Grace

My experiences and thoughts over the last couple weeks have been very raw and necessary. I spilled it out, and I was right, there was great healing in being myself, unedited (for the most part) and hitting “Publish”. I so appreciate the friends who reached out and gave me a kind, knowing look…”We are in this together.” It is also nice to know that fifteen year olds should be considered insane. So should 42 year old moms pushed to the brink. We will all figure it out as we go, often flying by the seat of our pants, trusting.

In light of these events, I have learned some things of Grace as I observed her showing up, asking me to invite her in, never forcing.

Grace is polite, an inkling. She pops her head through the back door, where there is confusion, anger, unreasonable-ness, mostly fear. She waits her turn, she waits until we glance in her direction. When all is desperate and nonsensical she makes her move. She provides opportunity for us to dare for better, for light, for hope, for freedom, mercy, and release. Do we choose her? Do we accept her invitation or keep digging in our heels to make our point, to stand firm in our position? Most of the time her offers make no sense. “Really?! I need to submit to my child, friend, husband, parent, etc? Really? You want me to make the first move toward understanding? But, I’m right. I have  to take a stand here. I have to make my point”. In the heat of the situation, glancing in Grace’s direction, succumbing to her gentle pleading, I realize we don’t have to proceed down this particular path. I can rest in knowing, that letting go, surrendering, may actually be the best.

Grace begins as an imagining. She challenges me to imagine different, alternate, the flip-side. I may not be required to maintain my hard line, whether it’s with my child, or spouse, or on an issue. I see so much of this in our politics, our churches. What if instead of staying rigid, fearing for our security, we let go and trusted and allowed Grace to settle over? What if we stopped needing to have the answers?

Grace is possibility. Is it actually possible I don’t have to know everything or be the one to call people out? Just maybe, what I have assumed is my job, actually is not.  Grace provides the opportunity for freedom, to truly live in love and be the hands and feet of Jesus without the need to figure it all out…to be available and present. Grace enables me to imagine that God is actually enormous, vast, working in ways unbeknownst to any of us, revealed in the most minute of ways, that blow our puny, human minds. Could it be possible? Could it be possible that I don’t have to continue to operate in fear, control, anxiety and confusion? Could I be loved for being myself?

Grace is a choice. We can choose our punitive moment or we can choose to let go, loosen our grip, retract our claws and enter into the unknown, beyond our control. We can choose to release our pride and not have to know it all, not have to be the gatekeepers of Truth.

In the context of my parenting, when Grace is not invited in…not only am I a raging lunatic, a conspiracy theorist, a terrified mother, my child is unreasonable too. It takes one of us (me, since I’m supposedly the adult) to stop, breathe, let go, accept new information and believe maybe I don’t know the whole story. It takes one of us to break the cycle of fear that causes me to believe there is no hope, this is forever how it is, it’s never going to be good again. It takes one of us to look at the other and say, “I love you, what do you suggest, clearly this isn’t working.” Will I automatically have an adult conversation with my teenager? Hell no, but at least there’s softness again. At least there’s openness, if even the smallest of degrees. A small crack of light, revealing the shadow of fear that clouds reason and hope.

I will leave you, to extrapolate this to the areas of your own lives, to your marriage, parenting, friendships. To your community, your schools and churches. To your towns, states. To our nation and world. The choice of grace is ours. The choice to allow the notion that maybe we don’t have the whole story…maybe there is an opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we are motivated by fear rather than the revolutionary power of Love. Maybe our own expectations are causing us to lose perspective of mercy and leading us to control.

In my experience, control has never been my friend. Control has only made me have to work harder to stay on top. It’s a miserable existence, where Joy really is just waiting for me to step down, give up the fight, and enter into life-giving Grace.

Thoughts on Parenting in March

*This post is more raw than I care to publish, but there is great healing in taking the chance. Please reserve criticism…it is a tender time.

The voices know how to melt my core. The voices can kick me in the deepest, most soft of places, in the depths of who I am. The voices I don’t know how to decipher. Some are mocking, some are encouraging, all are definite…moving me toward conspiracy, toward trembling, toward believing these voices and knowing the truth beyond a shadow, regardless if it’s actually the case.

Where do these come from? Are they our modern day demons that Jesus went from town to town exiling? Are they the words of shame? Are they what we imagine actual people are saying? Are they our conscience? Is it God?

What is so wrong with standing firmly in self-compassion, in grace, in do-overs and second chances? Why is everything so final, it must be done perfect or not at all? When I stand firm in anything it blows up, shards lancing every beloved soul and body within radius. Firm stances work for some and gain results, gain temporary results. I’m really talking about parenting here. We can talk about shame can’t we? I can force my child to stand there and take it, take whatever I believe he needs to hear, whatever point I’m needing to make. Does it change anything? The only time I see change in him, in us, is when there’s a bend, when there’s softness…not in forceful words or definite paths or “I’m gonna win this one.” Sure, short term results. But how does this prepare a child to be gracious, kind, compassionate, empathetic? If we don’t model it directly with them, how do we know they will know what this is?

I can’t do it. I’m crying uncle. Yes, there are consequences and discipline. Don’t get me wrong..not throwing the kid to the wolves just yet, however, it’s not about living perfect on the outside to gain my approval so I can brag in a Starbucks to a long unseen acquaintance all the incredible ways my children are succeeding in life. It’s about formation, growth, and not me.

I will take a chance on grace, on letting go the tight fisted grip, on results. I will take a chance on my child learning the paths that are best. I will take a chance on my child really screwing up. I will take a chance on letting my child go. It’s the only way to keep the relationship, to let him become who he was made to be.

I have never done this. All I have in my back pocket is how I was parented. It is now my responsibility to set it all down, in a pile, grab a chair and pick up each piece one by one…dust it off, turn it over in my hand, examine each facet. Which bucket will it go in? There are three: Save, Discard,  Later (aka. therapy). I am now the adult, raising the children. I have a choice. Go bull-headed forward with what I think I know, or choose grace and self compassion to not have to be perfect, to not have to be rigid, to reserve the right to change my mind. I am taking a chance.

Control isn’t working for me or my family. In fact, it’s ugly and I have become a raging lunatic.

If you see me in a Starbucks and tell me all the wonderful things about your kids, and I grunt in response and say, “We’re fine..the kids are still alive.” Don’t feel sorry for me, because I will not spell out all of the accomplishments and accolades. Those are reserved for the most trusted who will not use them to measure the worth of their own parenting. Nor will I spell out my fears and concerns, unless it helps you in some way. I will not be a part of promoting the competition, the measuring, the weighing of worth.

I will not.

As Ann Lamott says, as a writer there are always shitty first drafts. It’s important to write, get it down on paper or hard drive. As a parent, my first drafts are also going to be shitty. I’m not talking about my firstborn..I haven’t lost all hope. I’m talking about attempts, at first reactions, at things said but not exactly vetted, choices made in anger that produce regret. These first drafts, some are initially brilliant. Most are shitty, flawed, failed.

There must be a God, because there is always redemption. It may be today, it may take thirty years, but there is always a working together for good..always. Even in this mess, this stink, this pain and angst, regret and fear, there is redemption.

A New Path

Woke up to another snowy landscape. I love snow, I’m finding winter might be my favorite season..if I can stay warm. I like the excuse of staying inside, of not feeling pressured by the warm sun to have to be outside if I don’t want to. I guess I am more of a homebody than I would care to admit.

In this season, my soul, mind, body..all adrift. We have a houseful of construction. My child is in a necessary stage I don’t like. Church life, nonexistent.

This morning my view is the snow laden backyard, icicles hang prolific in random places, ice omnipresent to make any venture treacherous for this aging body. I gaze through the gridded window upon the backyard. Squares, each when focused individually offer a microcosm view. One, on the top middle portrays the garage roofline, with neighbor’s tree branches rising above, little humble birds sitting atop. Another square offers our half dilapidated chicken coop addition, where our wandering Truffle likes to perch, her halfway house as she pecks through the yard. Sitting in the silence of early morning, watching the full moon span squares, tree branches, power lines, while illuminating the frigid earth.

My walk with God is shifting. My faith journey, once so certain, is sprouting legs and taking me to places I once reserved for the backslidden, the lost. The faith lens, the grid through which I observed the world is leaving. The parameters, guidelines, rules one attributes to God-pleasing, dissolving. The earning of Heaven, the avoiding of Hell no longer interesting or essential. I am left with this vast landscape…no walls..everything is up for question. Dare I say, few absolutes?

The beauty of blanketed snow, how it falls and sits until disrupted by the beaming light of day, or a skittering creature. The beauty of freedom, imagining, wondering. The beauty of being open to loving all, to accepting each person where they stand. The rest in knowing judgement is not my job, my paycheck does not reflect this responsibility. The promise of spring, unfolding flowers, trees and vegetable sprouting from the desolate boxes. Miraculous, each one, morning newness abundant.

All of this I know. I have done this for enough years to know my faith goes beyond what I feel. My sense of bereft-ness is happening because without the certainty of rules and boundaries, how does one know if they are off course, or just alone? I have followed, through my life, the leader. I have also been the leader, albeit many times a bit of a rebel. I have walked easily and willingly with others, in fellowship. I have sought out approval from the powers that be, truly believing I am honoring God with my life and devotion.

Years ago, I completed my first triathlon in Denver at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I knew I was a decent swimmer, but never having raced before, I didn’t know how I would compare. My only gauge the poor unknowing soul I would compete with in the adjacent lane at the Rec Center.

I swam along, nervous energy faded, breathing on every third stroke as a good swimmer does. Murky water, goggles fogged, blind. I, while bilaterally breathing, noticed I was alone and actually believed I was in front.  Me in the lead. Incredible! I succumbed to the voice-in-my-head temptation, “I am amazing, Wow!” The illusion came crashing when I was shaken by a booming, megaphoned voice, “MA’AM, YOU ARE OFF COURSE!”

I had taken my own line, I had veered out of the triangle path designated. I was all alone. The kind race volunteer allowed me to de-fog my goggles, catch my breath and resume the race.

I am trusting in grace when I feel I am off course, or alone.  When I have presumed too much or entertained untruths, I hope to be steered by a megaphone, a gentle nudge, or a push…all motivated by love. My questions will continue to be posed, with abandon. I trust that living outside of the well-trod path I will discover new understanding, or maybe a faint path trod not by the majority.  I long to, through humility, follow, grow, become –  knowing that whatever path I’m on, wherever the journey takes me, all of it leads to the common ground of love, grace, mercy, empathy, compassion…free from shame, condemnation and fear.

Breaking Up with Fight

I was a fighter. I was a goal setter, a rule follower, a planner. I could follow a training plan like nobody’s business. I could set aside rest, celebration, life, in order to accomplish. I could hang with the best of them in discipline. I was a fighter.

Yesterday, I looked around and discovered my fight left, probably for good. Fight has been on it’s way out the door for awhile, I have been unwilling to own this. I haven’t wanted to recognize my will, my heart, my mind no longer care to fight for the fight. We need to break up.

When in Gunnison, I have a specific route I like to run. I warm up for a mile and half along County Road 10 where I gather my gumption and confidence before turning onto 743, an undulating dirt road that winds mostly up. I can choose to go as far as I want, depending on how many miles I need to get in that particular day. I usually set my mind to run the whole thing, to not stop and walk.

Yesterday, my mental and physical resolve decided to stay at the house, lingering at home with a cup of coffee and warm stove. The once latent pain in my back was knocking on the door of acceptable comfort, legs each holding a 10 pound weight. Usually, I can fight, I can scrap, I can set aside discomfort and fatigue to plow ahead, to force my way to worthiness.

Fight has learned to take advantage of me, she can tackle me down in my weakness and insecurity. She knows when and how to elevate herself, through my comparing.

But our relationship hasn’t always been like this, we had a lovely thing going…

She taught me so much about who I am, about what I can accomplish when mind and body are put to the test. She led me through training for and completing nine marathons, an Ironman, and countless other races and adventures. She brought me through a wonderful education, long days and nights of three blessed babies, marital challenges, tragedy. What a gift she has been to me. Fight has helped me to overcome, to be brave, to stand firm while fear nearly ate away my resolve, to move beyond status quo and achieve. I am so grateful to her for revealing my dogged determination, for beckoning me out of bed for early training and studying bouts, relentlessly calling to do more, be better. She has truly been a gift, revealing me to myself, my capabilities, my capacity.

Unfortunately, Fight doesn’t show up alone. At first, she appears strong, powerful. She is admired and envied. She produced things in me that proved my worth, elevated my standing (at least to me, in my eyes). But after awhile, Fear made an entrance. When Fight and Fear are paired in tandem, a perfect storm forms of striving and proving. Fear is a contender, a game-changer, diabolical almost. Fear is nonsensical, doesn’t back down easily. Fear/Fight took over my kindhearted nature and drew me into believing ridiculous, inane lies. Fear marked itself as Pride, Worthlessness, Shame, fanning the flame of what once was a wonderful accomplishment, into a drive, a need for more, better, more than, better than. Fight can become an addiction when in the context of Fear. This addiction can become the relentless draw to Next…the next race, the next diet, the next goal to prove worth…to rise above, to be noticed.

Fight and Fear are being ushered out while I welcome Strength, Discipline, Wisdom. Instead of scrapping and proving and rising above, I want to settle in. I want to live with Strength of character; with Discipline to accomplish lasting, sustainable things; with Wisdom to know when to buckle down and when to let go. I want to rest in me being enough without Fight, without the pursuit of more and better. I want to rejoice in witnessing others rise higher, accomplishing greater. I want to be a cheerleader, in the arena, okay with sacrificing standing and admiration. I want to be side by side, arm in arm with fellow humanity, championing causes, righting wrongs, and loving severely in the darkest and fiercest of times. I want to say goodbye to being better, more, better than, more than. It is time to hang up the boxing gloves. It is guaranteed my pride and ego will take more hits as a result, maybe beaten to a bloody pulp.

It’s fine with me. I’m ready. They haven’t served me much lately.

Upslopes

5410103711_dbedf5b3df_bColorado has been fortunate this winter, some cold snowy days, but February was a string of warmth. We have had a winter storm warning for the past three days, starting midweek, getting ready, waiting. Apparently, the liquor and grocery stores were packed on Friday, people anticipating. I had a little “wait and see”, but I longed for a good snow dumping. The beautiful thing about Colorado weather, is you can try to predict it, but until it happens? Well, better to just not say too much.

Mid-morning Saturday, with an inch or so, the streets were only wet, temperatures balmy in the 30s. My mom, daughter and I headed up north for a little shopping and lunch. By this time, folks on social media were mocking the weather, and raining down veiled insults upon the sacrificial meteorologist lambs. Many believed the bluff was called. While in J. Crew, my daughter having the time of her life debating denim choices, we watched the storm barrel in like a brakeless freight train. The roads once only wet, were now icy and packed down, visibility just barely, cars inching along with little to no traction. This upslope was a contender.

These powerful storms, all eventually leave, but when they are central to your existence, nothing can channel thoughts elsewhere. Upslopes gather moisture from the south, rotating clockwise slowly, wrapping the region, bumping up against the foothills. The energy stays on the Front Range, where snow can fall in feet down here, while the mountains may be sunny and warmish.

What about the storms I face? My upslopes?

I have issues that regularly wrap around and back, with insecurity arriving from the north, purposelessness gathering steam in the south, to collide perfectly at my center: food, weight, body issues warning of impending record-setting events. Yes, I can sometimes predict when they will show: spring after cold winter months of eating comfort food; after very busy life seasons; during grief, new kid stages, certain marriage events, holidays. I try to anticipate, but these upheavals can still come unexpectedly, and with force. The force is sometimes more than I can manage. It seems these life events wrap around, coloring all of my existence, my faith, my hope, my purpose. They bump against what I know, what I’ve learned, the strength earned. Gaining momentum or losing it, depending on many factors, mostly fueled by my choices toward surrender and control. Some are here to stay, creating in me a new existence, a new manner of viewing the world, challenging me to my core. Not moving out anytime soon.

If I get so focused on the fear of the next uprising, the howling wind, the cold, I lose the opportunity to see beauty. How the snow falls when it has settled in, the naked tree branches perpetually reaching higher as if awaiting a pat on the head for the effort, birds on wire in defiance. The opportunity afforded to rest in the unknown, to acknowledge the change in landscape, finding a new place to discover oneself. Life-giving moisture for drought-prone land.

These upslopes in my life and heart change and switch, move and shift. Some show up unexpectedly, and some predictably. Sitting, twisting, churning and moving out. They always move out, it might take a few years, but we all eventually reach a new normal. After the spectacular show, a gap is present, small or big doesn’t matter. The terrifying suffering is more behind me than in front, a return to normal seasonal temperatures, dry weather, regular days, stepping in time. And this is me. The upheaval rocks my world, sends me into a spin, challenges and discomforts. It always leaves…with me anew, changed, adjusted.

What do I do with the gap? The regular and settled in days? Do I take what I learned and water others? Do I move to a new place in my faith journey? Do I recognize the risk of vulnerability and take more chances? I hope so. I hope I don’t just stand braced for the next one, but instead, live my days with gained truth, from a place of fresh hope, surrendered strength, muscle ready to fight for what I now know.

There is always new life in the aftermath. Green, sprouting, fresh, stored up energy for the next journey, the rising day, the long-awaited rebirth. There is always hope, even in the bleakest and severest. Let me remember to cling tight when the cold rattles and re-shapes my bones, when life will no longer, ever, return to my idea of normal. Let me grow stronger, taller, ever-reaching, reinforcing the old supports. Settling in with grace and confidence, trusting the strength of not me, but the strength of the One who holds me fast.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81474147@N00/5410103711″>Snowpocalypse Chicago Snowmageddon 2011</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

The Last One

Snow falling in clumps like wet Kleenex, ground slushy and puddled, chimney across the way pumping out smoke. Kids finishing procrastinated homework, hanging with friends, gearing up in snow clothes for a ten minute play outside. Laundry humming along, hot chocolate steaming, a long run to work out the cobwebs. Dog covered in local dirt road mud, bounding at first, lolling at end.  A day home, holiday celebrating Presidents. A surprise egg, from our infamous Truffle Hen who defied a grisly fox-death and sacrificed a toe in her harrowing escape.

All bits of one day, moments held briefly and so easily forgotten. Reminders of those gone by, rejoicing and grieving simultaneously at children growing and becoming, differentiating and leaving. Ten years like dust, when baby number three emerged, to join what seemed like two big kids then, recognized now as toddlers. How perspective shifts and bends, grace withheld for all I thought I should be doing, rather than just getting through some days, with coffee and Diet Coke as my only joys. I hear folks say, “Don’t survive, thrive”. I want to wring their necks and have them sit in my then-home with three baby-toddlers and make them write it out longhand thousands of times on the slate of my sanity.

Boy now, gangly, sinewy, lanky and lean. This ten year old body, on the cusp of separation, still allowing tender moments between mother and son. Hair shaved, eyes and ears too big for face, pants at ankles, instead of nicely folding over the shoe. Child with his fair share of suffering, for a privileged white middle class upbringing. Great heart and head for understanding and mercy, compassion and reflection. Is this learned? Maybe, but feels more like instinct, a soul discontent early from being unable to spell out his burden wreaking havoc inside.

This Last One, seeing him across the room, wondering, “Is that really my kid?” The changes all of a sudden ganging up on this mother, not wishing it any different, but taking pause, taking notice. A mother’s heart has to defy all logic, all fear, all slashes that come from carelessness. These children, take my naked and vulnerable heart, with no understanding for the pain leveled when they hurt or hurt others. This ache is felt constantly, ebbing and flowing with circumstantial life, conjoined with relief for the freedom. Oh! to no longer be the parent of baby-toddlers! Yes, they are becoming, this is the natural order of things, but never chosen with ease. Mothers across the globe, spanning all time and space have fought and lost the battle of keeping our children small and held tight, with very good reason.

My greatest mothering work is to relinquish, to allow the emotion and feeling to wash over, to settle in, to release, once processed, into the abyss of the collective grief and feeling of all mothers.  There are probably enough tears to power entire countries with this weight…of longing, hope, relief. Tears of pain and joy, equal, salty, flowing, some waiting for redemption, for forgiveness, others redeemed and forgiven.

My beautiful boy, high pitched screams and shrieks, just three years from deepening. My beautiful boy, my youngest child, sealing the door just behind him on this parenting gigue that has been both beautiful and obnoxious. I hear often, “Once a parent, always a parent…the fear and concern never leave”. I don’t like it. I’d rather they say that all my hard work will pay off, all misunderstanding will cease and none of them will do stupid, damaging things. An impossibility, I know.

Lazy home days, taking notice, remembering, forgetting, appreciating the mundanity, the divine in the smallest and most insignificant of moments. This holy work of parenting, mothering, is not for the weary or faint of heart. Let us all give grace freely, recognizing none of us has a corner on this crazy market of letting go. Let us mothers notice one another and cling tight for these days are short. Our children will leave, some peaceful and some in fits and tantrums. Hopefully, they will return as friends, people with whom we may grow, generously and respectfully. People who challenge, teach and question us while providing for their own young families, repeating the wonderful, necessary cycle of raising up and letting go, honoring and learning the truths that come from this holy, messy, beautiful work.

Words

photo credit: Glasses on paper via photopin (license)

The din of the local coffeeshop, folks discussing a myriad of topics, infinite options..job opportunities, wrinkles, neighbor problems. A small cross section of Boulder County American life. A typical morning, relationships of all shapes and sizes forming, growing. Hellos and good-byes. Reunions with faces long unseen. Children with mothers seeking caffeinated sanity. Slices of life, random Thursday mornings.

Ordinary life. How are you? Fine. Good. Okay. How much do we really know what happens in a soul, a body, under the serene surface? What is bubbling under the fines, goods and okays? What beauty? What strife? Which questions are being pondered and agonized? What isn’t being said?

Some friends I can look at and just Know. The underneath is a boil, scalding hot pain, leeching, uncertain.

Some friends I can listen to and just Hear. The edge of precipice, the fear of a leap, the agonizing questions without answers, answers that will not come without risk, without surrender. Successes shared with but a few.

Some friends, I am present with and gain strength. I know and hear and see the lives lived, the pain forged through, the hearts on sleeves, the joy released, the fear overcome. These same friends know the depth of what is bubbling under my surfaces, even though I don’t fully know the cauldron some days. Honestly, the number of people where I am privy to the revealed highs and lows is a handful at best.

The good, fine and okay friends have to be satisfied with my goods, fines and okays. Moments with the deepest revelations come with well built trust, patient compassion, abundant grace and suspended judgment. They come with merciful, humble and listening hearts. My open mouth, one who openly shares regularly, must believe and know the person on the other side has my back. She has my best interests at heart, in agreement or disagreement, knowing when to speak her truth to me as she sees it. Sometimes, though, truth is not necessary nor does it need to be shared. It needs to hibernate for later or never. Sometimes truth needs to be requested. Mostly, it is about asking good questions, timely questions, an inquisitive stance. The people who get the information out of me are the ones who love me, not because they say it, but because they do it. They do love…they do grace, they do mercy, they do judgement suspension.

In my early years, I believed truth had to be told, if I knew the truth, I was obligated to tell. No more. It is about responding to a person with patient compassion and wide openness. Brutal honesty may work for some, but for me brutal honesty could put me in the hospital, the dissemination of words and thoughts without overflowing sensitivity is my Hell. My greatest fear, my deepest wound.

There are times, however, for painful truth, for others speaking when I’ve said a cavalier word, or created a hurtful moment…the things I do or say that damage another. I pray I hear and receive without blame and defensiveness, that I listen with my heart, with love for the person who respects and cares for me enough to tell me. I pray my perceived fragility and insecurity do not cloud a timely truth telling.

Why I am capable of doing to others what hurts me most will forever be a mystery. I cringe when words come flying with abandon out of my face aimed at the softest parts of those I love the deepest. Words I could never take, that if directed at me would handicap so horribly.  Words expertly lobbed at my husband, my children.

Forgiveness is my salvation. Forgiveness is my only hope some days…when I wound another and I receive an “I forgive you” in return. This is how we do love, how we do grace, how we do mercy, how we do judgment suspension. I forgive you, I have your back. You are my friend, and I love you.

photo credit: Glasses on paper via photopin (license)

Worthy Chickens

We have a sweet hen we call Truffle. She is a fraction the size of our other girls, runs with her chest puffed out, as if she’s seeking an edge over the finish line. Truffle has become an outcast, the lowest in the pecking order. The other three hens, all sisters, chase after her cruelly. The only time they are together is at night, in the coop. She sleeps separated while the others pile in, layering on top of one another. Each morning  when the chickens are released, she flies out the open front door, while the sisters shuffle through the back, into the fenced area. Truffle, instead of being subject to angry pecks all day, prefers to wander the yard at her leisure, cavorting with the sheep, and meandering the remains of the garden beds.

Typically, in the dark winter months, hens take an egg-laying hiatus. With the colder temperatures and shorter days we have needed the heat lamp for warmth, so the hen bodies have been tricked into believing the days are longer. The other three have been laying religiously, while Truffle, unless she is laying in an undisclosed location, does not provide us with her daily egg, probably from the stress induced by the other birds.

Apparently, once a hen’s laying days are over, once they are no longer useful, it’s time to make a meal. What about our Truffle? Since she is not currently laying, is she of less value to us than the other three hens? What is her worth?

This idea of worth is very important one to consider. I cannot begin to express the number of conversations I have with women regarding their perceived value, particularly among the subset who stay home, not with the little children, but with the tweens and teenagers. On the outside, it can appear a vacation…six hours a day to oneself. How is my purpose as a wife, mother, woman determined when my children really don’t need or want me for most of each day? And, as a good and wise parent, it’s my job to let them go.  How do I define my worth? What am I contributing to the world? What do I contribute to my family?

In this land of ours, worth is widely defined by our monetary accomplishments and accolades. If I’m not bringing home a decent wage, contributing to the bottom line of our family unit, then what am I worth? If I’m only taking but not giving, why keep me around? I know it sounds a bit harsh, but isn’t this the heart of our struggle? What am I worth if I don’t make ___, or weigh ____, or wear ____, or eat ____, or accomplish ____, or have _____ or look like ______. Clearly, this list is endless…and I’m only speaking from my female perspective. What about our male counterparts? Our husbands, fathers and sons? What kind of pressure is on them…same underpinnings, different scenarios.

I have recently come crashing up against this as a mother to a fifteen year old young man. Here I find myself in this land that makes no sense. The days of anticipating and providing for most needs, gone, seemingly vanished overnight. My purpose as his mother is nebulous, with no specific role to grasp. I know my theoretical importance, but the practice is quite fuzzy. The problem seems to lie mainly with how I feel about my role..when, on a good day, I might exchange 10 words and spend 10 minutes with the child.

I have come to realize, like with my sweet chicken, our worth is in the being…being present, available, human. That little chicken brings more laughs than I feel free to admit. She will more than likely, never be in our soup because of the joy she brings to us all and the void her absence will create when she is gone. Because she has a name.

My work now is to recognize my worth as a human being, because I am alive, because I breathe and move and talk and am. Because I have a name. My value as a human, as a woman, has absolutely no association with my outward proving: what I do, who I’m with, the heritage of my family of origin, the amount of money I earn, or what I own. My worth is inherent because I am, belonging to this planet, loving and being loved. Ultimately, I am worthy because I am created, made not to accomplish anything in particular, but to be known and loved by the One who knows and loves me beyond measure. Just as I sit and watch that funny little chicken, deriving joy because she’s just being Truffle. How much more does God see in us…this masterpiece, not just made of flesh and bone, but wit and ferocity and grace and beauty and opinion and feeling and fight and severity.

I believe that when we live out of our worthiness, we will find freedom, beauty, gratitude and grace…not for others, but for ourselves. Out of this will flow our work, our purpose, our calling…able to set aside fear, moving forward in love and trust.

Nothing more needs to be accomplished in order for us to be exceedingly valuable and remarkably beautiful.

Relearning Prayer

medium_37967309

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn  -Mumford and Sons

Prayer.

The concept conjures up a variety of assumptions…formulas, requests, thanksgiving, an old man judging, desperate pleas, fear, expletives, impossible.

I will not presume to know what Mumford and Sons meant by the above prayer, but they touch a deep place within, where the cries for eyes to serve and hands to learn. It is a call to seeing things differently, taking things out of the box of expectation and make a shift. My paraphrase, “Please keep the earth below my feet, for all of this effort, my blood is running weak. Please protect me so I may gain wisdom from where I’ve been…to learn and serve in new, unexpected ways.”

The longer I walk this earth, the more I realize prayer is infinite. Infinite ways to express oneself, infinite gods/spirits/saints/people to direct prayer to, infinite forms, infinite paths. I have come to believe and accept both God and prayer hold no bounds…at least not any to which I am privy.

Formerly, I operated with the false idea that I was required to follow a special formula or plan for prayers to be valid and heard. I wrote most of my prayers for decades to still distraction. Train of thought was instantly lost upon closing my eyes. I have spiral notebooks dated and filled with longing, thanksgiving, identifying with God (or trying to). The practice was essential, a way to write and organize, to empty. I firmly believe I was met, the Holy Spirit with me.

As of late, my views on prayer have changed. Instead of filling time and space with words, I long to shed the notion that my performance matters. Many days I sit in the dark silence, meditative, quieting body and mind…some days successful, in my view, some not. I know God is present, and the importance is placed in showing up, not in having the perfect words or experience.

Also, I am expanding my definition of what qualifies as prayer:

a candle in a window

yelling and doubling over on a hike, painfully grieving

clinking frothy beer mugs, in celebration

laughing hysterically over nothing remarkable

laying awake at night fearing the worst

writing

walking along tree covered paths, gazing upwards, noticing the contrast between branches, sky and cloud

a random conversation, leaving me breathless over the Beauty

frying up fresh eggs

an apology, a “Will you forgive me, I’m so sorry!”

remembering  the needs, reflecting throughout the day

laying facedown on the carpet, uttering words, heart hopeful and terrified

making a meal, assembling with love

I know some moments require traditional prayer, for my own soul and mind, to express the words, to spell out the need. I must lay the concern down, for it is too much to handle, too much to hold.

Other moments, I need my people, my children, my husband, my friends. We need to be together in prayer, beseeching. Sometimes, on a run, words in time to breath, tears mixing with sweat. Sometimes, holding a child, fingers detangling hair or scratching a back, words spoken…or not. Sometimes prayer is a conversation with God, as if I’m having lunch with my husband….meandering, stuttering, reflecting.

Let us not not pray for fear of perfect performance. Let us pray according to what is called for in the moment. Let us pray around distractions, letting them in, persisting regardless. Let us pray in the urgency and need, let us pray all wrong. Let us pray outside ourselves, ultimately knowing the abundance in and around, inviting us to lay down our pride and ego to enter onto the wing of the unknown but All-Knowing.

May we give ourselves permission to use words or not, to use only one word…maybe,  “Help!” “Thanks!” or “Wow!” according to Anne Lamott.

The key element is trust, trust in our emotions, our senses being led by Someone greater, to learn, to wait, to feel, to know. Some things are beyond our understanding, and may never make sense.

Prayer unites us with the generous and always loving heart of God, who adores His/Her children and gathers us together in peace.

Some days

Some days just are.

Some days invite creativity, cleaning, sorting and spiffing.

Some days invite solving, mastering, mulling and conquering.

Some days invite rest, renewal, naps and movies.

Some days invite constructive criticism, problem solving, checking off list items and errand-ing.

Some days just are.

Some days are neither inspiring nor boring. Some days reflect the mood of the sky, a gray, cold expression. Some days invite washing windows and cleaning out closets and coops and shampooing rugs and dogs. Some days are toilet days, where bathrooms define the smell of the house, instead of the other way around.

Some days are restless, read, get up, write, get up, prepare food, sit down, eat, stand up, clean. Drive here, park, drive there, park. Talk to a child, grunts in return. Listen to the radio, nothing but chatter. Drink a coffee, same old, nothing new.

Some days are leftover days, piles of noodles, old fruit, on-the-edge soup, muffins lovingly made – yet still sitting on the counter not eaten. Some days the list is long, but the energy and ability to accomplish – nil. Some days the children are annoying and needy and teenager-y.

Some days the bed is unmade, uninviting. Some days the jeans are uncomfortable and sweats pulled on far too early. Some days, the bra stifles, the watch catches on everything, the ring denting the finger.

Some days the screens occupy too much space, populate time not providing anything but a heaviness behind the eyes. Nothing new to see, nothing new to hear, talking heads, talking points. Some days my skin has shrunk, my eyes are tired, my nose clogged.

These days, normal, blah moments, sandwiched between high and low events. These days are stock up days, where the energy is low, but the need will be great. These days are about keeping the whining in my own head, not letting it leak out too much, not letting it take on a life of its own. These days, bound by difficult circumstances are the days to feel, the days to be, the days to wander the four walls of house and car, to take in the humanity. To recognize neither mountain nor valley, just the flatland of a soul. No highs nor lows, just a day.

What is one to do? Put on sweats, eat vegetables and drink beer for dinner, drive the children, ask questions but don’t expect great answers, keep the mouth closed more than open, do the dishes, wash towels. Take a shower, but don’t fight for exercise, read out loud to a kid, put the feet up. Remember the good things, the simple things…don’t make the expectations such that it’s all wrong or not enough. Avert the eyes, don’t look at the wood floors in the sunlight, and certainly DO NOT lay in a position where you can see under couches or beds. Shut your children’s bedroom doors. DO NOT check grades or math pages.  Try really hard to wear comfortable shoes and pants. Don’t smell the dog, don’t peruse the vegetable drawer, don’t go beyond picking up. You will want to throw things and donate necessary items, and make kids pay. Do not do anything you will potentially regret. Take a moment, put yourself on time out…be the grown up and cry uncle on today.

Lovingly dish up the ice cream, find a cloth napkin and clean spoon. Make mention to your husband and children, it’s time to be done. Eliminating any guilt, walk into your room, shut the door, climb into your bed, secure an easy read or episode of Parenthood. Set fear aside, no, not every day will be like this forever. Turn the light out at a decent hour, wait for a new day, pray hopeful for hefty sleep. Keep in mind, knowing deep down the truth but certainly not admitting…

You are awaiting the visit from the untimely and always inconvenient, the peak of womanhood, female-ness and femininity. The part of you that gave life to three embryos, sustaining. The part of you that comes as a surprise every freaking month. It will get better tomorrow.

Some days just are.