The Brokeness of Motherhood

As a little girl, playing mommy was never on my agenda. I was too busy looking for clues to solve the latest back yard mystery like my hero Harriet the Spy, or teaching myself to draw, or reading my set of encyclopedias. For real. I was a solver and a thinker not a coddler. I also kept very much to myself, never letting anyone too close and certainly never letting myself be broken open by another. As a young adult I was usually the onlooker as my friends squeaked, squawked, and swooned over all the tiny humans. I was not totally opposed to claiming this role for myself, it just wasn’t what I lived for. It wasn’t yet me. It wasn’t my desire.

And now, here I am preparing to be a mom for the third time. Third. Three. One, two, three kids in 4 years. I know it happens all the time, but me? Really…?? Now?? Whaaaa?!?!

But then there’s that whole thing about our desires, what gets us out of bed in the morning, what keeps us going. Faith has this way of morphing them into the unexpected. Morphing us into the unexpected. It turns out, when your daily prayer sounds something like – Lord let Your will be done in my life… your old desires kind of go out the window. I am learning that while this is terrifying, it is not a super terrible thing to loosen the grip. To have your desires swept from your hands. Because when those desires catch the current of the nearest breeze, God is there leading them to fertile soil. When left to the doings of God – desires don’t actually die. Like lucky seedlings they defy the odds, break open, grow, blossom and become something new. We become something new. Something more beautiful than we could have imagined. More beautiful than our own human limitations could have ever dreamt up.

Not to say that what will become is perfectly pretty, or even sane. After all, God does have a sense of humor. Or so they say. But I believe He also wants us to taste life while we are here on earth. Really and truly experience all of it. And in order to do that we must enter into the mess, the struggle, let ourselves go and be broken open.

And really is it not always the brokenness of life the stuff that makes us stronger? Builds character? Makes us that much more grateful for the good?

I find myself craving comfort these days, but above that wanting depth and meaning and purpose. I want my life to matter, and if I must die to myself to be taken over by these little creatures, then all the more. Because beneath all of my shallow desires, my flaws, the obstacles I face; deep down I want to be like the flower that grows through the concrete. The one that rises still. Head held high and face to the sun. Somehow graciously accepting these strange desires and unfamiliar surroundings. Acknowledging that I might have thought things would be different but maybe this particular calling is for a higher purpose. A purpose I may never know if I was truly created for, but one that is most certainly creating me.

Now that… that is worth living for. So go ahead – be brave, allow yourselves to be broken, let your desires go, grab a glass of good wine, sit back and watch them grow.

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34: 1– 4)

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The Withered Fig Tree

While reading the scriptures this morning I came across the passage of the withered fig tree. Or so I thought it would be about said tree. I hesitantly read on, thinking I would see a reflection of my flaws. Because let’s be honest, sometimes I can relate to a withered, fruitless, Charlie Brown tree – dry, brittle, alone, useless, hopeless. I swallowed my pride and braced myself for some hard honesty. But instead, to my surprise the reading was about faith and prayer, and it was the perfect hope for my fragile heart.

Mark 11: 20-24

Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God. Amen I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours…”

“…all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” What a promise! I know that we all pray for things that we inevitably do not receive. And that is truly part of the mystery of our faith. But the truth is that so many prayers are answered. So many doors are opened to the faithful everyday. To see it, Jesus says we must have faith that is strong enough to move mountains. 

As I was reflecting on this, I looked up to see my son happily playing with his baseball and I thought – more than anything, I want that faith and I want to pass it on to my kids. And then it hit me, they have it right now. I need to learn from them. Their gratitude for life. Their joy in the little things. Their belief that their Father will always be there for them. I have been too clouded with the worries of life to let my heart be truly open. I have been too controlling to let any sort of faith take over. I just need to be still. Let the stirring calm. Let it be as it is. Trust that my mountains will move. And I must learn to keep my eyes fixed on what is above – because there lies the only source of water for these dry roots.

The struggle is real.

“It is good for us sometimes to have troubles and adversities, for they cause us to look inward and recognize that we too are exiles, whose hopes should not be centered on anything in this world.” Book 1, Chapter 12, The Imitation of Christ

Last night I heard a question that struck a chord. It was simple, yet profound. “What things in life are you holding on to that are keeping you from God?” My first thought was – what am I not holding on to? But really when I dig further – it’s my avoidance of struggle.

I think most of us can relate. Our society today is so good at the dangling carrot trick. We guiltily and blindly walk towards the all too familiar message persuading us to “keep up” in order to gain happiness. Or if we would just do what they say, we could finally taste freedom. Or if we would only just abandon our values and conform, we would be so accepted and loved. It is all so appealing, and really just an arm’s length away. Like if we could just… take ooone mooore… step… just… a… litttttle… fuuuuurther…

But at what cost are we letting these worldly pressures control us? How long will it last? All of this striving. How long can we actually stand the inauthenticity? It is overwhelming. Too much. We can not sustain the notion that life can be easy if we just reach a certain status. Even the things that claim to make life less challenging, are challenging. Take marriage for example. We are given the illusion that it will be a fairytale. And then… we all know how that goes. In my own marriage just when we seem to overcome something, we are on to the next. For us six years ago, we were met square in the face with our personality differences and expectations. Five years ago it was our committment to each other. Three years ago it was trust. A year ago, balance. Now, something completely different but equally hard. It has always been something. Yet even though I know that it will always be something it still feels every time like (as dramatic as this may sound) a real life tragedy. Why? Because it doesn’t look like the fairytale I hoped, and therefore it must be the opposite. Because of that damn carrot. Because the carrot is so hypnotizing and makes my struggles seem unnecessary; making me feel like I am doing it all wrong and not trying hard enough.

The world always manages to distract us from the deeper issues. It feels as though society wants us not to grow and mature, but to always be chasing and striving for the carrot. But thank God for leading us away from the worldly answers and straight to the wisdom that says – this isn’t all there is. Life is not meant to be a rat race. We are meant to struggle and at the same time we are meant to have faith and believe that we can climb the steep mountains. And even though we may not have wealth and comfort, or even happiness most days, it is quite alright. Because what we do get is grace. And strength, and courage, and perseverance… the really good stuff. The stuff that refines us and molds our souls into the material made for our ultimate goal when we finally leave this earth.

My hope is that I will learn to accept my struggles, not as a hinderance, but as a teacher. As a path towards God. I pray that they pull me deeper instead of living on the surface. Because I believe a shallow faith and a superficial life – that is the true tragedy.

Gratitude

My very first blog post I ever attempted to write was based on a book I was reading at the time called 1000 Gifts. It was life changing for me. Until I was done with it. That’s the problem sometimes with me and books. He becomes my best friend, my confidant, my wise teacher, and then I get pulled back into this whirlwind called life, and I forget all about him. This book was no different, until now. I didn’t dust him off in spite of personal desire or motivation, it was a beautiful group of women that forced me to read it again. I was reluctant at first, because of my crazy life, but I am so thankful that I did. It has changed my life once again, and I am only in the second chapter. A little about my life at the moment… the past three months have felt like a year. I found out I was pregnant (don’t get me wrong, this is a tremendous joy, however it is by no means stress free), started my first full semester of graduate school, am still teaching high school math (….freshmen), still trying to be a great wife to a wonderful man who is also in school and has stresses all his own, trying to keep up with friends who have made their way onto the back-burner, all the while trying to take care of myself in this very tender, vulnerable space of time. I can’t say enough how hard this has been (just ask my coworkers). It is BY FAR the hardest thing I have ever done in life. However this is not a blog to complain or gripe, it is much more than that. It is meant to share with you something amazing that is happening in my life that I apparently couldn’t wait until the sun came up this morning to blog about. This book is all about being grateful and physically writing down those things every single day. When I first read the book, I started a gratitude journal and it was good, but it didn’t last long and it didn’t sustain me. I realize now that I was doing it all wrong. I was jotting down things like: my family, my husband, my friends, my dogs, etc. Of course I am thankful for those things and we should all count our blessings now and then, but this gratitude journal, I’m realizing, was made for deeper things. Things much more powerful than those. Things like: the first breeze of the fall season causing me to catch my breath in delight, the fire I lit in a student who I took the time to encourage because she looked so scared when she realized she was failing my class and is now making A’s on her tests, pine cones I found on my afternoon walk that I just had to have to decorate my house for fall, cute clothes that I bought for next to nothing that I can’t wait to wear, rediscovering my Alanis Morisette cd and almost driving off the road because I am so into it I suddenly become her on stage in front of thousands of people, cuddling with my dogs and my husband on a crisp Saturday morning with the sound of lawn mowers and kids playing in the background, laughing so hard I really can not breathe because my husband can be that ridiculously funny, unpacking a box full of my childhood books and tearing up in excitement to share them with my little one. Those… those are the things that are changing my life. It is amazing how I feel nothing when I write them down, yet the side effects are so powerful. I don’t look any different, my frown is still there when I am at work and my stressed out expression is unmistakeably present. I don’t talk any different, as I am ranting and raving to my coworkers or whining to my husband about poor pitiful me. But I feel incredibly different. Not always. Not even close to always. But enough. There is a bud inside of me and it is growing. It reminds me of a book I once read (we obviously had a good relationship this one and I) about the transformations we go through in life that parallel to the transformation a caterpillar goes through in a cocoon. That’s where I am right now, in my cocoon (yes another one, those who know me know this isn’t my first go round in these things). It is painful. It is exhausting. Yet the hope of what is to come gives me great peace. I can do this and I am going to do this. And it is going to be amazing. I am thankful for that.

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Good riddance insecurity… you’ve been a bad friend.

I’ve noticed that every season in my life, God teaches me something new about myself. This season, which has been quite a long one, he has revealed something to me that has been… life changing. I remember last year at this time, recognizing these odd feelings. Anger, jealousy, intimidation, fear, all balled up into one bubble that made my stomach churn constantly. It was hard to deal with then, because it did not have a name yet. It wasn’t recognized. It was sly and deceitful. It creeped into me and began taking up space in all of my emotions. It wasn’t until midway through the fall season that it came alive and I knew… something is not right here. It showed itself to me by using my job as the culprit. At least that is how it started. I fell into a mild depression, thinking about all of the ways I had failed to be successful in life. I took a leap of faith when I decided to become a teacher, and that ugly ball of filth growing inside me was disguising my leap of faith as nothing short of a big, stupid mistake. I remember one weekend being so down that I just pitched a fit. Just like a child, kicking and screaming. That was when I recognized it. This is not me, I had to tell myself. This is something bigger, stronger, and very dangerous. I slowly rose from the floor and began trying to take my life back. The ball began to shrink, but by no means was it determined to go anywhere. It was there to stay as long as I would allow it. I still had not named it, I was scared of it. I pretended it was not there and tried to move on. The more I did this, the more it began to transform. Anxiety grew within me. Maybe that’s all these feelings were to begin with… anxiety. Maybe I have an anxiety problem? About a month ago, I found out it’s real name. Turns out anxiety is just it’s nickname. I finally came face to face with….. Insecurity. Wow, what a breakthrough this was for me. Bam! Just like that, it was in front of me. All this time I had no idea. God pretty much plopped a book in my lap that centered around, what’dya know, dealing with insecurities. That is when I realized I was insecure. Insecure in my job, in my friendships, and around new people. The book was really amazing. It held my hand while I walked through it and comforted me the whole way. It helped me realize that I was trying to be perfect. I have never been much of a perfectionist. I was always pretty average… still am. Yet, I was trying so hard to be something I’m not. I was allowing other people’s opinions of me to take precedence over my opinion of me. I was making them the gods of my life instead of allowing God to be God. How powerful those realizations were for me. Usually when I have these kinds of breakthroughs, I feel like a new person. This time, I just feel like me again, and damn it feels good!!

I’m allowing life to be messy. I’m going to have a little bit more fun. I’m going to stand up for what I believe in, no matter the cost. I’m going to love, love, love. I’m going to be a bit more understanding and empathetic. I’m going to feel and breathe. I’m going to dig my hands into the soil. I’m going to draw and paint and create new things. Ahhh… Bring on the mess!

She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come.
 ~Proverbs 31:25

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365 Days of Marriage

It has been one whole year since Blake and I stood on the alter and recited our vows. One whole year on this road called marriage. In the space of that time, we have learned so many things. Things like what toilet paper is the better buy because it lasts the longest, how to make the perfect spaghetti (still working on that one!), that time spent together really is precious and sacred because there really isn’t much of it in this busy life, and that the word sorry when spoken is the key to happiness. As I was reflecting on our year together, I became excited about the years to come. Knowing that I will be spending the remainder of my earthly days with my best friend brings me so much peace. If this year is a reflection of how the rest of our lives will look, then pour me a glass of wine and lets celebrate! I know the road ahead will have storms and struggles, and this year has not been without its share of those. But I also know the road ahead will be full of laughter and flowers and pretty things because how can one live without those? We have both been graced with a very special gift. A gift that is humbling and strengthening and crippling all at the same time. We have done nothing to earn it and probably don’t deserve it, but we feel extremely blessed to have it. It gives us the strength and the passion to live our lives better than we could on our own and to stand up for what we believe in. It brings us together in a way that I believe nothing can tear us apart. It has been my dream, my wish, my hope for as long as I can remember to fall in love and grow very old with my forever person. How ironic it was to have dinner seated next to a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary just as we were celebrating our 1st. I can only pray that God was giving us a gift. A foreshadowing into our future. Letting us know that we will make it that long too…

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…happy anniversary my love.

Big-girl-grown-up

I made a big-girl-grown-up purchase today. A new car. I must say, it was very hard leaving my old car behind. But I had to remind myself, “It’s a car!! It doesn’t have feelings!!! Let it go!!!” I guess it was the memories that was hard to let go of. Another door closed, another chapter begun. I learned a lot through this car buying process; a lot of big-girl-grown-up things. Like how to talk to a salesman and what a V6 engine is. I also learned a lot about people and how different we all are. One of the things I have to constantly remind myself of is that people will have varying opinions, experiences, and perspectives. I have had so many people give me advice that if I were to consider them all I would never buy a car. I constantly strive for people around me to like what I like, believe what I believe, and act the way I act. I’m not sure why I am this way, or why I naturally want life to be that way. I guess it’s my passionate side that takes over. Maybe my opinionated side. Maybe my stubborn side. What I do know is that I am learning to just let people be. It’s actually a hard thing for me. But anything worthwhile is never easy, right? Neither is big-girl-grown-up decisions. But they sure are exciting. 🙂

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