Outgrowing Insecurity

Recently, I had one of those days. When junior high insecurities surface. When I felt unloved, unappreciated and unsure of how I fit into my community. Add those feelings to being nearly 8-months pregnant, and I allowed myself a good pity party.

As I got in bed that night, I opened my Common Prayer to read the nightly Compline prayer. Instead, I flipped to this:

Deliver me, O Jesus,
from the desire to be esteemed,
from the desire to be loved,
from the desire to be honored,
from the desire to be praised,
from the desire to be preferred to others,
from the desire to be consulted,
from the desire to be approved,
and from the desire to be popular.

The prayer went on, asking for deliverance from fears and asking that,

in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I decrease…

that others may be preferred to me in everything…

The prayer reminded me of all the feelings I thought I had outgrown. That junior high insecurities last into my thirties. And that community isn’t perfect. That even though I may feel let down on occasion, the point is not to do it to raise myself – to be loved or honored or popular – but to serve others, to lift them up, and to show them that they are loved.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Teaching Generosity

Ever since her birthday in July, Bea has been obsessed about when her birthday is coming again. Because calendars and countdowns are a bit beyond her attention span, I usually do it by counting down the next birthdays we’ll celebrate.

First, we have Kaelyn’s, then Luke’s, then Penelope’s. After that, we’ll have Uncle Brad’s and Grammy’s. And then, Louella’s and Grandma’s. And then your’s!

Usually, I keep it to the month we’re in and keep adding as the weeks pass. There is always someone to add to the list, but as long as we eventually get to hers, Bea is happy.

Bea's First Birthday

Bea’s First Birthday

Lately, there’s been a request by our friends to not bring presents. Most parents let us bend the rules by bringing books or an already-used toy, but it’s an interesting trend. At our last birthday party, we were talking about this – about how kids don’t really need new toys. And, do books really count as presents or are they more of a necessity? (We decided the latter – you can never have too many books!)

I totally get this. Our playroom is brimming with toys – mostly hand-me-downs, though many are new from birthdays and Christmas. Before becoming a parent, I visualized a highly idealized playroom, where just a few, well-picked non-battery powered wooden toys would be rotated through as my child’s attention span needed new stimulation. The reality is a room filled with everything Bea’s ever owned – from infancy to the present. I just don’t have the time or energy to properly categorize our toys, especially knowing that we’ll be mixing them in when this new baby arrives.

The reason I always break the “no present” rule and bring a book is because I want to teach Bea the value of gift giving. It’s a lot of processing anyway when we talk about singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend, but  bringing a present without getting anything in return has been a good lesson. The first couple parties were tough – Bea wanted to know why we were giving away a book that looked so interesting. As we’ve given more presents, her attitude is changing. The idea of giving as part of celebration is slowly being instilled.

Perhaps it’s because both Frank and I love giving gifts that this lesson is so important to me. It’s not that we always give extravagant gifts to each other, but both of us use gift-giving as a way to show love, appreciation, and caring. It’s part of our family dynamic that I want our children to understand – this idea of giving freely and generously. A tangible, two-year-old way to do this is through birthday presents.

I hope, as Bea grows older and birthdays become less important, this lesson translates to all areas of her life. How can we teach her to be generous with her time, talents, and resources? For now, giving a book to a friend is an easy way to begin these conversations.

How do you teach generosity to your kids? What are some other daily ways to instill this value?

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Poets Anonymous: Uncried Tears

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post part of a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

This month’s poem comes from Just Mercy, one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time.

The conscience told the tears
“I know you really want me to cry
But if I release you from bondage,
In gaining your freedom you die.”

The tears gave it some thought
Before giving the conscience and answer
“If crying brings you to triumph
Then dying’s not such a disaster.”

 Ian E. Manuel

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Room with a View

One of my favorite places in our new house is our bedroom. After painting its stark white walls bluish-gray and putting in a sitting corner, it’s a place I’ve come to enjoy just hanging out in. After Bea goes down for her nap, I’ll come in and read by the window, not wanting to go downstairs where reminders of things to be done wait.

One of the best parts of our bedroom is the natural light. The entire south wall is filled with windows and a sliding door. A balcony separates our room from the backyard and neighbors. Tall, old evergreen trees tower over the house and now that the deciduous trees have filled in, it feels like we live out in the mountains, rather than in the heart of the suburbs.

We also have an east-facing window, next to our bed. After making the bed each morning, I’ve taken to looking out and surveying our yard. It began in early spring, just to see what was going to bloom. But, after finding a stray book left out overnight under a tree, I’ve taken to looking to make sure indoor toys are recovered. This morning, I look out and see Bea’s bike parked in the easement. Seeing it reminds me of the hours she spends out there. She showed interest in her bike before, but with a house on a busy road and a backyard decorated in flagstone, we didn’t have many places for her to practice.

View from our east window

View from our east window

Our realtor had concerns about this easement, as it belongs to the city even though it’s fenced into our yard. It’s been one of our favorite features. On nice days, Bea will go and ride for more than an hour. Daisy, whose herding instinct is strong, loves herding her around, running just behind the bike. Bea’s confidence has grown and she’s able to balance and maneuver around old pots and piles of leaves.

One of our biggest concerns about buying a bigger home is that the yard would get smaller. Even in these early days of spring, it’s been fun to see how our smaller yard seems to be more used than before. The nooks and crannies and groves of trees that the previous owners (who happened to be landscaper architects) created have been the perfect place for a little girl to run and imagine. I’m looking forward to this summer and its days of outdoor living.

What’s your favorite view? Do you have a spot in your home that’s best for looking out and reflecting?

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Review: The Mother and Child Project + Giveaway

Mother’s Day was yesterday so, of course, my own journey as a mother is at the forefront of my thoughts. I look at my pregnancy and am amazed at how easy it has been. I chose when I wanted to start my family and when I wanted to add to it. I chose a doctor with whom I connected and felt comfortable. I have a husband who has come to every single doctor’s appointment – no matter how routine. I have parents who watch Bea and support Frank and I as parents. I have never doubted that this pregnancy would be healthy, that my baby would receive proper care, and that I would live through the labor, delivery, and recovery surrounding the birth.

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My experience is a far cry from many women’s across the globe. For many, the choice between a home birth and a hospital birth is not a question of how the birthing experience should look, but of practical access to life-saving resources. The Mother & Child Project is a series of essays addressing maternal and child health. While many factors play into the wellbeing of mothers around the world, recurrent themes included access to contraceptives, pre- and antenatal doctor’s visits, and education.

The book is comprised of essays written by doctors, politicians, activists, and entertainers who have taken an interest in global maternal care. I appreciated the range of views and writing styles. Some authors sited statistics medical evidence while others told stories of their own experiences and interactions with mothers facing life-threatening pregnancies due to lack of resources. The variety of voices and experiences gave the book scope that a text or narrative may have missed.

One of the most shocking statistics sited over and over is that a woman dies every two minutes in birth-related complications. Not having access to a hospital; Having babies too close in age; Not enough education in post-natal sexual activity and recovery all contribute to fatal complications for women in rural areas and developing countries. Something as simple as a $5.00 taxi fare to a hospital could prevent many of these deaths. Things that are choices for women with access to good healthcare are life-threatening risks for women without it.

What was most eye-opening for me, living in a comfortable country with access to good health care and choices as a woman, is that our own ideas of contraception and women’s health care have a huge impact on health policies in other countries. Many essays were aimed at reminding the church that contraceptives are not a sin, but a life-saving medical advancement. It’s a bit puzzling to think that our own politics around women’s health could so influence the life and death of women across the world, but it made me stop and think about how my own politics affect not just my own life but those of women I have never met and whose circumstances are vastly different from my own.

The book doesn’t just focus on pregnancy and health care surrounding it. Chapters on child brides, sex trafficking and prostitution, and the role of educating women as a way to combat terrorism were also key points. As an educated, privileged woman raising educated, privileged girls, it was a reminder that women’s health and education are what will change this world.

This is an important book, especially for churches or those involved in ministry. It gives concrete ways the church can help the most vulnerable of our world. If we truly believe in Jesus’ message of helping the least of these, supporting maternal and child healthcare is a logical place to begin.

What is your experience with global maternal health? Have you ever traveled to another part of the world to see these issues first-hand?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of The Mother & Child Project. To enter, leave a comment about what you wonder most about maternal health care.  I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, May 15, 2015. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Finding Inspiration

We meet once a month, this group of strong, opinionated women, to talk about books written by or featuring strong women. Over food and crusty bread and wine, we share our lives and dive into big topics. This group is my most diverse book club, from a life-experience perspective and our conversations about the books and topics surrounding the books (and topics surrounding life that have nothing to do with the books!) always generate lively discussion.

Frank and I were talking about things that motivate us. He enjoys listening to motivational speakers on the way to work. Even though he’s heard the message countless times before, he always gleans something new and it gives him encouragement. For me, sitting around a table and sharing life is what gives me motivation. Talking about hard topics with women I admire inspires me to learn more, to do more, and to view this world in new ways.

I’ve definitely been inspired after going to a conference or hearing someone give a powerful talk, but the inspiration that will most likely lead to concrete changes in thinking and action is when I’m with friends who challenge and encourage my own journey.

I’m thankful for this group of women – most of whom I didn’t know until joining this book club – that we take the time each month to meet, to debrief about life, and to encourage each other on the journey.

Where do you find inspiration and encouragement?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Raising Strong Girls

In response to our news of another little girl, a friend recently said, “Your purpose in life is to raise strong women.” Frank and I have taken this statement as a sort of commission – a guiding principle in our parenting choices. As we raise Bea and dream about this next little girl, our hope is that we foster confidence, strength, opinions, and courage. We want our girls to be women who change this world for the better, who think critically, and who question what they are taught.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Race, Reconciliation & Immigration conference. It was a hope-filled time focused on what we can be doing to combat injustice and work toward reconciliation. As John Perkins said,

Drinking coffee together won’t solve the problem – it takes justice out of the equation.

Surrounding myself with strong women

Surrounding myself with strong women

One of the best parts of the conference for me was going with some moms from my MOPS group. It is so encouraging knowing women who care about justice and who are in different places on their journey towards it. I am learning so much from them and their life experiences. One woman is an initiator – she is full of ideas and practical ways of doing justice. We were talking about what we as moms could do and she suggested playdates. This common act can bring about connections and experiences that – while it doesn’t feel like being on the frontline of protests or prison reform – is a doable way for moms to stretch outside comfort zones and work toward bridging community gaps.

What I loved about this idea is that it is something I can do. My first inclination toward new ideas or information is to read more about it, to follow authors and bloggers and tweeters who are on the frontline, to get frustrated, but to ultimately not really know what to do next. I do know that I can take Bea to a park and play with other kids in neighborhoods that need justice and reconciliation. It may seem like a tiny step, but it’s something I can comfortably do with my child who doesn’t have the same fears and prejudices many adults do.

I have another friend who works toward justice through her Family Service Club. Kellie wanted to foster a practical spirit of giving in her kids, so she is actively looking for ways to engage them in their communities. I love that she wants to take the childhood lesson of sharing and caring for others into the broader world of her community.

From these women, I am learning that working toward justice doesn’t have to be grand. Especially in this stage of small acts and raising small people, starting with simple is best. We need big world-changing ideas, but we also need small community outreaches and playdates. I need to remember what Perkins said,

If you do justice anywhere, people will hear about it everywhere.

Frank and I were talking about other practical ways we can raise strong, compassionate women. We’ve talked about modeling our own pursuit toward justice. Ultimately, what we do as a family will carry far more weight than any words we say to our girls. What do we want our family story to say? How do we make these beliefs our family norm?

I know I won’t stop reading and learning about ways to fight injustice, but I also know I need to surround myself with strong, proactive, and justice-minded women. Women who teach me how to put my knowledge into action. Women who are ahead of me on this journey and who can teach me sensitive ways of working toward justice. Women I want my daughters to be like when they grow up.

How do you work toward justice? Any practical ideas for including children in this pursuit?

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