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On Figuring It Out

This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.

Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.

Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.

Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.

I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.

Entering Eastertide: Pouring Out

Since we have more time in the mornings, I have switched my coffee from a Keurig to a French Press. It takes longer to fix a cup of coffee, but it’s so much better. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but there just wasn’t time in the rush of packing lunches, getting clothes on, and getting into the car.

This has been one of my favorite aspects of this new life. There isn’t a morning rush.

Yesterday I was talking to our four-year-old about what his teachers had sent for the day and he said, “It’s ok mom, there’s time.”

There’s time.

Sometimes it seems all there is, is time.

There’s time for a pouring out of freshly brewed french press coffee. There’s time to linger over the breakfast table and lunch table and dinner table. There’s time for one more chapter at night. There’s time for the extra loop on the walk.

For this Eastertide blessing of pouring out and time, thanks be to God.

Eastertide Grief

I can remember when it was finally time to share that our Eastertide secret pregnancy wasn’t going to be one filled with hope and new life, but grief. I can remember the gasp of joy as I shared with my congregation that we were pregnant and the gasps of grief as I shared that we miscarried.

Since that season, Eastertide will always have a tinge of grief in it. It seems strange for this season (the one where we know that death has been overcome) should be clouded by grief. And yet, maybe this year we know this more truly and more deeply than we ever have before.

We hope and then we see the reminder of the number of people who have lost their lives and hear predictions that those numbers will be even higher.

We find courage and then we see the rate of employment reach records we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

We find calling and then we see food banks with lines that are two to three hours long and people waiting only to find out that there is not enough food.

Maybe this Eastertide, we lament and grieve together. Maybe our voices can join in crying out “Why, God, why?”

Life and death side by side all through Eastertide.

Maybe life becomes clearer when death is close by.

Maybe life and death residing together draw us closer to the One who has experienced both.

 

 

 

Leaning Into Lent: Energy Boost

This morning, my dedication was renewed after a wonderful time of worship online. There was so much that happened last week so quickly that it really was very difficult to process through everything: schools closing, cancelling vacations, moving to working from home and homeschooling.

I don’t know about you but I ended every day exhausted from all the change and all the new.

If you are finding yourself in the same situation, take heart you are not alone. This new daily life and daily schedule on top of the news of the spread of COVID-19 is overwhelming. The grief over not being able to see friends and family and moving to purely digital communication is disheartening. These are things that don’t exhaust your physical body, but your very soul.

It’s more difficult to hear our souls. It’s harder to diagnosis when our souls are not well. Our souls are the very heart of us and also the very still, quiet center of us. Our souls aren’t easy to see and hear without lots and lots of practice. It is our very souls that will sustain us through these ever-changing times and so we must give some attention to them.

Yesterday as we were outside playing, I decided not to put my shoes on and instead feel the coolness of the grass next to the warmth of the ground. I wiggled my toes in the grass and it reminded me of exactly where I was connected to the earth and connected to my family. This is called grounding. In times of change and turmoil, if we can find some way to ground ourselves in the present moment, then we can find our center and find our souls again. Our minds quiet for just long enough for us to feel balance come back.

This is part of what Lent always calls us to do: difficult and challenging soul work. The work of confessing to being too busy to listen to our souls and connect to the Divine. This work is even more important during a time that is so different and became so different so quickly.

Our souls will provide us energy for the long days and hope for the dark nights. Listen to your souls even if for just a minute today. Allow them a chance to breathe and grieve. Allow yourself a chance for grounding and centering.

Patience, Grasshopper

At four, everything seems pressing. As soon as our four-year-old wakes up, he has a list of questions or reflections he wants to share. His little mind has always been like this even before we could understand the babbles he was sharing. There was an urgency to his need to comment on the world, his dreams, and really every thought that pops into his head.

In the midst of these pressing questions, I often respond, “Patience, grasshopper.” He always asks, “Why are you calling me a grasshopper.” I joke it’s because he is hopping from one thought to another or one request to another.

But this phrase has deeper connotations of centering oneself’s and deciding what is the most important priority for the moment. I have to admit I have to say this phrase to myself quite often. It is easy to jump from one thing to next never considering or reflecting on the way we are spending our time, attention, and money. It is easy to move, move, move and never be present in one space or moment of time.

As we creep closer to the Lenten Season, I hear that still, small voice echoing within:

Slow down.

Wait.

See.

Hear.

Be.

A Year of Less

Today is our baby girl’s first birthday! There is plenty I don’t remember in the blur of breastfeeding and sleeplessness and recovering from a C-section over the past year, but there are lots of things I do remember. I remember the conversation with my partner about whether I would have time to start the practice of Panda Journaling that emphasized gratitude and intentionality in the midst of having a newborn. I can remember the magical book that appeared from my dear friend and fellow podcaster called The Artist’s Way, which helped me see that there are people that cross our paths who are crazy-makers, spreading chaos to thwart our creativity because of their own blocked creativity. I can remember the early mornings and late nights of feedings and pumpings and those all coming back up with the mild reflux.


I can remember the look in her big brother’s eyes as he met her for the first time and the look in her sisters’ eyes as they met her for the first time. I can remember the relief and awe of my partner’s eyes as he helped pull her out amazed that everything was so easy this time around.

 

Over the course of this year, I’ve stored all these memories and moments treasuring them and realizing that these are the moments that are the most important to me. These are the moments that I want more of. I’ve resigned from jobs and boards and commitments this year. It’s been a year of less meetings, less coffee dates, less shopping, less of all the busyness.

This year of less has turned into a year of more. More afternoons chasing a baby to the stairs. More laughter and giggling as our youngest learned to crawl and kiss and tackle her four-year-old brother. It’s been a year of more time with our nine-year-old learning how to be an older sister to a sister. It’s been a year of more baby holding and baby snuggling for our baby-loving twelve-year-old. It’s been a year of more parenting and more coffee and more hoping and praying with my partner for our family and our children. More healing, more love, more hopes and more dreams for our children and making our world a better place for them to grow and learn and thrive.

I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold!

In the Midst of the Hurrying

“Get your backpack please,” I said for the fourth time as we were trying to get out the door.

“But mom,” I heard from our four-year-old. He wanted to tell me something about the dream he had where there were all kinds of cars and he got to see Jackson Storm and Lightning McQueen really race. As we were walking down the steps, I just had grabbed his backpack to speed things up, he found a dandelion and started to say, “Look, mom, look!”

In my mind, I know the minutes are clicking away. The minutes that mean we might hit the train and be late for school. The minutes before the 11-month-old gets so sleepy that she falls asleep in the car rather than in her crib. The minutes that can change the whole morning and if I am honest can alter my mental state all day long.

But he doesn’t care about the minutes. He would welcome being stuck by the train and counting and naming the different kinds of cars that speed by. He would love to see his sister fall asleep and report that she was asleep to me.

And so I stop for in the midst of the hurrying and explain that when he blows the dandelion, the white tufts are seeds that might grow into new dandelions.

“Blow them towards the bushes and then we can check and see if new ones grow there,” I say.

His eyes light up because in the midst of the hurrying, I have entered his world and stopped the hurrying that pushes him around morning after morning.

 

In the Midst of the Magic

Over the holidays, all of us were sick. We didn’t take turns but overlapped in the spreading of coughs and runny noses that happens when there are multiple kids and multiple schools. There were tissues all over the place and water cups and our counters were lined with cough syrups, antibiotics, and saline sprays. We made it all the way until our youngest was ten months old before we started spreading things back and forth and then this.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t have the best attitude in the midst of all the sickness. When you don’t feel well, it’s easy to see the gray that is all around you instead of seeing the bits of sun shining through promising warmth and light.

And it’s hard when you don’t feel well to take care of mini-humans, especially when they feel well and you don’t. They still want to go and do things and see things and learn things. They still want to explore and discover the magic that’s out there in the world.

It was on one of those days that we ended up at the playground to get some fresh air and some sunshine. Our park has an incredible walking trail that makes you feel like you are hiking through the woods and we almost always end our time at the playground with a nature walk around the loop looking for messages and magic.

This is the one we found on our first nature walk of the new year: “You are awesome.” I like to pretend I don’t need these messages. These are messages for our mini humans who are still developing their sense of self and their self-worth. These are the types of messages that we need to flood them with for the times when they encounter failure and frustration.

On this day, I needed this message. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of someone taking the time to write this on the nature trail. I need to stand in the midst of the magic of our four-year-old discovering a secret message on a nature walk. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of our four-year-old finding and using a walking stick. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of an almost one-year-old laughing at her brother every chance she found. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of a free park maintained and cared for by a community who want to encourage people to be outside.

I needed to stand in the midst of the magic and remember I am but a bit of stardust in this great cosmos of mystery.

In the Midst of Rain

Yesterday, I was trying to do a quick grocery store run before the thunderstorms rolled in with our four-year-old and our 11-month-old in tow. I was convinced I had timed it just right. I talked our four-year-old son through the planning because he gets a little nervous during storms. We had a plan and we were going to work together to accomplish it.

We got to the dog food aisle when the first thunder boom hit. The four-year-old stopped in the middle of the aisle and declared, “Mom! We have to get home to be safe during the thunderstorm.”

My first reaction was one of joy. He believes and perceives our home to be safe, his sanctuary from all the learning and growing he is going through right now. My second reaction was one of dread because I knew what was coming. I was going to have to try to load up the groceries, two children, and myself in the midst of the rain.

After we checked out, I took a minute to stop and think through things because I knew as soon as we were in the midst of the rain, my brain would be trying to move as quickly as possible. I tried to put my raincoat on the 11-month-old who found it hilarious to play peek-a-boo with it. I got the four-year-old all set with his umbrella. I got my keys ready and we went for it.

There we were in the midst of the rain. One dry four-year-old finding all the puddles and stomping in them in no hurry because his umbrella had him covered. An 11-month-old playing peekaboo with the coat, her eyelashes catching the raindrops. and there I was already soaked when we were only halfway to the car.

In the midst of the rain, I found myself belly laughing at what we must look like. Two children laughing and splashing and one Mama soaked through trying to remember every moment.

In the Midst of Sickness

It took us until September of this first year of our daughter’s of life until our two youngest kids passed sicknesses back and forth. Since September we have passed quite a few sicknesses back and forth in the way that happens when you add another mini human to the family mix.

As these moved back and forth, I found myself in Urgent Care two days after Christmas answering the nurse’s question: “Have you been around anyone who was sick recently?”

“Well,” I answered. “My son had a viral throat infection and then the croup. My daughter has had a double infection and another ear infection and my partner has had a flu-like cold.” The nurse looked at me and smiled, “So you probably just got all of that.”

My official diagnosis was a sinus infection and ear infection with a partially permeated eardrum (who knew you could even do that?).  As the doctor was telling me the medicines he was going to prescribe, I mentioned I was still nursing. He asked me how old our daughter was and I told him that she was eleven months. He then proceeded to tell me that the amoxicillin and other medication that he was prescribing really shouldn’t be taken while breastfeeding. After this, he delivered a lecture explaining there weren’t any benefits to nursing a baby past two weeks and really two months was the max benefit. He mentioned his credentials: he had been in family medicine before he started working at Urgent Care. I nodded and didn’t contest his analysis, but then he pushed and asked me what my plan was for feeding my baby while I took the medicine, waiting for an explanation before he would give me the prescription. Even in the midst of my not feeling well, I could tell that this was an abuse of power. I told him that I would figure it out and he asked, “So you will give her formula?”

At this point, I was not only shocked, but I was also upset. I knew enough to know that although there are medications you can’t take while breastfeeding, amoxicillin wasn’t one of them. In fact, our daughter had just finished a round of amoxicillin for her own ear infection. I explained that I had enough milk saved up hoping that would end the conversation, but he pressed again, “Enough for ten days?”

I answered with a curt, “Yes.”

So much of this experience reminds me of stories I’ve heard of mothers who have been involved in similar pressured conversations where medical professionals overstep the boundaries of their job to care for the mother to use their position of power to influence a mother’s decision on how to feed her baby. This is an abuse of power that isn’t only in the medical profession.

I can remember similar pressured conversations with religious leaders growing up in the midst of conservative evangelicalism where I was forced to answer questions that were inappropriate and way past boundaries that should have been maintained. This abuse of power is called spiritual abuse when it is enacted by a religious leader and one of the experiences that causes so much distrust within a person’s spirit, especially women who have these experiences.

Expertise and experience do not entitle or enable a person to take away the choices or decisions of another person. Expertise and experience without compassion and empathy only serve to cause more harm than good.

The fact that this medical professional took advantage of my vulnerable position of needing medication and used it as an opportunity to not only lecture but demean my ability to decide what is the best way to feed my daughter is unacceptable.

This has to stop in the medical world and in the institutional church.