That season thing

It’s early. It always is when my son requests breakfast. Caedmon and I walk into the hotel lobby expecting an empty room, yet are surprised to find a small crowd eating breakfast at 6:35 on a Saturday morning.

I do a quick inventory of my appearance and shudder. I tie up the drawstring on my yoga pants and straighten my hair after I get Caedmon settled into his high chair. I breathe a prayer of thanks that I’m wearing solid color, non-bleach stained pants.

I sprinkle a few fruit loops on the table so I can adequately survey what the hotel has to offer for breakfast. I consent to “french toast” sticks and sausage, then plunk down next to my little man as I slice a banana.

I’m a little flushed with embarrassment over my attire. The woman over my shoulder is showered, wearing cute jeans and a t-shirt. Further inspection revels her shirt says “Superior Mother.” Interesting shirt, are you friend or foe woman?

When I get up again to grab “syrup” she asks me about Caedmon. How old is he? (20 months) How cute is he?! (too cute for his own good)

I apologize about my appearance and she gives grace and jokes that she’s only showered and dressed because the kids are with grandma.

I sit back down and reflect on seasons, suddenly it strikes me that I’m in the PJs in public, sticky crayon season. It’s only a blink on the timeline of life. It will be gone before I know it and I’ll be the showered one, sighing over a teenage daughter.

We’re attending a wedding today, Kel’s best friend Andy, a brother to both of us, is marrying his gorgeous Katie today. Kel’s the best man and as I write is downstairs in the lobby working through his toast.

Andy and Katie are in wedding and honeymoon season. They watch each other across crowded rooms and the sparkle is contagious. Kel and I were in that season once, and now, we’re in little kid season. Where we miss each other more than we collide.

If I catch his eye across a crowded room it’s rarely romantic and mostly to send a signal to bring a clean fork or take Noelle to the bathroom.

We were honeymooners, now we’re novice parents, we will blink and be empty nesters, then grandparents who traverse Europe (fingers crossed).

I think of all these seasons, past and present as I dunk another “french toast” stick into my “syrup” and try to fluff my bed-head bangs into decency.

I smile as I watch Caedmon push sausage slices around his plate, relegating fruit loops onto the table. I’m in the season where PJs in the hotel lobby is my uniform, my only choice. I want to learn to savor the lovely parts of this little people life instead of wishing it away.

Every time I go to a wedding I envy the newlyweds, all the firsts, the giggling, the mountain of wedding gifts to break in.

Yet the wisdom of this morning reminds me that each season brings gifts and challenges and that they always, always change.

And like the sheep I am I always, always forget this fact and get lost in jealous daydreaming about how my life would be better…if.

When will I learn to love the blink of a season I’m living in?

So, today I soak in a wedding and make the choice to love what I have with the sexy best man instead of wishing for some past or present life I have no access to.

Today I eat “french toast” sticks because it’s the choice before me. I load the iPad with kid apps in case I need it to quiet Noelle during the ceremony.

I will dance with her at the reception, fully knowing that she’ll likely have punch all over the front of the dress I spent so much time sewing her.

My heart will sing a brave anthem of contentment for my season. To fall in love with it a bit deeper and soak it in like summer sun, fully knowing that one morning I will wake up and find it gone.

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Pain Credentials- There is no passport needed to love well

 It was eight years ago but I can still easily go back to that room in my mind, all of us crammed on the couches, chairs and floors.  The air heavier than any I had every experienced in my life.  My Father had recently been taken out of the basement where he had died the night before and we all sat together in shock and love.

Family, friend, neighbors, all of us breathless, speechless.

I could write a thousand words about the people beside me that day and how their face to face love changed my life.  Yet the one person that will always come into focus for me is my sweet friend and college roommate Becky.

We had met at a pizza place and our lives were totally the same and completely different.  I was casual and went to class in hoodies and funky hair.  Becky was (and still is) the modern day Audrey Hepburn and always dressed in flawless jeans and heels with carefully coiffed hair and makeup.

So it said something when she skipped her makeup and shower to rush over to my parents house when she heard the news.  Neither of us had ever lost a parent, so I know that she was completely unsure of what to do, or say.  Yet I remember with tender thankfulness how firmly she stayed by my side, offering even to come with me when I went to the bathroom, in case I was reluctant to be alone.

She was my maid of honor and threw a thoughtful shower and bachelorette party.

She bought a last minute plane ticket when our firstborn Noelle arrived, because she couldn’t bear to miss out on those first days of excitement.

At my Mother’s funeral she and her husband Adam, stayed with Kel and I for much of the visitation and she was by my side through all the confused and dark details.

She never flinched, never waivered, never let things get awkward.  She had no credentials that gave her permission to speak into my life other than the simple fact that she was my best friend, and belonged there.

So often when we don’t know what to say we make one of two mistakes:

  1. We say something trite that makes us sound like we know more than we do and we inflict pain.
  1. Or we say nothing and keep our distance because we feel ill equipped to speak to something we don’t understand.

Surprisingly #2 is far worse than #1.  The last thing a wounded friend needs is to wonder if their pain is too awkward for you.  To question if you were only there for the good times.

Don’t buy into the lie that you need credentials to enter into the world of the broken.

I have loved people through loss and pain that I have no understanding of: miscarriage, chronic pain, divorce, abuse.

A Friend loves at ALL TIMES isn’t a phrase that should only be sweetly needlepointed on a pillow, but actively lived out with late night phone calls, tears over coffee, surprise meals, flowers, books, pop-in visits and oceans of love.

Real hands and feet love will speak louder than your nervousness, every time.

Go there, love them.  Say something like: “I have no idea what this is like, but I am so sorry, and I’m all in, what can I do?

You aren’t going to understand everything, yet you are called to love your people well and doing so will and should make you uncomfortable at times.  This is how we grow stronger and closer and more beautiful to Our Father.

Cotton Candy Light

 It’s two AM and Noelle wanders into our room, mumbling a need to have ice  for her owie finger, the result of some three year old dreaming.

I roll out of bed and guide her back to her room, realizing that she’s wet the bed.  So I bundle her softly on the couch under a huge fleecy blanket while I strip the wet sheets off and exchange them for new, clean, bright pink bedding.

As I bend down to kiss her face and smooth the covers over her chilly, soft skin she licks my face: “Because I’m your kitty” she says, “and kittys lick.”

I laugh, even though I’m slightly grossed out, and shut off the hall light before crawling back into bed.  Somehow smiling in the midst of a 2 AM, pee soaked wake up call.

Suddenly my mind switches on and I wonder why I was able to find joy in the non-ideal.

Then scenes from last night drift back and keep me from sleep. I nagged at Kel for playing on his phone and he reminded me that a whole day cannot be defined by one moment.  He encouraged me to remember all the good despite the slip up.

This way of relating is a marriage gold mine if you can dig it and, God I need to dig it. Continue reading

Refueling Red Riding Hood.

They LOVE “The Box!”

Another morning starts, I hear Caedmon crying out in his crib and I roll myself out of bed and cross the hall, past the bathroom to scoop him up;.

He’s sitting there waiting and before I lift him out of his crib he gathers up his “entourage” of 2 mamakes (blue elephants) a bobby (pacifier) and the books he demanded to take to bed with him the night before.

It’s really quite the production.

Then we change his diaper and move through the kitchen meeting his many demands for milk and whatever catches his eye in the pantry.

This morning is exactly the same as every other morning, although for me it feels entirely different.

I’ve been absent from this place, these morning routines, for five days now, off connecting with friends and receiving truth from gifted teachers.  Downloading new music and gathering new insight from new experiences and views.

And now, just as I suspected this conference high has collided with my real life, which didn’t take it easy on me my first day back.

A full litter box which the cat is meowing me to clean with much demand.

Caedmon peed all over Kel’s messenger bag.

I can’t find a clean sippy cup to save my life.

I hear the phrase “shaving cream tastes yucky mommy!”

You can’t make this stuff up people.  This is my real life, not aimless meandering chicago streets with gourmet coffee.

But the escape reminded me who I am, this mother AND that big city wanderer.

This writer and the woman who tends to endless excrement and dirty sippy cups.

As I sat to process all these swirling thoughts, my 3 year old Noelle brought me a business card with the gorgeous STORY red riding hood on it.

She asked if we could put this “beautiful art” on the fridge, so we gathered alphabet magnets off the floor and displayed wandering Red on our black maytag.

I sat with my mug of coffee staring at this dramatic, dark and beautiful woman on the business card, now surrounded by alphabet and banana magnets.

It’s just right, isn’t it? Big city, real skin, conference beauty brought home to fuel the oatmeal making life, peppered with dirty diapers and bright plastic magnets, little people underfoot (both the plastic ones and the flesh and blood ones)

This is the day to day, life is cycles and seasons, each speaking to the other, one refueling and one depleting it.  We refuel for brief periods and then we must travel long distances on those tanks.

The wandering is the punctuation that brings sense to the run on sentences.

But with each pitstop, I am learning healthier rhythm, better grammar, deeper breathing.

I’ll continue to pick up a comma and period here and there, develop sharper eyes for the fuel I need, learn to find it here and there.

But for today I’m Red Riding Hood on the Fridge.

Organic and Organic and Alive

Life, Old, New, Motion, Chicago

Good morning from the windy city and the sweet blonde-oak table of my friends Jill & Josh’s amazing apartment.  For the past few days I’ve been blessed beyond measure to meet up with friends I have, up to this point, only known through words and pictures on a screen.

I’ve spent the last few days immersed in conversations about life, story, creativity and writing. I’ve been ruminating on the fact that when the speakers address the crowd as “creatives” I feel the liberation of a label, which is not usually the case with me and labels.

I have a blog re-design coming up (which I’m so excited to show you all) but one of the questions that my designer Hannah asked me was this:

Who are you stripped of profession, roles, geography, and association?

This question blew my mind but the best answer I Could come up with was:
“I would say I am a very natural person, I like things stripped bare and original and organic (yes I typed it twice).  I’m always digging for the original state and purpose of earth, food, relationships and people and then that’s how I believe they should be experienced.”

There’s quote that is on constant replay in my mind these days: “The Glory of God is Man, Fully Alive.” ~St. Irenaeus

So if I’m a creative who loves original intent,  I can trace that all the way back to the Garden where God spoke the future, everything into being.  Then he asked us to name his creation, to experience the essence of it all and then give it a name that embodies that essence, as best we can.  Wordsmiths with Adam from the beginning!

So I suppose I’m a creative and a namer.  I am one who is longing to wake up from the evenings of sedating myself with tv out of exhaustion and laziness, to go out and realize that this is not a dress rehearsal, but the only life that we have.

To get jazzed to name, create and be a storyteller.

I’m responsible for my little bag of talents, to spend and experiment with and multiply them for his Glory.

I pray that today you can own whatever it is that makes you feel fully alive, gardening, math, teaching, leading.  We need you fully alive, that’s how I want to meet up with you face to face.  To see your skin glow with the radiance of realize purpose and to meet eyes realizing that we are experiencing God stuff through each other.

Hunt through the bible and see what God has to say about your thing, I’m sure it’s in there, I’d love to hear about it.

T’Shuvah, repent and return, realize, refresh…. do your thing.

T’Shuvah and Oatmeal

One of my favorite people in the world is my friend Jenni Morgan.  She’s a parenting mentor to many and a dear friend.

She told me recently that when life starts to feel like it’s spiraling out of control that she goes back to basics.  She figures out what she needs to do to survive and then slowly adds things in from there.

She makes a way to have an evening with no plans, everyone at home, the house in semi order.  A deep breath, normal evening, a restart of sorts.

Spending time doing the things that remind us of who we are and what we’re truly doing here.  Holding little hands and sharing a deep love that doesn’t originate in us.

Today is one of those days.  It will start with my favorite, simple, famous oatmeal and end with elemental, hearty beef stew and quiet moments with bubble baths and pumpkin candles.  Also a few load of laundry, let’s be real here.

I always use the Hebrew word T’shuva for days like these, seasons like this one.  t’shuvah can be defined as aligning ones practices with the Torah  

The concept is old, the idea of repenting and returning to the created order of things.  Getting back to the way God designed us to be.

And so today we eat oatmeal, we stay home, we reflect and remember.  We allow this created purpose to refresh and remind us.

Would you like to T’shuva along with me?  I’ll even share my oatmeal recipe.  It’s fall and sharing food with friends is one of my favorite practices in the world.  And totally biblical by the way.

Penny Oatmeal (Serves 2 -3, can be doubled easily)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil on the stove

As you do so stir in 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

When the water is boiling add in the oatmeal and stir it around.  Wait for the oat, water mixture to bubble.  Remove from heat, cover, allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Now it’s tender and old fashioned perfect.  Enjoy, feel pioneer and more whole form the oats and the simplicity of it all.

(In the water stage it’s fabulous to stir in apple, dried fruit, pumpkin, and spices.  After it’s done it’s lovely to stir in peanut butter, bananas, nuts or berries.)

This morning we are enjoying pumpkin spice oatmeal, because I’m a pumpkin-aholic.

Shalom and Amen.

My Confession

confession time

A look around my house would give you a hint to a flaw of mine that isn’t really a big secret.  I love creative projects, the adrenaline, the challenge, the starting out… but I often stop short of the finish line. Way short.

 

On the back patio, several unfinished chairs and a few more in the garage.

In our bedroom, a tub of old sheets, some balled up in strips, some still whole, all rag rugs waiting to be woven together.

On the top of my desk, an old bucket we salvaged which I plan to paint white and fill with hydrangeas.

On my laptop?  A dozen blog posts and chapters, started, raw, unedited, unready, unfinished.

Most of these creative projects are actually symptoms of my anxiety about writing and about money.

All are deep down a lack of trust.  I don’t trust myself to be a “real writer” and I don’t trust God’s current provision to sustain us.

Deep down I feel as though I can never really pull off the writer gig, never really make it a career, that “they’re all gonna laugh at you (me).”

So I refinish chairs and sell them online, I make rag rugs and sell them online, I make kids hats and sell them online because… It’s easier than writing, than finishing those chapters and being brave with this writing, these words, this story.

Lately I’ve heard God whisper, will you trust in my call on your life?  Will you do less, better?

Last night Kel actually asked me: “Will you believe that for now, my income is enough for both our passions?

And so over the week I’ve asked for help in saying no, in finding the strenght to craft more words and fewer rugs.

In taking this writer thing and believing in it, in myself.

Do you find yourself running from your true call, retreating from the harder race to stroll so often on the easier path?

Me too.

Let’s run that mother of a race together.  Shall we?

The gift of sight

I’ve always said that the best gift you could ever give me would be endless time with a massage therapist, therapist.  You know, someone who knows both the art of wise counsel and active listening as well as deep tissue massage.

Seriously.  Best. Gift. Ever.

The second best gift you could give me is the gift of clearer vision, not for my eyes but for my heart.

I’m easily distracted, like a golden retriever in a tennis ball museum I lose focus on what’s important more often than I care to qualify.

 Daily I lose sight of loving my children and husband well in the storm of tasks I set out to accomplish.  Suddenly I’ve put something flimsy like laundry or cooking or a good book over the ones I love dearly.

I want the gift of being able to easily say: “hello you, I see you, in this moment, just as you are and I consider you a gift.

If I had clearer vision, I would have more moments like this:

A few days back we took the kids to the children’s museum, in Seminole about 45 minutes away.  I made it a point to keep my phone in my purse and I shared moments of wonder with my kids I’m almost certain I would have otherwise missed.

There is a partial airplane body sticking out the side of the museum for children to climb into and explore.  For the first time I think my son Caedmon saw this plane and all the models surrounding it, and “got it.”  He was thrilled by his new understanding of “planes!”

For twenty minutes, I was enthralled by him, I saw him in all his blonde hair, blue eyed glory.

He climbed into the pilot’s seat, flipping switches and exclaiming: “I did it!

He grunted and groaned as he reached for the hundreds of buttons and knobs.

He looked the plane up and down and all around with first time wonder.  He was taking in this old plane, absorbing every inch into memory and knowledge.

Then down the stairs and around the corner we went and I followed him as he ran up to the fish tanks, most clean and filled with state fish, one empty of fish yet full of trash, the example of a polluted habitat.

He ran from clean tank to clean tank, exclaiming: “A fishy! A fishy!”  

When he approached the polluted tank he gasped, looked up and me and yelled: “OH NO!  Where fishy?  Oh NO!”

He’s already demonstrating time and again a concern for the broken things, the ones in need of love and grace in their imperfection.  He carries around a one eyed elephant for heaven’s sake.

This boy, the one I wasn’t sure I was ready for, who came too soon, is the gift we need desperately, time and time again.

As we rejoined our friends and family my heart was full of Caedmon and I knew that I had found a gift in our moments.  The sort that would change the way I saw him, that caused me to praise God for the gift he was to our life.

Any time I drop the scales of busyness off of the eyes of my heart and can say “hello you, I see you” to someone I love I feel my tank charge up fully, quickly.

Dear God I pray that you will increase my gift of sight, to breathe in your beauty in the people you have given me and those you have yet to put in my path.

May the busyness of the life start to fade away in the light of seeing your children through your eyes.

Another year, grief over time.

Melissa Pullis, of Hazlet, N.J., stands at the engraving for her husband Edward at the World Trade Center site in New York City during memorial ceremonies for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2012. (Getty Images)

This morning I walked my daughter up the stairs to her preschool, and realized that she no longer needs help climbing those steps.  It feels like only a few months ago when I was holding her left arm tightly while she climbed each one with focus and effort.

Yet, it’s been three years.  Time seems to both drag and fly, doesn’t it?

As I packed up backpacks and tied shoes this morning I noticed my husband had ESPN on, and it was showing images of the towers falling.  Playing clips of teary eyed daddys and grief stricken mamas who had lost their athletic sons in the catastrophe of that fall.

My mind clicked to check the date, that’s right, it’s September 11.  Deep Breath,  Flashback to that day, watching the towers fall on my parents television and later delivering those tragic newspapers to the doors of hundreds of homes.

Each paper felt heavy in my hand, a piece of history and tragedy leaving its inky mark on my hands and my life.

I can’t believe 11 years have passed since that date, the one I’m sure my children and grandchildren will ask me about the same way I asked my parents about the challenger explosion and the day JFK was shot.

We talked a lot in the raw days that followed Sept 11, 2001 about all that we lost as a country, our sense of safety was gone and we realized that war would no longer be easy to identify or contain.

We grieved as a nation and I think that we still do, even though the years have healed our wounds into scars.

Sept 11 is a grief that we all share, in a way.

But eleven years later, this shared grief has been easy to put on a shelf and convert into a memory, a story.  Eleven years later Sept 11 is a fairly easy day for me to endure, there is sadness and remembering, but there is routine and normal life in spite of it.

But there are days on my calendar that aren’t easy to endure because for me the loss on those dates is personal, it marks another year without someone I love, someone who shaped me, gave me life.

The two year anniversary of my Mother’s death is coming up in just over a month and anytime I think about it I hyperventilate a little bit.  Two years seems like a unbearable gap between this moment and our last conversation.

I long to go back and save her, to intervene somehow.  But I can’t, and so I live in a world where train whistles chill me to the core.

This grief, October 13, is personal and scoffs at the thought of life going on as usual.

And it is this feeling that the mamas, daddys, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers and friends of the 3,000 lost in the twin towers feel today, right now.

I’m sure that for them, watching the towers fall on TV is a lot like a train whistle is to me.  Not just a piece of history or technology but the gut wrenching thing that brings them back to the moment of impact.  The moment they lost someone senselessly and permanently.

It’s the that they wish they could go back and change, to convince them not to go to work that day, not to respond to the call.

The strange thing about grief over time is that it feels like it flies by and drags on all at the same time.

We rail and shirk at the idea that another year separates us from those we love, and that there is no bargaining chip, no option B, nothing we can do about it.

So today as the thought of shared grief arises within you, may we prayers and dedicate our tears to those who can’t get off the couch today, who can’t watch the news, who can’t believe that another year has come between them and their dear one.

Amen.

Sabbath for the Mamas (more Q than A)

Laundry Tip: put your hamper in a corner and use the walls for extra pile support. (And yes the kids pulled down my sheer curtains.

Last night leaving the mess seemed like such an act of self grace, this morning it seems like terrible idea.  Morning me is curing sleepy bedtime me, and not just under her breath.

The breakfast prep isn’t delightful or serene, because the kids hang on my legs begging for ingredients, dragging chairs up to the counter to “help” me.  This is something that was sweet, at first, but today adds an additional stressor to an already hectic morning.

Kel comes out of the bathroom in his dress slacks and rushes out the door to preach at a supporting church and I look at the kids with a mix of love and discouragement.

They’re screaming on the outside and I am shrieking on the inside.  It’s only 7:15 and already I am sobbing for some peace.

I find myself wondering, Dear God where is the sabbath rest for the mamas?  What’s your plan here?  How can you call us to lay it all down and rest when truly we’re out of clean forks and underwear?

What do you desire from the ones whose floors are still sticky from yesterday’s watermelon fiasco?  The ones who are still not fully over the fact that their daughter peed all over the floor in WalMart?  The ones who shouldn’t do laundry on Sundays but don’t know how they can avoid it?

I believe in your rhythm, your rest, your call to work six and rest one.

When Watermelons attack. Your floors. (hint, it leaves a noticeable stickyness for days)

I want to delve in your word all quiet and relaxed on the back patio, sipping coffee and bathing in your love, manifest so clearly in your creation.

But when I sit outside, the demands to come play and pretend intensify, as if they hate to see me resting.  What do I do when devos are interrupted by the cozy coupe falling over, again?

Can you refresh those who approach with love and good intentions?  

The ones who have both stepped and sat in their son’s poop this week?

What’s your plan here?  Am I doing it wrong?  Will you show me what to lay down?  How to drink your water deeply, to make peace with the giving of myself yet another day?

Remind me over and over again that this is a season, will you highlight the beautiful parts?

Perhaps you could get them to both nap at the same time and keep all the poo and pee in the proper places?

Is there a Patron Saint of Preschool Mothers?  If not, can you get the pope on that?

Dear Lord, can you teach me what your plan for sabbath rest is for the mamas?

I know that many days I look more like Martha than Mary but, no one is knocking down our door to do the laundry.

Lord thank you for being a God of grace, who loves children who approach with exhausted hearts, full of questions.

Friends, please share your secrets of grace in the mess, resting in chaos, sabbath for the mamas.