25 October 2012

Everything and Nothing

We are, none of us, everything.

Not to ourselves or our spouses or our children or to anyone who we love.

I'm reminded of this forcibly when my 2-year old's face crashes because I can't pick her up. Baby brother in one arm and three or four grocery bags in the other, walking through the middle of the parking lot, it's an impossibility. I cannot do it.

I hate that, those moments where I know what they need and I know what they want and I still can't do it, the moments where I have to look into their eyes and say, "Mommy can't right now," and I know they don't understand.

They need everything. They need to be held by arms stronger than mine, cared for by someone more patient than I am, fed and clothed and hugged by someone with infinite energy.

That's not me.

And so I choose, here and there, the things I'm good at and the things I like and the things I feel called to, and I try to become good at giving those things. I try to let the rest go, to know that Daddy and Jesus can meet the needs I cannot meet. All the same, in this torn ragged world we live in, I know that some needs, some important needs even, will go unmet.

I can be everything to no one. And so I strive to do a few things well, knowing all the while that they need everything and I can't give them that, no matter how much I would if I could.

May I point them to Jesus, who has already given it all! May one of the things I learn to do well be directing their eyes to his and teaching them to see! May they have receptive hearts to see and hear and understand!

Linking with Emily today.

01 September 2012

Waking Up

I happened on an article over at SheLoves Magazine this morning. "Wake up," it says in essence, and it made me feel inferior. "Not good enough, not doing enough," ran through my mind, tumbling over themselves and making me wonder why I'm not more, not called to more, not doing more right now.

It's not that I don't have big ideas, I reminded myself, defending myself. And, unlike some, I'm not afraid of them, or at least I'm more afraid of not pursuing them than I am of putting myself out there and trying. I have a vision for writing more, and of actually bringing in enough money that way that I don't have to teach or do anything else.

And then, by grace, I became aware of my thoughts, of what I was saying to myself, and I couldn't stop them but I could watch them as they passed and I could think.

(There's such a thing as thinking too much, but sometimes thinking saves me, too.)

Waking up doesn't always mean doing more. It doesn't mean feeling like I have to be more, like I wish I'd been given more, like there's some tantalizing carrot hanging out there for me, if only I could find it.

Waking up can mean relishing the life that I have. It can mean seeing the delight in my girl's face as she sticks foam jungle stickers to her paper and tells me a rambling story about the elephant. It can mean working (not-so-hard) to make the boy grin the grin that looks like it wants to go wider than his face.

I can't explain how much I feel called to Be Here Now, to live the life I've been given instead of trying to live one that isn't mine right now. The call is to awaken, to savor, to rise up and inhabit the space I've been given in a true way instead of passing through it on my way to something better.

“When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” It's true, I suspect, but sometimes the mountain isn't where I expect it to be. Sometimes it's my own heart, sometimes it's the thing that looks like a molehill but that I keep stumbling up against anyway.

"Wake up!" is truth, but so is "Listen!". What it means for one to wake up isn't what it means for another, and doesn't have to be what it means for me. Every call is grace. Every single one, and the smallness or the bigness of it doesn't matter, isn't even seen from an eternal perspective. It's the following that matters, the following that makes us whole.

28 August 2012

Connecting the Pieces

These days are about making connections, putting together the pieces of my life. I twist them and turn them, finding the ways that they fit together best. It's like a puzzle without a single answer, where the pieces are always changing shape and needing to be moved again.

I wish I was a Benedictine, sometimes, with my routine set and most of my days looking roughly the same. I'm a creature of predictability, thriving when I know I have a schedule I can rely on. I want a steady rhythm to my days, and instead I have a wandering flow.


But there's a rhythm here, too. Not, maybe, of the traditional kind, though there are still enough hours in every day for work, for my soul, for my family, and for rest. And if the days aren't rhythmed, the weeks often are. The same tasks are done, just not always in the same places.

I find myself doing a lot more listening, these days, to God and to myself. When I listen, I know what comes next, what to do with these few minutes here and those over there. I know what is important when, and everything eventually gets done without any piece starving.

I know what it's like to starve, to feel hungry for 10 minutes alone because I've pushed myself to work through all the open space in my days. It's insistent and snappish, this hunger, and it doesn't go away for ignoring it or telling it to wait a couple of years. So I take time, here and there, as soul and spirit call, and find my work and family better for it.

Nothing feels completed these days, not most of the time. Laundry is done in fits and spurts, often over several days. Work is finished piecemeal, and even prayer serves the desperate interruptions of waking kiddos. But life is not about finding answers and maybe we are never really done, anyway.

23 August 2012

Etching

I went away and came back with words written on my arm. They're in me now, in my skin, the skin that is me, and that's how I want it. I need them close, need to see them every day, so that I can live them and breathe them until they're more a part of me than my skin.



She saw them almost as soon as she saw me. "I want you to talk about the words on your arm," she said, and so I did. Happily. (And yes, she can have some of her own someday, with my blessing.)

I told her where the words came from, how Dame Julian loved God so much that she went to live alone so she could talk to Him all the time, and how she wanted to share God with other people, too, and so she wrote. Some of what she wrote, one small part, began to etch itself on my heart the first time I read it. "All shall be well . . . "

Then I told her how T.S. Eliot borrowed the Dame's words and added to their beauty, if that's even possible. And still they called to me.

And then my season of worry, of anxiety and learning how children make me vulnerable and fighting to come to terms with that. This season of knowing, eventually, that I have so much and that I cannot live on the edge it all hangs on. And these words, they remind me . . . remind me to return to myself, to my family and the kids, that I don't need to be afraid and so I can stay here, find gratefulness, and remember my calm.

I wanted them before my eyes, wanted them closer to me than I could get with writing them on paper or putting them in my phone, and so I had them inked under my skin. Already they help me breathe, help me remember and reorient in a way that nothing else has.

She doesn't understand, not yet, but she keeps asking for the story. I tell it, like I tell her the story on my icon and read her Bible stories, because I know understanding will grow as she does. And maybe, with these words etched on my arm and etching themselves on my heart, she will grow up breathing them like she breathes air.

20 August 2012

Entwined

He's in my arms, and we call him "Teef!" now, because he once was "Toof!" and now he has another and he's working on at least two more. This scrambling, scrabbling, forever-moving piece of humanity, and right now he needs to be contained. He needs these mama-arms to tell him it's okay, the teeth will come in eventually and, meanwhile, I'm here, to hold and love and offer what comfort is possible when blunt enamel objects are trying to push through human flesh.

"It will get better," I whisper in the little ears, and it will, at least until the next set is ready to push its way through. And isn't that life? I wait and wait for a breath, for that place of peace and still waters, but instead I'm often fielding fly balls that feel like they're being shot at me by flailing machine gunners.

I think about the Psalms, how there's no fear in a place where there should be fear, and how the banqueting table is set when we should be on guard. Waiting for peace means we'll wait for a long time, means we'll always be waiting because this life isn't meant for peace, isn't a place of peace unless we find it amidst the chaos. If only we can learn to find it there . . .



So I sing to him, the old songs of faith, the ones he might not otherwise learn because we don't sing them so often in church now. And we walk and rock and look out the windows and I hope it helps, at least a little. The old words, the ones I think I've always known, they wrap around us and entwine themselves the way he entwines his fingers in my shirt and my hair, and I wonder how much they carry us without our knowing.


There's peace in the singing. He calms, though stays entwined, and I wonder if there's a way here, to find sure footing amongst the tumult and the forever-shifting. Words, rhythms, and a melody I know, and the way it entwines itself and me, the singer, to something larger than I know. We are an island of peace in the midst of his pain. It doesn't feel like the place for a feast and yet we have all we need, in this moment, and more than enough.

07 August 2012

Good Work, Good Dreams

They took a mole off my stomach, almost 3 weeks ago now. "Probably nothing," they told me, and I did my best to believe them. I believed and believed and believed until they didn't call and another day passed and I called them.

"We haven't heard," they said, and they thought it was odd but they wouldn't call to check on it and wouldn't tell me if they thought it meant anything. And immediately my teething-tired mama brain went to the worst. "Melanoma" was what they were screening for, and what if. . . what if it was the worst, the weird one, the looks-like-nothing-but-it's-going-to-kill-you variety, this mole of mine? What then?

Then my kids would watch me suffer and struggle, and they might watch me die. Then their childhoods would be changed forever, taken in many ways, and they'd have to deal with things that are wrong, that little hearts and minds can't process. And that would be the worst, worse than being sick, than dying even - the knowing that this would change them forever and probably not in good ways.

Having little kids is hard. They're underfoot and needy, the most demanding when they've deprived you of the sleep you need to love them with calmness and fortitude. They're volatile and over-dramatic and everything is the. end. of. the. world.

They're also lovely, of course, when they curl up next to you or calm at your touch, and I love the moments when you can see the synapses connecting because they've just come up with something you've never seen in them before. But we've been living in the hard, lately, in the not-sharing, too-many-teeth-coming-in-too-fast, let's-yell-just-because-we-can days that all kids seem to go through when you're most longing for them to be angelic, or at least reasonable.

And I've wondered if this is really where I'm supposed to be. I don't function well on little sleep, and my hypersensitive senses reel with the pitch of whining and complaining. I've wondered if back-to-work would be better, because even when adult interaction sucks it usually doesn't involve asking someone, for the 39th time in an hour, to replace screaming with a quiet "Please".

But then the mole and the waiting and the using all my energy to still a panic that could rise at any time, and somewhere in there a deep, settled knowledge that I Like This Life. I don't like the trying to keep my cool when all I want is 30 consecutive seconds without any yelling, nor the incessant whining, nor the teething, but I like what we're building. The big picture is a blessing: these children, even in these days, and the life we're building together.

News came back good: the best, in fact. It's nothing, and they still don't know why the lab was slow. And news in my heart was better, this knowing beyond anything that this is where I want to be. Maybe someday the double-rainbow days will come but even if they don't, I will work to overcome myself and make a haven for their hearts. I will do the work, because it's work I want to do.

04 July 2012

The Ubiquitous Message

Before I jump any farther into my thoughts on dreams and following them and what it all means, I want to talk a bit about the message I keep hearing. It's important to me to articulate what I'm hearing, both so moves from subconscious to conscious in myself, and so that we're all on the same page as we begin this exploration.



I feel bombarded with people saying "Follow your dreams." It's more than just that, though, more than something that reduces to "Follow your heart," though that's definitely a part of it. I hear that I'm supposed to follow my dreams so that I can be sure to contribute to the world and, more specifically, so that I can contribute what I am meant to contribute, or made to contribute, or supposed to contribute, or contribute something that the world won't have if I don't follow my dreams.

This message implies that my purpose in life is hidden in my dreams, that my dreams indicate my calling, that where my heart wants to go is where I should go, and that, therefore, everyone else in my life either needs to come along with me or be left behind. It implies that God speaks to me in my dreams or, if from a secular source, that the universe or some larger source communicates my purpose to me that way, or I hear a larger need and that forms my purpose, or something like that. It's a combination of internal and external forces, though, that dictate what I want to do.

Along these lines, while following my dreams is not supposed to be easy, it is somehow supposed to work out eventually, if I fully give myself to the dream, continue to pursue it despite opposition, believe in it, and maintain suitable levels of passion for it. Because it is what I am supposed to do, God will eventually move or the universe will eventually align in such a way that I will find some measure of success when it comes to my dreams and my contribution to the world (though this can be defined in many different ways).

In addition to hearing that I should follow my dreams, I also hear that I will not be happy until I do so, that doing so is the only way to find fulfillment, and that I will end my life with regret if I don't follow my dreams. I hear that I have the choice to truly live or just to exist, and that I can never enter my "real life" without following my dreams.

I hear that there is much to get in the way of following dreams. Things like fear, resistance, and distraction can keep me from this true purpose and calling, and if I give into them I will never reach my potential, give the world what I have to offer, or find happiness in life.

In fact, there's often implied threat in all this talk of dreams - something like "If you don't follow your dreams, you'll be unhappy and unfulfilled for the rest of your life," or "If you choose not to pursue your dreams, you're giving into fear and disappointing God."

This seems like the dark underbelly of this message. Following my dreams, as it turns out, is not just about my own and the world's fulfillment, but also about avoiding pain, disappointment, ambiguity, confusion, shame and a host of other negative emotions that could arise in me if I don't do these things that I'm made to do. I don't know if this threat is meant to motivate me, or is just articulating the natural consequences of not following my dreams, but it almost always seems to be part of the message I'm hearing.

Alongside this, there is also a distinct "should" here (though this isn't present in all the versions of the mandate to follow dreams) - I should try to do what I dream of doing, for all the reasons that I'm teasing out here. 

There's also usually a part of this message that has to do with faith and trust - mostly in myself, but also in God or the universe or some other sort of higher power. I'm to trust that I'm hearing my dreams accurately, that what I want to do or feel pulled towards doing is, in fact, what I should be doing. I'm to believe that I have what it takes, that I am enough to make my dreams happen, sometimes alongside God or the universe or some conglomeration of the force of all things. There's faith that God is communicating with me, that he is telling me how to work and move in this world via my dreams, and that he will eventually make me successful if I choose to believe that these dreams are the way I'm to contribute to the world.

This is the message that I'm hearing, over and over, from both secular and Christian sources. As you read this, what do you think? Do you hear the same message? Is there anything you would add or take away? Am I being fair in my portrayal of what I'm hearing? Let me know what you think.


01 July 2012

Coming Home





I've been away from this space for a while now. I've missed it, and I've tried to come back and just haven't been able to.

The truth is, I've been struggling with what this blog is for me, with what I want it to be, and with what it means to have an online presence and what I want to do with that.

I came up with an idea for a new blog, a blog that would focus on communicating truths that I've long believed need to be shared and discussed and put out there for people to hear and ponder. I put a good deal of work into this new blog. I got a domain and worked on a theme and wrote a handful I posts and the text for an ebook. I fell more and more in love with my idea, with the people who would come there (even though I don't know them yet), with the freedom and community people might find there.

And yet, as much love and passion as I have and as much as I believe that the message of this new space is one that is mine to convey, is part of what I have to offer the world, I couldn't bring myself to start the blog. I had the value of the message and even of myself as messenger validated in a myriad of ways, but I kept not starting it.

I became frustrated with myself. I didn't want to let fear hold me back, and yet what else could it be? What else could keep my mind from sending the message that would allow me to hit 'Enter' and launch the whole thing?

As the days passed, I tried to figure out what, exactly, was going on in my mind. I felt like I needed to understand, so that I could combat it, so I could do effective battle against my fear and get the job done.

What I discovered was fear and more than fear. And it all led me back to some questions that are old and familiar to me, and to which I've never found satisfactory answers. These questions center around the role that our dreams take in our lives, whether we have to follow them to really live and to make God happy with us, and whether we're living some sort of a lesser life if we choose not to pursue our dreams, fail at them, or for whatever reason don't have the opportunity to do so.

These are the questions that I'm coming back to this place to discuss. I'm not sure if these posts will be organized enough to be called a series, so I guess it's more of an exploration. If you're so inclined, Is love to have you along for this ride. Let's go exploring together.

10 April 2012

Enough

Third grade. Summer camp. To be able to access the pool, swimmers had to prove they could tread water for at least a minute (maybe two?). The only problem? I had never treaded water before in my life. Somehow, through swimming lesson after swimming lesson, no one had taught me this basic skill.

I literally threw myself into the deep end of the pool. Somehow, I managed to keep my head above water for the requisite amount of time. To this day, I'm not sure how I did it. Swimming skill combined with pure determination is the best I can come up with.

Turns out, that was good practice for . . . life, I guess.

It doesn't feel like there's enough of anything in my life right now - not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money, nor enough sleep. I feel like I can't possibly spend enough time with my kids, and yet there's so much more to be done. Dishes are a necessity and, when you find yourself trying not to swear in front of the children for the fourth time in an hour because you stepped on something pointy or yucky, vacuuming is, too.

And all of that is before the necessities of my own soul: the words I have to write because doing so helps keep order in my mind, the few minutes of quiet that I must have because I don't function well when my brain is always abuzz, the exercise that often feels like a waste of time but that keeps me positive and healthy and so much more whole.

People tell me I'm doing a lot, and I can see how that would look true, but I feel like I'm just treading water. Not drowning, not racing, just staying afloat. And I don't always know if I'm even going to do that.

Sometimes, it's that day in third grade all over again. I fling myself into life and just hope, hope, hope that I can do enough to keep us all sane. As I do this over and over and over again, though, I'm coming to trust the process, and not just what my eyes can see. When I look out over everything, it's too much. But when I narrow my focus and look at the next thing, then the next and the next and the next, I get through what needs to be done.

I'm coming to see the gift of a day, of 24 hours. It's not enough time to do everything, but it's plenty for the things that matter most, the ones I'm actually called to.

There is enough time, when I don't cram in things that aren't mine to do.

There is enough rest, when I take the opportunities for it when they come.

There is enough energy, when I choose carefully how I'll spend it.

I've been given enough of everything, but it takes faith to believe that's true when it seems so false.

06 April 2012

Light . . .

What brings light? That's essentially the question I've been asking myself in these long months since baby boy was born. What brings light? To me, to my children, to my family, to those around me.

I find different answers than what I'd expected.

Light comes when I offer my kids what I have, what I'm strong in and good at, and offer God the rest. I'm good at reading stories, talking about feelings, holding kiddos close, explaining things in ways they can understand and helping them pretend. I'm not so good at arranging play dates, getting us out of the house, and always being gentle. And that's ok, because God holds us all, and I will never be more than human.

Light comes when I walk away from the shoulds to pursue the things that give me life. I don't cook and clean much these days, but I play with kids, teach my classes, take some quiet time, and write.

Light comes when I put words to page, even when they're scattered and few and I don't know if they mean what I want them to mean.

Light comes when I work my body hard, when I don't shove personal wellness to the bottom of my to-do list because everyone else has needs I want to meet.


I'm breaking my silence here to join The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday. Today's prompt is "light".

09 February 2012

Jumbled Thoughts on This Tightrope Life

Finally, a spare moment to write, and she starts talking over the monitor. I wonder if she'll last until I can marshall some order to these words, and if it's fair to ask her to.

***

I'm tempted to feel pushed to the margins of my own life, sometimes, like the things that value most to me get the least time right now, because of kids and teaching and being a wife.* Tempted, I say, because this IS my life. The diapering-feeding-sweeping-washing-reading out loud-cleaning spit-up off the sofa again-all of it. It's not glorious and it doesn't make for feeling significant or important, but it's my life.

It's the life I chose and the life I was given. Wishes, here, have become horses, and so beggars must ride, whether that means holding on for a pell-mell run over rough terrain or trying not to fall asleep after hours in the saddle when everything looks the same.

***

There's a balance, I know. My heart matters, even when there are a million things that legitimately need to be done before I do the things that nurture it the most. Sometimes, though, it's not a matter of not leaving room for self-care, but of looking up from the tasks that must be done to achieve basic living and realizing it's time for bed.

Jesus calls us to give up our selves, but to give up a self, you must have a self in the first place. To give myself to the tasks Jesus has called me to, I must know what the other things are, too. I must know the things that are for later, for when the kids are older, for a time when I'm not up at night feeding the baby and teaching two classes on top of (still) getting used to being a mother of two.

***

There's enough time in a day for everything I'm legitimately called to. I don't believe God calls us to more than will fit into our days, if we're faithful to spend our time well. That includes rest, by the way. And so I trust him with my heart, trust that he'll make time for me when I don't see a way.

***

She's still talking, by the way, happy as a little bird. I'll get her, now, and know that this time was a gift straight from his heart to mine


* There should be a word for that. Wife-ing? Maybe there is one and I don't know what it is. That's entirely possible.

01 February 2012

Growing Up

Time wings by, passing us unless we mark it somehow. He's more than two months now, and the early days, the ones everyone tells you to hold onto, are going and gone, and me with vague impressions in my head of smiles and coos. Already, too-small clothes pile up and I try to face truth that I may never see a child of mine in them again.

And she's two years, and I wonder where the hours are. I feel there must be a pile, somewhere, of seconds and minutes that I missed. We couldn't possibly have lived enough of them for her to be so big.

Time passes, and I can try to hold onto it or I can look at their faces now. I can wonder what I missed, which precious moments didn't get catalogued by photograph or memory, or I can look at what I have, at what my hands hold now, and marvel.

Moments weren't meant to be held. A few, perhaps, we'll cradle forever, but most of them are meant to be lived. I mean the bad ones, too, the ones where she learns she's not part of me and two asserts itself with a vengeance, and the ones where tummy aches keep him awake and tired baby eyes beseech the world for sleep.

Stopping time would be a luxury, but it would also be a curse. I could hold the moments I want to remember, have enough time in them to write them down or take that picture or build an altar. But how to know when to stop the clock? What if the next ones would get even better? And, oh, the agony of choosing to start time again, not knowing what's ahead.

And so we go through life, unable to skirt around the edges even if we want to. For truly living isn't just making memories, it's also marching through the unmemorable and choosing to continue, and it's knowing that we can't hold onto everything we love, that not even our memories are entirely our own.