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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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.

On summer, motherhood, dreams, and being seen.

I wrote this post several months ago, but failed to publish it. So much has changed in our life since last summer, but still, this holds a part of my story and heart and as I read this post it seemed as if I was transported back to the space where I felt these thoughts deep enough to actually write them down.


 

 

There is a leaning, a gentle swaying and arch of my body and emotions that happens when I just stop.

Stop my whining and dragging of feet and annoyance and let my step become lighter and open my eyes wider so light and love can enter.

When I see my children clearly for who they are and the needs they have and stop rushing and criticizing and reminding them of their shortcomings.

There is always so much.  So much I want to accomplish and balance. So much attention I need to give. And in the “so much” I miss out on being available.

Available to sit and snuggle and make space to listen to their hopes, dreams, desires, interests; to feel their body against mine and allow our rhythms to align.

The summer goes by without rhythm. We wake up, eat breakfast, and mostly have no plans for the day. Maybe we will go to the beach or a park, or just stay home and sit in underwear all day. We just see. I have stopped being a homeschooler who tricks my kids into home schooling in the summer.  We read books, but no intentional science experiments or “strewing” has taken place. We aren’t practicing our alphabet or letter sounds. We are being bored and finding things to do or people to engage with (or poke). An endless vacation.

Some days it makes me feel like I am accomplishing nothing in all this nothingness.

Laundry may be caught up and the kitchen clean by the end of the day, but in all of the housework and cooking and cleaning and taking care of the baby and mopping up water and dirt tracked in from happy sprinkler feet, it is never finished and I rarely get to the deeper things I ache to do.

Music has lost its presence and I as I type this I feel a physical ache in my heart. Piano is a balm for my soul. When I sit and play, I instantly feel a melting inside, like broken jagged bits softening and solidifying together again.  I am whole.

Music shakes my insides like nothing else can and loosens things in me. Playing guitar and singing with all my being reconciles worlds to me.  This has been my lifetime therapy. And I miss it. It is something I do alone, mostly.  I sing strong when no one is listening to me.

Because when no one is listening or looking I am free to express myself however I choose. No criticism. No applause. No attention. I am a wildflower, able to bloom whatever way I am meant to and not hide my brilliance or dullness out of obligation.

It is harder when there is an audience, an expectation. I go rigid. I feel like I don’t belong here. Like I am not good enough to be in front of anyone doing anything. I feel this way about everything.

Sharing my words? Not good enough. Sharing my art? My photographs and videos and songs and creations? Who cares?

I share it, anyway, because I believe in doing things that scare and stretch me.

But then, anxiety. Why does it matter?  Why does it stop me?  Why do I worry about the attention? I become overwhelmed and step back from it all and lean into silence again. Lean into my own world.  I devote myself to making kombucha and not eating sugar and keeping the floors cleaned. I find contentment in simplicity. Which is good, but it is also an excuse.

An excuse to keep from being seen.

Some people know this about me, but I occasionally worked as a fine art model for a couple of years. And I was seen by the eyes of artists. They all interpreted my body differently and it was fascinating to see the variance in shape and size and angles and curves.

When you put yourself out there and allow your heart to be seen, everyone will see it differently. You can never be everything to everyone and you will always be too much or too little to someone.

But for now, I am wading through the simplicity and the tasks summer presents for mothers of young children. I am keeping my longings and plans tucked neatly against my chest as a secret. My mind is never at rest and all day I compile and organize lists and dreams.

The song, Dream by Patricia Ahn has been resonating with me and makes me burst with the desire to dream like a child again and think things are more possible than my grown-up mind would like to believe.

How I hope my children will always believe in their dreams. How I hope I will lean into my own and have the strength and confidence to be me.

 

 

RE-POST: A Mother’s Wishlist

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// that I make time to nourish my body through food, movement, creative outlets // my children hear love in my voice. always. // that I stop apologizing for what I feel // I make things both useful and beautiful with my own hands // a heart brimming with gratitude // a house filled with less things and more grace // that we live somewhere new, for a little while // that we nurture a sense of adventure and curiosity // that I react less and embrace more // and some new pillows would be nice, too.


 

I wrote the above post back in June, nearly 6 months ago. There has been a yearning for adventure, something new for a while, but in the midst of that, we have settled down, like a babe in the crook of her mother’s strong, yet tired, arms, softly swaying, fighting the sleep.

The yawn and heavy eyelids come, we are so close to that sweet slumber, the rhythm is soothing and lulling us, the familiarity of everything around comforts us and we think this is all rather nice and why not just nestle in and rest?

But there is a pull that keeps us blinking, and now, very suddenly, we are jerked back awake.

This move is big for us, although it feels like something I have done many times before. This place – this home – where we have had babies and made friends and put down our roots, it is the longest I have lived anywhere and my heart hurts a little when I think about leaving.

Yet, I can’t count the evening strolls in our little town or the nights drinking tea and staying up too late, talking and dreaming and wondering what could be and how much more we could do and what kind of people we want to be and how it is okay and good to be here, but there is something about going that creates a stir, a catalyst for change.

Some of these simple “wishes” I am always going to be working on. But it gives me hope that some of my deep desires are becoming reality.

We got some new pillows a little while ago, also.

 

-b.e.

 

 

On Greatness: Finding your Artistic Voice and Offering Hope to Others

“Greatness is never achieved by trying to imitate the greatness of another. Greatness is chipping away at all that does not belong to you and then expressing yourself so truly that others can’t help but recognize it. It is in silence that we discover ourselves.” – Jewel, Never Broken

“Greatness is when you leave the room, & people have more hope than when you entered.” – Rob Bell

I read the first quote last month while reading Jewel’s book, Never Broken, and heard the second during a podcast interviewing the author, Rob Bell.

These words of wisdom have challenged my views of greatness and self-expression and the importance of being true to yourself.

Most of us start somewhere on our journey to finding our artistry – we often mimic others we admire first and then slowly learn to find our own personal expression and flow. This can take time however, and it is easy to compare ourselves and feel like we will never be “talented” enough or as good as others.  Maybe someone else is already doing what we want to do, and we feel like there isn’t space for us.

Greatness feels like a lofty and selfish goal, in some ways. As if it means being better than others or getting more recognition for your work. I love the freeing notion that greatness can bring hope. It isn’t about being better or more liked or more beautiful or making more money, but bringing hope to others.

I think about my various artistic endeavors which bring me joy – writing, photography, picking flowers from my garden and making simple arrangements at home, painting, drawing – and when I think about whether they are worth the effort or question whether they will ever “amount” to anything, I realize I am using a false measuring system and asking all the wrong questions.

I know that whenever I start to feel a motive creep through me that comes from a desire to be admired or make myself feel like I am better than someone else or to prove something to the world (or family, friends, competitors, etc.), I am allowing my step to be shifted away from greatness and toward something much less worthy of my time.

If we are simply measuring our accomplishments in life by “likes” and “shares” on social media, comments and recognition from friends or even comparing our own work with someone else and patting ourselves on the back for creating better content, we are allowing ourselves to get lost in the noise and stunt our forward motion, when true growth comes through silence and reflection and practicing the hard, everyday discipline of showing up and doing the work.

So now, when I question my worth and how much energy I am putting into something, when I look hard and deep and wonder if there is any point or if I am going in the “right” direction, I am asking new questions.

I am asking whether it brings hope.

Or sheds light on truth.

Or inspires beauty and growth and goodness in others.

Whether it brings joy to myself and those around me.

This feels so simple and can be applied to so much in life: work, art, parenting, writing, teaching – anything we aspire to do or be. Even small things can be done with greatness. But it is hard, because it feels backwards to what our culture teaches us about success and security and moving up in the world and making a difference and becoming something “big”.

But “great” and “big” aren’t really the same word.

And as Jewel states, greatness is actually about becoming smaller, shedding the things that don’t belong to us, and expressing our light freely.

-b.e.

 

 

 

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.