Two Life Lessons I Learned in the 45 Minutes it Took Me to Write This Post

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Writing, for me, is like a sacrament. And going too long without it leads to feeling rather malnourished on a soul level. The days have ticked by and I haven’t written here.

Restless and scattered, my soul has been without one good exhale since I don’t know when. Sometimes the days are too full of lists and demands and busy-ness that you never asked for. And some that you did. And then those days turn into weeks. And then that heavy weight that sits on your chest every so often just sits there all the time.

I crave soul rest but when given the opportunity to partake of it, even in a small way, I’m prone to saying no. Instead I leap in the direction of productivity or looking at the to-do list again or spinning my wheels in something that seems productive but that is actually ridiculousness. Or something that I know is not in any way productive and is straight up ridiculousness. {I’m looking at you bobbibrown.com and your dreamy makeup that I covet and pretend shop for. And also at you vintage brown leather purses on ebay.}

Like an addict, I run from what I need and cozy up into the lap of what I want. I find instant almost-gratification {since the shopping is still pretend, whatiswrongwithme?} but no actual renewal.

When life presses in, our real coping mechanisms spill out.

Yesterday I told a friend that I feel afraid of the future that’s right around the bend — one kid in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school.

I’m afraid of the demands that I’m already struggling to meet and how those will only increase.

I’m afraid of failure — mine and theirs.

I’m afraid of so many expectations.

I’m afraid my to-do list will murder me in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping.

I’m afraid that I will have no rest.

I’m afraid we’ll never sell our house and move.

I’m afraid we will sell our house and move.

I’m afraid of how certain others feel about me.

I’m afraid of really and truly becoming a crazy person who rants in customer service lines and spends all of her real time spending pretend money on pretend make-up.

And just seeing all of these words right here on the screen, one “I’m afraid” after the other — well, the tears well up out of nowhere and I remember that this is why I write. Writing dredges up the deep stuff of the soul that I can’t articulate, not even for myself. Ninety something percent of the time I show up here and I don’t know what will come out but something always does and it’s always the truth of the matter.

So when I say that my soul can’t find rest because life is too busy, I’m really saying that I’m afraid. I’m just afraid.

Busyness isn’t the primary reason for my breathlessness. Fear is. And that’s why I can’t find rest. I’m too busy hooking up with fear. And Fear feels a lot like a big mean guy holding a cattle-prod and chasing after me.

There’s this simple line from Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily Freeman. It came to me the other day and it comes to me again now:

Fear drives. But love leads.

Two things I learned since I started this post. 1. I’m not living loved. I’m living driven. 2. I’m not writing enough.

I have to make time for it even if it kills me. Because not making time for it? Also kills me. I am actually writing as part of my job. But it’s not “writing the real” like I do here.

I don’t have a neat and tidy end to this post. But today is my birthday and I simply needed to show up and give myself this gift — a post about busyness and not writing and fear and pretend makeup shopping.

Writing is not everyone’s thing. It’s not even most people’s thing. But I bet you have something that gets at the heart of the matter for you — a practice, a person, or a place that invites the unclear forms to take shape and the fears to be named and the soul to be soothed.

This weekend, I give you the gift of permission. Permission to take some time and tend to your insides, even if it’s just for a bit, instead of tending to all of the other things that call {or scream} for your attention.

As for me, I plan to do some more writing. And sip an iced macchiato or three. And pay a long-awaited visit to the actual Bobbi Brown counter for a complimentary makeover.

I realize that I just went from soulful to superficial in half a second. It’s my birthday. Don’t judge.

I’m curious. What’s your “thing?” Your practice, person, place, or whatever that brings clarity, confession, and comfort? 

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For the Mom Who Needs a Simpler Way

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Several weeks ago, a boy with dark brown hair sidled up to me as I was looking for something in the fridge. Because I was doing something very important like looking for soy sauce, he startled me a bit. “Um, hey buddy — what do you need?”

“I just wanted to give you a hug and tell you that I love you,” replied the brown-haired boy.

Well.

That’ll undo a preoccupied mom in about half a second.

The truth is, I was about the least deserving mom on the planet on that day. I can’t recall the details but I know there was fussing and stressing and harshness aplenty.

I told the brown-haired boy how much I appreciated his love, especially on that day. “Buddy, I’ve been such a crap mom lately.”

“I don’t think so,” he said with all sincerity. “I mean, you have your moments but I think you’re doing pretty good.”

As I’ve been thinking more than ever lately about the difficulty and cluelessness of motherhood in this season of my life, I’ve concluded that I make it way too hard. It’s a specialty of mine. I hold an honorary doctorate in overcomplicating things.

I realize that my kids’ expectations for me as a mom and my own expectations are not even in the same galaxy. They simply want to know they’re loved. And also that they’re liked.

They want to know that I enjoy being with them in simple, everyday ways — watching movies, getting slurpees, sitting in the driveway while they show me their trick shots and how many baskets they can make, going shopping for new sneakers when theirs have worn out, telling them I’m sorry when they’ve had a bad day instead of trying to solve the problem of the bad day.

Motherhood is simply relationship.

And while it’s also about teaching them to work hard and training them in the basics of responsible citizenship and passing on our faith, my motherhood resolution is to love them first in ways that matter. The teachable moments tend to work better if they’re built upon real relationship.

This is anything but natural for me. But I’m seeking to take small steps in a new direction, like slowing before I speak — if I speak at all.

I’m realizing that the most compelling, well-spoken truth in the world won’t plant itself in the soil of a heart that’s hardened by resentment. Lists and lectures fall on deaf ears if they’re not delivered with love.

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Children, errant and wild and frustrating though they are, tend to love with the most grace-filled and forgiving hearts. They surprise you with hugs when your brow is furrowed and your jaw is clenched. And I get to experience what it’s like when real love melts the tension I didn’t even realize I was carrying, how it teaches me to take myself less seriously and kick complication to the curb.

Love is the fertile soil where everything else is planted.

Fourteen years into the journey of motherhood and I long for a simpler way. The way of love.

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If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I Corinthians 13:1-7 {The Message}

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When Motherhood Has You in the Valley of Defeat

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When Motherhood Has You in a Valley of Defeat

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Lately, I’ve been dropping my kids off at school in the morning, breathing a deep sigh of relief, and audibly saying “thank you” as I drive away in my dusty minivan. Is public school a means of grace? For me, right now, yes.

It’s safe to say that these are trying days in the parenting department. Not in an extreme, “I just bailed this one out of jail” sort of way but more of an “I’m absolutely clueless / I have no business being a mom / Everyone go away / Let me lie down” sort of way.

I never said I wore I supermom cape.

Last week I absolutely came to the end of myself with this whole mothering gig and it was really the most needful thing.

I sat at my desk, weary and overwhelmed. I prayed and cried and asked Jesus Himself to please show up with a miracle, to help me love in a way that transcends reason and rebellion and my own severe limitations.

And He did, gifting me to love in a way I’d never experienced. I had glimpses of wisdom that came out of nowhere. Compassion and real empathy sprung from a supernatural well. By Saturday I was like, “Yes! I can do this! We. Are. WINNING.”

Then Sunday showed up with more battles and stress and willfulness than I knew what to do with — theirs and mine. Just like that, I relapsed into the familiar comforts of preachiness and anger and entitlement and why is this sooooo hard?

Dealing with behavior is one thing. Caring for sick souls is quite another.

While I don’t feel I know much as a mother, I am 100% convinced that moralism and charts and systems may get the desired results on the outside, but they won’t begin to touch the inside. In fact, good behavior may be so convincing to both kids and parents that everyone ignores the heart altogether. But a sick heart will kill a person, even one that looks perfectly healthy on the outside. Ask me how I know.

And so our home lately has felt like a triage unit with gurneys of wounded people and splayed-open hearts — theirs and mine.

On days of victory and progress, I feel like I’ll never taste defeat again. But then I do and such defeat makes me want to throw in the towel and tell everyone to please raise themselves from now on. I’ll provide groceries and find them a good therapist. I’ll even keep driving them around. But I cannot maintain a surgery ward.

Winning is a distant memory.

It’s in these valleys of defeat that I remember what carried me to the mountaintop of short-lived victory to begin with: being in a prior valley of defeat.

I face the uncomfortable truth that the Christian life is not about sustained winning. It is about sustained dependance.

When will I learn?

So I once again sink into the ground of humility and throw myself at the feet of mercy. I ask for power that I don’t have and am too tired to muster anyway. I ask for grace that is laughable. {Because true grace always is.}

I ask for the courage, companionship, and example that is Christ Himself — a gloriously scandalous God who knows that undeserved love, not lists and lectures, motivates a person to love — be it parent, child, or spouse. We love because we were first loved in such a way that it still makes us our heads spin. {Please God, let it make our heads spin.}

Always, we can shake off defeat and begin again because of the love-drenched grace and compassion we ourselves have been shown.

Dear defeated mom, motivate with love as you are motivated by love. Because love begets love. {And isn’t real obedience is simply an expression of real love?}

At the end of a long week that followed an even longer week, I realize that being a mother is simply being a wounded healer, ministering to and interceding for sick souls with the presence and power of a loving Jesus.

{I’m honored to have this post syndicated on BlogHer.}

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