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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

Young Women Travel Together Concept

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

oregonmem069.jpg

// 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Part of the Process

I have been attempting to write everyday.

I am finding that most of what I write is not worth posting and not heartfelt. I simply type out lines of words and thoughts that aren’t necessarily cohesive or true or intentional or compassionate. It is part of the process.

But I am realizing that when I fail to connect the flow of words on a page with the beat of my heart, the result is hollow. There is no content, no point, no draw, no change.  No invitation to stop and sink into the meaning, which we must find ourselves.

If I write to convince, I start to doubt my certainty in the first place.

If I begin to research in order to back up my claims, I dig a hole of searching for answers and I must stop before I can’t reach the top anymore.

So there are many drafts of half-hearted posts, lines of thoughts and beliefs and statements I feel strongly about voicing, but I haven’t found the words.

Writing everyday is liberating and discouraging and exciting and depressing and rewarding and just hard all at once.

For whatever reason, I have a flame inside and I must write. I must write words so they don’t burn a hole in me. I hardly even know what I am saying or what it is that I am bursting with, only that the words will come.  It is not really for you, reader, that I write. Not yet. I hope some day it might be, except when I write to you, I begin lose myself and the only reason this blog exists, this tiny speck of information in the vastness of the internet, is to reveal something.

Something about myself, about the world we live in, the choices we make, the things we get used to, the people and issues we dismiss, what is important and what is superficial.

I am learning how to speak and write from a place that is not so influenced by those around me. I am learning not to compare. I am learning to put myself out there, embrace vulnerability and not do things simply to gain approval.

-b.e.

 

 

Mama Re-Made

A baby birthed, a mama re-made, a dada proud, a family expanding.

There are so many words, and yet so few, because the feelings overwhelm, and how does one use words to truly convey the settling deepness of motherhood?

I confessed something out loud to my husband less than a month after my 3rd babe was born:  for the past 9-10 months, I had been depressed.

And it really was no surprise to him.  He had watched it.  His wife, who had been strong and determined, who was becoming something more beautiful than ever, suddenly began to shrink away with hollow eyes as her body swelled with new life.

There was beauty in it – there always is, in life being made.  But a light that had been burning bright whittled down to just a flicker.

Her soul was heavy.  Here was another baby.  Wonderful, sweet, divine, meant to be. But, another one, nevertheless.

It was good to speak it.  To look at the bit of grief and sadness I had harbored during that time and just let it be known for what it was. It wasn’t a great secret anymore.  It wasn’t a secret at all, I realized.

But it is scary to admit that you could have such sadness while carrying such life inside of you, when everyone around you is so very happy and excited for you, when you know you should be, too.  And you are, but it is difficult to explain, because you are split.  There is a pocket of doubt and grief you can’t just happy away.


I was so sure I was done.  No more.  So content with my two strong children. Baby things drifted out of the house.  Then the sickness.  The test.  The line. The scream. The realization of what it meant.

I stopped pursuing so many things.  I became a little cold, cut off, unable to feel like I did before.  I was easy to set off. I was so sick and tired.

Then things got better. I started getting excited.  A baby!  Who doesn’t want a baby?  So many others I know have lost babies, not been able to have babies…how could I complain? I felt strong again.  Ran, worked out. Still, ate too much sugar. But I felt good. I always feel beautiful when pregnant, even though my body ached more this time than I had previously experienced.

Fast forward to September 29, 5 days before my due date. I had been experiencing weeks of prodromal labor.

It was evening.  I had been getting contractions for weeks, but finally, they were really hurting, they were getting closer together.  3 minutes apart, 1 minute each. This went on for 4 hours without changing.  The midwife rushed to our house.

2am. Music playing, lights glowing, birth pool blown up.  The house was clean and peaceful. My hair was done nicely, I was in pretty underwear. She checked me.  100% posterior.  She almost couldn’t find my cervix. I almost didn’t believe her. I wanted to cry, but I was too tired.

This was my third child.  How could I not know what real labor felt like?  This was real.  I had to breathe.  I was exhausted. I went to bed. Two hours later, I awoke. A very strong contraction out of nowhere, blindsided.  But, they were unpredictable.  10 minutes here, half an hour there, maybe longer.  I lay in bed and breathed through them, wondering how I could go on if this wasn’t real labor.


We walked. We shopped.  We went to the park.  They still came, but randomly, each time I wasn’t prepared for the intensity and I almost cried through them. I told my midwife at 4PM what was going on.  She didn’t say much. I don’t think she wanted to give me false hope.

I went home and went to bed at 6PM, very tired. I was woken up by a contraction every 30 minutes or so. We watched part of a movie at 10.  I went to sleep around 11. Woke up again at 1AM. 1:30AM and I crept into a tub of warm water – I had to stop these or I would go mad. Warm water, relax, rest, breathe.  I leaned my head back against the hard tub side and cried and thought This has to turn into real labor, or I will die. It did, and suddenly. 5 minutes apart, HARD contractions.  At 2AM we started timing.
Blow up the pool.
I’ll call the midwife.
She came.
Check.
7 CM.
Oh thank God.  I will have a baby soon.
The tub felt so good.
I labored.  I breathed.  I was exhausted.
But baby was finally coming.
I couldn’t eat.
Vomit.
I must be close.
Hours pass.
My hair is a wild mess. My skin feels red and yellow and splotchy.
Eat.
No.
You need to eat.
I can’t.
Drink.
I take a sip.
Please, eat.
I take a tiny bite.
Vomit.
Check the cervix.
A lip.
Your body isn’t working hard enough in the tub, the midwife said.
I weakly get out, dripping.
I lay on my side on the couch and can’t be quiet anymore, it is too intense.
I moan.  I try to stay in control.
I have never vocalized before in labor. I always found strength in the quiet, the secure and predictable breaths.
I feel angry with my midwife, but also I know this is how I will meet my baby.  I tell myself it is ridiculous to be angry. Anything to stop this.
I switch sides. Then, sit on the toilet.
Excruciating.
I am shaking my legs and moaning through the contractions.
It is hot, the heat lamp is on.  My husband pushes on my lower back, he is nauseous and I am thankful for him.
Finally, I get back in the tub.
Still, a lip.
My heart sinks.
I muster my strength and push through it.  It is the worst feeling I have ever felt.
It has been 8 hours since my midwife first arrived.  I am so tired.  I am ready to push.
But it is the hardest time pushing I have ever had.  The progress feels slow, even though they tell me it is going well.
Why won’t that head come, I wonder. I am feeling it, him, down and back up again. I am pushing with all my might, I want him out so badly.
Finally, I feel the head crowning.
My midwife reminds me to slow down.
I was going to catch him, catch my baby.  But I can’t.  I can’t even open my eyes.
I hold my legs and scream.  Not because of the pain.  Because he comes out quicker than I thought he would.
I was going to be in control. I am scared I tore. I jump, startled.
Then I slow.
My midwife eases me down.  It has been 23 minutes. She says, wait.
Just hold him under the water, it is safe.
Look at your baby.
Hold him.
He is coming to you.

I begin to melt inside.

And as my abdomen which housed this babe for 9 months collapses, my heart swells and expands and it is over.


I still have an image seared into my mind of this moment.

Time stood still as I peered at his peaceful face through the surface of the water, his body still attached to mine by that pulsing cord, slowly and gently coming closer and settling my heart and loose insides.

I close my eyes now and try not to imagine it too deeply, afraid the true memory will fade.  If there was one thing I wished I had a picture of, it is this.  But also, I’m afraid that if I had an image, the recalling would not be so special.

It is one only I have. A mother’s keepsake, tucked safe within my chest.

– b.e.

sorennewborn9DSC_0147

 

Credit: Photograph of mother and child by Sara Krebsbach Photography | http://www.sarakrebsbach.com

All other photographs by author

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