Creating Space for Wonder

The other night, after putting the girls to bed, cleaning the kitchen, and shoving the stray toys into the playroom, I settled onto the couch to breathe and relax. Before I even finished my exhale, I heard a rustling upstairs.

IMG_3910Upon investigation, I found Bea peaking through the railings. I thought I heard a door open. I had been praying that God would tell daddy that his little girl misses him. I guess he can’t hear through the ceiling.

Bea, being Bea, seemed more disappointed in our ceiling than in God. She embodies that childlike faith that I have long forgotten – stopping to pray for anything or anyone without hesitation, believing fully that God is waiting to listen to her.

I’m on a planning team at church filled with people who have Advanced Degrees in Theology and Knowing God. We gather every couple months around a table, brainstorming, talking, and wondering about upcoming sermon topics. It’s an invigorating evening and I always leave learning something new. But I also leave wondering why I’m at that table. I’m definitely more on Bea’s end of the spectrum, as far as What I Know About God goes, and I often wonder how my own experience compares at all to those who actually know what the Bible means.

But that’s not why I’m on this team. I’m there because there is a place for me at the table. Because my experiences, though not as profound or as well-researched, still matter. And because our pastors place high value on the voices of our congregation, regardless of Biblical knowledge.

Bea asks a lot of questions about life, about God, about the way the world works. Even Elle’s favorite question right now is, Why??? It can be so tempting to try to find the answers. And there are some easy answers, but most are not.

Even if I do know the answer, I’m learning to respond to the questions with, I wonder.

I wonder if God can hear you through the ceiling?

I wonder why the moon is still visible during the day?

I wonder why that man is asking for money and food?

Sometimes we go home and look up the answer to our questions or after we wonder, I can help supply an answer. But I like starting out with I wonder. It keeps the discovery fresh and alive. It reminds us that our world is full of wonder.

I’m learning that I need to keep that as part of my own faith journey. If, instead of reading the Bible for answers or looking to figure out why God operates a certain way, I’m learning to wonder. Instead of wishing for (or demanding) answers, I’m learning to live in the space of wonder, of discovery, and of grappling with the unknown.

How do you balance answers with wonder? Even if you know the answer, how do you create space for discovery?

When Getting Up Early Fails

I was talking with a new friend the other day about finding time to write. One of her kids gets up at 5:15 everyday, on the dot and has since he was a baby. I asked if she had gotten the alarm clock that turns green and I clearly struck a nerve. Yes, they had. No, it did not work.

img_3740We’re in a fairly good sleep pattern these days, with bedtimes going smoothly and the girls sleeping through the night. Bea does use that alarm clock, meaning I know exactly when she’ll be jumping down the stairs. Elle is still on that blissful 12-hour-a-night cycle, and I’m enjoying it.

The other day, I thought I’d set my alarm about 45 minutes before Elle usually woke up. Other moms manage to have quiet moments in the morning and when I read about those early morning hours, a cup of coffee and a journal or book in hand, it sounds idyllic. I wanted that, too!

The moment that alarm was set, Elle knew it and decided to wake 45 minutes earlier for about a week. I turned that thing off and went back to waking up and hoping for the best. Some days, I’ll get up and read or write. Others, I lie in bed until I hear stirrings from her room.

Books and blogs have been written about the importance of finding time for ourselves. That we can’t let these little years take away our identity and sense of self.

I totally agree with this. I look back at these early years of motherhood already and see ways in which I’ve been able to pursue interests and passions that I didn’t have the time or energy for while I was working full-time.

And yet, in my enthusiasm to find this Me Time and really take care of myself, I’m reminded that I walk a fine line doing that. My full-time job right now is motherhood. While I’m lucky enough to have a support system in place that gives me moments and hours and even a day occasionally to myself (thanks, mom!!) I’m mostly here, writing in the margins and with my helpers nearby.

This friend recently wrote her own blog post about the magical 22 minutes of a kids show, and how so much can get done in that time. For a while, I relied on those 22 minutes, getting so much done during one Daniel Tiger episode. Until we had a kid who is just uninterested in screen time. No matter how I try, Elle just does’t engage with TV. Which is a good thing. But those 22 minutes? I long for them, some days.

In the meantime, I’m assessing my goals and visions. It’s not like I want to write a book or blog everyday… right now. I’m actually very much content to tap away at this little blog when inspiration strikes and keep it strictly in the hobby realm.

Because right now, I’m getting ready for kindergarten roundup and a year with just Elle by my side and the reality is that these tiring, intense, nonstop years really do pass so quickly. I’m learning to savor every moment and remember that my Me Time is simultaneously kid time.

(Also? A year ago, I wrote about this same thing. Clearly it’s a recurring theme!)

When and where do you find time for yourself? Moms, did elementary school change things? When does “me time” become easier? (Or is that a myth?)

Finding Balance is a Gift

The windows are open, at least for a couple hours on this warm January afternoon. The backyard fountain is running, reminding me of summertime when it flows nonstop. Our new deck is finished and, with the sliding door open, I’m thinking about the next season and using this space that has been too unsound for us to enjoy since moving in.

img_3388During quiet rest, Bea curled up next to me with her pile of books while I read Rising Strong. I debated sending her into the playroom, which is our usual quiet rest custom. Both of us need time apart, time to reenergize. But I’ve been thinking about kindergarten a lot lately and how these days together are quickly coming to an end. So we snuggled and read and were just together for a while.

I’ve drafted several blog posts lately but none of them seem right. Perhaps it’s because of my helpers, never far, always talking. Perhaps it’s because when I want to write something deep and profound and yet also encouraging, I’m just too tired.

Like everyone else, the news is exhausting. I wake up in the morning wondering, what next? A friend recently wished we could return to the days when Facebook was newborns and what we ate for dinner. And while part of me wishes for that too, I also recognize the privilege I have in being able to turn it off. I don’t need to check the news all that often because the news doesn’t really directly impact me.

But I also recognize this reality and am finding this balance. Of feeling grateful that our lives continue without too much impact. And of finding ways to instill important values. How do I want my daughters to remember this time? How do I want them to view their childhood? What do I want our family story to say?

So, with these windows open and the true blessing of sitting at a big work table with my daughters working next to me, I’m thankful for our life right now. For the ability to enjoy this day and these moments. And I’m also looking into ways we can spend our money to support those who are far more equipped and qualified to fight injustice. I’m emailing organizations about volunteering our time as a family.

I’m remembering that finding the balance is a gift I’ve been given. And I don’t take that lightly at all.

How are you finding ways to balance the news and balance your outlook on life? What is your best way to practice perspective?

I Respectfully Disagree

One of the challenges of parenting that I find simultaneously most draining, most hopeful, and most constant is finding the balance of teaching respect and allowing our daughters to feel and express their emotions. And believe me, there are so many emotions to feel!

img_3228From learning to share to a project not going a certain way to simply being too tired or too hungry, a day doesn’t go by without tears from someone. (And I’m including myself in that equation.) Most of the time, I want both Bea and Elle to know that they are safe and welcome to feel those feelings. I want them to know that they will always have a safe place here to process and vent and figure out their own views on life.

But we also practice socially acceptable behaviors. We practice rephrasing feelings respectfully and how to ask in a way that helps people understand our needs. We talk a lot about how we may not agree with a choice or a decision but that we have to respect the outcome. But I also want them to know that just because I’m their parent doesn’t mean my choice is always final or right or unchangeable. It’s intensive work, creating human beings and citizens of this world.

Since November, I’ve seen many admonitions for disappointed people to respect the President. That, once the election was decided, we should put away our disappointments and anxiety, forgive the divisive comments and attitude, and throw our support fully and completely behind the president-elect.

On Inauguration Day, I saw it again – Just give him a chance; We are called to respect the office of President; God calls us to pray for our leaders. These are all statements I absolutely agree with. I do hope that our nation is guided to a place of justice and reconciliation; I do respect the office of President and am so grateful we live in a nation that practices the peaceful transfer of power; I have and will continue to pray for wisdom for our elected leaders.

But respect and disagreement aren’t exclusive. I can respect the office of President and vehemently disagree with the tone and words he uses to describe those who don’t support him. I can respect the office of President and be dismayed at the fact that he would choose to threaten arts funding (which makes up .02% of the federal budget) while likely boosting military spending to $1 trillion. I can respect the office of President and give the President a chance while remaining a bit skeptical. The cabinet nominees alone have given me little reason to celebrate unity and reconciliation.

I can respect the office of President and still believe that America has always been great; that we can move forward rather than looking backwards. I can respect the office of President and speak out against discrimination and hate.

In fact, speaking out may be the best way to show my respect. I respect this office so much that to blindly follow; to support without thinking; to not give voice to the voiceless would be the greatest disrespect I could show.

We grow and we learn from each other. We are stronger when we truly take the time to listen and understand each other’s stories.

I have a feelings these upcoming years will be a lesson in learning to find the balance I’m trying to teach my girls. To learn to feel my feelings; to respect others; and to use my voice to protect and help those who will be deeply impacted by this quest for greatness.

Hopefully, through discussion and disagreement; through debate and conversation, we’ll work together to continue making this a great country.

How do you engage with others of differing opinions? Does debate energize you or drain you?

A Lesson in Language and Empathy

Today I’m over at SheLoves Magazine, as they look at Legacy this month. As I ponder that word, I remember my own experiences of struggling as a cultural outsider and how that has translated into parenting choices we are faced with.

Here’s an excerpt – I hope you click over to SheLoves to read the whole thing.

Sending my kids to the neighborhood school, just a block away, isn’t a simple decision. Because of the way our education system is run, we are able to apply to any school–public, charter, or private—and hope our children are accepted to the one that best meets their needs. We are able to research the highest-performing schools in our district, as well as the surrounding ones. We are able to take the time to drive our children anywhere without worrying about gas money or making it to a job on time. We are able to ignore our neighbors in order to give our children the best education.

But I still remember my own struggles as a language learner. I remember my tongue would get tied and I would stress about not being fast enough. I would worry about grammar and pronunciation and being the dumbest student in class or the last to understand. I longed for a teacher or fellow student to say, “I get it. This is tough. Let me help you.”

I’m interested to see how my bright, eager-to-learn daughter adjusts to kindergarten next year. She has a thirst for learning that is contagious, and I hope it is nurtured, especially during these early years. But beyond being challenged in school, I hope her classroom is filled with kids who might not speak English at home. Who need to take a little extra time as they translate their thoughts. Who are every bit as bright and eager as my daughter, but have the added hurdle of navigating a new language.

How have your life experiences shaped the decisions you make for your family? Go over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

The Importance of Darkness

Mama? Can I just snuggle?

I knew that it was somewhere around 6:00. Frank had already left for work; I was starting to wake up, too but the sun hadn’t yet peeked through our curtains. Normally, we try to keep Bea in bed until her alarm turns green but on this morning, I moved Frank’s pillow closer and tucked Bea in beside me.

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Image courtesy of Debby Hudson.

I’ve been working a lot lately and my part-time job has felt full. Our girls have felt the strain of time and energy. Even though Bea recently asked if I could go back to work so she could have a nanny like our neighbors, being gone so much had an impact.

When Elle misses me, she gets extra clingy, not wanting to be set down. When Bea misses me, she swings between being extra affectionate and being a rabid jaguar. Sunday seemed to lean more toward the jaguar end of the spectrum and I was so tired.

So, when she asked to snuggle, part of me just wanted time before we started our day together. But, I also knew that this girl who thrives on physicality – from hugs and snuggles to running and being active – needed to just be near, to be grounded.

I feel like I’ve needed to re-ground myself lately. I still wake up in a bit of shock over choices being made by our soon-to-be leaders. I’m sickened and sad over the way events are being handled and people are being treated. The divide in ideology makes me so sad and sometimes I wonder if the gap will be bridged.

I swing between wanting to listen, learn, and understand and feeling a bit rabid at the inexplicable fear of a majority culture. So I’m learning to ground myself. To stop for a while and step back. I know I can do this – that my own privilege allows me to turn of the news and curl up with my family – but I do it anyway, knowing that as someone with privilege, I can’t burn out.

Advent drawing 2015
Image courtesy of Corbin Hillam.

As we near Thanksgiving, I look over our Thankful Tree, hanging between our dining room and living room. Hiking, bath night, neighbors, PBS kids, cheese, community, walking to school have all made the list. I love having this tangible reminder of the tiny things I am so grateful for.

In so many ways, I’m glad Thanksgiving falls right before Advent begins. To celebrate with a feast of thankfulness (regardless of historical accuracy) seems to be the best way to prepare for this coming season when we celebrate the dark anticipation of hope come to this world.

Last year, I clung to Advent in the wake of attacks on Paris, of injustice after injustice happening here in America, as the refugee crises continued to swell. This year, things seem so much better in some ways and yet are still so bleak in others. And so, I will take time this Advent season to remember and pray. Perhaps it won’t be as public this year, but the habit of remembering and acknowledging in this darkness is so important.

This December, I want to light the candles and remember the way of peace, of hope, and of reconciliation.

How do you recognize Advent in the midst of Christmas celebrations?

For a beautiful series of community prayers around Advent, check out our Praying in Anticipation series from last year.

What Do I Want to Remember?

Things I enjoy about motherhood:img_2108

  • Making sweet memories
  • Watching the girls grow and develop into their own little humans
  • Being part of something bigger than just today’s mess – knowing that our conversations and intentions will shape the girls’ outlook
  • The reminder that unconditional love does exist and the daily modeling of forgiveness (mostly from the girls – I still struggle with this)

Things I don’t love about motherhood:

  • Refereeing & Disciplining
  • The longterm vision that our small choices and ideals actually do matter in the future
  • The mundane of life at home
  • Finding the balance of giving to the girls, giving to Frank, and remembering that self-care is important, too

We talked yesterday at MOPS about the dichotomy of motherhood – of the pressure to be red carpet ready 6 weeks after giving birth balanced with the spiral of yoga pants every day forevermore. As we weeded through labels and expectations, our speaker – a life coach – teased through the labels we put on ourselves.

She asked, what would our 90-year-old self say about this moment? What would our 5-year-old selves say about motherhood?

We decided that our 90-year-old self would say Let it go! and remind us of these precious, fleeing moments. That we should enjoy these days. We remembered our 5-year-old selves being excited about being moms, without realizing all the other stuff that goes along.

I loved this practice and want to extend it to all areas of my life. How can I step back and remember perspective? What will fade into the background? And how can I rekindle that childlike excitement of the future?

How do you keep perspective? What would your 90-year-old self remember about this stage of life?

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