Yes, ok" and you will become wildly famous for what you do! The names we all recognize. The lives that make us Jelly. Or maybe you'll be totally invisible and only your life will be shaped by your "Yes, ok."
Maybe God will call you to say "Yes, ok" and your obedience will produce vast recognizable results... or maybe it will just mildly brush up against one small heart.

The small is not less. The last will be first. His is a kingdom for the least of these.

The victory is in "Yes, ok."
The beauty is in, "No, I will not waste the light."
The rest is beyond you, dear one.
The results are not your deal.
Pressure is off.

What is my calling? To show up and do what I can.
So, on Saturday that means I will be teaching a bunch of women from the Word of God... and feeling wildly under-qualified and woefully inadequate and waaaay reluctant... but thankful that He equips and He uses and "Yes, ok."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Mess Speaks

I'm pretty sure people who follow my blog will never want to have children.

But if you read my friend's blog (over at Tall Pine Nest <--link), you'll be jonesing to crank out #allthebabies ASAP. Cauuuse, I mean. Seriously. Adorable. With the poetry and the candles and the library books. Bless. On my very best day, I'm not this cute.

Here's the thing... both stories are telling the truth.
Yes, Susanne really is that "with it" and her life really is that beautiful.
Yes, I really am this conflicted and scattered and melodramatic. In fact, my life is probably more messy than I share... because a girl's gotta have SOME pride. Sheesh. (We shall not speak of how my kitchen floor is coated in so much sand it could almost grow crops.)

She is calm and elegant. I am wild and chaotic. We are both living into who we are... trying to do so in the best way we can.

My daily struggle is to not be a total mess. BUT in the midst of this, I have found a bigger quest: To see the Beautiful in the Mess. To accept daily that all does not need to be polished, pinterest quality, picture worthy, and pristine to be priceless. To be worthy! To leave a legacy.

But sometimes I really doubt myself.
Sometimes I can't see it.
I just can't.

That's why I haven't been writing.

Sometimes I can't see the beauty that's hidden in the avocado and oatmeal covered EVERYTHING that is my life.

Sometimes this beautiful mess just looks like... a mess.
A conflicted, distracted pile of LESS.
A mound of Not Enough.
A mountain of Inadequate.

Sometimes it's clear to me that heaven has given me a struggle + a voice so that I can tell a story that speaks to all our hearts. So that WE can stand strong together and say, "Yes!" to the beauty of an honest struggle. Yes to redemption in chaos. Yes to value without polish. Yes to each other wherever we are. Yes to grace.

But sometimes all I can see here is a loud mouthed whiner who overshares when she should be doing her dishes.

She should get herself together. She should quit sighing and start scrubbing. She should stop shaking her head and start shaking a leg. Maybe if you weren't writing a blog you wouldn't have small boy sized footprints on ev-er-y-thaaang. (Because boys have all the dirt. Always. And no judgement. Ever.)

Sigh.
There's truth on both sides. Right?
Really. I won't pretend that the negative perspective is just wrongheadedness. There's something there. There's a morsel of wisdom. Strength and weakness are often found on opposite sides of the same coin, right? It is good to pine toward the best version of ourselves... but we can't think that this means being someone else.

Being the Best Blair I can be does not mean being Susanne.

All we are, is all we are.

What I am is what I have to offer to you, dear ones. And you offer you. We're only whole together.

And what is more... Everything we have, we have been given. It is not for nothing that He has made you who you are today, and me who I am, and them who they are.

Letting our lives speak is, more often than not, about accepting the voice we have... raising it, even if it's not exactly singing in our favorite key. Even if we're not totally sure what song is being played and we're going pitchy in the chorus.

If we look at our songs in isolation, the off notes can be disheartening. But somehow, together, they make a lovely harmony. When my weakness lets your strength shine, and your weakness let's my voice speak... that's where big magic happens. That's when the mess becomes beautiful.

When I doubt myself, I'm usually just focusing on myself instead of us.
Will you remind me to raise my eyes?
Remind me to lift up my head like those ancient gates that the psalmist sang about, that the King of Glory may come in, strong and mighty.
Remind me that I am a handmaiden serving in a small corner of this big beautiful story, and don't worry because you're serving with me and together we've got it covered.

Remind me, every once in a while, that God can use my mess just as well as my strengths. That His power, with Paul, is made perfect in my weakness... because when I am weak, then I am strong. Remind me that my mess speaks.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Tiniest of Testimonies

I was invited to give my testimony at church. I agreed. And then, in typical Blair fashion, I realized I had double booked my calendar, so I backed out. (I consistently score high marks on the Flake chart. Administration. Not my gifting. Bless my heart.) 

But it got me thinking... (cause I do)... Testimony...

We all have them. Some are more "flashy" than others. Every one's testimony is fascinating to me, because I am a person totally in love with Story. Tell me a story! I will eat it up like candy. But... a testimony is kind of a bad story. It would make a bad book. Because there's no beginning/middle/end thing. Nope. A testimony is a moving picture. There's no place to stop and put your finger down and say, "There's the end of that chapter. That's the moral of that story. There's the tidy conclusion at the end of that bumpy road." It's just not that neat.

Random Morbid Example:
Woman gets cancer. Woman gets treated. Cancer goes into remission. Woman has victory!
The end?
Nope. Maybe Woman gets cancer again... and again...
Maybe woman gets hit by a car and dies in a seemingly senseless way at a seemingly senseless time?
Maybe woman goes on to seemingly waste her life... and the cancer event was kind of the highlight?
What happens to Testimony then?

What happens to testimony when it isn't linear? When it isn't neat? When it doesn't build to a resounding crescendo of strength! Or a deplorable defeat? When it's hard to tell if the main character in the story is a good guy or a bad guy? When everything is kind of... grey? What happens to Testimony when the story... just... meanders? When it does the "ups and downs" thing? When it quietly wanders in obscurity without a tidy "The End" to inspire others?

Every once in a while something MASSIVE happens. Some pivotal event irrevocably alters the way I tell my story, the way I see my story, the way I step into my story... but that's rare.

A year after my son was born, the fabric of my entire life's work/identity/focus/way of living/goals/dreams/sense of worth/etc had been shattered. All my dreams for myself had been taken from me. I had failed all my systems for measuring my own success. All my vision had been smothered. I literally couldn't see my way into the future.
Every day seemed like an eternity because I had no hope... no where to fix my vision...
Every night I would sob raggedly because I had no life left inside me to give to the next day.
I wanted to die.

That was a staggering place to be.
That was a pivotal time.
That was massively story forming.
That shaped me in ways I am still uncovering two and a half years out.

BUT... Most of the time Story is quiet and daily.

Most of the time Story is simply us walking through the fall out of those bomb shell moments... navigating the detritus of identity and trying to see the links in the paragraphs, however hazy they may be. Trying to understand... What is my testimony?

Sometimes I think I can put my finger on it.
1. There was my failure.
2. There was my victory.
3. There is my Testimony.
Then my weaknesses and idols rear their heads yet again and I realize, "Oh, dear little sister, you have not come so far at all." Here are my failures. Here are my victories. Here is my Testimony.

Can we take Testimony back from the Hollywood standards of story telling?
Can we embrace our lives as Odysseys (with all their meandering, rising, falling) rather than expecting Oscars?

At the end (if we even see it coming at all) there may be things left unsaid, victories left unclaimed, character still unpolished. There may be storylines that never found tidy conclusions. There may be identity that hasn't coalesced. There may be conversations still unfinished. (If that doesn't irk your OCD, you're a calmer person than I.) But the Finish Line of this life is no ending at all. Only a chapter. A chapter full of paragraphs, full of sentences, full of lovely words full of nuance. Each day has a tale to tell. Each week has a drama unfolding. Each year brings another season. But it doesn't have to be linear to be blessed. Because the Lord of Story doesn't require polished manuscripts! He delights in the potential of rough drafts.

One day I will get my calendar properly organized and share my testimony before my Church family.

Maybe I'll go after someone with one of those raw and shocking tales that make you shake your head and say, "What a miraculous redemption!"

Maybe I will stand up next and suddenly my little drama (which seemed so big to me) will seem small and simple and easy by comparison?

I would like that... my little drama is small.

And yet, His eye is on the sparrow.
As it dips in the sky and turns its wings to the wind.
As it hoards seed and is buffeted by shifting weather.
One little life. Full of punctuation... weaving a narrative which is never done until it's done.
His eye follows this... The tiniest of testimonies. And it follows mine. And whatever story is written, no matter how incomplete, is blessed because he read it and smiled.