Friday, January 30, 2015

Fighting for Thankfulness

I think Thankfulness may have become a bit trendy lately.  I don’t mean that as a criticism.  If there is a trend I’m glad is on the rise, it’s thankfulness.  If anything, it’s a nice break from things like, the Selfie.  Truthfully, I’m a little late to the party.  Maybe this attention to thankfulness has been brewing for a while.  Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts, was a mouthpiece for the movement a few years ago.  

Her book came out on the heels of my deepest wound and I couldn’t connect to the demeanor of thankfulness.  If I were asked, I could name things I was thankful for and genuinely mean them.  My son, my new daughter, an invested and ever-connected husband, friends, a home.  But the posture of thankfulness.  The feeling of sincere, deep gratefulness. The awareness of grace and mercy and gifts all around. That would have been a hard fought searching for me then.  And I didn’t seem to have it in me.  I was fighting for so many other things in that season.  Namely, a day without raw sadness and longing, and a knowing of the Jesus who seemed suddenly unfamiliar.  That took up so much space for me. 

But, I wonder, had I fought for thankfulness, for awareness of goodness and grace- even in the small things, if I wouldn’t have had to fight so hard for peace and for God’s face.

Now, as I see more of myself (both my weakness and my strength) in the face of my children I wonder more about the battle for thankfulness that I surrendered.  I see in my kids a struggle with being satisfied with the good things we give them.  Things, both tangible and intangible.  The gifts we pour out are unnoticed.  Maybe so expected they do not register as things to be thankful for.  

I see this unfolding in their brief elation with a gift, or a treat, or our attention.  How quickly it isn’t enough.  The call for more.  Or better.  Or quicker.  
So, we respond.  With teaching.  Explaining what a gift is.  What thankfulness is.  And this is good.  The teaching and explaining.  That’s a large part of our job.  But, it is exposing my own heart.  Exposing what they might be learning from me that I’m not saying, not actively teaching. Exposing my own thankfulness.  Or, sadly, the blatant absence of it.  

I’m consumed with the demands of the moments, or the planning or wishing for what is next.  The unending need from little people.  The potential for the next season of life.  The up at night, sick kids, school to do’s, house projects, church growing needs.  The hard in the world.  The loss and sadness and brokenness.  All of that seems to win in my heart.  

I’ve recently come across a book and blog by a woman named Kara Tippetts.  She is coming to the end of her long, hard fought cancer battle.  A wife and a mom of four sweet, young children.  She fought, lived well and passionately, but it is on the way to over for her here.  And now she has to stumble through the ending.  The leaving.  If there were ever a time to be consumed with the hard and the loss and the sad.  But her joy.  Her grip on the gifts of the moments with her people.  The thankfulness that washes over her broken heart and body.  

I am moved and challenged and astounded by it, and her.   And I’m grieved.   For her, this woman I will never meet in this life.  But, also for what I’ve been missing that she has found.  For what joy could have been mine all this while.  For seeing the grace of the moments instead of seeing them overshadowed by either the hard or the mundane.  For the gift that is the curious and tender hearted 5 year old version of Pearce that will last about a minute more.  For the way Loah wants to play with me all of the hours of the day, because of course that won’t be true for all that much longer.  For the way Stone runs to me as fast as his little legs can carry him when I walk in the door.  For a husband who is also a best friend.  For the things I can laugh with only him about.  For the lifetime of conversation and companionship we have been given in each other.  For the cloud of underserved friendship that has come around me in my joy and in my suffering.

These assumed gifts of mine that Kara longs to have for another forty years instead of the few months she has left.  Even so, she lives thankfully in the face of her death.  Able to see the gifts of her husband and children and friends.  But also able to see the grace in the smallest of gifts in her remaining moments.  

What I’m discovering as I watch people like the Kara Tippets of the world, who in their darkest hour are still able to see the grace in even little things, is that they have found the secret to joy, whatever the season.  Heavy or light.  Despairing or rejoicing.  Ordinary or extraordinary.  

The secret is thankfulness.  And they were practicing it long before the days of their greatest suffering.  They were already learned at seeing the grace in the ordinary, the plenty, or the want.    And it has made them more aware of the nearness of Jesus, in every season.  

It has given them more peace, more joy, more hope.  They see Jesus always; in all of the different kinds of moments of their lifetime.  They see and experience both the comfort of God’s care in their despair and also the gladness of his gifts in their ordinary days.  They see him and know him because of thankfulness.  

This was what I was desperate for when I couldn't connect to thankfulness.  And this is what I’m desperate for now.  Peace, Hope, Joy.  Jesus.  So, now that I’ve been let in on the secret, now that I’ve been given a glimpse of what it can look like to be sustained by Jesus in the grace he extends, I want to fight hard for thankfulness.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On being stuck and not alone

I got an honest and brave text yesterday from one of my oldest friends.  “Hey, how do you pull yourself out of a 'why me' moment? I feel stuck.”  

I love this.  I love it because it means she knows I get stuck too.  And I love it because she knew she wasn’t meant to struggle in that place on her own.  

But we try.  We try so hard.  To do it on our own.  We are embarrassed by our struggle.  We worry people will tire of our same plaguing anxieties or same conversation and questioning.  We think we can get over this on our own.  We should have moved on by now.  We should have figured out what we were meant to or done something about it by now.  We don’t want to burden someone else who has enough trouble for their own day.  The reasons are endless.

This is the recording that plays in my own mind.  Surely people think I should have moved on from my loss.  It’s been five years.  I have three healthy kids.  My life is full in so many ways.  That should be enough.  People would rather hear about the parts that are healed.  Where there is victory and triumph.  

There are few people I will call on when the walls close in on any given day.  It will likely be a text, because it is still just enough distance for them to respond when they can, and it will usually take an insurmountable moment of pain.  The most extreme ache that crushes my inhibitions.  That mutes my composed, tidy voice.

The kind of pain that makes you say things before you’ve had time to edit.  The kind of pain that made me text in desperation in the middle of my doctor’s appointment, “Jessi, he died.”  Drunk on pain.  Direct.  Honest.  Despairing.  

But I don't think it’s supposed to take that body breaking kind of fear or pain.  I think we are made to walk through life together.  In the joys and gifts.  And in the little “I’m stuck” and in the big.  Sometimes it’s a quick text for some perspective.  A little help to remember why the gospel matters today.  And sometimes it’s a show up at your person’s house uninvited (with a bottle of wine) for some help picking up the pieces.  

This isn’t our first inclination.  It’s usually our last resort, really.  I’d like to know historically how America gained such an obsession with living life so independently.  How we came to value this isolated lifestyle.  I mean, other cultures literally nurse each other’s babies!  I’m not making a case for that one way or another, although at some points with my dairy averse daughter I may have taken someone up on this.  I’m just saying there is a stark difference between that kind of community and our high walled, fend for yourself ideology.  

I don’t believe we were meant to fend for ourselves.  I haven’t experienced any fulfilling life from trying it on my own, personally.  And I have found nothing but encouragement not to do it this way in the Bible.  It’s a little uncomfortable, it can certainly be scary, and it’s a lot vulnerable.  But good heavens, is it also a relief.  

There are some thing I know not to trust myself about.  I have to run any self diagnosed health issue about either my children or myself by my husband and friends.  It’s a rule.  If I didn’t do it, if I had to stay in my own mind about these things, I’d be an anxious, insomniac, mental patient.  This sounds like a joke, and oh how I wish it was.  But these sort of fears can be crippling for me.  I will lose all sense of God’s goodness and love and sovereignty if I keep this to myself.  I will forget the truth of what the gospel means for these fears if I have to fend for myself. It is a comfort and a solace that I am not supposed to.  

So, I’m thankful for my friend’s text.  I’m thankful she reminded me that we shouldn’t live in the confines of our own hearts and minds.  I’m thankful she needed a reminder of the hope in the gospel and that she asked me for it, so I would have to hear it again for myself. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Loss and Things Produced

I have been writing about Cohen and God and my heart for 5 years now.  For what seemed like years it was nothing more than tear soaked pages in my journal.  A crumbling heart, questioning and striving.  Slowly, it became more coherent, less uncontrollable bleeding.  Now it is more focused and resolved, but always a mixture of seeing clearly yet still longing.  New images and connections being made with the passing days.            

Some days when I read back over those early days, I can feel it again as if it is still true.  But other days, I read it like a woman so changed that it feels like someone else’s words.  Like when you watch family videos of yourself as a toddler.  You know that is you, but it feels like a stranger.  I watched some home videos of myself a few years ago and I said to my mom, “I was so cute I want to hold myself!”  It doesn’t feel like bragging to say that because it doesn’t feel like I’m saying it about myself.  Just that adorable kid on the screen.  

Just to prove the point about not bragging, I also watched myself in some home videos around the late elementary/early middle school years and thought, “Dear God, who is that annoying kid? Someone tell her to chill out and take a seat. (And also that Umbros and T-shirts are not the most flattering choice).”  

Some days, I can’t go back to read because even in my changedness the pain is not lessened.  But sometimes, when I feel especially steadfast and brave, I read through the whole of the five years and I notice something new and subtle that God has been weaving in and out of my story.  Something I didn’t notice as it was happening.  Something I couldn’t see unless I went back. 

That happened this week.  A new friend of mine, Meg, discovered I had a blog and went back through the many years recorded on here.  Which also feels a bit like pulling out old home videos, both in nostalgia and also embarrassment.  But, it made me want to go back too.  So I did.  

I have written many times how when I remember myself before Cohen I feel like a little girl in pig tails skipping around in a field, laughing and playing.  Then, out of nowhere, she got hit in the face with a two by four, never to fully recover.

I miss her, honestly.  The way she laughed at life. The way she had endless energy and capacity.  The way she was sure and seemingly steady.  I see that in the record of my life before 2009.  I hear it in my writing and watch it in my videos.  I think some of those things may return.  But, even if they do not, they were traded for some astounding newness.  Things that would never be without Cohen.  Things that God was birthing and rewiring and uncovering.

This week I saw a theme emerge.  One of vision and acceptance and assurance.  The obvious truth that we don’t get to see and understand perfectly here.  But also the hope that one day we will.  I found in my writing, over and over, the assertion that now we see in a mirror dimly lit.  And in a shocking turn of events, this no longer leads me to dismay and despair.  Instead, it drives me to the hope that we will, one day.  

To not understand, to not see.  These things tormented me for literally three years after Cohen died.  They brought me to my knees.  Angry and devastated and thrashing.  I clawed my way through scripture for answers.  For a why.  And, as God often does, he answered a different question.  And it shifted what I used to be sure of. 

I used to be sure of God’s power and authority.  But in his perpetual response to my why, I gained the assurance of his love and the hope of a one day sight.  His constant answer, his constant, “I love you,” changed the despise of the darkened mirror, with foggy reflection and gave me an active, resilient patience for the one day sight.  I will see.  I will have the honor and privilege of seeing the ways God’s redemption were expanded by Cohen’s life and my suffering.  

This is not who I expected to see materialize from the early pages and pages of grief and loss.  This is not the same girl skipping around in fields.  And though I miss her,  I can smile at her with joy and even thankfulness,  instead of only feeling the ache of returning to life without loss.  Because what has grown in its place is a gift for this life.  It’s assurance and hope and the beginning of sight.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An end to the mommy wars

My best friend Jackie has roped me into an impossibly early work out class on Tuesday mornings.  It’s still dark out when she picks me up, so that’s too early.  After Sergeant Roy destroys us, Jackie comes back to my house for breakfast with my brood.  It’s a good time of day to be around all of us for the most part.  Everyone is pretty chipper and excited about the possibilities of the day.  

She is the greatest Aunt Jackie ever known.  She takes pictures of Pearce in his school uniform and tells him how handsome he looks.  She tries to hold Stone as he bulldozes through any and everything in his way.  She reads Loah as many books as she can squeeze in before work.  

The other morning Loah asked for yet another book and Jackie told her, “One more, I have to go to work.”  My sweet, little, innocent (former) daughter exclaimed, “Oh! Work! Like Daddy!”  That’s right Loah, Daddy works.  Mommy just sits around eating chocolate, talking on the phone, and binge watching Netflix all day.  And then I died a little inside.

Later that week Pearce was sprawled across Shawn and me on the couch, twisting and bouncing, chattering about school.  Somehow Daddy’s job came up.  Shawn asked him, “What does Daddy do?”  

“Tells people about Jesus,” Pearce said.  

“What does Mommy do?”  Shawn asked


And my heart basically exploded with affirmation and relief.  “Thank you, Pearce!” I thought.  “I do, do everything!”

But here’s the thing, these two comments, and my subsequent reaction to both, are basically the mommy wars we are all so, so tired of hearing and/or participating in.  These wars appear to be overtly external.  The battle fought on Facebook and blogs and in magazine articles between the working moms, the stay at home moms, the single women, the marrieds with no kids.  Who works harder?  Who has the harder job?  Who has it better?  They are public warfare.  And they may stay that way, everyone awaiting a verdict.  A winner and a loser. 

But, they really aren’t external battles.  They are almost completely internal.  My brief deflation from my unknowing three year old exposes my own fear.  The elation and vindication at the hands of my five year old, uncover my need.  

We wonder if we’re doing a bad job.  We want to know we are doing something important and valuable.  We, as in, ALL of us.  No matter our position in life. 

The irony of all these wars is that the battle should unify us, not pit us against each other. Because it’s a battle we are all fighting, in our own hearts.  It’s a battle for worth and value and recognition.  We want to know we are doing the hard work we are supposed to be doing, and we want to know we are doing it well.  And I think the external battle is really an attempt to quiet the internal one.  Your battle is the same as mine, whoever you are, whatever you’re doing.  We are in this together.

We are all doing a good job, and we are all doing a bad job.  Because we are human.  We are going to work hard some days.  We are going to give of ourselves selflessly.  We are going to forfeit sleep for the deadline or for the sick baby.  We are going to give grace and be patient when we don’t want to.  And then sometimes we are going to do a bad job.  Sometimes we are going to skip out on work for an early and a long lunch.  We are going to turn the television on for our kids for too long so we can take a nap or watch a show of our own.  We are going to make a mistake on an important report.  We are going to be wrong and mean and short tempered and lazy.  

And sometimes we’re going to feel too proud of ourselves for our hard work and sometimes we are going to feel ashamed of our failings.  What will not fix either of these things, is winning the public battle for hardest and best job.  Because it’s not really a public problem, it’s a private one.  

It’s a battle for worth.  And if this is true, don’t you agree we could all do with a little less of the us verses them war?  It’s not helping any of us gain any lasting footing or real measure of our value. Wouldn’t you feel more empowered, more motivated to do a better job at whatever your lot if, say, we looked over at each other running the same race and said, “Hey, keep going sister. Keep learning and growing.  Own your mistakes.  Celebrate the hard work and the victories-big and small.  I’m doing it too!”    

You might be right, whoever you are, whatever you believe, whatever stand you’re trying to make.  But you might be wrong too.  Some things are worth taking a stand on.  Some things deserve a vocal, public fight.  But this one, the one about who is doing this whole thing better, is not one of them.  

The fight for worth and value?  That one I’ll talk with you about until I’m out of oxygen.  Because the answer is freeing and full of grace.  Even when you’re doing a bad job, your value is secure.  You don’t have to earn it.  Not by winning this war.  Not ever.  That is literally the entire point of Jesus.

That’s what I want someone to remind me of when I hear either the voice that tells me I’m not working very hard, or the one that tells me I’m really nailing it these days.  It is a much more sure victory than the fickle opinion won in the court of public appeal.  

We are all fighting for the same thing here.  And we are fighting for it the wrong way.  What do you say we stop beating each other up, grab hands, and remind each other what’s already been done for us in Jesus? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Your Story

The women in my community group have been learning and practicing how to study the bible.  I’ve found, the few times I’ve lead groups like this, that the resounding emphasis is on the word study.  And it’s also the stumbling block.  For most of us it feels like work on the outset.  But I think the Bible was meant to be read more as story.  I do not mean story as in fiction.  I mean; it is less of an instruction manual and more of God’s story of redemption through the history of our world.  It’s less isolated rules and teachings and more of God telling the story of our need and his restoration.  This feels so much less daunting.  So much less like the painstaking study of homework.  This feels like something I never want to put down.  Something to crave and understand and cheer about.  

As a rule I’ve generally rebelled against instruction- as evidenced by every lesson or clinic my parents tried to put me in as a child.  Gymnastics-I will not be skipping around this room in front of that mirror in a leotard.  Spanish- mom stop speaking Spanish to me, I speak ENGLISH. Piano- I’ll teach myself.  Tennis- dad stop telling me how to do this.  Getting off a ski lift- I’ve got it, don’t help me (that one ended with me subsequently not getting off the lift, causing the lift to be stopped and reversed, by the way.)  

I have a vivid memory of a Sunday school teacher asking the class if we had access to a book that told us exactly how to live in this world, wouldn't we want that?  I raised my hand and said, matter of factly, “No that sounds terrible. I’d like to figure it out on my own.”  I wanted to figure it out myself, not follow a set of instructions.

To be sure, this is a pretty serious flaw in my nature.  Because I’d really like to be better at tennis now.  And I really wish I could speak Spanish.  Instruction is good.  Being teachable; a really important quality.  But, I think we are meant to live and experience.  To build a story and to learn by story.  We are meaning finders by nature.  We want to live and understand and have a story to tell.  And I think this is explicitly evident in the Bible.  God chose to show us himself and what he has in mind for us, for life, through the story of his interaction with us.  Not just by instruction.   

I am a real fan of the instagram feed Humans of New York.  I think it brings people’s humanness to light.  It expands our contained stories.  It tells us that there are people not like us, who are also like us.  People who struggle, and strive.  Who celebrate and mourn.  Who are full of humor and dreams and loss.  People who are searching, like we are.  It reminds us that we all have stories that are important and meaningful and should be shared.  It grows compassion and an awareness of God’s work across all of mankind.  And he is working, that’s what our stories are.  They are mouthpieces of God’s story as his world continues to swell with life.

This is what I love about the way God lays out his story of redemption.  It gives our stories more meaning.  Because we can lay his story of rescue and life for us, the children he loves, overtop our own.  We can see how it laces itself through all the pieces of our story. It helps us make sense of our stories and it gives us courage to share them.  It makes us reach our hands across divides and debates and help each other see him more clearly.  

Because in all the ways we are the same and different, his story is constant.  He is still rescuing and reviving.  Instruction alone is helpful, but it doesn’t communicate who he is and what his heart is like and how he works the way story does.  Nothing brings light and hope the way his story in our lives does.  I’m thankful for his story.  I’m thankful for his story in my life.  And I’m thankful for his story in your life.  I hope you share it, for life and hope and restoration. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Grey

When I was in first grade I was diagnosed with A.D.D.  It wasn’t that I was just hyper, though I absolutely was- some unnamed parents wouldn’t let me come over to play with their kids for fear of my energy level. Jerks. just kidding, I’m a parent now, I totally get it.  It was that I couldn’t sit in my seat in class, I couldn’t focus even a little , I couldn’t write in a straight line even on lined paper- I would write wherever my pencil and mind took me.  My parents were hesitant to take the plunge into using any medication, but as I understand it ,my handwriting changed so dramatically as soon as I started taking it they agreed it was worth it.  So, I took it for seven years.  

Then one day in the sixth grade I was just over it. I didn’t want to need medicine anymore.  So, just like that I decided I would make myself pay attention.  I would figure out a way to focus that didn’t require medicine.  This made sense to me, so I did it.  

This is my DNA, my most natural personality.  When I decide something, I decide it unwaveringly.  In my most unaffected, uninhibited brain I take comfort in the black and white. This has its benefits, to be sure.  Resolve, discipline, drive, staying the course.  But it also has its glaringly obvious downsides.  Inability to leave something behind that should be left, difficulty seeing outside something I’ve settled on, being unnerved by uncertainty.  It has evolved, been softened.  I’ve seen how very many things don’t allow for the certainty I find so comforting.  And though I’m becoming more familiar with the grey, it is no less uncomfortable for me.  I am working on this.  Because I have to.

Nonetheless,  I want there to be a clear right and wrong.  A direct explanation.  A logical path. I marvel at people who can live in the grey with ease.  They are intriguing anomalies to me.  As a rule, I believe this propensity to understand and decide with certainty is the human condition.  It gives us a sense of security, a system by which to navigate this life.  But I’m wondering lately how much of this we put on the life of faith.  How hard do we try to understand it and thereby create and lay that system atop the gospel and so our life?  

Thankfully, there are some unobstructed, unchanging, truths of God.  Lots of them actually.  And because some of those truths are that God is loving and out for our good, I know that he gives us the exact ones we need to keep our feet planted.  But there is plenty of grey.  So many places that someone like me could feel upended.  And because this has happened in some painful ways for me, it has made me inventory what actually needs to be a certainty and what does not.  

This is a shift for me.  An initially unnatural one, but as it turns out a freeing one.  And, I think, a more welcoming one.  Because there are some honest, good, hard questions we are all asking.  But, I think when we act as if we know the answers with a certainty that doesn’t exist, we lose each other, and perhaps, even a sensitivity to the Spirit.  There are a slew of them in the theological world- ones that cause divides and wars and disgust.  And they matter for how they govern our interpretation of our life’s circumstances.  I don't think the questions are the problem.  The uncertainty isn’t even the problem.  The problem is deciding we have an ordained certainty that we may not.  

Speaking as a person who loves the certainty, I can attest this isn’t a malicious intent.  We aren’t hoping or intending to become dogmatic or divisive.  We want to know so that we can live the way we were designed to live.  So that we can know and be near to God.  But, when there isn’t a clear answer, what to do?  The answer to this question either gives us freedom, rest, humility- or it doesn’t.  

I recently had a good/hard discussion with two friends about the unnerving space I find myself in when it comes to finding answers to difficult questions in our faith.  One of these brilliant ladies is getting her doctorate in Biblical Studies.  She can live in the grey.  She can see the hard question, she can study the potential answers, and she can say, “This is unclear, I will choose the most compelling answer, and I will be okay that there may potentially be a different answer than the one I choose.”  This feels like humility to me.  This feels like more trust in God’s character and less in ours.  Because aren’t we sinful and finite and constrained by our humanness?

I am not suggesting that there is no longer any black and white, only that not everything is black and white.  

Look, Jesus did a lot of healing when he was here.  It’s one of the major focuses of the gospels.  And we are amazed and encouraged and hopeful when we read about them.  But, what if you lived then, and your family was suffering deeply?  What if your little baby was stillborn, what if your daughter was dying of cancer, what if you were out of work and money?  Imagine if word of Jesus’ miracles traveled throughout the cities to your home and your family in the middle of your heart ache.  You’d be hopeful.  

But, what if he never came to you?  Your paths never crossed physically.  Your family didn’t get healed.  What would you ask?  “Why didn’t that man Jesus come here, to raise my baby, to heal my daughter, to fill my bank account?”  That’s not black and white.  That’s grey.  And that’s my story.  There is not a direct, specific answer to these questions.  There are some great truths about Jesus that will still comfort that family, that comforted me.  Those truths are clear.  Thank God.  But the specific why?  That, we don’t know.

I'm untethered by this lack of clarity.  It's an unwanted byproduct of my personality.  And there are others, however unintended.  People like me will fight for there to be an answer until our bodies are bloodied and weary.  And once we have it, never mind that we are fallible, we've decided.  Over time and trial, this hasn’t proven to be as helpful for my own heart as I believed it to be.  And it is, consequently, less than helpful for those around me.   Because the trouble, I have found, is that subtly (and not so subtly) I become right and everyone else becomes wrong- even on things, in God's infinite wisdom, he didn't make clear.  Theologically and circumstantially.   

All kinds of damage grows in this particularly prideful soil.  A misunderstanding of the gospel, divisiveness, arrogance, inability to see myself clearly.  Byproducts of this good longing for understanding going unchecked.

I’m believing there is vibrant life for us even when there aren’t perfectly distinct and obvious answers.  There must be, because our God made everything clear that needed to be clear and the rest, for some reason, he did not.  Likewise, by design, he also made those of us who are understanders to dig and connect the dots and figure things out, in humility.  But, as with all things in this sin soaked world, that personality has its slippery slope when unattended by the Spirit.  

I am learning.  Asking God to help me see what is supposed to be clear and to teach me how to live with humility and a Godward focused heart in the midst of the things that are not as clear.  I am not infinitely wise.  He is.  I am not the author or creator of the world that I try to understand.  He is.  I am not right, all of the time.  He is.  I believe there is a day when we will no longer see like in a mirror dimly lit. No more squinting, blurry eyed studying.  The things that seem grey today will evaporate.  One day.  

But perhaps they are grey here so that we would remember He is God and we are not.  Perhaps they are to remind us to be reliant, and to love kindness-for others, and for ourselves, and to walk humbly with our God.  And just maybe this actually brings people like me, more peace.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Motherhood and Kindergarten. A Letter to Myself.

*written the week before Pearce started Kindergarten*

Pearce starts kindergarten in five days.  I know every mom in the world can’t believe it when this day comes.  You have a baby, you think the baby days will never end and you will never sleep or have an intelligible thought again.  And then, in a matter of minutes your baby is going to kindergarten.  

There are a slew of feelings that arise in this kind of milestone for me, specific to Pearce.  But for now what I am acutely aware of is how there has been a sense that I have been holding my breath until this twister of babies and toddlers is over so I can start a rhythm to life.  So I can get things more ordered.  So I’ll be able to do the things that feel productive.  But, in the shortest five years ever recorded, my curious, particular, gentle spirited little miracle is about to bounce off to school for seven hours a day without me.  All of a sudden the hanging on for dear life, chaotic, toddler years seem too short and too important.  That was it.  The years of him home, under my care and teaching for the majority of his day are done.  And here I was basically waiting to start really living some part of my life.  Turns out the living was happening.  It had already begun.  And it was immeasurably important.  Those years had everything to do with who this little person was becoming.  And as it turns out, who I was becoming.  

Those years don’t look much like what I was used to in my spiritual life.  Uninterrupted time reading the bible, books on the bible (books on anything), journaling, thinking, studying, meeting people for coffee, talking about life.  They can’t look like that.  They simply can’t.  And there is no ease into that new distribution of your time.  You don’t get a baby for just a few days a week, and it builds up to a full time job.  It’s all consuming, all the time, immediately.  Add a few more kids to that scenario and any hope of a consistent window of free time is gone.  It’s like the ice bucket challenge of motherhood.  And it is hard to accept as normal, and sometimes even harder to call fruitful.  But surprise of all surprises, it is! It. Is. 

I want to go back about two years and tell that version of myself a few thing about this: 

Dear wide-eyed, overwhelmed, tired self,

I know you’re holding on for dear life.  I know you weren’t quite ready to be pregnant again and that you have no energy or working brain space to do what you were used to doing for your whole life.  I know you’re missing the familiar parts of connecting with the Lord.  I know you feel unable to be present and available for people in a way you’re used to.  I know you’re weighing out what feels purposeful and what feels wasted.  And I know for a while you’re going to decide that you’re not doing very much with your life.  That you’ve let all your ambitions, individual giftings, and connection with the Lord atrophy.

I mean this in the most gentle way possible, you are wrong.  

You are doing something immensely important with your life.  These years are hard, but they are also sweet.  I know even on those hard, dragging, tedious days you still remind yourself that you are doing the work of forming a person.  I know what plays on repeat, consciously and subconsciously, in your mind.  I know you believe and appreciate that these kids are a gift and a blessing and that you have the honor of being a part of molding their view of God, view of the world, view of themselves.  
I know you know this. But I also know what you don’t know yet.  These years are not just about them.  They are also about you.  These years are what God is using to form you too.  All of the self sacrificing, the grace, the love, the forgiveness, all of that was never there until them.  All of that soft hearted, more gentle spirited, others focused perspective was born because they were.  The journey you’re on towards knowing God in a new way, the ways you see his care and hear his voice differently, the ways you’re comforted by his sovereignty.  All of that is because of the days and even the minutes of your time with your kids.

And the love.  The love is is never exhausted.  You will not believe how much you love this baby growing in you now.  He was not what you thought you were ready for, not what you had planned for.  But again you will see how God is for you, because of him.  He will bring you joy and life, unexpected.  And you will not believe this, but when he is a year old you will actually feel an ache in your heart for another one.  (Don’t panic, you’ve still got a voice of reason in there too.)  

Hang in there, you will sleep again.  To be fair, it isn’t until he is a year, but you’ll make it.  And when you finally sleep again you will feel so much clearer about who God is and who you are.  But, and please pay attention to this, you can still be near to God even though it looks much different.  He is still near to you and he still speaks to you.  But you have to look for him in different ways.  You won’t be able to get up early like you’ll wish you could, and will feel exceedingly guilty about.  But you must, I beg you, let go of your system of spiritual life.  You must, because there is so much life for you available outside of this approach you think is the formula for connection to your God.  And there is so much grace for you.  He will sustain you and you can find him in conversations with your kids, your community group, your husband.  You will get a reminder of him in the few minutes you had to read a paragraph of Isaiah.  He will stay near to you as you ask him for help.  You are not missing life.  You are living it.  

There is not a wasted season.  Ever.  Fight the urge to compare your pace and story to anyone else’s.  Dig into the place you are now.  It’s your story and it’s happening now.  These are not years you hit pause on your life.  This is your life and it’s as important, maybe more, than anything you’ve done yet.  It’s important, but it’s also exhausting.  And that’s ok!  Take the nap if you need it, Kalle.  And when you have lost your compass, pray.  Pray out loud in front of your kids when you don’t know what else to do.  They are listening and watching and you’ll be teaching them what brings comfort and a shift in their hearts.  

You will be amazed in two years when you are about to walk your excited but unsure oldest into kindergarten how much these years mattered to you.  You will take stock of your role in the world and in your family and you will take a deep breath that stretches the walls of your heart out of their tight places.  You will feel a fresh sense of living that gives you freedom to let these years be what they are instead of pining for another stage.  And you will not feel overwhelmed as you look back.  I know this seems impossible, but you will feel thankful and eager to do your current life well.  

I know you.  I know you’re going to try to force yourself into this thankful, eager space now.  Don’t.  Have grace for yourself, he has unending grace for you. 
You are dearly loved as you are, where you are.