I washed over 100 pounds of laundry. I took over an entire corner of the laundromat. I needed a clean slate.
My laundry is made of rabbits, multiplying at lightning speed. Though I have inquired, the children can’t explain why their socks inhabit everywhere but the hamper. Life and a general lack of a home management plan (that’s a thing—still don’t have one), created mountains of laundry on every floor of the house. I packed it up in minivan sized trash bags and several tubs. Three hours later I had a clean slate.
It’s a new year. I have a new degree. I’m looking for a new job. New seems to be a theme for me. However, if you hold tight to the old, there is no room for the new.
Here’s my top three ideas in my clean slate.
#1: Stepping out.
I am standing at the foot of the stairs. If I grip the handrail, I’ll never ascend. I’ll be stuck on the first step. I’ll be safe. However, I’ll miss what’s at the top of the stairs-a new career, responsibilities, self-image and the future. Seeking the new means stepping up to seek what’s possible.
#2: Endings are necessary.
I’ve been studying the book, “Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud. Endings are a powerful part of growth. Too few endings and your life is full of clutter. Too many done poorly can drain your spirit and take away vital resources for growth.
My 9-year-old tried to teach me Pokemon. I had to wear reading glasses to read the cards. Despite having a master’s degree, I couldn’t figure it out.
We turned our attention to SkipBo, a game largely requiring the ability to count to 12. He has beaten me 7 out of 10 games, a fact he doesn’t hesitate to remind me of-7 out of 10. However, each time, even in the face of crushing defeat, I found myself relaxing, smiling, and leaving the table with a fuller heart. Play reminds us not everything is life or death. It reminds us of the wonder of a game well-played and the sound of laughter from those we love.
After one day, I have a full hamper from the ‘rabbits’. However, I also have a full heart, ready to take the next step. I leave behind and end things which have held me back. I find reasons to play and vow one day (shakes fist to the heavens) to defeat Caden at SkipBo.
Share in the comments how you are stepping into the new year. What does a clean slate look like for you?
Over coffee my friend L and I were discussing the myriad of weddings she was in and how often people asked/pressured/judged her for not having a +1…yet. It’s very much a desire of her heart, unfortunately bruised by well-meaning, yet subtly judgemental comments. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “You know dear, the bible says if you delight yourself in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Subtext IF you REALLY delighted yourself in the LAWD you would already be a +1).
- “It happened so quick for me. Just when I stopped looking there he was.” (Stop looking so desperate dear and he’ll magically appear.)
In the interest of science, I googled how many books/blogs, etc. related to this subject. I started with men: how to become a husband/pray for future wife…there were FIVE total. Women praying for their future husbands/becoming a better soon to be wife/get a husband…I stopped counting after SEVEN PAGES of links. It’s a clear cultural signal to women.
How often, as women of faith, do we focus on how we AREN’T enough? We focus on how to be a better mother, a better wife, a better soon to be wife or a better singleton waiting to become a wife. The message is clear: we aren’t enough without a +1.
In one of my favorite passages of scripture, Jesus meets a woman at a well. This violated every cultural and religious norm of the day (Jesus as rebel…my favorite!). He asked her to get him a drink and to go and get her husband. She told him she didn’t have any. In response to her honesty , He gave her one of the greatest revelations in scripture-a promise that we would never be thirsty again when we are a +1 to Jesus. (John 4) The woman went on to transform her city with this powerful message. Note, she didn’t go on to get married THEN transform her city.
I know Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful and multiple thereby setting the precedence that all should have a +1. So then, what if the +1 isn’t around anymore, there isn’t one, right now, or ever?
My friend, KL, from Montana (sounds so cool to say that) is a writer, on staff at the largest churches in her town, an actress and the fiercest, fairy of awesome you could meet. She recently posted this on her FB page:
These are two talented, smart, beautiful inside and out women who both were considered lacking because as Christian young women the most important thing is to find a husband. They are somehow considered less without a +1.
For L, KL, and every one of my ovarian sisters I want to tell you something: YOU ARE ENOUGH. Just as you are. In your sweats, crying over Gilmore Girls reruns. Working out at 4 a.m. so you can sparkle through your day. Suiting up for the job. Driving your son to fly across the country to start a new life. You are enough for God. You are enough to me.
This week let’s pinkie swear (because that’s what girls do…boys do the spit in the palm thing…seriously…ew.) Let’s pinkie swear to be a little kinder to ourselves and our sisters. Let’s ignore the messages subtle and loud that try to tell us we are not enough.
I’ll close with a quote from L that made me laugh so hard I had to pee. “Timothy Keller’s podcast won’t help me meet my husband!” No, a podcast won’t do that. But maybe if we focus on here and now, we’ll get to meet ourselves and realize we are more than enough.
Meet MJ. She was born three days ago. Here she is smiling at her Pap’s deep voice telling her how beautiful she is. I like to think she is in agreement as the world has yet to tell her otherwise.
Her grandmother, J, had to leave just before her granddaughter’s arrival to take chemo. J is in a lifetime battle with cancer. A few months ago, it didn’t look as though she would ever meet MJ. She was the first to hold MJ other than Mommy and Daddy and the first to hold her every chance she gets.
This is Ron, her only Uncle. He brought her a balloon to the hospital because it’s what Nana would have done. She can’t, so he did. A few years ago, it didn’t look as though MJ would have any uncles. The one she does have can’t stop smiling and talking about his ‘peanut’.
This is Caden and Ian, her only cousins…so far. MJ’s Aunt T is freezing her eggs so she can bring another cousin to MJ. Aunt T is tough and has kicked breast cancer…twice. An award-winning baker, Aunt T told MJ all about the cakes they will make together, when she can eat them, of course.
This is me telling MJ her first story. It was about her crazy Auntie who will tell too many stories and feed her too much sugar. I told her she has a future and a hope and that we are so thankful God lent her to us.
Her birth has filled us all with a sense of wonder (and not simply because her mother delivered in less than 12 hours like a rock star). We keep hugging and crying as if the Steelers have won another SuperBowl (the only other time I have seen her daddy cry).
MJ is inspiring me to write new stories as part of LessMoreAbundantly. Less heartache, more joy and abundant hope.
Circumstances of the past few years have broken us all. In our brokenness, cracks visible and invisible alike, we have learned we can still smile, still love and ultimately be still and know that our lives are not our own.
Our family is rising again. Not like a phoenix from the ashes, that is too complete a metaphor. Rather we are taking the ashes, mixing them with tears and time, and using it to fill the cracks. Discovering, as we put ourselves back together, that we cannot be broken in the same place, in the same way, ever again.
Some pieces we are leaving on the side of the road as we dare to take a step. We walk, alongside little feet, into a future only dreamed about and whispered into God’s ear.
I love you, little peanut. I pray you would have less heartache than we have seen, more love than you could ever imagine and an abundance of adventures. I pray you would know that together we can walk through anything.
“I haven’t slept in weeks,” the beautiful woman shared from across the blue covered picnic table. A mother to a 17 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 month old-all foster to adopted children. None from her body. However, in the blue bruises under her sleep deprived eyes and hair in need for highlights, the grays peeking through, I only saw a compatriot in the trenches of diapers and attitudes and messes.
It took many years before we saw an ultrasound from my husband’s sibling. They were told it would probably never happen, and yet it did. The fall will bring a miracle baby into our family.
My dearest manager at work became a step-mother to an 11 year old who has now grown into a handsome, successful young man. She humbly discounts her role in his life, but in the way he smiles at her, you know this is truly his mom.
My brother said he would never get married nor have a family. He insisted he was fulfilled with spoiling our children and pursuing with passion his career. Then she happened. And in two short years he married and will be bringing a baby into the family this fall.
My friend will be mothering her son’s girlfriend as she moves in for a time; bringing another woman into a house full of men. Last night I made her laugh so she didn’t cry at the enormity of the changes.
Too many friends of mine have had complicated and painful relationships with their mothers. One is spending this day removing freedom from her mother-in-law to save her from dementia. Another has posted a meme on how birthing a child does not make a mother, rather heart does.
For me, mother’s day puts pressure on old wounds of mothering failures. While healing is ongoing, it’s so easy to feel the pinch of things remembered through the haze of depression and anxiety.
I remember my mother and grandmother. Tough and tender, I never quite understood them until long after they were gone.
I received this as a mother’s day gift from my sparkly 2nd grader.
I spent the majority of the day in jammies sobbing over a maudlin Nicholas Sparks movie (the only one where no one dies). I called my dearest sister (in law) and talked babies and summer visits and teaching and all things wonderful.
We went to a superhero movie and out to dinner. At dinner I quickly grabbed my phone remembering we hadn’t called Joyce. Then I cried. Joyce is my mother-in-law who has been gone for 5 years. So real is her presence still in our lives.
This day has been one where I have been thinking of all the kinds of mothers I know. The ones still waiting, the ones who are walking through addiction recovery, the grandmothers who are mothering again because their own children are incarcerated or incapable. I’m thinking of all the women who mother children in their classrooms or youth groups or on the job; like Wanda, the office manager, who taught me white people under-season their food and how vanilla should be quadrupled in any recipe.
To all the mothers from whom I learn so much, I say thank you and pray for your hearts to be full and your blanket warm and your nap uninterrupted.
Would you share about the mothers of all kinds in your life? I would love to read about them.
“How often are you going to blog?” she asked me. And it hit me, I’m in the arena and there are people in the stands.
I’ve often shared Brene’ Brown’s quotes and how her work has enriched my life immeasurably. Here she shares about being in the arena:
Our arena is that place where we are at our most exposed. The place where we face enemies from all sides. The place of victories and defeats.
“How often?” was asked by a woman I deeply admire. Miss Ellen is in the arena. As a published writer who has crafted curriculum for children, she’s been a minister and a leader in churches for decades. And she reads Lessmoreabundantly.
Getting back in the arena requires me to slay my self-critical demons. You know the ones who whisper, “Who is going to read your stuff?” and “You’ll fail, because you always have.” Stephen Pressfield calls this running tape of self-sabotage-Resistance. In the book, “The Artists Way” it’s called-The Inner Critic. Whatever it’s called, it wins every time I run away from the arena.
Miss Ellen revealed to me I’ve already won by hitting the Publish button. I’m being seen and I need to keep myself in the arena no matter what Resistance throws at me. I need to show real courage.
This blog is part of me showing up. Reaching out to you is me showing up on your digital doorstep to have a cup of coffee and share some stories.
My friend, Christie, is the first African American woman to be on city council in a community historically divided along racial lines. She isn’t just stepping in to the arena, she is building a new one for women from all places in life. Christie had her greatest leap forward when she stopped. She stopped listening to those in the cheap seats who would rather throw criticisms then lend a hand. Christie and Ellen are two women in my life who have the courage to show up and be seen. There are more, but there stories are for another time.
Today, I want to ask you to share. What is your arena? Where are you showing up and being seen? Where is your arena and how can I help you get there?
Four years ago I started a one year blog-self development-writing project. The premise was simple, “Eat Less. Pray More. Love Abundantly.” I thought to chronicle my journey as I sought to do those things. The journey became so much more complicated.
I took a year off for an unintentional soul sabbatical where the only goal was to get through every day whole. In an effort to rebuild some waste places, I joined a “Rooted” bible study. The last session asked for the things which were most impactful. I’d like to share them with you.
I’m afraid You won’t show up…and I’m afraid You will.
I’m afraid God won’t show up and yet I’m afraid He will. I want to live a life soaked in His character and showing His love. I also want to do what I want to when I want to do it.
I’m also afraid you won’t read. And I’m afraid you will. If you don’t, well, then this isn’t very fun. If you do, then I have an obligation to give you the best of myself and of the words only I can write.
Double-fisted faith-I believe even if You don’t deliver me.
My job in this “Pray More” journey is to believe no matter the outcome. In any relationship, even Divine ones, you are in or you are out. I don’t drop my kids by the side of the road because they didn’t do as I asked (that one time was only to prove a point…kidding…). Real relationship walks through with intention no matter what the outcome. My husband had to endure abdominal surgery and months of hospitalization despite the fervent prayers for healing. Yet today, as I see him toss baseballs with my boys in the back yard, I marvel at his complete healing. My dad died from a long battle of cancer. My son asked why God didn’t heal him. I answered, there is a time for everything, even death and we trust God knows best because He loves us. Double-fisted faith isn’t easy, ever but it’s the only kind I have.
Prayer doesn’t have to be spoken. We don’t simply attend church-we belong.
Ask yourself these questions. Is there a day you go without breathing or eating (and I don’t mean not eating so you’ll magically fit into that dress)? Is there a day you go without thinking? Each day we use our bodies and our minds.
We are made in the image of God. He is three in one and so are we. We are a physical body with a mind which controls our thoughts, will and emotions. And we are spirit. Now ask, is there a day that goes by with no thoughts to God or prayer? No. Spiritual practices and disciplines are important. What’s more powerful is a life which is a prayer.
And this prayer-full life is lived in community. Church isn’t a building, it’s the family of believers living life together. Over a Google hangout we had church every Thursday night. There were times when words couldn’t be spoken and the quiet was pregnant with powerful possibility cloaked in peace.
My purpose is rooted in how I see myself.
I’m adjusting my internal mirror to see my purpose. It is inextricably linked to writing. And this blog is what I write. Thank you for sticking with me.
Let’s see where this journey will take us now.
In “I’m Fat and I’m Happy” Joni Edelman blogs about happiness in terms of the life she lives, not the pounds she shed or the calories she has counted. She has touched a nerve in all sizes of people.
I am getting ready to be a Maid of Honor/Best Woman in what will be the most beautiful wedding ever. My brother and his fiancee’ are getting married. I and her sister are honored to stand at the altar with them, as we have stood with them in life. They are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. It will be one of the happiest days of their lives.
While I wholeheartedly celebrate their love and life, I am not celebrating the journey I am following as I dress shop. I’m fat and I’m not happy.
So work out and eat less. Simple. There’s even a company named, “Simple to Lose”. For me, it’s not.
I was on a roll recently, then my husband had a life threatening illness. My ankle, while out of it’s cast, is still healing and a bit scary. I just changed jobs and work partially from home and partially 40 minutes away. We are all in therapy to heal from a long season of hurt and crazy. Kids play sports. I play at leadership in graduate school. Not much time left over for workouts, meal planning and clean eating grocery shopping.
Part of me says, suck it up buttercup and sweat. Cut up those vegetables and make it work.
The other part is the young woman who was told she wasn’t pretty enough to date by her crush from the youth group in college.
My therapist, a tough, no-nonsense woman, told me it’s a lie that I am not beautiful. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made. To say or believe anything less is a lie.
So am I happy believing a lie? Whoa.
Read Joni’s blog. Comment. Let’s start the conversation
“I was praying about you and the awful situations you are going through,” she said sincerely, leaning over to grasp my hand, “With this level of spiritual warfare, you must have a great destiny in the Lord!”
I wanted to say, “If this is a war I am losing. I would trade destiny and everything else to have a husband not die, to be able to walk, to have children free from fear and anxiety and to live anywhere but here.”
“Thank you for praying. I appreciate it,” I said and then walked away. I wish I could have as easily distanced from the fury her comment inspired.
So all of this is supposed to be about my destiny?!?!?! It’s supposed to be preparing me for some great work for the “Lawd”? Burying my parents, crippling poverty, nearly losing my husband and parenting kids who watched their Pappy die are all part of a plan to prosper ME? If it is-count me out!!!!
My friend recently preached a sermon called, “It’s All About Me” and it’s really messing me up.
Messing me up by challenging the comfortable martyr status I’ve settled into.
Messing me up by ripping the band aid covering an ancient wound of mistrusting God and His promises.
Messing me up by reminding me it was His people who used and abused me in His name-it wasn’t Him.
Messing me up by raising the level of accountability to life and death levels.
Messing me up by taking scripture and applying it to the reality of what it means to “take up our cross” daily.
Messing me up by taking me out of the equation and making it about something so divine, so deep and so loving it will take me a lifetime to fully experience it.
If you have time today, will you listen to her sermon? She will HATE that I am sharing it with you, she doesn’t know how much her life, her witness and her heart mess me up. It’s one of her best character traits.
Listen then please share if it messed you up.
To quote lyrics from the musical RENT, “I’ve got baggage. I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.”
Bring yours in for a bit. Let’s set it on the side of the “It’s All About Me Highway” and journey forward, eyes on the horizon rather than ourselves.
“It makes no practical sense for me to be here,” I shared with my grad school cohort, “I should be home, resting, taking care of my husband and kids.” I gave voice to the guilt which, like a rash, crawled on the skin of my psyche.
“He’s doing so well,” I went on, rationalizing away the guilt…for the moment,”and the kids are troopers.”
12 hours later fever set in and we again made a frenetic dash to Hopkins. He was fighting an infection. And sometimes, I knew, infections win.
On my way, I had an appointment with a surly orthopedic surgeon. He was prickly, abrupt and announced I probably wouldn’t need surgery and certainly didn’t need the scooter. I told him to navigate the miles of Hopkins’ halls I would keep it.
No ankle surgery? A surprise and a beginning of the mending.
Something happened in the kids. The first trip was scary, overwhelming and they made me crazy. This time, as we all piled into the king sized bed like a litter of puppies, their presence was comforting. There were far less whines and far more, “Can I help you?”
Waiting rooms weren’t buzzing with nervous energy as before. In fact, with the right book and atop a pile of coats they could be quite cozy.
“The pancreas is a mean organ,” the surgeon told us, “This infection is common. He will make a full recovery.”
Common. Full recovery. It seems ankles and abdomens are designed to mend.
That was the prayer of my sardonic grad school professor after I told him our story. He thanked God He designed us to mend.
I’ve been in the battle so long I forgot there is an end. I’ve been limping so long I forgot what it was to walk. It’s been a long, long season.
Yet, from the very beginning, my husband, my kids and I were designed to mend. We were created to uncover beauty from ashes. Wisdom from mistakes. Life in the midst of death. It’s the scripture promise that we are given life abundantly even if it takes place on surgical wards, atop scooters or sporting an ankle cast.
Mend. Even the word is soft, as the promise it whispers. There are miles to go before we sleep, but sleep we will and mend we shall.
Share with me where you are mending. Where are you walking where once you stumbled?
Eight days ago, at 5:30 a.m., my husband was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Johns Hopkins hospital. He was to receive treatment for a 1:1,000,000,000, rare pancreatic tumor. Our family’s Christmas gift? Major surgery in a city four hours away.
As we traveled, I chronicled how cool my kids are with unexpected trips.
I received a Facebook message from a member of my church. Her daughter has serious health challenges and this mother shared of a holiday she spent in the hospital. One idea stood out from her simple message. Look for God in the little moments.
I did my best to create little moments of joy for the kids and the family. I decorated the hotel room.
My brother and his fiancée joined us to entertain the kids. Soon we were joined by Pap and Uncle Ryan.
We took this photo on the way to his surgery. We joked we should send it out as a New Year’s card with the caption, “Hope you have a healthier NEW year than we had LAST year!”
My prayers were whispered, gasping attempts at faith in the face of cold, hard reality. My husband was undergoing rare and complicated surgery. The only certain outcome? Pain on recovery for him and pain for me as my ankle continued to shred within my cast.
The first little moment? Surgery took half the time and went ‘textbook’ according to the Boston Reds devotee’ of a surgeon. We could all see him in the ICU, two at a time. They even offered to sneak in the children for a quick visit.
As we left the waiting room, buoyed by the good news, I noticed a young father cradling his infant close to him. I offered to give him the room we had used for waiting so he could have a quiet place.
As he settled in, I felt a familiar nudge. I knew this was another of the little moments I was to look for. I asked him if I could pray for him. Turns out, Jonah was holding his 11 week old son as his mother, Meghan, was undergoing surgery. I prayed Psalm 138:8 and asked for a miracle for his wife. We hugged, tears in our eyes. As I slid away on my scooter, I prayed Meghan would hold her son again.
Following this little, powerful moment, was the hell of ICU. Somehow I managed to stay calm as I watched my husband gasp in pain. I told him how strong he was and how great everything went. When he cried and apologized, I hushed him and kissed him. I smiled as we left him there, full of a peace I knew was supernatural.
Later we had Christmas. We were silly and giggly on the outside. I drank wine as I was far from smiling on the inside-the earlier peace eluding me. Pap dressed up in the gifts the kids bought him, and my brother celebrated the 7th plastic fish he received. If you closed your eyes, it could have been any other holiday celebration.
The next day, Ron was moved to a room. I waited for him to be settled in his room in a family waiting area. In the corner was a terribly thin woman, a tracheotomy in her throat, IVs in her arm. I watched as she visited her children. A toddler, her grandchild, climbed up and around her while playing on an iPad.
The nurse brought Ron down the hall. He looked terribly gaunt, pale and obviously in pain. I told him I would meet him in his room where we could sit and rest. As he walked away, I started to cry. The tears kept coming despite my stubborn insistence to my heart to suck it up.
I felt thin arms encircle me. “He’s going to be just fine,” a hoarse voice whispered. I looked up and realized it was the patient from across the room.
“Thank you,” I whispered back. “I hope you are at the end of your journey here,” I said as I blew my nose in my sandwich napkin.
“I’ve been here three weeks and I’m not done. I’ll never be done,” she replied. “It’s not about me anymore,” she went on, looking at her grandson,”It’s about him.” With another hug she shuffled back across the room to play.
Tonight as I look back on the past 15 days, I can recognize the little moments where God showed up. I’m thankful for them. I pray for more.
I don’t know what you are experiencing in your life. However, I pray you too would find the little moments where God shows up. Share them in the comments.