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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embracing what is

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

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

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

The cold is doing its job.

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

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

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

I am dreaming again.

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

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

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

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

b.e.

my view around here

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I have felt like I am going non-stop the last 4 weeks, between children and school and the rest of life.  It feels so good to be out in the sun again and I am thankful for all the joy that is to be found in my life.  How is it that things are so good?  As I am learning again in a formal setting, I am also learning again how much I don’t know, how to slow down, be content, and present in the moment.  School will be slowing down soon, as I am finishing up one class early.  I am looking forward to the extra time to be with my littles and not feel so rushed and pre-occupied so much of the time again.  Hopefully I will be able to share some more of what has been on my mind again soon.  For now, this is a different season.

– b.e.

Simplicity is not a sacrifice

My husband and I started reading the book, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, and while we are only one chapter into the book there is so much to digest and think about and evaluate in our own life even in the few words we have read so far.  

Being in the season of lent, I thought it was appropriate to focus on sacrifice.  Many people view Lent simply to the extent of it being a time to give up some sort of vice or habit.  We have found it to be a rhythm we deeply appreciate during the year to break up bad habits and regain focus in different areas of our lives.

In terms of simplicity, it may feel like a sacrifice looking from the outside.

However, I am not talking about the sacrifices you must make when adopting a more simple lifestyle, but rather the idea that not embracing a simple life is the real sacrifice.

In his book, Elgin demonstrates this by listing the positive outcomes of conscious simplicity such as promoting fairness and equity among people, finding balance in all realms of life, stripping the unnecessary clutter, distraction, and busywork from our lives, connecting with those who really matter and staying focused on what is really important in life, and living in a way that looks ahead to the future and cares about the generations who follow.  (p. 4-5)

In contrast, he goes on to list the ways in which we make huge sacrifices every day by choosing to continue in a stressful and materialistic lifestyle.

How we are really sacrificing when we are sitting for long hours in traffic away from our homes and those we care about so we can make a living, when we are giving away hours of our lives for a job that is nothing more than just that, and when we lose the feeling of community as we are more cut off from our neighbors.  Not to mention the natural outcomes such as extinction of animals and plants due to our carelessness toward the earth.  (p.6)

Many people will look at some of the choices we make and think (or even say to us), “I would rather die than live without (fill in the blank)”

I thought like this (perhaps not so dramatically) at one point, too.

And there are still things that are hard to “give up”, but perhaps that is because I still retain the viewpoint that I will be missing out on something if I exchange it for a simpler counterpart.

This isn’t about legalism or doing something just for the sake of being different or radical.

This about living life in a holistic way that blesses others and gives us a greater meaning and depth in life.  As I trade in one way of living for something different, I have found greater freedom and time and a feeling of wholeness I didn’t know was possible to have.

My actions may not contribute a great deal to the environment or greater community in the grand scheme of things.  But, for me and hopefully the people around me, life can be richer, more meaningful, and less rushed.  As I tread lighter on the earth, perhaps I am able to leave a little bit more for someone else.

We need to shift our thinking from viewing  a simple lifestyle (not involuntary poverty) as a sacrifice or detrimental to growth, and realize what we are missing out on if we continue to focus on acquiring more and placing value on things that will not last or which may even contribute to human suffering (whether in generations to come, countries around the globe, or even in the places we ourselves live right now).

We are pretty good at turning a blind eye to many of the things we support silently and habitually every day in our western lifestyle, because we are so removed from them.

That is sacrifice.

But is it ours to make?

-b.e.

Further Reading:

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin

fully embracing the moment

My friend pinned this image on pinterest the other day, and I found it to be a simple reminder of living in the present and with intentionality.

I have had so many things on my mind lately – plans, ideas, projects – that  I find myself constantly going over in my head when I will get to the next task and how I will go about getting it done, while only halfheartedly participating in the richness of the moment around me.  

This has been on my mind for a little while now, and I feel challenged this week to make more intentional choices about how my time is spent and where my focus is in every moment, thinking less about myself and more about the broader picture of how my actions effect others.  I want to be fully embracing what I am doing or being a part of and not be constantly worrying about all those other loose-ends and never ending to-dos on my list.

Trying to remember that they will still be there – waiting on my list – for when it is time to focus on them.

– b.e.