Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Journey Without End: A Thanksgiving Note to Mothers

My baby was born six and a half years ago.  My oldest is almost eleven.  She is, what they call, a tween.  My middle one?  She's eight going on thirty-two.  What does all this mean for me?  I'm not really sure yet.  But I spent the day today at a friend's house who's oldest is turning seven.

And I realized.  She is in a different place than I am.  

The place where I melted and was rebuilt just a few short years ago.  The place where everything revolves around laundry and dishes and nap time.

I saw it in her eyes - the desperation of a woman who is trying to be everything to everyone and keep the floor clean in the process.  The heart of a girl turned mother who just wants to smile at her kids genuinely and clean perfectly and make the right meals and love her husband and plan the parties, wrap the presents, keep the laundry done, nurse the baby, keep control, love big. You know.

You know.  

I know.


The perfectionism that runs deep and leaves us entangled in a web of deceit.  It's a hard place to live - where perfectionism and ineptitude meet and beg us to pick one.  The place where we are never enough but have to be enough and who, exactly, do we believe?

I don't feel old enough or wise enough to offer advice to anyone.  Especially not mothering advice.

But I do want to offer something.   Because I did, just a few short years ago, nurse the babies and empty the dishwasher and fail at laundry and react all. day. long. Then I cried into my pillow and wondered why I was so bad at it and why was it all so much harder than it was supposed to be?

Oh but there was love and there were playdates and there were giggles and markers and cookies and flour-dusted cheeks, and of course we all know it's not all as awful as some women want to make you believe.  We all know there is true joy in service and that, at the end of the day, giving all you had is therapeutic and Biblical and life-giving.

But it doesn't make it easy.

Here's the thing, though, mother-newer-than-I.  I have a confession for each and every one of you, the ones who just know it will all be easier in a few years.

It's not.  Not really.

Oh sure, the laundry is usually caught up and the I have children who actually help empty the dishwasher and don't just grab the knives and take off running, laughing.  And I know the truth - that right now, when I say, flippantly, "Oh sure, the laundry is caught up," that you roll your eyes and think about how I don't remember how stressful that is.  I know because I did it to.

But I do remember.  I remember that stress and it is real.  But you know what's real to me right now?
What keeps me awake these days?

What I'm going to tell my daughter about sex.  How I am going to prepare her for her body changing and the monthly inconvenience that awaits her in such a short time.  How I am going to help my other daughter through her anxiety issues.  How I'm going to protect my youngest daughter from the things my older girls knew nothing about when they were six.

How do I protect them from the world as they start to enter it?  With one foot inching steadily into womanhood, dragging her sisters right behind her, I find myself wishing my only issue was the crying or the dishes.

Here's the thing.  I read plenty of books about nursing babies.  I did not, however, take the time while I was chasing the toddlers and folding the laundry and nursing those babies to read anything about what to do when they ask you what the f-word is or how to explain that ass means rear-end or donkey, but you can't say it aloud.

We have to talk about communion and what it means and how holy it is and we have to discuss big life issues that, honestly, I don't even understand sometimes.  They need to see me reading my Bible and how I react to their father suddenly matters in a big way because they are watching.  And listening to every word I say.  All day long.  There is no hiding, there is no naptime, there is only me in my sinful, very sinful, state, living alongside them, messing up even more things than before and this time the stakes are a lot higher.

So why do I say all of this?

Because there is a lot of advice and admonishment going around and it looks like this:  "Enjoy it because soon enough it will be over."  Really?  Is it ever really over?  And do we really want it to be?


The problem with all the advice about enjoying it and getting through it and leaving the mess behind you is that it cheapens it.  It pretends that right now doesn't matter.  Only later.  Only when it's over can you be happy because this part is hard, but it's almost over.  What a horrible way to live, always looking for the end of this holy thing you are doing.  What if instead I told you it never ended, only evolved?  Then could you, could I, could we, collectively, stop just surviving, waiting for the proverbial light at the end of this dizzying, mystifying, beautiful, ordained tunnel?

Motherhood is not like some crazy fast ride at an amusement park where, if we can just hold on, we will arrive at the end breathless and alive, giggling loudly, "Wow! What a ride!  Hey, you over there! Is this your first time?  Be sure to enjoy it...it goes so fast! It'll be over before you know it."  Then we wander into the park, looking for the next cheap thrill with which to amuse ourselves.

Motherhood, parenting, loving, purifying, discipling...these are not tasks to be taken lightly. They stand together as a single, never-ending act of worship.

It's not a sojourn, this momentous calling placed upon us by the King of the universe.  It is not a stopping over until something better comes along, until we have fulfilled our duties, or service, only to be thrown aside as "that thing we did once when we were young."  It is, in fact, a journey.  A journey to the cross, to the destruction of perfectionism, to the execution of our flesh, the end of which is only the beginning, where we stand, holding our grandchild in our arms, look up at the face of her mother as she implores, "Does it get easier?  Will I ever sleep again?"  Your heart squeezes tight as you ache for her to know that the sleepless nights wane but the essence of always being available does not.  That her milk will dry up but her tears will forever run in the wake of the child you hold.  And I'll say to her that day what I say to you now and what I believe to be true.  

The problem with always looking to tomorrow for joy is that it robs us of today.  

Motherhood is not something we are supposed to simply survive until its finally over.  It is, in fact, a journey without end.  A joyous, beautiful, heart-wrenching, soul-squeezing, love-filled, miraculous journey.  Every insecure step drenched in grace and love and beauty.

Because a life spent traveling is a life spent living.  You've heard the old adage that we should always choose the experience when given a choice between that and stuff.  We can both agree, even while you change the diapers and clean up the spills, even while I stumble over a succinct explanation of the trinity, that this particular journey is one upon which we were called to commence and therefore, there is life in the walking. There is joy in the giving.  There is hope in the running.  Not hope that it will soon be over...but Faith that it never will be.  And relishing in this truth, loving our lives, slowing down to embrace it all and count it as joy, because it's the life we were given and our Father gives only the most precious of gifts.

Let's be thankful today for the path laid out before us.  That the road we walk has no end.  That we can stop waiting for the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and start pointing out landmarks along the way.  That today, and every day, is right now.  That right now is available, beautiful, meant to be wondered at and embraced in the fullest of ways.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fridays Unfolded #135: Pies, Salmon, and a New Word

Thanksgiving is knocking down on our door with Christmas following close behind.  For some reason, however, it feels more like January outside than November.

In other words?

It's freezing.  Every day, it is freezing.

I hear we will have some warmer temperatures this weekend.  If they are right, I will sit outside all day and stare at the sun.  I am completely serious.

Around my house, we have been cooking.  The girls and I have been working together creating warm meals and a pie (or two) to help ward off the frost in our bones.  (Did I mention it's cold?)

Let's see what you all have been up to this week...

I think the girls would love to make these little miniature pecan pies from Natasha in Oz.  They look adorable.


This next one is right up my alley.  I adore salmon.  I've never eaten a salmon dish I didn't like and this one from Two Kids and Tired Cooks looks just as good, if not better, than the others I've made.  I can't wait to try it.


This next one is probably my favorite.  It's a new word (we all know how I love those) and it...well...it is just...so me.  I keep turning my head, reading her titles and trying to decide if I need any of them.  You know.  For my own stack of similarly acquired books.


Which reminds me of this quote that someone sent me a while back:



That's it for my week.  Now it's your turn!

How it works:

  • follow your hostesses in some way 

  • link up as many posts as you like-recipes, decorating, faith, kids, homeschooling, humor, giveaways…whatever unfolded for you lately
  • grab the button and post it or linked text somewhere on your blog
  • visit a few links (it’s a party, people!)
  • pin only from the original posts
  • by joining Fridays Unfolded you are giving us permission to post a linked photo from your shared post
  • try to use nice, big photos in your posts.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fridays Unfolded: The Dawning of Winter

This week it began.

The finality of life
The end of fall
The beginning of the season
That undoes us all.

I know death always brings life and the freezing temperatures, fat socks and toasty fires.  I know there is beauty in the season.  Although the older I get, the more I grieve over the passing of life and the long, cold days ahead.

But there are coffee dates with friends where strangers are nice to your children.  There are peppermint mochas and Christmas trees and presents and glee and warmth and love and books and yarn.  There are hot ovens and hot cookies and hot cocoa.  There are epiphanies about my ministry at home that move in with the frost the same as with the sun.

There is redemption even in the coldest and darkest of days.

And there are always Fridays. The day where the anticipation of nothingness or bustling activity rests.

It's time again to share what unfolded in your week, in your home, in your family.  I have really enjoyed reading your blogs this week and getting to know some of you.  I love how different each of you are from each other and from me.  Just as the snowflake's beauty is one of unique splendor, so your creativity is the sweet piece of you that you share with the world.

Some features from last week:

This salad from My Sweet Mission looks amazing.  I think if I could take pictures of food that made it look this good, my kids might be more inclined to eat the uknown things I put before them.


This journal posted by Amy at Delineate Your Dwelling is genius.  I already have it in my Amazon cart and am excited about this.  And while we're here, let's just say the word "delineate" again.  It's one of my favorites.



And last but not least, there is this adorable headband posted by my friend Liz over at The Quick Journey.  I have the privilege of knowing this lady in person and can speak to the fact that her home, her creations, and her children are just as sweet as they look online.



So that's it for me.  What about you?  What unfolded for you this week?  

How it works:

  • follow your hostesses in some way 

  • link up as many posts as you like-recipes, decorating, faith, kids, homeschooling, humor, giveaways…whatever unfolded for you lately
  • grab the button and post it or linked text somewhere on your blog
  • visit a few links (it’s a party, people!)
  • pin only from the original posts
  • by joining Fridays Unfolded you are giving us permission to post a linked photo from your shared post
  • try to use nice, big photos in your posts.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ministry Beneath My Window


read this week one of my very favorite picture books to my youngest daughter.  I understand my "very favorite picture books" list quite long.  But this one is near the top.  It is a wonderful little story about Emily Dickinson who, besides being a gifted poet, was also a very fascinating woman.

It was said that she rarely left her house and, eventually, never left at all.  She was ill at times and was quite shy around people.  She took the term "introvert" to a whole new level.

But still she showered the world with beauty.  Well over a thousand pages of beauty, written and preserved for the world.  Right there.  In that house she never left, where it was said she lowered baskets of gingerbread down to neighboring children, she lowered words to the world of which she was so afraid.

So I ask a few questions.  To myself and to mothers everywhere.  

What exactly are we thinking when we begin to assume we have nothing to offer the world when a sickly recluse moved inward to shower the same with beauty? 

Who says there is no ministry right here?  In this house? In this mess of us?  Does anyone else doubt the breadth of their influence when the lessons and the meals and the mess envelop all of our days?

And perhaps it's just me.  Maybe I'm the only one who lies awake at night or walks around aimlessly pondering the depth of the ministry that lies before me.  Have you ever wondered if this eternal work is, in fact, as temporal as it sometimes seems?

It is so easy to forget our family IS our ministry.  That right here, without ever leaving, we can make our mark on this world, lowering baskets of blessings to our families, to our neighbors, to those whom God so strategically places just under our windowsill.

I have a feeling I may have underestimated the power of scribbled words on paper and a freshly baked batch of gingerbread cookies.  I think I definitely have forgotten that God is glorified when I make my kids' favorite soup.  I know I doubt the eternal significance of perfectly removed coffee stains and laundered clothing.  

A dear friend emailed me last week to remind me that this day, every day, is a gift.  Only on this particular day are we able to glorify God in the special way designed for the happenings of now.  Today we can influence our tiny corner of the world for His glory.  Today is a gift, lowered to us from the very Throne of God.  

Will we continue to look outward, for the elusive ministry that lies just out of our reach?  Or perhaps we can remember Emily.  The dreamer who never ventured out beyond her own front yard, but steeped in the beauty thereof. Who took that beauty, spun it into words and gingerbread, and lowered it down to us and our children. 

"Forever is composed of nows."

-Emily Dickinson


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fridays Unfolded: A Party!

So I'm starting something new this week.

I am not a big participator in link parties or online communities. My time is limited and I am always hesitant to spend a lot of it online.  But a favorite blogger of mine, Alison, threw out an idea on Twitter that actually found me intrigued.

Every week, she hosts a link party entitled Fridays Unfolded.  It is unique from the others I've seen in that the only requirement to post is that it be something that unfolded for YOU this week.  What did you create?  What did you learn?  What would you like to share with the world?   There are no boundaries or limits, just inspiration laced with beauty.

Alison, being a creative writer, decorator, cook, and homeschool rockstar, endeavors to admonish you that your week, your life, is worth writing about AND worth reading.

Her idea, with regard to this link party, is simple.  One party.  Six bloggers.  SIX!  She invited me to participate and I agreed to help her encourage women everywhere to unfold their mess, their beauty, their life, love, photos, and inspiration to the world.

So will you join us?

A few guidelines:

  • follow your hostesses in some way 

  • link up as many posts as you like-recipes, decorating, faith, kids, homeschooling, humor, giveaways…whatever unfolded for you lately
  • grab the button and post it or linked text somewhere on your blog
  • visit a few links (it’s a party, people!)
  • pin only from the original posts
  • by joining Fridays Unfolded you are giving us permission to post a linked photo from your shared post
  • try to use nice, big photos in your posts. 
I had the privilege of reading through the last Fridays Unfolded party and choosing some of my favorites.

A few features for you:


I love apple desserts, and this looked absolutely fabulous. I can't wait to to try these cookies from Elizabeth at Just Following Jesus.


This thrift store crate makeover from Bonnie at Our Secondhand House is cute as a button.  I see these crates at shops frequently and may pick one up next time.


I want to go to Rome myself someday and this synopsis of a day in the life of a traveler was fascinating to read. Beyond that, the pictures are breathtaking.  It also reminds me of a really funny story in a book I read this summer that, as an aside, is well worth reading.  


So that's it!  Let me know if you have any technical difficulties following any links or hostesses.  

Now it's your turn.  What unfolded for you this week?








Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Musings




The day is overcast and the leaves fleeing. They can only stay so long before they scatter, the leaves. Set ablaze by cold and fire, the cloak inevitably molts.

The wind sounds different now, the air growing quieter as it no longer hums through the tree. The beautiful dying changes everything.

It always does. 

Empty and bare sits the tree and begs us to remember her dress, the shade under which we sat, the beautiful grandeur with which she rustled in the day.  She cries for us to remember the locusts and the caterpillar and how she housed them all. The birds that nested and sang and the life that they bore. 

She is brave and bold and, naked before the world, she stares us down and says beautiful dying is worth the sacrifice. 

And when she brings forth life again and the wind plays longer in her bough, she will want us to remember her barrenness.  The days she spent bearing no fruit have prepared her for this. The lush bursting with life, the sanctuary for all who need rest. She will be bigger and stronger and more lovely than ever before.

You see, the beautiful dying will have changed everything. 

It always does.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Weeping and The Willow

"I wrote a poem about that tree."

I said it thoughtfully as I watched the men clean up the fallen willow.

It weeps no more.  Or it weeps even more.  Who knows how the willow weeps when it's gone?  When its leaves, always reaching for the ground, find themselves lost among it?

The day before, I watched one of my very best friends drive away from my house, into the sunset it seemed, on to new horizons.  Her husband took a job far away, or perhaps not that far, but too far for sledding or painting or leaf-jumping or knitting.   The children, desperate to stay together that day as long as possible, asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up.  They know us.  They anticipated  a very long, drawn out, philosophical conversation during which they could run through the yard and become elusive as mice.  But we just laughed.  And then she thew her arms open wide and yelled it loudly, in the street, "I'm going to be the best friend there ever was!"

And I knew it was true.

The painters work hard outside, re-painting and re-doing all that has been lost to the weather and the midwest temperatures.  I make them cookies, the one with the beard and the one with the toothless smile, and I remind them the dogs will eat the cookies if they do not eat them first.  They laugh.

I wonder how I'll get it all done, and why I do it at all, and a little girl crawls into my lap and I know her childhood is rushing past, faster than I can fathom.

Then I remember.  It all falls apart.  The house deteriorates, the willow weeps its last, the child grows, the friend moves on, and what's left is a shadow of what was.  A silhouette...a still shot of the past, outlined and hazy from years of wear.

A poem of our life bound up in memories and leaves and I wonder about the poetry of days yet to come.

I stare at the place where the tree stood and hope they plant another in its place.  The painters pack up their things and move on to the next house, weathered and beaten down by life.

My friend  leaves in three days and I smile as I think of her new adventures, the poetry she will bring to her new town and the silhouette she leaves here.

It's the past we love or hate, for which we yearn or that which we abhor.  Usually, for most of us, it's a little of both.  But it's the embracing of all that has passed, of loving our today because of those who have made it, that is, perhaps, our most important endeavor.  Whether it's the willow that weeps us into life or the friend that loves us to a place of weeping, may we always love our story, the poetry of life knitted together with words and leaves and experiences cradled deep within us.