Archives for March 2013

The Not So Happy Christian

I saw a guy skipping down the street with a lawn hedger.  He appeared to be a gardener –the happiest stinking gardener I’ve ever seen.  And I got a little jealous because I want to be that guy.

I want to skip down the street with a carefree heart.  I want to whistle while I work –even when I’m laying down stinky fertilizer.   I want to be the happy-go-lucky person who loves their life and smiles even when they get half their teeth get knocked out.

And normally I am –except for when I’m not, which has been the case for the last few weeks, because I don’t do grief well. 

Although I’m not sure who does? 

Some people look so pretty when they cry.  I just feel awkward and snotty and out of control.  Generally I allow myself to cry at chick flicks and Hallmark movies.  I get out the pent-up emotions and move on.  It’s a safe place for a control freak like me to emote.

But grief has a mind of its own.  It’s spontaneous and messy.  Grief cries at Target and chokes you up two minutes before you are supposed to go on to speak at in front of a large crowd.  Grief is never convenient.

But it does force me to my knees.  I imagine that’s the whole point.

As a Christian I want to take adversity in stride.  I want to put on my shield of armor and launch fiery darts back at the enemy. 

But this week my return volley looks more like hot tears.

Without giving away painful details, my family (parents) is enduring unimaginable and excruciating circumstances. 

I keep thinking, “couldn’t we space out the yucky stuff better God?  Does it all have to hit at once?” 

Job probably felt that way.  So did Abraham when he took up his son Isaac to the mountain without a lamb.

I don’t remember anywhere in scripture where the Bible hero’s acted like “happy Christians” in the midst of suffering.  Paul talked about joy in the midst of suffering but he never said do the “image management game.” 

Joy is different from happiness but I think we confuse them all too often.

Jesus asked his friends to pray for him.  He didn’t put on a big cheesy smile and pretend terrible circumstances were a breeze.  He didn’t skip to the cross.  But I imagine he had the joy of knowing what his sacrifice meant to humanity tucked deep within his heart.

I wonder why we put the pressure of “being happy” on ourselves.

I know I do.  I want to be the happy gardener skipping down the street all too often forgetting that some days the happy landscape artist probably drags his lawn mower around with a frown and kicks dandelions. 

I fail to remember that not all days are Facebook worthy and not every moment is Tweetable. 

I really want to be able to say. “I’m ok and there’s a reason for everything and praise the Lord.”

But the truth is sin sucks and my heart is shattered for my family.  It’s complicated and not pretty and some evil is just too ugly to mention. 

I am not happy.  My smile is weak and forced.  My insides are churning. 

I can only pray to a sovereign God who sees and knows all.  And I can cling to the joy of Christ which remains when happiness is marred by sorrow. 

So, my friends will you please pray for my family –the desperate kind of prayers that bring about miracles.  And thanks in advance for letting me be vague. 

Do you ever feel pressured to put on the happy Christian face?

Photo Source: indulgy.com via Petra on Pinterest

Un-telling is the Hardest Part

“Mommy, why is the baby in trouble?”

I glanced in the rearview mirror at my three-year old daughter as we pulled out of the hospital parking lot.  Tears silently fell as I choked back stifled sobs.

A puzzled look fell over her face.  “Is the baby in trouble because it hurt you?” she whispered.

“Did daddy tell you the baby was having trouble?”

Kolby nodded yes.

It was a conversation I wasn’t equipped for.  How was I going to explain to Kolby that the baby brother (or sister) she wished for with a penny and a prayer in the fountain at Starbucks was gone? 

How do you translate an ectopic miscarriage to a toddler?

“Sweetheart, the baby isn’t in mommy’s tummy anymore.  Now he is in heaven.”

Kolby scrunched up her face and gulped.  “My baby is with Jesus in heaven? But that’s so far away and I won’t see him.”

“Someday you will.  Someday we’ll meet him.”

Kolby sighed in sadness and closed her eyes.  Within minutes she fell asleep.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  The first of many tough conversations was over.  It’s the un-telling I dread the most.  The reason we hide our pregnancies for the first three months is for this exact moment.

Because it freaking sucks to un-tell the good news we were just starting to tentatively share.

This isn’t my first miscarriage.  I’ve had six over the last fifteen years with one well into my second trimester.  And just because I pass a “pregnancy milestone,” I know there are no guarantees. 

Life is a gift and it is sacred.  My three children are miracles.

Death and loss are never easy.  It always hurts, always feels unnatural and it ALWAYS rips apart the fabric of a mother’s heart.

So when I un-tell…yet again, please give me a hug.  Grab my hand and don’t feel like you have to say anything of relevance.  I don’t need to hear a scripture verse or a platitude.  At this point, I’ve pretty much heard them all. 

Sometimes the comfort and solace of Christ is best experienced in the un-said.  It’s in the flowers sent, the bread on my door for PB & J’s, the notes and texts and fingers squeezed.  It’s the family picnic in my bedroom on a scary Saturday night where all five of us laughed and prayed and hoped for the best in the worst of times. 

So here is my un-tell…

I lost a baby.  It didn’t work out this time.  I’m a little raw.  I cry easily.  I might avoid you but only because I don’t trust myself yet to have a normal conversation.  I’m also feeling tremendously blessed and loved.  I’m sad and I’m happy.

And just so you know, the baby’s not in ANY trouble.  He’s at a party right now in heaven.

Preach the Gospel at all times… and when necessary, use words. – Saint Francis of Assisi

Finding Peace in a Mother’s Chaos

Christmas 2012

Almost a year ago I made the jump from working at the office full-time to freelancing. 

One day a week, I pull out my old work clothes and attempt to de-Momify.  One day a week I am a professional.  The rest of the week I wear yoga pants.

Here is what I learned about working mostly from home –it’s (insert bad word) hard. 

There are no boundaries between work and home, just blurry lines and lot’s and lot’s of compromise.

I erroneously thought it would be easier to be at home more.

Even though I used to be a stay at home (for the first six years with Kyle and Faith), I forgot how managing a home and toddlers and teens will suck a woman dry. 

Kind of like the Dementer’s from Harry Potter. SWWWOOOOOSSSHHHH.  Can you picture it?

Sometimes I feel like I have an identity crisis.  I work outside the home and inside the home.  It’s like two-full time jobs competing for my attention.

I still have to clock in the 20-30 hours of paid work so we don’t starve.  But now I have no housekeeper to take the edge off.  I still have to cook meals and make lunches and drive 21 trips to or from the kids schools a week.  I have to maintain sports schedules and wash stinky football clothes and bring snacks.  I am still a team mom-although I really shouldn’t because I am so NOT that mom)

Some weeks I manage it all and sometimes I want to sit on my dirty floor and cry.

As I sit down to write I see dust bunnies floating by –taunting me as only a dust bunny can do.  My bathroom is messy and the laundry piles up and out the door. 

No guest is allowed to enter the upper chambers.  I can keep the downstairs immaculate but I’ve pretty much given up on the upstairs.  It’s a disaster in progress.

I have friends that joke about how I can do it all.  I just shake my head and drool.

A mother of a large family simply survives.

Mom’s simply work and work and work until they fall down from exhaustion and then they watch HGTV or the History Channel (because their husband has canceled all the good channels to save money) and they lie like a zombie on the sofa until their kids throw things at them and demand to be fed and taxied to the next event.

Every day I am forced to choose between keeping up with the house or making enough money to have a house. 

I read the other day that although work equality has “come a long way baby,” (since the 1960’s) household management has not seen any change.  This means most women now work and carry the full load of housework and kids.  Dads might help more with baby and kid’s activities but guys feel completely entitled to park their butts in front of a football game and let mom serve them.

Of course I’m talking about national averages here.  My husband is the exception.  When he is home he always pitches in.  Unfortunately, until he finishes graduate school and juggling a million pastoral duties…well you get the drift.

But even though I still feel overwhelmed with motherhood, being at home more is well worth the struggle.

Because there is a place in my heart now that used to ache and now the ache is gone.

A year ago, I missed my kids desperately and day after day being gone for ten hours at a time was killing me.  (Along with the commute)

I really don’t think you can put a price tag on peace.  And a mother’s peace is different from a man’s.  There are certain desire’s of the heart only a woman understands. 

For the first time in ages, I am home when my big kids get home from school.  I am home with my toddler more often than not.  I get to go to the park and the pool and take bubble baths and read books and watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas four hundred times. 

I get to be present with my kids. And even though it’s really HARD it’s good. 

So…although my house is dirty and I have to squeeze in work and writing assignments during nap time and at zero dark thirty, I know I am not missing a thing.

And for a modern mother it doesn’t get much better than this –identity crisis and all.  (Although if anyone knows a free housekeeper…it could be a teeny-tiny bit better)

What things in your life do you need to change to find peace?

Killing Superwoman

 

Growing up in the eighties, I vividly remember a perfume commercial with a gorgeous gal clad in a chic suit prancing home from work in sky-high heels to assemble a gourmet dinner for her adoring family.  The catchy tune playing in the background “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…,” became the mantra of a generation of women trying to do it all.  Just being a stay-at-home mom lost its glamour and allure as women flocked into the corporate world.

This pseudo super-woman was beautiful and fit (despite feasting on bacon), a doting mother, sexual tiger to her man, room mom, CEO and host of a weekly wine group.  Mattel even made Dr. Barbie in a white coat and gave the doll a more professional ensemble to match her new identity.  Barbie pushed her twins in a double-stroller and then drove to work in her pink corvette smiling and waving at the nanny.

And a whole generation of young women bought into the lie we could be all things and do all things well, forgetting the natural limitations of energy and balance and sanity. 

Clearly the song forgot to mention how super-woman started having heart palpitations and chronic fatigue before she hit forty.  It failed to acknowledge super-woman’s love/hate relationship with her job, the guilt of constantly dumping car-pool on her neighbor, and the anxiety of slipping out of work early every Thursday to watch her son play t-ball.  The song didn’t address sleepless nights with baby, shouting curses at her husband over who would get up for the four a.m. feeding, playing dead from sheer exhaustion when her husband begs for sex, and stapling badges on her little girl scouts sash in a last minute desperation because she hasn’t a clue where a needle and thread might be hiding.

The song left out all the unspoken but necessary intangibles that go along with a real life of balancing work and children and hubby.  When I recently saw the movie, “How Does She do it all?” I laughed bitterly.  Not only could I have written the script –my life was even more hectic with three kids, a full-time job and a freelance career on the side.  But something in me identified with this compulsion to master motherhood and family despite the toll it was taking on my body.   I wasn’t ready to give up anything, choosing instead to scurry and race along on an endless hamster wheel of busyness, always on the edge of hurtling off into the abyss and a nervous breakdown.

I really thought I could pull it off.  I was the exception.  Sure, my eating habits were getting a little processed and I exercised less often than more; but I was holding up and playing the martyr mommy role with gusto until my heart literally stopped me. 

The details are a little fuzzy, but I recall running on a scorching hot Sunday morning with my baby daughter tucked in her bright orange jogging stroller.  Overly ambitious, thanks to a Venti Americano buzz from Starbucks, I rashly determined to sprint up a monstrous hill near my home at top speed and go for the burn.  I arrived home winded and panting, and headed straight for a hot shower with the baby in my arms.  I lathered up, rinsed and then bent over to pick up my adorable daughter.  As I started to raise her in the air, a slippery soft cherub covered in bubbles, a white light ricocheted through my skull and blackness enveloped me.

I don’t know how long I lost consciousness that morning.  I awoke slumped in a heap on the shower floor over my howling and terrified baby with icy cold streams of water prickling my back.  There were hospitals and endless tests and then the results I never expected to hear. 

At the tender age of thirty-nine –under order of a cardiologist, I was forced to pick between juggling two jobs or find myself with a pacemaker within six months.    As a mother of three beloved children, the decision wasn’t too tough.  It was time to kill super-woman. 

My kids and I put Dr. Barbie into a boat and we launched her with glee into the ocean as an act of surrender and a celebration of the beginning of a new season.  (I thought burning Dr. Barbie might be a tad too traumatic for the two-year-old) 

Then I changed every facet of my life starting with work and moving outward circle by circle.  Now when I take a jog, it’s not to fit into a bikini, it’s to keep my ticker going strong for my kids.  Things like nap-time and nutrition have reemerged and rest has taken on a whole new meaning since caffeine isn’t my go-to pick-me-up anymore. 

But the biggest lifestyle modification was changing my broken thinking.   I started to accept I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t do it all well.  Super-woman is a myth which has deceived us all.  Working mothers carry tremendous guilt and stay-at-home mothers struggle with their identity thanks to her.  No one tells a young woman she might someday have to choose between a big family and a successful career –because the personal compromise she will make to do both might eventually destroy either her health or sanity.

Fortunately, I recognized I was getting a second chance to pick what is most important and move towards that which resonates in my soul and gives me life –relationships, family, writing, and a story lived well.  Surprisingly, my list of non-negotiable items was much shorter than I anticipated after I cut off all the good I was doing to make room for the best.

Is it time you killed super-woman?

Photo Source: 500px.com via Alexandria on Pinterest

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