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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Word for Mom’s Who Can’t Even With More Words

((This is more of a book chapter than a blog post, but I figured I'll post it anyway.))

In the mid 90s, my parents very hesitantly agreed to let me watch Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” with the boobyliscious Esmerelda and the very negative portrayal of authority figures. Scandal. (I was the firstborn. Every decision was a major thing. Pocahontas almost broke up the family, bless her heart.)

I remember getting chills and misty eyes when Quasimodo swoops down, grabs up the helpless Esmerelda who is being burned at the stake for being a witch (wow, Disney, dark), escapes to the roof of the towering church, throws up his hands, and cries out “Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” And just like that, the helpless Esmerelda in her sweeping white dress is free. She isn’t pursued any more. She’s out of danger. The mob affirms the cry of “Sanctuary!” that Quasimodo has claimed for her, and Esmerelda checks off another box on her nine lives.

Writing this, I’m hiding behind the vending machines at the YMCA. My kids are in child watch. (I take my 2 hours a day of “free” babysitting very seriously.) For the first time in several high-stress days, I’m alone. On the floor. I haven’t seen another person in 20 minutes. It is heaven. If I sat in the locker room, the old ladies would want to talk to me about their grandchildren, and I just can’t. I can’t even with the grandchildren right now. So right here, right now, I’m claiming this cold patch of blue linoleum behind the over-priced snacks as my sanctuary. I’m throwing up my hands and crying, “Jesus meet me here. On the floor. Next to that dead moth. With Iggy Azalea pumping through the walls from the step aerobics class down the hall. Sanctuary!” And just like that, this is holy ground. And he meets me.

When I’m burdened and tired beyond reason, well-meaning Christians often ask me, “Well have you spent time in the Word, honey? I’m always a mess when I don’t spend time in the Word.” 

Their intentions are good. So good. Hearts of gold, those people. They know from experience that mom-life is like a bowl with a hole; constantly draining the best out of us. They know my life is an eternal one-drop-in-three-drops-out cycle with very few sources of rejuvenation to keep that bowl from going dry. They see I’m running low. They want my cup to run over. They know Jesus is sweet, so they want me to get filled up with Jesus. The only way they know how to tell me to do it is to shove this book we like to call The Word at me.

This morning a helpful little devotion written for moms suggested that I wake up before my children and spent an hour pondering The Word. 

Seeing as I was up late trying to reconnect with my busy husband, tended the needs of an angry, snotty, teething baby every two hours all night long, and was ultimately foisted out of bed for the day at 6:30 by my toddler… this suggestion pretty much just made me want to stab the book in the eyeballs.

Gosh, yall, it’s not that I don’t want to spend some quiet and uninterrupted time in The Word. It would be great to be filled instead of drained like a leaky lady boat, but there ain’t no way I’m waking up at 5 a.m. If I got up at 5:00 a.m., it wouldn’t matter if the Lord Jesus himself appeared. I would be too sleepy to notice. Mornings make me ragey and delirious at the best of times. Don’t speak to me of giving up more sleep. I will loose my mama marbles.

Internally, I churned and fumed over this suggestion as I went through the morning routine of changing all the butts, feeding all the mouths, wiping down all the insanely mucky hands, wiping all the butts again, and redressing the squirming screaming bodies who don’t seem to realize that this happens every day whether they like it or not. A few hours later I finally had everyone strapped into car seats and we were on our way to the YMCA. 

Ed Sheeran was on the radio. The sky was a misty grey that made all the green look electric. It promised a cleansing rain. The children were quiet (probably for the first time in a month). Inside my heart, a small space of peace and gratefulness began to open up. Grace cracked in like a gentle breeze, refreshing a deep-seeded weariness in my body and mind. I felt my jaw unclench and my shoulders uncurl. The goodness of God was so present. I brought my focus there. I was obedient to that good space God was giving to me. I said, “Yes. This and nothing else in this moment.” In the quietness of my heart, I let him show me that I am loved with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting arms. Driving across the busy Victory and Skidaway Road intersection, I drank in The Word.

I’m going to say something that may freak out the die hard conservatives at first, but I really believe we can back this up with scripture:

Spending time in The Word could—at times—have nothing to do with a book. 

For the Jews, The Word was the Torah. The Word of God. The recorded legacy of God’s promises to his people. If you were an ancient Jew and you wanted to spend time in The Word, you read the Torah. Period.

After Jesus comes and turns The Law coo-coo crazy on its head, we find The Word described differently. John tell us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1). 

He? Huh? M’kay, so the book is a boy? No. John is giving us a word picture (no pun intended) of Jesus. The Word = Jesus. Before there was the Torah, before there was a book to sum up God’s promise to his people, there was The Word Jesus.

The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16). Man. I want that. But I’m still not waking up at 5:00 am. 

Here’s the beautiful thing… if The Word is more than The Book, it can dwell in us richly wherever we are. The very next verse assures us of this: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17). It’s a beautiful sequence. “Let the word dwell in you… whatever you do… do it in the Word.”

Some of us mamas desperately need The Word, but the last thing we need is MORE WORDS! My brother-in-law—at 3 years old—was famous for demanding around the dinner table, “Stoppa yah talkin’!” Dang, ladies, don’t we feel that? Please, no more words. Please, in my rare and beautiful moments of silence, not more words. 

The Word? Yes, please!
Wordy word words? Do we have to? 

Maybe the Word could be a quiet, obedient space in our hearts where we are open to his peace, renewed by his grace, soothed by his kind heart for us. Maybe the Word could be the acceptance of his good promise to patch up a few of those leaky holes in our hearts and fill us with the things we lack. Go on and splash some of that goodness on me, Holy Spirit; I’m tired and twitchy from caffeine, touched out, sick of 5-point harness carseats, and I never want to make another PB&J sandwich in my life. 

“Have you spent time in the Word?”

“Well, gosh, The Word sure as heck has been in me! The Word has been dwelling in me richly. In whatever I do, in word or deed, because I’m doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. And bless my buttons, I couldn’t do it any other way.”

Spend time in the Word, my darlings. Make a quiet place in your heart. Let the Word spend some time in you there.

Jesus doesn’t need more of your labors, your doing, your busyness. You are already sacrificing so much for his kingdom. He says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, my sisters, you did for me” (Matt 25:40). He doesn’t ask you to sacrifice 5:00 am to earn a spiritual fill-up. (Or, he might, but, Sista', he isn’t asking that of me! Shoot!) The Word wants to lavish a spiritual fill-up on you. Free of charge. Rest in him. Let him dwell in the quiet spaces of your heart. Cry out, "Sanctuary!" wherever you are, and look for the blessing to enter your heart exactly in that space.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The 428th Time I've Said I Quit

I just self medicated. With pie.

I have been touched too much for one Monday. 

I have heard too many words with a side of whine. I have put out too many fires, saved too many lives. I have invented too much creative fun, redirected too many potential disasters, put on too many tiny clean outfits only to have them smeared with gunk. I have cleaned only to have every room thoroughly wrecked. I have put my wishes for the day patiently on the shelf and met little person needs over and over and over and THEN… 

In the space of twenty minutes, both boys pooped and grabbed their butts while I was trying to wipe them. Poop hands. No. Just, no. I'm over it. There are no cares left to give. I don’t want to see any more poop. No more. Forever. Blessed Jesus, savior of the world, my poop quota has been filled. Amen. Do not even bother me with your poop from now on.

And still the hammering on my nerves doesn’t let up. Older son has been banished! Banished, I say! To the bedroom with you! Don’t think I don’t hear you sneaking up and down the hall trying to swipe fruit and yogurt. Deception is your middle name. You are trying to put me in an early grave. When your feet approach the kitchen, I will be standing there with Devil Fire in my eyes. 

Meanwhile... on the other side of the street...
The neighbors. The Babymama Drama Crew. Usually one sister or auntie or granny will watch the flock of children while the others are out. There is much spanking, flicking, mocking, much yelling, much cussing. (I will never understand calling a 2 year old a mother fucker. I just won't.) There is no kissing, no playing, no affirming. In traditional Puritan fashion, the children are to be seen and not heard. The adults do their own thing. Smoke their weed. Talk on their phones. Visit with their friends. Watch the cars go by. The kids are clean and dressed and fed. Sometimes they do hair. The end. 

But… there is no back sassing. No whining. No tantrums. No crying. No complaining. No disobedience. There are no shenanigans, no screeching, no trouble. Those kids toe the line.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gotten my parenting all wrong. 
Sometimes I seriously doubt myself. You do everything “right” with your kids and it just makes your life harder. You just get punished for it. You give everything to your kids, the very best you have to give, and they just turn out bratty, take you for all your worth, and leave you crying in the bathroom... with pie. 

And that’s where the story ends for now. 

My husband has always said he likes how I can take a super dark place and turn it into something positive and up-lifting. It’s good to redeem story… but this is a story that hasn’t run into redemption yet. 

I’m just so friggin tired. 

I need more pie.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What If?

Why does "What If?" tend to paralyze us when it could just as easily empower and propel us forward?

Why do we face unknowns and say "What if ____________" and fill in the blank with every horror and negative outcome possible?

We could just as easily fill in the blanket with achievement, love, connection, success, laughter, compassion and victory. "What if I fall?" could just as easily be "What if I fly?" But we're rarely brave enough to go there. Imagining the worst somehow seems more responsible. As if mentally noting that it could happen will somehow keep it come knocking at our door.

"What if" is the pitfall of the worrier, but it could also be the gateway of the dreamer.

"What if" can stop us in our tracks, or it could fuel us with hope and direction.

None of us can control the future, but we can control our inner monologue with "What If"... and I think that could radically change our joy, our willingness to risk, our openness, our light.

Today I'm committing to thought-check myself when I begin to ask, "Well, what if ______."  I'm committing to nod at the negative, but only fill in that blank with hope. I won't ignore the scary possibilities, but I'm only going to record the good.

Who knows what will happen... but What If its awesome?

Friday, September 4, 2015

How To Get Rich Quick-ish

"Who wants to have me over tonight? My husband and son are gone. Feeling lonely."
"No me!"
"I'll fight you for it."
"No fighting. The more the merrier."
"I'll bring sesame noodles."
"I have chicken."
"I was about to cook eggplant parmesan... I'm bringing that too!"
"We'll have a feast."
"See you soon... and by soon, I mean whenever I get around to putting pants on."

It started with a group Facebook message. Five minutes later two of my best friends, their babies, and various incongruous entrees tromped into my house. Just like that. No preparation. No fuss. We tomahawked a bottle of wine, heated up three different dinners that all ended up tasting amazing together, and chattered for hours about everything. 

I swear it's not the wine talking, but I'm about to get really sappy... because I'm feeling ALL THE LOVE.

This, my dear friends, is life! Real Life. The way it was meant to be. The way it has been through history until very recently.
This is joy. This is meaning. 
This is why I don't worry about being poor. 
This is why I don't fret about whether or not I will be able to achieve a noteworthy job title. 
Because I belong. My children belong. Because of our people, we have a place.

True wealth is not measured in units of currency but in memories, stability, and loving community. You can't buy that. It is the only thing that really gives joy and helps when you're hurting. 

The first time that God ever identified anything wrong with creation was when he said, "It's not good for a person to be alone." 
We were not created to pour ourselves into ourselves for the sake of ourselves. 
We were created for each other. 

When we live connected to one another, we are at home in our own hearts, in the world, and in our place in history. The turbulent uncertainty, the lack of meaning, the pervasive FOMO ("fear of missing out") that so often plagues our generation... it all seems thin and insubstantial when you're surrounded by stories you're invested in, faces you love, people who are committed to life with you through thick and thin.

I watched a documentary once that showed Tanzanian women just sitting under a tree, watching their babies, chatting, peeling sticks. For hours. Day after day. At the time, I was living at such a frenetic pace pursuing career and wealth and prestige, I couldn't even begin to wrap my mind around how they could do it. "Aren't they bored to death? I would just get depressed and die with so little purpose. It seems like a wasted life. What's the point?" 

Now I understand. 
When life is all about My Story is it one dimensional, vapor thin, and so liable to failure. But when life is about us, there is depth and color and character. One stumbles, the other supports. We need less stuff, because we have more love. We don't have to struggle to extend ourselves into the future through our childrens' performance (thereby overtaxing them and burdening them with conditional love)... we're free to let them be free because because we're happy! We see that the present is beautiful just as it is.

Find your people, People. 
They won't be perfect. You may not feel a connection right away. You probably won't instantly gel. But pick some folks. Commit to each other. Celebrate together weekly. Find ways to meet needs and show love and listen. Discuss. Play. Sing. Goof off. Be serious. Be ridiculous. Before you know it, you'll be rich beyond your wildest imagination.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bull Honkey: Limits and Lady Life

Some of the inspirational quotes on Pinterest are fully and completely BULL HONKEY.
(I do NOT know where that phrase came from. My mom used to say it. We're gonna go with it.)

Let's address...

"You are confined only by walls you build yourself."

Bull Honkey.
You're also confined by your health and physical limitations, your relationships with others, your financial security or (let's be real) lack thereof. And the list could go on.

"When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll succeed."

Bull Honkey!
I have longed for success more than my own health before... you know where that put me?
In the hospital.
The mind is far stronger than the body. Only a mind that is respectful of the body will lead you to success in the long run.

"She believed she could, so she did!"

Bull Honkey!
She believed she could, so she gave 110% and life still knocked her on her ass. She got back up. It knocked her down again. She got back up... she still hasn't done it yet, but she's still getting up and THAT is beautiful.

Don't get me wrong. There's some great "get 'er done" words of encouragement out there too.... but let's quit pretending we don't have limits! Let's quit pretending we can just make up our minds to get what we want and then run rough shod over everything that stands in our way: our bodies, our minds, our health, our people, our peace.

If you get what you dream, but you trample everything else in the process... you have not succeeded.

So I'm editing those Bull Honkey phrases:

"You are confined by many walls... grow beautifully in them, or climb carefully over them. Either is good. I salute you."

"When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe... breathe deeper. Look harder. Success may be different than you originally thought."

"She believed she could... so every damn time she fell flat on her face trying, she tried again. And her journey created a story more beautiful and compelling than her destination."

Sisters, can I get real for a minute?

The men in our lives tend to have more linear stories than we do. Babies have a lot to do with that. Men will never at any point in history have to make the babies, birth the babies, nurse the babies. Unfortunately, one version of feminism has pushed women to deny their biology, pass the labor of child birth and rearing off on others, and take hold of the same kind of successes as men at the same pace. (Emphasis on "at the same pace.")

I think we need to just press pause for a sec... realize that we actually live in a world full of natural limits... and that's ok!!! Most women have a biological engineering to bear the brunt of the baby burden. Sucks? Yeah. Kinda does sometimes. Would be nice if we could have divvied that up a little better, God. But there is this amazing strength that can come out of that story... not if we over come it, treat it like it doesn't have a hold on us, but if we accept it, lean into it... and still rise strong.

What if we could be ok with a journey that isn't straight/direct/simple/clean/un-messy?

How many women have staggered and stopped when their journey went wonky (by the typical male standard/timeline), because they felt like, "Well, kids came and that plan went woefully off the rails. Guess I'm just a mommy now."

I want women to lean fully into their roles as mothers... and then keep dreaming. Maybe a different dream than they dreamed before... but keep dreaming and doing!

It's hard. But it's harder because of Bull Honkey messages like "The only limitations we have are the ones we create." Stupid. Embracing our limitations helps us to pause, sit on a rock, catch our breath, and then keep climbing that dang mountain.

Women of the World, you can be richly, completely, fully female in this world and write your own success story. You can wow the universe without feeling like your body and womanhood have betrayed you. Let's set a new standard. "Made it by 35" might not work for us, but that doesn't make us less. That's just Bull Honkey.