we may be mothers, but we are still human.

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

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

Yes.

I am still learning.

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

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

…but what about when you don’t?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also believe in joy.

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

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

I woke up this morning feeling like a complete failure.

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

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

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

We may be mothers, but we are still human.

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Childless: The Unseen Mothers In Our Midst

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I posted this quote on Instagram this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, at this moment, I see you.

And I am trying to look with wider eyes.

– b.e.

becca

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

 

 

 

When a Child Breaks You Open to Responding in Fullness

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Joy. Laughter. Simplicity. Light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-b.e.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They might answer the question for themselves,

or

you might offer just the right words,

or

there might be no words at all.

Maybe You will learn something from them,

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, remember to breathe and that

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

-b.e.

 

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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.