On Green Lights, Snowballs, and Being Needed

Our quiet house is slowly starting to wake, and the countdown is on. I know that right this moment, in six minutes, the light on my oldest’s clock will finally turn green and though she’s popped in and out of her room multiple times since waking almost an hour ago, she will actually, finally, be allowed to come downstairs. And by the time I finish this, she’ll have come downstairs requesting no less than a handful of things including orange juice, food, maybe a show, and my full, undivided attention.

My reprieve will be over. This quiet morning I’ve relatively wasted, mostly because I don’t remember how to use this kind of space anymore, will get louder and needier. But maybe, maybe this kind of space isn’t always meant to be used or utilized or crammed with the list of things that somehow feel more or better accomplished when I am alone and it is quiet. Thinking? Clipping my nails? Reading my bible? Finishing a full cup of coffee?

If there is anything I’ve learned in the almost five years I’ve been a mother, it’s that nothing is to be expected and nothing ever stays the same. So I’ve had to learn how to fit those things into the middle of the mess swirling around me instead of in the quiet spaces I rarely get.

And while I often think all the other mothers around me are getting those spaces, I’m learning more and more that’s just not the case. Even the mom of the one child who spends several days a week out of the home – the mom who seems to get to have her hair done in peace, workout in peace, run errands in peace, go to the bathroom several times a day a few days of the week in peace, and even has the option of doing nothing at all in peace for up to 10-15 hours a week – is not always or even often resting fully in that or putting herself first or filling her up. Because even when she’s “off”, she’s “on”, and somewhere, sometime soon, the proverbial green light on the clock will go off and she’ll be needed.

So now eight minutes after the light turned green, and I’ve been asked for all four things I mentioned above – as well as poking a hole in a piece of paper with my finger (who knows?), I now hear the middle one yelling from his crib upstairs and the littlest making “feed me” cries from my bedroom. It’s like a snowball of need and a juggling act all in one. See me here, running on top of a larger and larger snowball down a hill, juggling snowballs, and getting pelted with snowballs while really, really loud Christmas music plays in the background, and you’ll get the picture.

At least I really like snow, most Christmas music, and my children.

And being needed. I might not get it right most of the time, I might have no idea how to use quiet spaces anymore, and I might start keeping a mental countdown until bedtime before noon most days, but this is it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Except a nap. I could go for one of those, about now, already.

Content with No Content

Hey! Hi. Hello there, world. (And by world, I mean the two people who may still subscribe to this thing.)

Yeah, it’s been awhile.

Today seemed as good of a time as any to get these fingers tapping away at keys again. To say “it’s been awhile” is really quite the understatement. Given the fact that all but one of my posts published earlier in the year were being pushed forward from Instagram, it’s safe to say there’s been absolutely no intention here. None. Zip. Nada.

I don’t feel bad about that, at all. In fact, I have felt a great deal of permission to defy the norm of the day: to be a writer who is not blogging.

The shock! The horror! The freedom.

My daughter is an expert teacher in the art of expectation, or the lack thereof.

Around the time I last showed up in these parts, she had just up and given away her afternoon nap. Good riddance, rest! My world spun upside down on its head, and nothing has been the same. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that, but it’s true. This chang wrecked me, quite possibly more than any of her previous transitions. Every notion I’d ever had of getting that coveted midday break to just be or to accomplish all-the-things was gone. Poof. Vanished. Though we moved immediately into what is known as “quiet time”, I no longer had permission to let my mind quiet. (And I am a woman who thrives on quiet.)

Because as anyone who has actually spent time with my daughter knows, she is anything but quiet. Even when she thinks she is. She could literally spend hours playing alone in her room and sometimes does. But unfortunately, not without bouncing off the walls and her bed, getting into every drawer and crevice of her room, and carrying on long, loud dialogues between her many stuffed animals and toys. I keep my eye on the monitor at regular intervals, otherwise I’m likely to find some unintended harm done to something in her room. Curtains pulled down because she wanted to “swing like Tarzan”? Yep. Poop on the carpet and clean clothes and the walls of her closet (in that order), because of her hope of cleaning up an accident? You betcha. Pajamas hanging from the chandelier with a hole burned through them. True story. (I’m guessing you don’t envy me, at the moment.)

I could spend my whole life bribing, coercing, or threatening her to be quiet and stay in her bed and not get into things. I’ve wasted more time trying to get her to fit into my expectations for our afternoons than I’ve invested in figuring out a way to make our mutual need (but obviously different preferences) for downtime work for the both of us. It is a tension. But I’m working on it. And we’ve been talking through it. And we’re finding our way.

And that’s kind of how I feel about blogging.

It’s been almost TWO YEARS since I announced my intended departure from photography and my entrée into life with “no plans exactly, except to serve my husband, cherish my time with our daughter, prepare for the arrival of our son, to look for God’s call in my every day and to respond accordingly – with words or simply action”. In between now and then, I’ve prepared for, welcomed and loved on that sweet boy for a year and a half, cherished that big girl, and played a big support to my husband and his everyday at work. And as for the writing? Well, most of what I have written lives in composition notebooks, Word files, and my lengthy captions on Instagram (sorry, not sorry). That last bit has even died down a bit lately, as I’ve become more and more guarded – even, dare I say, stingy? – with the thoughts of my heart.

And no matter how many times I hear the “content machines” say that the equation for success as a writer is success as a blogger, I push back. And push back. And push back. Because though at one time, I was a blogger – I was a writer first. And I think, for a long time, I was okay with blogging because I was just writing, not thinking much about how people responded to me or made me feel good (or bad) about myself. LiveJournal. Xanga. Blogspot. The specific tools in medium changed, but the intent didn’t. I did it because I had things in my head that I wanted to share and enjoyed connecting with people. Plain and simple.

Somewhere along the way, something shifted, and I couldn’t get that back. I wasn’t being true to who I am. Blogging became a mechanism for ensuring my success as a photographer, a means for ascribing self-worth (or deprecation) to myself, and something I really started to loathe. And I think, to safely become “just a wife, mom, and writer”, I needed to cut the tether.

I needed to be able to be content with no content.

I needed to be reminded that writing was not just – or even first – about being read.

I needed to let the dust fall where it may, while my heart was tidied. (Though let me tell you, that’s a lifelong journey.)

So now, I’m here. And I’m wondering and dreaming about what this could be, again. What blogging in DEFIANCE of the “content machines” could look and feel like, and how I can connect with my words. Not feed (or starve) my ego with what people have to say about what I write, but really write things that matter to people without my own regard for mattering. It is a tension. But I’ve been working on it. And I am thinking through it. And I will find my way.

It is Good to Draw Near

"But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works." – ‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭28

“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works.” – ‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭28

His Kind of Everything

Who could've known I would need this reminder again, this exact day, months after God put it on my own heart to share a reflection on Psalm 23 with others? Of course, He did. Of course He knew and still knows that in me is an undercurrent of stress and anxiety that at times bubbles up at certain times like a scalding hot spring. And goodness, it burns.But He never leaves me, through it. He never leaves us. And He always offers HIS KIND of leading – HIS KIND of nourishment – HIS KIND of rest – HIS kind of peace, if we will simply lean into Him for it and stop striving for the kind that doesn't last when the going gets tough.It has been amazing to see how He has had something new and timely to say to me, everyday, through women I know and have come to know through @pursuitcommunity. Though we are on day thirteen of reading through the SEEK devotional together, you are more than welcome to join in at anytime.  You can download the FREE digital version by following the link in my profile. We will be reading through it again as a community in September, as well!

Who could’ve known I would need this reminder again, this exact day, months after God put it on my own heart to share a reflection on Psalm 23 with others? Of course, He did. Of course He knew and still knows that in me is an undercurrent of stress and anxiety that at times bubbles up at certain times like a scalding hot spring. And goodness, it burns.

But He never leaves me, through it. He never leaves us. And He always offers HIS KIND of leading – HIS KIND of nourishment – HIS KIND of rest – HIS kind of peace, if we will simply lean into Him for it and stop striving for the kind that doesn’t last when the going gets tough.

It has been amazing to see how He has had something new and timely to say to me, everyday, through women I know and have come to know through Pursuit Community. Though we are on day thirteen of reading through the SEEK devotional together, you are more than welcome to join in at anytime. You can download the FREE digital version by following this link. We will be reading through it again as a community in September, as well!

He Calls Us Both to Fly

Her voice was soft and probing, “Momma, do you want to see my butterfly?”
In that moment, everything hard in me broke into a thousand pieces.

We had just spent the last twenty minutes in one of the most combative periods of our nearly three and a half year relationship. Yes, my preschool-aged daughter and I were – for all intents and purposes – fighting. As much as I’d like to think at thirty years old I would be above that splintering of one’s will that her age is known for, I – quite simply – am not. In all the right circumstances, I can hold it together. I can recollect all of the pieces of advice I’ve ever read or been given to walk through this stage, and I can power through. I can hold her in her brokenness and keep myself together enough to keep us together, or at least seemingly so. Empathy is my strength, after all.

In all the wrong circumstances, I crumble. Because sensitivity, indeed, has an underbelly. The ugly stuff bubbles up in me and takes both of us hostage. I raise my voice. She screams and thrashes about. We clumsily, desperately grasp at power and control in these moments. As a result, we see ourselves as adversaries. It takes absolutely everything in me to keep from losing what little I might have left. Momentarily, the unthinkable thought that I am really not sure how you can dislike someone you love so much flits across my mind.

Somehow, by some miracle, we manage a ceasefire. We retire to separate, though not too distant, spaces. I slow my racing heart with the steady rhythm of t-shirt arms and loose socks folded in on themselves, stacked in orderly piles about the floor. I can clean this mess. I can control this chaos. Out into the void between us, I hear hurried scribbles on paper echo down the length of our dining room table. I don’t want to engage. I don’t think I can. But wanting to check on her without checking on her, I grab a stack of hand towels to return to their home in our kitchen drawers. I see her look up at my entrance, curious and longing.

She asks me to see her masterpiece, and that simple, forgiving way in which she does so breaks me. I quietly walk over to the table and look down at an array of color, wings, and body. I can tell exactly the places where she worked so carefully to stay in the lines. Yet, despite her efforts, she just isn’t able to do so all of the time. The whole of it is breathtakingly beautiful. All the freedom and creativity in the world, and if I’m not careful, I could crush it. This butterfly, this masterpiece of a child. The boldness, boundaries pressed and beauty of a little girl finding her way in her world. She is the grace and kindness of God in the whirlpool of will and sin nature and I am powerless in the face of it all.

I pick her up from her chair at the table, nestle her into that place in the crook of my neck where my babies always seem to fit no matter their age. Just barely, I’m able to whisper an “I’m so sorry, baby” before my heart catches in my throat. But she hears me. She whispers the same in return and pulls back to look in my eyes, ours in matching shades of blues made brighter by their reddened rims. Reassuringly, she says “I love you, momma. It’s okay.” It feels like I could hold her just like that forever, and yet she wants only to go back to her coloring. So, she does.

I return to my laundry and am brought to my knees, crying into my husband’s clean underwear. This is all, still, too much. Too much to feel. Too much to handle. Too much to know we could likely be here again, and again, and again for the rest of our relationship. Holding up my hands, I beg God for forgiveness. As if on cue, I hear her yell out from the dining room “I forgive you, Momma!” and my sobs take over, a prayer something like this rattling off my quivering lips:

I cannot do this without you, Lord. Anything good in me is You. Anything great is undeniably You. She is Yours, Father. She is Your masterpiece. Your gift. Your way of reaching me when I am simply unreachable. This is so hard. It’s always been hard, but at times it does get a little easier and I so quickly fall victim to believing I can do any bit of this on my own. I can’t. I need You. Please be for me what I cannot be, which is everything. Everything. Everything.

Soon enough, the laundry was folded, her coloring finished, and we went about our normal evening routine. Which was, as I’ve come to expect, not without its moments. Moments that require pauses and resets and closed eyes and whispered prayers for help.

After all, in this life, we won’t always be kind when we should, listen when we must, or get it right. Simply put, we will color outside the lines more times than we cautiously stay inside them. But all the while, He is perfecting even what we cannot see. My heart. Her heart. Our story of need and love and a God who made us both and gave us to each other, and the coloring and continual freeing of wings with which He calls us both to fly.
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