Tag Archives: prayer

how interesting it all is

There is comfort to be found in the mountains, in the open air, in the away.

There’s something to it; maybe it’s the stillness. Maybe the fresh air alters our chemistry. Maybe there’s a spiritual component, whatever that means.

Years ago, before I knew how frayed the edges of my religion were, I noticed this comfort. Sometimes on Sunday mornings the thought of church was enough to make me cry, and the mountains provided a specific kind of escape, one that called to me. I didn’t know why I was so upset–even if you couldn’t name thirst you would drink water when you came to it–now I think my brain and body were rebelling against situational anxiety that I couldn’t identify as such, and wouldn’t be able to for years to come. That particular stage and script, for which I was so ill-suited, was making me sick. These things will out, somehow.

I confess I cried recently while watching Pete’s Dragon in the theater with my kids. I’ve written about wildness here before–how it’s a gift I was granted in childhood. I have a deep gratitude for it, and often wonder if I’m giving it to my own children, and how exactly to do it. Parents know this matrix of examination all too well, this thing where I think we’re okay on this front, but what about xyz thoughts make you stare at the ceiling at night. The movie, with all its beauty and wildness, abandonment and new starts, its understanding of home and companionship, has stayed in my thoughts since.

In German, I understand, there is a word for the feeling you get when you’re alone in a forest. I’m spending a lot of words to try to name the feeling of being comforted and filled by wild things. This is not nearly so elegant, and yet I learned to name the thirst over time. I’m learning to name the water.

This summer we spent two weeks in national parks, which is a curious experience because you’re right there in the wildness, with hundreds of other people. This was no backcountry camping trip. It can be pretty comical, really, but you know what was beautiful? The shared, earnest, childlike excitement over the sight of a bear, or an eagle, or the first of many bison. Adults, standing in clusters, huddled around specialized lenses that they set up before dawn, just waiting for a glimpse of the wildness. And when you catch it, it’s spectacular. You exclaim and sigh and point and smile and ask your neighbor if they see it.

You ask them if they see it, and they say yes, and you share that moment of communion.

So we followed the paved roads, hungry for sight. We walked along dirt trails; we respected and preserved. We didn’t pick the flowers, but we took three pictures of the same flower, or four. We gaped at boiling hot thermal pools–deadly, agate-like marvels. We took in the beauty of a red-rocked desert that is more harsh than the desert we live in.

And when we left, we were beauty-saturated. I scribbled memories in a moose-adorned journal: we saw a marmot frantically eating on the tundra. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins to the kids each night, in the tent. We sipped wine by the fire, or whiskey, after they went to sleep, listening to the night sounds. Silas drew the solar system in the dirt with a stick. There are purple lupines everywhere. Ricky braved the mosquitoes to take a bath in the river.

Life is now schedules and routines, and fresh back to school energy. What does it mean to commune with wildness? Is that even the thing I’m trying to name here? I only know this: when my children stop to examine the snails that emerge after a summer monsoon, or when we spent a Saturday gleefully wading in a shallow river and they caught their first tadpole, when I notice them examining the growing pecans in the backyard, or finding mama toad and papa toad in the leaves, and in all of these things see their complete engagement, I feel a type of hope that I’m seeking. I think that this is how I pray, now, if prayer can be simply slowing down enough to notice how interesting everything really is, and to feed yourself with that.

There is so much to see, to learn, to appreciate. It truly is the work of a lifetime.

I need to teach them all kinds of things, but this learning, theirs and mine, is particularly sweet.

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dearest ones,

May you know what it is to rise each morning with work to be done.

May you know the stillness of an afternoon with a space laid bare for thoughts to gather and be stirred into vision.

May you look for the dim light in the distance when you’re caught in a fog–may you chase it with stubbornness and wild hope.

May you sniff the air and know that snow is coming, hike alone to meet with God, and put all your senses into noticing a crackling fire before you.

May you know silence–may you enter into it gladly, eager for its lessons.

May you travel and fill your minds with strange and delightful newness, may you see things that bother you, ask questions, listen well and long.

May you be overcome with curiosity from an early age and feel freedom to find out where the rabbit-hole leads. And, may you know that in this life you have a True North, watching and cheering, waiting to hear all about it.

Live, babies. Live your questions and answers. I can only see God smiling over you.

 

Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams’ When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.

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accepting help with open hands

Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to fear.

Because of our daughter Aimee’s history, she has some developmental delays–enough to qualify for Early Intervention services. We’re grateful, of course, that these services are available (not only that, but licensed, caring professionals come to our home, at times we choose, and we don’t pay a dime.) But I’ve noticed something about my daughter’s therapy appointments: I tend to be tired and sad afterward.

I’ve struggled with how much of this to share, because Aimee’s story is her own to tell. My hope is to tell the truth about my experience, while protecting hers.

2012-07-07_14-01-40_245July 2012

Over and over, my husband and I have been reminded that Aimee is on her own schedule and she’ll reach milestones when she’s ready and so we try to keep faith that things will happen when the time is right. From the time she came to our home, tiny and fragile at six weeks old, to now, we’ve navigated a tricky balance between gently pushing her forward and pausing when her cues prompt us to.  When she took her first steps and pointed to the dog magnet and found her nose, we cheered a little louder and clapped a little longer than with our other children, because she had to work harder, and longer, to get there.

Still,  fear casts a shadow over whatever milestone is supposed to come next.

Fear provokes a helpless, anxious response to the big questions: Can I accept any outcome, while continuing to work for the best possible outcome? How will my daughter be treated in life? What will school be like? Will her heart be broken by careless words?

Will those careless words be mine?

photo (2)September 2012

Since we recently moved to a new state, we’ve been establishing care with a new agency, and that means meetings, assessments, and interviews. Last week we did what’s called a Routines Based Interview– a tool used to outline the activities of a typical day and find any areas of concern or potential for improvement. This sort of thing stresses me out, to be honest. It feels invasive and intimate (because it is) but at the same time I know it’s for my daughter’s good. It’s a first step for the therapists, to direct their focus.

Part of the interview was to identify our support network–all the people in our lives who interact with Aimee in some way. The last time we did one of those was in New Mexico, and let’s just say the page was full. Church, friends, neighbors, babysitters, day care, social workers, therapists, grandparents–we don’t have some of those resources here, and it takes time to build up the sort of support network we had before.

One of the interview questions was “when you lie awake at night and worry, what do you worry about?”–ironic because it caused that very thing. That’s what Early Intervention does though: it brings to light things that may not be noticed otherwise, and it’s a good thing because that’s the first step to any sort of change. And this particular exercise helped me to realize that I was carrying the burden of responsibility for making things happen.

Throughout this journey, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not the one in control. I lay down the burden, but I’m quick to pick it up again.

20130621_122039June 2013

I spent some time with my fear: praying, journaling, airing my thoughts out loud with my husband. He has many of the same fears, and shared how he handles them. In stillness, I was able to see myself clenching my fists tightly when it came to Aimee’s care. I realized that I have some discomfort with the “special needs” label. No one wants their child to be labeled, of course, but this had more to do with my own bias. Deep down, I was angry about it.  During the foster-adoption process, there were so many unknowns that I simply started filing them away in the back of my mind. It hurts to bring things to the surface, and so I’ve been in pain, but it’s a pain with a purpose. Like childbirth.

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The next time our therapists came over, Ricky was able to stay home for the morning. He wrangled Silas while I talked to the Early Childhood Educator and Speech Language Pathologist about their findings from the interview. Together we came up with some practical, helpful ideas and a manageable plan to implement them. We all sat on our living room floor and read books, practicing pointing and naming, singing songs and laughing at Silas and Aimee’s antics. I noticed, surprised, that I felt light and hopeful. I had put the burden of Aimee’s well-being down, and opened my eyes to the people around me who are working for her good as well.

The interview served two purposes: helping us to figure out the next steps for Aimee, and helping me to let go of some toxic baggage. The first was the intended purpose, the second I’m taking as a gift. We can’t care for children well without caring for ourselves too.

IMG_6917October 2013

The mood’s been different around here since then. My energy to parent creatively has been renewed. We’ve been painting, and playing dress-up, vrooming cars around on the floor, having spontaneous dance parties, building train tracks and reading under blankets–all things I long to do with them, all things I find incredibly difficult when I’m burdened down. I find myself more like the mother I want to be, because I’ve accepted help–externally and internally.

Making myself vulnerable to outside help is a really uncomfortable process. It involves shedding light on my insecurities as a parent, and admitting that I don’t have it all together, that truthfully I’ve been struggling to find balance ever since adding a third child to our family.

It takes bravery to show up for our real, everyday lives.

I want to write on every mirror in the house: ASK FOR HELP. And when the help comes, let it in. Internalize it. Open the fists, see the good that’s all around.

20140119_155001January 2014

I’m still unpacking my fears, but I’m determined to remind myself daily that I’m part of a team. It’s not all up to me. This frees me to focus on our precious Aimee–to notice her curiosity, unique personality, progress, setbacks, and downright cuteness– and just be her mother, her advocate, her cheerleader.

So thank you, pain. Thank you, discomfort. There are beautiful things to come.

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minutes and hours

Those stinking January blues descended here in full force last week, and my first response was to regret that I hadn’t done enough to stave them off. After all, I’d given in to my homebody tendencies too many times: weighing the energy it takes to go out with a one and three year old against the ease of just staying in and nearly always choosing the latter. I’d read too many serious books, and indulged in too many cups of coffee and not nearly enough glasses of water. All the usual signs of trying to comfort myself, followed by all the usual reminders that I need more.

The sun shone just a certain way some days and I started to think about Spring. I called my mother to ask if she thought it was too late to plant bulbs. Ricky was gone for six days, and I surprised myself by not turning into a total heap on the floor. I made good use of the Yes prayer during those days, most assuredly.

Still, I started to dread another day indoors, trying to set a cheerful tone and resisting the urge to pull the curtains shut. Tired mornings even after plenty of sleep. I get this way, in Winter. Do you?

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One day, Silas was wiggling around as I changed his Pull-Up, and I asked him to be still. “Just a minute, sweetheart,” he murmured, rolling his train along the side of the table. Something inside me was hibernating, and in that moment it stirred a bit. Sweetheart.

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On Tuesday it snowed again; magical because of the babies’ excitement. I did a lot of looking out windows and it felt like a metaphor for my life right now. I watched Nicky run in his clunky boots to the neighbor’s house to play with Legos and swords, I watched Silas and Aimee turn their faces up to catch the flakes. Aimee’s lashes were white with them. I watched, and it was all I could seem to do. The minimum things: laundry and dinner, were heavy.

In that heaviness I tried to remember: if I were someone else, I would give me a hug. I was full of questions as I tried to scrape my tenderness together into an evening meal. This song played in the background. Where Grace is found, is where you are. The image of God as a tired-but-trying mother hen, longing to gather chicks under wings, came to mind. I imagined myself being gathered there willingly, gladly. Cared for as I navigated the rhythms we all do: freeze, thaw, sleep, wake. Learn, relearn, teach, relearn. Every hour I need you–no truer words exist for me.

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The weekend came and I did some helpful things: a text message to our lovely babysitter, a dinner out, a long cold walk around a frozen lake. I seem to be better at caring for myself when I remember how deeply cared for I am. As another week begins, I remember this.

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on saying yes

Two weeks ago I had a particularly rough parenting day. Silas is nearly three, and as anyone who has had a three year old knows, the “terrible twos” are a big fat lie. It’s the threes that threaten everyone’s sanity. So this particular day, he broke a tv antenna, hid my insurance card in the couch (causing an overdramatic reaction on my part), tore pages out of Nicky’s book, dumped out an entire box of flashcards onto the floor, and fought hard against all my efforts to correct him. By fighting hard I mean yelling and yelling and running away and yelling. I had no energy to deal well with it.

I read somewhere that there are only two choices: selfish or generous. I like the sentiment, but as a parent of young children the lines between the two can get blurry.

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Rob Bell was on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday recently (full episode here). She asked him to define prayer, and he said that prayer is Yes. That it’s a spiritual openness. It’s looking at your life and talking with God about it, and simply saying Yes to it.

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It wasn’t only a rough day for parenting. Ricky and I are doing some pre-holiday Paleo, which means no sugar, and this was Day Two. Day One was all newness and excitement, but here on Day Two, things were not so pleasant. I had a throbbing tension headache and a foul attitude. Powerful drug, that sugar, and I was in withdrawal. Aimee was playing contentedly, but even the fact that she needed a few meals and diaper changes felt like too much to me. If I was alone, and were it an option, I probably would have spent the day in bed.

Spent.

It wasn’t until the afternoon, as I took a shower while they napped, that I thought to say the Yes prayer.

What is it about showers and spiritual awakening? The stillness, maybe, or the way the water drowns out ambient noise, or the physical warmth running down sore shoulders. You can let loose if you need to, and cry out your frustrations, in the safety of the steam. Pain in my body. Disappointment in myself as a parent, again. A sense of hopelessness about how to make things better, again. Swirling down and around, mixing with warm cleansing water, gone.

Then, a nudge. You can say yes to all of this. I’ll help you. So I said yes, apprehensively, cried out some more toxic things, and then said yes again. It wasn’t easy, and I certainly didn’t want to, but here’s something I’ve learned: when the Divine nudges you to ask for help, you even get help with the asking. It’s that good.

I realize this may sound silly. No matter what, I was going to have to get out of that shower and carry on with my day. But I’ve found that there’s a difference between just getting by and stepping into an available fullness. It’s the difference between carrying an enormous burden on my own shoulders or allowing the Divine, who loves me, to take some of the weight off.

It takes bravery to ask for that kind of help. In my mind, and maybe in yours too, there’s always the terrifying possibility that nothing will happen.

I stepped out of the shower to realize that Silas wasn’t asleep, but downstairs gleefully pulling out paper and crayons. Yes. I brought the little stinker back to bed. My headache wasn’t gone. I took some ibuprofen, brewed some coffee, found a good podcast to listen to while it all kicked in. Yes. He came into the office, obviously not going to nap, not that day, no sir. But he wanted “upsies”, so we sat together there in the office chair, him all sweaty hair and milky skin and deep brown eyes. Almost three, battles of the will to come, but also just this moment. Yes. Peace threw her soft cloak over the room, and we rested. Yes.

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