Fellowship feminism Motherhood

We Need Feminism, But We Need It To Be Better

I recently wrote a blog entitled “Why We Need Feminism” for Simply Sisterhood. I believe in everything I wrote there, and I no longer feel afraid of identifying myself as a feminist. I encourage you to go back and read that blog, also, as I see both sides of this as vital. But I also recognize that the feminism we now have is not perfect. While it has served us well in some ways, it has caused harm in others.

When I shared my original blog on feminism, I got some push-back from some women. I expected this, especially since my sphere is largely evangelical. I want to address some of the concerns that were brought forward, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. It seems that when evangelicals hear the word “feminism,” they translate it as “people who want to kill their babies.” Let me say that although I am an advocate for reproductive rights, I am very strongly pro-life (although I believe that the issue of abortion and the choices surrounding it are far more nuanced than we are often willing to acknowledge). No movement is about one issue. We often oversimplify the beliefs and causes of others so it is easier for us to dismiss them. Let’s not do that. Another criticism I received was that to say we need feminism is not Christian because all we really need is Jesus. Of course I believe that Christ is sufficient for all our needs and worth. I also believe that the institutional church has historically devalued women. So a new Christian feminism might be a way to point the church to Jesus and who He really is, and what His heart truly is for all people, including women and others who are often disenfranchised. Please don’t read “we need feminism” as “we don’t need Jesus.” We need to actually listen to Jesus, and I believe in doing that we will see the ways in which we need to support each other better. That’s what feminism is to me. The other thing people tend to think of when they hear the word feminism is that we hate men. No. Feminism is for men, too. It’s about everyone having the freedom to be fully human and to escape the toxic masculinity of a patriarchal culture.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that over with…

I still strongly believe that we need feminism. But we need to make it better. And it might not be in the ways you think. Author and women’s health practitioner Kimberly Ann Johnson points out that because American feminism grew out of the American culture, it held onto the ideals of individuality, self-reliance, and independence. So when women decided to claim their value and power, they decided to do it by taking on the burden of doing it all and doing it all by ourselves. She also points out that feminism as a whole has neglected mothers and motherhood in their conversation. I think there are some feminists who have purposely rejected and belittled mothers and believe that part of feminism is about being free from the “institution” of motherhood. This is one of the reasons many discount feminism. And it is certainly a problem. But it isn’t what it’s about for me or for many women who identify as feminists. But this neglect of mothers is real and something that needs to be fixed.

The American ideals of individuality, independence, and self-reliance are not biblical ideals. The Bible does not teach independence. It teaches community. It teaches dependence — dependence on Christ first, and dependence on each other as agents of His love. It does not teach self-reliance. It teaches bearing one another’s burdens. It teaches weeping with those who weep; rejoicing with those who rejoice. We so often confuse our culture’s values with Christ’s values. They are rarely the same. When we as feminists take on these values of independence and self-reliance, we are saying that we can and ought to do everything ourselves. And we are becoming depleted and exhausted.

Over the last few decades the rates of autoimmune diseases in women have risen steadily. This is very likely due to a number of factors, including nutrition, toxins in our environment, our compartmentalized healthcare system, etc. But it’s worth considering that our “have it all, do it all” mindset has contributed to this. We have believed that our ability to push through is a reflection of our worth. We have equated busyness with worthiness. We’ve decided that our value is in what we do, not in who we are. I think we have been so set on proving that we can do anything that we have tried to do everything, and all at the same time. And this is neither possible nor healthy, for women or men. Feminism has in some ways taken on the toxic masculine idea that what we do and how much we do is the measure of what we’re worth. This is not true of any human. And this is also not biblical. Yes, the Bible warns against laziness and selfishness. But it also acknowledges the need for Sabbath. Not occasionally, but weekly. It says that God gives sleep to His beloved. Jesus didn’t “work” the whole time He was ministering. He ate and drank and rested. He didn’t love and value the lepers and the blind and the adulterous woman and the tax collectors because of what they contributed to society. He loved and valued them because they were human beings. And real Christian feminism should be about affirming our full humanity and our full worth.

If our current feminism hasn’t completely forgotten mothers, it has certainly not given women the space and permission to take on motherhood in a truly feminine way. When I say feminine I don’t mean girly. I mean encompassing all that it means to be a woman, biologically, emotionally, and spiritually. In all our effort to claim our equality with men, we have begun to believe that we are the same. This might seem like an anti-feminist thing to say, but this is simply not true. Patriarchy seeks to use our biological differences to oppress and objectify us. So we’ve spent a lot of time trying to deny that these differences carry any weight in how we live our lives. This denial has not only blinded us to some of the unique richness of what it means to be female and taken away our ability to step into our unique power, but it has also worn us down. We have said we can be mothers and also have careers and one will not take from the other. I’m not saying that mothers can’t have other callings. I am a wife and mother, a doula, a dancer, a teacher, and a writer. But rarely am I able to fully show up in all of those roles in the same day, or even the same season. I am saying that no matter how supportive and helpful our spouses or families or communities are, we cannot get away from the fact that, biologically, we are the ones who are sustaining and nurturing our children the most, especially for the first two years. We’re the ones with the wombs and the breasts and the hormones designed to be most in tune with our babies’ needs. And yes I realize you can feed a baby without breasts, and you can have a child without having grown him in your uterus. But that doesn’t negate my point. Adoptive mothers and bottle feeding mothers also are under undue pressure, and also need the supportive permission to slow down. Kimberly Ann Johnson also points out that a new mother needs the same things from the people surrounding her that she is giving to her child — loving touch, nourishment, and affirming words. So often we forget to nurture the mothers in our communities this way. Probably because we are too busy and overwhelmed ourselves. So we need to acknowledge that there are times and seasons and that, yes, we can do anything, but we cannot do everything all the time.

If you have a career or job that you are not willing or able to step back from or put on hold, I see that as a valid and important choice. This is not about saying that one choice is better or worse than another. This is about saying that those of us who are able to need to rally around our sisters who are in transformative periods and help them. We need to bear their burdens and be a safe space for them to express their worry, exhaustion, overwhelm, etc. And we need to be able to give ourselves the grace when we’re in our own transformative seasons to let a few things go. Even if that just means we don’t see our vacuum cleaner for weeks at a time.

Our culture says to “push through” and “bounce back.” But the Bible says, “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” In our industrialized world we are so separated from nature that we forget that we are part of nature. We are created beings, and just as the natural world has cycles — times of fruitfulness and plenty and production, and times of dormancy and sparseness and rest — we also are cyclical beings. Our electric lights and trucks that bring us strawberries in December make us forget that it wasn’t always this way. We didn’t always work late into the night and rise before the sun. We are trying to make every season one of harvest, when some should be seasons of planting and cultivating and watching and waiting. As women, we’ve been taught to deny our own obvious cyclical natures. We do our best to hide our menstruation and go on as if nothing were happening. When our bodies are telling us to slow down and think and wonder and pay attention. And so when we have our babies we see birth as merely a physical event that takes a day or so and then we move on, instead of taking the time to slow down and think and wonder and pay attention to who we are becoming.

Even within a movement that is truly seeking to affirm and uplift women, self-care can be seen as a radical act. Saying no to added responsibilities or even opportunities can be seen as selfish and weak. If we truly want to be radical; if we truly want to defy the patriarchal standards of our culture, let’s acknowledge our humanity and our dependence on each other and on God. Let’s admit when we are tired and overwhelmed and in need of help and encouragement. Let’s say no to things that don’t serve us or our families well. This doesn’t mean we don’t sacrifice and serve in our communities. But it does mean we let go of more things. Sometimes it means we let go of things we want to do for the sake of our mental or physical health. Sometimes it means we say, “Not now. Not in this season, but maybe later.” It means we realize that we just can’t hold everything by ourselves all the time without something, usually our own health and well-being, crashing to the ground.

We like to think of motherhood, and every big shift in our lives, as adding building blocks to the towers of our identities. We think we have the foundational building block of our personalities, then we add relationships, faith, education, marriage, career, motherhood. And we just become taller towers — taller versions of ourselves. But we aren’t building blocks. We are clay. And each new stage and experience and rite of passage shapes and molds us into something different. We become more complex, stronger, more beautiful. We are still ourselves, but we are transformed.

Since we aren’t given permission to slow down, and transform, and be vulnerable, is it any wonder that 1 in 7 mothers report suffering from some degree of postpartum depression? When we are being told that we should bounce back and get back to normal as soon as possible? When we are expected to be back at work before we are even done with postpartum bleeding? When women feel they have to “earn” their maternity leave by keeping an immaculate house instead of resting and enjoying their baby? When we are denied the chance and permission to truly embody the transformation in identity that has just taken place?

So a new feminism — a feminism that takes into account who we are as created beings, as unique people created in the image of God — ought to be one that admits that equality is not sameness. It ought to be one that acknowledges our need for community and support and help — that recognizes that what we do is not what we’re worth, and that independence is not a fruit of the Spirit. We need a feminism that recognizes the cyclical nature or our world and our bodies and our lives. And we need a feminism that encourages us to come together in support of our brothers and sisters and supports them in their slowing down, in their saying no, and in their transformation.

compassion faith justice Living in community

Lying in Green Pastures With a Heart that Will Not Sit Down

I write to teach myself, and with the hope that someone else might be able to glean encouragement or exhortation from it as well. Still, usually when I sit down to write a blog, I have a somewhat solid idea of what I want to say. Not this time. I am restless. My heart is heavy. But I need this ritual of thinking and praying through typing so I can learn how to rest.

My heart is heavy because of turmoil in the world, in my country, and in my personal life. I see injustice. I see people being hateful to each other and drawing lines in the sand over politics and beliefs. Many of these people claim Christ. It is disheartening to see people who follow the same Savior become venomous toward each other over differences of opinion. And I’m not saying these opinions or issues are not important. They are vital. And that is what makes them so volatile. Still, the lack of peace and grace is hard. I admit that I participate in this. It is hard for all of us when we think we see something so clearly and others can’t or won’t see it the same way. I know I have the same difficulty seeing things from the other side. But every time I get on Facebook I am overcome with a heaviness of spirit. That is largely because what is going on in our country and the world is truly heavy and in some ways quite frightening. It is right to feel sorrow and grief and a sense of unrest with the ways in which people are being devalued and the truth is being twisted. But at the same time, to live under the oppression of fear cannot be the right thing. We have not been given a spirit of fear.

Even without the relational aspect of the climate of our country and world right now, there is just the unrest of seeing things happen that grieve me and the unrest of feeling like there is no way to even know what is really going on. News outlets seems either biased toward one side or the other, or just plain fake. I feel a new urgency to be informed, while at the same time feeling powerless to even know what’s true.

And then there is the unrest in my personal life. People I’ve known and loved for many years — the people closest to me in the world — who suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) are not on the same page as I am on the things that are the core of who I am. People I love letting go of their faith at the same time that I’m finding myself grasping it more and more tightly. I am not standing in judgment. In some ways their response makes complete sense. My love is not altered. But there is fear in this, too. There is grief. It’s the loss of something I once had, or hoped I had, as a common foundation.

Recently, my mom told me about a children’s book called My Heart Will Not Sit Down. The title is an African saying meant to express the feeling we have when we are moved with deep compassion for others that demands action. Oh, this describes my heart so perfectly. My heart will not sit down in response to the knowledge that there are people who are living in fear and real persecution as a result of the decisions of world leaders. My heart will not sit down in response to knowing that there are parents and children who are separated by oceans. My heart will not sit down knowing that millions of unborn babies are killed each year. My heart will not sit down knowing that there are parents who feel so hopeless for one reason or another that they feel that abortion is their best option. My heart will not sit down knowing that there are women who give birth while incarcerated who are not given the human dignity to labor without shackles.

This phrase also describes the restlessness I feel. I have a heart that is burdened and without peace. It cannot sit down. It cannot sit still. It is anxious and fearful and sad. But that is not what I am called to. I am called to let peace reign in my heart. But how?

Colossians 3:15 tells us to “Let the peace of Christ reign in [our] hearts.” This is not a passive thing. This is not wishing for peace or hoping for peace. It is putting the peace of Christ on the throne. Letting it reign. If we have the Holy Spirit, we have access to His peace. We have to grab ahold of it and put it in charge. All of this is very vague. I don’t exactly know what it looks like practically, but I know that there are times when I am tempted to fear and I remember to let peace reign — to remember that when all seems hopeless there is a God who is not surprised by it and who is good and holy and who will be glorified in the end. When I fear for those in my life who might be deciding they don’t believe in Him, I remember that Christ loves them more than I do. Which doesn’t make the journey less lonely, but it does bring comfort. Preaching to our own hearts when anxiety and fear loom can help put things into perspective. It doesn’t always take away the immediate pain and difficulty, but it can strengthen us to bear it.

Something I am grateful for in the midst of all this unrest is that it has upset my complacency. For years and years I “knew” that spending time in the Word was important, and something I needed to do consistently. I “knew” that praying and listening to God was vital. But somehow it felt like knowing that was enough. It felt like enough to feel bad about not doing what I knew I should do, without actually doing it. Similarly with working for justice in the world and helping others in practical ways, it had felt like enough to just think the “right” thing or have the “right opinion” — even better if I shared that opinion on Facebook. Now I can see that an intimacy with Christ and really walking in the Spirit is vital. It is not something I can pursue tomorrow. It is something I need right now. Delayed obedience is disobedience — at least that’s what my mom used to tell me. And the people who are terrified — the people who are hungry and displaced and left without the hope of Christ — they cannot wait either. They need me to do the next thing. They need me to do what my conscience has been prodding me to do for years. And this brings a certain peace, as well. Having a heart that will not sit down prompts us to move. Like when you wake up at 4am and can’t get back to sleep. You might as well get up and get something done.

I also feel the need for discernment in what I take in and entertain more than ever. If my spirit is heavy every time I log on to Facebook, maybe I shouldn’t log on as much. Maybe I should protect myself from the confusion and clamor. This is not to say that we should bury our heads in the sand and disengage. I just said that actively working for and seeking justice is one of the ways to respond to this lack of peace. But for me, and I suspect for many people, social media is something that either leaves us feeling hopeless and helpless or just angry or even feeling like we’ve done something when we’ve really just stated an opinion. Of course, letting people know where you stand and what you see as important is valuable. But we often stop there; at least I do. I think one way to pursue peace and let it reign can be to get away from the constant tumult of social media and seek out reliable sources of news and information, and take action based on that. Even as I type that I think to myself, “But does reliable news exist?” But I do believe there are journalists out there seeking real truth. We just have to do the work of finding them. And then we can talk to people in person and come together and support each other in taking action.

When I first heard the phrase, “My heart will not sit down,” the next thing I thought of was the 23rd Psalm. The psalmist says God makes him lie down in green pastures. He prepares a table for him in the presence of his enemies. David says he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, yet fears not evil. The psalm is a peaceful one, but it is not without turmoil. There are enemies. There is death. But David doesn’t fear because his Shepherd is with him. He is near to the One who sees and cares for him. The way to lie down in green pastures with a heart that will not sit down is in intimacy with and obedience to Christ.

We need to let peace reign in our hearts — acknowledge that the other feelings are there and there for a reason, but put peace in charge. Let peace and faith make the decisions because fear and anxiety and anger are really bad at making good choices. Stay close to the Shepherd. Listen to Him and let Him lead you into the actions He has for you to take. And then you can lie down in green pastures, even with a heart that will not sit down.

compassion faith justice

The God Who Sees

One of my favorite Bible stories is about Hagar and Ishmael. It feels strange to say that it is a “favorite” story, because it really quite troubling. Most stories in the Bible are. Hagar was the servant of Abram and Sarai (before they were renamed Abraham and Sarah). When it looked like they were not going to be able to have children of their own, Sarai and Abram decided to take control and Sarai gave her servant, Hagar to Abram as his wife. When Hagar found that she had become pregnant, Genesis 16 says that she began to despise her mistress. I don’t know if this means that Hagar was angry with Sarai for using her or if it means that she taunted Sarai because she was able to conceive and her mistress wasn’t. Either way, we can agree that Hagar was objectified and used as a tool for Abram and Sarai. She was seen only for how she could be useful to her master and mistress, and had no value in their eyes beyond that. Because Hagar despised Sarai, Sarai complained to Abram about her. He responded that Hagar belonged to her, so she could treat her however she wanted. Sarai abused her so much that Hagar ran away. And here is why this is one of my favorite stories. When Hagar was in the desert, on her flight from Sarai, the angel of the Lord came to her. He asked her where she was going, and she responded that she was fleeing from her mistress. The angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her …I will make your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” After this encounter, Hagar said, “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the God who sees me.”chagall_hagar-ishmael-in-the-desert

Now there’s a lot in this story that is hard to wrap my mind around. There are points when I question God. Why would he allow Hagar to be used in this way in the first place? And why, after she had been so mistreated, would God tell her to go back into slavery? Why not deliver her somehow and provide for her in a way that she wouldn’t have to go back? Later, after Hagar’s son Ishmael was older and Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, Hagar was sent away again. Again God came to her and provided for her, and repeated His promise to make Ishmael into a great nation. So there is part of me that wonders why God didn’t just provide for her in the desert the first time. But what strikes me the most is that Hagar doesn’t seem to have these questions. She is, above all, encouraged by her encounters with God. She comes away feeling valued — she has been seen. Even though she was one of the least valued people in her community — a woman, a foreigner, a slave — God valued her. She was a person who was used to being seen only for what service she could provide for other people, and yet at her very lowest and least “useful” she was seen by God.

God sees the unseen. He hears the silenced. Jesus touched the untouchable. And we are called to imitate Him.

So here is the challenge for us as followers of the God Who Sees: Who is it that we are not seeing? Who are the Hagars in our lives? Who are the ones who are objectified? Who are the ones who are stripped down in your mind to the most narrow and objectionable versions of themselves? If you are a follower of Christ, your God sees them. He doesn’t see them as “what’s wrong with the world.” He doesn’t see them as disappointments or people who are somehow less-than. He doesn’t see them and then quickly look away because it is too hard to try to understand their pain. And He doesn’t just see the surface of who they are. He sees their struggles, their pain, their hopes. Yes, He sees the sin in all of our lives. But I truly believe that His response to sin is not anger and dismissiveness. I believe our God, the God who sees, responds to our wandering with compassion and grief at our distance from Him. He is ready to welcome us home with open arms. So we cannot be flippant about turning a blind eye to the parts of humanity that we don’t want to see.

There are some we refuse to see because we don’t know how we can help. There are some we refuse to see because we know what must be done and we don’t want to do it. And there are some we refuse to see because we don’t believe they are worthy to be seen.

If we are going to become people who see, we will have to do some rearranging in our hearts. In order to really see the unseen in our lives, we have to be willing to get rid of the idea that things are black and white. That people are bad or good. Even that a certain perspective is completely right or wrong. No, I’m not denying that there are moral absolutes. I am not saying that there’s no such thing as right or wrong. What I’m saying is that there may be people with whom we disagree, but who also have integrity in their motives. There may be people whose perspectives we don’t understand because their experience of life is so far removed from our own. And we are often really bad at empathy. It is hard to understand, for example, that there is systemic racism in this country if you are white and haven’t seen or experienced this for yourself. It is also hard to understand how people could be so chained by addiction that they neglect or abandon their own children, if this is not something you have personal experience with. It is especially hard to understand and see people who have hurt or threatened us or those we love. We like to call these people disgusting. We like to push them as far away from us as possible. And yes, it is terrible and tragic when anyone is abused or neglected. It is terrible and tragic when people respond to oppression and violence with more violence. But these people — the people we see as wrong, or disgusting, or despicable, or ignorant or hateful — are people who are made in the image of God. They are people that our God sees. The people we often want to push away are people our God longs to embrace. When we see things in black and white we miss all the beautiful and complicated greys and colors around us. It is easy and convenient to categorize people. It is painful and rich to see them.

Does this mean we do not work for justice and do what is needed to keep the innocent safe from those who would hurt or neglect them? No. But it does mean that we also work to realize the humanity in every person.

Once we begin to see the unseen, the next step is to take action — to do what we can to help and let them know their great value in the eyes of God. I am not trying to put unnecessary guilt on us (see previous blog). We cannot do everything. Each of us as individuals are only capable of so much, especially if we want to do it with passion and excellence and dedication. But I do believe that there is a specific call for each of God’s people to begin seeing those who are marginalized in our communities and cultures. If we begin to really seek out who it is that God would have us see, individually, we could show so many their value in Christ.

And there is another thing I want you to take to heart: you are seen. Not only does God see the poor, the oppressed, the addicted, the angry, etc., but He also sees you. He sees your secret pain. He sees the confusion and the questioning in your heart. He sees your grief when it feels like those around you have tired of it. He sees the ways in which you may have been dismissed or undervalued. He sees you and He hears you and He wants you to know.

Let us live knowing that we are valued and valuable. Let us live in a way that shows others that they are valued and valuable. And let us do the hard work of opening our eyes and reaching out our hands.

compassion faith joy

Choosing Gratitude Over Guilt

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that my default emotion for most of my life has been guilt. I feel guilty for not keeping my house clean enough. I feel guilty for being stressed out and grouchy on the days when I decide keeping the house clean is the most important thing. I feel guilty if my husband comes in after his work day and starts picking up toys because that means I didn’t do “my job.” I feel guilty for being able to go on regular dates with my husband because I know other couples who aren’t able to have that luxury. I still sometimes struggle with guilt for the way that I felt while dealing with mild postpartum depression after the birth of my first child — feelings I had no control over. I feel guilty that so many have experienced tragedy and loss, and that I have honestly led a privileged life. The list of things that I’ve allowed myself to feel guilty about could go on and on. But I am starting to see how unhealthy and fruitless this response is.

It feels strange to say I was convicted about feeling guilty, but three years ago I experienced a particular and needed grace that opened my eyes.

When I was pregnant with my third child, I was not excited. We had wanted more children, but the timing was difficult. My husband and I had just decided that he would quit his job to pursue music full time, we moved and put our house on the market, and as part of his pursuit of music my husband was gone on tour for two months of my pregnancy. My oldest was not yet three when my third was born, and my daughter was only eighteen months old. I was short-tempered and tired, and feeling like I couldn’t handle the two children I already had. I knew that I would love my baby, but I was not excited about him. Of course, I felt a lot of guilt for these thoughts and feelings. No mother wants to admit that she isn’t feeling positively about her baby’s arrival. But when he was born all of that blew away. I had the instant, overwhelming love for this little boy that I had been so anxious about bringing into the world. I couldn’t wait to get to know him and see who this unexpected gift would turn out to be. Normally, I would have felt guilty for the way I had felt during his pregnancy, and I would have allowed that to color his newborn stage. I could also very easily have gotten trapped in regret about my first two children’s newborn stages — one clouded by postpartum depression, the other by a very fussy baby dealing with an undiagnosed dairy sensitivity. I could have let those regrets steal the joy I was experiencing with my sweet, squishy, easy third baby. But somehow I was able to escape the guilt and just feel grateful. I can’t explain this freedom from guilt except to say that it was a special grace from the God who knew what I needed to feel and what I needed to learn.

Guilt feels productive, but it is actually paralyzing. When I sit in my guilt I somehow believe that I am being virtuous. I know I’m not doing things right. I know that others have much, much more difficult lives than I have. Aren’t I so aware and in tune? Beating myself up can be cathartic, but it is never fruitful. Guilt keeps the focus on ourselves, which is where most of us like our focus to be. When I am looking in at myself — at all the things I think I’m not doing well enough or think I shouldn’t have — I can’t see the God who is blessing me, or the people I could be serving. Feeling guilty about not experiencing the pain or loss that someone else is dealing with doesn’t usually translate into any active compassion. Guilt says, “I shouldn’t have what I have” instead of saying, “what can I give to those in need?”

Gratitude is not self-focused. I cannot say “thank you” without looking outside of myself. Gratitude puts the focus on God, and gives the freedom to look to the needs of others. If I respond with gratitude when someone helps me, I am saying, “You are a blessing to me. You have given something of value.” If I see that a friend is struggling in an area in which I have abundance, I can thank God for blessing me so that I can be free to be a blessing to others. I can also enter into my friend’s grief in a way that would be hindered if I was stuck feeling bad for not grieving. We cannot “weep with those who weep” if we are constantly saying, “I’m sorry for not experiencing what you are.” Gratitude lifts our eyes up to the One who gives, and out to those who need. It inspires action. It bears fruit.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t feel conviction over actual sin in our lives. We ought to be listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to reveal to us sinful and destructive behaviors, attitudes, and habits. Of course. What I am talking about is this general, vague sense of “feeling bad” about things that are either completely outside of our control, or are actually blessings. And I’m certainly not saying that if you’re finding yourself in a constant stage of discouragement and depression that includes overwhelming feelings of guilt that you should just “get over it” and be grateful. Please know that I fully acknowledge the reality of depression and other forms of mental illness, and I never want to give flippant advice about a medical condition. I’m talking to myself here, and people like me. People who have gotten into a habit of looking into ourselves with negative thoughts instead of looking up and out with gratitude.

So this is a challenge to myself, and anyone else who needs it, to choose gratitude when we might usually feel guilty. I often have to decide whether I’m going to say “I’m sorry” or “thank you.” I want to say “thank you” more.

Uncategorized

Being Present, Not Impressive

I haven’t written in a long time. I tell myself it’s because I’m too busy with kids and dancing and training to be a doula, and trying to be a good wife. But really it’s because I’m afraid and maybe a little lazy. I’m afraid to sit down and put some time into writing, and not have it be worthwhile to anyone reading it. I’m afraid to put something out there that isn’t “profound” and “impressive.” I realize that the root of this fear is pride. I started this blog as both a tool to help me write regularly, and as an attempt to encourage those who might read it. I wanted to “write the thing I wanted to come upon” as Anne Lamott says. I wanted to provide an honest perspective on this life of faith and family — a real discussion of the struggle involved in bringing the abstract and spiritual into the daily, all too tangible messiness of life. But now I’ve allowed myself to get wrapped up in trying to say something that no one else has said — something that will cause people to say, “Oh, isn’t she wise” instead of causing them to feel encouraged and refreshed to face their own days. I’ve been wanting people to see me instead of wanting to point them to Christ. But I’ve been learning, slowly, about the importance of being a faithful steward, whether I think the result will be remarkable or not.

A year ago, after my fourth baby was born, I went back to dancing too soon. I planned to perform in a show when he was only three months old, so I had to be in rehearsals starting when he was four weeks old. Honestly, as the day of my first rehearsal approached, I knew I wasn’t ready, but I wanted so badly to impress people with how quickly I had “bounced back” after having a baby. I wanted people to see that I could be strong and come back and not miss a beat. “Already dancing on pointe after just having a baby? Wow!” I was blessed to be allowed to bring my baby to the studio with me, but I was still feeling conflicted. If he was in the packnplay, and I was dancing I felt guilty about not paying attention to him. If I was holding him or nursing him during class or rehearsal I felt guilty about not doing what I had come to the studio to do. Thankfully, my director noticed this turmoil, and basically gave me permission to quit the show. It was such a relief. I realized that I had wanted so badly to be impressive that I wasn’t allowing myself to be present in the stage of life I was experiencing. This was going to be my last baby (barring a big surprise) and I felt I was missing out on some of his precious newborn time.

If our goal is to impress, our focus shifts from how we can serve and just be to how we look. It becomes about how we are being seen instead of how our eyes can be open to truly see the needs of others. And we will never be satisfied. Because, really, no one is paying that much attention to us. And if they are, do we really want them to look at us and say, “I wish I could do as much as she does”? I know that what I really want, or what I want to want, is for people to come away from interactions with me feeling like they have been heard and seen and have a renewed strength for their daily struggles. In order for that to happen, I have to let go of the desire to be impressive, and just focus on being present with people.

These lessons have been reinforced over and over again through my training as a birth doula. A doula is a person who offers informational, emotional, and physical support for women in pregnancy and labor. In the beginning of my training I was caught up in learning about all the things I could DO to help laboring women. But the more I learn, the more I realize that it’s mostly about being a loving presence and witness to what only the laboring woman can do.

Silence and stillness are often the hardest, and most important ways to support someone. If someone comes to me with a struggle or a worry, my first instinct is to want to offer insight. I want to fix things for people, but also I want to have something to say. I’m learning that instead of trying to manufacture insight, it is more valuable to listen and then to pray. If I’m grasping for a quick response just for the sake of having something to say, it is guaranteed to not be as helpful as just being quiet and loving and praying.

Instead of trying to be impressive, let’s strive to be present. Instead of trying to be profound, let’s be silent, listen, pray, and wait. We serve the God who sees. Let us be a people who strive to really see each other.

faith

“Know Me”

balloon-912841_640There are so many things going on in the world right now. Some of them are so terrible that if I dwell on them, I will not be able to function. People are constantly posting opinions on Facebook, and implicitly demanding that others also form and express opinions either in agreement or opposition. It is tempting to give in and feel like I have to decide right now and post my own definite opinion about whatever issue is “hot” at the moment. I think we all have a strong desire to be right and to be heard, and to be heard being right. And social media, especially, makes us feel like we need to make sure we let people know what we think about anything and everything. Especially in the evangelical sub-culture, we have convinced ourselves that it is vital to have all the right opinions about nearly everything, and that if we don’t think all the right things, we will be in danger of heresy and maybe even of losing our salvation. Lately, though, I’m beginning to believe that having all the “right” opinions may not be as important as I have thought.

As I enter my thirties, I am feeling a shift in mindset. I feel like as a child, as for most children, my thoughts and opinions were shaped by the thoughts and opinions of my parents and family. Even though my mom made sure that we knew how to think on our own, I thought what I was taught to think. I don’t think it’s possible to escape this, and to an extent it is necessary to train our children this way for the basic things in life. Then in my late teens I realized that I needed to make my faith and my opinions my own. I needed to see what I really thought about things, instead of just blindly ascribing to the thoughts and opinions of my family, my pastors, and my teachers. Each of these phases is a necessary part of growing and maturing, but now I’m moving into a place where I need to stop trying to figure out what I think about things, and instead just focus on knowing Christ. Recently, I had the blessing of being prayed for by a dear friend. She prayed that I would have a tangible experience of the Holy Spirit. I believe that I did, and I felt Him impressing upon me that I needed to stop trying to figure out the right things to think, and instead just focus on knowing Him. I felt as if He was saying, “Just know Me. Don’t worry about knowing what to say. Don’t worry about knowing a black or white answer to a question. Just know Me.” Because the truth is, if I truly know Jesus, I will love Him. If I truly love Jesus, I will listen to Him. And if I’m in the habit of listening to Jesus, I will learn His heart. I will care about the things He cares about, and I will make the right decisions about how to act and treat people, even if I still don’t know what to think. It’s not about having the right opinions and living out the right dogma. It’s about knowing who God is and what He cares about, and walking in His Spirit. If I’m walking in His Spirit, and seeking His face, I cannot go wrong. It’s harder this way. It takes faith in something other than myself. It’s much easier to decide what I think about something and leave it at that. This way I have to come upon things and evaluate them prayerfully and one at a time. It’s not a one time decision. It’s a constant conversation. And I can’t take credit for “figuring it out.”

It feels scary to live this way, and I am not doing it right. I am more likely to spend my time on Facebook than in seeking my Savior’s face. I get caught up reading comments on controversial issues, getting angry at people for stating opinions I don’t agree with — or don’t think I agree with — and spending all my mental energy trying to decide what I really believe. All of this without prayer and without any real action.
Of course I am not saying that it doesn’t matter what we think. What we think determines how we live, and we are called to be discerning and to not allow ourselves to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and be carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). But the way that we ensure we can stand strong is by “the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). That is what will bring us to maturity and discernment. What I am saying is that it matters who we know. It matters who we look to to help us formulate our opinions. We will not come to the “right” opinions by looking to our favorite political party or spokesperson. We will not come to the “right” opinions by reading headlines or blogs or watching YouTube videos until we find someone who says what we want to believe. And we certainly won’t come to the right opinions by trying to figure things out in our own minds without prayer and a knowledge of the Word of God.

I’ve come to see that, in my own life, I’ve allowed having the right opinions to distract me from where my true focus should be. It’s easy to feel like I’m doing something real when I decide my views on a certain issue, or share something I think is important. But the truth is that I can have the right opinion all I want, but if it doesn’t grow in a mind and heart focused on knowing and loving Christ, it’s not going to bear much eternal fruit. And there seems to be a lot more grey in the world than there is black and white. So instead of being consumed with being right and being affirmed by others in my “rightness,” why not focus on knowing the heart of the One who made me, and the One who made each of the individuals and groups of people who are affected by these issues. Because debates about opinions and issues can blind us to the people — the actual image-bearers of God — who we are called to love as we love ourselves. They can stir up anger in us toward others, and cripple us from doing much actual good in the world. But if we truly know Christ, we will know and love the heart of Christ, and we will begin to look more and more like Him. And it won’t matter anymore whether or not we think the right things, because we will be loving and obeying the right God, not one made in our own image. And we obey Him day by day, moment by moment, situation by situation, vote by vote. And that requires a lot more listening and stillness than typing and deciding.

Motherhood

What All Have Borne, Each Can Bear

This is difficult to write. I’ve hesitated to sit down and put these thoughts on paper for many reasons. I don’t want to seem like I’m looking for sympathy or asking for anything, and I’m not sure I really want the attention. It is also easy for me to discount my own pain in light of the greater pain of others. After all, there is war in the world, people are being murdered for their faith, there are children seeking refuge in our country being met with hatred and rejection — how could my loss be worth notice? But I also know that my God is the God who sees. And a sparrow does not fall without His notice. So I am writing this in pursuit of healing, and in hope of helping others to grieve the way they need to.

Four weeks ago, at 6 and half weeks pregnant, I noticed I was bleeding. After hours in the ER, bloodwork, days of waiting, and more bloodwork, I found out that I had lost my baby.

As a mother of 3 other children, it is hard to take time to grieve the way I might need. It’s also hard to feel deserving of that grief. After all, I’m not facing the possibility of never having children. I have had the great blessing of growing and nurturing my own sweet babies in my own body. Three times. So it’s easy to try to talk myself out of the sadness over this loss because it’s not “as bad as it could be.” But were I trying to comfort someone else in the same situation, I would never say, “At least you have other children.” This tiny being was real. He or she was there, taking up space in my body, making me feel sick, and weak, and weepy. And now that soul — that constant thought throughout my days that I have a beautiful, magical secret growing inside me — is gone. I believe my baby is with Jesus, but now the constant thought is now of hidden emptiness and unspoken, unfulfilled hopes.

sweet-pea-flower-tattoo-beautiful-blogger-48174And that is one of the hard parts, and the reason I am writing about this. Miscarriage and loss are so, so common, but also so private. We are advised never to announce a pregnancy until 12 weeks “in case something were to happen.” As if being joyful about something you could possibly lose (which is everything) is something to be embarrassed about. And then some of us lose our babies, and we haven’t shared our joy, so we are unable to share our sorrow. We, the grieving, fear making those around us uncomfortable with our grief. So we are silent, and rob ourselves of the healing balm of sharing our sorrows.

As humans, we want to know why. Many women blame themselves for miscarriage and stillbirth. This is almost unavoidable. We look for security in knowing what we did wrong so we can fix it next time. If you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss, hear this: you did nothing wrong. Getting your hair dyed before you knew you were pregnant did not kill your baby. Exercising did not kill your baby. Taking a Tylenol did not kill your baby. It is not your fault.

I didn’t struggle with blaming myself for physical failure as much as others may, but I did find myself coming up with spiritual reasons. This is the only child of ours that we really “planned.” And we planned it around my dance schedule and my husband’s touring schedule. We “decided” to get pregnant. Maybe, I thought, this was God’s way of showing us that we are not ultimately in control of our lives. Maybe He is trying to teach us not to put our own desires first. But is that really the God that I serve? Is He really mocking my plans and showing His authority through taking the life of my unborn child? Of course not. He is our Jesus who wept with His friends at the death of their brother, even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead that very day. He is our Father, and it pains Him to see us hurting. No. He did not do this to me to teach me a lesson. And He didn’t do it to punish you, either, dear sister who has also lost. I don’t have an answer for why 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Except that we live in a broken and abnormal world, and God is more grieved than we are at the pain and death that occurs in it.

So, if not to garner sympathy for myself, why am I writing this? Why am I making public the thing that we have cultural “rules” set up to keep private? Because I know that suffering, and this particular suffering, is common. I know that someone reading this has had a loss that no one knows about. And I know the great comfort that comes in knowing you are not alone.

I am so blessed by a strong support system. One that is, unfortunately, full of women who have also lost babies. And here is the gift they have given me: permission to grieve, even though my loss was early, even though I have other children, even though so many others suffer so much more than I have. They have given me permission to be happy and grateful when I feel happy and grateful. They have given me permission to cry in ballet class because somehow not feeling exhausted and sick while I dance is one of the worst reminders that I am no longer pregnant. They have offered the most healing words, “Don’t be afraid to cry about it because this was a real baby. It is a real loss that you will grieve for the rest of your life. And God loves that baby more than you could know.”

Even though I know this was not a punishment, as a teacher and a learner, it is hard for me not to look for a lesson. Some days it’s hard to know what I’m meant to learn from this, besides how empty a womb can feel, but I do know now, firsthand, how having someone see your pain can help ease it. I see, more than before, the importance of God’s instruction to grieve with those who grieve. And also, to rejoice with those who rejoice. And that we can do both at the same time. We have to, really, if we’re going to live in this world, because there are so many beautiful and terrible things happening all at once. So if you are suffering any loss, whether it looks great or small to the world, know that to Christ, it is great, it is real, and He weeps with you. And I encourage you to share your burden with someone else. Your burden will get a little lighter and their shoulders will get a little stronger.

And if you are not the one grieving, offer yourself. Forget that it is uncomfortable, and remember that it is vital. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Let the grieving ones be the guide of your conduct. If they want to talk about it, listen; don’t change the subject. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push it. Pray.

I want to close with a passage from one of my favorite books. It is one of the best descriptions of bearing one another’s burdens that I have read. It’s from The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and is from a scene in which Penny, the wonderful, strong father of the protagonist, is comforting a family whose son has just died. Penny and his wife had lost many babies, themselves.

“The talk broke over Penny in a torrent. The relief of words washed and cleansed a hurt that had been in-growing. He listened gravely, nodding his head from time to time. He was a small staunch rock against which their grief might beat. When they finished and fell quiet, he talked of his own losses. It was a reminder that no man was spared. What all had borne, each could bear. He shared their sorrow, and they became a part of his, and the sharing spread their grief a little, by thinning it.”

compassion contentment faith joy marriage

Living the Dream

Shortly after my oldest child was born, I sat on the couch with my husband, Andy, after a particularly rough day, and said, “I just need you to acknowledge that my life is harder than yours.” He graciously conceded that it probably was. But in the years since that conversation, I began to feel that my assertion was a bit self-absorbed. As I watched my husband struggle every day to go to a job that he hated — spending so much of his life doing work that he couldn’t talk to me about and didn’t enjoy, surrounded by people who couldn’t understand why he wasn’t just thankful to be working, and feeling conflicted at home between spending time with his family and pursuing his true passion of music — I saw a heavy, dark cloud grow larger and larger over him. I realized that though my life as a stay-at-home mom of then 2 children was sometimes legitimately hard, my husband’s daily life was just as challenging. My days were filled with constantly tending to the needs of little people who whined and made messes and poked and hit each other, and pooped and spit up and screamed and asked the same questions over and over, and didn’t want to be put down for long enough for me to cook the food they were demanding. But at least they were little people I loved and enjoyed. I had little time to write or dance or socialize with other adults. But at least I knew that, however mundane my day to day tasks were, they were for an important purpose. Andy carried the heavy burden of trying to stifle his feelings of despair in the interest of providing for his family. He carried the guilt of feeling pulled toward spending time on his music, and feeling that he really should be spending time with his family.

So when I was with other women and we would talk, as we often do, about how hard it is to stay at home with our children, and how jealous we are of our husbands who get to go to work all day and be with grown-ups and have real conversations, and do jobs that they enjoy, I admit that I felt the tiniest bit of pride and self-importance that I had figured it out. That I was the one who really understood my husband and the struggles of his life.

But now that my husband has been a full-time musician for over a year, the resentment has begun to creep back in. I resent his days spent creating. I resent the time he gets to spend with friends and bandmates in practice and meetings and concerts. I am jealous of all the time he gets to spend alone. And even though I am so happy and thankful that the dark cloud is gone, I do sometimes resent that he is able to spend his days doing what he always dreamed of doing.vivpedals

But when I let myself wallow in this self-pitying attitude, I forget something. I forget that I, too, am living my dream. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be a mommy. I’ve wanted to have lots of babies, and play with them and cook for them and teach them to read and write, and… find someone else to teach them math. I have found myself getting annoyed that my husband still sometimes gets discouraged or anxious or worn out because, after all, isn’t this what he chose? But the truth is, we are both living the lives we chose. It’s just that both of our dreams are more difficult and daily than we ever thought they would be.

When I sit in front of a blank page to write, I remember how hard it can be to force creativity, and Andy is doing that every day. In order to support us, he is having to work in a lot of different areas, some of which take a lot of time away from the music part of being a full-time musician. And then there is the added stress of having a significantly lower income. In coveting the apparent cushiness of my husband’s day to day life, and magnifying my own struggles, I failed to make room for his humanity.

Before I get to real point, I want to tell you what this blog is not about. It is not about wives and mothers and women in general stifling our feelings of frustration and loneliness. It is not about greeting our husbands in heels, with plastered-on smiles and cold beers and perfectly clean houses and gourmet dinners on the table no matter how emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausting our days were. And it is not about putting all other aspects of our personalities and passions aside just because we are women and our “place” is in the home. I believe that the place of a woman is wherever God has placed her and her passion, and this could be several different places over a lifetime. This is not about not pouring out your heart to God, and your husband, in the interest of feigning contentment.

Now that we have that out of the way, here’s what I really want to say. Stop keeping score with your husband. The fact is, you are playing different games, so the score will never be even. You will each have different stages of your life with varying degrees of challenge. The point is to love each other, see each other, and allow each other to be human.

Maybe having children wasn’t your dream. Maybe it was a surprise and something you never saw yourself doing. Maybe you are a stay at home mom, and you have a passion to have a career. Maybe you are a working mom who longs to stay home with her kids. Still, it is a gift. And maybe you are not even married, or married and are struggling to begin your family. I’m not saying that we should just get over whatever situation we are in and be happy. We are called to both “cast all our cares on Christ” and “bear one another’s burdens.” What I am saying is that we must open our eyes and choose to see the ways we are privileged — see the ways in which God is already handing us our dreams — and respond in gratitude. We must open our eyes and choose to see the ways in which others may be struggling and respond with grace. Because what we all really need is to be allowed to be human and broken sometimes. So let’s not let our perception of the “easy” lives of others, especially our husbands and those closest to us, stop us from making room for their humanity.

 

compassion faith justice Living in community

Hope for the Monsters

blakeultrasoundIn Albuquerque this past month, there was a vote on a proposed ban on late-term abortions. People have travelled from all over the country to my home city in order to obtain legal abortions at up to 35 weeks gestation. And as a result of the vote on November 19th, this tragic pilgrimage will continue. The ban on abortions after 20 weeks was voted down.

In the days after the decision, I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed and noticed reactions from both sides of the issue. Many people were grieved, as I am, that the murder of these babies right up until they are full-term is going to be allowed to continue. And there were others who expressed gratitude that they would still have the freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies. Some people used words like “disgusting” and “sickening” to describe the decision. I agree that the killing of babies is disgusting and infuriating, but I’m not sure this language is productive.

While I am deeply grieved to think of babies in the womb being injected with a poison and struggling until their hearts stop beating — a safe little world suddenly invaded by sharp pain, the sound of their mothers’ hearts fading, and muffled voices from the outside disappearing — I can’t help but to also grieve for the mothers. What kind of desperation would lead to this decision?

I want to encourage us to advocate, not only for the babies, but for the mothers. I don’t know the stories each of these women carry. But I do know they carry stories. I know that whatever the circumstances are that lead them to decide to have their babies killed before they are born, they must feel hopeless. It must feel like there’s no other way out. Because I don’t think that these women are monsters any more than I am a monster. I make selfish, cowardly decisions daily that are based in fear or doubt or in forgetting that I’m not longer a slave to sin. I don’t think these women are evil. I think they are lost. I think they live in a fallen and broken world that has sold them the lie that the only possible way to deal with their situation is to run away from it and try to convince themselves that it’s for the best. Maybe they are told that their babies are too damaged to have a good “quality of life.” Maybe they think they are being humane. Maybe they are so deceived that they think the life they are carrying truly isn’t a life. Whatever their reasons, they are victims of their choices.

I know there are many, many people longing to be parents. I know there are many whose empty arms ache to hold those discarded children. And that grief and longing are real and deep. There are many who suffer in many ways. And Satan and sin and lies are at the root of it all. But remember, these mothers once felt their children kick and flip and hiccup inside them. And, even if they somehow didn’t realize what they were doing at first, they allowed their babies to be injected with poison, and eventually, they felt the movement stop. And then, days after the injection, they labored and delivered their babies, fully formed, but lifeless. Their decision will haunt them. They have endured and will endure great physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.

So in our efforts to uphold the sanctity of human life, let us not dehumanize the women who were so hopeless and frantic to be free of the people growing inside them that they are now imprisoned by their own desperate choice. We need to think about the words we use because we never know who is listening, especially on social media. Be careful, Church, how you speak about and to those who may be suffering, whether it is as a result of their sin or not. Instead of labeling them “monsters” and causing them to retreat into their shame, let’s offer forgiveness, hope, and freedom. Let’s offer Christ.

contentment Motherhood

Holding Messy Hands

photo My birthday was this month, and I received many sweet messages on my Facebook timeline wishing me a happy birthday. A lot of  people, knowing I’m a mother of three young children, said they hoped I could get some rest on my birthday. I appreciate this sentiment, and am always coveting rest and am thankful for those who provide it for me. But there was one message that stuck out. A woman I’ve known since I was 6 years old, and who has been an encouragement to me in Bible studies, words of wisdom, and sympathetic notes during the years, wrote something that really made me think. She wrote, “Happy birthday, Megan! I hope your day is full of beautiful music from your hubby, sticky hugs and slobbery kisses from your little people. And all sorts of other really good things.” Now, maybe she just meant, “enjoy your family today,” or something to that effect, but as I thought more about what she said, I found it to be another point in a lesson I feel God has been teaching me for a while. The lesson is this: while rest and recharging are good, helpful, and often needed (He even built it in to our week with a Sabbath), escape should not be the goal in our lives.

I often catch myself being preoccupied with getting a “break” from my life. I count the hours until nap and bedtime. Being a mother of young children can be tedious. You say the same things over and over, do the same things over and over. I sometimes feel like I’m busy all the time, yet to look at my house, it appears that I never get anything done. It is easy to get lost in the chaos and see my children as little creatures intent on keeping me from doing what I need to do (right now, for example, I’m fighting my eight-month-old for control of the keyboard). But in reality, my children are what I need to do. They are not obstacles distracting me from important things; they are the important things. Because the focus of our days becomes the focus of our lives, and the focus of my life is not supposed to be getting a moment to myself; it is not supposed to be making it to naptime so I can have a snack and not share it with anyone, or so I can jump in the shower. And my focus is certainly not supposed to be getting a second to check Facebook for the twentieth time. The focus of my life is supposed to be Christ — obeying Him, and loving Him through loving my little ones. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and right now two of my little neighbors are sleeping in the rooms across the hall, and one is scooting around on my bedroom floor. I know the command to love others goes far beyond our own little families, but it certainly starts with the people I’ve been blessed to spend my days with.

I’m not trying to deny the difficulty of parenthood. Tantrums and disobedience and pee on the floor are hard. I want to get away and escape from these things. But I find that if I’m fully present in the life and tasks I’ve been given, I can find peace and even joy in the midst of the chaos. If I remember to put the two year old on the potty at regular intervals, she doesn’t have as many accidents; if I don’t bring my phone to the table at lunch, I’m more able to patiently engage with the kids, whether it’s reminding the three year old to keep taking bites, or answering his creative questions.

And I’m not trying to deny the importance of resting and taking breaks, either. I think often the reason I have a hard time being present and joyful in my everyday tasks is because I don’t allow myself built in times of rest. If I know that I’ll soon be able to have time to read or write or spend time with my husband alone, I will be more able to focus my attention on what is in front of me in the moment. God knows we need rest. He knows we need regular times of Sabbath. I think the reason we are often frustrated is because we are not intentional about observing the rest that He has built in to our lives. And I don’t think our Sabbath always has to be Sunday, because as any mother of very young children knows, Sunday can be the most exhausting day of the week.

But the point is that this time of my life is about caring for and training my children, not trying to get away from them. Because I cannot escape only the unpleasant parts of my life. If I’m constantly focused on getting away from the tedium and the dishes and the laundry and the whining, I’m not going to recognize the blessings either. I will only see Vivian’s sticky hands coming toward my clean pants, and will miss the sweet, voluntary affection of my daughter. I will only hear Marshall’s whiney voice pleading with me to hold him while I’m trying to make breakfast, and won’t savor these short years when I’m still able to pick him up and squeeze him for just a couple minutes. And though sometimes it feels frustrating to sit in the messy living room and read the same books over and over, while trying to keep the kids from pestering each other, I know that someday soon we won’t have hours for reading stories. There will be schoolwork to do and activities to get to. So I will try to savor and celebrate these long hours before naptime when all the kids have to do is read and play. In my twenty-eighth year, instead of being focused on celebrating myself and trying to get a break, I’ll try to celebrate the blessings of “sticky hugs and slobbery kisses.”