Creative Energy in the Confines of A Little Life

There is  life-force that stirs wild in the heart of the creative Christian. It is an energy that ambles and percolates and froths. But when the wildest part of the day whips peanut butter and honey instead of peanut butter and jelly, where does it go?

If ignored, this creative energy does not lie fallow. If suppressed, it twists and spins into bickering with my spouse simply for the satisfaction of having something to do, simply to prove I have not become part of the historic feminine cumulative where minds are left to rot in the boredom of domesticity. If neglected, this energy whispers ugly doubts disguised as truths to keep me disengaged.

If tended to, creative energy is a tether to the world that whirs into big ideas and intuitive empathy. The only way it fits into such a small life is to continually be made into something real and given away.

I take the olders to school. I take the youngest to the zoo, museum, ocean, the park. I drive the long way home so the jacarandas can toss confetti on our one car parade. I make dinner. I resweep the floor. This is a small life.

I plead God, is this enough for you?

I am reminded love is not parceled out in relation to the amount of effort, hustle, or works produced. Bigger love cannot be earned with bolder life choices. I have always been one for the bigger choice. It is easier for me to fly spontaneous into the face of challenge outside these walls. At 33 I’m learning the big love found in a little life.

Unrestricted love is here in the perceived smallness of sidewalk chalk art and songs goodnight. In the driving to school miles logged and driving me crazy moments.

On paper my life doesn’t look as overtly faith-infused as it did ten years ago. But I know the faithfulness required to live a quiet life has drawn me closer to God than other ostentatious choices before.

I make beds. I make lunches. I make moments for my children to remember and some I pray they will forget. I make words and walks and paintings. This little life of routines and I-love-yous and I’m-sorrys and crust-cut sandwiches is wide enough to experience the fullness of the resurrection.

 

Realities and Loneliness in Marriage

Loneliness in the single life is often palpable, but is it somehow more palatable when social expectation allows space for the sadness in unmet longing during singlehood? But what happens when Loneliness picks out a placemat and sets a seat at the family table after  you’ve already said your I Do’s Forever?

Reality is, eleven years later, I am not who he married.

Reality is, he is not the one I married.

Reality is, we forget to just kiss.

Some anniversaries you celebrate the marriage. Some anniversaries you celebrate the boot dragged, mud-flung, belly under barbed wire, jaw set, hard earned finish line of having made it through another year of parenting young kids without divorce. This is one of those years.

Reality is, we have to decide if we can flirt again, fall in love again, this year, eleven more years, every more after that.

Reality is, remembering the goodness of a partner in marriage in the midst of having and raising small children, our careers, and our own interests takes determination and faith and time; a list of all things already squeezed to the point of dry.

Reality is, we’ve wasted time over the years playing the Who’s Day Was Harder game when  we both needed more affirmation and less competition.

Reality is, we are functioning business partners but have to work to make space for the play when we get to be friends and lovers again.

Reality is, we don’t make sense together until you’re sharing our campfire, our beer, so we have to confidently rely on our relaxed intimacy instead of nods of approval from others.

Reality is, we are a Dreamer and a Pragmatist learning how to make a life together.

Reality is, there are some problems that perpetuate and we keep having to bring them before the Highest Judge with a repentant heart before bringing them (again) to each other, and before bed after exhaustion is never the time to do this.

Reality is, when Loneliness comes we name it. We look it in the eye. We serve it a piece of cake. We ask why it has come and what need it is representing or longing to be filled. We pray it or think it or write it or take it on runs with us and when we are able to convey these needs out loud to one another without sting or blame or judgement we do so.

In the meantime we make the beds, the lunches, the life.

We remember to say thank you. We remember that we each are trying. We remember to laugh. We invite Loneliness to be listened to but don’t let it have the last say. This is the movement of marriage.

 

 

 

 

 

Losing Balance and Gaining Grace

Hey friend,

Surprise! You’re pregnant again!

I wish I could whisper the secret code from us mamas of three in your ear to make it easier for you. But there is no secret.

The truest truth I know is this: There is no balance. Don’t let the books or mommy groups tell you otherwise. The strive for balance is a cultural catch-phrase winding families into a panicked frenzy. Don’t believe it. Chasing balance only offers you a chalice of shame.

I know it feels beyond your human capacity right now to have another baby. Caring for another soul.

Especially while your oldest is still a pint-sized person with a full grown bucket of personality and emotions.

Especially while your toddler demands being held – always – in arms and eye contact. Dimpled baby fists occasionally thumping your chest for the breastmilk run dry.

Especially while you pursue a career that whispers yes into your bones.

Especially while you’re still fighting for space to eat, rest, solo potty, simply remember who you are and how you like your eggs. Not to mention that little thing called marriage.

I know you know it’s going to be okay. But I want to repeat. I have faith in you. You can do this.

I would tell you if I can do it, anyone can. But you were there. You saw the hard and maybe that’s what’s so scary about this after all.

You knew a few months into parenting my first I went to bed crying. Nightly.  Knowing I was outside of my mind tired but the hard part was just beginning as babes and I would be awake together up to ten more times before dawn.

When our second was several months old I picked up mono with a bonus coupling of hepatitis that wiped me out physically and emotionally. One illness stole the independence and non-neediness I had so adamantly co-joined to my adulthood. You sat next to me while I was a shell of tired, blank of personality and guessed at ways you could help because I was too deep in the sick and the sad to assess the need.

Then our third came and there was no time to cave up. No hibernation period. It was sprinting with vaginal stitches. You witnessed it all.

There is no secret. Life balance a farce we’ve spun too much energy into already. Alternatively, there is trusting the goodness of the Creator who has already given you an intuitive understanding of the rhythms of life.

Instead, there is embracing seasons.

Instead, there is determining what is important and hacking the rest with comically oversized scissors.

Instead, there is focusing on a goal with full-throttle, head down, shoulder thrust into the now. Breathing. Turning. Locking eyes on the next up and going again.

Instead, (and this may be the most important one) there is lowering self-expectation and raising chaos tolerance.

It is not easy but it is good. I can’t wait to watch you experience that self-offering of grace even as your third curls close, heartbeat to heartbeat, the main things become the main things, and everything else shakes away.

It will be an undoing of sorts, but it is not to be feared.

You’re going to be amazing!

XOXOXOXOX,

From this mama of three to you, new mama, of three!

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That Whole Target Bathroom Policy Thing

Is Target Bathroom Policy Statement 2016 the new Starbucks Christmas Cup 2015? We’re still stale with the stench of that one even though most of us thought it was ridiculously misunderstood media hype. And didn’t we already spin this “protect families” argument, California, in 2008 when as a state we tried to vote down gay marriage rights? So far the biggest threat to my family has been our self-destructive pride and selfishness. No matter what your views on this are, closing your eyes and wishing a dichotomous way onto a deconstructivist culture is not the same as engaging in the world where all these realities exist.

There is a vivacious transgender woman who cashiers for us at our local Target. The number of times I have felt unsafe in the transaction: zero. The number of times my kids have stared: zero. If we find ourselves washing hands beside her, I imagine it will remain the same. Except I doubt that will happen because I am willing to bet she uses an employee restroom or that hidden single room behind the electronics section to avoid potential conflicts – crushing lessons of past experience learned.

Transgender bathroom policy doesn’t affect our family in any way while shopping Target, except maybe encourage me to shop there more often (if that’s even possible) because I take it as a bold statement of peace. I want to be a part of that. I want my kids to be a part of that. No, I will not be signing your Target petition under the main banner to protect me, the mom, and my kids.

And now I’ve offended so, so, SO many of you because I straddle a no man’s land of too conservative for the liturgists & non-churched and too non-churched for the conservatives in my life. Like my children, my head and heart live in a vast both/and question mark where the only certainty is God – in all male and female characteristics and generosity of goodness and love and grace- can handle it.

Do you know who I think is out to get my kids? Everyone. As a mama, every single person no matter how spiffy they look on the outside are potential threats to the physical and emotional safety of my littles. THAT is why we go as a family into the women’s restroom much to the smadness of my young son. That is why my kids know they aren’t allowed to play hide-and-seek in public places. That is why we call body parts “vagina” and “penis” (which is still really hard for this Midwestern 80’s girl to do) and normalize talk about appropriate vs inappropriate touching.

General vigilance and learning to trust our gut in our surroundings is what the kids and I talk about. This kind of wisdom is what I want the kids to know to navigate through the days, the years. Listening to their intuition and knowing they can rely on it – that’s what I want my kids to practice daily in our care. Tethering an awareness of their physical environment to their brain and stomach assessment, knowing their instincts are good, learning to take in character – this is what we circle back to in all public places.

Yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid for the safety of the transgender community who are trying to do something as simple as pee in public. I’m afraid for all of us that when one person is dehumanized, we all have our humanity dulled. I’m afraid we will continue to confuse Christianity with protecting our privilege. I’m afraid we will STILL be discussing all this in a rageful way and all this anger of entitlement in our Americanism will seep into the fabric of my children. There are many things to fear here, but potty stops at Target (like most of the things in my red shopping cart) aren’t on that list.

 

 

A Discourse Against Short Term Missions

So dear church friend, you’ve signed up for a two week trip to the Southern Hemisphere this summer. You invite me to squeal in delight and chat over coffee but are dampened by my (unpopular) thoughts about this.

You want to travel. Travel. You want adventure. Seek it. You want to serve. Serve. But please don’t confuse your short term mission trip as the holy trifecta of these desires.

++++++++++

A hairbrush – long strands of auburn entangled.

Used deodorant.

Toothbrush.

You left these with a “thought you’d enjoy!” card on the back of the toilet. We did not.

You came. You gawked at the difference in culture and scenery. You danced with the people and couldn’t get over how happy the poor are. You left just as your bodies were adjusting to the time change, to the sun.

++++++++++

I have issues with the term “missionary” but for lack of better verbiage, I will say we lived as international missionaries for three years. In that time we were galvanized, softened, strengthened, reformed. It was excruciating at times. It was living fully. It was lonely at times. It was always good.

I cannot, all these years later, understand what impact was made for the unseen greater good of humanity other than it changed me.

 

The realities:

In the Majority World, the axis is relationships and relationships take longevity. We lived on $10,000 a year. Add your team’s plane tickets up. Gasp. Could you give that money to sponsor a long-term friend instead? That is an unfun sacrifice no one wants to hear. There is zero in it for you.

Being a year-round missionary is physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, everything-ally exhausting. I guarantee they are shouldering so much. And now they are hosting you. Taking you to the best strawberry vendors. Driving you to the orphanage. Running interference at the roundabout. And happy to do so. But is your presence life-giving to their spirit or a distraction from their work?

Please start saying thank you and stop leaving them your used toiletries for which they should be grateful.

Clearly, I am not ambivalent to this subject being a receiver of a great many half-filled travel shampoo bottles myself. (Please hold the hate mail about this post.)

So you want to go to Africa for two weeks, four weeks, a year? What I ask you is this.

Can you serve faithfully, without a backslap of affirmation right where you are?

Could you come in before sunrise to set up church and leave before anyone notices. every. Sunday?

Can you move the conversation at the check-out line from rote script into reflecting that person’s worthiness and beauty back toward them?

Can you see the bend of justice in the arc of time in this fleeting little moment now and draw others into its delicate shimmer?

Can you make one more dinner the kids complain about? 

If you can’t do these, don’t go to Africa.

If you do go to Africa, know it is mostly for your transformation. This is okay. Just be honest. Go to listen. Not to fix. Go without a watch. Without expectation. Let yourself be changed.

If you do go, please don’t leave your used toiletries. Unloading your unwanted is not a sacrificial blessing.

If you do leave your things, leave your best perfume on the dresser, your newest jeans in the closet, your stories on the coffee table.

Leave changed and prepared to give freely in your everyday life. This transformation is the long-term return of your short-term trip. Please, make it worth the energy and resources invested.

 

 

Let’s Hear It For Hipster Dads

Here’s my short list of irks that produce very large, lollygaggy eye rolls of judgement:

facial hair on the 25-35 year old male crowd

network-marketing

blogs

Specifically how everyone has one and, yes, I see the obvious problem with that last one.

The beards, the blogs, the business stairstep breakaways. I surrender to the reality these are the current, trendy annoyances of adulting in the twenty-tens. I will try to keep my gaze locked in place and simply cheer you on if one to all on my short list describes you personally. (Nothing personal.)

There is, however, one phenomenon happening right now that I would like to call complete bullshit on.

We are dumbing down our daddies. We are branding them incapable and operating under the implication of incompetence. 

Our husbands are parents too. Not just the part-time help. Not something reminiscent of the fun uncle or the “wait ’til your” disciplinarian. Not even the other (tacitly understood lesser) parent.

Let’s let the daddies of our children be 100% full-on parents.

Let’s enough with the portrayal that dads are bewildered by children, lack any instinctual bend toward their needs, and enter a conundrum the equivalent of a full-scale political crisis  when presented with a poopy diaper.

More than anything, let’s stop couching this expectation of male insensitivity and inability to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our children in church gender roles. I cannot with that.

It’s true I am an emotionally driven decision maker. It’s true Nate is a rationally driven decision maker. This doesn’t give me an infinite “no thanks” to using intellect or reason. Nate doesn’t get a standing pass on emotions.

We are parenting in a unique era where EQ is not only recognized but lauded, where marriages in and out of the church are losing their patriarchal dominance, where we are concerned about locally sustained and globally connected.

These men who are becoming our husbands and fathers of our children, with their penchants for craft beer and pompadours, are just as likely to babywear as we are. They are  stepping up to parent in an engaged way generationally unprecedented. Let’s let them without questioning motive or masculinity.

I worked Sundays for the last five years, which means Nate would take our two, then three,  and sometimes five while fostering, carload of kids to church. Every week receiving the equivalent of the non-ironic slow clap from parking lot to children’s ministry doors for braving a public outing as a father alone with his kid crew.

Receiving comments about babysitting for the day. “Not babysitting,” he says. Just being a father.

The cost of continuing low expectation for the daddies of our children is too high.

For starters, the kids in my house would experience a scurrylotta more yelling from Mama On The Brink if I were the only one in charge of every.single.damn.aspect of their day.

It’s easy for us women to confuse being Wife and Mother with the crushing responsibility of maintaining the happiness of our husband and kids. Let’s not let low expectations for our co-partners in parenting become the reason for losing our autonomous identity through overcompensation of being all and doing all for others.

We alienate ourselves. We alienate our husbands. They miss opportunities to know their own children and to be seen in return.

Probably most poignantly, our sons and daughters are watching.

Time to expect and allow daddies to be parents too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Necessities of Naked Vulnerability

Here I am, crinkling under the great equalizer of humility – the paper gyno blanky. Do rich people get weighted cotton ones at the rich people gyno that cover the crevices or are even the affluent afflicted with the accursed oversized paper party napkin that shifts and shows?  As if the process weren’t vulnerable enough…stirrups.

New day, new event, same week, same tightrope walk between humiliation and vulnerability.

Here I am, tucked under the stairwell in a space labelled “Strings Studio”. The violin under my chin for the first time in fifteen years, fingers two steps too slow, brain battling to overthink while the body is attempting to remember. Notes hit scratchy and flat. My face can’t help but flinch. I forget where C sharp is. I play B instead of G. I murder the next note and scream for its loss or for my frustration. The line blurs.

“Never apologize to me” he says, this twenty-three year old teaching me to remember to play. I mental math how he was eight the last time I laid this instrument down. I think about how adult I felt at twenty-three. Just a baby, really. I mental math how many people have seen me naked and affirm that, yes, standing here undone would feel less vulnerable than playing this first lesson.

While these two events may not seem related, they feel connected to me – someone who doesn’t like to feel foolish or be exposed, be wrong or bad at something. I’ll take the gyno table over being bad at something.

That’s the great news I’m finding about the thirties with young kids. There’s no space for pride or performance or perfection. There is only hospitality to kindness and grace for ourself. Or at least, there is conscientiously fighting for the generosity of kindness and grace for ourself.

It’s okay to feel foolish. It’s okay to be uncovered. It’s okay to be bad.

Necessary, even.

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