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.

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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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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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It Is Hard to Hate Someone Whose Story You Have Heard

I heard those words during a talk about raising culturally competent children given by Professor Hotchkins, who teaches at Texas Tech University and is one of the leading voices in the nation on the subject of navigating organizational + social cultural difference.  He was the only black man in the room of white faces, and though it is sad to admit, one of the only black voices I have heard, in person, on this subject.

This made me wonder about how little I have invited diverse relationships into my life, even though I have lived in cities with a range of ethnicities represented. There is one time where I spent a considerable amount of time with latino families, two years during High School, when my parents helped with a hispanic church plant. Some of them became my friends, but I always felt as an “other” in the group.  I didn’t fully understand their culture or speak their language, but I loved those people and I felt accepted by them. It is the closest I have ever felt to being a minority, but looking back, I realize there was still always a feeling of privilege and superiority – I could navigate the world easier for many reasons, and when I left that space, I could go back to my own sameness.

Five or so years later, when my husband and I were first married, we also worked with youth who were a mix of latino, white, and black kids when we lived in a more diverse neighborhood. I didn’t think about race much, none of that mattered to me, I told myself. But I wonder now how I imposed my whiteness on them or acted in a condescending manner, even subconsciously, as I look back.

Dr. Hotchkins shared many good points and I really am glad I made myself go, made myself sit silently for over an hour, and listen to his perspective and story. I am only beginning to grasp at the edges of this complex issue.

I left with 5 pages of notes and have many thoughts to allow to simmer, but there were a few things that stuck with me especially:

1.) He asked the question, “How many culturally diverse artifacts do you have displayed in your home? Do you have pictures or items tied to a specific culture?” I thought back to my childhood and remembered the shelves of books my parents had, and how I was drawn to those few portraits and photographs of indigenous tribes or cultures different from my own. I mentally pictured our own home – no. I may have a pot or a book with some pictures, but they are not strewn or displayed in a way that my children would notice. Our two large coffee table books feature white people (The Beatles).  This is a gap, I realized. We have not been intentional in the display of other cultures in our home.  I have not been intentional in my own education of those cultures.

2.) He shared a quote, the author and exact wording I don’t remember, but it went something like: “It is hard to hate a person whose story you have heard.”

It reminded me of a story I heard once about an older couple who were home in bed for the evening. While they were sleeping, a man broke into their house, held them at gunpoint, and told them he was going to shoot them. The man calmly said, “Alright, but first, how about we have one last cup of coffee together”. For whatever reason, the trespasser obliged, and they went down and sat around the kitchen table.  While they drank their coffee, the man with the gun told the couple his story, about his loneliness and problems in life. In the end, the couple lived and the man became friends with them. The act of hospitality and deep listening de-escalated the situation and took away the cloud of hate between them.

As we are entering the season of Lent, our church is going through the book “Mending the Divide” by Jer Swigart and Jon Huckins, and within the context of peacemaking and really entering into relationship with our neighbors who look different from us, this quote is a beautiful reminder of how stereotypes can be changed and brokenness can be restored.

In their book, Swigart and Huckins suggest that the steps to being peacemakers are to SEE, IMMERSE, CONTEND, RESTORE. That first step, seeing – really looking and allowing ourselves to see the pain and conflict in the lives of those around us – is vital. Because once we have seen it, you can’t unsee it, and then you must decide what to do with that. One problem is that many times we ease our conscious by simply giving money or items to a cause or doing something ourselves for someone that has not been asked of us.  Which can be helpful and good, but often we THINK we know what love looks like for someone, but we haven’t actually asked. So we impose our privilege on them, meeting needs that aren’t even there, to make ourselves feel better about their pain.

In reality, we need to immerse ourselves in their lives, even if it means we might be judged by it or our reputation will be questioned, hear their stories, surround ourselves with their pain, and then, once we have been invited into their lives in relationship, can we begin to understand what it looks like to wage peace in their context.

I wonder how many of us are actually willing to do this.  There is a fantastic ethnography written by anthropologist Seth Holmes, titled  Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, which describes his journey immersing himself into the lives of Oaxacan migrant workers. I read it while taking a medical anthropology class and it deeply changed my perspective – even though I haven’t been there, I felt like I saw their suffering in a way the media does not portray.

We have to enter into their brokenness and even be willing to lose something in order to begin to understand and offer a voice as an ally and upholder.

3.) Your voice as an ally must be bestowed upon you and stay on the periphery of the discussion.

I have heard the word “ally” tossed around a lot since the Black Lives Matter movement was in the forefront of my Facebook feed. However, as my circle of friends were not diverse (read: almost all white), I never heard it being spoken by someone who was black. And I thought, “yeah, yeah! I can be an ally!”, but I didn’t know what that really meant. And I didn’t realize that as a white ally, I can’t be leading the discussion. My voice needs to be on the periphery, it needs to be a supportive voice, it needs to be informed by those in the center.

So, this Lent, I want to be intentional about listening to those who are different. Immersing myself before jumping to conclusions about what an individual or group needs from me or anyone else, and becoming an ally and friend in the peacemaking efforts.

Can you even imagine if everyone treated their neighbors this way? If every oppressed identity had someone of a privileged identity willing to lose something to make their lives better? There is so much work to be done, it is overwhelming.

But the first step, right now, today: Start listening with your whole body. Look deeply at those you normally pass by or you think you already have pinned down, because once you have SEEN the suffering, it is hard to look away.  Once you have heard the stories, and peeled away the stereotypes, your perspective will change.

-b.e.

 

 

 

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.

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