Pearl

You are my most precious of pearls,

yet I am to release you unto the world.

I don’t want to trap you in the confines of childhood–

no, I want you to run and be free–

or to use your innocent gaze to fill my own heart–

not display your love for all to see.

 

But do you see this marked and hardened shell?

I want only to protect you from all that would scar and mar,

from all that would tear apart your heart.

I would keep you here but you have cracked open

my life and all that was hidden there–

revealing the deeper pain beneath those outward marks.

How am I to teach you to be free when all in this world scares me?

Poverty in the Soul

Why are we so convinced that our own pain is the only pain, or at the very least, that it is the worst? I’ve been writing this post for nearly two months. After reading posts and articles explaining why poor America is too ignorant to know better than to hate from people who have no idea what it is like to live in poverty, let alone the effects of it on the human spirit. (Not linking here, but a quick internet search will turn up plenty.)

The sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–know no boundaries, none of us are immune to them. How we express them–and if they do transform to hate–will be tempered by upbringing, life experiences, and personality. The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings. Think Rwanda 1990s. Tribal genocide from one tribe onto another. Germany 1940s. One man’s lust for power made use of political and religious phobia and the instability left over from the previous war to convince an entire nation of European people to condemn another group of European people.

The pressure, the struggle of living will expose our inner workings.

Noticing and trying to solve problems such as a stains in your shirt or how to best parent each child individually seems frivolous when you have to choose between gas so you can drive to the grocery store and enough food to feed the entire family. Children born and raised in this environment, especially in rural areas*, may have difficulty breaking the cycle. Even if children grow up to break out of their parents’ socioeconomic class, those habits they absorbed during childhood all too often live on in them. Self-destructive, ingrained habits limit their potential in adulthood.

I prefer highly processed foods because my snacks were ketchup sandwiches instead of fresh fruits. I overact to the slightest stress because my body seems to be stuck in permanent flight-or-fight mode. Childhood poverty has forever impacted my life from what I eat to how I dress as I feel each aspect of my life through the urge to care for that little girl I was. Poverty is never something people choose, but do they have a choice when they lack the resources to change it?

And when you can’t change something, you lose hope, and when you lose the hope, you’ve lost the drive to change. When poverty, be it rural or urban, reaches down to the depths of the souls of the people, when hope dies, horrendous things begin to happen. Forget those habits of highly successful people because they topple like dominoes in the wake of generation poverty.

  1. If you feel a spark, you lack the initiative to try because it feels that failure is inevitable. Why go looking for trouble when it will come to you? The other shoe will drop.
  2. How can you plan for the future when a haze of hunger, with no end in sight, clouds your judgment?
  3. Which ties right into the urgent versus the important. If the urgent affects your or your family’s well-being, what could be more important?

… and the list goes on.

Poverty of the soul is an emptiness, an apathy. Poverty saps the ability to derive pleasure from life and the joy from the soul. It intensifies loneliness and blinds to beauty. You accept not only as your own fate, but as the future for your children, continuing the cycle of poverty to the next generation. Parents have immense potential to spark life into their children’s dreams and to empower them to achieve them. What happens when poverty steals that? It leaves room for the sparks of hate–anger, fear, or pain–to burn hotter in them.

If it is difficult to break out of the cycle of generational poverty in the United States, can you imagine how much harder it must be in other countries where children have limited access drinking water or other basic necessities, let alone to any education?

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Hoyo de Bartola, “The Hole,” in the Dominican Republic, 12 years ago. A stream flows around the clusters of houses that are surrounded by mounds of uncovered, smoldering trash.

 

*Further reading on childhood poverty:

 

 

to my boys: cherishing the now

I loved sharing chocolate with you while we snuggled on the couch.

I loved listening to crazy stories you dreamed up with me driving trains and you flying airplanes.

I love seeing through your eyes as you watch the world with wide-eyed wonder.

And when life feels too much for you, when it makes you anxious and afraid, I want to hold you in my arms and tell you, “It’s OK.”

I want to dream with you, and you with me, and show you how to reach beyond what you see.

I want you to go wherever I go, but there are some places that you can’t follow…

I hope that the war I face–that darkly pursues–never reaches you, even if it consumes me.

I hope you will forgive me for being your mother, for all my mistakes and wrong choices and character flaws, and that I haven’t turned you from hope.

And when we grow older, I hope you will hold my hands as my eyes dim, recounting days gone but not dead.

My sweet little loves, may you always know you will forever be my heart.

 

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: A lesson in child-like faith

As we watched the moon shine and the stars twinkle, my little boys were full of wonder. And like many little children, they were full of questions. Questions like:

Why do stars twinkle?

Why don’t stars have hands so they can wave to me?

Where is the star’s mommy?

I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus said that we are to become like little children.

Yes, be amazed.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s also OK to be full of questions, and to ask those questions, even if the answers to which are vastly beyond your understanding.

Do you see what is inherently implied in the last question? The star was created. A four-year-old looked at something both unknown and beautiful to him and still saw that undoubtedly there was a creator.

The Dream Life Versus the Daily Grind

How can we balance striving to realize our dreams and maintain our relationships?

Part of our culture tells us to sacrifice everything for the sake of seeing our dreams come true (for an intriguing take on this read Find What You Love and Let It Kill You). I can see why this article has pull. Most of us are stuck in the mundane tasks of scraping play-doh off the kitchen table, wading through the scattered kids’ toys, creating our latest DIY masterpiece, and scrolling through our Facebook feeds. We don’t even see the dream anymore. It doesn’t register. Then there are stories of how people gave up their livelihood, marriages, all other pursuits for their dream. The idea seems noble, inspiring…

I dunno, though…

I just can’t fathom rushing headlong in while declaring “I forsake all!”

Life is not made only of one thing and not the other.

You must firmly grab onto that first ring and bravely take the leap, though you may lose your grasp on the third ring or your risk may be rewarded when your feet touch the platform on the other side.

Make no mistake, your feet will touch the ground. Maybe it’s only the stubborn who get to the other side.

 

Dear Younger You: A time traveler’s letter to her mom

My mother told me, this past Mother’s Day, that of five kids, I am the most like my father. It was like hearing a native tongue that I had long ago forgotten how to speak. The memory of those childhood emotions made sense. And I started to understand…

That’s me there. I’m sorry baby me is crying again. You see, I was that baby, Mom.

I wish I could calm her, teach her how to not be so fussy, so difficult, so stubborn. I understand now what it must be like to see in your tiny human those qualities that both draw you in and frustrate you to no end. She turns out OK, least I think so, though the story is far from complete.

I want to focus on you, tell you some things you should have been told by your mom or your grandma or your sister or a girl friend. Maybe they were so caught up in their own worries that they didn’t see you.

I know you struggle with expectations. The expectations you may think society, your in-laws, your husband, or your family have. Expectations that you have for your husband, your children, yourself. And maybe you feel like you can never meet any of those standards or that they will ever meet yours.

I want to tell you something, Mom…

It’s OK. It’s OK that life is not what you thought it would be. That your marriage and parenting is not what you think it should be. That motherhood has changed you–physically and emotionally–in ways you may not like…that you think you are not what they want.

Let me make something clear to you: you are.

You are who they want.

Let me repeat that because you need to take it in soul deep and never let it go: you are who they want.

They really don’t care if they don’t have new presents, new clothes, or gourmet food. How fashionable or skinny you are or aren’t. Or how much you do or don’t know. They just want you. Your arms around them.

Your happiness.

Your smiles.

Your love.

So go on, love who you are so you can love them, as well.

Motherhood Dare: Wear those love glasses

This is to you, Mom. The mom who’s busting her buns getting it done.

It may not be that you want a career or to climb the corporate ladder.

Maybe you just want your sanity.

Or to financially support your family.

You want to give your children the best you that you can.

And I don’t think that’s wrong.

For years I struggled with my desire to be that super stay-at-home mom who, while homeschooling her children, blessed them with her kindness and patience, made-from-scratch meals and snacks, and pin-worthy decoratives. If you truly want to be that mom, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be harnessed to help you grow into that. I’ve poured over articles and books and tips promising to change my life through the wonders of organizing and crafting. You can learn how to meal plan, find a house-cleaning schedule template, and even step-by-step instructions on how to hand knit a sippy cup cozy (I’m being a bit facetious with that last one, but if that’s you, then do you).

I struggled not because I didn’t know how to be the kind of mom and wife I wanted to be, but because I really didn’t want to be that woman.  I was focused on all the “should be” and condemning myself when I couldn’t or when those things didn’t fulfill me like everyone said they should.

Now that I’ve come to grips with who I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead, life is starting to make sense again.

I had to assess myself, give real answers, and beat down a new path. Is it loving if you do all those things for your family? Absolutely. Does this mean that you can’t work outside the home? Absolutely not. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty or condemned if you work outside the home–whether it’s due to your circumstances or by choice. Your circumstances and your choices are likely to vary through the 18 years your child is at home. The question is not so much what you do.

The Real Question: Do you love?

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (MSG)

Mom, don’t feel afraid to take the steps you need to take. If you’re a boring square, don’t force yourself to fit in a round hole. (Unless you believe God is calling you to that, and may you be blessed by this change.)  Remember to look beyond the quantity to the quality. Show them love in a way that only you can.  Love your family by being kind to yourself.

the emotional atmosphere a child is steeped in at home will pervade their adult mentality

We are called to by like Jesus. Jesus is called love because he loved. He didn’t love by doing things for people…

He loved them by accepting them,

by listening to them…

by comforting them…

by acknowledging them when no one else would…

by putting his arm around them when others turned away…

What matters most is that you are love.

There and Back Again: An unexpected journey

there-and-back-again journey
Bilbo’s Journey Begins

I long questioned why Bilbo stepped out his door, albeit reluctantly, only to return and live out most of his days in the very place he left.

It’s been maybe 10 years since I’ve read the book but I don’t remember the Bilbo being the hub of his family or village before he left. He came home wealthy, and still pretty much rejected by his family and peers–only now he was envied instead of overlooked.

I now understand why he returned. He came home because he was changed. Because of his journey, he continued to let societal rejection roll off him and lived a life of long walks and wonder. Because he saw a world beyond the comforts of the Shire–filled with powerful people motivated by the forces of self-serving hate and self-sacrificing love– he was not caught up in the numbing trappings that so easily entangled others . And when he ended up taking in a young orphaned boy, he passed on his appreciation and awe of the forces of evil and good.

That boy became the man who answered the call to strike out on an even more difficult journey.

We leave because we yearn to experience something different.

We return because we are changed.

We continue in our lives because we hope that the change in us can change the world.

We have to take that first step out the door, be willing to leave behind what we know so that we, too, can one day return.

It’s not where the journey takes us, but how we let the journey change us.

 

Being a boymom

With every big hug, every fist bump, every stick, every stone, every bouquet of clovers and wild onion, my heart beats a little faster.

hands dirty from digging in the dirt

Every spontaneous prayer spoken over me to feel better softens my heart.

voice soft, whispering to God

Every act of acceptance shown to everyone–from the sweet baby in the doctor’s office to the sweaty guys landscaping the playground–sparks wonder in my heart.

knees scuffed on the trees they climb

So when the frustration spikes and high fives are few, I replay these memories. This emotion.

this love

#boymom

To-Do List or To Dream? Life away from the mom-do list

What incredible things do you do while you dream? I’m always running. Or fighting enemies en masse. Or building skyscrapers. Or just flying near the tree tops.

But then I wake up. Like most of you, I wake up to things left undone and things left to do. And by the close of the day, I’m worn out with a load of laundry waiting to be folded. One night a couple weeks ago, I found myself still folding, there in the dark while one of my little ones was drifting off to sleep a few feet away. I asked myself, is this what I’ve been reduced to?

stealthily folding a basket of tiny clothes in the cover of darkness like some kind of legendary laundry ninja?

dinosaur shirt chop-chop

roll socks

neon plaid shorts chop-chop-chop

Soon enough, morning came again and I was jet setting across the country for a business conference. It’s kind of cool that just since I’ve become a mom I’ve traveled a bit Seattle-Orlando-Boston. My kids may just be impressed with that one day… until they learn the most sightseeing I did was from window of the shuttle from and to the airport. I know, so glamorous. And I was back again to screams and suffocating hugs.

I love how my sons love me. The way they BOTH curl up on my lap.

I’m with my boys all the time . I’m grateful for all their love, but I’m overwhelmed by it.

Overwhelmed: to bury, drown, submerge, defeat, inundate

As a mom, I’m so overwhelmed by how much my children love me and by the mom things I need to do. In this stage of life, these two things are so intertwined. And when I’m afraid of something, I tend to back away slowly, keeping my eyes locked forward so I’m not taken by a surprise attack.

Relationships scare me. There was beauty in my childhood but I was a kid who didn’t connect to my parents or, well, anyone. In many ways, I am still that little girl. I think that’s why I write quite a bit on being a parent. It’s a way to assess and connect in a better way with my children because it doesn’t come naturally. And that overwhelming mom-do list? Failing to complete all the tasks on my list doesn’t make me a failure.

Moms, failing to complete your to-do list doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

In the end, your kids (and dare I say your husband) won’t care if you kept everything spotless and all the laundry neatly folded. What they’ll remember are trips to their favorite playground, visits to the pool and adventures in the woods. They’ll remember laughter and smiles. They’ll remember you. Don’t let the laundry make you bitter. Folding those tiny cartoon underwear (Kiai!) is not so much a reduction as it is a fulfillment.

Is it a dream life? Endless loads to defeat, meltdowns to calm, crumbs to sweep… as long as we let our to-lists be invaded by life and wonder, yes.

adventures