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The Beautiful Scars of Parenthood

August 31, 2015

A few weeks ago, lying in bed reading, I sneezed. Nothing terribly unusual, but I gasped with a sudden and painful tearing sensation in my lower abdomen. Given my prone position, the abdominal act of sneezing must have tugged on the lesions formed after my two c-sections. The birth of my children — scars I no longer think about — left fibrous bands of scar tissue adhering flesh and organs together. Occasionally they cry out at the memory.

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My 12 year old son was baptized on Sunday morning.

He told us in the car on the way to church. It was the culmination of many conversations over the past several years; having him make the decision did not come as a surprise.

The timing, however, was a bit of a surprise.

We spent about five minutes trying to make sure he really meant TODAY today. Like, right now today? Are you sure? TODAY?

He was certain; we stepped aside. We had told him already, “When you’re ready, let us know.”

He was ready.

As a mom who has prayed about his future faith for over a decade, I should have felt overjoyed. This has always been our hope and prayer — that he would take the faith we’ve been trying to model for him (sometimes, very poorly) and it would, one day, become his own. He was taking that first step today, a major step, declaring in front of God and a few hundred of our church family that he was accepting and receiving Jesus Christ as his own Savior.

I should have felt elation.

But what I really felt was…terrified. Saturated in worry, I was (am) so afraid. What if he’s too young? What he doesn’t really understand what he’s doing? What if he doesn’t truly get it, yet?

What if I’m not ready to let him go?

What if I’m not ready for him to take this giant leap out of my nest just yet?

What if I’m not ready to let God take care of ….him?

I was young when I made that decision (sort of) for myself. Too young, I think, but did it really matter in the end? Did I not find my own way, my own faith?

I believe that baptism is not a security blanket of protection, it is merely a declaration. An act of obedience. We do it because Jesus did it. The end. I don’t fully understand all the whys and wherefores but I’m okay with that.

You alone can rescue

You alone can save

You alone can lift us from the grave

You came down to find us

let us out of death

to You alone belongs the highest praise!

Every word of worship that morning was a conviction, a message from God to me…

I’ve got this. It’s okay to let go. It’s my job, not yours.

Gabe and I pat ourselves on the back that we are raising adults, not children. We want our kids to launch, we want them to leave the nest and make their way in the world, independent of us and capable in their own independence. We take pride in teaching them to be accomplished and self-sufficient.

Nobody tells you that bringing tiny humans into the world and sending them back out into it are equally painful extractions.

I remember clearly the unique and powerful pain involved in his delivery, the initial separation of his body from mine.

Yet here I am, at the first major point of his adult disconnection, and I am just as weak, frightened, and doubled over in pain as I was 12 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad. I am ecstatic.  This is good and right and the angels are rejoicing over this boy-man’s decision and actions. I did not stand in his way, and I won’t as he continues over the next few years. Few years, so very few. Less than when we started. He’s been under my roof and care more than half of our allotted time. He will, Lord willing, be leaving for college six years from now. Six. SIX.

Sunday, I celebrated communion with my son for the first time. We shared together the breaking of a body, the spilling of blood. The tearing of the curtain between God and man. A small ritual, giant in significance.  It’s been a full day since, yet every time I think about it, I’m still leaking tears.

At least now I know what I’m in for. This extrication process, the untangling of child and parent, will leave it’s own scars. There will be days when I may suddenly gasp at the memory of what we once were, but, as with childbirth, the beauty of what is makes the pain all the more worthwhile. 

The pains of childbirth didn’t scare me away from parenthood.

The pains of separation aren’t going to scare me away either.

At least now I know what I’m in for.

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Note to self: when the next child makes his own commitment to Christ, ask someone else to take the photos. For some reason, the camera would not stay still in my hands.

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Friday Favorites (What I’m In To This Week)

August 28, 2015

Best Video:

My Dad, My Superhero 

This is totally Gabe. Fast reflexes, I ain’t got ’em. I’m glad he does!

Best Book:

Rick-Steves-Florence-and-Tuscany-300x300

This is what I’m reading this week. Happy dance! We are finally heading to Italy this fall. It’s a trip I have, literally, been planning for a lifetime.

Best Posts:

Magnifcations is a blog I write for quarterly, entirely written by women in ministry. This is a great post on keeping perspective, and the importance of prayer.

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I was eight years old, and my mother woke me up early in the morning so we could sit on the floor in front of our wood-cased television and watch a real-life fairy tale. The marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana did not end in a fairy tale, but my mother, a devout anglophile, loved the Royals. She subscribed to magazines about Royals, she loved their clothes and above all, we loved their weddings. This was too much fun not to share…maybe one or two of you will remember that July wedding in 1981!

Best Quote:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

A Psychiatrist Who Survived The Holocaust Explains Why Meaningfulness Matters More Than Happiness

Best Shoes:

I have been on a months-long quest to find comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes to wear in Italy on our trip next month. I’m told we can expect mild weather most days, but cool nights and rain some days. Cobblestones and mud. This poses quite a footwear dilemma, but I have finally triumphed.

For daytime exploring, paired with skinny jeans, oversize t-shirts and cardigans:

Picture1Grasshoppers Highview Denim Sport Flat

For rainy days, nicer restaurants, and my favorite red trench coat. Leather, with a rubber lug sole, and I sized up a half size so I can add a cushy insole or socks.

Picture2

Blondo Rima Bootie

Best #Sleepattack

Sleep does not come upon my youngest child calmly and quietly…it sneaks up on him and attacks. He falls prey, helpless, every night and I take photos of the best and post them to my Instagram. Here’s my favorite from this week:

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Happy Friday, everyone! What are you in to this week?

 

 

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The conversation continues!  For more insights and resources about living a shiny, abundant and beautiful life, join me over on InstagramPinterest, or Facebook

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Little Miracles

August 14, 2015
This is the oldest photo I can find with Little Blue in it - 2010. He was three and it was then that his attachment to her began.

This is the oldest photo I can find with Little Blue in it – 2010. He was two.

The boys have been asking a lot of questions about God lately.

Where is God? How do we know He’s real? They are searching, and for that I’m grateful. I just wish I had all the answers.

I’ve encouraged them to pray. To ask God for evidence of His presence. To open their eyes to His daily manna and acts of goodness that are everywhere, but sometimes, so very hard to see.

I prayed. I begged God to be visibly present in their lives. They are at a critical stage, these boy-men with big feet and rapidly-stretching limbs. They are curious, and anxious, and they want to know that all of this they’ve been fed for the last decade or so isn’t just bunk.

Gabe and I feel the burden of this responsibility. We are not here to hand them a pre-packaged, tidy box of faith. We’re here to show them ours, allowing them to examine, stretch, tear it apart even, until it no longer resembles the faith of their parents and becomes instead, their own.

It is a weighty burden. I’ve worried that I hadn’t done enough, said enough, taught enough.

I worried that He wouldn’t show up. Sometimes God says no. He’s not a gumball machine dispensary of miracles whenever and wherever we decide there is a need.

“Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

Mark 10, excerpted from v. 13-16 MSG

The faith of a child is precious to Him, perhaps even more so than the faith of the rest of us grown ups. It is innocent, and trusting, and filled with hope.

I worried that He wouldn’t show up? As if!

A few nights ago, tucking in my not-so-small smallest son, he asked about a blanket that had gone with him to camp two weeks ago. Little Blue, he calls her (for evidently, this blanket is a she).

In a split second I realized that I hadn’t seen Little Blue since he returned from camp. The bags were already unpacked, and piles of laundry washed. His stuffed animal and sleeping bag came home. But Little Blue did not make her way through the laundry with all the rest.

I knew the bags had all been emptied. I knew I’d washed every last grubby sock. I knew, in that moment, that Little Blue had likely been left behind.

Little Miracles Helping Kids Find God In the Everyday

Little Blue is a small rectangular blanket. Dark blue and ultra soft on one side. (What once was) white fleece on the other. It is not just any blanket, it is The Blanket. A gift from one of my colleagues before he was even born, it was the go-to source of comfort that he choose out of all the others from day one.

My boys never took to pacifiers or loveys. They are blankie men, through and through. And this was The Blanket. The one and only Most Important of All Blankets.

Little Blue Collage

Little Blue has appeared in almost every Sleep Attack photo I’ve taken.

Aghast, I tried to get him to remember the last time he saw her. What he remembered packing into his bag that last day at the cabin and when. We determined that while all the other belongings had gotten packed into his duffle, he set her on the floor next to his bunk while he finished pulling sheets off the bed.

Our last photo of Little Blue, the first day of camp.

Our last photo of Little Blue, the first day of camp.

But he didn’t remember putting her into the bag. I knew I hadn’t taken her out.

Giant tears began to roll down his face as he realized the horrible truth. Little Blue had either been left behind on the dusty cabin floor under the bed, or worse, she’d gone home in someone else’s laundry bag (not uncommon in a cabin stuffed full of boys).

He sobbed with true grief, and I had nothing to offer in comfort but two arms and my own tears. You can’t just replace a blanket like that. You can’t just buy a new one and make it all better.

I held him while he mourned. We strategized how to reach the camp directors to check the lost and found. We reviewed the names of his bunk mates and I promised to move heaven and earth to call each and every one.

And we prayed. We prayed that she would be found. We prayed that he would be comforted. We prayed that he would not worry or mourn anymore until we knew for certain.

Tear-stained and exhausted, he accepted a substitute for the evening and I kissed him goodnight. Leaving his room, I went straight back to the garage where his duffle was still waiting to be returned to the attic. I thought I would look one more time, just in case.

The bag was zipped shut. I knew I had already emptied the contents, and would have left it open to air.

Unzipping the bag, and there she was. Folded neatly on the bottom of the nearly-empty duffle bag on top of a bottle of Minion body wash and a bedraggled Bible.

I ran back into the house and down the hall.

You. Should. Have. Seen. His. Face.

Who knows how or why Little Blue was never unpacked. Who knows how she got into the bag in the first place, when the last thing he remembered was her laying on the floor. Who knows? That’s not what’s important.

My boy went to bed in peace that night, content in the proven knowledge that we serve a God of the little things. The small worries, troubles and woes of our fragile hearts — they are not small to the God Who Hears and the God Who Sees.

More importantly, my boy went to bed with the first spark of a faith all his own. He walked through a shadowy valley, and found he was not alone.

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Gratitude Monday

August 10, 2015

gratitude monday.png

A few things I’m grateful for today:

A husband who loves to cook

I mean LOVES. He makes aprons look sexy. I am perfectly capable of cooking. But I don’t love it like he does. He spends HOURS trying new things…last month it was ravioli. This weekend? Pretzels. There are no words for the sheer and utter bliss of a hot-from-the-oven soft pretzel. I am reminded that, I am an evil genius. The reason the man who cooks turned to baking? All my doing. Genius. Pure genius.

A Trip to the ER

Youngest boy and I made our first trip to the ER this week. I’m proud to say that this time, I did NOT forget to kiss and comfort my son before springing into action when he was presented to me in my office bleeding profusely from a badly split lower lip. But, he did win the race. With his face. Into a metal fence. He was trying to impress a girl…”She was really fast!”

He was rewarded for his valor with a discharge prescribing antibiotic ointment and popsicles. And we were in and out of the ER in 90 minutes. I call that a pretty great outcome.

photo

This is his terrified “Am I getting stitches?” face as we were being admitted into the ER…

Humans of New York

Just a photographer with nothing better to do than take portraits and tell stories about strangers on the streets of New York and the world. But when we tell our stories, we connect with each other. We cannot hear someone’s story and remain the same. This summer, Brandon Stanton is in Pakistan and posting daily portraits from his travels that are so raw and exquisite in their humanity, I’m nearly in tears every time. If you’re not following HONY, you should.

Continuing in the tradition of last summer, I’m going to be travelling during the month of August and posting stories from overseas. Only this time I’ll be visiting two countries instead of trying to span the world, because that was exhausting, and it also caused my poor senile dog to forget my existence. The first stop is Pakistan. Hope you enjoy.

For the Love of Parenting

This video short by Jen Hatmaker plugging her new book For the Love really summarizes where we stand on parenting. (It’s affirming to hear it from someone else.) “We don’t cry foul every time a teacher calls and says our kids are acting whack. I know they are. I live with them.” Amen. We’re not raising kids, we’re raising adults, and now is the time for small failures that will lead to big learning.

Books I’m Reading:

51MCVqJLupL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A charming summer read. Written for Young Adults, but just as enjoyable for the sort-of-grown-ups like me.

61oh3lXLiLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Loved this book set in Northern Italy’s Cinque Terre. Because, I’M FINALLY GOING! *insert happy dance* We’ve talked of Europe for 17 years of marriage. But life and kids happen, and we just never got over there. Finally, we’re headed across the pond in the fall. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

allTheLightHands down, the best novel I’ve read in the last five years. Breathtaking.  I know I told you about it already. It’s worth repeating.

And Lastly, Happy Endings

“Ya happy? Good. Now let’s go home and you can cut my grass.”

I love this. Two orphaned kids get a happy ending from a guy who understands what love really is.

What are you grateful for today?

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The conversation continues!  For more insights and resources about living a shiny, abundant and beautiful life, join me over on InstagramPinterest, or Facebook

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Happy News

August 3, 2015

So,this happened. And, I’m so overwhelmed and delighted and awe-struck by the company I’m keeping.

Member of Redbud Writers Guild

Redbud Writer’s Guild is a vibrant and diverse movement of women who—in community—create and influence culture and faith.

See for yourself – find out more about my fellow writers and follow on
Pinterest
Twitter
Facebook
I’ll be writing occasionally for the Redbud blog, and many of my articles will be appearing on the new website launching at the end of August. Be sure to check it out! I’ll keep you posted. xo.

Things Moms Say; Things Boys Hear

July 16, 2015

boys hear

For all you newbie boy-moms and boy-dads out there, here’s a handy-dandy translation guide for anything you might need to communicate to your boys. You’re welcome.

What Mom says: “Go brush your teeth”

What boys hear:

“Wrestle in the hallway until the dog starts barking and won’t stop.”

What Mom says: “Go put on your pajamas”

What boys hear:

“Run naked through the house. Be sure to answer the door if the bell rings.”

What Mom says: “Please clear your dishes from the table.”

What boys hear:

“Pick up your glass and take it to the kitchen. Leave everything else. I’m always happy to pick up after you.”

What Mom says: “Have you done your homework?”

What boys hear:

“Have you looked fleetingly at one of your six worksheets, before stuffing them into the bottom of your backpack?”

What Mom says: “Did you eat all of your lunch?”

What boys hear:

“Did you take minuscule token bites of the nutritional items in your lunch before consuming the chips and cookies you snuck in there behind my back?”

What Mom says: “Please stop touching your brother.”

What boys hear:

“Stick your tongue out and make faces at your brother as soon as I turn away.”

What Mom says: “I would appreciate it if you could at least wear a pair of shorts around the house.”

What boys hear:

“Shorts around the house would be great, but underwear it totally optional.”

What Mom says: “Eat your dinner; there won’t be any snacks available later.”

What boys hear:

“Eat whenever you feel like it. I will always be ready to jump up and cater to your every dietary whim.”

What Mom says: “Please pick up your LEGOs”

What boys hear:

“Select approximately 10 pieces with which you can live without and return them to the box. Continue working with the other 4,352 pieces on the floor. Be sure to spread them out as much as possible so that I will step on at least four should I walk through this room later in the dark, with bare feet.”

And finally,

What Mom says: “Why does my car smell like stinky feet?”

The boy replies: “Because you’re a boy-mom. Stinky feet are your life!”

Truth.

May grace and peace, and clean smelling feet be yours in abundance,

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The conversation continues!  For more insights and resources about living a shiny, abundant and beautiful life, join me over on InstagramPinterest, or Facebook

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Growing Up Color Blind, and Why That’s A Tragedy

July 8, 2015

color blind

I’ve always felt a sense of pride growing up in the Silicon Valley. We are incredibly diverse here in Northern California, and I’ve always considered myself to be “color blind.” I had friends of different ethnic backgrounds and different skin colors. But their racial heritage never made much of a difference.

We played our games, we ate our pizza, we went to school side-by-side. We competed in sports, complained about PE, did our homework, and it never seemed to matter what color our skin was.

Except….now, looking back, I see the tragic flaw. We weren’t color blind at all. We were color silent.

We ignored our differences. We pretended they did not exist. We tried to force ourselves into the melting pot of culture, everyone’s unique variations and vibrant heritage blurring around the edges into a shapeless gray.

I never got to hear the back stories…

My friend Iditt was Jewish. But never once did I ask if her grandparents ever spoke of the Holocaust, or if she ever felt any racial or religious prejudice growing up Jewish in California. I knew she observed different holidays, but I never asked her what they meant.

Celine’s family narrowly escaped Saigon when she was an infant. But I never asked her how, or why.

There was one black girl on the entire volleyball team. I don’t remember her name. I assumed then she didn’t notice – no one else seemed to. Somehow, now, I don’t think that’s true. But I’ll never know – I never asked.

There were others. Children of immigrant parents, first generation Americans, and immigrants themselves, learning English while trying to keep up in math and journalism and biology.

I never heard any of their stories. We pretended the stories did not exist.

I didn’t think I was allowed to ask. That by asking, I was somehow being racist. By noticing my friends’ differences, that I would somehow shame them for being different. And so, I never asked. They never offered. I never knew.

In light of recent events in our broken country, I realize how that silence is hurting us. We are not the same. We are not a shapeless, nameless, colorless grey. We all have stories, and our individual cultural heritage is rich and vibrant and worth sharing.

We-are-not-the-same-We

 

I need to know. I want to know….I want to know what your life was like growing up African-American, Latino or Asian. Indian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern… I want to know your stories. I want to know what you love about not being white. I want to know when it was hard, or painful. I want to know your story.

I want you to know that I’m asking because I think it’s important. Beyond our physical differences, it is our stories that make us human. It is in our stories that we find points of connection and commonality. It is in our stories that we can learn what true suffering and social injustice really mean, beyond the photos on CNN.

I need to know.

You know, I love my church. I’ve been part of the same church family since I was five years old. These are my people. They are my village. They’ve loved me and raised me. They threw my bridal showers and baby showers and they hosted my mother’s funeral. This church is part of who I am.

Seven churches. SEVEN.  (Or is it eight now, since I began writing this post?!) Seven church families shattered by the loss of their home – all burned. All of them historically black churches.

An eighth ripped apart with bullets barely six weeks ago.

I cannot possibly know what this experience is truly like, but I want to know. I know that if I lost my church in such a way, I would be crippled. Crushed. Heartbroken. But I can only imagine…I cannot know

Unless you tell me.

May I ask you? May I ask about your background, your heritage, your culture? Perhaps if we stopped pretending we were all the same, we could learn from one another. Perhaps, by sharing the truth of what it’s like to not be white, we can make a tiny dent in the ignorance and hate of racism. Our stories make us human. When you hear someone’s story, their real, true, deep story, you are irrevocably connected to them. A small piece of them will be forever ingrained upon your heart.

Stories connect us to one another. Stories erase the nameless, faceless, grey blur. The individualize us. They highlight our edges and differences in a way that is beautiful and vital. An illumination of our differences in such a way that the person hearing our story is just the tiniest bit forever changed.

A story gives the nameless a face and a background.

Stories help us find our common groundlike this one, in which Muslims are standing up for the oppression of blacks in this country.

“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans,” organizer Imam Zaid Shakir wrote on the campaign’s website.

However, Muslims can understand the “climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country,” he wrote, saying the American Muslim community should stand in solidarity with African-Americans.”

hear story

The shortest distance between strangers and friends is found along the road of a shared story. 

Your story matters. It is what makes you who you are, and there are others who need to hear it. Your story could be her hope.

Your story could be his enlightenment.

Your story matters.

Go out today and ask someone who is a different color than you to tell you their story. Tell them yours. Then come back here, and tell me what you learned.

I want to know.

 Update: Another great perspective from Relevant Magazine

Teachers and parents always used to reiterate “it does not matter where we come from” or “if we look different” because “we are all the same.” But in reality, we were never all the same.

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The conversation continues!  For more insights and resources about living a shiny, abundant and beautiful life, join me over on InstagramPinterest, or Facebook

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