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.

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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.

Childless: The Unseen Mothers In Our Midst

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I posted this quote on Instagram this morning:

“Let us keep reminding each other to breathe, to smile, to treat ourselves and one another with kindness. Let us hold each other when we need support, and let us challenge and remind each other of what is truly important. Let us take care of ourselves so that we don’t hand down our unfinished business to the next generation. Let us laugh together, and never lose our joy…And let us take care of the children, our children, all the children. Let us mobilize our fierce and passionate mother energy on behalf of all beings on this little blue-green planet…” – Denise Roy, MOMfulness: Mothering with Mindfulness, Compassion, and Grace (emphasis mine)

A follower left the comment, “Although I am not a Mom yet, I want to read the book you’ve quoted! I believe I hold a strong mothering spirit with me everyday.”

And I caught my breath for a moment as I saw something I often overlook – the unseen mothers in our midst.

And I wonder, how do we be more present to those who don’t technically have children, but are mothers in their own way? There are so many women in this space for a variety of reasons – it may not be the right season in life, they haven’t “found” the right partner yet, fertility issues, health concerns, miscarriage, fallen through adoptions – this just names a few. But they still have this strong maternal spirit and yearning to mother.

And often, when someone is vulnerable enough to share this desire or their struggle in achieving “mom” status, we hurry to patch it up and instead of just sitting with it, helping hold a tiny corner of the weight of desire for motherhood, we offer unhelpful answers like, “trust me, you’re lucky to have your freedom!” or “you’re so young, don’t worry, you have plenty of time!” or “don’t give up, it will happen!” or even, “You just need to pray more”.  We might even begin to question their life choices or try to offer unsolicited advice and share how easily we slipped into motherhood.

How do we walk alongside each other and SEE one another for who we are and affirm the mother felt within each of us, even if our direct experiences differ?

Because maybe they are mothers also, but with a much different birth story.

I don’t have the answers to why.  Why some of us fall into our hopes and dreams and others don’t, why I conceived and birthed three children with relative ease, while others have losses upon losses and nights upon nights of prayers and tears and negative tests and enormous let downs and children they hold tight in their chest because they love them as fiercely as any mother would.

And I can’t speak to that experience, since it is not mine. I have watched friends give birth to their babies and I have seen them lose them and I have heard the hopes of trying and trying and trying and the piercing comments and heavy hearts and the joy and the sorrow all mixed together and it leaves me speechless with wonder at the heaviness of birth and death and motherhood.

And I have often not known what to say or do or how to be for those mothers.

But, at this moment, I see you.

And I am trying to look with wider eyes.

– b.e.

becca

Becca Ellis is an artist, writer, wife, and mom to 3 in Bend, Oregon where she works as a Director of Family and Children at First Presbyterian. One of her greatest joys is bringing women together and supporting mothers in all walks of life. This Fall, she will be facilitating Intentional Motherhood Circles in Bend, Oregon through the Mama Connect Bend community.  You can learn more about Mama Connect Bend here and follow along on IG: www.instagram.com/mamaconnectbend

 

 

 

When a Child Breaks You Open to Responding in Fullness

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Joy. Laughter. Simplicity. Light.

These are gifts, raw and beautiful, given so we can experience life in its fullness.

There is more, always more, like tears and rage and thickened heart beats that stir our souls toward something, all invoked by what? Words, sights, sounds, smells, nature, relationships, encounters with others or perhaps even something Holy.

But we don’t always respond in a way that leans into the richness and fullness of life. As we grow, we learn through society to repress it, to distract ourselves, to not get too attached. We are stronger than all that, we say. We need to be. In our culture, strength is seen as success and emotion is often seen as childish.

When we were younger, it was all so much closer, this instinct to respond in fullness. When we saw a field dotted with flowers, we gladly flew through it, letting our fingers rifle through tall and wispy strands of grass, our hair wild behind us and dirt and sweat mixed with the joy found on the corner of our lips. We may remember and feel the same slivers of joy now, but it is more distant, less tangible.

And tears. Tears which fell in an instant at the smallest of offenses. All these emotions, big and small, mixing and taking over our bodies. But slowly, we learn. We learn to stuff it or to hide it or to cope with it or to rely on it or to use it to our advantage or to let it control us or to make us more whole of people.

It takes work. Deep work that has no timeline, unique to each of us. Sometimes growth occurs without much intention, but mostly, if we are to live life fully and not, as Mary Oliver wrote, “simply having visited this world”, there is a breaking we must go through.

The author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes about this breaking of our hearts into a “new capacity”. It is not so much a breaking that shatters our hearts, but rather one, that while it brings pain, actually expands our capacity for love and compassion.

And now, I wonder, how do we capture the heart of the young and set the child in our heart free? How do we allow this outer coating to be pierced so light can dance within us and we can join in the wonder again? How do we break open to this old-and-young-at-the-same-time capacity?

I sit in silence and then, I see it. In a form of a toddling child, who spotted me after walking around the corner. A simple and infectious joy radiates across his entire face and then, the running of his little legs, learning more coordination every day, to come and embrace and just be close to his mama. I am his everything. He learns trust and security and warmth first through the steady smile of his mama, the reassuring voice and enveloping arms that says just being in this world is enough.

This is what I am most thankful for, this reminding and this breaking open. A little nudge that interrupts and reminds me of the richness and fullness of life, that this work is important, too. Maybe the most important I will ever do.

Children. We need them in our presence. We need their insights and hearts and light to break us open and remind us of what it means to live life with fullness. We need to help them keep as much of that fullness and wholeness as they can. There was a famous rabbi who lived 2000 years ago, Jesus, who is recorded to have stood on the side of the smallest and weakest in his community, amplifying their voice and protecting them from being pushed aside and hushed up. Children were included. He saw their worth and affirmed it, even saying that we need to be more like children in order to be a part of this subversive and counter-cultural thing called the “Kingdom of God”. And I wonder if maybe he also knew he needed the refreshing reminder of the pure presence children bring.

It can be hard for a child, in a world so centered on adults – built physically for their needs and structured for their engagement, a society which tends toward thinking of children as just being “adults in training” – to know they belong. To know they have value here and now as they are.

Children are on a spiritual journey just like the rest of us. And they will have so much to sift through as they grow, just like many of us have. It is so important for them now, to be spiritually nurtured, to remain tethered and have a place of security to turn to when things begin to shake.  Because they will. And I know that as my own children grow, I long for them to see that the way of peace and radical love that Jesus taught is relevant and life changing and world shifting.

When we welcome them and allow our souls to be disturbed and shaken loose, learn to laugh together and remember that their noise is as much of a prayer as our silent reverence is, that we are all traveling together on this beautiful, messy journey, I wonder how much more vibrant and joy-filled our communities could be.

I wonder how much larger our capacity for compassion and love might be.

I wonder how much more we could respond in fullness to all that life brings us.

I wonder how much more our children will know who they are and how beautiful they are and how much meaning they can bring to the world.

-b.e.

Answer Their Questions – Even if You Don’t Have the Answers

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We all know this truth: the world is full of sadness and brokenness and atrocities our hearts can’t seem to comprehend. It feels like there is always another story, another group being marginalized and abused, another people displaced and suffering, another disaster striking and destroying everything a family has and knows.

Right now, with all the brokenness accompanying what is happening at our borders, I have been wondering, how do we raise our own children to stand for what is right and break the patterns history repeats? How can we help them understand their privilege and raise goodness within them?

There may always be suffering and people choosing to inflict pain and oppress others with their power in the world, but there is something deep in each of us that knows we can’t allow ourselves to just get used to it, to begin accepting it as part of life as long as it doesn’t impact us personally. It is easy and natural to want to shield our children from it completely, to allow them to keep their innocence and not have to worry about what is happening in the world. And while I agree that discretion should be used in determining at what age and how much is appropriate to share with a child, I also believe it is essential for us to be preparing our children to take a loving and compassionate stance as they age and enter adulthood.

Many of us, as we watch our children grow, have hopes they will learn to navigate life with good judgment, choose to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and speak out against injustice.

But how do we even begin to grasp at such a large task and how do we do it in a way that honors their emotions and sense of security and current developmental stage?

I think one of the biggest gifts we can give to our children is to answer their questions, even when we don’t have the answer.

We have probably all been hit with that unsuspected moment when your child asks you a question like, “What happens to people after they die?” or “Why would someone want to shoot someone?” and for a moment eyes freeze and lips numb, as our mind races to come up with the “right” answer.   Many times, as adults, we bring our own baggage with us to these questions. Personally, I have had sift through many dogmas and beliefs I was taught growing up and have often responded hastily, distracting and essentially shutting down the question, out of fear of indoctrinating my children the same way.

Yet, many times, children just need to know you are listening and holding space for them. Lisa Miller, author of the book, The Spiritual Child, writes how often parents respond with “I don’t know”, when we dont know what to say. But this can actually halt the discussion and dismiss the question. What if you really don’t have words? She suggests responding with a “what do you think?” and see what comes next.  The important thing is to not cut off the wondering, invite the questions and be willing to sit with the unknown.

As a parent, I have felt at times inadequate and poorly equipped to answer these big questions, teach empathy and work toward instilling the values in my children that I believe will allow them to care for others, contribute positively to their communities, lead others toward goodness, and be the most amazing human beings they can be. It has taken intention and work and listening and trying again and having grace for myself as I take this task on, to nurture and encourage their spiritual development, as an essential part of raising my kids.

But often, I find myself surprised by how much depth and understanding even the youngest souls offer when presented with these big and hard and complicated issues that adults can’t seem to wrap their heads around or find solutions to. Somehow, they manage to find the simplicity, point out the profound.

So, when they ask the questions, I have learned to do my best to invite more curiosity, to help them find the answer, or at least, enough for now.

They might answer the question for themselves,

or

you might offer just the right words,

or

there might be no words at all.

Maybe You will learn something from them,

and

maybe you will have to look into the answer together and continue the discussion.

But, answer the question and affirm the importance of your child’s thoughts, feelings and curiosity.

I am in this journey along with you and have no claim to expertise or perfection (far from it!), but I have found that in our life, we are given endless opportunities to nurture our children’s spirituality. They are found in the margins, in the every day and ordinary moments, we stumble upon these sacred moments and spiritual encounters.

While the way these opportunities present themselves and how we each uniquely relate to our children will be different depending on our own family dynamics and values, personalities, and where and how we live, every parent, regardless of their beliefs and background, are the ones with the greatest influence on the development of their children. 

So, I may not have specific how-to’s to offer, step-by-steps or concrete examples – I am no expert.

I am just a parent, like you, trying to remind my children of their privilege and grow in them a heart of compassion through practicing gratitude and learning about other cultures and imagining what it would be like to live in different shoes and giving up something to help others and learning stillness and sitting in silence and staring up at the trees and speaking truth and goodness and love and praying and allowing our hearts to be broken and knowing we have a responsibility to do more and love harder and look with intention outside of ourselves.

So, remember to breathe and that

  • It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers
  • If it feels like you have no time for anything more, you are not alone, breathe
  • Try and look for space in the margins of the day, even if it is just a few minutes here and there
  • No one is perfect
  • Some days it will feel hard and like you failed
  • Some days you will have all the right words
  • We can only do our best in each moment we are given
  • This is such important work you are doing, don’t give up
  • You are exactly who your child needs

-b.e.

 

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Not Unplugging From What We Hate, but Saving What We Love.

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Photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash

“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”

-Rose Tico, The Last Jedi

Today, I want to unplug.

Stop scrolling facebook, stop reading article after article, full of the stories of real people – mothers and fathers – who are crying out for their children, and no one is listening and all they are offering as consolation is a piece of paper with a phone number on it. Something to fold and unfold over and over as they anxiously wait to get off a flight sending them thousands of miles away from their children.

Two stories today, which possibly you have already read, have set the heaviness back in my bones. I don’t know if it is possible to read these and not be moved.

The story from the second image, of the 2 year old, crying while her mother is patted down…I can’t even begin. They were on dangerous roads for a month, exhausted, finally made it to the border and turned themselves in – literally, sat there waiting to be picked up by border police – hoping for help. The mother was breastfeeding her daughter moments before this picture was taken.

They take away their shoes. They load them up in a van and take them away.

We don’t find out the outcome, but it is very likely they will be separated and the momentary pain this girl is experiencing from not having her mama when she is just a foot away may be a very real ongoing suffering inflicted on her for hours or days or weeks or months. What happens when one so young is taken from her mama? My heart is aching and heavy.

That baby is not much older than my own. I cannot imagine being forcibly separated for even a day from my him. I cannot imagine what trauma he would have to recover from after being held in one of these detention centers.

It feels too much and I think what is the point in sharing anymore, in adding to the noise.

Isn’t it just self-care to take a break from the media?

Or is it just an act of privilege?

Because if feeling sad and heavy every day until this stops means I won’t grow numb to what is going on, that I feel the smallest ounce of empathy and love and can share in their suffering in some minuscule way, it is worth it.

If it means I will remember that these children are OUR children and we have a responsibility to take care of them, however helpless I personally feel, it is worth it.

Periodically, my husband likes to ask me how I am doing with God.  Are we on speaking terms? Do I feel close? Do I feel a void? Right now, there is a fire in my gut that I can only believe is put there by God. And if there is anything I believe is true, it is this: All people matter.  PERIOD. And the world is messy and broken and full of heartache and I will never even see or understand it all.  But once I SEE it, I can’t unsee it.

There was a Jew who came thousands of years ago and taught this radical idea of giving up your reputation and your own comfort to be a part of a new Kingdom.  And he said this Kingdom was GOOD NEWS for the poor and the oppressed and the hurting and the unloved. That it would be harder for the rich and righteous to enter into it, because we have to give up something for it.

Right now, we are seeing this truth. America, one of the richest nations in the world, is somehow defending its self-righteousness while inflicting horrific acts on people who have nothing –  no home, no resources, no safety, no allies, and now, their own family being taken away. We might claim to be “christian”, but we are not following any of the words of this Rabbi we say thanks to for “washing our hearts from sin”.

Instead, we are so worried about losing our comfort and some sort of false assurance of safety and taking care of our own first that we convince ourself there is either nothing we can do or we are doing nothing wrong.

But,

what is going on at the border is not good news.

Forgetting the humanity of those from another country and simply referring to them as  “illegal” or “legal” is not good news.

Taking children from their families who just want to be safe and together is not good news.

And just because there are others suffering and are stuck in impossible situations does not make them or this issue more or less wrong or unimportant.

So, whatever you believe about God or Jesus or America or Humanity, I hope you are asking yourself some big questions right now.

Like, what are we willing to lose?

And who do we love?

And do we realize how much we have?

And what are we going to work to save?

I want to unplug from all this news that is getting sadder by the minute.  But instead, I’m going to focus on saving what I love. And my love can’t stop at my own home or blood or skin color or border.

Whatever you can do, wherever you are, do it.

Call. Write. Share. Give. Remember every time you hug your child or tuck them safely into bed at night what a gift you have, something you take for granted, that is being withheld from someone who loves their own child just as much, who has made incredible risks out of that love.

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Dear Exhausted Ones

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To the full-time working parent, giving countless hours to taking care of your family, sacrificing your own self-care and desires just to get through another day, while the laundry and bills pile up and the fridge is looking bare and you’re trying your best to give your kids what they need and show them your love, but you feel the stretching and hit your limit more than you wish to admit. Exhausted you still pull yourself up after finally sitting down to help with that last minute school assignment and get your daughter to those piano lessons you stretch your grocery budget to afford.

You matter and life might be so different than you ever imagined it to be and not slow down anytime soon and all you do may never be noticed or appreciated like it should be, but you are seen. Remember to breathe and take even the smallest moments of rest as they appear.

To the postpartum mom in the thick of taking care of the littlest humans with the biggest needs and only experiencing life through a constant fog of exhaustion, you glance in the mirror and try to unsee the dark circles under your eyes and the extra rolls and marks you maybe know should be acceptable to be there after having a baby, but you just want some remnant of normal to be back in your life. But there is too much and so little time and the days go so slow and yet, every milestone your baby reaches has you wondering how so much time has passed.

You are doing such important work. It is hard, and some days you will want to quit. They say nothing lasts forever, but it’s not true – the impact you are making now will follow your child throughout their entire life.

To those still wrapped up in bedsheets hours after the sun has risen, paralyzed by something you can’t find words for, broken and afraid and overwhelmed with a sense of unworthiness and uselessness. Maybe you are surrounded by people who care and you can’t seem to show them the love you know you have for them. Maybe you are wondering if anyone ever thinks about you and just wish someone would show up at your door. The new day doesn’t bring the light you are missing, even when the sun is shining directly on your face.

Maybe no one will show up for your today, maybe not even yourself, and I can’t imagine that pain. You are enough. Time may pass, but even if it takes days and months to get out of that bed, to silence the voices that say there is no point, I hope you know that you are a gift and the party isn’t complete without you.

To the one who has been left in silence and unknowing, without any answers as to what the heartbreak was or how it happened, a relationship torn. You are left only with the interrogating voice in your head placing blame and the never-ending questioning, a self-inflicted torture. Your heart is longing for resolution and wholeness, but wonders if it should hold out or move on.

It is hard to not allow one person to determine your value. Maybe you were wrong, maybe they were wrong, too. Maybe we are all human and navigating conflict in love is one of the hardest things to learn. We all have the chance to do better, be better, love better.

To the under-served and unprivileged who I often turn a blind eye toward and don’t take the time to understand or immerse myself in your world, I am sorry for the way things completely out of your control – when, where and how you were born, the unfounded fears of our society – have been held against you, holding you back from flourishing, to support the convenience and wellbeing of others.

You would think we would stop to listen, that the crying out and deep brokenness would shake something in our bones to finally give up our comfort to do what is right and just, but instead we brush it under the rug and rearrange the furniture and rescue dogs and shake our heads, so disconnected we don’t really know how to change anything.


We all have a story, we are all journeying through life and doing our best and being our worst and letting tears fall and wondering if we are broken and why we don’t care more and how life can be so wonderful and how there is darkness around every corner.

Truth is, we can all do better, be better, but “being better” doesn’t change our worth.

If we don’t accept the basic worth of another human being, of life itself, the world will never change.

We will continue to hate the people that threaten us and draw lines around “us” and “them”.

It all seems too big and impossible, really, when you think about it.

But even in your workplace and as you care for your family and as you raise your children and as you reach out in love to those who have never experienced it and as you navigate your relationships and go to Thanksgiving dinner and get to know your neighbors and wash dishes and read board books and embrace your art and remind others of beauty and replace dignity and tend to the earth and hear the stories of those around you and see the sunlight filter through your bedroom window and say a prayer of thanks

remember that small things matter, too.

You can’t do it all and you definitely can’t do it all at once.

We all know there are big things going in the world and it is a matter of privilege when our problems hardly stack up to the devastation many individuals and families are facing.  I hate that I don’t have the answers and don’t know what to do. My heart seeps over the Palestinian deaths this past week and the families being torn apart and the countless atrocities all across the globe, and yet, I don’t even know where to begin.

Some of us can and will step out and do something that directly rescues those across the globe from us. I am so thankful for you.

Some of us may never have the resources or the opportunity to do something at a global level. But right outside of your front door, in your very neighborhood, even in your own home, there is so much good to be done, waiting to rise out of the cracks.

-b.e.

 

 

 

 

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to name the things that often go unspoken

 

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One of the paradoxes of writing is the desire to be known and yet, at the same time, allowing others to interpret who you are however they choose. There is no controlling the outcome. I share my thoughts and you take it as you will. And that’s okay. For me, writing is about growth and wonder and questions and process and naming the things that often go unspoken and maybe even stringing words together that resonate with some other soul somewhere, too.

I have gone through a season where I have kept writing, but I haven’t been sharing much of it. Something about where I am and who is watching me (whether it is only in my head or not) has made me become more worried about how I express myself – which I already had enough anxiety about to begin with.

How do you release those fears and be who you are?

Because really, what is there to lose, anyway?

Perhaps a false expectation someone has of who I am, but I would rather lose something that wasn’t really mine to begin with than to never respond to the pull I feel to put words to what is difficult to name.

Like how lonely it feels to suddenly not know what you believe and wonder how you lived so much of life going through empty motions and begin to question who you are at every level. What did any of this actually mean? What was it for? What kind of person has it made me? How blind have I been?

The days that follow it all begins to taste so stale and like nothing more than meaningless words with hollow hope and no action to stand up for anything that actually mattered.

And for some reason, you feel like you are doing something wrong, you are something wrong, and no one knows quite what to do about you.

There have been moments where I have faced the void where I had always felt God before and wondered what would happen if I just cut myself off from it and never looked back. But I could never do it. I could never dismiss entirely this mystery or stop questioning the divine or neatly tuck in a box with hard parameters the many experiences and things that have happened to me along the way.

Instead, I felt stuck in a sleepy faith that maybe made me feel something, but hardly appeared to make any visible marks on the world for good.

Until one day, quietly and without much effort, I woke up.

And the colors around me seemed less dull and there was a hint of dewey hope hanging in the air and maybe, just maybe, I thought I had found myself or some remnant of faith or spirituality again.

And again I was faced with this Jesus fellow, the one thing I couldn’t let go of entirely about the faith I was brought up in. I have always believed that if we lived out the subversive, messy, heart-centered message of this eccentric man who invited us to be radical peacemakers and reach out – not just in charity, but in true relationship – to the ones no one wants to hang out with, the world would experience a new surge of hope, starting with the those who need it the most, those found at the lowest rung of the social ladder.

And now, I am here, working full-time at a church. I don’t know exactly how I got here. When I think about it, it feels like an unexpected wind came through and whisked everything into place and dropped us here.

But slowly, I am leaning into this reality and seeing something new – something like hope or purpose – growing inside. I wonder if it has always been there, this ember, just waiting. Waiting for the Wind to come and fan it into a blaze. Hardened layers from years of learning to hide so as not to disappoint is giving way to a soft and moldable human that wants nothing more than to receive grace and let it flow outward to others. It is a breaking that is good, a rawness that breathes hope.

I always have further to go in this journey. I am thankful for the mystery and for knowing that I am not required to have all the answers. There is nothing to lose and I am learning to keep a looser grip on the things that I can’t control.

-b.e.

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