Join Me Tomorrow For The Kick Off To “31 Days of Doing As I Say”

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WelcomeBack

Wow, is it October again?! The rain and chill to the air, the abundance of horse chestnuts littering our backyard, the return of pumpkin everything all beat with the same answer.

(Um, that’s yes.)

Those of you who’ve hung around here a while — or who make your way to various spots on the inter webs — may also recognize October as the month for 31 Days, where bloggers all over God’s green earth bite off the challenge (originally given by Myquillyn Smith, aka “The Nester”) to write for 31 days on the same topic.

Last year, I wrote 31 Days of Right Here and enjoyed the journey of exploring what it means to be right where we are, even as it led to the hitting of walls, the gnashing of teeth and much undone laundry.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow for the kick-off to this year’s 31 Days series where I will write (as my girls say, “Drum roll please…”):

31 DAYS OF DOING AS I SAY

Perhaps a little strange, this topic continued coming to mind as I prayed and considered — as I begin to breathe in the space of days with all my little people at school (what do I do with my alone time? how do I treat myself?), as I recognize the areas of gap between what I think and how I live and as I look closer at those things I believe for you vs. what I receive as truth for me.

I expect myself to be convicted, but I also expect to laugh a little bit at the ridiculousness.

Case in point: Why does my bedroom floor looks like it does in the very same moment I bark at my kids, put your clothes away…it’s not that hard!

I’m excited for this month’s challenge and grateful for you as you read along. I pray you’re encouraged as you recognize a bit of yourself in my very human story and that you might draw closer to the deeper truths that may be passing you on by.

I’ll see you tomorrow!

_____________

Also, if you’d like to participate in 31 Days, it’s not too late. Everything you need to know is right here.

When growing up hurts (a mama)

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MamaAndLala

Motherhood is push-pull. Hold me tight-let me go. It is I want you — and I want nothing to do with you. It is a long journey of holding close and releasing my grip.

I’m experiencing it with all three of my girls right now. It’s been going on with the older two in different ways, to varying degrees for many years. Lala (you know that’s her nickname, right?) didn’t begin to truly develop a strong sense of identity separate from me until about a year ago. She began to pull away later than the others. It’s partly how we knew she wasn’t ready for kindergarten. She needed to grow in her confidence and sense of herself. It’s happening now for sure.

I can feel yanked around a bit. I’m trying not to put my stuff on them. Sometimes I’m more open after days of quiet to embrace them wherever they are; other times I’m worn out by the sudden onslaught of emotional noise and need.

I try to press in and they push back. I try to leave space, and they follow me, all clinginess and demands. There are no formulas for this sort of thing…more art than science, I’m sure.

_______

The third day of school, Lala, J and I walked to school together (Sici usually walks with friends). Lala held my hand nearly the whole time, but when we began walking across the school grounds, she quickly told me I could just drop her off.

“But I get to come in for Book Look,” I said. “This is what I did with your sisters when they were in kindergarten. I came inside every day because parents and their kids get to read books together to start the day. It’s a special time.”

“That’s OK,” she said. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” I said. “I will.”

______

The next day, Lala told me again that she’d be great with me just dropping her off, and I gave her a variation of the same answer, adding, “I drop off your sisters now and don’t walk them to their class, but I didn’t start doing that until third grade.”

That night as I tucked Lala in, I told her that I appreciated her independence, that it was great (really), that she clearly was transitioning wonderfully to spending all day without me, but that Book Look was our time.

“Sometimes parents can’t stay to read because they need to get to work, but usually I can stay, so I’d like to. You really don’t need to keep telling me to drop you off.”

She scowled and rolled toward the wall.

_____

I talked to a friend about the lunches she gets to share with her kindergarten daughter at another school. She’s done the same with her other three. It’s a sweet time for them to reconnect in the middle of a long day. I’ve done lunch with mine a handful of times in the cafeteria, but it hasn’t really ever become a thing. (Classroom volunteering has really always been more my thing.)

Still, I wondered if lunches might become Lala’s and my deal.

I thought I might bring it up casually, see what she thought, “I could come meet you for lunch sometime, if you’d ever want me to,” I said from the kitchen.

“No, thanks,” Lala said, her voice an upbeat, munching on her toast.

_____

Lately, Lala’s been crawling into bed with Mike and me, waking us with her snuggling around the face. Sometimes she has bad dreams of jumping off cliffs or being chased by cats.

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Sounds of silence

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SoundsOfSilence

During days I once slowed to listen for
hidden sounds, to take in contrast of
chaos against calm, pressing needs against what simply is
without me, things for which I’ve no responsibility.

I’d trained myself to find the ground in
small noises, that sudden hush when
mind and hands stop
to hear and see now.

Faucet drips into soaking pot, ceiling fan whirs, here I am
ears, heart open,
God speak.

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Five Minute Friday: Hold

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MikeAsh60sParty

{Michael and I dressed up in our 60’s finest last fall}

You’d never really held babies before, but there you were — such a pro — cradling our precious firstborn like a football. I envied you, then, the way your hold calmed her right down, something all my nursing and sloppy swaddles and shoosh-ing couldn’t do.

You didn’t coo much then. And I wondered if you were doing it wrong.

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Morning rain

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MorningRain

for day on day, clouds hang heavy,
blanket of wool on sticky hours,
people ask, when will it rain?
say, we really need rain.
say, it’s getting sorta scary
all these days with no rain

we, the people of gore-tex and pulled up hoods
(and only umbrellas if you’re a kid, on business or from out of town),
we’re known for endless rain days,
so it feels foreign to long for
bursting open clouds
when we’re still living under the magical sunshine of
summer fall

i don’t say it out loud for those wet months will stretch long,
but i think it and i begin
to pine for the splattering drops,
the spray from under car tires,
the look of ground saturated,
satisfied

these plants are long-suffering, drooped in fatigue,
and the dirt is dust that clings
to little feet and carpets,
and when wildfires burn uncontained,
we hold our breath and pray and
wait

this morning, when it’s still dark
and we can’t see the clouds,
those awake at this hour smell the air ripe with dirt,
note how it right wafts through the screened window
and how the droplets across car hoods, under street lights
glimmer hope

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Five Minute Friday: Ready

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Ready

I don’t know that we can be truly ready for the big changes.

Even those we gear up for and plan, anticipate or lay awake with in the middle of the night look different when we’ve come upon them, are able to finger their intricacies, behold them in the real light of day.

All we really have is the moment right here, so how can we be ready?

For more than sixteen years, I’ve walked through my days with little people. First the girls I mentored, who I worked with (and certainly loved) more than full time, holding hands and equipping for life challenges, helping heal from life’s pains.

And then my own three — always at least one little girl at my side as I did dishes and laundry, as we danced in the kitchen and gathered acorns, and I tried to carve out space, searching for an ever-elusive balance of me with her.

Without realizing it, I determined the worth of my days through a melding of their responses, God’s urges and my own, making mental stock of how I was doing by how my words, expressions and actions ricocheted against little spirits and flesh.

I was always so needed.

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Love around her neck, an end of sorts and kindergarten begins

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SpecialPouch

She felt afraid. Worried she wouldn’t know enough. Missing how she used to be a baby, she said. Not ready.

She felt excited. To meet friends and wear a purple backpack and practice numbers and read books with Ms. Foster. So ready.

The day before kindergarten started, we followed whims because my girl and I are sort of experts at that. We had just the kind of day we wanted.

We built a zoo for the Lego animals, dealt with that complaining and jealous
mama giraffe by making a community where they would all need to share. In the big house, they’d prepare meals together, take turns sitting at the table, watch the kids play on that lovely playground, cluck their thanks.

When we were done building, everyone was so happy they danced, and the polar bear even climbed to the top of the palm tree to celebrate.

At the store, we picked out giant chocolate chip cookies and ate them in the car. We drove fast and slow over speed bumps just for fun.

At home, we painted toenails and fingernails and added a thick grownup top coat so they’d stay extra sturdy as she crossed monkey bars and used a pencil all day.

In the afternoon, we read one of her favorite baby time books. I felt the line stretching between now and then, remembered how we rocked in the glider, the sound machine and our shared sing-song preparing the way for sleep I hoped would come.

Last Thursday, I read Only You as a promise she could take with her. I love everything about you. Your nose. Your eyes. Your hands. Your heart. No matter where you go, you and me, we’re made for each other. I always hold you with me, you know?

Before we picked up sisters from school, we stopped by the neighborhood secondhand store because Lala needed a little something to hold herself, to remember who she is, whose she is and how crazy much she’s loved.

My mama heart needed to be sure she knew.

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Five Minute Friday: Reach

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FlowersAtTheFence

At the beginning of the year, I found myself writing a lot about seeking and the unsettled ache and the continual true end: my home in Christ. It is the place where I am small in his shelter, where I am loved and treasured as the object of his affection, where I recognize the questions, answers and meaning as finding their end in him.

This morning, on the heels of much activity and travel and birthday parties for my summer girls and good things and warm weather life that’s filled me up and worn me out, I know the longing as a constant companion. And through the times of busyness, I feel the ways I’m reaching.

Several weeks (months?) ago, my friend Lori Harris said that she’s allowing herself to sit still in the question Jesus asks in Scripture, What do you want me to do for you?

This morning, my life looks like a cup of coffee that’s been stirred through with half and half, and it’s just beginning to slow (for a few moments at least), and so I’m asking myself this question again.

Allowing myself to answer that I am reaching, I am needy, and so what I want from Jesus is, honestly, everything. And also to become small again, for I desire that any light I shine in this world points the way back to the ever-gleaming Beacon.

This morning, I realize my desire for purpose, confidence, wholeness and peace, and so these are parts of my answer to the What do you want me to do for you question. I see as clearly as the hand in front of my face the ways I can never grasp them when I’m climbing and clawing.

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Five Minute Friday: Tell (And a Cry to Listen)

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Howard University photo300 Howard University students stand for Michael Brown, 8/13/14

There is no telling what it felt like to be in his skin in that moment. Was he afraid? Indignant? Was this one of those times his mama had warned him about?

And while we don’t know all the details of this particular shooting, this death, we would be remiss not to look at the individual life and to the larger reality to which this speaks.

#Ferguson is a flashing arrow for all that splays out again and again as unarmed men of color are killed on the streets they call home, as our nation’s jails fill disproportionately with young black men.

How many stories have I heard of “driving while black” in Portland? Or “shopping while black” or “riding an elevator while black?” and the pain that fell afresh as sirens blared and people crossed and clutched and store clerks followed through aisles.

I will not forget the expression on the black woman we knew as Sister when she told us how deeply afraid she was to have black sons, of her prayers and her hopes and fight to keep them alive in this world that made clear how much it hated them.

Years ago, Michael commented with sadness that he knew he could blast down MLK Boulevard at 70 mph and that his skin would grant him immunity, while a young black man doing 42 would be pulled over in a heartbeat. Because the flashing police lights always illumined the faces of black men.

Our black pastor told of the gun held to his head during a routine traffic stop, his fight everyday not to hate and to seek reconciliation, to look to God in both his pain and search for justice.

White folks cannot know what it feels like to be black (or brown) in America, or what this means for each individual person in his or her own skin. But not knowing does not mean we do not try.

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Five Minute Friday: Fill

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LightInWoods

I am needy and hungry, wanting more. Seeking more satisfaction, more knowledge, more understanding, more input, more happy memories, while all the while so full of demands and responsibilities and ideas and the living of life that I could burst.

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