I am speaking at a parent’s retreat weekend this month, and I wanted to share this little excerpt of one of my sessions, because I think some of you might need to hear it.
I remember my first Superbowl party after Madeline was born; she was one month old and we had some friends over to watch the game.
I remember one particular moment. I looked around the room, saw only myself, my husband, and our friends (all of whom were also in their early twenties), and I panicked. I thought, “Where are all the grown ups? They’ve left us with a baby!”
Next I realized that, even if there were “grown ups,” they would still defer to me, because I was mom.
In that moment I felt flush with fear and deeply okay at the exact same time.
I was afraid because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Was she going to cry? Was she going to get hurt? Was she going to sleep? Or refuse sleep? Was she going to gag on her own spit or choke on her own tongue? Were we going to have to go to the hospital and pretend like we were parents who knew what the heck we were doing? I was afraid because I didn’t know what was coming, and I knew that whatever it was – I was going to have to walk through it. It was on me. It was like standing in front of a closed door, knowing that when you turn the handle, whatever is back there, it’s yours to deal with. That’s scary.
The unknown is some scary business.
But I also felt okay. I felt okay because I knew that there was nothing I would need that I didn’t already possess.
If she needed to eat, I had milk. If she needed to sleep, I had mom-arms. If she needed comfort, I had my own breath and skin and heartbeat, which were home to her. If I needed help, I had my husband and my friends. If I needed answers, I had Google. If I needed a miracle, I had prayer.
I had fear because I didn’t know what was coming. But I also had courage – because no matter what the unknown turned out to be, I had everything I needed inside of me already.
I have since learned that this is all of parenting. It is, in fact, all of life.
I want to be very clear that this isn’t a message of self-sufficiency. This is a message of God-sufficiency. It’s the same reason I can say, “I’m enough! You’re enough,” even though we’re not enough at all. We are enough for God to love and save and redeem and use, though. Our not-enough is enough. His acceptance makes us enough. His work on our behalf is enough.
Similarly, we have everything we need because we have Him.
And if you don’t yet believe – if you don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus – you have everything you need in order to begin one. He requires nothing, only everything. Just you. You as you are, no more, no less.
You are not enough, but that’s enough.
You have nothing, but you have everything you need.
God’s love is big enough to fill the difference.
He created everything out of nothing. In the same way, He makes your nothing everything you need.
Christians are like seeds. We have everything we need for our perfect sanctification inside of us already, it just hasn’t matured yet. But it’s in there. It’s in there because Christ is in there. It’s in you.
(source: There is an oak tree in there! A GIANT, STRONG, TOWERING OAK. That seed contains every single thing it needs. The oak is insideof that seed! It just needs time and the proper circumstance – like you )
So it is with parenting as it is with all of life.
We are scared all the time because we don’t know what’s going to happen, ever. But we can also have this blessed assurance: No matter what happens, I have everything I need inside of me already.
This is the human experience. We have fear and courage, nothing and everything.
It is enough, and it is good.
What she means, obviously, is that when theology is expressed poetically and set to music, something magical happens. As you roll that lyric over and over in your mind and on your tongue, your inner truth cat sits up and you get all swirly and emotional because it is at once SO TRUE and SO BEAUTIFUL. That lyric sums up decades’ worth of thoughts and experiences. It communicates your deepest truth so succinctly that you can only describe it as perfect. You think, “THIS. This is what I believe.”
I think that children’s literature is my theology.
I cried reading a Pete the Cat book last week.
I don’t mean that I “was touched” or I “welled up.” I mean that I had to stop reading, and shed actual tears, and my children became very concerned about me.
I’ve also cried reading the following:
- Little Blue Truck - Just Plain Fancy - The Empty Pot - Horton Hears a Who - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (OH MY GOSH, C.S. LEWIS, JUST KILL ME DEAD.)
- And every blame time I read The Jesus Storybook Bible
I can’t even handle children’s literature. My inner truth cat goes into a catnip-paper-bag-frenzied-joy-romp. I cry at least 50% of the time.
I like children’s literature because it’s simple.
You don’t have to impress children; they are filled with natural wonder.
You don’t have to persuade children; they are filled with innocent trust.
Children’s literature doesn’t contain logical fallacies or one million prepositional phrases or an excess of adjectives. Children’s literature just drops truth bombs in perfect, poetic ways and lets the truth stand on its own two feet.
Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
I believe that. I believe that little hearts and young minds can understand deep truths. Understand all of it? Of course not. Do any of us? But I believe that the biggest, most important truths aren’t that hard to understand; they’re just hard to live.
I am going to work on this kind of truth-telling. Precise and simple. Like poetry, like songs, like children’s literature.
Like Pete the Cat on materialism and contentment and living with open hands:
“I guess it only goes to show, that stuff will come and stuff will go. Do we worry? Goodness no.”
Yes, children of mine. Stuff will come and stuff will go. Do we worry? Goodness no.
Yes, HEART OF MINE. Stuff will come and stuff will go. Do we worry? Goodness no.
Do you have a favorite piece of children’s literature? Please share it! We’ll make a library trip this weekend to pick up some new theology.
Parents have love-catch-phrases. They are the things we say when we tuck our kids in at night. You know -
“I love you to the moon and back.” Or, “I love you with my whole heart.”
“I love you every single second.”
That’s the one I tell them when the love is bubbling in my guts and I have to clench my teeth and my fists to keep from squeezing them too tightly, like Lennie Small.
This is what I told Henry this afternoon when he woke up all groggy and snuggly. I smushed my face against his precious, smushy face and I whispered, “I love you every single second. There has never been a second of your entire life that you have not been loved. Every second that I’ve known about you, I’ve loved you.”
Then I felt a kind of aching swell up inside of me. I thought, “There are children to whom no one has ever said these things. There are children that have been neglected, forgotten, resented, and abused.”
For a moment I despaired, hard. I wished that I had infinite time and infinite resources and that I could love all the babies. I wished that I could hold them all, skin-to-skin, and sing to them and read to them and kiss them and fix all their hurts, physical and otherwise, and tell them that I LOVED them, and that they were important and special to me. I thought, “There are children that have not been loved every single second.”
But something in my chest caught, snagged. I couldn’t finish that thought, because I knew it wasn’t true.
There has never been a child that wasn’t loved every single second.
I almost didn’t write this post because I was afraid that it would sound like I was glossing over the NECESSITY of earthly, human love. I assure you I am not. I want to love all the babies because it matters, I know this in my bones, and much of my giving is directed toward that end – children getting loved well.
But because of what I believe to be true about God, I cannot say that there has ever been a human being that God didn’t love every single second. That He didn’t yearn for. There has never been a person that was excluded when He said that He longs to be gracious to you. There has never been a person that God did not die to save.
This shapes the way I understand the world and they way I interact with all people, but I don’t want to direct this thought OUT today, I want to direct in.
You have been loved every single second.
There has never been a second in which you were not loved.
There has never been a circumstance in which you were not loved.
There has never been a thing you did, or a place you went, or a thing you believed that made you unloved, even for a second.
There is no season of hate or anger or disbelief that made God stop wanting you. You cannot be mean enough to make Him give up on you. You are not trapped; He will let you go, but He will watch you walk away with great pain, loving you every single second.
In your darkest days, in your deep, endless depression, in your worst, most offensive thoughts, you are loved.
Maybe you are an addict and you’ve known it for a while, and your nights keep getting darker and your mornings more uncertain. Or maybe you are doing a thing that you swore you would NEVER DO. Maybe you haven’t changed your mind about it, you still hate it, but you’re doing it anyway, which makes you hate yourself.
You are loved in the middle of that mess. EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.
If you are absolutely OVER IT, and life has become, as dear Anne Lamott says, “just too life-y,” you might be unhappy, unhealthy, unhopeful, and scared to death – but you are not unloved. You can be un-everything else, but you are not un-loved.
You have been loved every day, every hour, every minute, every second. You have been loved every heartbeat of your entire life.
When you were abandoned here, you were not abandoned there. I cannot unpack the problem of evil here, or even fully in my own mind, but I can tell you this: you were not delivered from all pain, but you were loved through all of the pain. Every ounce. You were loved every second.
God compares his love to parent-love. He compares his arms to the wings of a mother bird, drawing her babies in close to her bosom, warm and safe. He says he could no sooner forget you than a mother could forget the baby at her breast. He says “I have loved you with AN EVERLASTING LOVE.” He says that he wants to give you good things, like Dads want to give their little boys and little girls good things, only better, because God is better than human dads times a billion.
He loves us with parent-love, only purer. More long-suffering. This means that, unlike me, He doesn’t ever want to give one of his loved ones away free to a good home when they are being really pig-headed and annoying. He never loses it. He never grows tired or weary.
The love that I have for my children is fierce, rabid, overwhelming, and immobilizing. I love them in a way that doesn’t even make sense. But even that love is tempered by my own selfishness and humanity – by my need for sleep and food to be a pleasant human being. My great big love for my kids is tempered by my impatience and my lack of empathy.
But God’s parent-love is not constrained by those things. His love is constrained by nothing. His love is unhindered and unstoppable and unfathomable.
The great joy of my life is being this boy’s safe place, the arms that comfort. I love him, and I could never be close enough for long enough to breathe him in the way I want to. I love him every single second. This child of mine is loved EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.
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.
The Survivor Series giveaway is still live! Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials. Click here for details.
You guys, I wrote some books! They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.* You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.
*and eat them myself because you live too far away.
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:
I’ll give you a quick 10 to get you started.
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.
Raise to the 4th power.
Divide by the number of pets in your home.
Multiply by zero.
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.
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!
I am having a time-stands-still, remember-it-forever, validating parenting moment.
Just now, when given the option to write or braille her homework, Madeline chose braille.
That means that right this second, I get to acknowledge that I chose right for my child. Too often parents don’t. In fact, we almost never do. We don’t know what would have happened had we chosen, taught, or encouraged differently. We just know that we’re doing the best we can, and somehow, against all odds, kids mostly turn out okay.
I fought for braille. And I’m not a born fighter. When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flee-er.
So many special needs moms are bulldogs. They call, and fight, and advocate. They march into offices and make fusses. They say, “This is not acceptable. You must do better for my child. My child is a hero and an overcomer and he can do one hundred times more than you are presently imagining. He deserves more and better from this system.”
As much as these moms are my friends and my sisters, I often feel less-than when I’m around them. I find myself thinking, “I am not a bulldog. I am not a fighter. I don’t have what it takes.”
But I fought for braille.
I fought the system.
When they said, “Maybe she would do better in a special needs classroom,” I said, “That is not even close to her least restrictive environment, so absolutely no.”
I fought the odds.
When they said, “We can’t give her that many hours/that summer instruction/that specialist,” I said, “That is unacceptable. I will do it myself.”
I fought really well-meaning friends and family.
They said, “You know, she can SEE the page. She doesn’t need braille. Technology! iPads! Magnifiers!” And I said, “Braille = literacy. She can choose when she’s 18. Until then, I choose.”
I took classes.
We brailled grocery lists, and Christmas cards.
In every school, at every meeting, at every pass I said, “More hours. More braille. Equal time, equal exposure.”
I blindfolded her when she practiced.
People wondered if I was forcing it.
People said, “She can read the words.”
And I said, “But she won’t be able to read them in 2nd grade. And H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS if I’m going to wait until she’s 3 yearsbehind to start teaching her the alphabet.
I fought for braille.
And tonight, when given the choice between print and braille, Madeline chose braille.
She chose it because it is easier for her to form letters with her fingers than it is for her to form them with a pen.
She chose it because she could. And she could because she learned. And she learned because I fought.
This is what she wrote:
I cannot even.
And listen, I may have fought, but I only fought because of the amazing, passionate, dedicated educators that fought alongside of me for the good of my child. Educators that pulled me aside and said, “I can’t say this as a teacher, but as a parent…” And, “You didn’t hear this from me, but…”
If I fought, it’s because they equipped me to fight. They gave me the buzzwords, the loopholes. They gave me the courage; they EN-COURAGED, truly. They texted and called and emailed. They said, “Fight for Madeline. Keep fighting.”
Our teachers and vision teachers and braillists and specialists are our heroes, and this success is theirs, too.
I cried tonight. I cried because I got to see the fight pay off. It’s not theoretical anymore. It’s tonight, right now. My baby knows braille, and she likes it, and she chooses it, and I did a good thing.
As the great philosophers of The Fray said, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”
2. People only stop by unannounced when your house is STRAIGHT NASTY and you are bra-less at 3:00 in the afternoon.
3. The entire universe conspires to keep you out of church on Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are, ironically, the sixth circle of hell.
However much hitting, punching, glass-shattering, appliance-breaking, things exploding, tantrum-throwing, food-spilling, and violent diarrhea you think is inherent in parenthood, triple it. And on Sunday mornings, triple it again.
My children are overachievers. They adopt their Sunday morning alter-egos on Saturday night, like overly ambitious Black Friday shoppers. They want to make sure they have time to fit in ALL THEIR CRAZY.
A few weeks ago, Henry went to church with a large Band-aid straight across his forehead, connecting his eyebrows. It was covering up the fresh gash that maybe could have used a stitch, but we judgment called it and figured he’d be fine (third kid).
Tonight, we were blowing bubbles when things got violent. If you don’t understand how bubbles can turn violent you have less than or equal to one child.
So my kids are inching closer and closer – in order to be the first in line cluster to pop all the bubbles before his/her siblings – until they are all standing there with their fingers shoved INSIDE the bubble wand, and soapy syrup is running down their arms and all over my legs, and they are giggling like scary little Christopher Nolan versions of The Joker.
So I said, “EVERY ONE BACK. UP.”
And they did.
Until I blew the next wand-ful of bubbles and they stampeded towards me, shrieking and waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care. And Henry, Henry is one year old by the skin of his teeth. I saw it happen in slow motion, like watching Mufasa get sucked under the hooves of crazed wildebeests. They knocked him over forwards, then straight trampled him as they leapt around in their unbreakable bubble-trance, COMPLETELY UNAWARE that a LITTLE PERSON was underfoot.
That was the end of bubbles, and now Henry has a cut on his eyelid. His left eye is all puffed up and pink, and he’s going to church AGAIN looking like Rocky Balboa.
You should also know that Madeline had to give herself a schizophrenic pep-talk to pipe down during story time tonight. I am not making this up. After the fifth interjection on the FIRST PAGE, I snapped, “MADELINE. STOP TALKING.”
And she said,
“Okay, I can do this.
No, I can’t.
Yes, yes I can. I can do hard things.
No, I can’t do this.
Yes, I can be quiet.”
I stared at her, unable to make sense of what was happening in front of me. She has to have a conversation WITH HERSELF to mentally prepare herself to stop saying every single thing that pops into her brain. You don’t even know.
The moral of this story is that I need something warm and chocolatey in the most serious way. And that moms with herds of offspring should get preferential parking at church. Because we have done mighty battle. We have exorcised the Sunday morning demons. We SHOWED UP.
And also, the childcare workers should just turn a blind eye (PUN INTENDED) to my little boxer tomorrow. He’s fine. He just had a nice Saturday evening blowing bubbles.
Are Sunday mornings your craziest mornings too? Why do you think that is? What keeps you showing up?
In light of Easter, I wanted to share with you a meditation I wrote for Yoga Bird last month.
The significance of the resurrection is so infinite – we can talk about the love of Jesus, the cost of sin, Jesus in our place, God’s power over death, the ultimate apologetic on which hinges the entirety of the Christian faith…
…but for me, this is where the rubber meets the road. The resurrection doesn’t just matter because it was miraculous. It matters because Jesus is alive. A dead god can’t help you any more than a box of rocks can. But a living God – a living God sees and loves and sustains. Easter is the biggest deal because a living God is the biggest deal.
“The days are uncertain, to be sure. When I think too long on Hollywood, or the beauty industry, or sex-trafficking, or congress, it is difficult to feel much of anything but despair. I can’t imagine anything more daunting than being asked to raise a girl in our culture – until I think of raising boys. And vice versa.
Then I realize that I believe Christ to be big enough for anybody, anywhere, no matter their plight or their hurt or their sin – but not big enough for me.
Not big enough for my parenting deficiency, not big enough for my immaturity, for my short-sightedness, for my brokenness and pride.
Of course he can redeem a life shattered by abuse.
Of course He can sustain through unimaginable loss.
Of course He can bring joy and peace to a life entrenched in the daily ache of poverty.
Of course He can lift the drug addict out of the pit, He can lift the alcoholic out of the mire, and set their feet on solid rock.
But me? And my kids? And my depressingly average, messed up life? I don’t know if He is big enough for that.
This is, of course, insanity. It is illogical and untrue, but I believe it – my worries betray me. My despair tattles.
“In what way am I damaging my children?” I wonder. “What will they say about me in therapy? Will they turn out okay, in these uncertain days? Will I?”
There is a song – a hymn – that I sang in a little Baptist church in Alabama. I sing it now, too. On almost every single one of these uncertain days:
“How sweet to hold a newborn baby
To feel the pride and joy he gives
But sweeter still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
Life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” The days are uncertain, but God - God is certain. He is the most certain thing there ever was. He is the Rock of Ages. Immutable and unchanging and certain.
And He is for me.
He is alive, full of power and grace. His arm is not too short to save. He is for me, and this child can face uncertain days because He lives. Some days “this child” is my child, and some days it’s me. But here’s what I know – we can face uncertain days. Oh, what blessed power and hope! We can face uncertain days!
We can face uncertain days because He lives.”
(You can listen to the meditation here. My words have been put to original music, and every meditation includes a time of silence and reflection.)
Besides blog and books, I have a few other projects going, one of which is writing meditations like this one for Yoga Bird. Yoga Bird is a wellness website that offers on-demand yoga classes with Christian meditation. I first subscribed a few months ago and poked around the site for over an hour – there is a huge library of poses, beginner and advanced classes, quick office breaks, a blog, and a library full of meditations (which are nice for a quiet time too, if you want to switch things up).
If you want to go exploring, here is a coupon for 10 free days!
Other cool thing: They beautiful heart behind Yoga Bird is my very dear aunt. You will love her.
And for the curious, this welcome video explains what they’re about:
We can face uncertain days because He lives. Happy Easter.
My middle child is my sensitive child. Sam feels things first. Changes in his environment, tweaks to his schedule, tensions in relationship – they’re all palpable to Sam. He notices and responds.
Whenever I visit with someone I love, I think,
“I hope they get to see the real Sam.”
They usually don’t. A new person in the vicinity is just enough change for Sam to holster his magic. He keeps it close to the vest.
I used to feel sad, because I knew the world was missing out. It was difficult to know that I had this treasure of a child and that even those closest to me would never really know him. When you have great joy, you want to share it. It’s why we photograph and Instagram, it’s why we call and text and “guess what!” It’s why we shout love from the rooftops. Sam is the greatest joy, and I so wanted the world to know him.
But these days, instead of feeling sad , I choose honored. I’ve begun to understand that all mothers keep their children’s secrets. I am the guardian of the great joy that is Sam at his most free, most comfortable, most true. I have the blessed privilege of being the human with whom he feels at home. It’s hard sometimes, to choose honored over sad, because the compulsion to shout him out and show him off is still so great. So I think of Mary, the young mother of Jesus, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2).
The shepherds were out shouting the glories of God and angels and the infant King Jesus, because great joy wants to be shared, but Mary treasured and pondered. A young mother, just like me, keeping her baby’s secrets.
I suspect this secret-keeping, this guarding of beautiful little selves, is how the universe pays us back for stretch marks. Oh, did we ever get the good end of that deal.