The day I brought home a baby

I met my firstborn 13 years ago today.   The world stopped spinning those first few days.  There were excited visitors, soft and tiny gifts, flowers.  A friend brought me chocolate covered strawberries, my husband didn’t go to work,  life was magical.IMG_0689

They served me the most beautiful fruit tray before we checked out of hospital.  As I ate, I remember thinking,  who thinks it’s ok for me to take this baby home?  Isn’t there some test I should have to take?  They’re really going to let me walk out of here with him?

IMG_0688My reaction surprised me.  I  planned on have instincts for this sort of thing.  I would see my baby, bond immediately and we’d breeze on our little way.  It couldn’t have been more different.  Becoming a mother opened up  doors in my soul that had been shut, bolted, and secured with storm shutters.  Doors that I didn’t even know existed.   We settled into a routine, but life went out of focus as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other.

I’m a bit more equipped than I used to be.  I thank God wholly for that.  He brought people into my life who opened up truth as I was able to hear and understand it.  He surrounded me with protection when I got ahead of myself.  He helped me begin to see inside my broken heart and find missing pieces of myself as I learn to love my children.

I wanted to share with you a list of some things that I’ve learned in the last 13 years.  This is by no means comprehensive as I would be here writing for another 13 years.

  • Children are resilient. They can’t be screwed up in a day, a month, or even a year.
  • Things really do look better after a good nights sleep.  Our grandparents were geniuses.
  • Sheets can go longer than a week without being changed.  No one in my home has died from this!
  • It is never a good idea to say you won’t bring a second baby home to a 999 sq ft house. God takes statements like that as a dare.
  • Spray paint can be removed from the doors, back quarter panel, and rear hatch of a new van.  It only takes  three adults, two hours, and a tin of rubbing compound, it cannot be removed from the wheel well.  Ever.
  • Even compliant 3 year olds cannot resist testing spray paint on a new van.
  • Cereal for dinner is the new gourmet.
  • If you leave a gallon of cider in the new van after a preschool field trip to the orchard, it will explode if the weather’s warm.
  • Everyone is happier if you just let them with the rain boots.
  • People in the store love children with rain boots
  • If you have to hide in the bedroom because you have a bird in your house, try to remember to bring the baby in the infant seat with you.
  • Pokemon is not the anti-christ, neither is Barney.
  • After 13 years Caillou is still just a kid who’s four and a whiny one at that!
  • There is no right way to parent.  We all do the best we can, with what we have at any given moment.  This goes for the crazy moms in Walmart too.  Do you think they’d be that way if they knew any different?  I’m not generally known for my optimism, but I believe this wholeheartedly.

Cloth, disposable, formula, breast milk, work at home, work outside home, private, public, organically grown, traditionally grown.  These are not moral dilemmas, can we stop already?    The comparisons begin before we even meet these children.  Some very good friends and family members  gave birth naturally.   I’m proud of these girls, they are amazing, but does that mean I gave birth unnaturally?  That beautiful needle in my back delivered some serious relief that day for which I will be forever grateful.  It helped me enjoy the day.  I told my husband it was the difference between being stuck in a tin box with no ventilation on the beach at the equator in summer (deep breath), and laying under a cabana with a cool drink in North Carolina in early May.  I will take North Carolina over the equator every time!

We can’t help but worry about every.single.decision at that stage of the game.  We don’t know any better, but I’m thankful for a bit more perspective now.  For the understanding that every question does not have an answer, that every feeling or thought does not have to be dissected, and  that a deep breath, a good meal, and a decent nights sleep can solve a lot of problems.

There are a few more things I’ve learned since I brought that fist baby home, these truths have remodeled my soul.

  • Not feeling connected to a child, doesn’t mean you don’t love them deeply.  It just means, you don’t know how to love yourself.
  • As  your child changes developmentally, you’ll catch glimpses of yourself as a child.
  • Once you catch glimpses of your childlike self, you’ll discover grace and compassion that allows you to be gentle with your own heart.
  • When you’re gentle with your own heart, rigid perfectionism crumbles.
  • When perfectionism crumbles, you can finally experience the grace and feel the love.
  • You can only give the grace and love, once you have actually opened your heart to receive it.

Every single tear that’s shed during this process is priceless to the Father in heaven.  He created our hearts to look like his, full of grace and love.  We can know and love others as we are truly known.

Happy Birthday Gage!

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When ‘should’ needs to go on a diet

I’m running on empty right now.   The end of school is 29 days away and collides with an insanity they call baseball season. Baseball moms act as agent, manager, chauffeur, cook, and housekeeper.  Somebody forgot to tell these coaches that this is little league and not The Show.  There’s ball and field trips, teacher appreciation days, programs, awards, track and field day, ISTEPs, permission slips,  more checks to write, dinners served on the run and an exclamation point as reliable as a cuckoo clock chirping

“cuckoo,

what did you, 

forget to do.”

I’ve been given the gift of three children that span 8 years. It’s  gift, because I didn’t pick it out myself.  And because my little guy is a 24 hr reminder of just how fast the years from four to twelve fly by.  Sometimes the gift feels heavy, like the huge present under the tree that you know is the golden present of Christmas simply because of how gigantic it is.

The weight comes from  constantly juggling different types of needs.  The oldest needs a ride to and from top priority practices and events, you probably know that they are all top priority.  The youngest needs uninterrupted time as he pretends to drive a brown box truck and make deliveries, dig up worms, and put sand in his ears.  The girl in the middle,  she needs candy, and hugs and friends to help her use her word quota.

This week I gave some thought to whether anything can be eliminated from our schedule.  After a 360 degree tour of my ‘daily’, it seems that the only category that can be minimized is my expectations, the shoulds in my life.  I’m a competitive person and I have a comprehensive list of expectations for myself.

There was a collection of years when I scraped by with the barest minimum of household proficiency.  I struggled through endless minutes of the day only to endure  endless hours of sleepless nights.  I would get up, dig deep to clear the counter so the kids could eat breakfast and anything beyond that was a bonus.  I was lonely,  depressed and more than overwhelmed.

These days, I’m almost beginning to consider that the glass might be one-third full. If you would have known me then, you’d realize I have become Pollyanna!  My counter is relatively cleaned off before bed, my filing is only months behind as opposed to years, and I can find the black thread and a needle if necessary.  My days have more structure, my children have fairly regular meals, and I can see my closet floor about once a month.  And I have some friendships that are sporting some pretty blooms.

While I’m proud of the growth that I see, I have an ideal that I can’t measure up to.  It’s the ‘best of’ standard.  The best of my friend with an immaculate vehicle or the one who serves more whole foods in a day than I do in a week.  There are several who fit in regular work-outs and others never seem to be screeching into the parking lot on two wheels.  I count it a whopping success that most of the permission slips  make it to the school and  that I currently have a library fine under $50.  That my sheets got changed last week and the kitchen floor only has two layers of grime.

I have expectations that the growth I’ve experienced in the last ten years should continue exponentially.  There’s an eternal list of Shoulds that keep me from the Coulds.  I Should clean my kitchen floor, but I Could play outside with the kids.  I Should fold that laundry, but I could take a walk. I Should organize my pictures from the last 10 years, but I Could play a game of Rummikub.  The list of Shoulds put a ceiling on my life.  They box me right in.  Coulds are more like a rocket ship.  The ceiling slides open, the engines fire and the count-down begins to an adventure where the sky really is the limit.

Shoulds are important, they add structure and routine and reliability to life, but when Should crowds out the possibility of Could, it’s time to stop, close our eyes, breathe and consider what Coulds are tucked into the day.

Should has weight , Could has wings.

I’m finishing this post two days later than I planned.  The Shoulds took over my writing.  There’s so much that I don’t know. Things that I’ve told myself I Should know.   As I read  Emily P. Freeman on fear and vulnerability this morning, the Could spoke a little louder in my soul than the Should.  I shaved some Should out of my day to build some  strength in the wings of my Could.  I feel a little lighter, like pink cotton candy.     It feels like hope.

The time I left the ICU and crossed a washed out bridge

I sat down to write this post no less than five times. Several weeks ago I wrote about a new friend of mine who’s had trouble assimilating into the culture of our country, our community and my intention was to polish that up for today.

I wrote about bridges. How relationships are built upon planks that line up, are hammered together and allow us to span the gap between us. Even when we struggle with understanding language, circumstances, hearts. There’s always some plank we can be laying or fixing. Only sometimes we don’t know how to cross the bridge even if we can see it.

A month ago, an out-like-a-lion March snowstorm dumped 14 inches of fun in our town. And then it rained. And rained. And rained. 22 inches of precipitation in 24 days. Last week, we had the worst flooding on record. Homes destroyed, long-standing businesses devastated and ruin that will take months to clean up.

Just before entering downtown, you cross a bridge. It spans a creek and a beautiful view of renovated park. The bridge was cut off by icy water. Still visible, but un-crossable. The town available, but not accessible. Quiet intersections were backed up as folks tried to find a new route. It was surreal and my brain rejected it like an un-funded bank card. Popped the image right back out blinking Denied. Devastating reality can blow the mind straight up.

IndianaPublicMedia.org Community rallies as we help our neighbors sop up their lives.

I used to avoid downtown. It seemed too much of a hassle to get down there. You should know this is not the big city and too much of a hassle = four turns, a merge, and several one way streets. Except recently they changed a bunch of the streets from one- way to two-way. We’re I’m not big on change. When I found out that one of my dearest thought I was actually afraid to go downtown, I realized I’m a whiner to call four turns a hassle.

For 15 years we’ve piled in our car and driven 45 minutes to church. Outrageous considering my hassle-driving-10 minutes-downtown issues, but there were reasons. This church fed our souls and created the space I needed for some serious healing. When you are in critical care, they isolate you in the ICU. Grace Church has a phenomenal ICU. We recently stepped off that familiar route and started attending a small congregation downtown. It was time for us to move to med/surg. When you’ve been upgraded to a regular room, they allow you to have visitors. My heart had spent enough time in isolation and was strong enough to handle visitors. My healing began to accelerate.

My inability to cross into community was due to a flood of manipulative languages, unfortunate circumstances, and a shredded heart. Community was available, I just couldn’t seem to cross the bridge. My soul is beginning to connect after decades of isolation. These precious people have helped me sop muddy tears. They’ve stood with me through celebrations and surgeries, they’ve loved my children and consequently tended my mending heart. Most of them don’t know what caused the flood in my life, and that’s ok. I’m learning that heart healing doesn’t mean heart dissection. Seems obvious, I’m sure, but a new paradigm for me.

                      First Congregational Church
First Congregational Church

Isolation Injures

Floods. Trauma.

                                   Disasters. Heartbreak.

Bombs. Abuse.

Explosions. Addiction.

Terrorism. Neglect.

Community Heals

   First Congregational Church – Thank you, from my healing heart.

Would you share a story of someone who’s helped you dry some tears? Would you care to click on the text bubble above this post and share how they’ve helped you heal?

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Love on a monday morning after a flood

On a Monday morning after floods and bombs and exhaustion from laundry and life, I could use a reminder of what love looks like.  Maybe it looks different for you today. Whatever your day holds, remember.  Love always hangs tough.

I Corinthians 13:1-8

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If I can order my words to soothe like music to a broken heart, but don’t listen to my children talk about their day, my words will be as calming as junior high band, day one.

If I can put words to the dark and winding caverns of the soul and if my faith can generate response that will transform a flood soaked house into a warm home, but I don’t look my family in the eyes, it’s like cooking dinner in a war zone pressure cooker.

If I donate clothing and sort it until I drop, but don’t take the time to listen to the hurting , I might as well stay in bed.

Love takes time, and works to fill the empty at the cost of it’s own depletion.   Love doesn’t look through emerald eyes, and say guess what I did.  Love doesn’t respond with quick witted sarcasm even if it is funny and applicable.  It ‘s not in competition for the loveliest landscaping and doesn’t loose it’s temper when laundry is left on the bathroom floor for the 641st day in a row.

Love doesn’t harp on two decades of the same issue.  Love doesn’t say serves you right.  Love recognizes and celebrates the smallest successes, knowing that small growth, leads to big steps resulting in true change.  Love looks for ways to shelter hurting hearts, love takes a deep breath and doesn’t sniff for duplicity.

Love holds out hope when life says you’re gonna end up the fool.  Love hangs tough through whining and complaining and emotional distance, through heartbreak and here we go again, when it looks like what has always been will always be.

Love doesn’t check out, ever!

Prayer, you might be doing it wrong

My words have come rough this week. Like the time I learned to drive a stick-shift. All of you in that little stick shift cult can roll your eyes collectively, but my membership got rejected. The lurching and the whiplash and the kill of the engine letting me know I was doing it wrong. Remember the scene in Mr. Mom Michael Keaton takes the kids to school and the they tell him he’s doing it wrong? That’s me! Doing the stick shift wrong, doing dinner wrong, doing this blog wrong. I hate don’t like being wrong. And, I don’t like new (unless it involves shopping).

I’ve been a part of several conversations recently about being careful what you pray for. The idea being that God might give you what you ask for and if you ask for the wrong thing, you’ll have to live with the consequences, so you better have all your little duckies in a row and ready to go before you roll out that prayer. As if God can be manipulated by our spreadsheet of pros and cons. I’m grateful that I chucked that theology a long time ago. There was no way for me to anticipate the contention that would take place in my soul when I asked God to make my words bigger.

New finds me with my fists clenched and raised as I dance around the ring. I waste a few rounds in a self-indulgent cry. Then I whine about injustice sieging my life. Utter ridiculousness. Finally, I give in and begin to adjust my attitude and expectations. This is how I roll and the ones standing in my corner get it and are gracious to give me space.

I’m beginning to recognize that this is the rhythm of my soul. It’s becoming clear that the development of this blog is no different and while it’s been a dream for some time, the reality of a new challenge is setting in. As I’ve wrestled with words this week, some words that used to dictate my choices have been chanting from the stands. Making the right choice used to be my plumb line. The goal was to never be wrong under any circumstance.

The motivation behind my prayer for rightness was to escape any kind of pain. Wrong choices bring turmoil and guilt and struggle. Wrong brings with it a billboard with lights that flash You’re Doing It Wrong! And while it’s true that negative consequences can follow wrong choices, I don’t want to let the fear of doing it wrong paralyze me and keep me from moving forward.

A life-sized red exclamation point fires at the base of my neck when I hear talk about wanting to ask God for the right thing. As if someone breathed the name of Hitler in the same sentence as God. You know how Brick on The Middle whispers the words he just said aloud? Just like that. God, (lowers his head and whispers) h-i-t-l-e-r.

Listed in the fine print of the right prayer, is the desire to not be wrong and an unhealthy fear that God can’t wait to point out our error. The right choice has become a god for me at times. I’ve worshiped the rightness rather than the Righteous. When we worship the rightness, the enemy leads a parade to his favorite corner in town.

‘Be careful what you pray for’ and ‘make the right choice’ collide at the intersection of fear and religion. You’ll find a lot of people hanging around that corner, some call themselves believers, others spectators, some atheists or agnostics. I spent years on this corner and still fight with my GPS about returning sometimes. The intersection of fear and religion is paralyzing. On that corner, we become stone figures, we lose the ability to think clearly, to move and interact. We know we need to cross the street and continue on the journey, but the corner of fear and religion exists to lock us down. It’s the enemy’s hang out and he holds vigil standing with his placards of doubt chanting whatever phrase it takes to hold our attention.

Sara Groves is one of my favorite artists. An old song of her played in the background this week. You may not know this, but God is the DJ in the shuffle of my Ipod. One line from her song stood out to me. The print size doubled and the words were bold, like a power-point presentation where a phrase moves to the front. Please tell me you can see words in your head too.

“Why do I pray, do I pray to do the right thing?” sara groves

My soul has been shadow boxing this week. Fists clinched dancing around like a fool. I even had my lower lip sporting advertisements for a little birdie to sit on it. I wanted answers, direction for this blog, I want to get it right. So that I don’t do it wrong and make a fool of myself out here in Inter-landia. I was chasing the rightness over the righteous. God does not care about my rightness. He cares deeply that I sit with him in honesty about my desires and my mountains of insecurities and my motives and aversion to being wrong.

God wants us to seek him, not his answers.

Joseph Alessio
Joseph Alessio

It’s true that by seeking him we often find the answers to our prayers, but what if we don’t? Will we continue to sit with him when there’s silence? Will we step out and risk a wrong choice in the pursuit of a right God, or will we find ourselves frozen at the corner of fear and religion.

Narcissim, nerves and blood

A friend challenged me recently.

Typography Joseph Alessio

She said that maybe the scripture that I see as my mission is in fact, intended for me.  Maybe I’m the one that needs to be freed up from the chains that bind me.  She said it in the most grace-laced way imaginable.  She didn’t malign my calling.  She just expanded my demographic.    I know she’s right.  And I don’t like her telling me that. But I think that what’s got me all scrinched up is the fact that my eyes were opened.  And what she said?  It was something I didn’t really believe.

There’s a difference between

knowing and believing.

I knew that I have chains that need to be loosed in my own life.  But I didn’t actually believe there were still chains that need to be loosed in my own life. And I really didn’t like that.

Her truth filled words propelled me into my little orbit of narcissism and pride where I like to exist all by my little self thank-you-very-much.  I take the pride and lay it on the altar of my own sin.  It leads me down a path that I like to travel every now and again even though its dark and scary and ugly.  The belief that I want to be my own savior.  Quite honestly, sometimes I don’t want the grace.  I want to do it by myself and be my own sacrifice and pay my own price and say yep, I got that covered. So,

Does the grace cover seemingly

interminable narcissism? 

Several weeks ago, my daughter pinched a nerve in her neck, she’s 10.   I was just a couple of years older than when I pinched the same nerve, I can remember like it was yesterday, it was excruciating.  This has been coming on for a while. She carries a 35 pound backpack to school every day.  Every.single.book.in her fourth grace curricula comes home with her.  Not because she needs them all every night, but because she doesn’t want to forget one should she happen to need it.   The strain of carrying that heavy load of books finally caused that little electrically charged zip of a nerve to break under the weight.

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I think I’m breaking under the weight right now,  The load on my shoulders is self-inflicted and I’m over the top sanctimonious about carrying it.  Look at me, I’m carrying my big load of &%^$ myself.  Aren’t I amazing.  I can name it, justify it, quote the scripture that covers it, feign remorse to God, beg for him to take it and still come out on the other side with my perfectly little ordered ugly in tact.  It disgusts me that this is the truth about my soul.  I can’t step away from it and if I do I hear a voice that says you’ve ruined it all now, you call yourself a follower of Christ, and you think you’re too good for that grace.  And I drown in a shallow puddle of self-loathing.  All the while, believing somewhere in my heart that I’ve paid the price myself.

I haven’t found an easy fix for this one.   It’s messy,  ugly  and so very painful. I’m trying to embrace the fact that if I did have a tidy little answer,  that might be a bigger issue.

For today, I’m going to remember that the blood was for me and choose to believe it.  The dripping, hot, clotting crimson, smearing the body of Christ, seeping down it’s splintery wood, puddled at the foot of the cross. That sacrifice was essential because of my narcissistic plan for salvation on my own altar of self-indulgence.

It’s ugly, it’s messy, it’s humiliating and it’s true.

Traffic Jams and Words

Words. 

I have a lot of them.  

I am not a photographer
I am not a photographer, obviously!

 

 Words that keep my husband awake.  Words that snap orders at my children.  Words that lift up sunken shoulders.  Words that suck the life out the nearest oxygen source in exactly point five seconds.  I write them, say them, and often wish I hadn’t. 

Words too many to count, like a swimming pool filled with grains of sand.  A good friend encouraged me to just start releasing them.  My plans for my words were in the future.  Order things a little before I start.  Maybe finally complete one of those word-a-day calendars and learn some new words.  Get all my pretty words in a row and cover them with a layer of spray paint, frame them, add a bow.  Get them just right. 

The amount of just-rightness in my life parallels the number of words I  have to to describe it.

I’ve asked God recently to take my words and make them bigger.  Fewer, but bigger.  Return them to me as questions, ideas.   “Take the thoughts I almost think, and carry them to God for me.”    Chris Rice’s song is available here.

To give me bigger pictures and broader thoughts.  The words of my faith have been moving mountains in my heart and my home, but I want them to go further.  To be taken and wrapped up in power and sent to move mountains in the hearts that share space and time and life with me.

 God has begun to answer that prayer  and seems to be kneading my faith like dough.  The yeast is all bubbled up for this batch. It took a long time to rise though.  Like, try-to-raise-dough-in-the-dead-of-winter long.   It’s completely risen and now it’s being worked over.  He’s pushing and refolding and applying pressure and adding some more  flour to make the right consistency.  It’s waiting to become.  My words, like unrisen dough, are in development.  God’s determining the shape they will take.  Whether they’ll be dough for pizza (dinner by the way), or bread, or  cinnamon rolls.  I don’t know.  My analogy just derailed, but I think you get the idea.

My words,  the enemy’s words and the red-letter words are all banging around in my head right now.  It’s like a 50 car pile-up in there.  All those words smashed and dented and sideways and upside down and hanging off the edge.  Metal screeching, horns honking, car alarms raging.  People yelling, someone whispering a prayer, a real obnoxious guy spewing some colorful words (ok, so maybe that guy is me).  Accusations flying, plans being made, someone on the phone to the cops, another notifying her husband.  All of them in a state of paralyzed commotion.    Loud.obnoxious.nonsensical words in a mind filled with contradiction.    I’m working to hear the red-letter words above all else.

As I finish this post, slimy fear threatens virtual laryngitis.  I’m choosing to silence the fear and voice the words.

“Gotta start somewhere, why not here, if you gotta start sometime why not now.” TobyMac

My not-just-right plan is to post here a couple of times a week.  Explore the words and ideas that accompany the endless trafic jam of life.  I’d love for you to join me.  To share some of the thoughts traveling through your mind, do this thing together.

If you have a minute, would you share some of the words or ideas that are bouncing around  in your head?