Category: writing

on being brave and becoming

IMG_3712Last night Kyler stayed up too late. It hasn’t happened in awhile but sometimes she is unable to regulate herself and sobs so much she can make herself throw up. In these moments she needs to be held close, hearing my breath and heartbeat as I rub her back, soothing her until she can relax again. She’s older now, so I her lay down on her bed while I scratch her back. It took maybe 30 minutes of soothing lullabies and patience, standing over her bed as I led her back from the edge. Those are my hardest parenting moments—because it’s the end of the day and bedtime and I am moments away from just having some time alone. But I stayed with her.

I told Doug later I don’t know why sometimes it’s easy to make the harder choice. Some nights I will quit and slam doors and yell to get what I want and other nights it’s easy to set aside my wants and needs and be fully present and engaged in whatever battles my kids are experiencing. I knew Kyler was just tired and needed to go to sleep. But yelling at her would have exacerbated the situation. Yelling doesn’t seem to solve much in my house…

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I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown a few months ago. It was one of those books I wish I had read years ago. But this was the time when the words would click into place. A teacher once told me it had to the be the right word, at the right time, with the right tone to be life-giving/changing. So while I know the lessons in this book are ones I’ve been figuring out on my own the last ten years and here they are so conveniently packaged into one little book, I wouldn’t have heard the words before now. I had to go the long way round. I needed the years of struggle and battle and mistakes to see the rich, deep earth waiting.

She writes about shame, vulnerability, relationships, and being brave. Her words are well-chosen and full of grace as she confronts our deepest hurts and fears, and challenges us in our own interactions with people. We live in a shame-based world—trying to make people feel bad for a mistake, playing judge and jury more often than friend or confidante. And even with our own children, when their behavior doesn’t match what we’d like to see, we try to make them feel worse about their poor choices. It feels like common-sense that I am my children’s biggest advocate, but so often all I see is mess, rather than the little beating heart behind the mess.

As I write a book about relationships—friendship especially—this book showed me what I have been fleshing out in my friendships. That there is a whole heap of kindness that is forgotten, or a choosing not to be mad because someone misspoke. A trust that they didn’t actually mean to hurt me and I can get to the bottom of things instead of wallowing. That relationships take time, and sometimes years to develop. It’s a slow process sometimes interrupted and set-back. The people I am closest to I have known for over two years and we have grieved together—they have carried my pain as if it were their own and I have carried their’s. There are late night texts, impromptu coffee dates, and driving miles and miles so a friend doesn’t have to go it alone.

I learned I sometimes chose tasks over connection, mistaking them for the same thing. With homeschool and laundry and basketball practice and gymnastics and maintaining friendships, I have used being “here” as enough. I show up. I put in my bit—but I’m not actually in the trenches. I have gotten lazy. After school, I am done with my kids. They go off and play and I sit on the couch and read, or check email, or rush off to a work out. I don’t talk or engage or enter their worlds. I like being around them so much. I get to see their personalities and they way they learn. But we go down the list and when it’s over I want to escape from the little needy hands and all the emotions.

But I’m learning. Relationships take time and energy. They take more than showing up. If I want to know my kids into their thirty’s I have to know them now. I’m learning that my children are little humans with their own thoughts and desires about life and how it works best. I’m learning to see them. I’m constantly relearning how to parent them and shucking off old things that aren’t working for our family. I can’t control them. If Kyler wants to cry for forty-five minutes about going to bed, she gets to make that choice. As her mom there’s a way I can come alongside her and lead her through it. Right now I get to do that—later, it will be her choice if she wants that direction.

I want to be the mom she needs now…and I want to become the mom she still wants when she’s a teenager and a young adult and whatever else she gets, or chooses, to become.

I’m learning that the same work I put into my friendships is the work I need to put into my marriage, and into my kids. It’s been easy when they’re babies to soothe and comfort and to know what they like and dislike. But one of my kids is 12. I have to get a lot more creative about what connection looks like with her. I’ve started noticing others hear her stories because they’ve made time for them—in my task-oriented behavior, I haven’t made room for connection or relationship. I feed her. I teach her. I make sure she has clean clothes and is learning appropriate grooming. But I don’t know her. I’m putting together a Christmas gift list for her and I feel sad that I don’t know what she likes. I forgot connection.

Parenting trumped relationship.

But now I get to try again. I get to build and rebuild the bridges, slowly one step at a time.

I think we all desire connection and relationships, but we have forgotten how hard they are—that they aren’t always easy or fun to develop or maintain…and it requires a huge level of vulnerability because we will make mistakes and have to apologize. We will have to forgive even if we don’t really want too, and we have to be teachable and tender-hearted towards one another. It’s differently hard when it’s my kids, my husband, or my friends. But the attention to detail and the vulnerability are overarching themes I’m seeing—strands woven throughout.

following the light

The lies breathe down my neck…sometimes it’s impossible to bear their weight.

It’s hard to write about adoption. It’s a tangled web of attachment, parenting snafus and mistakes and privacy. My daughter’s story is her’s alone—and it’s not fair for me to broadcast across the universe about learning to navigate her PMS or what brings her pain and what she can sit through. This is none of your business.

 

But…

 

But if I don’t say anything then it’s an incomplete picture. If I don’t write about these hard things then it’s an unrealistic picture of adoption and how it irrevocably changed and shaped our family. How it changed me. So it’s not your business, but I do want you to know something.

Like how I battle shame for the way I sometimes have to give myself a pep talk as she walks in the door. Or feeling guilty when my sister called me out on the fact that as soon as Glo wakes up in the morning, the first words out of my mouth are commands for her to go do something so she would stay out of my way. Whereas, when my other two wake up, they’ll crawl into my lap and we’ll spend time snuggling. Because that doesn’t make me feel like the world’s largest slime ball and it’s super easy to talk about it to every other person on the planet.

There’s a line between being honest and over-sharing.

So I don’t write much about our adoption because so much of this isn’t any of your business—it’s private matters worked out in my heart between me and my God, between my daughter and myself, and between her and her God. She’s got a lot of trauma to work through and a lot of her story with which to come to peace.

I don’t feel like I rescued her. I know logically and in a very tangible way, we saved her life. And I know she is for loving and that she’s mine. I also remember standing outside the door to our hotel in Africa, leaning my head on the door crying in defeat. We’d been there for three weeks and our quiet, friendly, accommodating child had transformed into this needy, destructive, dramatic human I didn’t recognize—and all I wanted was a giant red button to reset the whole thing, to make a different decision that led us to a different place. Those are my weakest and darkest moments. The moments when I wish we had never entered into this.

Our family is knit together and she is mine and I am hers. It’s in my bones. My body and heart would break if anything happened to her—and I know that I know that I know I am her mom. The end.

 

But…

 

But there are moments I think back to before I had kids and I wish my biological children away because I’m tired of piles of laundry and 90 requests in the first hour of the day and I just want to sit on the couch and drink my coffee and not have to be “on” for anyone else; or I crave the days when my time was my own and I could be as selfish as I wanted with what I did and how I did it…But when I think about life pre-adoption there’s this small voice, the cynic inside, who whispers that I really do mean it with Glo. That I really do resent her and the way she upset my life.

And a knife twists, and I submit to the lie that I’m a terrible mom and so I stay quiet and let the guilt and shame eat away. I can’t tell you this because you’ll tell me everything I already know—that I’m broken and wrong and hateful. You’ll see her and see a great kid and assume I’m exaggerating about how hard it is to choose love.

And there probably is a biological imperative that makes staying with your kids that look and sound like you a tad bit easier—

Someone once told me it would feel different when Kyler gives birth than when Gloria gives birth…I’m scared they’re right. I’m scared that blood matters more than choice. I’m scared that Gloria will turn 18 and walk away from us and I’ll breath a great sigh of relief. I’m scared that I’m checking the boxes of what a good mom is, without actually feeling the feels of a good mom. I am going through the motions, but have completely separated myself from her. I’m on one side of the wall and she’s on the other.

 

But…

 

But then the still small voice, whispers–not the cynic, the other one. The one who is lovingly tender as I walk out my life with fear and trembling. The Spirit presses in, reminding me that I too am created and beloved, I am for loving and that I am good. I am reminded of the power of the light, that by writing and speaking–even of the darkest and hardest parts, they begin to lose their power. Shame and guilt give way to grace and humility. I confess my hardness, and am softened.

So, I’m exposing these lies to the light. Here, now I am showing you the darkest parts of me. I am letting the lies have their moment in time and space—and as I write these words, tears drip down slowly, and my heart grows softer and more tender towards myself and towards my daughter. There is grace and love here. There’s a chance for hope and life to speak into these dark places.

 

glo

legacy

There are two teachers I will remember forever.

Their faces are burned bright into my memory—a flash of light and hope in a sea of otherwise somewhat forgettable characters. These two are beacons to me—touch points I can turn to again and again.

One is my fifth grade teacher. In a tumultuous time in my life, school was a place of safety and security. I knew what to expect and I knew what was expected of me. I loved reading and this teacher always had a recommendation. At one point during the year we had to read this book called Fog Magic. She gave each student their own copy with a message from her. I’m sure for every kid she spent time coming up with the perfect thing to write on the inside cover of their book. When I read the words she wrote for me I felt seen; I glowed from the inside out. I gave her the first few precious words I ever wrote—spirals filled with fifth grade level fiction. She read every word and would leave notes, telling me the things she liked and what worked. I remember the care she took with those precious half-steps I made as I first put pen to page.

The other teacher was my English AP teacher junior year in high school. He would stand in front of the classroom and rip open books, delving deep into the words to create meaning out of chaos. I learned about theme and diction and how writer’s have a purpose they are striving to achieve. I learned about metaphor from the turtle in The Grapes of Wrath. For most books we read we would have this 50-75 question in-depth study guide. Hard questions, asking us to go deeper and deeper. The Friday before it was due, I with a few others would swarm his desk and ask questions and he would lead us on this journey. He would waggle his bushy, gray eyebrows at us when we were on the right track. That was the year I knew I would be an English major in college. He gave my love for reading books and for sucking the marrow out of words a direction.

I wonder as I think about these two, if that’s enough of a legacy.

I wonder if these two teachers are satisfied with their life’s work knowing that I am irrevocably altered because my life intersected with theirs. If I’m the only who remembers them…are they satisfied?

Because I don’t hope for more than a few to know my name or read my words. But I am so thankful for the sacrifices these two teachers made. And I want it to be enough because I would not be sitting here today outside my kid’s school writing these words if it weren’t for them. And while I want my words to matter and have purpose and give life…

I also want to be enough for the one. One connection. One person.

I think often in this world where everyone seems to have their five minutes of fame, it’s easy to get discouraged when I’m not hitting the numbers. When the slow work of putting words to paper overwhelms me and it’s easier to paint a bathroom and menu plan than create fantastical worlds and I start to buy into this lie that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never make it. Or the sad reality that all these words will be forgotten and buried in fifty years.

But I’m starting to think that’s a lie. That the fame—or whatever—is misleading and fleeting. Because I want to matter to people—but more than that I want to matter to the one. I want to touch and speak and love the ones through my words and through my life who are nearby. And even though I will be forgotten in a hundred years, my life vapor and dust, I get to live today. I get to write the words that will set me free. I get to nourish and feed my family. I get to have coffee with a friend while she dreams her dream—and I get to be a ripple pushing goodness and love out into this world.

I am better because of two teachers.

My children may never know their names but their lives are better because of two teachers.

We live long after our dust has settled to the ground whether the world remembers us or not.

book review and giveaway: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

I folded his clothes and placed them in the drawer. The onesies and sleepers and tiny t-shirts overwhelmed me with their cuteness. The special baby laundry detergent left little scent on the clothes, but somehow they still smelled like babies and all the hope and life they promise. I closed the drawer and stood, still getting used to my new post-baby body. It wasn’t what it had been, and I’m not sure it ever would be. But in this moment, it and I weren’t hating each other. I looked at his nursery, filled with clothes and toys and diapers. And I wrestled with the tension of how this little three month old boy had so much, when I knew other little boys were wasting away because they didn’t have enough food, let alone enough clothing or shelter.

I loved my son. I loved his blue eyes, his sleepy expressions and the way his blond hair stuck up around his head. He was long and lean just like me and his daddy. I loved how he was quiet and would just stare at us, slow to crack a smile that other babies gave away freely.

I loved snuggling him close, and the way he sucked at my breast, eating quickly and efficiently. He didn’t waste time.

I wanted to give him all the best things I could give him. And even in that euphoric love, I knew this is how mothers generally feel about their children. My love for my son was no different than the love of mothers all over the world. We are hard-wired to give ourselves to our children. And I wrestled with the unfairness and the tension that I could provide him with so much while so many couldn’t give their children anything. 

The discrepancy tore at me, breaking me open. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could have so much when so many had so little. There was a temptation to duck my head and just live my life the best I could with what I had. To listen to my own heart and my own wants and take what I had been given and pour it into more.

But I also found an invitation. I found an invitation to wrestle with the tension, to ask the hard questions. An invitation to hear stories and to see the common thread of humanness that ties us all together. It was an invitation to be part of something bigger—to be part of a global change. It was an invitation to use the lottery of birth to share, to become a blessing. It was an invitation to hear the ones whose voices have been stolen, speaking into them and creating space where their voices are heard. It was an invitation to enter into the suffering of others, even as I sit here on my couch.

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51CoG28Bc0L._AA160_I’m a writer. So one of the ways I have engaged this tension is by writing about it. Jen Hatmaker wrote the book I would love to write. I read Interrupted when it first came out, and was undone. She put all the thoughts and feelings and words to something that had been plaguing me. She spoke about our privilege and turning our lives upside down—about really engaging the world in which we get to live. How our privilege gives us the opportunity to be more than just another vapor, but a chance to make a real and marked change. Interrupted is her journey into this tension, and the steps she took as she learned about the heart of God, and his desperate love for all people.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of My sheep will die today because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are My youngest lambs, starving today with plenty of food to go around. If you truly love Me, you will feed My sheep. My people are already crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and serving the saved…All of a sudden I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed by misguided.”

“…can you see why when Americans say democracy, the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else…We appear indulged and entitled and oblivious to global crisis and our contribution to the disparity.”

“We stand at the intersection of extreme privilege and extreme poverty, and we have a question to answer: Do I care?…Of course, all I can do is make the tiniest ripple in the ocean. That’s about all you’re good for too. But it’s foolish to become paralyzed by the scope of suffering or discouraged by the limit of our reach.”

“I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most un-normal guy ever. And it was His un-normal ideas that made everything new.”

“We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged.”

“There was one Judas, but eleven disciples who were forever transformed by Jesus’ broken body. The risk of encountering a few weeds is not sufficient reason to avoid the whole field of human suffering…”

“Ultimately, it is not nation or race, church or citizenship that gives people value. It is not sinlessness or innocence that makes us precious. It is not that Jesus looks at us as helpless or powerful, poor or rich, weak or strong. We are loved because we are living images of God, made in his likeness and created for the heights of his glory and the depths of communion. Our very God took on our form for the love of humanity…”

I am forcing myself to stop here. There are so many more things that resonated with me. I know some of those quotes may be hard to read—but I promise on the other side is life. If you’d like to keep reading, the book is available now at any of your preferred booksellers. But I also have a copy to give away. (I’ll order one via amazon and have it shipped directly to the winner cause my lovely daughter added some artwork to the cover of the book the publisher sent me.)

And if you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what parts stood out to you.

Comment below to be entered in the giveaway and I’ll pick a winner next Wednesday, September 3.

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