Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Be Still

Maybe you've noticed, it's been a bit quiet over here this week. 

Last week I wrote a post that had been on my heart for a while. It ended up being my second most viewed post since I started this blog. I was so incredibly moved by the comments, messages, and emails I received that let me know that I am not alone. 


In fact, we are all in this together.

I have a list of posts I am working on, but as much as I want to get the words out, there is something I need more. Quiet.

My spirit is being stitched up and  strengthened. And I need to let the snow fall outside, the tea kettle whistle, and girls sit on my lap. A little more house noise. A little less internet noise.






There are more things stirring up in my heart, but I need a few more days to flesh them out. Hopefully Friday I will do a quick monthly recap and then Monday I'll be ready to start sharing some of what is going on. 

But until then, I'm going to watch a cartoon with my girls and read them some stories. I'm going to sip my tea and read my own books. 

I am going to allow myself to be still and invite God to show me bits of Himself to me. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stealing my Joy

I'm waiting for it. Maybe you are too. 

It's not pretty. And it's not something that I like to admit. But it's something that I know is true of myself. So since the sun is shining bright on the city streets below our third floor condo, I might as well let the sun shine bright on those parts of my heart that I like to hide.

Dr. Phil. Rachel Ray. Suze Orman. Nate Berkus. That person who wrote "The Secret." What do they have in common? Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah met these individuals. Recognized something special about them. And gave them a platform. She introduced them to the world. She helped mold them. And she launched them into their own unique careers.

No, this isn't a post about Oprah, but what I call the "Oprah Moment." I don't know if you want one. But I do, and that's the part of me that I want to hide and minimize.

The premise of this theory of mine is that deep down we want that moment where someone looks at us and says, "You. You there. You are good. You are talented. Your voice is needed. Write!" And with that they not only give us their blessing, but then share our words, the words that we have been crying over, praying over, and sweating over. They share them with the world, add us to their Google reader, and just like that we have it - validation.

Validation for the stolen moments writing. For the thoughts that drifted as we were rewriting a transition in our head. For notes scribbled on every piece of paper in the house. For asking for a sitter so we can get away and have two hours of quiet. For time spent on Twitter and Facebook. For reading blogs. For reading books. For all of it.

And yes, it is ridiculous. I am so aware of it. But deep down...deep down it's there. It's longing. It's feeling unworthy. And it's comparison.

Comparison is ugly. And it's dark. It's the cloud covering up a shining sun. It obscures. It steals.







This heart of mine? It's pretty tender. And it feels things deeply.  And it can be hurt easily. I have allowed comparison to hurt me. To wound me. 

My joy hides. It hides behind stats. It hides behind page views. It hides behind followers. It hides behinds likes and shares. It's stupid and it has to stop. 


******

I am part of an amazing group of women going through a writing adventure together. And each week, each day, we become more brave. We try new things. And no one is comparing themselves. We affirm. We push. We don't steal joy.

Each day we tell each other, "You. You there. You are good. You are talented. Your voice is needed. Write!" Here the encouragement of fellow storytellers and creatives helps push away the comparison that is clouding our joy.


******


Odds are, I may never get my own Oprah moment, and that's okay. I'm grateful to be surrounded by folks who do encourage me here at my tiny corner of the blogosphere. 

And at the end of the day, when the girls are sleeping and the lights have turned off, and the only sound is the hum of cars below and the tinkling of the wind chimes, I'll remember that my words are given to me by my Creator. I'll close off to the noise that tends to fill my ears and I'll hear His words as I drift off to sleep. "You. You there. You are good. you are talented. Your voice is needed. Write!"

That. That will be my joy.









On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so excited to be a part of this team! Want to join?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to this week's prompt: JOY
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your post, so others can find there way there
  • Read each other's posts and encourage them

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lent, Gray Days, and 10,000 Reasons


These seasons of lent sneak up on me. Last year was a rough one, leaving Adam to ask me to NOT pray for him during Lent this year.

Can you feel it? The gray? I do. 

It's been a stripping away. Each season removing more than the last. It's left me raw and broken. This Lent? This is no different. And as my understanding of this season grows, so does the hurt, the distance. It feels like the veil has been lowered and there is not light shining through.

Friday evening it all piled heavy on my chest - my lungs forcing each breath. And with each painful inhale and exhale I wiped away tears, shut my laptop, closed down Twitter, and stepped away.

This weekend, I almost stopped writing. I wanted to delete my blog and burn down the internet. Throw out the computer. All I needed was my family, some candles, and to bake bread.

This weekend I felt the bitter cold and it scared me. My heart was feeling all sorts of hurt. The kinds you know are irrational, really, but it all mounded up. Perceived slights tore at my already fragile heart and I just wanted to curl up and hide. The knowing, the feeling, the wondering if there is any point to sharing words....there are so many writers out there with bigger thoughts and more carefully crafted words. Maybe I should just go back to my journal and escape it all. At least there, I won't feel unworthy.....

But somewhere between there and here, I found a patch of peace. Here I have pitched my tent and laid out my altar, my ebeneezer.  The land feels small and isolated. It is ravished with winds that threaten and rains that promise to wash me away. Yet this place remains my safety, my refuge.

On Sunday morning I peeked into the worship service and caught the end of the last song, Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons." And the layers of ice around my heart began to melt. Peace began to seep in as a balm to my dry, cracked soul as I watched the church declare each word of the song with clapping and cheers, hands raised, voices soaring. 


******


I've spent too many years not fully trusting God and I am exhausted. I am tired of my feelings being tied to my perception of God's movement in my life. When I don't see Him move, I sense displeasure. 

Why is that my default? 

In that place on Sunday morning, as I stood in the back of the sanctuary, leaning against the textured wallpaper, feet planted solidly on the ground, I stopped needing to know the why's and the where's and the how's. For here I was certain of God's vast love for me. Here, even in the dark season of Lent, where I don't see the light, I can feel the warmth. And this warmth is life-giving and sustaining. 

I'm going to stay here, on my small island, but there is always room for you too. 






Matt Redman with "10,000 Reasons"



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Messy, Tired, Working Love

I should be furiously typing right now. Lucy is asleep so here is my chance, but the words aren't coming out as I would like them to. They drip slowly off of my fingertips like molasses and are sticky and difficult to rearrange.

The house is a mess. This is a rough week for my poor husband. He has three nights of class and one late night of work. So I am alone with the kids. And for whatever reason, I have a difficult time mustering the energy to clean it as well as I should when he's not around - I am too focused on getting the necessities taken care of. He never complains. I try to clean up the things will be in his path at 10 pm when the kids are in bed and he is home from class but I don't always get to it. He tells me he doesn't see it and smiles as I welcome him home.

Her smile lights my heart on fire, even as she constantly crawls in our bed at night, holding my face in her hands. I know she thinks this is her chance at alone time, and isn't this why we bought the King sized bed anyway? So we move over and her body instantly relaxes and I can hear her breath enter and leave her little three year old body throughout the night as she sleeps next to us. 



Photo Credit: http://thiscannotbemylife.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/love.jpg

Fifteen years ago....Ten years ago....my ideas of love have evolved, shifted, changed with necessity.

Ten years ago love was a dozen roses and a diamond pendant. Valentine's day was dressing up, a meticulously planned sequence of events, and fluttering hearts. It was breathless, exciting, passionate. Today it is the grace of the hardest working man I know and a blind eye and quiet tongue. It's rolling over, even though I want this time to ourselves. It's trying to remember where I put those cards for the kids and hoping I remember to give it to them in the morning. 

Love used to be so easy to spot and shined bright.

Now it is a messy, tired, working love.  It's forgiveness. It's pardon. It's grace. It's another day.



Ten years ago a full devotional life was hours spent reading and studying and praying. Today it is a passage from Common Prayer or Jesus Calling, a Psalm, and exhaled prayers throughout the day.

Ten years ago Lent was something Catholics did and McDonald's promoted to sell their fish sandwiches. Today I rest deep in the knowledge that I am broken and battered, knowing my redemption draws nigh.


******

I refuse to believe the lie that the past is better than the present. The love I have for my husband is stronger and deeper than it was then. Adding these girls to our family has made my heart grow and explode and be pieced back together again. And while some could look down on my time with God, I know His presence in a deeper way than before and feel Him with me, for it's only through Him I have the strength to wash another dish or change another diaper.

So here's to the messy, tired, working love. I stand here on my mountain top to shout to the world what our love looks like. I think it's the best kind.




On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so grateful to be part of this team. Want to join and sing out your song?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to this week's prompt: LOVE
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your post, so others can find their way there
  • Read each other's posts and encourage them






Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do It Till You Bleed

Hey Mama,

I see you there, you are so tired. She's your first, and you are trying so hard to keep up with life. You have no idea what kind of exhaustion you are actually experiencing....you are too busy keeping on to notice. It won't be until years later you look at that first Christmas photo and think - "Crap! I looked bad."

It is your second Sunday after having her, and you don't have a teacher to teach so what do you do? You stick her in a sling and carry on, teaching your little heart out. You think you are doing the right thing, that you are honoring God and pouring into those kids, and maybe you are right. But don't do it. Stop. Sit in the back of the sanctuary holding your baby. Let your body and your mind and your spirit rest. Someone else will do it. They'll have to. And if they don't? Then someone will jump on it for next week. The world won't end. Take care of your girl. Take care of yourself.

Stop working so hard. Sleep more. Play more. Laugh more. Write more. And go back to the gym. For the love of all things good and holy go back to the gym.


Remember when you first started working out? For real? You weren't encouraged to be active growing up; sometimes you were down right discouraged. You believed the lie that you weren't strong. That you couldn't be athletic. That's wrong. You are stronger than you realize. Don't forget that.

Think back to the time when you decided to change. When you spent your mornings going up and down on that step. And the evenings were spent at the gym. Don't think about the time involved. Just think about how you felt. You were powerful. You were in control of your body. You were YOU.

Life is going to get hard. And this will seem so unimportant. But it's not. Taking care of you is the most important thing you can do as a momma. Those girls need a healthy, happy, confident mom. Give them one.

It's not about a number on a scale or a tag on a dress. It never was. It's about the way you used to walk across a room, confident with a sway to your hips that is just a memory now. Find it.

Go back. It is inconvenient but do it anyway. Someday you'll thank me.


******

Hey Mama, I see you there. You just moved to a new state. To a busy city. You are alone, just your little family of four. You are home all day with a 19 month old and a newborn. You are exhausted. And you try to scribble in that journal of yours. But there never feels like enough quiet time to get your thoughts in order. You scratch them out and then hide them. 



You burned your old journals because you had this idea that if you wrote out words that hinted to doubts, or questions, or depression that they would have some strange spiritual hold over you. That's crap. You are just working it out, one word at a time. 

Don't let them silence your voice. You were given it by your Creator and He doesn't want you silent. Don't believe the lies. Say the things that you think about. Sing out the things that beat in your chest. Shout the things that break your heart. 

Whatever you do keep sharing. It's what you were made to do. Someday you will look back and wonder why you waited so long. So just do it now.


******

Hey Mama, I see you there. Three beautiful little girls. You are so happy. But so tired. And now you realize, part of the reason why you are tired is that your body just can't keep up. And you won't let anyone take pictures of you anymore. And you don't like looking in the mirror. And there aren't any camouflaging techniques that are going to make you look better. You're just a hot mess. And you aren't trying to beat yourself up. It's just where we are. 

But one day. One day things are going to change. You decide you are worth it. You want to feel alive again. You want to feel strong. You want to be in control of your body. You want to dance around like Beyonce and feel good doing it.

******


And you are doing it. You get your tired body on that treadmill and you go until you want to cry or puke or both. And you tell yourself you are gonna kill it. Each and every time. It might not be someone else's best, but it's gonna be your best. And you will try new things and you are going to stop feeling ashamed. 

And you are going to start writing. You are going to write until you bleed. And you tell yourself you are going to kill it. Each and every time. It might not be someone else's best, but it's gonna be your best. And you will try new things and you are going to stop feeling ashamed.

You, dear one, are worth it. 

These choices? This is your silent rebellion. It's you saying that you control the direction of your life. And since God gave you a body, you will make it strong. And since God gave you a voice, you are going to scream it out. 
Every minute you take for yourself isn't selfish. Don't believe it for a minute. You are doing the things you were made to do. And your girls and your husband want you to do this. They need you to do this. 


So go on, rebel, do it. Do it till you bleed.




Friday, February 8, 2013

The Dance

We've done this dance before, haven't we, you and I.

And sometimes it is a slow dance, where we seem perfectly in sync.

Sometimes it's a tango, where each move is you seeking and keeping step with me.

Sometimes I sit it out, and I know you are there waiting for me, but I sit in the corner, sipping punch, feeling so alone and oh so sorry for myself.

I try dancing alone, and I know this isn't what I am made for, and my legs grow tired beneath me.




I say the words over and over to myself, "I do believe. Help me in my unbelief."

You hear my whisper and you come to me. You take my hand and we dance again. I rest my head on your chest and match my breathing to yours.








On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so excited to be a part of this team! Want to join?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to this week's prompt: BELIEVE
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your post, so others can find there way there
  • Read each other's posts and encourage them

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Love Beyonce

I'm a mom, so maybe it should bother me. But on Sunday night, the only ten minutes of the Superbowl I watched were those of Beyonce doing what she does best, and I loved every glorious minute of it. And when my three year old came in the room because she heard "Mommy's song" and asked what she was doing and wearing, I just said that she is singing on stage and wearing a costume. She smiled, danced a little, and went back to play. 

I watched that performance again today, because I have to tell you, I couldn't remember the "gyrating" and other things some lamented about. And I guess they were there, but it was just a Beyonce performance, exactly what I was expecting.





******

Beyonce and I have been friends for a long time. When she was a member of Destiny's Child, we would spend time on the elliptical at the gym each night after long, stress-filled days at work. For the person who grew up shunning all things athletic, I felt strong for the first time as I would increase inclines and track my time. I wasn't worried about numbers on a scale or measurements on a tape measure. But I was proud of myself as I allowed myself to feel for the first time like a woman. If Beyonce, who at the time shocked people for not having that stick skinny body everyone wanted, could strut and dance proudly, then I could too. I thought for the first time that I could love my body, curves and all.

And when I was the new, young, district manager, and the world looked down on me and I was subjected to backstabbing and gossip, Beyonce and her girls rallied our group of stores and we would sing, "I'm a Survivor" as we pumped out stock from the back room, audited paperwork, and did floor sets. And years later, when my rankings went up and I was helping give leadership training to people in the business the same length of time that I had been alive, Beyonce was whispering and singing in my ear the whole time.

******

It's something I feel like I shouldn't admit. We are part of a society that values women based on how we look. We set up unrealistic and arbitrary standards as to what makes a woman beautiful, attractive, and the right weight and size. And it is wrong. It is hurtful. It is destructive. And I don't want that for my three beautiful girls. I will break anyone who tries to judge them or define them.

I am supposed to say something here about learning to love myself as I am. That is the strong thing to do. To accept myself and show my girls that I am proud of who I am on the outside. 

But I'm not, and here is where I'm probably going to lose you.

Don't get me wrong, I know my intrinsic worth and value have nothing to do with what size my jeans are. But the jeans that I am wearing? They don't feel like mine. These are the jeans of a tired mom who has three very young children and hasn't made time to go to the gym. Who didn't take good care of herself during the last pregnancy and never lost any of that weight. These are jeans that I have never worn before. And I am done with them.

For the strong women who are owning their bodies and working it out, I am standing up, giving you a slow clap. I am so proud of you. But for me, here in this moment, the strongest, most honest thing I can do is to say I want to change and that I am not comfortable in my own skin.

******

So I take my girls to the gym with me, and they get to play while I hit the elliptical. And when my girls ask what I am doing, I tell them I am exercising so I can stay active and healthy and be strong.

I pick out my machine, the one out of close to 50 that I like best, and I plug in my iPhone and hit play. And Beyonce sings to me. I get lost in her words, her music, and my tired mom legs get stronger and go faster. I think about my jeans. I think about the jeans I used to wear, and just when discouragement and fatigue start to set in, I think of Beyonce dancing and it makes me smile. And I work a little harder, go a little faster, and try not to sing out loud, "All the Single Ladies."


******

I don't know what you saw on Sunday night, when you saw Beyonce perform. But I know what I saw. I saw a woman who is proud of herself, her talent, and her body. 

When it comes down to it, when I see Beyonce, I don't think sex. I think woman, artist, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. And that's something I hope my girls think about me too someday.




Many thanks to some of the amazing women who have shared their perspectives on Beyonce and her performance this week: Suzannah, Joy, and Alyssa.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Learning to Soar




I lived in Southeastern Connecticut for around ten years, and one of my favorite places to visit on a warm Saturday afternoon in Spring was Harkness Park. It is this amazing park and botanical garden located along Long Island Sound. There is a beautiful mansion, a beach, and some of the softest, greenest grass I have ever seen (or so my memory tells me). 

But the image that always sticks out to me is that of kites soaring in the air. I could lounge in that grass, looking up at blue sky and watch those kites effortlessly whirl through the air. I knew that to get the kite up in the air took work and planning, not to mention a bit of good fortune, but once it was in the air, none of that mattered. I was mesmerized as I watched them dance and leap and glide.


******

I walked into January determined to leave behind patterns and fears that held me back and to attempt to soar. And you know, it was a great month. Truly. I made some BIG decisions and had some hard conversations and already I am feeling lighter. 

In the period of one week I celebrated my six month anniversary of blogging, found out an essay I submitted for a book was accepted,  wrote two guest posts, and had one of them listed in someone's "best of" for the week and nearly exploded from all the goodness. And all of the sudden I realized I had doubled my blog's subscribers and I added a bunch of new followers on Twitter.

And then? Paralysis.

Yup. I froze. I managed to write something on Wednesday of last week, but since then I have been in absolute panic mode. And I don't like it. This isn't soaring. This isn't choosing to be brave. This is allowing the good gifts to become burdens and that isn't how I should live. 

I type this all out, not as some strange, self-deprecating humble brag. I write this because this is how I ended the month. And I really am so excited, so energized, so hopeful. I need to walk that out, live it out, write it out. 

I can't worry about what words come out this month and what people think of them. I can only wake up each morning, grateful for whatever gifts I may be given and thank God for another chance to step out and soar.








So I'm keeping my kite in the air and seeing where the wind takes it. I'm going to let it dance in the blue sky and be warmed from the sun. And I'm going to love every beautiful minute of it.

February? I'm coming for you, so look out!




Image Sources: http://pinterest.com/pin/161566705352011739/ and http://pinterest.com/pin/204773114279189909/