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Celebrating My Little Women

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My beloved copy of Rose in Bloom

I know – this post title is unforgivably sappy, but it’s my nod to Louisa May Alcott, whose books I devoured as a young girl. Disappearing into her simple, sweet, almost agonizingly wholesome worlds was like eating roast and potatoes on Sunday. Considering her own less-than-traditional bent and the challenges she faced as a woman advocating for greater equality, maybe Louisa May’s writing offered her a similar escape. Today seemed appropriate to recognize her since it is, apparently, National Women’s Day. I was only recently (an hour ago) made aware of this holiday; thank heaven I have Facebook to educate me about such things.

Never in one of Ms. Alcott’s books did surly, half -asleep parents try to get a surly, fully-awake, kicking-and-screaming kid to the bus stop in time. Jo’s strong will was romantic, and her mistakes were always rewarded with valuable life lessons that she took straight to heart. Her mother seemed ever peaceful and confident that her girls were not, in fact, little miscreants destined to drive her mad. On this particular, rocky morning, I look to Louisa May Alcott to remind me of the beauty of a strong will. I am blessed to have one daughter who knows what she wants, who feels that her opinions are valuable. The other, just two, is clearly following in her sister’s footsteps as she screams “Mine!!” and chases Olive to her room, arms flailing.

There are plenty of challenges ahead, but both of my girls show kindness and vulnerability, too. Today, then, I take a page from Mrs. March’s book, and celebrate the depth, strength, sweetness, and beauty in my girls while I pretend to be sure that we can successfully bring them up. Thank God for my rosebuds, not yet in bloom.

 

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How Do I Process this Evil?

Yesterday’s school shooting left me feeling like a stuck record – my mind unable to move forward or comprehend the screeching static. I process better when I write. I don’t know where this post will go, exactly. I do know that I’ll ramble, but I need to define this pain and evil somehow; to see its shape. You can’t throw a rock at a giant if you don’t know where he’s standing.

I believe in a good God. Despite the crushing weight of pain and injustice under which we all live, many people choose to do good. Mostly, these small acts seem futile, inconsequential – and yet, we do them. That we have the energy and hope to forge ahead at all is incredible, frankly. Our resilience is awesome. And also not enough. We are called to do more and be greater not through the strength of our own wills, but through that divine strength and power that breathed life into being. Some of us are better than others at letting go the steering wheel and inviting God’s direction. I often fall into the “others” category.

I cannot and would never presume to speak to the feelings of those who have been more directly affected by an act of violence than I have but while I feel lost and sad after this shooting, I don’t feel anger. Anger might be an appropriate response, but personally I am just… terribly confused. We seem to have flipped a frightening switch in the last 20 years. What happened? It feels very specific and yet, for all the finger pointing at different causes, I can’t help but think we’re missing something fundamental.

My mind inevitably turns toward the perpetrators of these acts. I believe deeply in personal responsibility, but I find it difficult to blame an individual whose mind or spirit is broken. I simply can’t know their level of capacity. It’s a problem. If they can’t, in fact, be held responsible, then who can? How do you fight something so abstract, so elusive and yet so pervasive?

We yearn for certainty, resolution, answers. They don’t seem forthcoming. And as unsatisfactory as it may seem, perhaps we are simply called to hold ourselves to higher standards of love in all areas of our lives. Maybe that giant is invisible, but every time we respond to evil with love, we deal him a blow. Wherever the world is headed, I pray that we might have the strength to be vulnerable and the courage to love fiercely.

2 Timothy 1:7

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Luke 12:48

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Spirituality · Uncategorized

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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The other night, we were driving and my seven-year-old was in the backseat, lost in her imagination. She was staring into her luminous window-reflection and my own childhood memories told me that she was delighted with the way her eyes shone and that she felt beautiful. I wondered when I last felt beautiful that way.

I watched her eyes gleam again and her chest puff on her birthday when she announced that she was seven and I remembered the delicious taste of a new age on my own tongue when I was a kid. But on my birthday this past week I hardly stopped to consider how old I was and felt instead a vague sense of melancholy at thoughts of things I haven’t yet accomplished.

The psalmist knew that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and he praised God for it. He acknowledged the miracle that is the human body and mind, despite our many shortcomings. I don’t find that miracle often enough – in the mirror or in the faces of those around me. When I do stop to appreciate it, the limitations I place on myself seem trivial. So here’s to a year filled with the kind of awe and wonder that break down cynicism and invite God to work through me.

Happy 2018!

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A Letter to My Almost Seven Year Old

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You, my first baby, will be seven years old this week and I feel like I should document who you are at this moment, at least a little. My pregnancy with you and your babyhood were among the most joyful times in my already blessed life; marked by a contentment that is rare for me. I love you more than I can say.

I will always remember the year you were six as groundbreaking. You have become so much like me (stubborn and headstrong and proud), and sometimes that makes it really tough for me to parent you. You talk and sing endlessly. You are smart and observant. This year you learned to swim and ride a bike. You sang in front of people at a talent show and blew us away with your confidence. You had your first “crush” and made your first best friend. You’ve learned to read well and are starting to experience the magic of disappearing into a book. You do like to be the center of attention, sometimes work too hard to impress others and get over-stimulated pretty easily; but your empathy, compassion and endurance are growing, too. You insist on learning everything the hard way and your anger is intense at times. You ask startlingly existential questions. I think your imagination rules at least eight hours out of every day.

As a mother, I am irritable and sharp too often, but I hope that figures less prominently in your daily life and memory than our awesome conversations, hugs and goodnight songs. And though I know that discipline is necessary and good, I also hope that you know deep down that those things that make you so angry right now – like having to do chores and eat food you dislike, or not having the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want – are a major part of the way we show our love for you.

I thank God for you. I pray that we can lead you in the way you should go subtly and gently, that we can help you channel your stubbornness in a way I haven’t yet mastered myself and that you would always know that we love and support you.

Happy birthday, baby.

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God Bless America (where we can stand -or kneel – for what we believe in)

Last week during a high school football game in our school district, a student knelt during the national anthem. As a result, someone made incredibly hateful, bigoted comments about him on social media. This has been on my mind and heart since I heard about it and while I know there are plenty of voices already vying for air time on this topic, I feel compelled to show my support. It is terrifying to put yourself out there in a public way when your opinion is controversial. To the boy who knelt: I applaud your courage and am going to make myself uncomfortable in an effort to follow your example.

To the person who made the comments: Congratulations. You successfully validated this boy’s actions and drew attention to the very problem he tried to highlight.

I am in awe of the guts and sacrifice it must take to serve in the military. I respect and deeply appreciate the sacrifices military members and their families make. That said, the national anthem isn’t all about service members; it’s about showing our love for our country. I am desperately grateful to call the United States of America my home, but I don’t think all is right with this country.

Kneeling is hardly the equivalent of flipping the bird. In fact, I consider it a gesture similar to removing one’s hat and saying, “with all due respect.” And folks have every right to do that. The fact is that this country is not a hospitable place for many people. THOUSANDS of hate crimes are committed every year, and that’s just what is reported (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015-hate-crime-statistics-released).  People are verbally assaulted every day, too, perpetuating fear and anger and more crime. In a country where we recall items that cause injury to a handful of people and hear about them on the news for days, how can we continue to ignore something that hurts so many? There is absolutely a problem. And we can’t begin to address it until it is acknowledged. Kneeling is a way for people to acknowledge that they have had a different experience here. It’s not all victory and opportunity. We can debate all we want about whether they chose a proper way to bring attention to this problem, but what WOULD be the proper way? It is peaceful, visible and legal.

Those of us who feel strongly need to show our love and support. And if you feel that kneeling is unacceptably disrespectful – have a real conversation with someone who feels differently. You might not change each others minds, but respectful discussion on both sides of an issue is just one of the valuable perks of being an American. We should celebrate that freedom.

Again, to the boy I mentioned, I am so sorry you were on the receiving end of that nastiness. Please know that many people support you.

God bless.

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Making Memories: Is there a recipe?

This morning my daughter and I made sugar cookies. Later, I mentioned it to my dear friend and she remarked encouragingly that I had “made a great memory” for her. I’d been reflecting on memories already so her comment sent me to my computer.

I hear parents say all the time that they want to create great memories for their children, or some variation of that sentiment. It makes sense. We all want to give our kids rich experiences and we want them to remember good times. For a lot of people, that’s just an expression, but I think some folks can get pretty caught up in this idea that they have to go out of their way to plan experiences for kids and perhaps even feel guilty if they haven’t done “enough.” I’m not justifying bad parenting. I also know there are many other reasons to give children varied, great experiences and I’m not addressing those. I’m talking to the parents who are feeling lousy because they can’t afford that trip to Disney, didn’t sign the kids up for some activity or don’t quite have the energy for a five-course breakfast on Christmas morning. Take heart; we have little control over memories, anyway.

As the idea for this post marinated, I tried to come up with the things that made the biggest impression on me from childhood. It was interesting to see what surfaced. Of course I remember some things that my parents planned or traditions we observed. But memories are strange things. They’re dreamlike, only not quite. They seem to float around in my mind and yet can be so weighty. I have a hard time coming up with other adjectives to describe them, even after an embarrassingly long time with the thesaurus. Why do we remember some things and not others? We can’t choose the things that will loom large in our kids’ memories or how they’ll remember them.

I remember looking out of the car window on a dark, quiet moment one Christmas Eve at glowing luminarias.

I remember sitting on our back patio on a hot, sunny day with my much older siblings while they listened to U2 and Midnight Oil.

I remember shooting rubber bands across the street with my friends in a brutal war against the neighborhood boys.

I remember walks with my Dad, discovering rocks and having quiet talks and special just-me-and-mom breakfasts with hot chocolate and whipped cream.

These and scores of other small memories and a few big ones collectively help me frame my past. Often, they are not so much about any particular experience, but about the feeling that experience evoked: Profound, grown up, part of something, loved.

In our home I want to focus on positivity; to give my girls a peaceful and happy space in which to make their own memories (hmm… might need to work on my irritability). I hope that their collective memories will point to a childhood that felt secure and full of love. It’s still one of our family goals to get out and do fun things more often but experience tells me that I can’t control what they’ll remember, so I’m not going to waste time fretting over it. I figure the best way to make good memories is to live in the moment.