Monday, July 25, 2016

My Cup Runneth Over: With Barkdust and Backwash

It is impossible for me to have a cup of anything to drink without my youngest son wanting a drink as well.  In fact, we have designated an Irwin Tools travel coffee mug as “Jude’s coffee mug.”  I cannot finish more than two sips of coffee without Jude saying “Coff, me?”  Seriously.

 Then it comes to the time we spend playing outside.   My boys start requesting to go outside to play around 9 am.  Naturally, we try and drink a lot of water.  And no matter what cool kid water bottles or special cups they ask for, it is inevitable that they will want my water cup. 

I have taken to specifically putting lemon juice in my water in hopes that it would deter them.  Nevertheless, Jude still takes his mud-laden hands and drinks.  Then, as he presses his mouth to the glass, the little pieces of dirt from the rock he was just chewing on fall into my water.  As he finishes taking a drink, a good quarter of what was in his mouth casually makes its way back into what was once a delicious glass of lemon water. 

But let’s survey the scene, shall we?

I am sitting in a camp chair that Noah and I received from my older brother Josh and his wife Natalie as an engagement gift.  Those chairs are nine years and four states strong.  I come from a family of people who are great at giving good gifts.  My cup runneth over.
That camp chair is in the shade of the garage of the house we live in.  Our house is the guest house on the property of another home owned by an amazing family from our church.  When Jon and Colette bought the house five years ago they took us to dinner and told us that when they saw this guest house they thought specifically of Noah and I.  We wouldn’t be able to live on the Eastside of Seattle if it weren’t for them, meaning we would have to leave the church we are called to.  My cup runneth over.
Speaking of home, our house shares a six acre lawn with the Aguirre family.  They love our kids and us.  We share meals and their boys have both been in our youth group from the beginning.  Our kids sit and dig in the lawn and when Miss Colette comes out they stand up to run and give her a hug.  (Except for Jude, who right now runs away from everyone.)  Our kids don’t know what it is to live in a cramped apartment with loud neighbors and a hard time getting outside.  They know that adventure waits outside their doors and that they have friends who want to play with them.  My cup runneth over.
While I sit in that camp chair I am reading Jen Hatmaker’s newest book For the Love.  That book was recommended to me by two amazing friends I have made in the last year.  Amy and Nikki truly make my life lovely and I couldn’t imagine my days without them.  Also, the book is fantastic and I love it.  My cup runneth over.

Next to me in the cup holder is a glass of once pristine lemon water, which now has flecks of mud and rock and bark dust in it.  It is still cleaner than the water that hundreds of millions of people fight to drink every day.  Not only do I have clean water to drink, my children have clean water to play in!  They can chase each other with it and make it into mud.  They can fill a pool with it and swim around without fear of disease or thirst.  My cup runneth over.
And then there they are.  My two remarkable boys, Soren and Jude.  They are prayers that were answered.  They are light and joy in our lives.  They are trial and perseverance.  They are patience just waiting to be discovered.  They are perfect and they are growing up too fast.  My cup runneth over.

I get to raise those boys with my husband, who loves me and them with reckless abandon.  He works extraordinarily hard because he believes in God’s church and what it means in communities and families and the world.  His hands play instruments and build projects and do manual labor and at the same time they lift little boys who are giddy to see him at the end of the day.  My cup runneth over.

I have been thinking a lot about perspective and gratitude lately.  Trying my best to remember the lenses I use to view the world and making sure each of them has as little distortion as possible.  When all I want is to sit and read my book in peace and my son spits barkdust in my water, my lens tends to be frustration and exhaustion.  But, on those good days when I try and don’t fail right away (which is most days), that lens is comedy and the truth that there is more water to be had and I’m glad he’s no longer thirsty.

Friends, our lives are running over with goodness and grace, and many of us have way worse things in our cups than just barkdust and toddler spit.  But if all we ever see is the error, we never see the water for what it is; necessary, life-giving and also just delicious. 

May you share your cup with whomever needs it.  May you spend purposeful time filling it back up.  May you laugh at what is left behind and continue to be filled up until it runs clean again.  May you find joy in throwing the water over your head and splashing around, appreciating the refreshing coolness of it.  
May we all have the courage to trust the cup will be full the next day.  May we have the courage to get silly and splash around in it at the end of the day.  And as you dance in the waves of grace, may your feet be washed from the dust of that day’s journey.   After all is said and done, may we save just enough to kneel before someone else and wash their feet as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

To The Not Yet Moms, I'm Sorry I Rolled My Eyes

Every single woman who wants to be a mom has, at some time, offered up a piece of advice to a current mom in hopes of being a helpful part of that mom's community.  And every single mom who has heard unsolicited advice from non-parents has smiled, turned her head, rolled her eyes and thought "You have NO idea."
I have done both.  I am sorry for doing both.  But most of all, to all you not-yet moms, I'm sorry I rolled my eyes.

Let me first say this, I have gotten great advice from not-yet moms.  I have a few friends who are straight up baby whisperers and I will listen to them every time because they possess some sort of voodoo magic that makes me want to use whatever potion makes them that patient, and smell that good.  But I have also been guilty, I mean really regularly guilty, of grumbling with my mom friends about these "other women" who have no idea how hard it is to raise littles.  I have muttered under my breath things that rational, well-rested me would have never said to anyone but hangry, tired, unshowered me is apparently less filtered.

I am sorry for two main reasons, and the first is the most painful.

So many, too many, of those not-yet mommies have been struggling through the unimaginable agony of infertility and miscarriage and the fear and loathing each month brings.  I cannot say I know even an inkling of that anguish.  It took us just a month to get pregnant with Soren and Jude came as a surprise that, if I'm honest, I wasn't prepared for.  I have never felt the pangs that come with celebrating the birth of baby who was born the same time yours was due.  I am sorry for your pain and I will weep with you when you weep, I will mourn while you mourn and I will do my best to never let the hardship of being a mom be the only thing you hear me talk about.  And if you need me just to stop talking, I will shut up and show up. no questions asked.

The other reason I'm sorry is a little more existential.

If I reject any advice every time, someone who doesn't fit my current life circumstances, offers up an opinion, thought or anecdote my community will be come exceedingly homogeneous.  There will be no diversity, no helpful exchanges, no room for grace or need for it.  There will only be like-minded individuals who rely only on their lack of individuality and not become interdependent on the thoughts, hopes, feelings, prayers and pain of others around us.   In that group, any empathy for others is quickly traded in for apathy because "if they only knew how hard this is" they wouldn't pray so hard to join the club.  It's a scary slippery slope and it's not one I want to go down.

The empathy for apathy trade goes the other way as well.  If I dismiss each effort to help given by a friend who doesn't have kids, their empathy for my "situation" will regress to apathy in not too long of time.

If we demand that only those who experience the same things as us get to speak into our lives with any sort of knowing or palpable empathy, we will only encourage apathetic stares and no longer claim the right to sympathetic looks.

We have to accept the "I'm sorry" statements from people who don't know what our current struggle looks like.  Whether it is parenting or the pain of childlessness, whether it's addiction, poverty, wealth management or weight gain, we must encourage sympathy and moreover empathy.  We are all hoping to raise these littles as a community, we are hoping that as the next generation rises they won't be bombarded by the stories of late, tales of hatred and fear that are centered around the unspoken demand for sameness.  And if we have any hope for these things we must be willing to hear the voices of those who are not like us and give them heed.

So to all you not-yet moms whose advice I have let roll off my back, I'm sorry if my actions caused you pain, I promise you I'm working on it.  Because this life isn't easy, but that doesn't mean yours must obviously be easier.

Let's choose today to foster empathy within our communities, let's keep them as diverse as we can, let's make space for disagreement, discussion and grace and hope and most of all love because we need it and so do our babies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lenses

I'm a photographer, that's my attempt at money-making job.  In that job I change the lenses on my camera all the time.  I have lenses that give me a greater perspective on my surroundings.  I have lenses that hone in tight to the faces and expressions of other people.  I have my favorite lenses, my everyday lenses and lenses that even distort what is really there, all in the name of art.
This is what life is like every single day in our lives, we change lenses.  We have lenses that we use in certain situations, we have joy lenses and cynical lenses and even lenses that distort any sense of reality.

An amazing friend of mine just posted about her frustrations with the fact that none of her three boys have ever been good sleepers.  Which means that for the last five years she hasn't gotten good sleep either.  Her youngest is not yet a year old and has a really sweet disposition.  But like his brothers, stays awake long past his bed time.

So the next post was a photo of little Sam, asleep on his mom's lap as she rubbed his back and the caption, "Mom fail - 33,425,000."

But she isn't a failure, not in the slightest.  And it's not like they haven't tried.  She and I have been friends for more than two decades and there are few people I know who put more effort into things that matter to her.  They have tried sleep training, Ferberizing, sleep counseling, every oil, prayer and trick in the book.  Still, she is not a failure.

She feels like a failure, only because sleeplessness is a lens in and of itself.

It is easy to see ourselves as failures when our ability to judge things clearly is obscured by the blinding light of exhaustion.  A perpetual lack of sleep shines like a torch you want to shield your eyes from.  It's sharp and aching and despite closing your eyes there is still no rest there because, eyes closed or open, you are still needed to perform.

That harsh light masks all nuance, all slight shadow and all subtleties.  When the lens you view life through is a pinpointed spotlight, all you see is whatever is in complete contrast to you in that moment and quite often, those are small flecks or tiny idiosyncrasies that aren't "supposed" to be there and all we see is failure.  But, if the lens was corrected, if the light was even, if our ability to see things are they really are isn't distorted, those small spots fade away into the bigger picture that surrounds us.

Weight is a lens.  Diet is a lens.  Money is a lens.  Marriage, divorce, children, miscarriage, hope, despair, and more are all lenses that shape our view of what surrounds us.  But not all lenses are good for seeing beauty, some focus too closely on the flaws.

So, friends, if you're tired, really really tired, I hope you have the community to support you and come around you so you can rest.  If you are hurting I hope they are there to help you heal.  If you are joyful, I hope those around you can rejoice with you instead of distorting your joy with their own lens.

But if you can't get the rest or healing or support you need right now, remember your lens might be stuck right now.  That doesn't mean your snapshots are really how you see them.

To my dear lifelong friend, you are an amazing mom.  I love you.  Your husband loves you.  Your boys adore you.  And my lens can see you perfectly and you are not a failure.