4/29/15 Morning Musing:  Mommy Needs a Time Out So I Will Be In The Pantry…With Some Chocolate…and A Mommy Juice Box!

I wasn’t close enough to hear any part of the struggle but I was seeing it.  She was trying to get her son to go into the school and he was flailing and crying and wiggling.  Her hands were already full of items that she needed for her workday inside the school building.  She just…needed…to…get…inside.  And right as she was about to reach her goal, he struggled free and ran off to the grass and wailed.  A crying child…what breaks your heart more than a crying child?  For me, it’s the mom.  I hurt for her as my oblivious kids ran right past her and her son in their zeal to get inside the school building.  I watched her body slump as the air rushed out of her lungs and she fought to hold her own tears back.  She was fighting hard to keep it together…to maintain her dignity while her son fought against her.  As a mom, I know that having a child means spending the rest of your life with your heart walking around on the outside of your body…your heart is no longer something that can be protected by walls you’ve built up around it…you can no longer count on your defenses or protective thinking to keep your heart safe…you become vulnerable to so much more.  So, when your own heart rebels against you and screams at you, it is hard to know what to do.  As I watched her shoulders slump down and her head look to heaven for an answer, I started planning to park and run to help her in my normal scary-school-drop-off-state:  wet hair, no makeup, slippers, jacket = bra…that alone should make her feel better about herself, right?  And right as I made the decision, I saw one of her co-workers, another mama who has already experienced this stage before her, calmly walk over to the wailing son and then…he magically stopped crying and ran inside ahead of the two women.  And I felt it…I felt her mixed emotions of relief that this moment of hell was over and also disbelief that he could turn it off like that…that her own heart would put her through that for what appeared to be nothing…that feels a bit like betrayal.
As I drove home, I kept replaying that scene in my head.  I have been there.  Oh!  How I have been there!  Caleb, my even-tempered sweet little bear cub used to test me this way too.  I remember having to abandon  grocery carts full of groceries on many occasions in hopes that we wouldn’t starve before we were able to have a successful shopping trip.  I remember the looks of scorn and even mean or thoughtless comments from strangers that had me feeling twisted up in knots and completely inadequate.  I remember the physical and emotional pain that I would experience as I would use my body on top of his to hold him down in his room while he thrashed through another tantrum…I would hold this position above him…being careful not to squish him…while he would scream and writhe until he would, at long last, go limp and hoarse (but too exhausted to harm himself)…and he would eventually sleep heavily and I would go in the next room and sob alone.  I remember thinking that I had unknowingly traded my independence, privacy, goals, dreams, paycheck, and brain for this little bugger who was treating me like the enemy.  To make matters worse, when he would fall asleep and look like an angel, instead of having some blissful rest myself, I would berate myself for my thoughts during his hellish wakeful hours.  Hormones!  That has to be it.  That is the only explanation for why I prayed for this…blessing?  Confession time:  I literally kept a gym membership for a couple of years just to have a place to drop my two littles off for a couple of hours a day and take a shower alone!  (Well, as alone as you can get showering in the same room with 10 other women…but none of them would stick their head in my shower stall and plead for “Mommy hoed due!” so I counted it as a win.)  No lie, when I had pneumonia, I went to the gym Every.  Single.  Day.  It took less energy than dealing with the tantrums!  (Stop judging me…you just wish you’d thought of it first!)

What is the point?  Well, several I guess.  One is something that you’ve heard a hundred times a hundred ways and that is “Girls judge each other.  Women empower each other.”  The seasoned mom that I saw help the struggling mom was doing just that.  She helped her to get her stuff together so that she could present her professional face to the world and feel like a whole, complete human.  Also, I would like to point out to the moms of littles, that I don’t experience this anymore…there is light at the end of the tunnel and they don’t stay in the tantrum stage forever…in fact, my tantrum-throwing bear cub has become one of the most even-tempered little people I know.  Finally (and this was the point for me today) I was able to use that empathy that I was feeling for this woman that I barely know, and transfer it to women that I do know but don’t care for.  You know the women I’m talking about…the ones that just grate on your nerves or whose decisions you simply can not identify with.  What if I tried to think of that woman that annoys me in that difficult life stage?  What if I thought of her as having to struggle through those difficult “Mommy times” that are not glamorous?  The tantrums, stomach bugs, sleepless nights, tension with husband, and body image issues following having a baby.  For some reason, getting a glimpse at someone’s struggle (even if I made it all up in my head) makes extending some grace a bit easier, doesn’t it? 
So, how are you doing with this?  Are you the mommy in the struggle right now?  Are you the mommy who helped her out?  Is there someone you could lend a hand to?  (It didn’t change the seasoned mommy’s day but it sure made a difference in the struggling mommy’s day.)  Be honest, is there someone you should be extending grace to?  Can you imagine that person going through the struggles of life and feel a little bit of empathy for her?  

My prayer today is that we would take a few moments to acknowledge those struggling around us and offer them a hand and some encouragement.  I am praying that we would enter in to people’s struggle with them instead of judging them, detached, from the outside.  I am praying that we would find a way to contribute, even in tiny ways, to help each other press on and that we would, through our lives (not through grand gestures), show Jesus and his grace to people in our spheres of influence.  Much love friends,

Beks

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4/17/15 Morning Musing:  And In This Corner…The Challenger!

“You challenge people.”  Hmmmm…hearing that immediately made me think that I’m seen as argumentative or ornery…but then he began to tell me why that statement should be taken as a positive and why my presence in different circles makes people look more deeply at their motivations and encourages them to press further…to “stretch” and get uncomfortable.  And then, he asked me to keep it up!

“Maybe the goal isn’t to be comfortable…but to get comfortable being uncomfortable…that is something you do well.”  What?  Me?  I don’t think so.  I HATE pain.  Physically, I’m rather intolerant to it (which is why living with chronic pain for so long has been terrible.)  Discomfort sounds so…uncomfortable.  But then she went on to explain to me how she sees me constantly finding ways to “stretch” and go farther…to upset the status quo…that I seem to know that there is always more refining to do and that the refining, while uncomfortable, is not optional but is always worth it.

“It’s a movie that I just know you would love because it looks like the main character is a strong woman who is a total badass and who is driven to right all of the injustices.”  Yep, that one is probably true.  Sounds right up my alley.  I love turning expectations upside down on their heads.  I love being the gal who will have her hair and makeup done but still pick up the power tools from the garage and get stuff done.  It’s fun to see people’s reactions when they find out I’m a black belt…my appearance must not relay on the outside what I feel on the inside because people are so often just shocked.  I love being unexpected.  Defying my “role” or not being able to be put “in my place” doesn’t sadden me…it motivates me.  If this tells you anything, on my wedding day, we had an “after party” at my in-laws’ house out in East Texas.  We shot guns and threw knives and hatchets and there are pictures of it in my wedding album.  (See feature image.)  How many brides fill up 1/4 of their wedding album with photos like that?  And my father in law loves to remind me of how I was smart about it…I made an excellent kill shot with a throwing knife and then calmly walked away in my afterparty mini-skirt while jaws just hit the ground.

“One thing I know about you is that you simply can not bear to allow injustice.  You aren’t able to rest until it is addressed and amended.”  Ohhhh…wow…I hadn’t thought about that.  “I think that is why you always are drawn to the underdog…you have to see that wrongs are made right.”

“You shouldn’t try to change that about yourself.  It’s beautiful.  You are a beautiful…maverick.”  Hmmmm…maverick.  I have never thought of myself like that…but then she went on.  “You know who else was a maverick?”  Hmm…what?  I was still thinking about the first thing she had said until she continued.  “Jesus.  Jesus turned things on their heads.  He challenged the religious elite.  He challenged the roles that people had just taken for granted were the ‘right way of doing things.'”  And that is when it clicked for me.  

All of these things have been said to me in the last couple of months…my science-geek nature sees a pattern which means I need to learn something from it.  I think that maybe people avoid challenge because it is uncomfortable and requires energy but, for some reason, deeply crave it.  Maybe it’s because there is something missing way down in their soul…some unmet goal.  Or maybe because they know that God wants more for them…wants them to embrace the mission that he created specifically for them…but they aren’t often willing enough to press through the discomfort. laziness, awkwardness, or simple self-indulgence to be obedient to HIM.  For me, I find that my conscience will absolutely haunt me if I allow myself to not step up to the challenges in front of me…I find that my mind immediately goes to how my sin of omission always moves outward and causes damage to others…living with that would require more energy, time and pain for me than just getting off my butt and doing whatever task God is asking of me.

So, I know this one is a bit heavy but…how are you doing with this?  Are there challenges in front of you that you are resisting stepping up to?  What outcome do you expect if you don’t step up?  And what outcome do you expect if you do? Are you living such an booked-up life that you don’t even have the space to sit still and identify what your challenges are?  Maybe that is what you need to approach first.  Ask yourself this:  what are my top 3 priorities in life?  (Now don’t read farther until you have answered that question.  Seriously, answer the question.)  Now, look at your average week or day and determine how much of your time, energy, resources, and thinking are being used toward those top 3 priorities.  If you are deflated by your answer, it’s time to make some serious changes to your schedule and resource allocation.  Now, think about the challenges facing you again…you know what the right answer is.  Instead of trying to wiggle out of the discomfort, try asking God for strength and wisdom and then get in there and join the fight.  You too could be a maverick…a beautiful maverick like our Lord.

My prayer today is that we would rely on God to be exactly who and what he wants us to be.  Whatever he is calling us to, he will give us the strength and abilities to accomplish.  My prayer is that, unlike myself, you would see your God-given passions and characteristics as opportunities to reach our world and make it better…to show people the goodness that God has to offer…and that he is powerful enough to use your weaknesses for his good work.  Much love friends,

Beks

4/7/15 Morning Musing: Choosing Pain

As I write this, I’m still not sure if I am going to post it or not.  A recent interaction with someone has me thinking about the many times in life I have been angry and also about the many times in life I have been hurt.  In the situations involving anger, I had a target for my anger:  a bully who had hurt my little boy, the man who poisoned my family, the guy in college who had broken up with me before I could break up with him, the woman who was taking my name and character and dragging it through the mud.  These people were easy for me to villainize (is that even a word?) in my head.  I could make them the enemy with no redeeming qualities in the story that was unfolding in my mind.

In the situations that hurt me, there was no target outside of myself to focus anger on so, instead, I found that I just…ached…for a long time:  empathy for a friend whose child was not behaving in a way that reflected their family’s values (on top of all the other problems she was facing at the time), knowledge (and identifying with) about how someone had violated their own conscience and was having to live with the fallout from that (it sucks to realize that you are the antagonist in someone’s story), the emptiness of a broken relationship that left me feeling like strangers with someone I used to be so very close to,  and the sadness and helplessness that comes from knowing someone is being lied to and can not hear the truth.

After you get past me depressing you so early in the morning, you will realize that the four situations I described being angry about are the same four situations that I described being hurt about.  So what the heck is my point?  Well, there are several points actually but I think they all support one theory that I have:  It is easier to be angry than it is to be hurt, but most of the time, hurt is more productive.  When I am angry, I tend to have a “bad guy”…antagonist…boogey man…enemy…someone to blame.  I can’t speak for you…but for me, when I have someone to blame, the feelings exist on the outside of me and I tend to quit looking for what virtue I should be learning more about.  I quit assessing my contribution to the situation and I tie a beautiful little bow around the neatly-packaged idea that this person is bad and that is why this situation occurred.  That makes it easier to break with that person and close off my feelings.  When I am hurt, however, I can’t tie a bow and dismiss the person/ situation because it’s in me…Inside…and the only person who can address those feelings is me.  Oh, I’ve tried covering them up, distracting myself from the feelings, and numbing them…but none of those work long-term and, inevitably, I end up having to deal with the feelings anyway.

So, again you ask, “What is the point?”  I think we learn from pain.  I think pain confronts us and demands (eventually) that we pay attention.  Why do people go the doctor?  Because some pain that they have is consuming their attention and needs to be dealt with.  If it was painless, it would be a more insidious illness…like leprosy (science geek-out alert:  leprosy causes severe nerve damage that allows the person to incur injury and not feel it.  This is dangerous because pain requires that we stop the damage from continuing.  Think about a hot stove burner:  If your arm brushes up against it, you jump away from the source of burning before you have time to think about it.  If you don’t experience pain though, you will stay in contact with the burner until some other symptom occurs (creation of smoke or sensing a burning smell.)  So, our pain is really a safety mechanism that is built-in to us to bring our attention to the situation and induce a change in our behaviors or actions.)  Anger, on the other hand, tends to be focused on someone else’s behavior.  It doesn’t require real investment or investigation…it doesn’t necessarily call for a change in our behavior or way of thinking…it’s more like a hand-grenade…it can be thrown at someone and then walked away from…and I think that ability to walk away from it is the attractive part…because it feels like power…it can be mis-interpreted as strength…but strength is not found in taking the easy road…it is found in a struggle.  Think about it:  how much strength does it require to have things always go your way?  How much strength do you have to develop in order to float through life?

So how are you doing with this?  Are you angry a lot?  Is it possible that you are angry because you are avoiding thinking about something?  Is God trying to tell you something that you don’t want to hear?  Think about the times in your life that you have experienced the most growth…what did you feel during those times?  What did you learn?  Now, think about the people you hold closest to you and reflect on whether it is they (those people that you love) or your enemies that have the most access to injuring you.  Anger allows us to distance ourselves from hurt…but in the absence of that hurt, we are also distancing ourselves from people, lessons that we could learn, and virtues that we could develop.

My prayer today is that we would slow down and evaluate some things:  if we are mad at someone, is that anger even legitimate or are we in denial about something?  What has God been impressing on us that we need to be working on?  Who around us is in pain and needs us to come alongside them and walk through it with them so that they don’t run away from the pain and become angry?  Friends, I am praying that you will find a way to get comfortable sitting in the pain and discomfort and that you will find truth and peace in it.  Much love friends,

Beks