Saturday, September 10, 2022

ode to questions



A question wielded skillfully in hand

can be a friendly tap, a gentle nudge

an invitation to a world of thought

a tool to break the lock that wouldn’t budge



a question is a gun, a live grenade

a way to test a mental universe

a dare, a threat, a scalpel and a light

for truth to shine and darkness to disperse

Sunday, August 7, 2022

How a weak adjective helped restore my focus

What does it mean to be a good mother? To live this season well?

What will my kids remember, what forms of pouring out will fill them up in ways that matter?


I ask these questions when we pause from school. I try to take a breath, to orient myself again towards the most important things. 


What does it mean to live well, today? Answers come at me from all directions like wild animals. 


Have you seen their bedrooms? They need better daily habits; hospitality and service begins in the home, do they even understand that?

Note the conflict! We should talk more about compassion, self control, and forgiveness in this place. Managing one’s own body and spirit is probably the most important thing, really.

But also, the future is coming; do they even know what they’re going to do after high school? They should be asking questions, exploring options, feeling it all out NOW! Don’t waste the life you have been given, children!

Wait, what about playfulness? The checklists can strangle a human spirit! We MUST learn to live and play and be small together. This is how we learn to live under the gospel, to breathe in grace together- God upholds the world, we do not!


So I am over here cultivating an atmosphere of…

productive, driven, mindful, playful grace …. ???  Sure.


What do you do when it ALL matters? 

When you find yourself as a human with limits and impossible, important, competing, valuable goals?


------


The other day I was cleaning the school room and I came across this old piece of paper.


“I love how you are always there in the morning.” - Peter


Hard pause.


I could notice the handwriting and spelling: has it even improved, am I failing him in this area?
I could notice that this idea I had once about saying nice things to each other in writing was a good one, and I could wonder why haven’t we continued to do that, and I could start a plan to implement another system, another habit…


But instead I noticed the adjective, the plain, old adjective: there. 


He loves how mom is always there.

Not always patient, always fun, always teaching, always organized, or even always sane!


Just… there.


“I love how you are always there in the morning.”


----

Can showing up daily, imperfectly, really be enough? Can this blind, staggering best-guessing parenting somehow really bless these kids, really result in faithful functional adults?


Fear drives me so much in my parenting.  I don’t want to choose the wrong things, to miss the big things, to mishandle the important things and yet I feel like I do that very thing constantly.  If their success depends on my righteousness or enoughness, the weight of it all will crush me. But what if it doesn’t? What if their lives are complicated equations that God is working out, and I am just a factor, and the Creator of all things can take not only my faithfulness but even my brokenness and work it into the equation for their good?


 If i can remember that He is the Author here, 

that He loves them more than I do, 

that He uses crap for fertilizer, 

then maybe I can keep showing up, imperfectly, relentlessly.


God, grant us the courage, morning after morning, to be there.



*Confession- this post was delayed in publishing because I chased the rabbit trail question “Is the word ‘there’ an adjective or an adverb?”  There are plenty of uses for the word “there,” and they’re complicated. So there.




Tuesday, May 17, 2022

thoughts on boulders

 

Another day of

pushing boulders up a hill,

using back and hands and face and feet

being the momentum behind it all,

fighting complaints, laziness, gravity, the universe itself

holding the boulders up, and the standards

accountability and measuring progress

with shaking arms and sweat and exhausted determination


She’s trying to convince the boulders that UP is UP

when they argue “what’s even the point?” 

thinking that they would be happier if mom would just let them go

that a roll downhill would be fun,

they want peace in the valley

(the mountain is too much work)

and she does too! But pushing boulders up a hill

bearing the weight of each one and the way they should go

(always up,

always up,

miles and miles more to go)

this seems to be her job right now


always up, she pushes

boulders who sometimes hate her for pushing

angry boulders 

who wish they were anywhere else but here

on this mountain,

with her

and the constant pushing.


Will they be happy to know

that her arms are giving out?

Will she be flattened when she lets go?


---

She’s taking a minute, these days,

She’s sitting, for just a minute, and she’s wondering…

Is she living the wrong metaphor?


What if kids don’t actually need to be FORCED through the seasons

What if the growth is what’s natural, not just the gravity,

What if growing up is more like rolling DOWN the hill?


What if gravity and growth are both the work of God

a work that will happen with or without her?


How much of her parenting efforts are like trying to turn a river sideways,

when really all the river needs is a little bit of shoring up on the sides?

Or maybe some rivers do need turning, but she’s not strong enough


If she died tomorrow, time will keep moving and they will keep growing, rolling without her.

They would still grow up.


What if some of her pushing boulders UP the hill is actually fighting the plan of God,

pushing against her own powerlessness,

trying to control what she can’t control,

pushing hard against simply LETTING God’s plan unfold?


What if they are all going to grow up with broken parts,

like she did, 

and what if there’s nothing she can do about that?
And what if God will help them work it out 

and cover it all in grace 

and it will still be OK?


What if He actually has a purpose for them?
What if it includes suffering?
What if she could believe suffering didn’t mean his absence,

didn’t mean all was lost?

What if she didn’t think it was her job to help everyone avoid pain?


What if her work to avoid suffering 

is pushing a boulder up a hill

fighting gravity

AND fighting God?


What if no matter what she does the boulders are going to roll

and her only real choice is to fruitlessly fight it

or get out of the way?

And sometimes even be flattened by it?


What if boulders rolling down the hill

are not always plans out of control, 

or despair, 

or backtracking,


but are sometimes like shedding a weight not meant to be carried,

like joyful resignation,


like

children running down a hill,


learning how legs work, 

how grass feels under their feet

taking the risks of falling, 

wind in their hair,

gaining speed, 

figuring it out


what if the boulders are people, 

learning to run and not grow weary


gravity and God and risk and suffering and joy all together


What if someday she could learn to run with them?



Monday, April 18, 2022

not the doctor

 Can we put our struggles under a microscope, can we dice up our brain-body-soul in such a way that we can categorize all the pieces? 

Biology, idolatry, chemical triggers, environment, selfishness, need, wounds given, wounds received, genetics, and downright sin- What is what and how does it all go together? 


I once thought the answer to that question was of supreme importance. 


Surely, I need to sort it out, because I need to respond and work in the right direction in order to heal, right? 


Well, no, actually.


I am not the physician here. I am the patient; and all that is required of me is check in to the hospital.  The healing work is Jesus’ work. 


What is sin-- He sees, and forgives, cleanses. He makes the crooked places straight.

What are wounds- He sees, and He listens to their stories while He treats them. Many are still healing; He checks on them often.

What is weakness--- He sees, and sometimes we start physical therapy.
Sometimes, even if I want physical therapy, He gives me the gift of acceptance instead, and teaches me to compensate, to hobble along imperfectly, and to stop fighting for something that is not promised. 


When it’s all tangled up and I’m just a mess of need, He is not unsettled. 


He simply pulls up a chair next to my hospital bed and hears me out. Then He reminds me of His capability, and tells me I should drink some water and take a nap. 


Healing takes time.


Jesus is near me as my surgeon, nurse, and friend.


Biology, idolatry, chemical triggers, environment, selfishness, need, wounds given, wounds received, genetics, and downright sin- What is what and how does it all go together? 


Child, you can rest without all the answers. Jesus is your physician, and you are in His care.


Trust his prescription for you, one day at a time. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

impossible peace

I have been at war with my own body since as long as I can remember.  


I have lived in a world with too much food and not enough food simultaneously, always, in a body screaming and nagging all the time, cravings clawing at my brain and even thinking in my own voice, bullying and manipulating for the sole purpose of keeping me in the crazy cycle. My body literally cannot tell me what to eat or when to stop because it’s distorted and twisted and broken and craving and starving in ways that nobody can see. 


About 3 years ago, I was driven (again) to desperate googling, and I came across the words “food addiction.” I didn’t think it was a real thing, but the more I read the more I saw myself, the more I finally felt like my battle was becoming clearer.


I say it with confidence now. I am a food addict. 


When I say “addict,” I do not mean I just really like food, or that I am a little emotionally dependent on food. I am using that word in its most serious sense: persistent, compulsive use of a drug despite substantial harm and adverse consequences.


I have lived with “Oh no, this is hurting me/ ruining my life;” and also “I can’t stop, why can’t I stop?” I am “unable to call to mind with sufficient force the suffering of a day/week/month ago to stop myself from picking (food) up again…” 


UNABLE. Like, my brain CANNOT do it. I have a massive blind spot: I cannot trust my own brain to make reasonable decisions around food. (To realize one cannot trust one’s own brain is rather terrifying.)


I have been staggering down the path of recovery, and trying to live in accordance with what I have learned in these years.  I am not “all better,” I have come to accept that I will never be “normal” in this life.  But I am learning to live in a freedom I never thought possible before, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about it.


I have an addiction, an eating disorder, a brain set out to destroy me with food / drink (or anything else ya got, probably)


I am an addict. 


And it’s also true that I am OK. 

I’m great, even; by the grace of God and with the help of others.


For me, peace and freedom is only possible when I hold the hand of Jesus and walk inside the boundaries layed out in Bright Line Eating.  This is my treatment plan:. No sugar. No flour. Weighed, measured, pre-planned meals. No snacks, no impulse food decisions. Ever. 


That sounds intense, and it is. It is a treatment plan for an intense problem. 


I would have never tried this had I not been sick and desperate. I would never have followed it one day at a time if I did not have active help from God Himself and the support of others. 


It is no small thing for me to be able to write these words with honesty-- 


I am no longer at war with myself.

I am learning another layer of living  “weak and loved” as God meets me in this weakness. And even in this, He forgives, loves, and provides, abundantly, and proves to me over and over that He is faithful and He is enough.


----

Why am I sharing this? 


In part, because I was helped by other people sharing their stories. Addiction comes with oceans of shame, and shame bullies us into isolation. Isolation is the opposite of what we actually need to heal. 


The reality of the grace of God in Christ frees us to be the children that we are; to come to God with a tangled mess of a life and barf it all out in front of him and then let HIM put the pieces back together.  Speaking truth in the presence of God and others (and others) is the beginning of health and freedom. 


If this resonates with you, consider researching food addiction, and know that there IS help.

Check out my favorite resources including Bright Line Eating 

(especially the addiction susceptibility scale/ quiz)


You are not uniquely broken. 

You are not alone. 

There is hope.



Thursday, March 10, 2022

the grip of things undone

 The undone things around this place are killing me.

Literally, suffocating me, like a vice grip around my throat.


It feels like there is not enough time to do all the things,

not enough time to do them a hastily,

and certainly not enough time to do them all well.


And a friend says to me:

“There is always time to do the will of God.”


And that sentence seems trite, and mean, and obnoxiously true, and it doesn’t match my feelings one bit. 


God doesn’t want me to do more things than I have time for, right? My mind believes this but my feelings absolutely do not.  Why is this? What pressures are on me and where are they coming from?  And how do I set them down? 


What if “God’s will for this day” actually FITS into this day? What if it includes doing some but not all of the possible things, and what if that is OK? 


If that’s true, then maybe it’s ok to just steadily work through the day one thing at a time; to set aside frenzy and panic, and to chip away as the day allows

and then take the pile of undone things at the end of the day and commend them to him… like some kind of lenten offering?


It seems so backwards to “offer” such things;

not my shiny finished things but the things that have fallen off the list,
the things that nag me, the things I would do if I were actually a machine and never ever needed food or rest; the way life would be if I had no limitations, if I was more than human.


What could that look like?




Lord this is me giving up getting it all done, here’s my pile of NOT works, anti-works, unworks. 


In giving these to you I am laying down my ‘need’ to be perfect and in control of all the things. In laying this pile at your feet I am confessing the truth that I am small; I am not the glue that holds the world together;  life is messy and I'm not in control of that either. I confess that there are things I could still be working on, there are tasks undone, and I confess that I am not even sure I have chosen my priorities rightly in the endless choices of triage. 


If I am to rest, to be OK in my own soul and skin here in this place of endless demands, I must learn to accept both work and rest as a gift from your hand, refusing to believe that I am constantly getting graded on an impossible checklist. Teach me how to let go, and how to hold on to You. Help me keep showing up because I know that showing up faithfully matters more than any of it, and when I am weary of even showing up give me your strength to borrow.  Show up faithfully for me, Lord, and for my family today, right here with all the loose ends flying around.  Amen.

---


The vice-grip around my throat is not the hand of God.


May His kind hand and his gracious presence be seen and known in our homes today.


Thursday, March 3, 2022

relentless showing up

 A parsonage with high ceilings and polished wood in a tiny Wisconsin town, a home run by a mother who loves that small town, her church, the snow, and her husband.  She is skilled in making a house a home and her careful touches shine from every corner. Our guest room had a basket with clean towels, water bottles, and snacks; it was more warm and personal than any hotel room could have been.


And her children are everywhere! 

A tiny superman robe, booster seats for the car, job lists and burp rags and legos and early bedtimes… I inhabited this world for so many years, but we no longer live here. I joke with my son about his old superhero PJs and how I used to have to reattach his cape like it was my full time job. I pat his broad shoulders and look up at him; it’s even hard for me to believe this man-child once had a tiny boy body.


Those little kid days were so wonderful and sweet and relentless and utterly flattening. I watch my friend serve and love in her circle and then widen it out to include us, so gracefully; I want to tell her I think she’s a superhero but I'm not sure how to say it.


So I tell her yes,  I slept great and thanks so much for the coffee and sausage. And I lean my head on my big-girl's shoulder for a minute, before we say goodbye, and I know my other kids are wondering if I’m going to cry “like nana always does.”


She’s apologetic because she has to leave to run a child to a thing. Of course we would love to stay and chat for days, but her relentless job is calling and so is mine. 


Relentless: that’s what I remember about the younger years. Delightful moments, squeaky voices, and constant, relentless needs. And I remember how hard it was to keep showing up, to every day put hands and heart and back and voice into a job that was never done, that was never completed perfectly, walking on crunchy floors, trying to hard to see and catch little bits of beauty but just feeling so, so tired and so, so needed.


She just keeps showing up, and it’s not perfect, and she has to pray for strength and help so often that she wonders if she is nagging God or doing the right thing in learning how to lean on Him in prayer every five minutes.


And that’s family:  showing up, with the kids and the questions. Making a home.  And sometimes, down to your very body, BEING a home.


For a little while.


Until the seasons change, and showing up starts to look more like letting go; like handing over the keys, hugging goodbye, saying less and praying more.   And I have to pray for strength and help so often that I wonder if I am nagging God or doing the right thing in learning how to lean on Him in prayer every five minutes.


The growing pain-joys are relentless, and my eyes stream with grief-gratitude as I drive home.  


Father, keep showing up for us as the seasons change. May your presence and your grace be as relentless as our need for it. Amen.



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