First Dates

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They asked me to get them ready upstairs.  They didn’t want Daddy to see them before they were all ready for the dance.

Magoo asked me to straighten her hair.  Her hair is always straight.  But I spent twenty minutes with a flat iron getting it even straighter than straight.  Because every girl deserves to look like a princess.

Goose asked me to make her hair longer.  She wanted hers flat ironed as well.  But she wanted hers to be curly.  I fumbled with a hair brush and a cold flat iron and fawned over how amazing her hair looked.  Because a dance to a three year old is every bit as exciting as Cinderella’s ball.

Tonight I got to hear giggles about boys.  I heard about the cute ones.  And the funny ones.

I ran downstairs and told Daddy that they were ready.  He stood at the bottom of the stairs and showed just the amount of wonder and pride as a Daddy should when his dates arrive to meet him.

They are on their way to pick up their corsages.  Because a girl learns how she should be treated on a date by her first date, her dad.

And I can’t help but flash forwarding a few years.  When Mom with a flat iron and last year’s Christmas dresses won’t be enough.  When there will be worries about earrings and updos and the perfect dress.

And I’ll giggle with them and fawn over dresses and get every bit of excited as they will at their foray into teenage dances.

And then they’ll leave, and TJ and I will be left here, hoping we have taught them enough.  Hoping the example we have set will set them on their way to happy and healthy times.  Hoping the boy who holds their hands is worthy of the honor of holding their hearts.

But for now I rest assured, knowing that their date tonight is the one I chose for myself many years ago.  Before they were a twinkle in our eyes.

So dance away my little princesses.  Your date is a prince.  He’s my prince, and I couldn’t be more honored that he has become yours as well.

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Big News

Nope – I’m not pregnant.  Sorry to disappoint.

But I do have big news.  Very, very soon, I am going to start writing a blog for Psych Central.  I think I have been too excited/nervous to share the news until now.

It’s not quite the New York Times, but it is exactly (exactly!) what I have been wanting for so long.

It’s no secret that I suffer from anxiety, obsessive/compulsive tendencies, and depression.  I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I’ve struggled with depression off and on for a large portion of my adult life.

During the worst of these times, I would just sob, asking myself “Why me?  Why do I have to be saddled with these demons?”

And somewhere inside of me, even during those times, I knew the answer.  I have these struggles because I can share them.  The shame I do sometimes feel over these struggles isn’t enough to stop me from sharing my story.  And I have a story to share.  For all those nights I lied in bed feeling all alone, believing no one else ever experienced life in the same distorted way that I did, I could share my story and make others feel less alone.

I was straddled with these struggles because I could be a voice for the voiceless.  I could speak our truth.  I can assure that no one who reads my words ever has to feel alone in their anxieties or their panic or their depression.

We live in an awfully complex and sometimes frightening world.  We all have so much to contend with.  We have so much to overcome.  And really the only way to make it smaller and safer is to find others who are willing to understand us.

There are as many ways to do this as there are people.  My way to do it is through writing.

I’m still going to be blogging here and at Mothering and at Catholic 365.  I find each different venue gives me a place to voice different aspects of my story.  I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.  But helping others is my passion, and I don’t know any other way to do it as well as through sharing my struggles with mood issues.

But I would like to honestly thank all of you.  When I started this blog I was sure no one would read it.  And then I was terrified that people would read it.

But you did read it.  And you continued to come back.  And I cannot tell you how much that has helped me and how much that means to me.  How it has strengthened me.  How it has fortified me for the challenges of life.  You helped me find my voice.  You helped remind me of who I am when I’m not mommy.  And you helped me find the confidence to come out from behind the rock, share my story, and refuse to be ashamed of my truths.

Please pray for me that I am able to be the voice that people need.  That my words can help someone.  That we can work together to make this world just a little smaller.

This is a dream of mine.  Thank you to all of you who gave me the courage to pursue it.

Posted in Depression, writing | 1 Comment

What Mothers Give

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Every time spring rolls around, I am brought back to the spring of 2008.  Spring bloomed that year just as my pregnancy with Magoo was starting to come to a close.

We had waited so long for that pregnancy, and we had waited so long to meet her.  The pregnancy wasn’t without complications, and so the closer and closer we got to 30 weeks and then 34 weeks and then 36 weeks, the more relief I felt.  With each day, she was getting bigger and stronger and more able to handle the world.

We painted her nursery a deep purple.  I had made Care Bear rugs for her windows.  Every day after work I would come home and go straight to her room and start organizing all the freshly laundered new clothes that she would soon be wearing.

I can remember the smell of the room.  I can remember just how the sun rested upon the objects in the room.  And I can remember the awe and the joy and the anticipation.

I close my eyes, and I can be right back there.

I was thinking about this yesterday, and I was thinking about how fun it would be to go back to that time just for a moment or two.  Just to experience that height of emotions and that eager longing we felt for our family.  The family that would grow significantly in the next few years.

One thing I don’t remember is exactly what I believed motherhood was at that time.  I knew I wanted to be a mom.  I knew I wanted to carry around the infant car seat everywhere I went.  I was excited to use my new diaper bag.  I knew I wanted to see her face.  I longed for the days when I would cuddle her in my arms.  I loved her deeply already, and I wanted to be able to shower that love onto her.

And that is exactly what I did when she was born.  Just like first time parents the world over do, I doted.  I refused to put her down.  I would feel empty if I let her sit in her bouncy seat for more than a couple of minutes.

I documented it.  Man did I document it.  I would spend hours taking shot after shot trying to get the camera to show just what I saw when I looked at her.  But a camera can only make out shapes and colors.  They couldn’t see the love that filtered my every glance at her.

That was a long time ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

I took the little two to Mass today.  We weren’t inside the church all that long as little miss Mae decided she didn’t want to be quiet.  I took her in the back where she proceeded to do laps and squeal and try to escape outside.  I took them grocery shopping afterwards, and that was even less productive.  I just put them down for a nap, but not before Mae could dump out three glasses of milk all over the floor, dump out half a box of Cheerios, and beg to eat anything but the one thing I had made her for lunch.

Having a two and a three year old is crazy making.  It makes the house crazy, and it makes me crazy.

But on the way home, I put on this song by Garth Brooks…

I played it over and over again.

And I was struck with the magic of motherhood.

Yes, they run away from me in public places.  But that’s because they know I will follow.

Yes, they test their limits and see what they can get away, and that’s because they know my love doesn’t follow the whims of my moods, and it’s not dependent upon their actions.

They might keep me up all night, many nights, but that’s because they want me near them, comforting them.  They want to remember the smell and the touch they knew before I knew their faces.

They want to be with me, practically on top of me, most of their waking hours.  And that feeling of being touched out can be acute.   But my personal space is a gift I give.  Not always happily but always freely.

And I give them my time.  I make their meals and wash their clothes and change diapers and do potty duty.  I read to them.  I sing to them.  I dance with them.  I make silly faces to make them laugh.

I listen, patiently, to Magoo’s stories.  The stories that can go on for hours.  The stories she saves for me.  She’s not very shy.  She’s pretty extroverted.  And yet there are some things that she saves only for my ears.  And the responsibility of that and the privilege of that… I’m not sure what could possibly compare to being the keeper of secrets and the guardian of hearts so precious and so dear and so innocent.

When I think back to those heady days I lived waiting for Magoo to make her appearance, I realize that I didn’t know how difficult motherhood would be.  And because of that, I didn’t know, I didn’t have any clue, just how joyous and blessed it is.

Motherhood changes us.  There is no doubt about that.  And it changes us because it infiltrates every aspect of our lives.  It asks more of us.  It demands more of us.  And because of that, it stretches us.

Anyone can love a child.  It’s remarkably easy.  But only a parent will dedicate their lives to that child.

And that is a blessing and a calling and a vocation.  It’s not a job.  It’s not a list of tasks.  It’s a giving of oneself, wholly and completely.

And to be that person for someone, to hold that tremendous amount of responsibility…

To be that trusted and that needed and that wanted…

Well, it’s the closest thing to Heaven that I have found.

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Seeking Radical Grace

Can we all make a collective promise, right now, to try to show ourselves mercy and grace? And can we then have enough mercy and grace to forgive ourselves when we fail in this endeavor?

I have had a really rough time the past two days.  I’ve just been in a major funk.  I’ve found it hard to function on the level I have wanted to.  I’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed and lethargic.  I haven’t been very patient, and I look around at all the mess that accumulated over the weekend, and I get down.  I feel like I can’t get on top of it.  It’s like it sits there taunting me, telling me I’ll never be good enough.

And yet I try to treat people with respect.  I try to teach my girls to respect themselves and others.  I preach forgiveness to them until I am blue in the face.  Before they are even able to speak, I lecture them about the human proclivity towards error and I then urge them to always forgive themselves and always show mercy towards others.

But children have this nasty little habit — they tend to learn from what we do rather than what we say, and they tend to understand more about what we do than we think or wish they do.

And so, of course, that gives me even more reason to beat myself up.  Not only in this mindset hurting myself, but it’s slowly sleeping into my girls’ consciousness.

I don’t know about you, but I have an extraordinarily hard time allowing myself grace.  I actually actively rebel against it.  I fear it more than I fear almost anything.

To me, showing myself grace means complacency.  It brings us too close to abandoning our standards.  My deepest fear has always been that if I learn to forgive myself, I will give myself permission to act recklessly.  I guess deep down I believe that holding myself to strong standards and refusing to allow myself grace for failures actually keeps me in line, and without that, I couldn’t trust myself.

And the ironic part is that the lack of grace actually draws me more deeply into depression and complacency.  It makes it harder for me to function how I would like to.  And I have a sneaking feeling that it doesn’t do the job of keeping me on track that I think it does.

And so then I go back to my original question.

What if we offered ourselves radical and unconditional grace?  What if when we erred, we made our amends, and then we refused to wallow in it or allow ourselves to be defined by it?  What if we were active examples of God’s grace in this world?

How would things be different if you did a one week experiment where you refused to judge yourself?

I tend to think our world would be a bit kinder.  A bit brighter.  And a whole lot gentler.

Ironically, there shouldn’t be anything radical about grace.  It should be built into our souls.  But it’s not.  It gets lost somewhere in this world just like most virtue does.

But if we hold our grace close to our hearts, if we hold on to it as deeply as we hold onto anything, if we distribute it to both ourselves and others with total abandon… well, just think how much more light would surround us.  How much freer we would be.  How much less encumbered.

It’s a tall task.  It requires more of us than we can sometimes give.  We won’t find very many examples out in this world of it.  It will occasionally make us feel vulnerable and different.

But very rarely can change come without vulnerability, and never can change come when we follow the standards of this world.

Grace can change the world out there, and it can change the world inside our hearts.  We just need to trust in it and follow it.  It might feel like jumping off a cliff, but my guess is that instead of falling, we will soar.

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One of Those Days

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Today within thirty seconds of waking up, Mae and Goose had both jumped in my bed and were physically fighting each other over who got to lie closest to me.  I’m the only one who got hurt.

Mae has refused to eat anything of any nutritional value whatsoever.  Daddy brought home donuts on Saturday.  She knows they are in the cabinet.  She is on a hunger strike until I give in and feed her them and only them.

She has also learned how to open the silverware drawer.  All she can reach is the knife cubby.  No good is going to come of this.

I broke out the dry erase markers this morning so the little two could play with their new easel.  There is more marker on their faces…and hands…and clothes than on the actual board.  That’s okay because they have already lost all of the caps, so the markers are sure to not work for more than another day or two.

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The fights in here rival the WWF except on a much shorter scale.  I’m not sure if the majority of their moves are actually allowed in civilized fighting.

I let Mae cry it out at nap time.  This was only the second time in almost seven years that I let a child cry it out.  I was at a loss.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I judge myself for this more than anyone else could.  And yet I don’t regret it.  Sometimes temper tantrums are just temper tantrums even when they occur in bed.  It didn’t last that long.  Still, I feel guilty.

On the way home from school today, Magoo told me that she couldn’t wait to become a mother.  She told me that she thinks it’s going to be so awesome when she has her own kids.

And I almost started to cry.  Because it is awesome.  It is so awesome.

Even though sometimes I find myself trying to will bed time to come.  Even though sometimes the constancy of the door opening every thirty seconds while I shower for someone to tattle makes me want to scream.  Even though sometimes I do scream.

Sometimes I think I’m just not selfless enough.  I try to remember that to love is to sacrifice and that when we love deeply we sacrifice constantly.

And I like that portion of it.  I like that it’s hard.  I like that it requires so much.  I like that it allows me to look outward and give rather than receive.

But every so often, it makes me want to hide under the bed and not come out until tomorrow.

Today is one of those days.

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This Writing Life

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Writing is really weird.

But it’s weird in good ways.

Some times I sit here and I think something, and then I write it out, and the most amazing thing happens… people read it!  If I post it to one of the other blogs I write for, sometimes tens of thousands of people read it.

And I don’t really know what to do with that.

On the one hand, it’s really cool.  In fact, it’s about the coolest thing I can think of.  It’s what I have wanted to do my entire life, and now I am doing it.  Me.  Of all people, me.

On the other hand, it’s really scary.

I’ve never heard of a self confident writer.  I’m sure there exists one somewhere, but as a lot, we are a doubting group.  We are always our worst critics.  And for every high we get from sharing our words, we have thousands of moments huddled  in corners, scared to show our faces to the light.

And the thing with writing is that we do it without knowing where it is going.  Most of us (myself most definitely included) don’t have people knocking down our doors begging us to write best sellers.  There’s no guarantee that our words will reach anyone at all.  And if they do, what will people think?  Will they be welcomed and enjoyed, or will we be humiliated, metaphorically standing in front of a classroom in only our knickers like that dream so very many of us have.

And then there’s the whole issue of blogging in general.  There’s less of a filter in this medium.  For the most part, there is instantaneous publication.  I think a thought, I write it down, I hit the little blue button, and Bam!  Out it goes into the world.  With the other sites I write for, there is a slight delay.  But I tend to get writer’s amnesia.  I forget what it is that I write as soon as I have written it.  It’s kind of like childbirth.  Once I go through the experience, it’s erased from my memory.

I’ve considered writing in other formats.  I’ve considered freelancing.  I’ve (ever so briefly) considered fiction.  Those felt a bit more comfortable on the one hand.  There’s a bit more distance for me.  I can hide behind characters and say that it’s not really me.

But on the other hand, that’s now what I want to do.  I don’t want to write about someone else’s topic, and I don’t want to take the time or effort required of fiction.  I want to think my thoughts and share them unfiltered.

And that is absolutely and completely crazy.  Who opens their minds and shares what’s in them?  Especially to people they know.  After all, I have no problem writing for other sites for strangers.  I wouldn’t care if a hundred million strangers read my deepest thoughts.  But a handful of people I know?  That’s as scary as any precipice I can imagine.

I’ve been thinking about this writing life lately.  It gives me a high.  In so many ways, it is exactly what I have always wanted to do.  I feel blessed beyond measure.  And yet I feel silly and frivolous.

And I guess that’s just what it is.  I guess maybe those tough parts don’t really go away.  Maybe we just get better at dealing with them?

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Who Are Your People?

Who are your people?

Who comes when the phone rings?  Who is on the other side when there’s a knock at the door?

Whose jokes do you know by heart?  Who makes you laugh?  Who feels like home?

In times of joy, who do you seek to celebrate with?  In times of sadness, on whose shoulder do you cry?

Who falls to their knees when yours are too battered and bruised and broken?

Who holds you up when your legs are unsteady?

Who loves your kids when they are lonely and vulnerable?

I used to be afraid of friendship.  I used to equate it with control and judgment and pain.  I told myself I didn’t need many people.  I believed my small circle was enough.  No more were needed; no more were welcome.

It’s a trap I believe many of us fall into.  We are so busy and harried and all we want to do is lock our doors at night and keep ourselves in and the world out.  Other people are messy.  They require work.  They require sacrifice.

After years of hiding from people in a burrow of fear and doubt, I slowly started to open myself up again.  It was hard.  It was scary.  To this day, I still silently hope a cancellation will come ringing before I am about to go out there into that world.  My hands shake; my heart races.

But still I go.

Because people are the blessings we are given.

We lie and tell ourselves that our careers will make us happy.  We tell ourselves achievement is key.  We believe big houses will fulfill us.

But when it all come to an end and we are left with a heart exposed to the world, will the careers hold our hands?  Will the achievements remind us of hope?  Will our fancy houses be any more than a soft place to lie our heads?

When we find ourselves standing above an abyss, fearing the fall, hopeless that any more good can come, it is our people who will bring us back.  Who will remind us of what life is.  Who will be an example of how to start living again.  Who will breathe for us when we are unable.

So who do you hold close?

Who do you look to?

Who are your people?

Hold tight.  Don’t let them go.

They are what is indisposable.

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Who Sees You?

A friend of mine invited me to tag along to her mom’s group this morning.  It’s a large group of women at a local church, and it’s set up quite nice.  The morning starts off with breakfast and then there is a speaker before it ends with small table discussions.

Today’s presentation was about a mother’s need to take care of herself.  It fit perfectly for me as one of the reasons I chose to go was because it would mean an hour and a half of adult time all by myself as the church provided day care.  An hour to myself is basically unheard of for me.  I do have about an hour at night before I go to bed, but I’m usually so exhausted by then that there’s not a whole lot I can do besides knit.  I could count on my fingers how many times during the day I have been by myself for even an hour since Magoo was born.

So today was awesome.  Mae only lasted for about an hour in the daycare before she freaked out and they had to come get me, but still… an hour to talk with other grown ups about grown up things without having to rush off every five seconds to catch someone trying to run into the street or stick rocks up her nose.

The speaker spoke about how necessary it is that we refill our buckets so that we have something to give to our families.  She told stories about her own life, and she gave us some tips for bringing balance into our lives.  But it was one thing she said that stood out to me, and she said it almost in passing and about another topic.  She mentioned the idea of being seen.

Now I think people probably think I’m very well composed because I don’t cry in public very often.  That’s all because of a silly anxiety issue I have with it.  I actually start to cry in public at least once a day.  And at that moment, when she mentioned the concept of being seen, I felt the sting in my eyes.

To be seen… Is that what we are all searching for?

I think about my day to day life.  I think about all that I do for the kids.  I think about how much of a struggle it can be some days just to get all three of them dressed and fed, and then when you add up everything else that constitutes a day with three small children, it can get overwhelming.  Often, by the end of the day, my thoughts are swirling all around me because I passed overstimulated about an hour into my day and I have spent the rest of the day just trying to catch up.

And then I think about what I do, or at least try to do, for my home.  How I try to maintain certain standards, how sometimes the standards of orderliness conflict with the standards of freedom I hold for my children.  I think about how much this little nest means to me and how sometimes (meaning all the time,) my needs for a calm nest butt up against their needs for an inspiring nest, and we are all left confused and overwhelmed.

And I thought about what I try to do for my husband.  And what I more often than not fail to do.  How I try to support him in his work.  How I try to do as much as I can so that he can relax a little when he gets home.  (Which never happens by the way.)  How I try to be there for him and give to him emotionally and almost always fail because I am drained myself without much more to give.

I think about all of this, and I realized that if someone came and said they could take part of it off of my plate, I would say no.  If someone said I could bypass three things that I do with or for my children and they would turn out just fine, I would still do them.  If suddenly someone offered to come into my house once a week and clean up and make it comfortable and homey and inspiring and clean, I would pass the offer up.

Because the thing is that despite how overwhelmed and overstimulated and overbooked I am, everything I do is to show love for the people I love.  Every task I complete is a gift of myself that I give freely and willingly and in the name of love.

I don’t do what I do for outcomes.  No moms of young children can.  Most of what we do is undone within moments, and our most important work takes years to see results.

We don’t do it for money or power or accomplishment or pride or really for any worldly reasons.  We do it because of love.  But…

That doesn’t make it any easier.

And I realized at this event this morning that what I really want isn’t for someone to lessen my load.  All I really want is for someone to see my load.  I want someone to see what I do.  I want someone to appreciate what I do.  I want someone to see that there is a person who is behind all of this doing and that she actually is about more than just laundry and diapers.

In short, I want someone to see what I do, and I want someone to see who I am.

And the rub is that children can’t do this.  Children are biologically wired to be self-centered.  It’s not their job to validate us.

So I think what we are left with is a need to validate ourselves and a need to see ourselves in all our complexity and diversity and messiness.

I am remarkable at seeing what I don’t do.  I see my failures. I see the times I lost my temper.  I see the times I let things slide.  I see the times I forgot something that needed to be done.

But I don’t always take the time to see the rest.  I remember the lost sock but forget all that is found.  I see the books I failed to read to them but turn a blind eye to the dozens in the already read pile.  I recognize where I don’t stack up, but I am utterly blind to the ways that I do.

And I spend all my mental energies focusing on seeing them.  I see their looks of disappointment when they can’t have something they want.  I see the joy when they complete a task well.  I pay attention to their reactions when their sisters treat them certain ways.  I look closely at their faces as they leave school so I can read how the day went.

I see their struggles.  I see their triumphs.  I worry about their futures and I fret over their pain.

But in all that seeing of them, I fail to see myself.  I fail to see my own triumphs and disappointments and joy and pain.

Sure children don’t really see their parents as people.  They are too young for that.  But we aren’t.  We can see ourselves as people if we want to, if we choose to.  We can focus on our feelings and our goals and our beliefs and our values if we give ourselves permission to be seen and understood even if it is only by ourselves.

Seeing ourselves, validating ourselves, isn’t a luxury.  It’s not selfish.  It’s not self-centered.

If we want to be balanced, it is absolutely necessary.

Parenting young children is a unique season in life.  Very rarely is so much expected of us.  Very seldom do we give so much.  That’s a blessing and a challenge.

I postulate, however, that the challenges might seem slightly more bearable if we vowed to see ourselves truly for who we are and what we do.  If we listened to our hearts and we bypassed judgment and instead learned to embrace who we are.  If we learn to validate that which we do well.  If we realize that mom is a person no more or no less than every other person in our family.

We can’t expect all of who we are to be seen out there.  But we can work hard to see ourselves.

And my hope is that through that, we will give those around us light to shine as well.

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In the Darkness There is Light

Sometimes I take a look around, I take a moment to breathe, and I am lost.  I’m left wondering how our hearts are supposed to hold the sorrow of this world.  How we can look despair in the face and stand back up.  How we can see hearts breaking and remain whole.  How we can stay open and conscious and not crumble.

It’s hard to understand a world where teenagers are taken in a car on a dark road in too much fog and their families are left to make a life without them.  It’s hard to understand a world where a little girl with life in her eyes and love in her heart has to lay her head on her pillow tonight and fall asleep in a world her father no longer resides in.

I try to understand.  I try to rationalize and analyze and come to grips.  And yet I can’t.  Because on this side of the divide, these are senseless happenings.  They are undeserved sorrows.  They are hills no one should have to climb.

And yet we all do it.  Tragedy is not new and it’s not over and it’s not limited to one corner of the world.  It’s all around us, as real as the air we breathe and the ground we tread upon.

I went to a prayer service tonight.  It was quiet and peaceful and holy.  Very, very holy.  I looked around and everywhere I turned, heads were bowed, hands we clasped in prayer.  Prayer for the victims of tragedy.  Prayer for the mother who has to raise four children on her own.  Prayer for children who need to learn to live without their dad.

And I couldn’t help but feel confused.

During times of sadness, how are people so trusting in God?  How do they lift up their prayers and trust that they are heard?  How do they trust that their petitions aren’t in vain?

And moreover, how do they trust at all when tragedy exists?  How do they say, we accept this, Your will be done?

And then I realized that it’s not about it making sense.  It’s not about figuring it all out.  It’s not about knowing the reasons or enjoing the means.

It’s about knowing that there is a purpose because in the still, quiet moments we hear a voice inside our souls whispering to us.  It’s about trusting that voice.  It’s about believing that the God who died on a cross for us will use pain to come to grace.  It’s about trusting that the fire will purify and cleanse and protect.

It’s not about understanding.  It never has been.

We will never understand why we have peace while others live in war, why we have plenty and others have few, why we sleep in peace while others mourn losses we cannot even fathom.

We live our lives with the blinders of our station.  We live our today, we see what is within our sights, we hear as far as our ears can reach.  And that is it.

For the rest, we must give up the fight for understanding and instead fight the battle of trust.  We need to learn humility and know that our ways are flawed and our knowing limited.  We need to learn acceptance of that which we despise and remember that at times we despise because we do not understand.  We need to learn grace, realizing that in this broken and limited and sometimes blindingly sad world, the only gifts we have to give are trust in God and grace towards each other.

We aren’t mean to know it all and control it all and run it as we see fit.  We are meant to do the next best thing and trust God to lead us to the rest.  Through the darkness.  Through the sorrow.  Through the pain.  Until one day we wake up in perpetual light.

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Sharing Grace

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One of my precious daughters, I’ll save her the future embarrassment of sharing which one, spent the better portion of three hours today crying.  Long, drawn out, right in mama’s ear sobs.  Everything was just so tragic.  At once she was too hot, then too cold.  Then she learned that bees would be out in a couple of months.  Really, it was too much for a little girl to handle.

I tried to remain composed during this time, but let’s just say I didn’t completely succeed.

Just as she was trying my last nerve, I looked back at her in her car seat.  She took a moment’s pause between sobs, and when she caught my eye, she gave me a little half grin.  She held my gaze for a good few seconds, and in those seconds an understanding occurred.  She saw that I loved her even though she had to have known she was not behaving properly.  And she saw that I wouldn’t leave her.  She saw the steadiness in her mama’s love.  And I saw my little baby girl, not so much of a baby most days, but still not very far off.

Then the moment was broken as something else tragic happened to her – I can’t remember what it was.  Perhaps her jacket was the wrong shade of lavender.  But I fixed my eyes back on the road in front of me and left as the light turned green.

As I drove off, I was reminded that mothering can be hard.  Mothering little people has tested my patience in more ways than I can count.  But every day I am reminded that those little moments, those five seconds of a shared gaze, can make hours of a tantrum worth it.

Mothering isn’t always about saying the right thing or doing the right thing.  It’s not always about guiding and teaching and sharing.  Sometimes, it’s just about saying that I will be right here.  Always.  By your side.  It’s about teaching a child that their ugly is still lovable.  That their imperfection is acceptable.  And that when they need reassurance, they never need look further than the lady in the driver’s seat.

I’m sure I could have handled her tantrums better.  I’m sure I could have done a better job of calming her down before it turned into a tantrum.  But in that moment, she and I shared grace.  A grace mutually given and received.  We loved each other during our less than lovable moments.  And because of that, a little beauty grew from the weeds.

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