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You Can Do Hard Things

My daughter was born blind.

When she was three-years-old, it was hard for her to learn self-help skills that come more naturally to sighted children.  Putting on socks.  Using a fork.  As a sighted person, it was hard for me to know how to teach her, and as a parent, it was hard to watch.  If independence was my goal for her (it was and is), I had to insist she learn.  I had to hold her toes to the fire a little bit.  But I also had to acknowledge that it was hard.

Growing up is hard anyway; we ask children to try new things every. darn. day.  ”How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try?”  My brain would implode if I was asked to try half as many new things as the average four-year-old.  Do something that I haven’t mastered?  BUT I MIGHT FAIL.  That’s like asking me to play a team sport.  I break out in hives thinking about it.

Growing up is hard.  Learning to put on shoes is hard.  And it was hard for Madeline.

A phrase I used every day, was

“You can do hard things.”

She wasn’t allowed to say “can’t.”

She could say, “I need help.”
She could say, “This is hard.”
She could say, “I am frustrated,” or “I am tired,” or “I am sad.”
But she couldn’t say “can’t,” and she couldn’t quit.

(I hold myself to the same standard of language and toughness.  It’s always okay to say, “This is REALLY HARD.  I am tired.  I need help.”  But I try not to say can’t.  I try to do the next right thing.  Gotta go through it.  Inch by inch.)

I call my girl Madeline the Brave.  Madeline the Tough.  Madeline the Helpful.  Madeline the Hope-Giver.

For her entire life, I have been telling her, “You can.”

You can do hard things.  And here’s the thing – she has.

I believe in the power of not quitting.  I believe in the power of “You can do hard things.”  Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”  I believe that.  I believe that there is a divine spark in each of us, and that that spark can ignite courage and perseverance and creativity and great compassion.

Here is what I hope for Madeline (and for you and me and everyone):

I hope that I am not the only one telling her that she can.  I hope that a whole host of people rally around her and remind her that she has a divine spark in her, and that just because a thing is hard, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

I saw these two commercials this week, and both of them made me cry.  I’m thankful for the little insurgence of messages like this in advertising.  Alone, they don’t negate all of the terrible messages we get from the people that are trying to sell us things, but there is something inside of us that springs to life when it hears the truth.  Like there is a sleeping cat in our hearts, all drowsy and curled up – but when it hears TRUTH, it shoots its head up, the way cats do, like they are spring-loaded, and it locks eyes with that truth.  There’s a knowing, isn’t there?  My inner cat wakes up in church a lot of times – I’m sitting there listening when he shoots up, and I think, “This thing I’m hearing right now is THE REAL DEAL.”

So I hope that when people – men and women alike – see commercials like these, their inner truth cats sit up.  I hope that in the constant stream of promotion and consumerism and materialism and idolization of beauty, sex, pleasure, and comfort, these messages ring so true that they are downright startling.

ALL THAT TO SAY:

Girls can.
We can do hard things.
Wake up, little truth cats.

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“Don’t be delicate.  Be vast and brilliant.” -Shinedown
Kate

When Motherhood Hurts

Originally published September 21, 2012.

Yesterday morning I was sitting on a long sheet of white paper, waiting for my OBGYN to come in and let me hear my tiny baby’s heartbeat for the very first time, when I got a text message from my friend:

“I’m either having a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t call.  Please pray for us this morning.”

Before I could respond, my doctor came in.

So I sat, listening to the strong, healthy heartbeat of the baby we didn’t plan – the baby we were trying not to have – while one of my best friends sat, hundreds of miles away, bleeding.

I scheduled an ultrasound to determine the sex of our third child; she went into surgery to have the ectopic pregnancy removed.

In that moment everything about motherhood seemed arbitrary and upside down and unfair.

Perhaps the most unfair thing of all is that my friend is not the exception.  Neither are my 6 friends that have miscarried in the last couple of years.  Neither are my 2 friends who are battling infertility.  Neither are my 3 friends who are waiting for adoptions to go through.  Neither is my friend who had an unplanned pregnancy, and just as she was getting through the fear and into the love, lost the baby.  Neither are my dozens of friends who have heard the words, “It’s anencephaly.”  ”It’s cerebral palsy.”  ”It’s autism.”

Neither am I – even I who have easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, and healthy babies.

Two unplanned pregnancies: two rounds of fear, and “I’m not ready,” and “My life will never be the same.”  And one veryhard day when a doctor told me, “There is no treatment; she will never see like you and I can see.”

Thinking about it all, I went back and re-read a chapter of Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, called “Eight for Eight.”  It is all I’ve been able to think about for the last twenty four hours.

Motherhood is the most beautiful, transformative, sacred thing I’ve ever done.  I would choose it again every single time, forever.  But some days – it sure does hurt.

“…And then I realize that as much as I want my friend Jenny’s abs, she wants a baby, and we’re all yearning for something.

When I take a step back, I’m surprised to realize that the topic of pregnancy and birth and mothering, for every single one of us, has been touched with pain or just a shade of heartache.  The odds of that surprise me.  Eight women, and eight stories of waiting or yearning, of brokenness mixed in with deep delight.  If we’re a microcosm, is this how it is?  We’re eight normal women, if normal exists in this or any realm.  And one by one, eight for eight, one or another aspect of motherhood has pricked us and made us bleed.

…As for my dear friends and me, our hearts are full, of course, but also a little tender, bruised, tired.  Motherhood, and the journey towards it, has battered us a little bit, each in our own ways.  From ambivalence to longing to loss, from the anger that our bodies won’t do what we want them to, to the consuming, crushing love for a baby that is just hanging on…Motherhood laughed at our plans, twisted up our expectations, and gave them back to us upside down, covered with blood and stretch marks and Goldfish cracker paste.

We are very thankful, and we adore our children and one another’s children.  But as much as it’s beautiful, the process is a little harrowing.  Who knew we could want something so badly and then not be able to just wrestle it into existence?  Who knew we could want to provide something so desperately for our children, to heal and protect them, but find ourselves profoundly unable?  The stakes have gone up in our lives, the way they do, it seems, every time you decide to love something.”

[Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, 2010]

And oh, how we love them.

#SurvivorSeries  #SurvivingParenthood

Surviving Parenthood

Surviving parenthood is simple.
Why do people think it’s so difficult?

Take if from me, if you do this one thing, you will be the most prepared, peaceful, wise, Zen parent alive.   Here it is:

Redefine everything.

I’ll give you a quick 10 to get you started.

Redefine “clean.”

The Floor:  Is it navigable?  Yes = clean.  No?  Put all toys in a hamper and shove said hamper into the nearest room with a door that closes.  Bam, clean.

The Dishes: Can you see the dirty dishes over the horizon of the sink?  Are they “breaking The Plane?”   No = clean.  Yes?  Rearrange the dirty dishes so that they are no longer breaking the plane.  Bam, clean.

The Fridge:  Can you smell it?  No = clean.  Yes?  Does the smell offend you?   Throw away all Tupperwares and sippy cups.  Do not open them, as curiosity might actually kill the cat here.  Wipe down with Clorox wipes.  Bam, clean.

Your Laundry:  Is there a visible spill/stain?  No = clean.  Yes?  Can you scrape it off with your fingernail?  Can you dilute it with a wet washcloth?  Yes = clean.  No?  Can you smell it from 2 feet away (which is likely the closest you’ll come to another human)?  No = clean.  Yes?  Just wear the jeans again.  Just ooonnneee more time.

The Children’s Laundry:  Do they have pants?  Yes = clean.  No?  Do they really NEED pants today?  No = clean.  Yes?  Go swimming instead.  Bam, clean.

Your Car:  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

2. Redefine “productive.”

Did you do any 3 of the following?

Shower, brush your teeth, change into different pajamas, leave the house, get the mail, make a phone call, reply to an email, feed yourself real actual food, consider exercising.

Yes = productive.  No?  Life is hard, try again tomorrow.*

 *In seriousness, parenting is inch by inch, moment by moment, Chinese takeout by Chinese takeout.  If you nourished the body, mind, and soul of a small, helpless person that has been entrusted to your care, if you taught them about love, and that the world is a safe place for them because YOU are a safe place for them, if you played and cooed and held and disciplined and kissed and nurtured a little heart – you did a great big thing.  You are shaping healthy humans.  You are pouring LOVE into the world, because you are pouring LOVE into another person.  And that is no small thing.  Some days it will cost all you have, and that’s okay.  Spend it.  Pay it.  And don’t think twice about the dishes.

 

3.  Redefine “dressed.”

Men, are you wearing pants?  If so, you are dressed!  Women,  are your breasts covered?  Yes = you are dressed!  No?  Are you breastfeeding?  Yes = dressed!  No?  Put something on, out of the hamper is fine.  Bam, dressed.

4.  Redefine “date.”

You didn’t know these were dates, but they are:

Grocery shopping, watching The Office on Netflix while eating dinner leftovers at 11:30 pm, taking the kids for a walk, holding hands while driving and listening to the Frozen soundtrack, sitting beside each other in church while the kids are in the nursery for a WHOLE GLORIOUS HOUR.

5.  Redefine “privacy.”

The last time I was in the bathroom for any reason and the door was closed was 2007.  Can your neighbors see you?   No = Congratulations, you’ve achieved “privacy.”  Yes? Ces’t la vie.

6.  Redefine “dignity.”

Imagine your child is throwing a holy terror fit because he is possessed by the kind of demon that only comes out by prayer and fasting.  Imagine he is screaming, kicking, gagging, sweating, and very, very red.  Now, imagine that you are in Barnes & Noble, a traditionally quiet establishment.  Imagine that you are dragging your demon out by his arm, at great risk to his tiny shoulder socket, as he flails/gags/kicks/screams behind you.  Imagine that you are visibly sweating through your clothing, and that your mommy muffin-top is poked out because you have another baby on your hip.  The small baby has his arm shoved down between your breasts, exposing your bra to the patrons of Barnes & Noble.  Don’t worry, EVERYONE IS LOOKING.  Imagine that as you drag your noisy, paralyzed demon, that you can hear the other patrons talking amongst themselves about you and your “parenting style,” and that their opinions are neither kind nor empathetic.   Now – are you embarrassed by this?  Yes?  Your pride will be the death of you.  No?  Congratulations, you have achieved Zen parenting.  Drag that demon out as calmly as Linus dragging his blue blanket.  Carry on, warrior.

7.  Redefine “dinner.”

You didn’t know the following things were dinner but they are:

A packet of peanut butter crackers and a glass of milk, cereal, assorted nuts, “pizza” (hotdog buns topped with pasta sauce and shredded cheddar cheese in the toaster oven), baby carrots and pickles, a milkshake from Sonic, a generous helping of Wheat Thins, Pop-tarts, granola bars and bananas.

8.  Redefine “sleep.”

Here is a simple equation to help you determine whether or not you are receiving enough sleep:

Begin with your number of children.
Add six.
Raise to the 4th power.
Divide by the number of pets in your home.
Multiply by zero.
Add 1.

Are you getting at least one (non-consecutive) hour of sleep?  Yes = rested.  No?  Feign serious injury, get admitted to the hospital, and sleep for several uninterrupted hours.  Pay your exorbitant medical bills and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

9.  Redefine “worth.”

You probably thought that you were very enlightened and mature and deep, and didn’t measure your worth by your home, appearance, productivity, job, or general likeability and good-naturedness.  But you did.  Even the Buddha, the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, and the Virgin Mary did.  When you have children you are forced to look that reality in the face, and are confronted with what you’re going to do about it.   Here is the answer:  You must RECKON WITH AND APPROPRIATE the reality that your worth is not in any of those things.  Your worth is in you because you are a person.  Because you have life and breath in you.  Because you were created in the image of God and are loved by Him (scandalous!).  There is no other measure – there could be no lesser measure, and there could be no greater one.

It’s strange that people without children so often feel that their lives are less complete because they haven’t experienced parenthood.  There are so many posts out there saying, “You matter too!”  And at the exact same time, on stage left, parents feel like their lives aren’t worth as much because all they do is raise children.  There are so many posts saying “You matter, too!”

This is evidence that finding your worth anywhere except for inside of your given-to-you-by-your-Creator-life, is hollow.  You can take a deep breath – there’s nothing to earn and nothing to prove.    You are lovely, valuable, enough.

10.  Redefine “love.”

I don’t know how it is true that you can love fully before kids, and then add more fullness when you have them.  I don’t understand the math of heaven, adding fullness to fullness and growing it.   I know that people that do not have children love fully and sacrificially and that their insides twist and flip inside out and they have WHOLE, COMPLETE, INFINITE LOVE.  I know that.  I also know that I have never loved anything on this planet like I love my children.   I can’t figure out how that works, but I believe that it’s true.  Dear mother, you will have to redefine love.  It might not be right away.  It might not be in the hospital.  You might not cry when you hold that new baby that looks like a stranger to you.  But sometime, maybe a week or two in, you will be rocking and soothing in the middle of the night and you will not want to stop.  You SHOULD want to stop, to go back to sleep, but you won’t.  You will want to sit and stare at her forever.  You will never want to blink again.  You will feel fierce and angry at anyone who would ever leave a baby – hurt a baby, neglect or abuse a baby.  Something in you will break like a dam and you will think, “OH.  THIS IS MOTHER-LOVE.”  And you will never, ever, ever, ever be the same again.  I cannot explain that.  I just know that it is.  The love will break you.  You will hurt more, worry more, cry more, despair more.  You will want more, yearn more, scratch and claw more, PRAY MORE.  You will consider the possibility of God more.  I do not know the mechanics of this.  How could love that is already maxed out, grow?  But whatever you think love is, hold on tight.  Because you’re about to be flooded and drowned and smashed and buried in love.   And it is good.

For more from Kate on parenthood, read:

Life, inch by inch
We Keep Our Children’s Secrets
Sunday Confessions
The posts in the “Surviving Parenthood” Tag

Happy Friday

It is the first official Friday of summer!

I hope your weekend is full of things like fresh peaches, ice cream, swim suits, sandals, summer storms, and jars full of fireflies.   I’m traveling for a wedding, so mine will be full of hugs, good tears, and DANCING.

Cheers!
I’ll see you on Monday as the #SurvivorSeries continues.  Happy Friday!

Kate

Gotta Go Through It

Originally published April 6, 2013.

(source)


We’re going on a Lion Hunt! (We’re going on a lion hunt!)
We’re not scared!  (We’re not scared!)
Look what’s up ahead!  Tall grass! 
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Gotta go through it.
Swish, swish, swish.

“Going on a Lion Hunt” was always a favorite of mine – rhythmic, suspenseful and fun.  But now, as an adult, it is also my mantra: what I whisper to myself when I feel the tendrils of despair start to curl around my heart.

All of my favorite people have been through some stuff – terrible, awful, heartbreaking stuff.  I’m proved right every time I meet a new person whom I instantly like; the more I get to know them, the more I learn about the stuff they’ve been through:  chronic illnesses, serious depression, betrayals, affairs, ugly divorces, deaths of children, addiction, cancer.

I like them,  I’ve learned, because those terrible circumstances create something beautiful inside of us.  Something  precious is forged in our hearts as we walk through the difficult, painful places.  The gauntlet strips off pretension, pride, insincerity, piousness, and anything false.  Underneath we find gentleness, humility, wisdom, compassion, bravery, and indomitable strength.  Refined by fire, the Bible calls it, burning off the dross, leaving the gold.

There are no shortcuts to that beautiful, beautiful countenance.  You have to go through some stuff to get there.

Just like there is no shortcut to a baby; you have to go through labor, and morning sickness.

Just like there is no shortcut to a Thanksgiving table full of well-adjusted grown-up children; you have to go through the Terrible 2′s.

There is no shortcut to seasoned love; you have to go through the fights – all of them – no giving up.

There is no shortcut to forgiveness; you have to feel the pain to get to the other side.

There is no shortcut to health; you have to trudge through the pain, the meds, the therapy.

There is no shortcut to healing, to moving on, after a catastrophic loss; you just have to keep walking through.

When it comes to the tough stuff of life, the best way out is always through.

So if this season of life seems so hard you can’t breathe, know that while you might come out weary, broken, a little worse for the wear, you’ll shine.  Refined, like gold.  Take a deep, raggedy breath, say a prayer, and steel yourself.

Because you can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
You gotta go through it.

#SurvivorSeries
 

 

 

Passion is Overrated (On Surviving v. Thriving)

 

The inspirational pin I hate the most today is,

“Life is too short not to do what you love.”

Or something.

I KNOW, I KNOW.
I know what they’re getting at.   They’re getting at living intentionally, taking risks, investing in a preferred future.  They’re getting at tapping into passions, and living a life of courage and adventure.  I believe in all that with my whole heart – so much.

But until the larger population is capable of not applying a cliché that is true sometimes, ALL THE TIME, we have to be careful about the sweeping advice we’re peddling.  “Life is too short not to do what you love” is confusing and hurtful to people who just aren’t there yet.

Here’s a litmus test:  would I tell this to someone living in the third world?  Would I give this advice to a young man living in a Calcutta slum?  What exactly is he supposed to do with that pearl?  I think (having never personally lived that reality) that if he even entertained such a notion, he’d probably think, “You’re telling ME that life is short?”  He might say, “You know what I love?  My family.  School.  The stray dog that lives around here.  Eating.”

We spend all this time telling people that fulfillment doesn’t come from their jobs.  “Stop trying to climb the corporate ladder,” we say.  Then we turn around and in the same breath tell them that if they turned their passions into jobs and lifestyles, they would be happy.

But satisfaction isn’t in your passion-oriented job either.  It’s not in a creative-career.  It’s not in a ministry-career, a giving-career, or a family/parenting-career.  It’s not in any career at all.

We look through a Humans of New York feed, and applaud the blue-collar workers who are sorting linens and scouring industrial kitchens.  We say that they are providing for their families, doing a noble and honorable thing.  Then we turn around and tell people in the same position that they should consider what they’re passionate about.

I am confident that if someone suggested to a migrant worker that he consider what he’s passionate about, they might get an earful.  So here is my new personal rule of thumb, if I wouldn’t say it to a boy in a slum in India, I think twice before saying it to a single mom, or a dad working at Starbucks.

Their lives are very, very different, but the underlying struggle is the same:  they are surviving.

The truth is, must-have-them-to-eat jobs often keep us from doing things we’d rather be doing.  I’m not talking about golf or Netflix.  I’m talking about spending time with your spouse, or attending church.  Things like writing, drawing, and dreaming.  Sometimes jobs take up mental and emotional energy, leaving you unable to spend that limited resource in other, “passion-y” places.

Sometimes parenting takes up that energy.  Sometimes poverty does.  Sometimes divorce does.  Sometimes grief does.

Our privileged culture is guilty of telling people that if this is true for them, they’re doing something wrong.  We are guilty of telling people that if they just TAPPED INTO THEIR PASSION, everything would be better.

Listen – it’s easy for me to say, right?  I mean, writing is my job.  That happened last year.  For the first time ever, I got paid to write something.  I started blogging, and after a few years of hard work for free, Jesus intervened and made everyone very exasperated with TEENAGERS and very interested in what I had to say to them (which, as it turns out, is the same stuff I would say to everyone).

But I am not “doing what I love,” in the way that a lot of people think about “doing what they love.”

I am doing some things I love, sometimes.

The reason I often write about finding joy in rituals – in small, daily ways – is because that is the way that I experience joy.  The way that I experience God.  I get to write, that’s true.  But I get to write at midnight when my kids go to sleep, and I drink a probably-unhealthy amount of coffee, and I almost never do laundry.  I find JOY in my writing.  I am PASSIONATE about it, gifted to do it, and I am among the privileged, no doubt.  But most days, I also find joy in unnecessarily indulgent hand soap.  Joy in morning walks, joy in my (third) jade plant that I have not yet killed.

I am not joyful because of my writing career.  I am not joyful because of my beautiful kids.  I feel blessed and flattened and astonished at those things often, but I am not living in joy because I’m “doing what I love.”

I am joyful because I am thankful.
I am joyful because I am at peace.
I am joyful because of Christ.

Here is what I have to say to those among us that are not “doing what they love.”

If you aren’t to the “thriving” place yet, that’s okay.  If you are just “surviving,” that’s okay.  You aren’t doing anything wrong.  You have not missed your boat.  You are not less inspirational, less mature, less “together.”  You are not less-than.  You have as much wisdom to offer.  As much life in you.  As much story to tell.

You are muscling through.  You are doing the hard work of living.  You know something of grit and self-discipline, and what it means to be sustained through something that is NOT WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE CHOSEN.

If you are just surviving, take away the “just.”  You are SURVIVING.  You are being carried.  You are being sustained.  You have arms to carry you, wings to cover you.  You are hemmed in, behind and before.

You are complete and whole and significant.

And I would change those inspirational pins to say,

“Life is too short not to find one little something that you love.”

Thriving isn’t about finding passion, it’s about finding joy.

The two are related – passion brings divine joy, no doubt.  But so does gratitude.  So does nature.  So does peace.  (Anne Lamott says, “Peace is joy at rest.”  I love that.)

Dear one that is surviving,
I hope that you find one little something that you love.  A ritual.  Something that marks your day.  Your made-bed.  Your little plant.  The game you play with your son on the way to school.  Your evening tea.  Your church.

I hope that, as you practice finding joy there, in that thing, you will come to laugh easier.  That gratitude will increase, slowly, steadily, blooming like a flower in your chest.  I pray that after many months, years, or decades of SURVIVING, one day you will pick up your head and gasp!  I pray that you will see a life peppered with laughter, and gratitude, and peace.  And that you will see that you transitioned to thriving after all.  Maybe without even knowing it.

 __________

Are you surviving or thriving or both?

Do you ever feel less-than because you are “just surviving?”

What does “thriving” look like to you?

How do you balance pursuing your passions and still doing things you don’t love?

 

 

 

To The Survivors, I See You.

I believe that we’ve all been through some stuff.
That every person on the earth has seen a little life. 

It comes with the territory of being born.  We live in a beautiful, but busted-up world, so we all experience varying degrees of brokenness and loss.  No one gets to skip it.

The human body’s ability to overcome is remarkable.  Our bodies HEAL THEMSELVES.  That right there is stranger than fiction.  When we cut or scrape or burn our skin, IT GROWS BACK.  Some of my loved ones have survived polio, cerebral malaria, strokes, terminal cancer, and everything in between.  Some are surviving MS, lupus, and Parkinson’s every darn day.

Our bodies are marvels, but compared to our spirits they’re still the weakest link.   The things the human spirit can overcome are astounding.   Every time you walk down the street, you are brushing shoulders with survivors of grief, war, poverty, addiction, loss, hunger, infertility, abuse, betrayal, homelessness, and persecution.  You share the air with these survivors, you share your neighborhood.

As a race, we are surviving moves, and change, and parenting, and marriage.  We are surviving VBS, and bedtime routines, and student loans (STILL), and Wal-Mart after work, and dating in the 21st century.   Amirite?   We are surviving jobs we hate, but must do, for now.  We are surviving in the wake of unimaginable, unforeseeable, unfair personal tragedy.  We are surviving the battles in our own minds – against jealousy, anger, and insecurity.

Here is what I know:  I know that sometimes, usually from across a table, I look another person in the eye, and I see it.

There’s a spark of recognition when the survivor in me sees the survivor in them – and in that brief-but-transformative moment, we are standing together, arms around each other’s shoulders, surviving.  We almost always smile.

This is the beginning of the #SurvivorSeries that I’ll be blogging for the next few weeks.

We are all, in some way, survivors.  It would be such an honor for you to come, read, and share your thoughts and stories as we go.   For the next few weeks the survivor in you is going to see the survivor in us, and we’re going to stand together.  We are going to laugh, cry, limp, and dance our way through – together.

(If you’re in my real life circle, there will be coffee – because I laugh, cry, limp, dance, ORGANIZE, and CAFFEINATE myself through all crises big and small.  Like breakfast.  And Sundays.)

Cheers to you, survivors.  I see you.

________________________

A few things I’ll be writing about surviving this month: 

-Not “doing what you love”
-Parenthood – specifically bedtime, mealtime, and other valleys of the shadow of death.
-Jealousy
-Getting “The News”
-A move (or, you know, SEVEN MOVES IN SEVEN YEARS)
-A breakup
-Faith

and the things that carry us, like:

-Humor
-Community
-Forgiveness
-Silliness
-and Love.

See you soon!
Love,
Kate

Real Beauty

Good morning, friends!

Here is a round-up of some of my all-time favorite thoughts on real beauty.   Some of these influenced the second chapter of my books, all of them have influenced me.  I hope you’ll save them and savor them when you have the time.

Love,
Kate

(All images are pinned to and sourced on my 10 Things Chapter 2 Pinterest board here.)

Lupita Nyong’o's acceptance speech:

“And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”   (link)

The Aunties, by Anne Lamott:

“”I was not wearing a cover-up, not even a T-shirt. I had decided I was going to take my thighs and butt with me proudly whenever I went. I decided, in fact, on the way to the beach, that I would treat them as if they were beloved elderly aunties, the kind who did embarassing things at the beach, like roll their stockings into tubes around their ankles, but whom I was proud of because they were so great in every real and important way.”  (link)

Swimsuit Ready or Not, by Shauna Niequist

“I’m not going to give in to the cultural pressure that says women’s bodies are only beautiful when they’re very, very small.  I’m going to take up every inch of space that I need, even though our world is obsessed with the idea that women should only take up just the tiniest bits of space.   I’m going to practice believing that I am more than my body…”  (link)

The Danger of Always Looking at Ourselves, by Karen Swallow Prior

“But therein lies the paradoxical power of beauty. It has the power – whether because we possess it or because we lack it – to trap our gaze forever upon ourselves, like Narcissus. At the same time, it also has the power to draw us to the ultimate source of all beauty. We are, after all, made in the image of God, which bestows us with the kind of beauty that Dove can neither give nor take away. As image-bearers of God, our gaze should be directed toward the source of that beauty rather than the reflection. We can treat the beautiful as idols, and thus as the endpoint of our gaze. Or we can treat beaut”y as an icon, the means through which our gaze is directed to God.”  (link)

Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry, by Jazz Brice

“Dove was right about one thing: you are more beautiful than you know. But please, please hear me: you are so, so much more than beautiful.“  (link)

Beauty Routine, by Glennon Melton

“Today I will FILL UP WITH THIS BEAUTY. I will SEE this beauty and really NOTICE IT and smell it and hear it and roll around in it and soak it all up. I will allow all of this beauty to become a part of me- to BECOME ME-  and by the end of the day I will be so freaking beautiful from the inside out that folks will stop and stare, probably.  If you do not feel beautiful then FILL UP, Precious Sister.”   (link)

 

Aaaaand, why I don’t tan:

 

Modesty is Not A Feminine Virtue

This week we’re talking about modesty over on my FB page, because it’s a topic I discuss in the first chapter of my books.

The books explore a very specific slice of modesty (the way we dress) for one reason:  that was the first point on my list of “Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls.”   In the book I talk about things like:

-Expressing yourself with fashion, and dressing intentionally.
-Rejecting the idea that the sexualized parts of women’s bodies should ever be the source of frustration or shame.
-The superpower that is femininity.
-Rejecting the notion that women are responsible for the thoughts and behaviors of men, and rejecting that “modesty” is somehow a tool to protect ourselves from degradation.
-The difference between attention and respect.

I suspect that this chapter might find itself a little bit controversial, but I stand by what’s in there, and I think it’s important.

That said –

It would be a serious oversight, not to mention offensive, to end the conversation there.  Because modesty is not a “feminine virtue.”   And for crying out loud, it’s not about clothing.  The catchphrases coined by the uber-conservatives hoping not to be viewed as misogynistic are way off, too.   “It’s not about hiding,” they say, “it’s about revealing dignity.”

Except, no.  It’s not.  We have to stop insisting that modesty is about “revealing dignity” and “having self-worth,” as if people who feel comfortable in clothing we wouldn’t personally wear simply don’t value themselves enough.   Real modesty isn’t about “revealing dignity” because it isn’t about revealing anything.

Here is what modesty is:

Modesty is humility applied.
It’s humility in a tank top, wisdom in jeans.
It’s a healthy dose of it’s-not-about-me as you go throughout your day.
Real modesty is meekness, which is a human virtue that begins on the inside, and, as we mature, is unstoppably, unavoidably reflected in every area of our lives.

Modesty is about killing that thing inside of us that wants to steal glory, revel in attention, and to see ourselves hoisted onto a pedestal.  The pedestal of “hottest” or “wealthiest” or “most hipster” or “most fit” or “most chic” or “most anything.”

Modesty is about stepping out of the way so that The Thing You’re Living For gets to stand in the spotlight.

Dressing provocatively is certainly one way of drawing attention to yourself, which is how the word “modesty” initially got attached to the idea of COVERING EVERYTHING UP.  But that’s not what it means.  That is one possible implication.

It is possible, and frankly a lot more common, for a PERSON (not just a woman) to have all their assests covered, and still be shouting “NOTICE ME!  NOTICE ME!” with their clothes and their lives.

Notice my bank account.
Notice my trophy spouse.
Notice my business success.
Notice how cute I am.
Notice how cultured I am.
Notice how MORAL, and RIGHTEOUS I am.

There’s nothing wrong with being noticed, but it works better when we notice each other instead of noticing ourselves.  There’s less competition, more connection.  There’s less looking in the mirror, and more looking up and out and forward.  There’s more appreciation of the beauty and gifts and skills around us – because when we aren’t preoccupied with our own hooting and hollering, we can finally, finally see it.

Real modesty happens when we side-step out of the spotlight, making space for the things that we’re passionate about to shine.  The stuff that’s bigger than us.  The stuff that matters more.

For me, that’s the gospel of Jesus.

Here is the question I’m asking myself this week:

What would it look like if I made one small, practical change to live more modestly?  To stop trying to draw attention to myself for whatever reason?

I’m a little tender about it, because it’s forcing me to examine all the places I try to be the center of the story.  It’s so ugly, glory-hogging.  But it’s tender because it matters.  Humility, modesty, selflessness – these are holy, sacred things.   They matter, and I’ve decided that pursuing them is worth the discomfort it costs.  I’ve got to look my own ugly in the face.

Will you join me in considering?

How might it look to live more modestly on social media?
How might it look to speak more modestly?
To spend money more modestly?  Not just necessarily less, just different.
How might it look to “church” more modestly?   Oh, snap.
And, yes, to dress more modestly.  Not frumpily, not puritanically, not to hide, or to shame, or to protect boys.  But to draw less undue, self-indulgent, and, often, not-the-healthiest attention to ourselves.

Comment and share with the hashtag #realmodesty.

 

Sunday Confessions

Last week I wrote about the Sunday morning alter egos of kids, and the abject horror that ensues between the hours of 7 am and 12 pm.

You don’t even know.

Unless you are responsible for kids in the altered state of Sunday consciousness.   Then, YOU KNOW AND I’M SORRY AND LET’S GET TOGETHER AND DRINK*.

*Coffee.  Because bedtime is still a long way off and Imma need to be on my A-game.

Shortly after I posted that blog, my youngest child managed to break an “unbreakable” dish filled with oatmeal.  As I wiped up the slime, taking care to avoid the billion shards of “unbreakable” dinnerware, I thought, “Pride cometh before the fall, CORELLE.”

The following Sunday.  Mercy.  I’ll give it to you à la Jeff Foxworthy.

It Might Be Sunday Morning If:

1. It might be Sunday morning if you come downstairs to find the bottom third of all sliding glass doors covered in green crayon scrabble.  And an empty sleeve of Ritz crackers, an empty bag of chocolate chips, and an open honey bear on the counter, all sitting in a pool of honey.

2.  It might be Sunday morning if you pull a pair of jeans out of the hamper and say, “If anyone mentions it, I’ll say I spilled it ON THE WAY to church.”

3. It might be Sunday morning if the smoke alarm short circuits, just because, and blares until he feels heard.

4.  It might be Sunday morning if you have to SHAKE OUT THE BLANKETS, LOOKING FOR TURDS.

5.  It might be Sunday morning if you break a sweat walking to the car.

I know that I am not alone.

Last year, I texted my friend Megan a Sunday Confession every week.

It started with a picture of what my bed looked like after I tried on every single article of clothing I owned.
Then me putting baby powder in my hair because I was out of dry shampoo.
Then wearing my husband’s dress socks because I couldn’t find my navy nylons.

Over the course of several months I texted her a picture of me filling in the scuffs on my boots with a SHARPIE.
My good hair-day selfies.
Henry’s cranial injuries du jour.
The state of my kitchen after my children fed themselves breakfast, like ravenous wolves with no sense or opposable thumbs.
And a lot of “Reasons My Son is Crying.

So this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while – and now I’m doing it, and I’m asking you to take the plunge with me.

I’m hijacking the hashtag #Sundayconfessions.

Instead of just texting my friends, I’m going to LET YOU INTO THE MADNESS.

If you have kids, you will laugh. You will cry.  It will speak to you.

If you don’t have kids, we haven’t forgotten.  We know that our lives were insane before kids in the house, and that they will be insane after the kids leave.  Please show us some real life.  Give us real talk.

#Sundayconfessions will be exactly ONE MILLION TIMES AS FUN if you play along.

Did your cat uproot all your potted plants this morning*?  #Sundayconfessions!

Did your todder jam up the faucet while the bath water was running, causing water to rain from the light fixtures in the kitchen*?  #Sundayconfessions!

Did your daughter sing the chorus to Pitbull’s Calle Ocho in the church nursery*?  #Sundayconfessions!

Did you spill something?  Break something?  Did you take a selfie as a grown adult because you were feeling JUST SO FLY?  Did you eat brownies for breakfast?  Give the kids coffee?  What did you have to resort to to get out of the door this morning?  We want to know.

We want to encourage you.  We want to let you know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  We want to laugh with you, cry with you, and hold a little space for real life on Sundays.   Tag your pictures, statuses, and tweets with #Sundayconfessions, and let the games begin!

 

*This actually happened to me.