the most frightening and truest freedom I could ever know

The morning light creeps through the window and gently nudges me awake.

I breathe in that quiet morning space, folded into the warmth and safety of my sheets, and slowly my eyes open and close as I feel both weightless and heavy at the same time.

All at once, I begin to list in my head the many tasks to accomplish and places to be: our children’s needs, my own, our home, my job. And I wonder how in the midst of all of that, what light I have to offer, what light there is to receive.

I wonder why my body suddenly feels so heavy and round and how will this day be any different than the one before it? How can I carry myself – and everyone who depends on me – through it?

And then, I remember a simple, beautiful, profound truth: I matter. And I am loved.

The things I do are an overflow of who I am and the love that is in me, but they do not define me.  You can strip them away, the titles and stereotypes and relationships and there I will be, naked and vulnerable and simple and plain and absolutely, wonderfully beautiful and fiercely loved.

But, in that moment of complete vulnerability, I question whether I will be able to accept it. Can I look past the shame and failure, see myself for who I am without any of the stories I use to present myself and only be reminded of the ugly chapters I choose not to share, and still believe in such an incomprehensible and wild love? Will I be able to embrace the most frightening and truest freedom I could ever know? To be seen and valued for who I really am?

And, grace. Will I extend grace to myself?  What about to those who don’t see it – especially those who also can’t see or accept their own intrinsic and God-given worth?

Because what do we really think about the ones who don’t have the pretty stories to wrap themselves in?  The marginalized and different-from-us folk who we write off and push out of our focus so we can continue comfortably indifferent, pretending we aren’t judging them as harshly as we really are.

I don’t have the answers.

But I will start by choosing to accept my worth and stop trying to prove it. I am creating a new practice, so that when the morning light first pulls me out of my sleep, instead of reminding myself of the to-dos I need to complete to receive my worthiness, I am simply going to breathe in and welcome the sun and say,

“I matter. Thank you, God, for your light. There is light and life for me to offer and receive in this day.”

Because I deeply believe that once I accept the source of my own worth, I will begin to live and love from that place inside of me, which will spread to everyone I come into contact with.

It is a daily action. An intentional choice to make myself stop and accept this truth over and over again. To refresh my soul and let myself become smaller so that God’s love can shine brighter and spread farther through me.

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Surviving, Thriving, and New Year Resolutions

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There have been many different seasons of my life.  Some have been times of intense focus, joy, anticipation, change, sameness. Some have been easy, others hard.

Some have made me feel like I have just been surviving.

Three young kids and little sleep contribute to this feeling. The life of a mother is ever revolving, there is always another need, another small hand tugging on your leg or calling out for ‘mama’, a rubbing, rawness that is constant and reminding you of who you are and the life you nourish and give to those around you.

There is even more to it than that, though. More a question of purpose and whether I am living to my fullest potential or not.

I have been able to find great joy in the mundanity and simple everyday moments seeping through the cracks of routine, but there is something different and life changing about living in a way that makes you feel the most alive.

Around this time of year, I feel drawn toward a word for the upcoming season. This morning while I was running, I felt the sun warming my skin and I found myself closing my eyes for a moment, imagining rays shooting out from me and an incredible joy fill my soul – I felt like I was doing something I was meant to do: thrive.

Which makes me wonder, how do I thrive when I am doing the mundane tasks that must be done? How do I infuse my life with meaning and light in a way that ignites passion and life into others as well?  What practices do I need to put into place to create an attitude and environment that brings about that change?

Is it something I do, or just a choice I make?

A resolution?

So often our resolutions are about fitting into an expectation of who we should be and how we should look or act. I am tired of vowing to become smaller or more fit, to just be a better friend or wife or mom. No more attempts at vague goals like writing “more” or being “more” generous.

Instead, I want to stop apologizing for feeling so much and allow myself to be seen. I want to set specific goals that expand my love and not be afraid of stepping out and offering that love to others. I want to live into the wild, radical and relentless love I see in Jesus and offer it to others without hesitation. I don’t want to just survive on this earth – that is not what we were created to do. Death is too much a reality and our life is too uncertain for that. There are limitless things outside of my control, but one thing I can choose is to be present and mindful of what I am doing, to bask in the joy or the sorrow or the boredom or the newness of every moment.

I want to thrive.

The Things I Am Too Scared To Write

I am up late.

I drank the 5pm coffee, on the back porch, legs swinging in rhythm with our old, white wooden bench swing, my head nestled into the crook of his arm. I chatted and breathed in the fresh, dewey air. I felt the cool breeze against my skin. My heart was content and I smiled.

The warm cup, shared with my love – it was worth it, to be up now at 11:44PM, restless and alert.

I tried to journal.  To read. To breathe in and out slowly. To distract myself from the ideas and thoughts and hard looks I give myself when it is dark and quiet and I become so obvious I just can’t help it.

I feel a bit like a hunter, looking for some prey.  A bored kid turning mean, looking for someone to pick on. Here I am, vulnerable and alone and questioning who I am. Ripe for the kill. I tear into myself, sending uppercuts to my gut like a big ol’ bully.

Some of it is good.  I ask myself what I want to be doing. What is important. What I should be speaking out against or  for or who I should be reaching out to. I try to evaluate how I spend my time and what I am working toward.

Then I begin to question my abilities, talents, gifts, art.  Is it all meaningless? What do I have to offer? Why should I ever promote my work, my accomplishments? Do I just brag?

And then, my value. What do I bring to the table? Do other people even really like me? Tolerate me? Am I just a friend of convenience – the one you call up when no one else is available to hang out with? Do I come off as preoccupied and busy, or is that just everyone these days?

So, I get up and flip up the monitor on my laptop and let the lights from the screen wake me further and hope that if I just write, I will relax and tire and sleep will come.

But it doesn’t seem to be working.  Words lead to more words which lead to deeper and bigger stirrings in my heart I can’t express here. Words that desperately want to leap out of me. But I am too scared to write any of them here. I save those ones and type them occasionally into a Word document. One that grows slowly and feels too raw to share. Maybe one day.

I can be vulnerable with myself. I am mean, but not that mean. It is hard to let others see me. To let them know my true opinions and thoughts.

I would rather be quiet.

I would rather hang on to some mystery.

I know the doubting won’t ever stop.  This is what pushes me to grow.  This is what keeps me from becoming complacent. But, it would be nice to learn how to not be quite so concerned with myself.  To turn outward and just be and let people think what they will about me.  They will anyway.  Everybody does.

-b.e.

 

 

 

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 I had stayed instead of ran away? What if I 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 away and move forward.

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.

It is a simple practice and one that helps tremendously when I am trying to be mindful and at peace with what is going on around me on any given day. It keeps me focused on goodness and love, on slowing down and taking care of others and myself.

It requires sacrifice and an openness and awareness of new opportunities that might present themselves. And it is freeing.

-bec

Learning to Expand

I began writing this post a little over 3 weeks after I birthed our third sweet child into my arms.

He is now 9.5 months and I am just revisiting this draft.

The story of his birth I will save for another day, but as I pushed him out, I screamed and gasped for air and my midwife told me to slow down and that I could safely hold him a moment under the surface of the water, gracefully allowing him to float up toward me and everything just stopped.

I stared at this beautiful face that I couldn’t even imagine a day before, and my heart swelled.  As my abdomen, which had homed his tiny body for 9 months prior slowly collapsed, my heart expanded.

This feels so natural and unreal at the same time.  How can one person feel such love?

But my nature – and I believe our basic human nature – is to contract.

I want to be comfortable. I want to take care of my immediate needs and my family.  I want to do the things that make me happy and not really think about the impact my decisions have on others.

I am a selfish person, but the more selfish I become, the more blind and empty and callous I am to the needs of others. And the smaller I become.

Now, love.  Love is hard. It may include the feeling I get while holding my sweet, milk soaked baby, heaving soft breaths up and down, up and down, against my chest.

Or the swelling of pride and joy as I look into my sons eyes and see his compassionate heart played out in front of me.

My husband when he wraps his arms around me and tells me he loves me and I know that he means every single part of me, the squishy bits and the broken parts that are still healing and lash out critically at times.

But it is more.

It is sacrifice and surrender and strength.

It is the loss of sleep and the bouncing of the babe when he can’t settle on his own and nothing seems to help him.

It is the steady acceptance and kind discipline toward my older children when they don’t quite get it “right”.

It is the believing the truth my husband speaks to me and exercising grace when we disagree.

It is giving time to another person.

It is listening when there are so many other things to do.

It is offering resources to someone even when (and perhaps, especially) when it is an inconvenience to myself.

It is feeling deeply and mourning with others.

It is being available, even when there are no words.

It is constant.

So.

While I often find myself saying I wish my plate was smaller, instead, I am finding myself longing to expand in love. Beginning with myself and spreading out to my family, friends, and the world beyond.

– bec

the “lost” years

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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 some times 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.  Some times I give up and move on.  Some times 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. Not that we don’t enjoy it.  Being called “momma” and caring for my children is a great joy.  And it is hard and I have never found myself more than through childbearing and child raising.

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 I think about entering my last year in my 20’s, and hear the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt ending we some times have…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.

Not to see change, but to work toward it.

Because some times 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.

motherhood: when I just want to give up.

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This morning I posted a picture from last night on my instagram – it describes the magical feeling we had while sitting on our neighborhood beach with our littles watching the fireworks all around the Sound as we nestled into each other in a peaceful spot.

Ah.

We walked back late in the night with tired kids who wanted nothing more than to be home snuggled in their beds.  As I tucked them in and hugged and we smiled content smiles, my son informed me he would most likely sleep in very late.

Then morning came and the sleeping in did not materialize and I have not dealt kindly with any situation that has come up.  I have snapped, shouted, and said things I immediately regretted.

This is not the graceful, peaceful way of being a mama I want.

This is not the tone I want vibrating through my home.

This is not who I have been in the past.

I used to be so. much. more. calm.

So what do you do when everyone is screaming and crying and you are pretty sure you have made things escalate more than necessary and it seems like you can’t come back?

You come back.

You stop.

You breathe.

You keep people safe.

You hug.

You calm your voice.

You start over.

You say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness and start over and come back to love.

You ask for help.

Whether thats from them or someone else or in a prayer.

And you try again.

Something I tell myself very often is that just because I made one (or two or five or twenty) wrong choices in a day, does not mean my day is doomed down a bad path. My next choice does not have to also be a bad one.  You ate two pieces of cake, you don’t have to eat a third (or in Jim Gaffigan’s case, the entire cake). Maybe – OF COURSE – it could have been better if I had made better choices, but the fact that I didn’t does not disqualify me from future better choices.  I can reclaim my day.  I can reclaim the peace and the love and use it to patch up the tears.

Mothering is hard.

It takes a lot of surrender. It takes giving up and trying things and energy and some times you want to just quit, but you can’t really. And I think there will always be gaps, because how can we be so much to so many people in so many different capacities?  Some of us work or are trying to bring in some income to survive, or going to school to make things better but in the meantime, it’s a struggle.  Or we feel stuck at home with young kids and barely know what to do to get through each day, just waiting for our spouse to get home, and each day feels so similar.  And at times it can be hard to see what other families are able to give their kids and we want to be so much more.

And it can just kill our joy, and we in turn can suppress and strangle the joy out of those around us.

But.  I think more important than focusing on what our life situation is or what we have or don’t have is remembering that our kids are watching us.

They are watching the grace with which we live in this world.

And mornings like this, I shake my head, because I have not displayed grace.  I have not displayed an ease in accepting others (their) flaws, I have not been generous with my kindness, I have not shown them that being unselfish is worth the effort and a good thing to do.

I admit it and know it is true – sometimes I am not a pleasant person and my standards are higher for others than what I hold myself to, and my kids and husband see the worst version of me that exists.

And it is very easy to get fixated on the negative moments and forget the many times that as siblings they worked things out between each other, or the times when they do make good choices and show kindness and compassion to others, the times when I know I am doing my best and being a solid and safe place for them to land when they are struggling with something or bubbling with an abundance of happiness.

Today is not my everyday, but I don’t ever want it to become that.  This is just a real and honest struggle, but many times, it is hidden within our home.  Although, I am certain we have all seen struggling moms and dads at parks and stores when we and our kids are at our best, and we are thankful it is not us in that moment, or perhaps a little too judgmental about their lack of grace.  So many times I have been that parent, but many times I have been the other, also. Isn’t that just all part of it?

But, grace. Whether tantrums are being thrown or no major event is happening, displaying and being a person who lives out grace is what I am longing for these days.

I love my kids, I am glad I get to be with them as much as I do, and I want so desperately to continue to grow as a person and a parent.

-b.e.

stuck on repeat.

Days gently melt one into the next.

Some days repeat themselves.

We trip over our own feet again and again, brush off the dirt, kiss the bruises, and forgive and forget again.

Some times it feels so very mundane.  I wonder how a week, even a month, has passed by and when asked details about it, it is seldom I can recall many moments that stand out or what we spent our time doing.

But I know.

I know we cuddled on the couch and read and laughed.

We ran outside through the grass and dug in the dirt.

We went to the library and brought home a much too large pile of books and racked up a small fine after returning them late, even though we had read them the first day.

We ate popcorn and watched a movie, three snuggled deep in a blanket.

We wrote and learned lessons and did simple arithmetic and went to classes and played at parks and made new friends and fought with old ones.

We quarreled and stamped our feet and threw some things and screamed a bit.

I held my head in my hands and wondered what I was doing and if I could ever figure this parenting thing out.

We came back  and looked at each other in our tear stained eyes and all apologized and forgave again.

We allowed the tide to chase us back to the shore and froze our toes in the cold, salty water.

The sun is shining more and we wait for the green new sprouts to spring out of the garden boxes. We sit and revel in the warmth on our faces. We find ourselves continually longing for more of that warmth to come.  Oh summer, my heart is yearning for you.

It is easy to feel that the days must mean nothing since I barely seem to notice one from the other.  I look forward to bedtime beginning at the lunch hour, and wake up feeling tired and not quite ready for the day to arrive.  But oh how I am reminding myself right now, as I type these words and think about what our days have been full of, how important this time is, and how it is merely one season.

Young ones, so full of life, learning so much and sharing so much and needing so much and yet, becoming so independent at the same time.  And here I am, failing and loving hard, and learning about second chances and grace and what it means to become and just be.

Keeping eyes open hard to find the gems tucked throughout.

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– b.e.

embracing what is

DSC_0016DSC_0007DSC_0019bwDSC_0012DSC_0018Her quick steps lightly skip across the pavement, beckoning me to hurry and catch up.  We dash down the gravel path and round the corner to the museum entrance.  Her face is aglow as she realizes that the words I spoke this morning, the promise made of places yet to be seen, really did come true.

—-

Days come and go quickly and sometimes, seasons change abruptly.  I can recall some early September mornings when the air grew cold overnight and you wake up and dig in your drawer for the wool socks much sooner than expected.  It can feel a little bit like the earth is betraying you – summer hasn’t lingered quite long enough and suddenly, the cold creeps in and steals your last warm sunsets away.

But after a bit, you relax a little.  Pull your sweater around snug and cup your mug of tea with your hands, feeling the warmth transferring and transforming.

The cold is doing its job.

If we remained stagnant forever, what would life be?  How would we grow and how limited would our perspective be?  In the end, we are thankful for the changing seasons.

—-

January 1st.  Just a day.  It could be any day.  But this day has ushered in a new season for me.  Nothing has really changed around me, but I have chosen to embrace what is.

Being more present to my children, finding time to reflect and plan, and being more intentional and mindful with my time has opened up so many possibilities for this year already.

I am dreaming again.

Today, this meant embracing the odd schedule my son’s classes are and devoting that time to my daughter.  We went to the local children’s museum and played together, and I reveled in watching her role play and problem solve and practice her social skills.

We walked to the art museum and catching a glimpse of the wonder in ehr eyes and hidden pleasure as she listened to the very sweet woman who, with joy, guided her to a whimsical woodland scene. Time at the library together, and before we knew it, time was up and we picked up her brother.

I was starting to feel like the drive and the time “stuck” in the area was a complete inconvenience in my life.

But just a small shift of perspective reveals that truly it was a beautiful opportunity.

b.e.

like the ocean

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Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.  – Edna Jaques

Some days just seem to go wrong.  I don’t respond well, I make things harder than need be, I find myself throwing my hands in the air and saying, “PLEASE can’t we just get along??”, fully knowing that things will resolve better with time if I remain patient and calm.

In moments like these, I feel defeated.

As a mother, I want to be a compassionate role model, as a person, I want to show respect and kindness to others.  Many times I need to do the very thing I tell my children:

be still. breathe. calm down. reset. try again.

And I long for the ocean.

A wave.

There I would stand, waist deep, looking out into the horizon and waiting for a glorious, tall wave to rush in and sweep over me. Strong and terrifying, it would knock me over and I would see how truly small I am.

I might stop acting so big.

The water would be cold and salty and my skin would have that beachy freshness to it.  I might be upset for a moment.  But, as my clothes cling tight to my body, I would smile, thank the ocean, and walk back up along the shore.

There are some things in life powerful like the ocean.

Big moments that hit us and pull us down below the sea and push us up again, so we can regain our footing in less certain ground, where we don’t think we know so much.

And small moments, too.  The kind that you don’t even notice, they slowly creep up and splash around your feet, but still, they impact you.

Today we put our books down and allowed ourselves to become intoxicated with sunshine and fresh air. We ran and laughed, marveled at a partially frozen lake, found enjoyment in throwing sticks onto the icy layer and watching to see the outcome.

And like a gentle wave, the wrong words and deeds were swept away and we all stood up feeling refreshed. And my heart feels so very ready to welcome more days like this.

-b.e.