Sunday, September 18, 2016

Risk Yourself

“Risk honesty and awareness.”
That was the end of a sentence I read this morning. It was the beginning of a clarity of vision as refreshing as an Autumn breeze after a Savannah summer.
This morning at breakfast I asked my husband what he wanted to do. (We’re struggling with church choices. Feeling split. Tired. Cramped.) In his typical strong passive way he said, “I can go either way.”
Something moved in my heart for him right then.
For once it wasn’t frustration. “Oh would you just decide!”
Or annoyance. “You always dump the choice on me!”
There was no hopelessness. “I married a man who doesn’t give a shit.”
It was tenderness. Real love. No sneaky judgement.
In this moment of silver clarity, I saw the sweep of his story. The baby brother. The youngest twin of a charming sister who bends the world around her story. The little guy. The easy going one. The roll he fulfilled. The safety in letting other louder, pushier, picker people go on with their bad selves. Judging from behind. And I said, “I know you can go either way. Your strength has always been in your adaptability. From the very beginning of your story you were the one who could deal with it. But… don’t just submit to something that works this time. Look deeply. Think honestly. Then choose what grows your soul. Do it for us. Catch as much soul sun as possible and bloom! So that you can be nourished and strong and lead us well. So that you can let me rest in your shade.”
Risk… Risk knowing what you want. Risk understanding what your heart needs to be strong. Risk honesty. Risk awareness. Risk saying, “This. Not that. For me. Because when I am strong, we are stronger.”
This is a powerful call. A dangerous mission. For all of us.
When we know what we need, we risk conflicting with what someone else needs. When we say, “No” we risk collision with someone else’s “Yes.” When we choose, we risk being wrong. It is much safer to say, “Whatever.”
But where does “Whatever” lead us? Really? Calm waters grow dark things. Could it be that when we abandon the work of Risking Honesty and Awareness we consign ourselves to living in a manufactured shell of disingenuousness that doesn’t allow us to grow whole, healthy, straight, strong? The alternative to risking a true knowledge of what Jesus created in our true hearts is to adapt to easy things, like old shoes, that are not a true fit for our souls… because it’s harder to put on a life that fits and supports. Becoming hunched and shriveled from lack of space and light.
Or we could say, “I need… I choose… I feel… I hope… I dream… I pray… I love… I hate… I risk…”
Risk… Risk stretching your arms, your thoughts, your will into even the dark places of your own heart. Open the windows and look inside. There are monsters there. Have no doubt. But there are also treasures. I’m sure. Do it for all of us. When you’re strong, we’re stronger.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Heal an Anxious Heart

My body has officially called it quits.
Nausea. Back spasms. Jaw stiffness. Trouble swallowing. Nerve pain. 
This is what it looks like when my nervous system says, "I warned you with the racing heart thing and you didn't listen. Well now I've had enough! If you don't hide me and protect me from all the unsafe and hurtful things and the angry people, I (your body) WILL kill you, muff fluffer. Yes I will." It's been a stressful month, and apparently this is the line in the sand.
Ya'll... there are lots of stressed out people in the world, but if you legitimately struggle with ANXIETY (and by that I mean, no matter how positive you feel, how deep your faith, how hopeful your outlook, or how centered your mind, your body rebells and is convinced you're going to die if you don't stop EVERYTHING), then it is hard to navigate hard stuff. And hard people. With more hard stuff on top. Like, legit. Really hard. 
While our nation is reeling... the sad truth is, the layers of hurt haven't stopped in the other corners of our lives. It's just one more thing on top of an already teetering pile. Our cities are still in turmoil, our communities are still limping, our churches are still failing, our marriages are still laboring, our children are still difficult, our jobs are still heavy and our bank accounts light... our hearts are tired... and sometimes it's all too much. Sometimes our Feels just get maxed out. Especially those of us who Feel Everything So Deeply. 
So, if your feet are strongly planted and your heart is brave, if you want to do something to heal our hurt nation but feel limited... hug someone with anxiety. A long hug. Not with an awkward back pat. Tell them, "It's ok. We're going to be ok." 
You can't heal the whole world, but it's beautiful how a little love can heal a heart. 
And what beautiful things can a healed heart do?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hiding. Honesty. And Kids. Oh My.

As I creep up on 30, I'm finding that I can't hide my weaknesses like I used to. And I'm kind of mad about it.

I never liked exercise... but I didn't have to because I had a lean, athletic figure. Now I have a borderline-dumpy mom bod that I can't shake. A year and a half after Baby #2, my Fat Pants are just my Pants Pants. Because I don't exercise. Because it requires getting so many humans fully dressed... I just... so many...

I never liked tidying up... but I didn't have to. I would set everything PRECISELY RIGHT... staged... and then not mess it up. One area would be allocated to mess (bedroom). Clean zones stayed clean. Messy zone was hidden behind a door. Boom. Perfect system for the person who hates to tidy and also hates mess. Take that KonMari!  But now. Small children. That's all. Small children. Everything is a wreck. And I still dislike constant tidying. So... you see where I'm going with this...

I've always managed stress by losing myself in work... good work that I love. There is no greater peace than getting utterly swept away in a project, a hunt, a quest, a story. There is purpose, clarity, intention, focus, excitement, possibility. All the perfect things. There's nothing more secure than blocking everything out except the chess-like mental chain of "what is the next move in this?" Everything is crystalline in that brain space. I used to be able to hide the oddness of this obsessive tendency by blaming school. I could say no to everything else because I had to study, write, read. That made me a good student. What kind of an adult does it make me? Frustrated. Because Small Children. And weird. Because Social Life.

I'm a bit of an obsessive eater... I can either Not Eat. Or I can Eat. And I mean EAT. Once I put the first bit in my mouth... I keep putting bits in. Pre-Kids I controlled this tendency with a very severe food schedule (and by loosing myself in work... you see a pattern, yes?). Now I serve three meals a day + snack + extra meal for picky eater + emergency park snacks stuffed in my purse + late night meal for nigh-shift husband + shoveling my food into my mouth standing over the trash can so I can't remember if I ate at all... Or, in other words, Small Children.

Small Children.  They stripped away my carefully constructed defenses against my own weak and weird self.

And all my friends are going through the same thing by degrees.... which is scary.

The closer we get to 30, the more it becomes clear: We can't hide our weaknesses any more. We're admitting we're alcoholics, sex addicts, hoarders, misers, depressive, anxious, angry, fat, food-obsessed, drug-dependent, moody, or neurotic. All around me! The perfection screen is dropping. Our foibles are no longer the charming personality quirks of the bright and the beautiful. They are morphing into the ugly scars and limps of yet another failure to grow up to be perfect. Yet another disappointing outcome, a little over a decade after a glowingly hopeful high school graduation speech. We are becoming our Fathers and Mothers. We are becoming their friends. We are the older and more inglorious.

And we can't hide our weaknesses any more. To ourselves or others.

And when I'm honest, I don't want to.

Honesty is where true growth happens.
Honesty is where true grace lives.
Honesty is where real relationships begin to sink roots.
Honesty is the tender ground where we deal with our own infections and tenderly knit our hearts together where they've been bleeding for too long.
Honesty is ugly. But it's not lying. It's not hiding. It's not smiling away shame.

So, honestly, Thank You Small Children... You were what it took for me to face myself.

Thank you for showing me what really matters. People.
Thank you for telling me that my "big squishy jiggly belly is so soft and cozy"... You are teaching me what true beauty is. And it's not a size 2.
Thank you for frustrating my best intentions to create a perfect exterior. You have taken down my sneaky walls of fear and shame and invited all kinds of grace and connection in.
Thank you for pushing me to my limits and way past them. You've let me say "I am weak. And I am strong." and really know what that means.

Thank you for making me see myself clearly and know myself better. It's not always pretty, but it's mine... and I'm going to live it. 25 lbs over my ideal weight. But thankful.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Freedom in the Middle of the Fray... and Other Things I Thought This Morning

There's this cool stillness in the morning... when you can hear the delivery trucks on Victory Drive and the air isn't sticky. You haven't even written your To Do list, so you haven't even thought about how much to worry. Failing to cross things the list off isn't even a possibility yet. Everything is still and new and you haven't f;ed anything up yet.

There's this ritual where you make the coffee. Counting scoops in your head. And it has just begun to bubble with that perfect smell that promises new life... but it hasn't gone cold or bitter from the 6th reheating in the microwave. So basically all is right with the world.

There's clarity and possibility and tranquility and second chances.... and then everyone wakes up.

There's this thing called Life. It isn't full of peace and devoid of mess.

It isn't free of war or short on ass holes.

It isn't bliss. It's just not. Bliss is single life... when you're 10.

But this is our ridiculous, tumultuous place.

Everything was charming... and then you woke up.

Your shit storm isn't even an actual shit storm. It's called Having a Pulse. Welcome home.

AND HOLLA!!! There's so much freedom in recognizing that mess doesn't equal wrong. That tumult doesn't signal failure.

There's freedom in knowing that conflict doesn't tell us that relationship has failed, but that relationships are happening.

There's joy and hope in believing that disagreement doesn't mean we've failed to harmonize, but that we care about getting there...

There's blessing in believing that unsteady knees don't indicate that you're too weak to walk, but remind you that you've been struggling and busting it on a difficult climb.

There's this super power that we can all have... called grace. There are these eyes that look at mess without judgement, but also not lacking in aspirational hope.

..... Quiet mornings remind me of two things:
1) That our beings were made for peace.
2) And that peace is so not real life... but the longing for it IS.

I'm reminded that crazy is not an alien experience. It's the texture of life. We should be at home here... but also we will always be homeless in it.

Something better calls to us with a deep seated longing to "put it right." We are peace seekers.... (yes, even the war-like uber-conservatives and the whiney uber-liberals!) We want to put it right and have harmony. We believe that's our true home. We want to live in the peace of the cool early morning. But we can't run from the fight. If peace is our home, the struggle is our true journey.

Quiet mornings call to me...
Don't grieve the reality of the journey. Don't loath the impending waking up of the Minions. The struggle matters. The struggle is not a failure to have the goal, but a persistent belief that there is a goal and that we will get there.
Don't give up on the true promise of Better. Don't disbelieve in the hope of peace.
Rest for a moment, warrior. Then get back in the fray.
Take heart. I have overcome.

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.


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.

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


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.)

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.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent... It's not Christmas, that's for sure. It's not a season when we're hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It's not a season that glitters. It's a season that begins with a smear of ashes. With the words, "Remember that you will die."

Ho ho ho. Bleh.

It's only Friday... I've only been fasting for three days. Not very well, I might add. I eliminated Facebook... but then added cake... because there was a void in my soul that needed filling. (If I skip cutting it into slices and just eat the whole cake with a fork, it's only one piece, right? Right. I have eaten one piece of cake in three days.)

Anyway... three days... and already it's becoming clear... my joy and stability is mostly founded on a carefully contrived system that I tenderly guard to preserve myself from suffering. And it has begun to quaver. I took out one little piece of the scaffolding that holds me together on a daily basis and the foundation of my tenuous joy is already wobbling. Already I have been forced to remember what a dry, dusty foundation my life stands on. How fragile is my joy. How easily blown to bits.

Now, I'm not one to say, "Oh, well, if I can just stuff enough Bible into the Facebook void I'm going to find true joy." Come on, now. Don't play. If you've walked a long, enduring Christian walk, you know it's not magic. Not poof. Not instant fix. It's a longer, quieter road to righteousness.

And, really, I don't think that's actually the point. The point is not to look at my quavering knees and think, "Ah ha, I will do more things and be stronger." Lent has a different call, if we'll listen.

Lent doesn't call us to see that the halls are bare... and deck the halls.
Lent doesn't invite us to recognize that the foundation is weak... and choose trappings and tra la la.
Lent calls us just pause and to look at the empty house... to be present and reflect on its meager state.

Lent calls us to repentance.
Ah, look. How paltry is my joy.
Ah, look. How feeble is my devotion.
Ah, look. How anemic is my faithfulness, how emaciated is my courage in Christ, how misguided my values, how misplaced my sense of meaning.
Ah, look... How deep is my need for Jesus.

Because fasting is not a form of Christian calisthenics to muscle up to the bar of God's favor. It's just a more honest reflection on the truth of our state of being. It moves us physically, toward a more stripped-down place... so that we can see and understand the unvarnished truth about ourselves more clearly. So we can realize we were never truly happy. Never fully satisfied. Never actually complete. Not on our own.

Lent. Sigh. I'm not a huge fan.

It makes me feel exposed. It makes me feel vulnerable. I work hard to patch up the limping, gaping holes in my nature (to bandage rather than heal my hurt)... to cobble together as much happiness as I can rend out of life's stones. And Lent, darn Lent, comes in and shines a light in the corners and shows that the house I'm living in is all paper mache.

Remember that you are but dust... Remember that you will die...

Lent calls me to turn toward something greater than contrivance... something more enduring... something that will last and stand... something that will not blow away...

The stakes are high. And the battle cannot be won by decking the halls.

Thank you, Lent, for being the season when Honesty is king. When the Hall Decking must be put paused and the barrenness of our place without Jesus must be reckoned with. You will never be my favorite. I like your pretty sister, Christmas, much better. But I appreciate you. You turn down the static music on the radio dial and you make me listen to the empty air waves so that I know that what I really long for is a full symphony... and in doing so, you make the promise of Easter more clear, more poignant, more perfect. More deeply to be desired.

Thanks, Lent. I guess.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lent for Depressed People

Last year I wrote this as a Facebook Post.... I'm posting it here again this year for posterity. ;) Posterity. haha.

It’s Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. For the average American it means hurling beads and partying into the night. For those of us who observe the liturgical calendar of the church, it’s the day before the season of Lent begins. We party into the night eating up all our soon-to-be-forbidden foods… goodbye sugar in my coffee! I’ll miss you so. 

Lent: it’s a gloomy season when we reflect on the brokenness of the world and the corrosive, degrading, cancerous rust of sin within ourselves. Last year Lent arrived, for me, on the heels of an epic nervous breakdown. Postpartum depression had wrecked me. My mental health was shattered. I had descended into a nearly catatonic state of dark joyless exhaustion with life… and then Lent came. I was supposed to give up something and reflect on the aching imperfection of the world. Just when I thought I couldn’t go lower, Lent came to crush me a little further down. It was too much.

This year Lent finds me in a new place. After a year of healing, I’m feeling whole. I have a spirit of expectation and hope for this season… but I remember the desperation I felt last year. So I wanted to write a word to those who might be entering this season with depression in the mix.

1 - Lent reminds us we’re not perfect. Take advantage of that. Don’t worry about fixing you. God adores you where you are. Isn’t that the whole point? Weak and small and quavering, you are richly adored and accepted. You don’t have to stand up. You don’t have to struggle. All mercy is available to you just the way you are. Give yourself grace.

2 - Lent reminds us of our need. You’re already in a place with a lot of need. You don’t need to manufacture it through fasting like “the happy people.” Rather than giving something up, practice asking for help and accepting love. Acknowledge your need by reaching out for the loving hands that are ready to support you.

2 - Lent is a time of reflection… so reflect on hope. Take it as an opportunity to meditate on the coming of Christ’s light. Hope is on the way. Easter is coming. You’re not alone. You are not forgotten. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). Meditate on the hope that Jesus promises will come to us even when we are in a place of darkness.

I think I could keep going… but let’s keep it simple. Three points are enough for today.

Take this as a season of peace, not sorrow; a season of hope, not despair; a season for loving yourself even while you may feel broken, because that’s how the God of the universe loves you. The Light will come no matter how dark the darkness.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Monday, January 25, 2016

How To Make A Holy Moment

Just the tiniest of words to you tonight... it jumped off the page at me and stuck in my mind all day:

"God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work of creation which he had done." Genesis 2:3

The seventh day was holy. Why? Because "he rested in it."

It was special... because he took a moment to stop.

It was sacred above all others... because he ceased creating and surveyed and smiled.

If God was an American, all the other six days would be the holy ones and the seventh day would be called "vacation" and we'd kind of pretend like it was less important than the others.

But he called the resting Holy. He exalted it.

We have been given an example, and in this example we have been given an amazing (dare I say supernatural?) power... to make Holy Moments. To create Holy Space. To set aside a Sabbath. To step into a Tabernacle. To meet the Lord. And it's so simple, we often miss it... rest.

We only need to lay down our frantic hands, lift up our heads, and rest.

That's a magical moment right there. That moment is made holy. We are met. We receive. He is good.

That's all.


Ok, ok... just kidding... one more thing.

A zillion years ago I saw a Jackie Chan movie... in which he gets stranded in this backwater peasant Chinese town. He has to help plant rice. Every day he rushes to be the fastest planter. Every evening he is so sore and tired he can barely move, and his work is so bad it has to be redone. He can't figure out how everyone around him can finish their work well and still be full of life... then he begins to notice... every time a breeze comes by, everyone stops. They stand up. They raise their arms. They close their eyes. They feel the breeze. And then they continue. They are refreshed. He tries it. It radically changes his life.

That movie clip has spoken truth to me many times since then. But I don't remember the name of the film. I've searched for it on YouTube a million times. Take my word for it.

This is what God builds into our life rhythm from the very beginning of creation: Rest. And it isn't a waste of time and it isn't a sign of weakness and it isn't a cop out. It is essential. So essential, he calls it Holy so we'll pay attention. And when I want a visual picture of what that looks like and why that's true.... I think of Jackie Chan... standing in the rice patty... feeling the breeze.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Being Human In Front of Our Kids

Things got real tonight. Lots of things hit lots of fans. I hit a wall I've been barreling towards for a long time.

Tonight I hit the wall in front of my 3 year old. (PS - You can't plan where you hit walls... which, for people with anxiety, can be a point of concern. O_o) Anyway! One thing lead to another, and some unique opportunities presented themselves, and that's why I'm writing this. Not because I thought you should know I had a temper-tantrum. (Which I did. I had a major temper-tantrum. It was not cute.) But because of what happened between me and my son in the middle of it...

Ok... So... After I simmer down and wipe away my snot, tears, and mascara streaks, I always think it's funny to look back and see what teeny weeny thing broke the camel's back this time. (The tipping point is always teeny weeny, isn't it? The problems can be huge, but it's gonna be something dumb that makes you cry.)

This time it was the lamp... the kids unplugged it. I tried to turn it on and it didn't work. I had to climb over a zillion things (Things not in their proper place! Things I should not have to put away for the gazillioneth time! THiiiiiiiNGS!) to get it back in working order.

The lamp. Completely tipped me over the edge. There was thrashing. There was tantruming. There was weeping and wailing. There was flailing of arms and stamping of feet. There was curling up into the fetal position. There were convulsive sobs. I am not proud.

And once I finally got it together... (and by "got it together" I mean there were rivers of tears still running down my face, but I was functioning well enough to get the 3 year old into bed)... He asked me, "Why you are crying?"

Oh sisters. We can't hide our crazy from our kids. They see it all. We try to be strong for them, but we're messy babies on the inside more than we would like to admit.

"Why are you crying?"

Of course that pushed me into another fit of sobs. With my face in my hands, I resolved right then and there to tell him the truth. He deserves the truth. Children are much wiser than we give them credit. And I remember asking my mom why she was upset and her always trying to hide it or not let us in... and somehow that was more confusing than ever... so I told the truth.

"I'm crying because I am so tired. I'm a big mom, but I'm also just a person... so I get upset when things are hard for me. It is very hard to be a mommy. No one can help me be your mommy... I'm the only one in the world. And sometimes that makes me so tired. 

But, Eames, This is the most important thing... I love you. It is not your fault. You are a good boy. And you do not have to fix mommy. That's not your job. You never have to fix mommy or make it better.

Daddy and God will take care of mommy when she gets upset. If you want to be a helper, you can pat mommy's back and say, "It's ok Mommy. I love you." But don't worry. It's ok to cry when we get upset."

So that's what he did. He put his little arms around my neck and said, "You're ok Mommy." Then he climbed in bed with his current favorite book (The Fox In The Dark) and peacefully blew me a kiss goodnight.

He just witnessed a major melt down of his primary source of security and strength... it could have ripped open a wound of anxiety in him. Especially him! My very anxious and control-oriented little one.
But I was honest. "Mommy has used up all her energy."
And I was clear. "Mommy's emotional state is not your responsibility, dear one."
And I was intentional. "You are loved no matter what."
And he feels safe.
And it's ok.

It's ok to cry in front of our kids, if we can tell them the truth: We are older and wiser, but we are still weak and vulnerable. Even though we're not perfect, you are safe, secure, and loved.

It's ok to be human in front of our kids. It's good! We don't want them growing up with this notion that they will one day leave their struggle behind and become emotionless balls of strength that never fail. No! That's crazy talk. We know it's not true... so we want them entering adulthood OK with the fact that they're not perfect. What better way to prepare them for the struggle than by struggling in front of them with love.

It also prepares them to have compassion for the weak. What are we teaching them about those who struggle when we treat struggle itself like an anathema to hide away? No, sisters, our struggle is for us all. It is the glue that binds us. It is the song that calls us to community. It is the tonic that teaches us how to love others. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

What a gift to know, "A person who struggles out loud, but does not withhold love, is strong."

What a gift to feel that even when the foundation of your life is trembling, it will not collapse.

Tell the truth. To yourself. To your children. The truth will set us free.
It is the most beautiful, messy story. Everything else pales in comparison.

Friday, January 15, 2016

When all else fails, do not fail Hope.

Depression always seems to have me in its clutches before I've recognized that it's nipping at my heels.

Depression... It's like a ninja. If you see it, it's too late.

Lately I've been exhausted. Irrationally physically tired. Just foggy and blurry in the head.
No place feels better than my bed.
I've been disinterested... no TV shows are entertaining, no books seem appealing (even though I have a stack of my favorites next to my bed), no study calls my name, no quest or project seem engaging (except my book, which I pursue with a rote doggedness that borders the relentless rather than the joyful).
At the end of every day, at the end of every week, I feel a sense of dread that I have to repeat the same moves again in just one sleep. Just one interrupted sleep, shattered every morning by an angry cry from a tiny person who has no mercy with my moods.

Oh I shake it off. Diligently. I shake it all off and square my shoulders and lean down and wipe that food off the floor one more time. But there's an extra layer of difficulty to the act... An extra layer of will power that must be applied to push aside the haze of weariness.

It strikes me that these are the mumblings of a language I've heard before... the language of depression. But I'm ok. I'm ok. I'm fine. Fiiiiine. Really. I feel fine. Except for all that. And when is it time to look at all of that and say, "I'm less fine than I could be."

If you're smelling smoke, there's likely fire coming down the valley, right?
But even if there is... what can I do about it?

The tired. The sad. The bored. The lack of joy. The lack of care. They lack of umph. They aren't things I choose or practice. I'd say I'm actively choosing and practicing exactly the opposite. But it's like running through a pond in rubber overalls... the straining forward for goodness is being sucked at by a weightiness that's almost beyond you... and the more you strain for the goodness, the more you feel the pull of the weight... but if you give into the weight... you sink. And straining for goodness is so normal that you forget to even stop and ask, "Why is it hard? Shouldn't this be easier in the first place?"

If you can't work it away and you can't rest it away... what do you do?

I don't know.

When Work and Rest fail me, I often go for Change.
I rearrange the furniture. I try a new hair cut. I reorganize the cabinets.
But to do those things, you need to overcome apathy.
And right now, right at this moment in time, apathy is winning.
I'm tired.

When Work and Rest and Change fail me... am I depressed?

Tomorrow is Saturday. My husband is working the night shift. Again. I'll be alone for dinner and bath and bedtime stories and the witching hour with the baby. And I'll be tired. I can't even think about it. I can't...

And right now that's all I have. Not work. Not rest. Not change. Right now those tools are failing me. Right now all I have is the raw determination not to flounder. Not to think about the things that pull me down. Not to give up. Not to blink and loose sight of whatever flickering hope each new day holds. And the knowledge that if I keep my eyes keenly turned away from the darkness, I can find it. The light.

That's what I have right now. That's what I do. Hope.

Monday, January 11, 2016

World Peace for Women: Nailed It!

It's that feeling... when you've just left church (or maybe you're even still there)... and everyone's smiling and saying "Hey! Good to see you!" Your heart is happy to be surrounded by Dear Ones... and your heart is sad. Your heart is thankful for all the things it should be thankful for, but you feel like sulking in the corner and pulling some middle school move to make people say, "What's wrong?!" You feel lonely in a crowded room. You feel invisible as everyone looks at you, but doesn't really Look At You.

Our lives can be filled with community, and somehow lack connection.
Our lives can be filled with love, and somehow lack relationship.
Our lives can be blessed beyond reason, and we can still feel like pouting in the corner.

Or maybe it's just me.

Here's what's weird, ladies... like, really, weird...

We are all sitting in our homes longing for a friend. For relationship. For a gal pal. For someone to pick up the phone. We're all thinking, "Gosh I really want to go beyond the surface. I want to be wanted, known, desired, seen, pursued." We're all saying "Heeeey" at church and wishing we could move past the small talk and move in to that beautiful heart place where we grieve and celebrate our genuine lives together. We all want each other.

So what's the hang up?

Every woman I've ever talked to feels like she wants more!
More care. More closeness. More unity. More visibility. More connection.

So why don't we have it? If we're all feeling this way, why does a day ever go by when we don't hear the words, "Hey, how are you?" from a voice that really means it, in a space that's suitable to really answering? Why do weeks pass without sitting down face to face with a sweet friend who can say "Me too. Yes. I hear you." How hard can it be? For the love!

Here's what I think happens....

There are Reachers... usually the extroverts... the ones who pick up the phone and call. The ones who don't like to be alone, so they reach out, and reach out, and reach out. They coordinate and invite and plan. They make Facebook events and keep up with what's going on around town. They make a lot of last minute calls to try to rope friends into their schemes... because they get life from being with you.

Then there are the Receivers... often the introverts. (If you are a Receiver, you probably don't want to admit it... but I see you! You'd rather others do the reaching for you. Fess up.) The Receivers are happy at home alone (at least happier than the Reachers) so they don't pick up the phone. They don't call. They stay quiet. They putter. They wall themselves up. They're so glad that there are Reachers in this world, because it's not that they don't want to see you... it's just that they don't think about it until it's too late. They get wrapped up in their stuff and they don't reach... because they get life from being with you, but they also get exhausted from being with you. So it's a toss up.

But the Reachers get tired of reaching. They want to be receivers for a while... so they stop. They go into their holes and wait. They're testing you. Will you return their love? But no one calls... because the Receivers don't reach. It's not in their DNA. So the Reachers get sad. And the Receivers get lonely too, but this makes them withdraw even more... and then everyone is drifting apart like particles in the universe...

We can fix this. We can't fix everything... world peace is still distant. Poverty is kind of huge. We can't fix everything, but we can fix this. We can. We can make everyone feel seen and heard. We can solve loneliness. We can eradicate one of the great wounds of the human condition.

Reachers... you need to get intentional about your reaching. Strategize. Don't wear yourself out. Don't reach in a million different directions. And when you start to feel worn thin, don't retreat. There is middle ground between reaching and retreating. I'm not sure what it's called... maybe "rest"? Stay there for a bit. Remember that you are loved, and just recuperate your strength. Don't, whatever you do, don't let yourself get lonely and convince yourself that you're unloved. Or, worse, unlovable. If you go there, no one will be able to find you and bring you back.

Receivers... you need to make space in yourself to reach. Not all the time. But, pick someone. Pick one day a week. Pick up the phone. If you don't know what to say, ask what the person is making for dinner. Anything. Don't do it for yourself, do it for them. Pick a reacher and reach back. I promise they will reward you richly for the love you share.

That's all... I just feel like we can do this, ladies. I feel like we can heal hurting hearts with simple human connection. It's how God designed us to function. Let's get after it!

Loving Opposites

When we love others--especially our children--we teach them what is lovable about themselves.

Which is interesting... and tricky... and dangerous... because our values and preferences get in the way. Who I am, how I've been loved, what I love, changes how I can love my children... and this changes how they can love themselves.

What a scary prospect. What a scary position to be in.

Having two boys who are so wildly different from each other, I'm already beginning to sense this unique challenge embedded in parenting.... how to love each child in such a way that their unique strengths flourish, their personal weaknesses are bolstered, they believe in the unimpeachable permanence of their own deep worth just as they are, AND they don't feel any sense of competition or comparison or inequitable love between each other.

As I was thinking about writing this, I had the one year old curled up contentedly in my lap working on building a lego tower (put the blocks together, take them apart, study their sides, put them together again, take them apart. Over and over.)... while the 3 year old was running back and forth squealing like crazy, working up a baby sweet sweat, and throwing socks at my head as I lobbed them back with psshew! pshew! sounds.

Everyone was having a grand time being exactly who they are. Exactly opposites.

One child is studious and intentional.
The other is passionate and creative.
One child is sweet to everyone.
The other is fiercely loyal.
It's not an age thing. It's who they are at their core... from the moment they came out.

Fact: Our culture values the quiet, studious, intentional, puzzle solver. Our culture is less appreciative of the wild, squealing, passionate, sock hurling mighty-man.

But they are both beautifully essential just as they are.

Our culture is wrong.

Each small boy is a budding man who has his perfect place in this world.

As parents, we must intentionally reject the notion that one way of being is better than another because it is more advantageous to career and finances. We cannot smash our wild men into tiny boxes. We cannot chide our box builders into greater wild-man-ism. When we try to change their natures, we water down their strengths. We must celebrate and take pride in the natural wonder of their first inclinations and help those to flourish.

What a challenging roll to take. Sometimes I feel like I'm living with split personality trying to love everyone the way they need to be loved.

Add to that a husband... and myself... and we're all so different but we're all yearning for understanding and connection. Wow.

God equip us to love others as they need to be loved, not as we wish to love them.
God empower us to appreciate what you have designed, just as it is.
God redeem where our strengths have erred into weaknesses.

And all for your love's sake.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

How Far Does Grace Go?

It's a question I've heard before. Last night I heard it again....

We were talking about an acquaintance who, for several years, has been cradled in a very loving and gracious community that has poured out grace until it hurts... but this person continues to fail... fall... lie... struggle... and rise... and fail again... and sometimes we wonder, "How far does grace go?"

We should wonder this, really. It makes sense.

We want a limit to the screw up count. We need to see progress or we question the formulation of the equation. Something must be missing... something must be wrong... This isn't a bad assumption.

How far does grace go?

Last night I just shook my head and shrugged. I don't know. I know we can't control others... only ourselves... but I don't know!

But today I had a thought...

It goes as far as it needs to. And then there is someone else to carry it on.

The most effective execution of grace I've ever seen in action is the Volley Ball method... one person gives what they can, then they bounce the need to someone else who is there to throw their giftedness into the pot too. Together they function to keep the ball rolling.

We are full of limited grace... but with our powers combined we create this net that can lob a struggling soul from one patch of love to another. Some patches are tough love. Some patches are compassionate love. Some patches are physical love. Some patches are spiritual love. It takes all of the above, but no one person can man all those bases at once. We haven't got enough grace to love someone whole. We only have enough grace to love one part really well.

We only have as much grace as we have. And that's as far as our grace goes. Only community can love wholly. So when our grace runs out, someone else's grace can take over.

It's true in churches, marriages, friendships, parenting relationships... no one person can give you all the grace you and your soul needs.

He needs your love, but he also needs to go talk man talk around a TV screen or a fire pit.
You need his care, but you also need margaritas in fancy glasses and long conversations about lady problems.
They need your particular brand of crazy, but they also need someone else's particular brand of sane.

How far does grace go? Not far enough for one person to give it all to you.

Here's a wonderful little miracle of design: Grace is a renewable resource. It can be emptied and filled and emptied again. A little rest. A little intentional recovery, and boom we have more grace to give. Praise! (It's been said before, it'll be said again... That's why a little self-care is so radically necessary. You can't give grace you haven't received for yourself.)

Two take aways...

1) Don't be afraid to step back and recharge your grace tank.

There are a million ways to do it. Sometimes it's going to involve studying the Bible in "quiet time." Sometimes it's going to look like putting on your hot pants and dancing to "Living La Vida Loca" with your girlfriends. (Just kidding, no one plays that song anymore.)

2) Don't be offended when people around you have to step back and recharge.

Sometimes you're going to reach out for grace, again, and the person you're reaching out to is going to get this crazy twitchy look in their eye and have nothing to give. It's ok. They still love you... Step back slowly. Take a deep breath. Don't take it personally. (This is going to be HARD because you're already feeling like crap... otherwise you wouldn't be clamoring for some grace in the first place.) But don't worry. They're not gone forever. They'll be back. They just need a little time to fill up their cup. If you let them do that without pitching a hissy fit, you'll be happy in the long run.

(PS This totally happened with me and my husband this morning... which is kind of what started this... I was like, "Waaaaah!! January!!" and he was like, "Babe. I can't even. Bye." O___O)

Ok, that's all. Give grace. Take grace. Give space. Take space. It will all come back around.

How far does grace go?
In a way it's endless... it never really dries up... because its origin is bigger than us, right? The heart of grace is in God...we're just agents. So, sometimes you have to give it a rest! For your sanity. For theirs. For the love! Don't worry. He's big enough to handle you taking the bench for a sec.