Why I am not celebrating Mothers Day this year.

 

When my oldest was six months old,we moved away from all family in the Mitten State to land locked Illinois. Three months married, moved  to a residential home to care and raise High School boys. Twelve hormonal, eat all the food, wrestle all the feelings boys. You can do all of that math. It was one of the most stretching and chaotic, loneliest times in our lives.

That next year I thought I would add more excitement and enroll in college again. So here I was with twelve high school boys, two girls under 3 putting myself through college again while working full time.

It was there though that I met a woman who shaped how I learned to live life. How I see women and my ache for community was nurtured.

Suzy showed me what it means to carry each other. She worked in the childcare center there on campus. And since I had no family, a handful of friends and needed to finish school, I enrolled my oldest in their preschool program. She took care of my spunky toddler and loved her well.She potty trained her, so some may call her a miracle worker. Suzy and two other women not only cared for a room full of little’s, they began to take care of the scared first time mamas. Suzy began to teach me what my heart needed.

She taught me to gather people. To gather people around you that would not only love you, but lift you. Because you can love someone and hold them in their place or you can have women around you that want and see more for you. Speak life and love and hope and creativity into others and make sure others are doing that for you. And eat together. Not girls nights out. But girls nights in. And bring your children around the table. Let them see you laugh and cry and receive. Let them see what they too will need. Let them see the grassroots of your village. Let them see how intimate and important it is to be together and present. And let their be cheese. And bread. Because we all need good cheese. And Jesus loved bread. 

This is what she would do. Every week. She would open her home and make the table longer and she gathered.

And she carried. We carried. We carried each other.

I look back now and know I made foolish mistakes as a new mom, a broken girl, a prideful heart. Many.

But she never locked her door.

She never uninvited anyone. 

That was seventeen years ago.


And still today she gathers. Around her table. In her classroom. In her city. She gathers.

She still teaches those that have gone before and those rising ,that it takes a village. It is not one person, or one woman. It is a tribe. She taught me what the word MOTHER means.

 

I have learned that a mother is not defined solely as one who gives birth or doesn’t give birth.

It is not what you voted for or didn’t vote.

It is not what you eat or don’t eat.

It is not if your offspring think you hung the moon or they won’t speak your name.

It is not where you live or don’t live.

It is not who you read or if you have never read a word.

It is not if you are educated or you don’t have that privilege.

It is not who you love or don’t love.

It is not if you kept your child or  bravely gave them away.

It is not if your child is a straight “A” student or will never speak a word audible to the world.

It is not if you use your breast to feed a child or collect WIC to feed them.

It is not if you have one child or lost them all.

It is not if you are a size six or didn’t know size existed.

It is not if you can give birth or were told you never will.

It is not if you are married or choose not to be.

It is not if you choose to have a child or that choice was made for you.

It is not if your child walks beside you or is now in a foreign land.

It is not if you speak to your mother every day or will never speak to her again.

 

I believe that “Mother” is not determined by the performance of your uterus but by the performance of your spirit.

 

I believe that it is the grace you pour over those around you.  It is the power of forgiveness. I believe it is the protection around those you love. I believe it is the aunt who visits once a year to tell your son he is enough.I believe it is the voice of justice, even if it mean silence.It is the coach that tells your daughter she is more than a win on the court.  I believe it is knowing when you have made a mistake and saying you are sorry. It is the neighbor who volunteers in the school. It is the women in the therapist office trying to breathe.It is the women who march. It is the women who chose to stay home.It is the woman at church who shower the teenager with love when others have turned her away.  It is the grandmother who writes the stories of her life to be passed on. I believe it the friend who knows you need help, and comes closer.I believe it is how you have treated those around you when no one is looking. It is the women who opens her home to refugees.I believe it is the neighbor who teaches a child to plant a garden. It is the girl in line refilling her medication. I believe it is a sister who calls to encourage every week. It is the teacher who teaches your child to read.I believe it is the silent prayers you offer for those you have never met. I believe it is the patience of a friend who listens when the teenager no longer feels accessible. It is the nurse who grieves in the bedside next to you.It is the woman who stands in her truth. I believe it is the doctor who offers not just consultation but compassion. It is the woman next door that does not speak the same language but carries your child on an extra hip. It is the barista who offers a complement to the worn out mama in the drive thru. It is the kindness of the stranger who offers a hug to your weary heart. It is the flowers that you never paid for showing up in your cart. It is the compassion that opens your door. It is the spirit of hope that never dies.It is the truth within us that reminds us we are stronger together. It is the roaring of a lion and the gentleness of the lamb in all of our days.

 

It is you.

It is me.

It is every woman.

It is our job not to  celebrate Mothers, but celebrate women.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a tribe of women to make a Mother.

I saw God in 4th grade- and other lies I told.

 

When I was in 4th grade I saw God. Well, at least that is what I told my friends. Brenda G had invited all of the important girls over for a sleepover. And by important, I mean, all the girls in class. Sleepovers were a big deal. You see, we only saw each other during school, wearing our plaid little skirts and white knee high socks. So to see each other outside of the Catholic confines was a big deal. Who knew what we even looked like not wearing a sweater vest? The possibilities were endless. Also sleepovers for me meant processed food, unless it was Janna’s house, that is a whole other story. Janna was paleo before it was cool. So here we were, eating all the processed food and calling into the radio stations to request the latest WHAM song, laying in our Care Bear sleeping bags not a care in the world.

 

And then I saw God.

 

Somehow we were talking about the virgin Mary, because all good little Catholic girls do. We also talked about boys and rollerskating, but the virgin Mary always got a good shout out. One of the girls was saying she saw Mary herself. We must have been studying the feast of our Lady Guadalupe or had way too much sugar in us. Either way,we all wanted to see celestial images on the walls of that small house in western Michigan that Friday night.

 

And right there, that night, after many cans of pringles were opened and many Hail Marys were said, kneeling in our nightgowns, I told my friends I could see God above the mantel.

 

I know.

 

I should have been struck down with lightning or at least choked on a cheese puff. I blatantly lied about seeing God.

 

But if I am honest. Since that night, I have always been aching to see him.

 

I wanted to see his face.

 

I needed to see him.

 

Don’t we all?

 

This past summer I wrote about “goldfinches”.

 

About seeing these tiny yellow birds all the time after tragedy hit our family. I still see them. People send them to me. (not real ones, although that would be cool too, just don’t seal the box).

 

And yet seeing goldfinches for me, isn’t about the bird. It is about God. The goldfinches were just a way that he visibly showed me how present he was and how limited I make him.

 

I stood on the dirt road that summer morning and saw three little birds dance before me.

 

God gently turned my head to the field next to me. He needed me to see the field singing with hundreds of tiny goldfinches. Saying over and over. “ You think I love you like the three…..let me show you the way I LAVISHLY love you. Let me show you just how present I am. How present I will be.”

 

I still have countless days I can’t see God. When the darkness of our reality covers me like a weighted blanket, making it hard to even breathe.

 

So because God is God, and I am not, he sends others to me.

 

My mother in law sees when it is hard for me to breathe. She is the quietest person I know. But the way that she loved me this winter speaks volumes into the depth of her heart and the goodness of God.

She was visiting from southern Ohio and quietly decided to show me God again.

 

She had been collecting small goldfinch figurines. One afternoon, while I was away, she placed them in different eye level places around my house. Little tiny delicate gold birds reminding me on the darkest days. On the days I was so angry with the injustice of the world. Those days when resentment had creeped its way into my heart. The nights when anxiety has kept my mind spinning and I am scared to get out of bed. The moments I am so angry I can hardly exhale and the moments I am so sad that even inhaling is exhausting.

 

For those moments and every moment in between she brought me tiny little bird reminders.

 

That even when I stop seeing God. He doesn’t ever stop seeing me.

 

But I make my world too loud to see anything but myself.

 

When all he is asking me to do is lift my eyes and see him.

I can hardly catch my breathe when I think of that moment. The moment I  will actually SEE HIS FACE.

This is his promise. His PROMISE. I cling to this. This hope. This coming home.

“And I in righteousness, I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” Psalm 17:15

Even now, just typing it, tears fill my eyes. Some days I beg for that moment. I tell God I am ready. Anytime he is ready, I am too. And then other days, most days, I am content living here on the earth not even searching for him. Not even thinking about him. I am comfortable being consumed by the world.  

Living a numb life.

Yet if I am honest, it is when I am fully living in the “in between” that I am alive. The place between pain and healing. Actively aching to see him.  When I am fully aware of the suffering and fully aware who can heal it all. It is in those moments that I feel fully present. That pull between heaven and earth that makes me feel hopeful. Hope-filled like the little girl kneeling in her nightgown aching to just see his face.

 

 

What the Peanuts taught me about 2016.

The other night we were watching the “Peanuts” movie. Or ask my youngest son what we were watching and it may make you blush.

 

Those silly speech issues.

 

All seven of us were discussing who we thought each character would be in our family. Such a fun thing to do. Until they got to me. Then the fun and games were over. I wanted to be Sally Brown. Well, because of her impeccable style and come on….those curls. Who wouldn’t want to wake each morning and have those luscious locks? Yet my children quickly pointed out where I knew my heart was.

 

I was Lucy.

I was a “know it all” Lucy.

I have been for years now.

I had a solution and answer for everything.

Because somehow being a college educated, mom of five kids and married for 18 years, in a marriage that we can say is challenging, I seemed to take it upon myself to know more things than others.

 

I was a full blown Lucy, without the great dark hair.

 

Five years ago a dear friend of mine went through a horrible, life altering tragedy in her life. It happened to her. To her family. And yet what happened to her I thought I had all the answers for. I went into protective” I will kick your ass if you ever mess with my friend “ mode. I was not a good listener. I did not build her up. I reacted. I told her what I thought she should do and pointed out everything wrong that was happening. She would try crying to me and I would just get frustrated and tell her how to fix it. I sucked. I was a Lucy.

 

I look back now and think how many times in my life I have tried to control when others were in crisis. I have gotten behind my little advice booth and would gladly give it out, and didn’t even charge. It was really a lovely service I was giving.

 

I am embarrassed how many times I stood on my pride mountain and told those I loved how they should live their lives.

 

It was pretty lonely up there, on “Know it All Mountain”.

 

The more insecure I felt the more advice I gave. I felt so out of control that I thought I needed to take control.

 

And then this year happened. And  suddenly, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know who to ask or how to even utter it out loud. I googled for any article or book that could help make sense of our reality. Every time I looked for answers I kept feeling more shameful and not enough. I told my best friend there was no support group or t-shirt for what we were going through. No one was running a race or making a bumper sticker for the crap show we have been living through.

 

I thought I needed a Lucy.

 

And in reality my soul needed a Linus. A faithful friend who is quiet and sees the good in it all. Or a Schroeder who wants nothing more than to play you soothing music and help you at any chance he could get. I imagine he would diffuse essential oils, make you delicious meals, clean your house and then hold you while you cried.

 

Really the opposite of Lucy.

 

Not advice givers.

 

They are life-givers.

 

I have learned through this past year that what I yearn for. What we all yearn for are life-givers.

People who speak life and hope into our hearts.

 

When you are in the midst of realizing what you need to be healed and whole you need to surround yourself with those that breath life into your heart.

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1

 

One of my friends in particular is amazing at this. She will tell me who I forget I am. Reminding me of who she sees in me. She calls out life.

 

This is who I want to be. A life-giver.

 

One who does not remind me of my situation or limitations. But one who sees more for others than I see for myself. One who unveils the courage that is waiting to be released. A foot washer, a hugger, a listener, a bring wine over and sit on your porch girl, a text you in the middle of the night because you can’t breathe girl.

 

I want to be a girl who gives what has been given to her.

 

As a result of what we are walking through, I  have become highly sensitive to others walking through deep pain and grief. Entering into the pain and sitting there with them until the darkness goes away. Finding it a privilege to be on such holy ground. Because suffering is holy. It is messy and lonely but it is also where you will find the barefoot Messiah.

 

Last night we went around the table and said our goals for 2017. Which if you have ever done with your tribe, it is quite enlightening to hear what they deam a “goal”.

 

Let’s just say someone at the table wants “better hair” this year. ( yes, it is a 13 year old boy)

 

Don’t be jealous at the level of depth in our family. It is a gift.

 

When I told my family I wanted to stop being a Lucy they all kind of giggled at me. The youngest pointed out that I couldn’t be in a movie on TV. Thank you dear child, another dream crushed.

 

I went on to explain that we have all had the privilege of being loved deeply this year. By those that have not run from our pain and mess but have come closer with mercy. We have experienced such a life -breathing, foot washing community around us, that we need to learn how to give what we have been given. So although my goal is not as deep as others around the table, I still feel that this is all I am called to give in 2017.

 

Life.

 

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19
What would it look like if we all breathed more life this year and less advice?

Face pressed to the glass.

A few years ago I was in a horrible argument. I had sent a text I should have never sent. The minute I pushed send,I knew I had made a mistake. I had severed a relationship that I valued.I took and still take full responsibility for my part. But what happened after was not at all what I had expected. I began to apologize and plead that the people on the other end of the message hear me, it was not my finest moment. I explained that what I had sent meant something that they did not understand. One person in the conversation within hours was at my dining room table and we were figuring it out. We were hearing each other. I cried and asked for forgiveness and she showed mercy and let the healing process begin. The other person never did. In fact things just kept getting worse. I felt like a little kid, faced pressed against the glass of the classroom, that everyone could see but no one could hear. That I was never given the chance to tell the whole story.

The last few days I think a lot of us feel that way. That we are not being heard.

A few weeks ago when the Christian community took Jen Hatmaker to the shed for an interview that she did with Jonathan Merritt, it stirred the same feelings inside of me.

No one was hearing her.

No one was asking her any questions. We were just putting down the books and blogs and picking up the stones.

No one asked her what in her life had changed that her views had now shifted. No one invited her to the table to be heard. No one asked what had broken and how could they see more clearly.They just let her stand outside of the window with her face pressed to the glass trying to be heard. But immediately we shut the door,  turned our backs and dismissed the voice we had all been worshipping and tweeting for years.

I am not saying you have to agree with her. I am not even saying you have to ever had to read another blog. But what I am saying is that maybe we need to start asking questions.

Maybe it is time again to hear.

I think if people that have known me for a long time would look at my life in the last two years they would say that I have changed. That my views and stances have shifted. That something is different.They are right. I have. But to know why, that is not for the world to know. My people know. My circle knows. And to many of my conservative acquaintances  they would perhaps argue that I am not following Jesus the way they believe I should be. That I don’t fit in a box anymore.

But they do not know the whole story. They do not know my why. They do not know the shattered parts.They will just leave me in the hall with my face pressed to the window.

I feel that we are all have our faces pressed to the window this week. We all want to be heard, but no one is brave enough to open the door.

Or if the door is opened it is met with

“God is in control”, “ You need to trust in God”, “God bless our new president”, “You need to respect him”,“The election is done”,” This doesn’t affect me”,

But friends what if we responded with” let me hear you…..”

Let me hear what in your life happened or is happening that you feel so strongly about this.

Let me sit with you in this grief and not say anything.

Let me open up my house and give you a seat at the table.

Let me understand you more.

Let me just hear your story.

You see we all have stories. Some of our stories are broken and bruised and raw. And if  we continue to only know a piece of the story and respond the way we are, we will continue to keep the door shut.

Instead of pushing each other out of the classroom into the hall, with our faces up to the glass, we let each other in.

We hear the pain. We hear the fear. We hear the families. We see our neighbors.

We realize that to dismiss a person for one check-mark, that we have reduced ourselves to the same.

“Somehow I wonder if it’s in shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ”- Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

To live a life barefoot.

When I was a little girl my mom would cover our feet with bread bags before we put them into our  moon boots. It was not unusual to see little legs with bread bags on them during the cold Michigan winter months. Being the oldest of five and living on one salary we were not privy to new boots every season. We got the hand me downs, now they are called “vintage” and our mom did whatever she could to make sure our little toes stayed dry and warm. To not feel the frigid winters on our feet.

We have 100 year old hardwood floors in the house I live in now. When people come in they automatically want to take off their shoes. We are very quick to tell them to keep them on. The floors are cold and with five children you never know what you may step on.

A few weeks ago at my second home, I mean my therapist’s office, he sat back and sighed deeply into his chair. He said,” I am not sure how much more you can carry. I don’t know many in my life that have endured so much suffering. And yet…. Still.”

And then last week as I was on my way to the woods to breathe the deep whisper of fall coming, and to have a couple days to soak in the goodness of other writers.

I read this passage.

“….when we are stuck or hurting and our gut instinct is to run out of there as fast as we can, we are probably close to holy ground. It is in the very midst of our pain, the places we hate and the seasons of life we dread, that God’s voice is most clear.” – Christina Gibson, Soul Barre

I feel like some of us, including my family, have been barefoot for a long time.

We want to grab those bread bags mom would keep in the bottom drawer of the kitchen and wrap our feet. Wrap the feet of our children and put our moon boots back on.

And yet.

And still.

We ache for our savior every day.

We want him.

Are we willing then to live a barefoot life?

To see the pain and suffering as an invitation to enter holy ground.

The last thing from my mind this year has been the idea that what we are going through is holy.
I have had many other words for it. Holy has never been one of them.

And yet.

And still.

I have seen God clearly pushing through the darkness. I have seen him in the kindred’s that sit late into the night on the porch until the fear goes away. I have seen him in the meals that have been placed on our door. I have seen him in the letters that speak nothing of knowing and everything of being. I have seen him in the song sent from states away that sings of justice. I have seen him in the goldfinches that continue to dance if I am quiet enough to watch. I have seen him in the prayers that have kept oxygen in our lungs. I have seen him in the plane tickets bought to teach us to walk again. I have seen him in countless and hundreds of ways.

And yet.

And still.

I want to put the shoes back on.

I want to run.

And yet.

And still.

He beckons me closer.

Into the pain.

To hear him say…..”take off your shoes, this, my beloved, is holy ground.”

 

The work of healing. What happens when you want to give up……

Earlier this week I was in full melt down mode. Like if my mom were here she would have put me in time out or sat me on the stairs for a “come to Jesus” moment. As a child I am sure that I through monumental tantrums. I was what some may call a spirited child, so it is no surprise that as an adult I continue to feel emotions big.

I texted my husband that morning by 9am and said I was done. I was winning the award for the worst homeschool mom ever. If there was an award for failure, I was the Michael Phelps of that Olympics. I said that I could no longer do this. Everyone was in tears and I was a person I never wanted to be. I was anxious and overwhelmed. No one was learning anything except that mommy may have fallen off the crazy wagon again and they all had front row seats to the show.

And because my husband is who he is, and because we are sitting our butts on a therapists couch every week, he texts back, “where is your list?”

You see he didn’t give me advice or agree with me. Or better yet bring a medal home.

He just heard me.

As women, as humans, we need to hear each other more. To ask before we give our opinion. To lead towards the answer, not give it.

My list. The list.

This summer I made a long list of what healing looks like.

What my heart ached and prayed for over my family. What would come alongside Jesus and help the healing process of our family that evil has torn apart. Because we know that Jesus can heal. He will heal. But we also know that we actually have to do the work. The work of healing. The work of believing. The work of inhaling and exhaling. The work of showing up and feeling.

So I put the phone down and went to look for the list.

I went to my room, sat on my bed and let the tears come as I read aloud…..

Water

Woods

Sunshine

Yoga

Reading

Writing

Exercise

Safe people

Music

Breathing

Crying

Therapy

Whole foods

Sleep

Exhaling

Quiet

Listening

Laughter

Space

Medication

Jesus…..

And most of all Jesus.

Nowhere on the list did it say Math. Or lesson plans. Or science experiments. Or Common Core. Nowhere did it say that my children needed to sit in a classroom and have seven hours of education to be healed. Or at the dining room table being drilled about the industrial revolution.

So why was I trying to push in that which was aching to be freed?

Please hear me. I believe in education. The husband is a public school teacher. I adore teachers. I love our elementary school we came from. I miss it every day.

But this year. Our now. Our reality is that healing and connection are far more important than anything they will gain being away from each other in school.

The condition of their heart and souls is of more importance to me than any grade they could ever bring home. More than any championship they could win. Or worth they gain from win on the court.

Present and healed are more important than schedules and rules.

I want my children to move forth from this year knowing that they were heard and understood.

That to heal you need to do the work.

And the work of healing cannot be found in a classroom right now.

And yet somehow by the first week in October I had already forgotten.

I forget all the time.

Just yesterday I was on my way to my therapist and I could feel the tears already making their way down my cheeks as I drove. I was miles away and already I was crying.

My body knew.

Knew where I was going and was preparing me to release it all.

My therapist tells me that this in itself is growth. That when we acknowledge the truth of what is going on, that this is a sign of courage.

So I go back to the list. One time this morning. Four times this afternoon. I go back and I read and pray through the list.

Remembering what my heart already knows.

Inhaling the truth of brokenness is painful.

Yet exhaling is the healing.

Goldfinches and Grief.

Sometimes I think we miss God. We miss him all around us. He tries to talk to us. For us to see him. In people. In moments. I think we make our world too loud to notice him. We turn the music up louder. We keep checking our phones, we make more coffee dates,  turn on Netflix, work more hours, or drink one more drink and all he wants is us to be. To be there. To feel. To notice. To see.

My therapist says that I need drama. That I was born with it in me. And that this a part of me that rarely gets praised. He says that too often what is really good in us, gets told from an early age, to be quiet. That somehow, who we are, is not okay.

Not God breathed.

He though, is good at that. Calling out what I have been told is wrong, and showing me that God knit me together perfectly. I don’t always think he is good, my therapist. Sometimes he pisses me off, when he calls me out on my crap. But today. Today was good. Because I needed to hear truth and love. And sometimes when you are grieving you can’t hear either. I can’t hear truth because I am so weighted down with sadness that truth can barely peak through. It is choking at the possibility that it will never be heard again.

And then there is love. I cannot bear the thought of love right now. In fact, love I just want to punch in the face. I really could use someone to punch in the face right now. God bless those that are trying to love me right now. Because one moment I am a puddle of tears and the next minute I want to punch them in the throat and scream that they have no idea the hell I am daily living through. Don’t send me scripture or prayers unless you are willing to sit in the darkness and not leave. Bless.

And then God. Because he is God. Just starts to gently whisper. Because he knows right now that is the only way I am going to listen. Because if he yells I will just get out the sledgehammer. He already knows that the world is too loud for me right now. And I don’t need more advice or more “ I would do it this way” . What I need is a dramatic whisper. Because he knows me. He knows what my heart is longing for. It doesn’t need more talking. It doesn’t need more unsolicited advice. It doesn’t need more people doing things for me. I don’t need fixers. I need more whispering. I need more being.

So he whispers.

And because I am weaved and made in all the drama goodness that he made he weaves his way right in front of me.

And it all has to happen that way.

Michigan. With water. And woods. And dirt roads. And quiet.

Walking.

And there in front me were three little goldfinches. Just playing tag with each other. Chirping with each other about how cute they are. Because they really are the cutest birds. And there they were just fluttering in front of me.

Dancing.

I stood there and just started to cry. One, because the weight I am carrying around is so heavy right now and two because I knew it was God whispering.

I had been feeling very abandoned.

If he really believed me when I said I wanted to follow him years ago, then all of this shit would not have happened. None of this was making sense. None of it.

Yes I know bad things happen to good people. I know. But I also wrestle with why does it continue to happen? And if you could think of the worst things to happen to a family, they have all happened. All. And as a mother it is just too much to carry most days.

And here I was on that dirt road confessing to the creator of the universe that he and I were done. I had carried enough and I could not bear one more burden in his name for his glory.

I know.

Lightening was going to strike me. But this was my Jacob moment. Crying to God that this mother could not breathe one more night of agony.

On that dirt road all he needed me to do was to see.

He asked me to turn to the right.

And there to the right was a field. A field of purple thistle. And above the thistle were hundreds of dancing gold finches. Hundreds.

According to birdlife.org the gold finch is most often found in the religious paintings in the hand of the infant Jesus. Symbolizing and relating to the healing of the sick and thus redemption.

Healing.

Of course. Healing.

I didn’t know this pertinent information until weeks later than that late morning in west Michigan.

I was actually in a park with my youngest daughter and a group of finches flew right by my face and I immediately start crying. There are only so many times that you can ignore God trying to whisper his love over you until you break wide open.

So I googled what goldfinches meant and that is what came up. Like Jesus himself wrote it. I think he works for birdlife.org on Thursdays or something like that.

I sat there on the park bench and sobbed.

I hear you. I know you are here. I see you pushing through all of the darkness that continues to daily be layered on us but I see you pushing your way through.

Yesterday. Today. Everyday. I see him pushing through. If I am quiet enough I see the goldfinches.

I see.

John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

 

What if I break?

 

A blanket of sadness has covered our family this year. Our village. Our world. And when sadness comes I want to run.

But this, what has happened recently,could break me. I know this. I am fully aware that this might all be too much.

So I  texted my people and whispered “what if I break? What if this is all too much?”

And them, being the most life giving people I know said, you are not going to break. You are broken. You should be broken. But broken is beautiful. Broken can be put back together stronger than ever before. We will stay with you in the broken. We will stay until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

This is the thing. They know. They know everything. They know how many things hurt. They know all the shit that has gone on and the injustice of it all.

And still. Still they stay. They stay and wait until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

When I was younger, I remember finding my mom crying in the basement while she was ironing clothes. Standing over the ironing board with tears streaming down her face. I remember being so angry. So angry at who or whatever was hurting my mom. I know now. But then I really was more confused by the silent basement suffering.

She and I grew up in different times. Different ways of dealing with life. She grew up as a Dutch missionary kid. You worked hard, you went to church on Sunday and then you worked harder. You always brought the best casserole to the church function and you didn’t interfere with other people’s business. You perhaps had a handkerchief, but that was just to wipe your nose, not to show any public emotion other than happiness and lemon bars.

And then there was me.  I was born with all the feelings all the time. Teachers in my younger years said I was “a lot to handle”. But then life happened and me being a lot to handle turned into too much. And somewhere along the way the girl that felt too much started to believe that she wasn’t enough. She needed to stop feeling.

So I did. If it was bad for you I used it. If it was good for you I used it more. Anything and anyone to make these feelings I didn’t know how to feel go away.

That is what we do when we are scared. We numb.

I made a very conscious decision for my family this summer. We were going to heal. And to heal, you need to feel.

We decided that in order to heal we made the painful decision to bring all the kids home from school. All of them.

Early on, someone asked me what I was going to teach them this year.

Healing. I am going to teach them to heal.

When trauma happens our natural instinct is fight or flight. As an addict I am usually in flight mode. But this time. This time in our lives we are choosing to stay.

To choose healing.

And healing looks different than school.

This does not mean that we are not doing anything but art, therapy, yoga and oils, but that is a huge part of it.
I need to walk beside them as they learn who they are and how all of this brokenness fits into their world. I want to teach the that their is no freedom in basement suffering. I need to breathe life and words of love into them as much as I can.

I need to stay until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.

Palms Up- The Mudroom

I tell my kids all the time, they will become who they spend their time with. If you want to be a video gamer then spend your time with games and people that are not real. If you want to be mean, spend your time with the mean girls. If you want to be shallow spend time with those that care only of themselves and things.

But, if you want to be brave, find the broken.

If you want to be courageous, find the ones who believe that one day they will rise again.

 

You will find the rest of this post over at The Mudroom…..