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“This is crap. You can do better.”

 


reflection

dear b“No! Let go of my necklace,” I yelled as I yanked my favorite turquoise beads out of your fisted hands. Your face crumpled like a used tissue and tears erupted from your eyes. I tucked my necklace back safely into the jewelry box that you had been pilfering, as guilt flooded my chest.

I knew I’d been too harsh, but so much of my jewelry had already become your casualties.

Then, I remember the day before when a wobbly baby had toddled over to you with open hands and a wide smile, grabbing curiously at the teapot you played contentedly with.

As the baby approached, you clutched the candy pink plastic to your chest, swinging your other hand around in protective circles, and screeched, “No! Mine!” I had been embarrassed at your behavior, explaining that you needed to be kind and gentle to babies.

“She’s younger than you, and she doesn’t know any better.” The words resound in my ears as I shamefully look into your hurt, tearful eyes.

You are a reflection of me.

So often those words become stale in my mouth from overuse, but as I sit with them now, they resonate as valuable truth: you..are..a reflection..of me.

When I first entered college I had to pass a test called the Subject A Exam which assessed my ability to write an effective essay. I have always loved writing, but in high school, my teachers focused on teaching me the conventions of writing rather than the art. Mixed with test anxiety, the Subject A and I did not hit it off.

After my third failed attempt, the university mandated that I take a Subject A prep class. I showed up the first day feeling as indignant as a two year old who’s forced into taking nap.

Over the first weeks of class, I stubbornly decided that no matter what, I would despise and resent the class. The teacher, Ms. Gypsum, was young, and carefree. She wore boldly printed scarves and blue rectangular glasses that were disarming with their quirky charm. But I held my resolve.

She had us read books and articles that were actually interesting. She would return our essays covered in her inky cursive with thoughtful feedback and questions. We would sit in class with our cups of coffee doused liberally with cream and sugar, and she would encourage us to have thoughtful and worthwhile conversation.

Despite her attempts to connect with me, the first half of the class I skated by with little effort or dedication. Until Ms. Gypsum handed me back my midterm essay, and across the top of the page, seven words were scrolled beside the big red letter D: “This is crap. You can do better.”

She’d taken three weeks to show me who she was, as a writer, as a teacher, and as a person, and now, she was standing face to face with me and challenging me to show what I was capable of. Her words took me off guard, they knocked me off my pedestal and infuriated me.

But then, they forced me to look in the mirror– and I realized that I didn’t like what I saw. What was my self righteous attitude about anyways? I thought I was such a great writer, but what was I producing besides bitterness and mediocre work?

Too many times in my life I have let my ego decide who I am and not my actions. Sometimes I need to be knocked off my pedestal and told: “This is crap. You can do better.”

Because as I seek to discipline you, God is disciplining me to become a better person and a better mom. After all, the word discipline actually means “to train.”

In order to be the kind of mom I want to be, I first need to be a student. I need to learn how to be patient, humble, selfless, kind, and generous. I need to say please: please God give me strength. I need to say thank you: thank you God for your abundant blessings. I need to say I’m sorry: forgive me God for falling short.

As your hurt eyes peered into mine I put my hands on your shoulders, “I am so sorry I yelled at you like that,” and I pulled you close in an embrace.

When Life Gives You Puddles

 

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I heard a heart-stopping cry. I know all my daughter’s cries. The fake cry, the tired cry, the cry when her feelings are hurt, and then there’s the heart stopping one– the one that I drop whatever is in my hands, leap over the vacuum, or dog, or person in my path, and run to her.

She was sitting up with her blanket in a hood over her head so all I could see were her wide blue eyes and the streaks of tears sliding down her flushed face. “Bree! What’s wrong?” I asked as I plopped my swollen pregnant body on her insubstantial princess bed, and wrapped my arms around her.

“Daddy! Daddy’s gone!”

After I calmed and assured her, “Daddy’s at work, he’ll be home tonight.” I went and checked my phone that I’d heard clanging in my bedroom beneath the din of her cries.

Ten missed calls…from Daddy.

As I heard his strangled voice on the other end of the line, he explained in gasping bursts that he’d dislocated his shoulder and was waiting for it to be set, but everything would be fine.

And everything was fine. He returned home with wild hair and glazed eyes and slept solidly for the next 24 hours. Then he was himself, save the lack of use of his left arm which was braced against his body.

It’s a week later, and I have to help him with little things, like applying deodorant and putting on his shirt. He can’t pick up our daughter and he can’t help set the table or wash dishes, but none of this is a big deal. None of this is a big deal.

We found out he may need shoulder surgery: no big deal– 4 to 6 week recovery where he won’t have full use of his arm.

Not a big deal. I’m saying this through gritted teeth, hormones flooding my body and threatening to commandeer my brain, my 8 and a half month pregnant mound of a belly staking claim like a giant ant hill that requisitions the surrounding landscape.

In my plan, he would have use of both his arms.
 God willing, the baby is coming in 6 short weeks or less.

In my plan, the shades would be hung in the nursery, the closet painted a crisp white instead of the streaks of dirt and rust that threaten to claim the walls. The contents of the garage would be neatly organized on the shelves instead of dumped in a disheveled mess on the floor and every surface.

In my plan, he would have use of both his arms.

Then I’m reminded of how Bee entered the world on an unsuspecting Friday afternoon. I woke up in a puddle of water a month before she was expected. My house was a mess, the nursery wasn’t complete and my family was eight hours away.

Breach…emergency C Section…it all came in a confused rush.

When I held her soft, warm body to my chest, none of it mattered.

Too often I try to shrink my life into the little trivial details right in front of me rather than seeing the big beautiful landscape God is painting before me.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my first birth story. God knew that I was an anxious mess, and He saved me a month of harried preparation and bustle. More than that, He knew His ways are higher than my ways in all things, big and small.

Too often I try to shrink my life into the little trivial details right in front of me rather than seeing the big beautiful landscape God is painting before me.

In his goodness and grace he uses my circumstances to redirect my attention to HIM.

He loves me so much that he comes and affirms his goodness in the small things, like my husband’s laughter as I tickle his armpit in my pitiful attempt to apply his deodorant, or in Bee’s small hand, wrapped around my finger in our first moments together.

He loves us so much that he affirms his goodness by giving His life for mine. And in the quiet moments as I feel the healthy kick of my growing baby girl, He reminds me that HIS plan is the only one that matters.

 

Choosing Love…When You Just Want to Pull Your Hair Out

seasontolovedear bThese days you are a tumbleweed of endless energy and curiosity. I wake up, and face the challenge of finding ways I can occupy your day, so that when the lazy heat of the summer afternoon closes in on us, you will topple into your bed in nothing but your princess-pullup, surrounded by a cloud of misfit stuffed animals, and sleep for a blissful hour.

Our day passes in busy bursts: as we rush to the potty when you’re crossing your legs; in distracted meandering: as we change your dress three times because apparently toddler girls are the most indecisive females on the planet; and grinding halts: as you throw yourself on the floor of Target because I won’t buy you a $50 Sophia doll.

And then there are the moments when time freezes, and I  have a stunning instant of clarity that  makes our stumbling days of toddlerhood distill into an emotion that gives purpose and reason to the craziness of our lives. LOVE.

time melts away, to do’s scatter like confetti, and my purpose lies snugly in the circle of my arms.

When I cuddle you in our bed in the morning as your wild wheat hair spreads across my pillow and you murmur a string of senseless words and songs–your breath smelling of cheerios  and your smile full of mischief and daddy, time melts away, to do’s scatter like confetti, and my purpose lies snugly in the circle of my arms.

It makes me want to collect as many of these beautiful moments as I possibly can, the way you collect rocks wherever we go. Somehow you find beauty in even the dull, muted ones.

Sometimes I feel like I have no more love and patience to give, and so I grab on to the emotions that come more easily.
It’s so easy to choose to be frustrated and exhausted and exasperated when you want to “help” me with household chores, or beg to read one more book, or stumble out of bed, for the third time, asking  for a drink of water and a cuddle. Sometimes I feel like I have no more love and patience to give, and so I grab on to the emotions that come more easily. I distract you with TV or rush you through our bedtime routine so I can just survive the day.

Today as we were walking, I saw you with your eyes squeezed shut and nose chasing the wind. I asked you what you were smelling, and you responded, “pretty blooms and green leaves.” It made me stop, and laugh in surprise, and sniff the air to take in the smell of grass, and leaves, and yes…pretty blooms.

I realize that when I look back on my life I’m not going to count the number of crusty egg pans I scrubbed clean, or the number of passes I made across the carpet with my vacuum. I will cherish the lazy cuddles in an unmade bed, impromptu dance parties, kisses on pretend booboos, and pushes on the swing.

And you empower me to see that I have a choice between seeing the things of this life as blessings or burdens.
But even as you get older I can choose to get mad at you when you make mistakes, or to empower you to overcome them. And you empower me to see that I have a choice between seeing the things of this life as blessings or burdens. I can complain about my responsibilities or realize that responsibility comes out of opportunities. I can let disappointment and frustration grow into resentment and isolation, or I can choose to love people through their shortcomings.

You remind me that when I take a moment to stop and smell the pretty blooms, my days reveal a lot more purpose, and my heart has room for a lot more love.

When Band-Aids & Kisses Aren’t Enough

dear b
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When you have babies you will understand that any trip out of the house requires careful preparation. During the first few months its diapers, wipes, milk, pacifiers, burp rags, and the list goes on. At two its snacks, clean Minnie Mouse underwear, your favorite butterfly water bottle, and the armful of toys you insist on towing along.

As you get older, the tangible things you’ll need from me will become less and less. But as the things I carry lessen, your intangible needs will grow.

I know the challenge of motherhood that lies ahead is when you have the wounds that can’t be made better with a kiss and a Hello Kitty band-aid.

Motherhood is exhausting, but less complicated when you can meet every need with a bottle, clean clothes, or a band-aid. I know the challenge of motherhood that lies ahead is when you have the wounds that can’t be made better with a kiss and a Hello Kitty band-aid.

I don’t have a balm for the ache that comes when kids make fun of you because you’re too tall, or too skinny, or too shy. I can wrap my arms around you and hold you close when you endure your first heartache from a boy, but I can’t hold your heart or heal the throbbing pain in your chest. I can give you wise words, but I can’t stop you from making choices that cause you to hurt yourself, or prevent the consequences of your mistakes.

There will be a time when my advice will be the last thing you’ll want to hear. You’ll have empty places in your heart that a million of my words could never fill. My hope is one day my words will be a guiding light when your world feels dim. I’m certain that there will come a day when all you’ll want from me is a new thought or  word, and you’ll only be able to sift them from memories. But when my advice fails you when you’re young, when it offers you hope and clarity as you get older, and when my silence feels like the loudest thing in the room, know that my love never, ever falters. My child, a thousand of my words, even the best and brightest, could never tell you all the ways I love you.

But my love can’t stop the world from hurting you. There’s nothing that I can carry that will stop the pain in your heart during your darkest moments or give you air when it hurts to breath. That’s why I know that although I’m tired and cranky because you didn’t sleep much last night, and you seem to find a new mess to make in every cupboard and corner…this is the easy stuff.

My prayer is that  I will find the wisdom and endurance to show love and grace when you make messes of your life. I already know I will find ways to fail you at every turn because I’m only human, so my greatest prayer is that you will know that while I’m the one holding your hand for a short while, He is the one that holds you in His hands always.

 

Am I Pretending to be a Grown Up?

Sometimes We’re So Busy Looking Back, We Forget to See Who We’ve Become…

My big brother had soccer coach training in our area, and so he stayed with the hubs, B, and I overnight. First may I note, that if you had told me ten years ago that my brother would be the coach of his daughter’s soccer team, I probably would have laughed in your face.1451495_10102307916179303_1474626142_n

It was amazing to see him, but I’ll admit the whole experience was a little surreal. As I made up his bed, and gave him bottled water, and made his coffee in the morning, I think we both had this weird feeling like, “woah…we’re grown adults.” We laughed about when I would brave crashing on his futon in his college dorm, and hit a coffee shop after we’d rolled out of bed midday, because…what was a coffee maker anyway?

As he said goodbye, he brushed his lips to my cheek, and I felt the tickle of his beard. I said “love you bro,” and he said “love you too.” As my door shut I actually laughed out loud to myself. My brother, the soccer coach, who wears a full beard, gives kisses goodbye, and says “love you” without mumbling or blushing. Who was this guy?

I’ve always loved my brother, but my heart swelled with pride at the man, the father, the husband he has become.

It made me think at how I allow myself to forget about the adult I’ve become, and to go back to the mindset of an insecure teenager. I  question my decisions, my words, my feelings and actions, placing myself as judge and jury of my own life; and all to often, my verdict is that I come up short.

I will always come up short, I will always make mistakes–but I’m no longer the shy teenager that was too timid to say hello to classmates in the halls of school.

I need to value the sum of the lessons I’ve learned, the experiences that I’ve had and realize that I’m no longer the kid sister.

All too often we ruminate on the mistakes we’ve made, or we think about the people we want to become. In the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary, Mark Darcy tells Bridget “I like you just as you are,” and though it sounds quaint, the scene is completely romantic and sweet (if you’re a sap like me). But rom-coms aside, it draws me to my point:  how often do we like and accept ourselves “just as we are?” Yes we’re all a work in progress, in one of my favorite books we’re compared to clay jars.

We’re cracked. But we’re also beautiful and useful, and exactly how God created us to be….just as we are.

What would happen if we lived in this day instead of reliving the mistakes we’ve made and all the ways others have hurt us? What if we thrived in the opportunities placed in front of us knowing that the sum of our experiences has equipped us to live in this moment?

Maybe then, we could be the husbands & wives, fathers & mothers, brothers & sisters that give kisses, and say “I love you’s…

the kind of people that mentor, that speak truth, and don’t allow fear or self doubt to discourage us from being the people we are called to be.

Cracked

 

We all have voids in our lives. Those areas where we don’t feel complete. As kids they may look more like pin pricks, but as we emerge into teenagers and adults, these pin pricks grow into gaping holesimage.

To each other, we appear whole, when beneath it all we bear wounds that scar and disable us.  The mom who was criticized by her own mom and now is debilitated by guilt, questioning every parenting decision she makes. The breadwinner who never achieved the success in his career that he’d hoped for, and walks around disillusioned. The teenage girl who lost her innocence to soon, and now fears and mistrusts every man she’ll ever meet.

We mask the holes that ravage the landscape of our lives, only to stumble and get trapped in them again and again. At times we find ourselves in the midst of a minefield, feeling bullet torn and helpless. No matter what we look to to fill up the emptiness in our lives, it always comes up short.

But instead of walking around with our emptiness, the apostle Paul promises that when we understand Christ’s love for us, we “will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19  So while our lives and bodies may be as broken as clay jars, our God fills us from the inside out with a transforming love that not only repairs our brokenness, but empowers us to live beyond our circumstances.

We can try to build our identities around who we are in our relationships, mother, daughter, wife…but when we fail to perform in those roles, our foundation becomes broken. If we construct our identity based on what others think of us, we become like shifting sand, with our confidence ebbing and flowing with the changing tides. Money can be lost; and success is a clever magician, tricking us into false security.  But when we build our identity on the foundation of Christ’s love for us, our confidence and security is no longer a commodity that we have to earn, but a promise that is already fulfilled.

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.” Lamentations 3:22

We live in a performance driven society with our lives defined by deadlines, milestones, and Facebook status updates. But when we allow our lives to be made whole by God’s love, and what Christ has done for us, we can live with a confidence and hope that doesn’t depend on our accomplishments. We can soak up the fullness of life, power, and love that empowers us to be Jesus’ disciples: making other’s whole through the power of Christ in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Birth to Love

BIG LOVE: if only I didn’t automatically  attach this phrase to HBO’s sensational drama about polygamy.

imageIn a beautiful blog article I just read, a mother uses this to describe motherhood, and that’s a much better fit.  In fact, staring at my peacefully sleepińg toddler, with her pink flushed cheeks, her smacking pouted lips, and wild halo of fine blonde hair, “big love” captures just what I feel for her. A love so sizeable that it makes my chest feel like it’s full of bubbles.

Once you’ve felt this intense, primal, “I will hunt you down and hurt you if you hurt my baby” kind of mama love, you know that love comes in different shades and sizes.–Big mama love is BIG and bright, and beautiful and painful. Big mama love will rock and hold your baby after shes scraped a knee. It will stand up and cheer loudly when he graduates kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, or 12th grade. It will say “I love you & I forgive you” when she’s crashed the car, drank at a party, and broken your heart into a million pieces again and again.

But here is my favorite part of this BIG LOVE. It gives me a glimpse of God’s love for us.  Gods big love is the kind of love that celebrates our smallest victories. It weeps over the pain and suffering sin causes in our relationships and lives. Instead of piling our sins and mistakes against us, Gods big love says we will start fresh each day–I died for every mistake you will ever make.

“Dear children, let us not love with words and speech, but in action and in truth.” 1John 3:18

 

We Make Plans: God Directs our Steps

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Whenever I’ve had to make life’s biggest decisions whether it was about colleges, getting married, or buying a house I’ve wanted God to give me his direction in a major way–like with fireworks and stuff. But it seems that most often in these major moments of indecision God is the most quiet.

As frustrating as this silence can be, I realize that if God had a megaphone, shouting directions at me, I wouldn’t grow in the process of decision making.

When a ball of clay is shaped into a clay pot on a potters wheel, it cannot be formed into its desired shape right away. There is first a process called centering, where the clay is shaped into the perfect circle, opening , where it is hollowed out, and flooring where the base of the pot is formed. Without these steps, the pot would  be unbalanced and without a foundation.

The finished product is beautiful , but the throwing process is a artful dance that is just as significant as the pot itself.

Being in a state of indecision is uncomfortable, but God reminds me to take it one step a time with Him as he uses the process to shape and prepare me for my next adventure.