Showing Up in the World in a Softer Way

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“You do not have to be a fire for every mountain blocking you. You could be a water and soft river your way to freedom too.”

– Nayyirah Waheed

Sometimes at night, when the house has settled and all our babes are breathing sweetly with comforters pulled up tight, I sigh and pull my own covers over me and everything around me softens. I feel the pull as the weight of my body sinks into pillows and linens and I am reminded how I want to show up in this world: with fierce softness.

Because the world doesn’t need more people out to prove themselves or to dehumanize the “other” in the name of something good or holy; she doesn’t need more brutality or dividing lines saying who and what is better; she doesn’t need more splits and bruises and parched and rough patches – but, she could use a few more soft and safe spaces to rest her tired head.

We all could.

We all need someone

to see us,

hear us,

believe us.

We all need to be reminded of tenderness and compassion,

grace and transformation.

We all need to receive and see Love the way it is intended to be lived out – not selfishly, not to manipulate or convince, not to gain something – but before and through and under, something that lifts us and moves us and connects us to something Greater, something that we all have in common.

And it is hard to imagine the possibility of having something in common with certain people –

perhaps those on the other side of the lines we draw.

And it is even harder to think of facing these people with any form of gentleness.

Because we live in a place where we are told to move cautiously and not to trust too easily,

that opening ourselves up only leads to hurt and pain;

that some people are more deserving of hate than others;

where the strongest are celebrated and the weak are left starving and forgotten, and we are reminded every day how harsh the world can be; where it seems to be easier to find connection over what we hate than what we love and cherish.

It is hard to stay soft when that is the message.

But as I close my eyes and begin to drift off to sleep, accompanied by my privilege, which provides me with safe slumber and space to wonder – I ask myself how to walk this earth with softness and graciousness, somehow also with feet firmly planted, standing with the oppressed and broken, being a part of holy restoration in some way.

But we often believe a myth that we have been taught – somewhere –

that to be soft, is to be unstable and weak.

Part of this softening is letting go: of my own ideals, of my image, of what is expected of me. To do the hard things of speaking truth, but allowing it to be carried through love, not force. To let others see me as unstable, if they wish. It is a laying down and servant-like posture that hardly makes sense in our world. But oh, does it take strength.

These are hard things I don’t even understand, but somewhere in my gut, there is an understanding of what love looks like, and it starts with first embracing others with softness – with turning the other cheek, even – with something that might look a lot less impressive than how we are often told to show up in this world. This love is found somewhere between a reaction and a response, assuming and listening, ignoring and accepting. It is wrapped up in faith or something like it, and an old story of a Messiah and something he had to show us that shifts how we move in this world.

It is more than just thought and prayer and feeling, but it is also all of those things. It is an embodied experience of movement and grace and presence, full of intention. So today, at least for a little while, this is my practice: to move with my breath, inhaling and exhaling, slowing and finding grace and gentleness in my movements, remembering the soft and strong parts that can bring healing and connection, if I am only willing to let them be seen. 

-bec

 

 

 

 

 

 

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an artist’s work

How do we create well?⁣

With music lapping at the shore of our hearts⁣

colors drawing close, twirling⁣

vibrant in our eyes,⁣

our senses ignited.⁣

With Beauty reminding us,⁣

again and again,⁣

She is ours, and⁣

we belong to Her, also.⁣

From Beauty we were born⁣

and Love, too –⁣

when creation was simply voiced⁣

and a powerful rumbling⁣

expanded throughout the universe:⁣

here, the beginnings of things,⁣

teeming and unbridled,⁣

danced together in sheer brilliance.⁣

We know this, deeply – our origin –⁣

we feel it⁣

when we hear a babe’s first exhale,⁣

their voice and very being⁣

breaking through the veil⁣

into that same radiant Light⁣

that has always been,⁣

the Light that called us⁣

by name ⁣

and lives in us even now.⁣

We forget.⁣

But when we see, feel, hear⁣

art, created with love –⁣

like an infant, even⁣

like how we each began –⁣

we remember again⁣

that Light and Beauty live within us.⁣

Maybe this is why ⁣

we need artists –

the ones who braid truth and joy

and pain and tears together

to move something in us –

we need to be reminded of⁣

who we are.⁣

We need to be reminded
of our own complicated beauty.

– b.e.

it’s so simple

it’s so simple, just ignore the scars.

it’s so simple, just take time to heal.

it’s so simple, just don’t worry about what others think.

it’s so simple, just don’t say things that rock the boat.

it’s so simple, just loosen up and worry less.

it’s so simple, just believe in yourself.

it’s so simple, just stop trying to prove your wroth.

it’s so simple, just speak your truth.

it’s so simple, just accept things as they are and move on.

it’s so simple, just care a little more.

it’s so simple, just find your passion.

it’s so simple, just don’t be quite “so much.”

it’s so simple, just don’t waste your life away.

it’s so simple, just work hard and be like everybody else.

it’s so simple, just be the change you want to see in the world.

it’s so simple, just be realistic about what you can accomplish.

it’s so simple, just focus on what is in front of you.

it’s so simple, just don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

it’s so simple, give up something for others.

it’s so simple, remember to take care of yourself.

it’s so simple, don’t let others walk all over you.

it’s so simple, life only comes with death.

it’s so simple.

-b.e.

Why I Won’t Be Making a New Years Resolution In 2019

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The New Year has never really felt like a natural time to make a big change to me. There are other rhythms in my life that personally make more sense – for example, Lent and the start of Fall have always been significant for me. The last “new year’s resolution” I can remember making was when I was 13, when I gave up soda for a year (and I haven’t really had any since, so maybe they aren’t all bad).

But, one thing I have always been drawn toward on December 31st, is picking a “word” for the following year. Some of the words I remember over the years have been: “expectancy”, “bold”, “growth”, “thrive”. It isn’t so much of a forcing of something new I want to have happen, but rather a theme that I have noticed creeping up over the past few months that I want to embrace and explore.

This year, I am feeling pulled toward the word “gratitude”.

This picture is of my first real tattoo (I’m not counting the small heart I got when I was 18 out of teenage rebellion that you can only see when I’m in a bikini): the word “eucharisteo”.

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I was on an Ann Voskamp kick back in the day, and read her book “1000 Gifts” with a group of women. The book is about her own inspiration by this word to list 1000 things she is thankful for. Much of this book would probably bother me now, but she shares her finding of this word in an account of Jesus in the Bible, where he takes bread, breaks it and gives thanks (this last part, “gave thanks” is translated from the Greek, “eucharisteo”). The root of this word encompasses both the Greek for “grace” (Charis) and it’s derivative, Chará, for “joy”.  Voskamp explains it as a sort of noticing and giving of thanks and finding the gift and the joy to be had in it all. It serves for me as an incredibly simple reminder of thankfulness and joy in the everyday and mundane. This practice, the remembering and giving thanks, is a central theme and regular practice of Christ-followers: to come to the table and remember.

There have been many, many times when I have not wanted anything to do with the church or God or religion. And probably, there still will be. But, over the years, I have come to realize something: it isn’t that I don’t believe in it anymore, but rather, that I believe in it too much.

I believe in hope and redemption and healing.

I believe in light overtaking darkness and love winning out in the best and worst of circumstances.

I believe in gratitude and joy in the midst of suffering and I recognize that I have never really experienced this, because while pain has existed in my life, I have been born with privilege. I grew up in a world wading through a culture full of messages encouraging consumption and greed and wondering why everything seems and feels so fake, including the Western Church. It turns out that a lot of this is just that life is kind of messy and we may always run into things not turning out to be what they claim. But man, am I hungry for authenticity.

And if the church – not the four walls, not the programs and robes and chalices and banners, but rather the people ignited with and walking the world together with hope and healing in their chest and arms, ready to embrace the most rejected in the world with truthful compassion – is really a city of light bringing love and restoration to a world aching from hate and greed, I want to be a part of that. But it takes work to really enter into it – being a passive bystander doesn’t cut it.

And maybe, this act of gratitude, has a lot to do with that. Because when we are so distracted with what we don’t have, what hasn’t happened yet, what is making our own lives complicated, we forget to look around and see what is actually going on in the world.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to live a life and look back and see how little most of it mattered and how little I did for others.

A life drenched in gratitude gives us perspective, and hopefully propels us toward whatever good is in front of us to engage in. Because maybe life isn’t so much about a measureable to-do list that some critical voice inside nags us to accomplish – but rather, entering into a way of living each day that gives us a greater capacity to really SEE and enter into beauty and bring some sort of healing to ourselves and the world around us.

Maybe this is being the church. Maybe this is embodying the message of a rabbi who broke bread and saw the gift and the joy and couldn’t help but walk the world with compassionate feet. Maybe if we can walk the earth with those feet, we will leave an imprint of love wherever we wander.

the unbearable raw

Rawness is hard and tender.

There is a draw, a pull to stare and at the same time, a compulsion to avert the eyes and look away,

because how can you look at something so unbearably chaffed and not try to alleviate the discomfort, to help heal the wound, to apply a sweet balm and make all the coarseness go away? Either you must try to forget it or do something to help. So, we try:

“you will get through this.”

“things will get better”

“just give it time”

“don’t give up hope”

“be strong”

but what about when the rubbing doesn’t stop and months and years go by and you are still living with the rawness, reliving the crude spikes of tenderness, like waves splashing over and over against the cliffside, taking away a little bit more and more and more, barely noticeable, but then, one day, it all splits and crashes into the sea.

And you swear you hear the waves roaring with laughter at another bit of you worn down and snuffed out.  A fresh new side now exposed to begin the process again, and you’re not sure how much more you can take before there is nothing left of you at all.

You ask yourself all the what ifs and feel the rubbing and the burning feeling again. What if I had said something different?  What if they hadn’t left? What if this pain had never come? What if I had reacted differently? What if I had been more? Less? 

There are always what ifs – past, present, upcoming.

What ifs don’t solve anything, though.

They don’t patch up tears in our hearts or seal lost moments away for us to forget about. We ask them, even though we know we can’t change the past. We open up the wound again and again, picking at the scab until we finally decide we really shouldn’t be doing that and pull our sleeve back over it, hoping for no infection.

At some point, we need to stop asking “what if” and begin to ask, “what now“.

What now provides a path to healing and real change. It invites us to lift our chin a little and brush off the dirt and step toward a new path. We can look at our past choices and acknowledge what has happened, allowing our life to be seen for what it is, and then turn, steadily, little by little, and move – somewhere.

What now involves us in the present.

Instead of being focused on the past or the distant future, what now asks us to look at what is right in front of us and determine what good thing there is to do next.

A simple question and practice and one that helps tremendously when we are trying to be mindful and at peace with what is going on around us on any given day. It helps keep us focused on goodness and love, on slowing down and taking care of others and ourselves.

It requires sacrifice and an openness and awareness of new opportunities that might present themselves.

And it is so freeing.

-bec

the mystery is whispering

The mystery is whispering

something that feels deep and simple at the same time

if you stare at it too long, it begins to blur and make no sense

what does it mean

that you would lift others,

to rise yourself;

that strength is often found

burning in the eyes of those seen as weakest,

the least of our concern;

that in order to experience a full and rich life

we have to let it all go?

our achievements mean nothing,

because love is given on an even field

where we are all seen and treated as one –

“you” and “I” and “them” turn into “us”

and the light that gathers there

is glorious.

Who knew

that to hold an open heart and soul in this world

could mean looking so foolish

Who knew

that choosing less of what looks good on us,

the important things that earn awards

and recognition,

often leads to the very best of what this life has to offer.

This is how love shows the way :

by laying down and carrying on

and staying present and feeling small

and incapable,

while remembering what light and love and hope are;

by poking holes in the darkness,

even as it consumes us

and letting the light in

until the darkness is nothing but a porous and ugly place

that has no power –

and with a small and knowing smile

we begin to realize

that this is

perhaps,

the biggest act of love

we can be.

 

 

 

Taking Inventory

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This weekend, I got away for a little retreat. Our friends own a cabin only about 30 minutes away from our home and I stole away for a night on my own, before my family joined the next evening.

And it was much less restful than I thought, once the kids joined.

But there were these moments, sitting in this simple cabin, remembering when we lived with much less and I felt more responsible for what we did have, what we consumed. And I found myself listing in my head the things I no longer wanted or felt like I had room in my life for.  Things like Instagram and physical items and trying to impress others and being too distracted to really listen to my own children. I thought about the boundaries I would want to set for my kids as they get older and begin to have more independence, especially when it comes to technology, and how I need to be ready to model what I set for them, show them the standards we set are actually valued in our life.

Now, today, we are home, and I am looking around the house and wondering. What do I bring into our home? Why? What purpose does it serve? How can we be more intentional? What about our bodies? What are we being exposed to, soaking in, consuming? How do we find the space to slow?

I feel a deep purge is coming.  A physical one, like a seasonal change, of letting go and making room for something fresh and new and full of new energy, and an inner change, as well.  These are so thoroughly connected.

Don’t Limit Your Worth and the Possibility for Expansive Growth

 

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For most of my life, I’ve wondered.

Wondered what more there could be, how much more I could be.

Wondered if I was wasting time, moment by fleeting moment

or investing in something, making deposits myself or someone else would one day cash in on.

12 years (almost) of marriage, 3 kids deep, 1 year into my thirties and I am still wondering.

I feel like my adult life has only really just begun.  That I am only now finding out what my strengths are and slowly discarding the parts that don’t serve me, that actually weigh me down.

It has a lot to do with expectation –

my own and others –

and the never-ending comparison of arbitrary milestones and lines we draw; a measuring stick.

But a measuring stick doesn’t leave room for growth. A measuring stick just compares to what we have known, a standard rule so we can all aim for something similar, because as humans we like order and to know how we stack up in society.

So we limit ourselves.

Instead of an expansive model of growth, one that knows no limits other than the ones we set against ourselves, we find ourselves bound to both inner and outer critical voices.

But I am learning to measure a little differently these days.

I’m inviting a new standard, an expansive one, like a never-ending ribbon

one that doesn’t say:

“you need to do more, be skinnier, be more beautiful, hold everything with strength, cover all your bases, live like everyone is watching your every move, never make a mistake, always find joy”

but rather,

“look at how you are growing” and “see the good ways you influence your circle” and “you made a mistake, but that means you are trying” and “you feel uncertain and are showing emotions that make you feel awkward, but that means you are being real with others and yourself” and “you don’t have to do it all”.

As we learn to extend compassion to ourselves, we create a new space in which we can flourish, where healing can take place and we can plant ourselves on a new trajectory toward unlimited possibilities.

I hope one day I will look back at where I have been and say, “I never could have imagined…”

Or maybe, I can.

-b.e.

 

 

The Inspiring Devotion to Nothing

 

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Are you familiar with the Chinese Bamboo Tree?

Once planted, it doesn’t break through the ground for 4 years.

During this time, gardeners tend to this seemingly bare spot of earth – water it, fertilize it, nurture it – with no visible display of what difference their care has made.

But then, after 4 years of “nothing”, in the 5th year, the shoot bursts through the ground and grows at an amazing pace.  In just over a month, it will tower over you at 90 feet high.

I feel like this relates to so many areas of life.

It resonates so deep within me right now.

Because sometimes, I give up tending to certain things I believe in.

Sometimes, we don’t see the outcomes of our kindness, generosity, patience, grace.

Sometimes, the grueling, gritty, every day work just doesn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes, we fail and instead of learning from our mistakes, give up prematurely.

Sometimes, we look crazy devoting so much time to something that gives us so little in return.

Sometimes, I look at everyone else’s bamboo trees and instead of enjoying their beauty and celebrating the hard work it took to grow them, I allow envy to settle in my stomach.

Then there are those moments – days, weeks, years – where incredible growth takes place.  It was happening all along, but you didn’t see it.  You couldn’t.  Maybe it is all timing.  Maybe you just weren’t ready.  Maybe someone else came along who believed in you and even did the hard work and tended to your garden for a time when you neglected it.  Maybe there are a slew of reasons.  Maybe you were so busy tending to that barren ground that it just sort of changed overnight and things are suddenly happening at a dizzying pace.

I feel like I have experienced these stages at different times in life.  Sometimes I give up and move on.  Sometimes I wonder and doubt and second-guess why I am even doing the things I am.  Or I am just lost and don’t know what is next or what I should be doing at all. And then there are times when I stand back and see the outcome and feel full and satisfied.

But you can’t skip the seasons and you can’t get the lost years back.

There is so much going on below the surface that we don’t see.

As a mother, this feels poignant.

I sense that many of us with young children feel like we are just getting through these early years with our kids.  We have lost ourselves somewhere along the way and feel like every drop of energy is devoted to their care and nothing is left. We just have to get through these years and things will change. It is both joy and hardship, but I have never found myself more than through the experience of having children.

It has loosened so many lies I believed about myself and others, about where I actually find my value and what is important in life.

Even those formative years in our children’s lives are like tending to a bamboo tree.  You might not see the outcome of what you pour into their every day, the sacrifices you make for them, for years to come.  And we bear the wrinkles and tired eyes from the laughter and frustration and sleepless nights and dim, early mornings.

But when I think about the bamboo tree and growing another year older and hearing the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt endings we can face…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.

Not to see change, but to work toward it.

Because sometimes, the work takes years and years and maybe I don’t even get to enjoy the shade that will one day come from the daily tending,

but

I can imagine who will.

And I wonder, what have I been tending to beneath the surface all this time?

-b.e.

we may be mothers, but we are still human.

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Knees curled to chest, I see her: a woman gone wild in the bedroom corner, fresh out of the shower and on a rampage of sorts, folding and throwing clean laundry into untidy piles, loudly speaking whatever angry thoughts she has been festering toward her husband, the man who sees this ugliness and always comes back and always loves and helps me to love this woman again, too. I see her – myself, mother, wife, woman – as the last t-shirt hits the floor and I feel the bare skin of my back fall back against the cool bedroom wall and there, my eyes seep deeply welled tears. In a moment, I am uncertain of why I am so angry, sad, alone. Where does this feeling of “not enough” and “incompleteness” come from? Am I going mad?

During the outburst, words erupt like “why am I not allowed to be angry?” and “why am I the only one who cares about this?” and “why I am always wrong and you aren’t?”. Inside, I wonder, who these questions are for. What is it that I want to hear? What is it that I want to accomplish? Is it really OK to just yell and cry and throw things and let it all loose? How do I react when my children do this? Am I still just a child? Aging, but still learning to sort out my emotions?

Yes.

I am still learning.

I may be a mother, but I am still human.

There is some strange and pervasive idea that as mothers, we should find joy in every moment – in the dishes and diapers and tantrums and PTA meetings and night feedings and stretch marks and and and and…

…but what about when you don’t?

I believed this as I transitioned out of my teen years, that finding joy in every situation was the secret to happiness and the favor of God in my life, an inevitable martyrdom I would be expected to endure and applauded for. The mother who somehow keeps a clean house, feeds her children food that isn’t primarily white, volunteers, organizes playdates, responds with gentleness at every childish outburst and tantrum, exercises, remembers to feed herself healthy food, helps by earning an income and keeping a balanced budget, and does this every day, all the time, smiling and saying how blessed and thankful she is, because, children.

Except, often the stadium is quiet, there is no applause. Just the feelings of failure and guilt and notice of where we fall short compared to some other mom or household. But what mother does not ask at some point, don’t you see my sacrifice?

And yet, there is tension, always tension; because I also know, choosing joy does make a difference. It is here, in the practice of willing surrender and seeing the goodness in the midst of uncertainty, where I actually find my truest self and soul. I give up the need for admiration and in the doing for others, I find something more fulfilling than I have ever known otherwise.

Maybe the problem lies in the idea that we have to keep up. All. The. Time.

I have been the “mom blogger”, going on about my health-nut recipes and how I got my kids to eat spinach by hiding it in their chili (as Jim Gaffigan would say, “you’re trying to impress me with KALE?!”), savoring the little moments and sharing our simple, little life as if the morning meets me with angels singing their heavenly chorus, a halo surrounding me, saintly mother, giving my all to create perfect growing conditions for my children, all while staying fit, healthy, sane and joyful.

Maybe there are no angels singing, but there are moments, days even, where I see my best self.

And there are many where I see the ugly and show it to my family.

Then we get to practice forgiveness and grace and second and third and fourth chances.

I also believe in joy.

I know the deep healing practice of stopping and savoring and giving gratitude for the little things.

I love being a mom – motherhood has broken me, put me back together, stretched me, challenged me, shown me my strength and taught me I can’t do it all alone. Children are an insanely beautiful gift to us and I ache when I think of all the children without a home or present parents or opportunity like we have. And I do believe we have an incredible responsibility to be present to our children, affirming that they are human and capable as they are now, and also, a seed of the adult they will become, one we are to nurture as best we can.

I woke up this morning feeling like a complete failure.

For what? Having strong emotions, feeling alone and like my feelings didn’t matter, not getting to everything I wish was done, speaking in unloving ways toward my closest people, showing weakness, providing a gap for someone else to step into, for God to meet me with love – the love that is always there, but I don’t always notice.

Growth is important – I want to grow more to respond and communicate my hurt and feelings in a healthy way, and I believe I will always be a work in progress.

But in this moment, I’m sitting with this imperfection, the deep vulnerability and realization that I don’t have to keep everything together 100% of the time or maybe any of the time. Are we really meant to do it all alone?

We may be mothers, but we are still human.