We must tend what we love in order to flourish.
Yesterday, I picked up a friends two children from school. As I was walking past one of the teachers, she looked at my group of three and said,”Good luck with that.” Her meaning unfortunately was not veiled. My son has ADHD and can be an energetic handful. My son’s friend, has different yet similar energy that can make him a challenge. His little brother has difficult moments as all 5-year-olds do.
I felt angry at that teacher. I know her. Generally, I like her. But to have such negative perception of my child for something he does his very best to control, makes me feel protective. And to say something out loud, in front of the children, whether they understood or not, makes me furious. These are three kids worthy of love and respect who are doing their very best job at growing up. It is not easy.
All three children with every ounce of their energy were wonderful that afternoon. They caught frogs, jumped on the trampoline, were polite and funny. I was lucky to spend time with them.
Today when I picked up my second grader, he said, “Toby didn’t invite me to his birthday party because his mom said I have too much energy.” My heart hit the floor. I got down to his eye-level and said, “I don’t ever want you to feel badly for having energy. You have energy that makes people happy. You are a good friend and a very fun kid.”
At that moment, I had some mama-rage. I had unkind thoughts and strong feelings.
Now, I have centered myself a bit and have let those go.
I feel sad.
My darling son, who does have energy and struggles to attend, also stands up to kids who are mean to smaller children. He is enthusiastic, has a grin that lights a room, and is an advocate for a child in his class who does not speak English as her primary language.
I understand the mom who didn’t want my child to come to her sons party. Most moms, if they are honest, will admit some children are easier to have around than others. I admit that. I have had those feelings.
And yet, I want to learn from this situation to never let that be about the child. But about my choices. That mom could have just said it was her choice not to invite my son. Not because of something she deemed as negative about him. I want to express honestly to my child that his friends are all important people regardless of the amount of time we spend with them or if they are invited to his parties or not. I want to be a sensitive parent. To my children and all children who populate our life. I want to be self-aware. I am sure I have hurt children and parents unknowingly. I want to learn to live more intentionally.
The final jab was a volunteer who mentioned she did not enjoy working with the lower reading groups. She was not unkind. She just said it was hard for her. I get that. But it felt painful too. Because my son is in that group. Not because he does not have the intelligence to be in another group but because his lack of attention truly affects his ability to learn. This volunteer did not mean to be unkind. She was being honest about her experience. I only share it because it was hard for ME.
ADHD can bring pain. That has been true this week. It feels like my kids are not seen as they really are because of this disorder that skews their executive function.
I don’t know what to do but show my children they are glorious humans, full of light and grit. To stand up for all children in whatever way I can. To remember to choose my words wisely and pay attention to my audience.
Little beings should not have to bear the ignorance of adults. May we all become more awake to our effect in this world, and may we be determined to be a positive, light-slinging influence.
Dear Loved Humans:
Too many of you are dying.
I am a mother and, in this moment, whether I am your mother or not, it doesn’t matter. Listen to me as if I was your mom. I have three boys and one daughter. I have earned the right to speak.
Our little town has a list of teens and young adults who have died. Some by suicide, others by accident, some by sickness and still others by drug overdose. It is a running tally in my head. When I must add a new name to the list, I grieve. I cannot sleep. I look at my own children and am afraid. I imagine your mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. I imagine your friends. Your old crushes. And I ache. As I write this, my throat is closing, and my heart feels constricted.
I wonder how it can be sunny outside today when you are dead?
And I know, without a shadow of a doubt that what I write here cannot even touch the heart-ripping pain those closest to you are experiencing right now. My trauma in this moment, is a little trauma. Those who were nearest to you are living in a hellish GIGANTIC trauma.
Why am I writing? Well, because it’s how I process. And because I want to beseech the living in our town:
Don’t give up. Don’t give in. It’s somehow going to be ok.
If you are depressed, reach out. If you are drugging, reach out. If you are addicted to adrenaline and risk-taking, reach out. If you are being abused, reach out. If you are abusing others, reach out. I see your pain. Your cutting. Your binging. Your sexual acting out. I see your hopelessness. I see your depression.
And I see your brilliant resilience.
You internalize, and you keep going though you are so sad you can hardly breathe. I see that you carry so many large burdens of knowledge, feeling, and intuition.
I don’t know that I or any of the collective mothers in this town will have the right answers. But I promise you this, I will listen. And I will do what mothers do, I will try and find help. I look in the eyes of the other mothers in this town. They carry the same haunted feeling I do. They will help too. If we don’t hear you, ask again. And again. And again, until we do.
Because you, darling, are worth hearing.
You are worth the fight for life. Imagine that I am putting my hands on your face, looking deep in your eyes, and telling you that YOU ARE WORTH WHATEVER IT TAKES. Some of you might be cringing as you imagine this. It would take a shit-load of courage for me to do that but I mean it. YOU ARE WORTH WHATEVER IT TAKES. Please don’t leave us before you let us try and be with you in whatever pain you are living in.
And I ask collective forgiveness for the times you have tried to tell us, and we didn’t hear you. Forgive us for the times we have deaf ears. Let us have another chance to hear you.
And I commit to looking for you. For asking questions even when I feel hell-of-a-awkward.
Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Friends. Teachers. Coaches. Youth Leaders. Let’s keep our eyes open. We have lost too many. I don’t know how to change this. Except add my voice to the crying that I see everywhere. I want this to be more than words. I don’t know what action to take. But I will find one.
YOU ARE WORTH WHATEVER IT TAKES.
Today I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Sugar. Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond host a fabulous list of topics and guests.
This podcast was titled, “The Ugly Truth” and the guest was Ariel Henley. The topic was women who feel ugly. Not women who don’t like their eye color or hips but women with facial differences which legitimately cause them grief because it makes them “different.” Two women wrote in about their experience with facial differences.
I want to be a champion of women and help them believe in their beauty. This podcast made me consider how I am doing that. Physical beauty is real. Inner beauty is real. As I listened to the letter writers on Dear Sugar, without seeing them, while knowing their physical differences cause them pain, I found myself wanting to know them.
I heard their vulnerabilities, resiliency and courage. I heard the pain in being “other.” And although that was true for me, I cannot dismiss that they are not considered “beautiful.” I will not look over that. Smooth it with pretty words about their inner beauty.
I wish I could look each one in the eye and say, “I hear you. Your face causes you pain and betrays you. I cannot change that with words or actions. I am with you here.”
I’m reminded of watching the movie, Wonder, with my husband and four kids. My youngest, who is 8, really struggled with Augie’s face in the beginning of the movie. It wasn’t out of cruelty, but fear. Augie’s face scared my little man. We whispered back and forth through the movie about how Augie was a person and his face was different, but his insides were familiar. He had so many of the same thoughts and feelings we do. By the end of the movie, my son wasn’t fully at ease, but he liked the movie. He had questions. He felt compassion for Augie.
I’m also reminded of myself around age 10. My first cousin was burned over 70% of his body. I spent many days at the burn center. I can remember seeing him for the first time and my whole body felt electrified. I reacted intensely to his pain. My reaction wasn’t revulsion but fear as I imagined what he had to endure. I could almost feel his pain or at least it seemed like it. I’m sure I couldn’t truly fathom what he went through. To this day, when I see someone with severe physical differences, I feel pain in my body. I wonder how that shows on my face. I want offer acceptance, but I wonder if my face shows empathy or fear?
I want resolution for those in pain over their differences of any kind.
And my desire doesn’t give people what they need.
And individuals willing to stand in the tension with them. If I want to champion women, this is how I will do it.
Empathy isn’t looking at someone and saying “Wow, that must be hard.” It is instead taking their hand, standing close, and looking straight into their eyes wanting to know what it is like to be them.
Ariel, who has a memoir coming out soon, offered this advice to the woman writing in. “Take a picture of yourself. Look at it every day. Until you begin to feel compassion. Familiarity. Focus on something you can appreciate. Keep doing it. Until it no longer becomes “other” to you, but becomes something you love.”
She took my breath away.
This has so many applications. She is asking that the letter writer become friends with her face. Even though it has hurt and betrayed her. Some of us must do that with family members or friends. Or maybe with emotions. With jobs or joblessness. With God or a higher power. With where we live. With dreams that never became real. The possibilities are endless.
Beauty is not in facial features. And it is. A face has never taken my breath away, but Ariel Henley did with her suggestion.
Become friends with that which you hate about yourself.
I call that beauty.
I am receiving a gift this very moment. An odd one.
My 8-year-old is sick with a fever and cough. I can’t send him to school. It is Dec. 21st. I have a last minute stocking stuffers to buy and gifts to deliver before the holidays. Not to mention, Gryffon is missing a special day at school. Making gingerbread houses and a field trip to the Science Station. I love these kinds of school days. Playful. Less sitting. More creating. I was planning to help in the classroom and go on the field trip. I hate that Gryff is missing this day.
And, it is a gift.
I cannot pound out my to-do list. I am relegated to being home.
I initially purposed that this week would be full of self-care. I have been running hard. Each day came with sneaky priorities.
Early in the week, I intended to invite some girls out for a glass of wine. I planned to walk by the river. I was committed to going to yoga. I wanted to read a chapter of fiction. Here it is Thursday and not one of those things has happened.
I choose to receive the counter-intuitive gift of a sick child.
I have the privilege of co-creating a non-profit with a good friend. We are talking with a life-coach to help us craft the practical steps of birthing this dream. This week, while we spoke on the phone, our beautiful coach, Lori, said, “What if you practiced SEAS? Stop Everything And Self-care?" Shan and I were each spinning with our long lists, like twinkle lights on the flash setting. Our check-in showed that neither of us had been caring for ourselves well. One of the re-occurring principles our coach is teaching is that we cannot sustain a non-profit if we are not caring for ourselves.
On this day when I need to do many things, I am practicing SEAS. Even if I was tricked into it. And truthfully, I cannot sit and self-care all day long. But I can right now. For the next hour, I will spend the luxury of my life on me.
When I love myself well, I am full and capable of loving those around me with the same luxury.
This Christmas season, I am going to be a sleuth, looking for moments to SEAS. It may be one minute or 20.
But I am going to Stop. Everything. And. Self-care.
Will you join me?
When you toss a pebble into a lake, the ripples reach much more lake than the initial stone.
An overused metaphor, yet I can’t find a better one.
I talked with my friend, Lisa, yesterday who I met in the 3rd grade. She is my laughter partner. I have never laughed as hard or as much with anyone else. My husband used to say, “I knew it was Lisa on the phone by how much you were laughing.”
She is a teacher in Texas now. She is spunky. Funny. Wise. Loving. She is one of those people that it doesn’t matter if it has been a month or a year, we always catch up where we left off with ease. Familiarity. Family like. We were family growing up. We still are.
As we were catching up, she told me about the war she is fighting at her daughter’s school. Her girls play high school volleyball and have a coach (with administrative backing) that is unprofessional and possibly more dangerous than that.
She told me, “Because of your story, I cannot let this go unchecked. I am documenting dates, inappropriate conversations, and concerns of other parents.”
I was sexually abused by a coach. And Lisa let that story open her eyes and change her. She has become an advocate for her girls and others because she saw me toss my pebble and felt the water move over her.
It made me cry. Sometimes I am not sure my pebble had any effect. Lisa reminded me it mattered.
On that same day, my daughter and I were at a weekly gathering where we talk a little about Jesus and life with four teenage girls.
She told the group, “I help lead a group of middle school girls at youth group. They thought God made them sinners. And that he is mad at them. I stood up to a girl who is older than me who was telling them incorrect things. I told the girls that God intended us to live in Eden. He made us good. It was the fall the screwed things up. I told the girls that God likes them, thinks they are beautiful and made a way for them to come back to their Eden-like selves. That way is Jesus.” (I did my best at recreating the conversation).
Shock and awe.
My girl, who I know has a deep heart, is out there demolishing the works of religion by telling students who God really is.
I talk about these things. I try to expose my kids to people who believe truth. But I don’t know if it sinks in. I know God finds my kids and whispers in their ears through people, literature, songs, and movies. I felt so glad to know God’s pursuit, as well as my input, is affecting my daughter who affects others.
Later on in the month, I talked with a young mom who I have mentored from afar. We have had seasons of talking often, seasons of talking once every six months, and a season where I hurt her and we did not talk. As I spoke with her, I heard growth.
Her fierce, I-am-unapologetically-me voice is strong. Much stronger than in years past. This girl is brave and funny. Kind. She loves Jesus. She is a loving mama. It is by her own choices that she has grown. And yet, I recognize my touch in it. There is a bit of her tender fierceness that reminds me of me. It shocks me. I am not surprised she has grown. She is that kind of woman. But I am stunned that I had a little part in it.
Sometimes the good we give out fades and seems impotent in our own eyes.
I spoke with another friend who was brave enough to send her daughter to counseling. I am so impressed that she would risk that. I told her so. I often watch individuals be too afraid to risk opening themselves up to counseling. I am grateful to anyone who has the courage to look at their life. Let alone invite their child to that self-reflection. After I leave, she sends a text: “You do know that you are probably one of the biggest influences in my life in the area of self-care and caring for our family, don’t you?”
No. I didn’t. All I do is talk about the real-life things I live through. Yet, somehow that was enough.
I feel embarrassed right now. Like I am being my own cheerleader and asking you to pick up a pom-pom too. And I feel grateful to be given a glimpse of the ripple of my life. Our choices have an effect on our world whether or not we see them. I want my choices to bring life and no-bullshit-goodness to those around me.
Keep tossing the stones, darling.
Hears from angel
Tale too large to hold
“You are mother of God”
Or more baffling
“You are highly favored”
Tenacious soul believes
Acquiesces to immortal plan
Divine in skin
Turning earth on head
No longer do we need angel message
God comes to door instead
In shape of Yeshua
The annunciation for us
Incomprehensible but true
Our life inverted
God names us
Lights twinkle, nativity scene tickles
Yet Holy is not in perfection
But came with blood mixed in hay while teenagers held God
And war broke loose to ruin God’s Affection
Dragon king ordered dark to destroy infants
Blood ran red while babies were tossed like rocks in heap
Wailing rose, echoed horror and grief
Dreams made mothers sweat while waking made them weep
Under hood of night, family fled slaughter
Grit in the shape of adolescents
Baby king safe, hidden by angelic marauder
Bizarre plan pitted baby against dictator
Tiny king grew, bright white in middle of stain
Love lived, making mud to mend, championing harlot
Drawing in dust, touching filth, stopping blood, waking slain,
God invades world to spill over us scarlet
This is Christmas.
By Jill Dyer
At a state-wide writer’s contest, I walk across the stage as a finalist in the poetry contest. As results are read, my stomach drops and my face falls. My poem is not the winning choice. I am disappointed. I am weary. My body feels a tremor in response to the fatigue of trying again.
Yet, I know, it is not a fail. But my body doesn’t seem to agree.
It is never a failure to try. Especially for something vulnerable like putting your art into the world.
It is an act of bravery.
In that moment, I didn’t feel brave or empowered because of my vulnerability.
I just felt small.
As in most hard moments, I found myself scribbling something on a scrap piece of paper, to ground myself. A poem birthed in defiance of losing.
A few days later, I remember my friend, Jason Neff, is making t-shirts and selling them on Amazon. I want these words on a t-shirt. Jason kindly agrees to design a shirt. I love how it turns out.
It’s another act of putting my art into the world.
I wore one of the t-shirts to our local hardware store. A woman remarked, “Wow. That is quite a pep-talk.” I smiled and owned up to writing it.
It’s more than a pep-talk.
It’s a manifesto.
It is not about winning, but being true to the fire the breathes within you, the roar that escapes your throat, and fight that echoes after you are long gone. Be true, it it you the world needs.
Here’s the link if you are interested:
I peer out the window, sigh, and pull the covers over my head. It appears we are in deep winter, with fog weighing down day.
But it’s not fog.
It’s August and smoke suffocates the air. My house smells like a campfire.
The Milli Fire was sparked by lightning on August 11th. It has grown to 18,000 plus acres. Heroic firefighters have kept it from destroying lives or homes.
18,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest and Three Sisters Wilderness area are burning. Last week I sat by the lake at Black Butte Ranch and watched one of my favorite trails, Black Crater, explode with torching trees. It was both beautiful and deeply sad.
My forest is burning.
I walk to my car to retrieve my purse. It is raining ash. I feel both frustrated that my summer days are ruined by smoke and grateful that we are not in danger.
All morning another tragedy is filling my newsfeed. Hurricane Harvey. My mother-in-law had to evacuate Corpus Christi for three days. Luckily, her home is fine and she could return. Late last night Brene’ Brown posted a picture from her front porch in Houston. The water was rising quickly and was almost the height of a stop sign.
Two resources we cannot live without.
And yet in excess, they are causing chaos throughout our nation.
I cannot help but think of the lesson here. Life-sustaining resources in excess cause harm.
We cannot live without food and yet obesity is an epidemic.
Exercise lengthens and strengthens our lives and yet, in excess will break the body and mind.
Money is a tool that provides security and adventure yet if chased to extreme results in futility and depression.
Alcohol is delightful in moderation but addiction ruins lives and relationships.
Sex is a beautiful expression of love or a tainted obsession that turns people into a commodity.
The examples are endless.
My neighbors and I are on Level 1 Pre-evacuation. People in other parts of Oregon (and the west) have been evacuated for days or weeks due to forest fires.
In Houston, Rockport, and other parts of Texas, people are fleeing homes to survive as Hurricane Harvey empties 9 trillion gallons of rain on the region.
Oregon has an excess of fire. Without fire, we wouldn’t have pilot lights, gas stoves, campfires, or the sun.
Texas has an excess of rain. Without rain, bodies would shrivel, lakes would dry, trees would die, and the sea would turn to salt.
Resources imperative to mankind yet nature upends them and the excess destroys.
A provoking question arises, “Where do I use something good in excess and turn it to harm?”
As we consider the extremes of fire and rain causing havoc in our nation, may we be alive and awake to the questions that arise and may our bravery motivate us to stand with an answer.
Let tragedy teach.
August 1st comes every year. Yet somehow, I am taken by surprise each time the balmy days roll into August. I panic.
It somehow signals the end. The end of summer days. Warm evenings and fire-red sunsets are no more. Crickets and frogs go to sleep. The rivers and air ice over. My kids go back to school and there is no more time for spontaneous trips or throwing the football in the back yard. The era of lizards and chlorine scented hair is no more.
Can you tell how much I love summer?
Of course I would grieve it’s end.
There is only one problem.
I have a month left to enjoy, not grieve.
In my panic, I can only think of all I have NOT been able to experience. All the limit, none of the luxury.
I am not present but anxious.
As I wrestled through this panic, I decided to hold my hand up to anxiety and force it back. NOT in a “I will put activities on the calendar come hell or high water!” Because that would just be me trying to control.
My refusal of panic is simple.
I determine, despite to-do lists, large dreams (wanting to through-hike the PCT, publish a book, start a non-profit), despite 4 children and 1 husband with different schedules, I will choose one act of play daily.
Every. Single. Day.
Want to hear August 1st act of play?
A spontaneous hike with 3 of my kids plus my nephew on a river trail 10 minutes from my house. I have run/hiked this trail 100 times. It is not new nor exciting.
But it mattered.
My daughter shoulders the nice camera in hopes of finding beautiful instagram pictures.
My 11 year old son says, “I love this trail.”
My 7 year old says, I remember the waterfall on this trail (Ok, it’s really a log jam but pretty nonetheless).
My nephew says, “I’ve never hiked to the logjam!”
I smile and absorb their gleeful energy. Grateful.
Not 5 minutes into the trail and my daughter has galloped long ahead of us.
The boys and I discover salmon berries. Ripe. Melt in your mouth. Taste like fresh jelly salmon berries. Salmon berries have been a little kiss from God to me this summer. And here they are again and I get to share them with my boys. My nephew exclaims, “These are my new favorite fruit!”
The boys each find pygmy horned lizards. They are cute. My youngest asks if he can bring his home. I end up carrying this little lizard for 3 miles of the hike. We get home and his dad researches what they eat and what kind of habitat they need. Dirt is gathered and red ants are hunted by headlamp.
It was a funny play. I am not really a lizard person. But I do delight in my little man. And like how he loves the lizard. I do marvel at the lizard’s white belly and grippy claws that allow him to ride on my son’s shoulder like a parrot.
The day passed. It’s August 4th now. My daily act of play has not gone smooth every day. On August 2nd the only play afforded me was to purchase two magazines to dream of upcoming adventures. I read them after dark, in the warm night on my Adirondack chair. I had to squint a little because I didn’t want so much light that the warm night was illuminated. It was luxury.
August 3rd was spent at the fair with my family. I was trying not to be irritated that my two oldest who were certain they wanted to go, lasted 1/2 on the rides before they were “too hot.” Granted, it was 102 degrees. When we got home at 3pm, I didn’t feel like being outside to play. However, in the mail came some outdoor cushions for my patio. I had made myself wait until they went on sale to purchase. Instead of bemoaning that summer was almost over by the time I got them, I placed them, grabbed two cold beers from the fridge and invited my husband to sit with me and enjoy them. The kids got Dairy Queen blizzards on our way home from the fair. We waited for beer. This family does Blizzards and beer.
Today is August 4th. I felt panicky again. My kids are going every which way. Two are working. Two have a friend over. I feel a bit tied to the house. It’s hot as Hades and smoky from a nearby forest fire. Today’s play is twofold: Finish this blog post. When I wrap words around my experience, I solidify it my heart. And the second, is to capture a picture of a hummingbird’s belly as it flies overhead.
Join me, if you will. Snap a picture or pen few words of your play. #jillinkedplay. Let’s end this summer with daily play no matter how small. I choose to revel in the luxury of being alive and being present to my life.
A short time later, those standing nearby approached Peter and said, “We know your one of his disciples-we can tell by your speech. Your Galilean accent gives you away!” Peter denied it, and using profanity, he said, “I don’t know the man!” At that very moment, the sound of a rooster crowing pierced the night. Then Peter remembered the prophecy of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will have denied me three times.”
With a shattered heart, Peter went out of the courtyard sobbing with bitter tears.
Matthew 26:73-75 (TPT)
Now when Judas, the betrayer, saw that Jesus had been sentenced to death, remorse filled his heart. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and religious leaders, saying, “I have sinned because I have betrayed an innocent man.”
They replied,”Why are you bothering us? That’s your problem.”
Then Judas flung the silver coins inside the temple and went out and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:3-5 (TPT)
I cannot help but contrast these two passages. My heart is grieved for both men. I have been Peter, denying Jesus. I have been Judas, betraying Jesus. There is horror in both.
Peter, with a shattered heart, sobbed bitterly. He allowed his heart to feel the depth of the denial.
Judas was filled with remorse. He tried to undo his betrayal. But he couldn’t. The realization of impending hopelessness may have sent him to the noose on the tree.
There is no more mention of Peter in the book of Matthew. But we know that Peter was restored to Jesus and went on to be powerful for good.
Then Jesus came close to them and served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus manifested to his disciples after his resurrection.
After they had breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?”
Peter answered, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!”
“Then take care of my lambs,” Jesus said. Jesus repeated his question the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me?” Peter answered, “Yes, my Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of John, do you have great affection for me?”
Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!”
Jesus replied, “Then feed my lambs!
John 21:1-25 (TPT)
There were many days in between Peters denial and this passage. Days for Peter to live in and feel the pain of his denial.
Judas robbed himself of feeling his days of remorse. I feel sad considering that. Pain is at once horrible and wonderful. Pain proves we are alive.
It is no coincidence that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Jesus allowed Peter to state his love three times. He looked into Jesus’ eyes and declared his love. Those three denials melted away, replaced by love.
Denial replaced by love, for the good of the gospel. And for the heart of Peter.
I wonder, could there be a hint of how to walk through our dark deeds in this contrast of Judas and Peter? If we feel and acknowledge the pain of harming ourselves and others, can we be set up for restoration and go on to be powerful for good?
Or in contrast, if we try to pay penance to undo our wrong without walking through pain, will we be required to kill those parts of us in order to continue living with them?
I was watching a parenting video today where the teacher explained the value of inquiring, “What do you need?” All under the assumption that the stress in our reactions with our kids (or anyone for that matter) are unmet needs.
Or maybe you are the type of super parent who does not have stress in your reactions with your kids? That's not this writer-lady. Just today, I had to tell two of my kids that I cannot hear their questions any more or my head is going to explode. I don't think that would be in the parenting books. Unless it was a what "Not-to-do."
I immediately realize that it does NOT matter if I ask my kids what they need when I am not sure how to ask my self that very question.
It appears to me that most of my life, I have been under the guiding principle that I will not receive what I need, therefore it is my purpose to figure out how to live denying my need. And that is what I have done.
Need safety? Not available, so don’t trust.
Need help? Don’t ask, everyone has ulterior motives.
Need to be heard? No one is really listening.
What a shift, to understand my needs are God-breathed, and worthy. This is not a simplistic thinking that I will always receive everything I need. Of course not. Our lives do not afford that. But it is a mature belief to recognize my needs are real.
And worthy of being met.
How I wish this maturity was already bed-rock solid in my heart so I could give it away to my kids. But it’s not. I have to live in the mess of learning what it is to be me while trying to teach them to be themselves.
Just to be.
I could tell you a thousand ways I have failed. I could also tell you a thousand ways I have not given up and so have succeeded.
Want to know what I need right now at 4:20pm on a Monday? A Lights Out Stout (thank you Worthy Brewing) and to write this blog. To wrestle with my mind and tapping-key fingers, what does it mean to ask, “What do I need?” while inviting those I love to ask themselves the same question?
It means that two answers can be valid at the same time. Maybe my husband needs something from me I can’t give. That breaks my heart. His need is worthy AND so is the reason I can’t give it.
May we live in that tension with love.
It means that my 7-year-old wanted me to take him to the pool but I paid his brother to do it so I could sit out on the patio, drink my beer, and wrestle with you.
I hear your response, or maybe I hear my own response, “You are so selfish. You beer-drinking-it’s-not-even-5pm mother who thinks she is more important that her kids.”
If we acknowledge our need, we submit ourselves to other people thinking we are selfish. Or the contempt of thinking we ourselves are selfish. But the crazy reality that we cannot give one single thing we don’t possess keeps me from believing that. I want with all my heart to ask my those I love, “What do you need?” with the ability and desire to meet them. And I cannot move nearer to that without embracing my own need.
So today. Monday at 4:28pm. I need a community of friends. I need God to show up loud and big. I need kindness. I need direction. I need to be understood. I need kick-ass adventure. I need playfulness and big dreams. I need to know my life has an impact on others for GOOD.
I bless every need I have AND I refuse to punish those I love when they are unable to offer the hoped for response. Instead, I will live in tension of belief that we are all worthy of receiving what we need, whether we receive it or not.
May we learn to articulate need with artful precision.
I was listening to a podcast today. One of the women remarked, “We are all still asking.”
Asking what, you wonder?
We are asking, “Am I beautiful?"
You might think that overblown. But that’s not my experience. I think it is true. We still ask.
I believe in women telling each other we are beautiful. Men can offer great goodness to the conversation if they are loving, not objectifying.
How do you, how do I, align with the truth of our beauty? Without cheapening it or using it as a weapon?
It is a curiosity I am exploring.
As I ask myself this one question, I might have discovered a piece of the answer.
What happens when I ask myself if I am beautiful?
What if I could just look myself in the eye and answer, “Yes, I am beautiful.”
And rest in belief that it’s true. I wouldn’t have to compete or puff up in response to insecurity. I wouldn’t have self-contempt.
I could just be me.
My friend, Susan, told me years ago that she just wakes up and does the best she can with her clothing, makeup, and hair. Then walks out the door, confident, not thinking about appearance again. I love that. She is owning her beauty but not obsessing. She is participating with caring for herself yet not letting appearance have power to define her. She is not grasping. She is inhabiting her beauty.
And of course, beauty is not only held in appearance. In fact, beauty is inside. But we let it be seen in the embodiment of our true selves. I have seen many outwardly gorgeous women, who open their mouths and speak slander or are petty, and I no longer even see their outward beauty. And on the other side, I have known women who may not strike me as a runway model the first time I meet them, but become stunning because of who they are.
What does it mean to be at home with ourselves?
What does it mean to embody beauty?
I dare you to ask yourself, “Am I beautiful?”
Let the answer come whatever it is.
If it is negative, ask yourself “Why?” And consider what needs refocus to embrace your unique beauty? Because you have one. I promise.
If it is positive, dance a little.
You are worth celebrating.
My husband and I have been watching The Crown on Netflix. It is a depiction of Queen Elizabeth’s life. I’m not as in love with it as I was with Call the Midwife, Madam Secretary or Downton Abbey. But Queen E has grit. Grit impresses me.
The Crown also portrays Winston Churchill. I didn’t know much about him other than loving this quote:
You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.
The episode last night wove the story of Churchill being honored at his 80th birthday and having his portrait painted. There was a moment when the portrait artist and Churchill had a vulnerable conversation.
Churchill lost his daughter, Marigold, at age 2. He said, “We named her Marigold for her long curls,” with taught tears in his voice. He created a pond at his residence in remembrance of his loss. The artist, who had viewed Churchill’s paintings, remarked “You are always painting the pond.” Churchill seemed surprised by this observation. He remarked, “It is so hard to get it right.”
As I went to bed last night, I kept thinking of that line.
“You are always painting the pond.”
What’s your pond?
How do you paint it?
I think we do go back to our tragic stories and keep painting them. It is not to just to remember but to understand. I use words to “write my pond."
Most of us have more than one tragic story. And likely we circle back to each, like a trained horse in a riding arena. We take one more pass to see what we missed, attempt to protect ourselves from letting it happen again, and to finally “get it right.”
It’s cathartic. Necessary.
But we can never undo our particular tragedies. We can learn from them, yes. Yet we can never protect ourselves, try as we may. That circumstance will never exactly repeat itself so self-protection will never be quite the correct armor. Our efforts to finally, “get it right,” are in vain. The tragedy did not occur solely because we made a mistake. Our lives bear too much complexity for that to be true.
If those things are accurate, what can be the beauty forged in circling the pond again?
Empathy for others, yes. But empathy for ourselves most of all. My definition of empathy is:
The art of experiencing emotions that match another person's emotions, thoughts and feelings.
That sounds odd when we are speaking of ourselves. Because empathy is usually spoken of in regards to identifying with another person’s feelings.
I dare say, that when we are in trauma, in pain, we become “other.” We become fragmented, not connected to our body, mind, and soul. Somewhere we become divorced from the experience in order to survive it.
In that manner, we ARE experiencing “another person’s emotions,” because we have not let that part of us be integrated into a cohesive self.
I have been in the presence of individuals capable of experiencing emotions alongside me. It is indeed an art. The tender effect is that I feel known, loved, and like I belong.
I hope, that each of us, can grow in capacity to practice the “art of empathy” for ourselves. May our fragmented selves be welcomed home to be known, loved and to belong within our skin.
Back in the day of big hair and even bigger bangs, Amy Grant had a song that I loved. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It comes from scripture. Psalm 119:105. As a teenager, I imagined the Bible being some kind of coded book. If I read it right, it would light my path.
Read that again, “If I read it RIGHT, it would light my path.”
I put so much pressure on myself.
Scripture is incredible. Full of messy people and crazy circumstances. It can provide wisdom and courage.
But it is not about reading it “right.” That mindset comes from hypocritical religion and fear. The Bible is meant to be engaged. My life pressed into the wild stories and recognizing myself in them. Do I have more in common with Rahab the courageous prostitute or the rigid Pharisees who anchor their life to the right rules?
I’m quite sure I can see myself in Rahab and the Pharisees both.
I stifle God’s creative nature when I think reading the Bible is about getting it right.
It’s a journey and it was part of mine as a teenager to view it that way. But I am ever-growing.
When that song found it’s way to my heart the other day, I thought to myself:
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. 1 John 1:14
I am grateful for scripture. It has helped me know this Jesus. But what I felt as that verse came to mind was that the Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path is not words on a page, but the WORD.
The word that became human. The reckless Love that breathed with lungs on earth-dirt. He lights my path by walking ahead of me and behind me and with me when all seems confusing.
The Bible perplexes and confronts me. It angers and comforts me. Jesus words keeps sneaking out and turning my world upside down. The Bible tells a wholly different story to me today than it did when I was 15. It’s deeper and more confounding. I both understand it more AND less. And I am so glad. For if I could understand it all with perfect certainty than I think I would have made God, instead of him making me.
I submit to being remade again and again as I get closer to him. This too, is a mess and wild story that is so much less about being right than being real. God made humans and so I think it most safe to be one in him.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I am posting what I penned last year. Maybe tomorrow, I will write about 2017.
I had my favorite kind of Mother’s Day. We packed up the kids and dogs and went on a new hike in Eastern Oregon. It was warm, sunny, and there was a tickling breeze. The drive there and back was exploding with intricate green creation.
The day wasn’t about perfection. It wasn’t about finishing the hike. It was about play. Beauty. Enjoying each other. There were moments I was frustrated. I always yearn to finish the summit. But with four kids, sometimes you just can’t. And I was able to let it go and look around me.
I saw my daughter. Beautiful. Curious. Her favorite moments where digging up crystal in a trickling stream bed. And laying in a rock bed, made just for her, with her feet in the creek. She was irritated by the heat and the hiking.
My oldest son found himself a bed on moss and stretched out for a nap. He climbed rock faces and complained now and again about his flat feet hurting.
My 10 year old son was happy and adventurous, glad when we turned around, but never did complain. He likes to keep the peace like a true middle child.
My 6 year old son was his chattering little self, always trying to keep up with the big kids and finally succumbing to tears when he got too hungry and too tired.
My husband was his gentle but loud self just pleased with the beauty and enticed by his prospecting heart to dig in the crystals on the hillside. We got annoyed with each other on the drive home and had a few “snappy” words before remembering the things we were choosing to let grate on our nerves, were indeed, small.
It wasn’t a perfect day.
Is any day perfect?
But it was beautiful. Restful. Adventurous. Joy-filled. And I am coming to understand perfection is never the goal. I just want to call the day good. And not all days can be called that.
Some days are awful.
And it makes me think.
For me, every day is Mother’s Day. My four kids are around me all the time. I can see the beauty of them and be glad to be a mom, every day. It’s not about a gift. A card. Or even a day set just for me. It’s about the practical day in and day out living that makes me a mom. That’s not to say celebration isn’t good. It is. I love to celebrate. It’s a reminder of the goodness in life.
I just think the real beauty is forged in the day to day and commemorated in our hearts.
And as always, when I think of mothers, I think of women. Women are life-givers. You can give life to a baby. A career or dream. A friendship or book. A movement. or painting. A vision or garden. A meal or vacation. A classroom or an adventure.
Women bring life in a thousand ways every day. I champion that. When I pay attention, it takes the pressure off trying to fill my heart up with one day. How could that ever work?
Let's open our eyes. Look around. Where are we birthing life? How? Cheer for yourself and cheer for the women around you who are doing the same with their God-breathed abilities and lives.