A Practice of Reception.

Tonight my husband cooked us dinner. Like he does most nights. He followed it with solo facilitating bedtime for three children. Like he does most nights.

The lie is so quick to slide from my mind into the gut-pit of my belief system; that I am taking more than giving in this marriage, that I am stealing time for myself, that I am simply selfish and insatiable in my need for intake.

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Currently my need for intake is high. The more the world unleashes ugly, the more I need to seek out life-giving things to restore my positivity and faith in goodness.

While I sleep, my partner night parents. While he packs lunches (endearingly coined “f*ckin’ lunches” in our household as any parent of school bound children understands), I Netflix.

I already take so much. I am hesitant to ask for more.

Even so, I require more -at least in this season where my former belief and knowledge of government and humanity and decency are uprooted at least thrice daily. Part of my response to the breakdown is intake. Eyes open awareness. Notice goodness. Breathe in the blessing. Exhale the gratitude.

The space I take to write or exercise or chase sunsets or read is not a mainstream reality for many moms of young kids. I know this. The guilt trickles in easily. As if marriage were a one to one economy. As if comparing one household norm to another ever worked.

I cannot control my Twitter feed. I can only control my frame of mind and my response to the world.

For me, part of setting that positive intention is getting elbows deep in splatter painted creative, interactive living. That includes my family and that also includes interests that are life-giving to me as an individual.

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For so long I thought I was stealing this time and leaving a burden. Recently, when I asked for the truth, I was given the answer I wasn’t ready for: no.

What I thought I was stealing had been freely offered all along. 

Sometimes the most gracious gift of all is the hardest to accept. Instead of a mindset of guilt and taking and chastising myself because “I already get to do so much”,  I have been offered a lightness to simply be me and be fully alive.

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I have been invited into the practice of reception.

C.S. Lewis warned, “You must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give.”

I am grateful for it. I am uncomfortable with it. I am learning to allow the vulnerability of being open to this practice of reception impact my life and shift the narrative of my perception.

There is no earning it. No reciprocating it. There is only allowing it to be.

 

Welcoming Interruptions and Inefficiency

I have started this blog post exactly countless times.

I come to the pen or keyboard daily to construct bridges from words and to extract what needs a portal from the land of ideas to our concrete world.

It is this exact moment, as any mother in the long history of mothers will verify, that the happy baby can only remain that way through holds and the child capable of shimming up doorjambs to reach the nether tops of the fridge, who can burp the alphabet in one pass, is wildly incapable of pouring his own glass of water. Inevitably, the toilet overflows. Interruptions, invariably.

I have popped down our hill to the grocery store no less than three times the past eighteen hours, because while I can remember the queso fresco and green chiles and all the yummies to make kid quesadilla lunches feel like an event, I cannot make it back with the cheddar.

This is what my life feels like. A lot of hustle. A steady stream of interruptions. A lot of inefficiency and little productivity.

It is easy to become annoyed or pile on the shoulds. Falling asleep (again) on an Elsa duvet wedged between a sleeping child and a hard plastic doll feels like self-betrayal. During the daylight interruptions I had mentally promised to conquer. this. shiz post bedtime. Yet; sleep wins every time.

I scroll through the squares and start chastising myself for why I haven’t figured this be a woman, be a wife, be a mom thing out yet. I readily forget the lady reading in a hammock with hot cocoa is in her twenties without kids.

We are here, muck deep in mid thirties. Sweating children, cheating time, and praying for rest. Still, we dream.

Can the presence of divinity and social change begin with tiny domestic acts right here? We are audacious enough to believe they can. Right here, in the emergency run for Iron Man pull-ups, in the swaddle of a crying baby, in the quesadillas cut just so and the interruptions for water refills.

This year I look forward to more writing and an attempt to be more zen about interruptions. I rest in the fact that during this phase of life, living big means tiny acts at home, for the tiny humans here and for myself. Little increments at a time. Together we will make a whole life.

To my fellow thirty somethings (or 40 somethings) with all the children and all the ideas and none the sleep and little the money, a word from a poet:

be easy. 

take your time. 

you are coming

home. 

to yourself. 

-the becoming   wing by Waheed

Love and a little more ease to your hustle and mine.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failing the Wife Gig & Other Ways I’m Learning About Real Love, Real Freedom.

I read in all my How To Be A Good Little Christian Wife books that guys are loved through food, sex, and words of affirmation.

I had all the intentions of being the best wife ever. Truly. There were big plans that went like this: All the home-cooked meals! All the affirming words! All the sex! I don’t think it will take you long to guess how this played out as a young bride.

All the food! I have to make food? AGAIN? Dear God, WHY?! I JUST did that four hours ago! ALL THE SHOUTING CAPS, ALL THE EXCLAMATION MARKS!

All the good words! You know what I like more than affirming words for my dear Hub-cakes? Being RIGHT! Drawing a big, pronounced, verbal map to show Nate exactly how right I am. Torch of truth, goddess of better! I am so damn smart.

All the sex! Do we even need to lift the all-the-sex rock? I think we all know the none-the-sex, then some-the-sex, then redeem-and-relearn-the-sex story that sits under there.

We hit our ten year anniversary this summer and part of me felt like a failure at this whole wife gig I’ve been given. I don’t know when I let my name get put on the 1950’s Hannah Homemaker list of shoulds but I’m trying to get it off so I can honor the Creator for who I actually am by being that person fully, wholly, unapologetically in our marriage.

The fact that I couldn’t keep up with dishes and paper piles on the dining table pre-kids should have been a warning. Lately I found myself apologizing a lot to Nate via jokes highlighting my ineptitude as a wife/mother/human being on the planet, as if knowing where my freaking sunglasses were the first trip to the car would somehow earn me back that Whole Person tiara and Best Wife sash. I’m not saying the way I make a shopping list of essentials I forgot on the way home from the store doesn’t totally boggle my husband’s mind. But he isn’t going for my self-deprecating jokes disguised as apologies for my general existence.

His response? “Stop saying I don’t want you! All those things are what make me love you. I have no clue how you do life because I can’t do it that way, but I love all those things that make you, you! So enough.

I can’t help but wonder if we’re tripping over all these unnecessary apologies of ourselves taking up space in this world and getting so detoured down the avenues of our Should Be lists that we are missing the invitation of the freedom to live. If, perhaps, we are eliciting a similar response from THE one who created us this way. The voices of self-doubt and self-suppression are always lurking in the shadows. The ones that remind us “a real wife does_____” and “a real mom doesn’t _____”.

You know the bigger longing in my heart? To BE the art of God. To be fully known by the Creator and fully know the Creator in return. To fully know and be known by my husband, my kids. There is no list for this. There is only us in the real mix-matched way we’ve been made and vowed to loom a life together.

Tonight my role as a good wife and mom is letting my husband bake chicken apple sandwiches for dinner, kiss three little forehead hairlines holding the scent of earth and bubble-gum shampoo goodnight and come sit beside the Pacific Beach pier with a playlist and a pen.

As a recovering perfectionist (as I’m assuming we all are here) this simple act of honoring myself, my desire to write, my cosmic call to create is a giant hurdle. Good moms tuck their kids in every night, right? It’s hard for me to leave with a two year old clinging to my leg. Torturous, in fact. Husband peels her away, puts car keys in my hands and says “Go. You have writing practice tonight.”

It is not a daily activity, but it is a weekly flag in our family life. This is the new litmus test of being that good wife, that good mom. Am I revealing to my husband and children who I am? Am I creating opportunities to allow this to happen? Am I revealing to my kids who they are? Am I creating opportunities for this to happen?

If I tell them they are creative beings designed by THE Creator of the Universe to be wholly and unapologetically them, they might take it, sink it into their heart, and treasure it forever. But if I LIVE it? They will have that model. The how-to’s will be a little less mysterious and the only mystery left will be the glory that occurs when space is created to do the creating. It will be as second nature as tacos on a Tuesday and running barefoot through Bermuda grass. The innate. The heartbeat. The what we do without giving it a second thought.

Maybe, just maybe they will do the big brave of taking that treasure hidden deep in their heart and holding it up for others to see. But it begins with me. Always. It begins with us.

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Mahalo, Hawaii

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Water v-ed into a satisfying whoosh with each strike of the paddle. We followed the turtles up the river until rocks hitting rudder in the shallowed water below the bridge forced us to turn around and head back to the mouth of the ocean. Out of this salty, silty river. Back to the clear gradated turquoise of the North Shore. We paddled past mongoose playing in the grass along the river’s edge and waved aloha to locals drinking their morning coffee beneath massive mango trees. The clouds puffed and expanded into a soft crown around the distant mountain while the sea turtles announced their breach for air with an ancient croak.

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There was paddling over a large reef rock area only to realize it was a sting ray the width of a car, and snorkeling much too close to a terrifyingly creepy-beautiful eel, and actually surfing the warm waters with a face covered in salt and triumph. There was hiking the heat of a tropical canyon to swim the cold infinite depths beneath the pool of waterfall at it’s end.

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There were lips shiny with butter-garlic shrimp from the food truck with the green picnic tables covered in plumeria flowers that had fallen lazily and plentiful from branches above. There were siestas in the starched whiteness of taut hotel sheets and biking woven patterns in sandy trails between the banyan tree.

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I’m needy in a way that is understandable to some but not universal to all. I crave new experiences to help awaken my senses. For the spark of free-spiritness to activate, the one that feels most me but goes into unconscious self-imposed lockdown at times. A week on Oahu’s North Shore with sleep and adventure and playfulness and good food and beauty was the perfect way to spend our ten year anniversary and regroup after our recent weird year of swirlingness. We did everything and nothing all at once and it was all soul rest.

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Mahalo, Hawaii. 20150630_184518

Grasping For A Tether

So many of you are asking what keeps me sane in the midst of our crazy. Just so we are on the same page, by crazy we mean coaching our foster children through intense tantrums and defiant behaviors that make simple tasks of Get To School and Go To Bed daunting, Everest-looking feats.

How is it possible to remain grounded when life situations make you feel untethered?

1. Take emotion out of the equation. I am a heavily “feely” person so in the midst of cradling a child through a tantrum I can’t have emotion. My own emotion will quickly turn into anger and betray me. Calm, even voice. Slow movements. Out of body observation within the boundaries of my own personal frame. Those are my hands being calm. That is my voice remaining steady. Our bio children giving me sideways looks wondering who came and body-snatched their mother.

2. Know your THING that transcends you. Mine is music, that insta-touch portal to another mental realm. Yours might be the sky or a book or feet slapping pavement. For me, music. Specifically, our youtube is one click shy of explosion from overuse of Jeremy Jordan videos and Breaking Down the Riffs with Natalie Weiss segments. Not that I will ever sing these to you in full belting voice, it’s just fun to hear riffs puzzled apart and taught in a way that feels like you and I can actually tackle them. I tried to play it cool about my obsession with Jeremy Jordan’s voice but by now we all know I’m a total fangirl. Marriage counseling to commence soon, if not for what is turning out to be a very difficult foster/adopt scenario, for my fangirldom. Still love you most, Nate!

3. Being cared for. We are spending SO much mental, physical, and emotional energy caring for our family right now. There is nothing left. But you keep coming. You keep showing up on our doorstep with bags of Mickey nuggets and baskets of laundry detergent and packages of books and gift cards and essential oils and post-it notes. I tell you it’s been (another) hard morning/bad day/tantrumpalooza bedtime and you send me text messages that make me cackle and burst with love and friendship instead of tears. You rally around us so we rally around ours.

The unspoken and underscore of this is Holy Spirit all through and around and in. The other truth is that sometimes the concept of God with us still feels out there and far away and let’s face it, not very in the moment practical. The tangibles of hearing a song, reading a sarcastic text, and enjoying the bitter aftertaste of a first-sweet blackberry, those are what feel real. Those are what meet us immediately in the very visceral moment of what is untethering us and offer us a grounding rope back to earth, back to sanity. And yet, those simple tangibles are God with us.

Thank you everyone for encouraging us through. Special thanks to Jeremy and his voice.

Still, still love you most, Nate. But I’ll call our therapist for us…