Monthly Archives: February 2015
On Saturday we celebrated Elle’s 3rd birthday, which brought with it a swirl of emotions, memories, and gratitudes. Because Elle was born in Bahrain, her birthday — for me — is intertwined with our time and experience there and so I found myself thinking of both her birth and the fact that WE HAD A BABY IN THE FREAKIN’ MIDDLE EAST (!) all day Saturday. At the time, it was the most normal thing in the world. It’s time to have a baby. Let’s go have her.
But looking back the whole experience feels profound and nuts and significant and otherworldly, too.
So Saturday was about celebrating Elle and all the incredible joy she has brought us these last few years. What a feisty, funny, delicious-dish gift she has been. And it was also about celebrating a long journey of returning home to San Diego and creating a life for our family of five back here.
Saturday was about commemorating the struggle and it was about gratitude, too. Because too many of us have internalized the idea that if we are struggling then that means we aren’t grateful. And so we count our blessings and stuff our struggle, and no one wins.
Over the last six years — since becoming a mother — I’ve asked myself one hundred thousand times, “Why am I struggling when this is what I’ve always wanted?” And the answer is: Because life is hard. Motherhood is hard. Anything worth doing in life is usually . . . hard. So I had to come to terms with the fact that I could be so very grateful for the mess and also so very irked by it, too.
In God’s economy we can be both struggling and grateful and I don’t think that throws him off in the least. Complicated emotions can coexist.
As I stood in my kitchen on Saturday, preparing food for Elle’s party, I felt so grateful to have the energy and space to make food to nourish people I love. I felt grateful for our home and the bubbling fountain in our courtyard that was serenading me while I worked. I felt grateful for my kids and my husband who are the very essence of my tribe, my place. I felt grateful for all those who gave us such a soft place to land when we returned from the Middle East. And, also, I was very aware of the long journey, the lingering dis-ease of transition, and the countless days when I felt just totally and utterly out of energy. When my body literally hurt and my mind was full of Brain Vultures and I was paying for lunch with baby wipes instead of money.
Today, I’m sharing all this because I think we need reminders that things can be both hard and good, disorienting and orienting, deeply imperfect and also soulful.
I’m wondering if part of my own personal journey is to become more and more accepting of the coexistence of chaos and beauty and to LET IT BE. (Ughhhh, practically impossible, if you ask me.)
But — and this is seriously strange to me — I’m more at home in my own skin, I’m a tiny bit clearer on my own voice, I’m more accepting of myself as a mother, and I think I’m even letting go of some of the ways I have chosen my image over my true identity.
My spiritual director talks to me about my “Inner Fundamentalist,” that voice inside our heads who is constantly telling us how things should look, should feel, should be happening. She reminds me that there’s no grace in the Inner Fundamentalist’s system.
We shut that “I.F.” up by allowing and embracing the complicated paradoxes, by living in the imperfect mess, by letting go of the shoulds on the exhale so we can take in grace on the inhale.
Giving you permission today to be both struggling and grateful — no matter how much you wanted what you have, no matter how long you waited for it, and no matter how great it is . . . It’s OK if it’s ever-so-slightly impossible, too.
Grateful for grace,
A year ago, I was still living “in relation to” Bahrain. Life was still happening in reaction to that time and that experience and the transition we were still very much in the midst of. I wanted our equilibrium, wanted to feel settled, but we just weren’t to that point yet. We were recovering. I wrote this post then: 10 things our re-entry from the Middle East is teaching me.
Today, I can say that we feel much more here and much less there, if that makes sense. But it’s taken time. I’m reminded that transition takes longer than we think it’s going to and longer than we’d prefer.
The squeeze is never fun. It doesn’t feel good when it’s happening and we surely aren’t inviting it to stay for any longer than necessary. But as I look back at that list of 10 things our re-entry taught me, I consider each and every one of those things to be invaluable bits of wisdom, bread crumbs that have led me since. And I’m not sure I would have stumbled upon those truths any other way.
Our tour in Bahrain and our resulting relocation back to the States has been a defining few years in our family and in my life. Elle will turn three this Saturday, and her birth in Bahrain will always be a part of her story and ours.
The single most important learning I have had through this experience is the reality that I must be a companion to myself, be on my own team. I am learning the practice of being the strong mother who fights for myself, stands up for myself, takes care of myself.
Sometimes it takes a giant transition, a major disorientation, in order to bring us home to ourselves.
While I’ll never choose the Come Apart, I see that sometimes our constructs and our assumptions and our ways of doing things need to come apart so that they can be put back together in a way that is healthier, more soulful, truer. We are led to greater freedom, but we have to fight some battles along the way.
I was rereading bits of The Alchemist the other day. I love this line:
Here I am between my flock and my treasure, the boy thought. He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have.
Man, I so relate to this. And isn’t this one of our great human dilemmas: we often have to give up comfort in order to gain wisdom.
Many of us are in the midst of our version of transition or upheaval or disorientation and we must continue. Because we don’t arrive. We just choose to practice what’s been revealed to us.
I’ll leave you with the final paragraph from Breathing Room:
Show up and participate in what life has in front of you, in what God is doing in your life. Continue to lean in. Continue to open your eyes. Continue to scout the beauty. Continue to create. Continue to love. Continue to get well. Continue to breathe.
I love books that serve as companions when we’re walking through difficult times. The author’s voice can literally be the friend in the room with us, holding our hand, helping us know we’re not alone. I want to share a book like that with you.
Fight Back with Joy is the latest book and corresponding study from my friend, Margaret Feinberg. When Breathing Room released, Margaret sent me a handwritten note in the mail with a tiny bag filled with colorful confetti. In the note she told me to go outside and throw the confetti up in the air and stand under it, showering myself with celebration. How thoughtful is that?!?
Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer 18 months ago and she has since been fighting for her life. At the time she was diagnosed, she was working on a book. Her diagnosis injected this project with a whole new dimension.
Here’s the story behind the book, in Margaret’s words:
Fight Back with Joy is the most vulnerable book and Bible study I’ve ever written, and maybe it’s because I originally started it to be a very different book. Two years before I was diagnosed, I became obsessed with the more than 400 references of joy in Scripture and just before my diagnosis I started the finishing touches on a book on joy. But then I got the phone call that changed my life forever. I had to scrap the entire project because I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly talk about something as fluffy as joy in the midst of the darkness I felt. Up until that time, I had been searching for joy in the relatively good times of life. But, after cancer, I started to read those scriptures so differently.
I discovered facets of joy that no one ever taught me—more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we can use to fight life’s battles.
The thing is, no one signs up for that discovery project—finding joy in suffering. No one. I’ve never felt so surefooted on my path to a joyful life. I know now that without shadows, joy can feel shallow. But, when we can discover joy while in the fight of our lives—no mater what that is—it is lasting.
Everyone who has faced a challenge, or who knows someone in the midst, needs to know that suffering doesn’t win. Joy wins.
If you are in the midst of a difficult valley, or you know someone who is, and a companion on that journey would be helpful, I so encourage you to check out Margaret’s story in Fight Back with Joy.
No matter what you’re going through today, what discouragement you’re facing, I just want to encourage you to keep fighting. Believing in you,