Take Up Your Space

Growing up, my childhood best friend (still one of my most cherished humans on the planet) was (and still is) one of the most creative people I know. I remember we would sit in her room as young girls and each draw pictures of dance costumes for imaginary dances that we choreographed, or pictures of what our wedding dresses would look like one day. Her’s would always turn out so stunning and beautiful and.. creative, while mine were always sorry attempts at dance costumes I’d worn in previous recitals. Not only could she draw, but even at age 11, she already had such a charming sense of style and and eye for interior decor. Her room looked like a shot straight out of a vintage 50’s magazine. It was innate; it was in her veins; it was apart of her; it was like her second layer of skin. She was incredibly inspiring to me then and she still is today.

Another close friend of mine started her own business not long after becoming a mom. That’s right – on top of mastering the crazy, full time job of newborn mom life, she also quickly began crushing it as the founder, entrepreneur, and designer of a company selling hats for littles (seriously, they are the cutest: https://kinshipcap.co). But again, it’s second nature for her. Her life would not be complete if she didn’t have creative outlets that brought life not only to her, but to others.

Then there’s my beautiful friend who started a company (https://www.amazon.com/handmade/WoodntItBeNicePdx) making stationary with pictures that she photographs herself, along with adorable burlap banners for any occasion you can imagine. She, too, does this on top of her full time gig as a stay at home mama. Her free time is poured into her passion of capturing beauty in everyday things and artfully curating it into a product that allows people to pass it along to others in the form of words.

And then there are people like me who thrive with step-by-step “how to’s.” They’re my jam. Words like “creative” or “innovative” make me literally crumble and hide.

I have a system for just about everything and the thought of giving myself the space to not have a system, but to explore and consider something other than what is already safely placed right under my nose, immediately triggers anxiety, fear, and insecurity. Literally – if it weren’t for Pinterest, my wardrobe would scare people, my house would look like twenty seven people – all with different styles – tried to decorate it, and my recipe box would either be empty or filled with nasty, inedible recipes that would cause anyone I fed in my home to make a B-line for the closest restaurant in town.

So you could see why, then, after years of comparing my friends’ knacks for artistry and design, I deemed myself as simply not gifted in this area called creativity. I had other gifts and talents and that was just fine. Not everyone is gifted in the same way, and that’s the beauty of life, right?

Not quite. The thing is, it all comes back to how we define “creativity.”

What if the reason we “Uncreative’s” are using the wrong measuring stick to define whether or not we have this gift? What if we are incorrectly defining “creativity?” What if we are trying to create, to bring something out of nothing, in areas that are not the areas where we are truly gifted, and that is why we are left feeling inadequate, incompetent, and void of anything worth bringing to the table?

We have it twisted, friends. You see, being a creator is not something we do.

It is someone we are. Every one of us.

Creativity is not something we have or don’t have, but something that manifests itself differently from person to person. It is present in every human soul, it is simply embodied in various shapes and forms.

If creativity only meant being able to draw or paint or design with poise and elegance, or create the perfect aesthetic in a room, or combine the tastiest ingredients off the top of my head and create the yummiest dish known to man, count me out. So not my lanes.

But to be creative is simply this: to bring something into existence that was not there before.

That’s it.

There are no rules when it comes to being creative – and that is the beauty of it. Be it starting a business, gardening, thoughtfully giving the perfect gift, dancing, singing, writing, cooking, teaching, painting, drawing, sewing, fashion – you name it; creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.

Bringing something from nothing.

We are all creators because we were made in the image of a Creator – and a magnificent one, at that. And when it comes down to it, I believe that is why there is such deep satisfaction and joy when we create – it is who we are at our core. Anytime something is brought from nothing, creativity is born and we are our truest selves.

In all we do, may we have the boldness to do and be things that exceed what is safely accepted. May we always remember the value that art and creativity bring to the table. They are not secondary – they are central.

They are sacred. And they are found in everything.

They are where our souls come alive. They are where the mundane of everyday meet the holy, and the value of life itself is felt in the deepest, richest, most powerful ways. They are where we find the answer to the inevitable questions of, “Why are we here? What are we doing? What is this all about?”

So take up your space, beautiful one.

What do you love? What brings you life? What ways do you bring something into existence that otherwise would not be? What shoes can only you fill?

You have something to offer that no one else can. You were made for this. You have it in you – may you simply have the boldness to seek it out and bring it to life. Because here is the cold, hard truth: the world needs less cookie-cutter, safe, “socially acceptable” success and perfection and more vulnerable, real, raw, honest art – in all of its forms.

It needs more of you.

 

Mourning and Bright

Every year since we’ve been married, I’ve saved extra clippings from our tree after cutting it down and have made them into a wreath. Now, I’ve never considered myself to be much of the creative type, so when I originally had the idea.. it was sketchy, to say the least. Four years and wreaths later, while I still wouldn’t label the whole wreath-making process a success, I will say they’ve progressed since the first, wimpy little attempt at bending pine branches into one very sorry circle.

One of the things I’ve loved about making wreaths is the idea of turning nothing into something, of taking excess scraps that would have otherwise been tossed out and turning them into something beautiful, something that brings life to my veins as I’m creating it and that brings joy to my soul as I enjoy it for the remainder of the season.

I almost didn’t make one this year, though. This Christmas season has brought with it an underlying sadness and loss.

You see, in July of this year, we found out that I was pregnant. To say we were excited is an understatement. After trying for over a year and finally seeing that second pink line, we were completely overcome and quite honestly in shock, so much so that I took three more tests after seeing the first positive – just to confirm that the first test was not a dud. (I know, OCD much?) But we had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity, just to get one single line after another. I was literally one appointment away from seeing a fertility specialist, thinking perhaps I was among the few women who experience infertility even after having a child. So when I saw that faint, but very evident second line, it took a lot of confirmation for me to believe it was real.

Six days later, I began to bleed. I immediately panicked and expected the worst. I compulsively searched the internet to try to differentiate between normal early pregnancy spotting and the worst case scenario. Based on what I was reading, I had no reason to start worrying yet, but my gut told me otherwise.

Hours passed and the pain and bleeding worsened immensely. Long story short, it became so severe that it landed me in the emergency room where an ultrasound confirmed the worst.

We lost the baby.

Though we only knew about this little life for 6 days and I was only 6 and a half weeks along when it happened, it was just enough time to build up the following 9 months in my mind and heighten the expectation of what each milestone would look like. I would get to tell my family in person about the pregnancy because I had a visit to California planned just two weeks after finding out, my bump would be minimal, but starting to happily peak through at the start of my very favorite time of year, I’d be starting my third trimester around Christmas, and in March of 2018, we would meet our second baby and fourth member of our little family.

But instead of announcing a pregnancy when I went to California, I announced loss. When Thanksgiving rolled around, there was no bump. And still now, as we approach Christmas, the bump is long gone.

And yet, it still feels so raw. So real. So near. This holiday season has already been so much different than I expected it would be in those 6 short days.

At first I naively consoled myself that the pain would go away with time. I was wrong. Instead, I’ve found that the further along I would have been in this pregnancy, the more sad I find myself. Each month that passes, my bump would have been bigger, reminding me that everything is healthy and that the baby is growing as it’s supposed to be. But that’s not what’s happening.

As Fall started and the holiday season began to roll in, it felt wrong to be excited about all of the typical things that I love so much about this time of year. In fact, it took a lot for me to be excited at all. Compared to how excited I would be if I were almost 6 months pregnant, the current state of my still unpredictable cycles as my body tries to regulate and re-orient itself isn’t all that exciting, to be honest.

But this year, as I play my favorite Christmas playlists, decorate the house, light my (all-time favorite) Balsam Pine candles, drink in the comforting warmth of my favorite beverages… and make my wreath, two words seem to be playing over in my mind again and again:

Press In.

The loss hurts. It hurts really, really bad. And that is okay; when moments of grief hit, I take them in and I let the tears wash a little bit more of the edge off of the pain. And one ounce of heartache at a time, this grief helps me heal a little bit more.

But in the midst of all of the loss, the good, the beauty, the all-things-new anthem I hear God’s creation singing over and over again are still there, too. I breathe them in and count each one of them as a gift, and just like the tears that come in the difficult moments, these beautiful moments, too, help me heal just a little bit more each time they come. They remind me that though loss is a reality of life, it does not change the fact that the good things are still a reality of life, too.

I believe it is in creating things that we are reminded of hope, and that all things are being made new – even when it doesn’t feel like it.  We were made in the image of a Creator; we are therefore creators of various types. I think there’s something to say for why there is so much restoration, satisfaction, and wholeness to be found when we create. It is a core part of who we are and why we were made.

And so, in light of creating something from nothing, beauty from scraps and ashes, newness from waste, a wreath hangs from our front door once again this year. And every time I look at it as I’m coming and going, I remember to press in. I remember to keep creating, both in little ways and in big ways. I remember to keep doing and ushering in the good.

Because that is where the healing is found.

 

 

Let Life Be Messy

Yesterday was the first day of Fall. So today, naturally, I was itching to make my favorite butternut squash soup (as usual, shoutout to Pinterest: http://cincyshopper.com/copycat-panera-autumn-squash-soup-recipe/ ). You’re welcome.

“Yes!” I thought. “A good playlist, a glass of wine, and a good, long, therapeutic cooking session. It’ll be marvelous.”

This idea lasted about two seconds.

“Help please Mommy!”

Water. Puddles and puddles of water all over the kitchen floor. Lucy had been playing at the kitchen sink for the last hour “doing dishes” {I’ll let you use your imagination here.}

At this point, my therapy session was long gone. Who was I to think that the pre-child days of cooking in peace at my own leisure and pace were something to behold still today?

But as I reached for a dish towel to address my soaking wet feet and my child’s soaking wet, well, entire body, I stopped.

We were already (literally) ankle deep in water. Why stop now? Whoever said your kitchen has to be dry or clean, or have any sort of sanity for that matter, for it to be a sacred, restorative, life-giving space?

“You’re good, girl!” I said to Lucy. “It’s just water. Keep playing!”

And that’s exactly what she did. And that’s exactly what I did too.

I grabbed my cutting board, my recipe, and my music and I joined Lucy in the kitchen.

I am so quick to avoid inconvenience at any cost. If I could avoid messes in life, if I could avoid the chaos, the unpredictability, the really really hard parts, life would be easier. Life would be simple. Life would be better. The more I am able to control and anticipate, the less stress it will bring.. or so I’ve convinced myself somewhere along this journey of adulthood.

The irony? I am subconsciously so stressed all of the time. I am constantly thinking of everything I could possibly avoid in every situation and outing and trip to the grocery store and all of the ways I could prevent difficult situations from happening.

But here’s the thing: Life is hard. And that’s a fact, my friend. So the more present we are in this moment, the more we choose connection over efficiency and convenience, the more we learn to embrace those hard and gnarly {and massive} puddles of water that completely cover the       e n t i r e kitchen floor, the more we will experience joy. Real, beautiful, genuine joy. And what I want Lucy to remember and learn is that every moment we are graced with in life is significant. Every moment is holy. And what makes that true is not the task or project or pastime at hand, but the fact that life and the people we share it with are gifts.

The time we have in life is a gift. Everything God has filled this good earth with is a gift that he has given us to steward with love and gratitude. And I think that stewarding the time I had with Lucy in the kitchen this evening looked more like being with her in the puddles and soaking wet countertops than showing her how to properly clean up a mess and keep a tidy kitchen {Although, if you know me, you know that order is my love language; do not hear me saying there is not a time and place to teach that, too. Tonight was just not that time.}

I’m telling you – today was by far the messiest and most “inconvenient” experience I’ve had in the kitchen. Like ever. At one point, I turned around and Lucy had (unbeknownst to me) decided to turn the faucet so that the water was running onto the counter.. for who knows how long. I’m talking, water covering the entirety of the counter and seeping underneath everything I was cooking with. Not good.

But it was by far the best.

I looked at her. She smirked at me.

I couldn’t bring myself to be mad. She was having the time of her life and so was I. I fixed the faucet, grabbed a big beach towel, and literally shoved it under all my cooking stuff and we both kept doing our things.

 

We must remember to slow down and remember that our only agenda in life is to be grateful for this moment: right here, right now. And to see every one of those moments as an opportunity to either choose presence or discontentment. Good or ugly, chaos or bliss. And embrace it all. Because it’s when we get caught up with “everything else” that we miss the moments right here, right now that we will never get back.

Time is a gift. 

We must remember to soak these moments in as they come, even if that means letting things be a little extra messy.

 

             

{I wasn’t kidding about the beach towel. Water. E v e r y w h e r e.}

 

Be present. Be here. Right now.

We danced and sang our favorite songs together. She proceeded to “wash dishes,” cups of water spilling on the floor here and there, while I chopped my veggies, drank my wine, and danced to my music with wet feet.

We were together.

And it was glorious. The cleanup was too, but oh, was this memory worth the mess. Here’s a little secret, though: memories usually are.

Oh, and we made some stinking delicious soup, too.

 

 

When the Loss is Too Heavy

Pain – we all have an aversion to it. We avoid it at all costs, both for ourselves and for our loved ones. But there’s a really big problem with having an aversion to pain:

It’s inevitable.

There is so much in life that we cannot control, so much we don’t get a say in. And when this is true of unpleasant circumstances, in particular, the load seems much harder to carry.

But as unpleasant as it is and as much as I subconsciously try to stay as far away from it as I can, I am consistently reminded that pain is one of the best teachers. As unwelcome as it is, it sure has a way of forcing itself into life and finding a way to deepen my ability to feel, to love, to connect.

Though we may not be able to see it in the thick of the hard times, what’s happening when we experience something terrible, something awful, something so raw and seemingly unbearable that all we can bring ourselves to do is simply be, we gain the ability to connect to other people in a way that we weren’t able to before.

{This is two-fold.}

As the recipient of such love, pain is a vehicle to being honest and letting others in, and that can be extremely hard to do. It’s often tempting to hide behind the day-to-day of life, to stay busy so that no one becomes suspicious of what’s happening on the inside of your human shell. But what we fail to realize is that when we do that, when we don’t let people in, we are robbing ourselves (and others, for that matter) of a beautiful opportunity to be more whole, to connect, to know the real, nitty-gritty kind of love.

The kind of love that is inconvenient and sacrificial, but whole-hearted and rich.

You begin to feel a little more whole, a little more human, and you realize that this is the answer to the question of, “God, why?”

This.

This is why. People are always the reason why.

Love.

Connection.

Relationship.

This is always the “why” in life; this is why we were put here. To love and to be loved.

Which brings me to the second side of this coin of pain: that believe it or not, even the hardest, most horrific human experiences that we go through will yield healing. And when they do, we can then use our refined selves to be the source of comfort and love to those who need to be loved on and heard; for those who don’t necessarily need an answer, but simply a pair of ears that is willing to listen.

We are able to empathize more deeply, more genuinely. We can actively help carry each other’s burdens from experience. From being able to say, “I know what you’re going through.” From knowing what to say (or what not to say) because we too have walked that road of brokenness.  We are able to actively love those people through the trenches of their own lives and help them stand again. It is often here where depth is born in relationships and friends become family.

We’re allowing a deeper, more wholistic healing to take place, both in us and in the person grieving. Another layer of us heals as we realize that our past wounds are now able to serve those around us, and once again, we understand “why.”

Love.

Compassion.

Relationships.

This love, this connection to others in such vulnerable seasons is “why.”

I hate pain, but on the same token, I can also say that some of my favorite people in my life are the ones who have seen me through some of my darkest, most painful times. They’re also what make my life so rich and robust and beautiful. They make me a better human.

Sometimes there is no tangible, literal reason why bad things happen. I don’t believe that God “causes” bad things to happen. If that were the case, I could not also say that I believe that he is a good God (which I do). I don’t think he micromanages every part of our lives and chooses who gets to experience certain hard things and who gets to experience other hard things.

I don’t know “why.” But I know that when I look at all of the life around me – the sun that knows when to rise and set, the seasons that know when to change, the trees that sustain themselves, the life of the flowers from seeds that are now blooming in my garden, and the love that makes my heart explode when I walk through the most unbearable seasons of life (regardless of what side of the trench I’m on) – I see hope. I see beauty.

I see Jesus helping and loving us through the hardships in life and rejoicing with us when we experience the joy in life.

I see all things being made new.

And that’s enough.

 

 

 

Parents, Lighten Up

“STOP, LUCY! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”

My teeth were grated, my hands clenched her tiny little arms, my voice was loud. After telling her several times to stop tugging at the table cloth and her only response being laughing and proceeding to pull it off the table, I had had it. Beyond had it. So I lost it. Unfortunately, my point came across very loud and very clear. Instead of innocent laughter, her face now read hurt, sadness, and fear.

What had I done?

She was afraid of me – the one who’s supposed to comfort her, protect her, make her world feel safe.

I scooped her up and wept as I held her close and tried to remind her that it was still me. That she’s safe. That she’s loved and adored and far more important than a perfectly placed table cloth.

{To give you some context, we are currently in the process of moving, which means we have been living under a magnifying glass for the last two or so weeks. Moving is hard, but it’s life. It’s fun, nostalgic, sad, exciting.. all at the same time. We’ve been a bit scattered, to say the least. My point being I’m not that passionate about tablecloths; I just had a specific reason for caring if my table cloth was one inch more to the right: we needed to leave the house negative three minutes ago for a showing, and the potential home buyer’s decision would obviously hinge on a perfectly even table cloth.}

Why does this happen? How do we reach a point where we completely lose control and become the exact person we know we don’t want to be?

I can tell you it’s not because of crooked tablecloths. No, it’s much deeper.

The problem is that we fill our lives to the brim while simultaneously valuing perfection more than we value being present. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to choose between the two because they cannot coexist. Take it from a mom and wife who has spent more time than I am proud of ranting and nagging at the two people in my life who mean the most to me – certainly more than all of the things I’ve been ranting and nagging at them about. I get caught up. I go and do and overcommit and refuse to be seen as irresponsible or “less than.” And my family eats the cost.

Schedules build up. The house needs cleaning. The laundry needs washing. Meals need to be cooked. Sweet, tiny, grimy hands and faces need to be wiped {numerous times a day}.

Groceries.

Friends and family.

Volunteer work.

Play dates.

The list goes on.. but should it? How much space do we really have on our lists before we spread ourselves so thin that we aren’t able to love and connect genuinely anymore? I’m often pressured into thinking that efficiency and productivity are what define love.

But they don’t.

They are necessary; don’t hear me saying they aren’t.

But they are not more important than carving out time to be present. They are not more important than leaving wiggle room in your life to be more patient, loving, and tender, instead of short, edgy, and irritable. They are not more important than taking the time to listen and be observant of the well being of the people who mean the most to us.

So what’s the balance?

I don’t know that there is. There’s no formula, but I think that’s the point. Formulas sometimes rob us of the very presence I’m talking about. Maybe we should just practice being aware and reacting accordingly. Maybe we should lay down our need to produce and pick up the easy yoke of loving God and loving people, and take the rest one relationship at a time.

Yes – this “balance” consists of relationships. Not productivity, not success, not efficiency; at least not the full, to the brim, overflowing versions of all these things that we have made them out to be. We were created for connection and relationship; therefore, our measure of success should be love. Everything else – everything – is second to love.

This all hit home when Lucy and I went to the park yesterday. “Mommy, play!” She kept saying. So we rolled in the grass and ran up the hill and ran down the hill. We climbed up the slide and went down the slide. She laughed and laughed; she could have done it for hours, and so could I. I realized we don’t always get do-overs, especially as parents, but it is never too late to say “yes” to being present.

If there’s one thing I took away from my horrifying outburst, it is that life is too precious and beautiful a gift to waste being obsessed with to do lists and being too busy to notice the sweet in-between moments. Lucy wasn’t some disobedient inconvenience; she was trying to be like mommy and do as I was doing. Maybe if I hadn’t allowed my mind and schedule to be so overloaded, I would have been able to see that she was innocently trying to do the right thing, according to what she sees me doing on a daily basis.. or that she’s almost 2, and maybe she just doesn’t understand the big deal with table cloths anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Made New

Today is Easter Sunday. It is the most important day on the Christian calendar because it is the day that Jesus declared victory over death by rising from it.

It is the day death died. Once and for all.

And yet I am conflicted this Resurrection Sunday because I still feel the pangs of death, as though it never fully died. I believe in my head that this is not the end; I know that. But if I am honest, I don’t feel it.

I feel heavy. I feel tired. I feel sad. I feel anxious. I feel stuck. I feel doubt because hurt still happens.

Death still takes the ones we love most and never gives them back.

Racism still destroys humanity and builds barriers that few of us actually have the courage to tear down.

Friends disappoint us; people disappoint us.

Children go unloved and uncared for.

Addiction.

Murder.

Greed.

Pride.

B R O K E N N E S S.

It’s still here. We don’t have to look hard to find it.

But in the midst of the doubt, there are priceless moments of beauty that keep the resurrection flame of hope burning, even if it is dim at times.

The kindness of a stranger.

Seemingly miraculous forgiveness and healing from long time wounds.

Holding the hand of a loved one in their last days.

The tiny hands of a child grasping tightly to yours.

The hug or kiss from a loved one on your worst day when you least deserve it.

Friendship – the priceless kind that you know deep down is irreplaceable and true to the very end.

Flowers bloom.

R E S U R R E C T I O N.

It happened.

And if we have the boldness to be vulnerable enough to look for it amidst all of the doubt and the death and the brokenness, to trust that God is still present in all of it, our heads will reach our hearts, and we will realize that death is dead. That he is alive.

That he is risen.

 

Never Stop

Never stop, little one.

Never stop adventuring.

Never stop being bold.

Never stop being unafraid to wallow in a pile of dirt, picking it up and letting it seep through your fingers over and over again. 

Never choose un-grassed-stained jeans over playing hard, even if I seem frustrated that your pants are ruined. That’s my own problem – not yours. Remember that. Yes, play hard, little one. Because knowing how to play well will teach you to imagine. To know the beauty of wanting. It is in wanting that you will know the value in wanting what is true. And it is in the desire for truth that you will find life – real life.

Never stop coming to me in complete security and confidence that you are loved; right now that confidence is in knowing I’ll drop everything to sit on the ground to read “The Very Hungry Catepillar” to you for the 347th time, to dance with you, to sing to you when you’re sad, to cuddle when you’re tired or sick. But if you never stop, one day that will look like dropping everything to talk life, to talk God, to talk love, to talk pain, to talk joy, to talk silly girl stuff, to talk bad days, to talk good days, to talk anything. To cry with you, to pray with you, to help you, to laugh with you. Because you’re my kid, and one day {I pray} you will be one of my dearest friends – I’ll always have your back.

Never lose your love for “outside!” – the outdoors will teach you things about God that nothing else and no one else can.

Never stop kissing everything you love when you see it; expressing such genuine love is rare these days. That is what will change the world.

Never stop dancing when you hear music; your fearless, honest, and sometimes silly expression of what’s inside of you will result in authenticity. You will be more accepting of your true self and of others. You will experience deeper relationships. You will be a better friend. You will love and be loved more deeply. Sure, that type of honesty may make rejection hurt worse, but even that is better than being loved for being someone other than yourself.

Never stop being a fighter; know that though I am against your toddler tantrums, I am not teaching you not to fight, but to fight well and for the right things and in the right ways. Yes, fight hard, just be sure you are on the right side of justice.

Never stop learning; have the humility to know that there is always room to grow, more wisdom to be had.

Never stop growing {Even though sometimes I wish you would! …Kidding. Kind of.}

Never stop being you.
Because you are beautiful. You are you, which is exactly who God made you to be. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Nothing you do or don’t do will make you more or less loved – by me or by your Creator. And I pray that that would motivate you to be brave, to be courageous, to be creative.. to be free.

 

A Note to Facebook Politicians

Elephant in the room: politics.

I recently went on Facebook, as I sometimes do at the end of my day, and quickly regretted making that the last thing my mind ingested before falling asleep. I climbed into bed physically and emotionally ill and overwhelmed. Literally, my body ached with disgust at the uncivil, arrogant, downright  h a t e  I saw. {To my dismay, that feeling was still there the next morning. What a way to start a Monday.}

It seems that people forget that just because they are typing their opinions into a device and tapping “post” that those same words are being communicated to an actual human being, with actual feelings and real, personal reasons that they process life and the world the way that they do.

People, we must, must, must, must, must stop this.

Love: the foundation of the two greatest commandments given to humanity.

We spend more time voicing our opinions than we do listening to others. Regardless of how stark the differences may seem between us and other individuals, speaking over people with the sole intention of changing them is not love. To be perfectly transparent, I’m still learning on a daily basis what love means and is and encompasses, fully. But, what I am certain of about love is that it is not arrogant or rude.

Let me be clear – I am not advocating that everyone remain silent, or that we should not have bold, strong beliefs about life and love and politics and the world, or even that all opinions are created equal. I myself have beliefs that I hold very dearly and I do believe there are crucial times when it is necessary to stand firmly in those beliefs.

In fact, there are views in the world that do need to be evaluated and challenged.

{What if no one was allowed to question your love for fascism in the 1930s? Obviously, we wouldn’t call that love.}

There is undoubtedly evil in the world and we do need to stand in firm opposition to it.

As passionate as I am about that, it’s for another time and post.

But, 3 things:

  1. Be humble. Keep an open mind and heart because the chances that you are 100% right is likely false.
  2. Be kind. I don’t care how wrong you think someone is – they are human, created in the image of a holy God, just like you are.
  3. Be loving – both to who you are communicating with, while also keeping in mind the people you are standing for.

I simply want to urge all of us to love.

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

I realize that that is a daily, sometimes hourly working out of what love looks like from person to person that we encounter. To your spouse, to your kids, to family members, to friends, to co-workers, to perfect strangers… to Facebook “friends.”

It’s hard.

This thing we call life is beautifully complicated and complex, on an individual level simply because humanity is broken – but even more largely because there are other people outside of our own personal selves who are also broken and trying to figure themselves out, let alone figure out what they think about this intricate world we live in.

May we be more considerate.

May we be more patient with each other.

May we  l i s t e n.

May we respect others unconditionally – regardless of how blatantly different or “wrong” you think they are, or even regardless of how much respect they don’t show you in return. Because that is another thing I am certain of about love – it is unconditional.

May we spend more time thoughtfully, carefully verbalizing our words to human faces with love – and again (I know I sound redundant),  l i s t e n i n g  to what those human faces have to say in return – than we do mindlessly, arrogantly, selfishly blasting our personal views of how the world works onto a screen.

For the sake of our broken world so desperate for more of it, I’ll say it again:

Let us love.

 

Unexpected Teachers

A few nights ago, Nate and I were watching a movie on the couch. We took what we call a “second dinner” break about half way through. As we walked to the kitchen, we nonchalantly looked outside to find everything completely white – it had snowed a good two inches in the last hour. We’d seen snow on the forecast, but thought we’d get more of a dusting, if any at all.

Just like that, our giddy selves were kids again. The two of us bundled up and ran out in the backyard. To make a long [sub]story short, late night snowball fights are something everyone should experience. Nate and I have both agreed that memory will never be forgotten.

We woke up the next morning to find that all of our footprints from our snowball shenanigans the night before had been completely “whited” out – yes, 6 more inches of snow.

Needless to say, we’ve had a lot of time indoors the last few days. At first I was a little nervous; there’s something a little unsettling about being trapped inside with a high-energy 17 month old.

Something about the pressure to fill roughly 9 waking hours of a busy, high-energy, small-attention-spanned-brain with some sort of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong; this has been the most fun stage so far of parenting, but it has also been the most challenging. The irony of a tiny human gaining increasing amounts of independence every day is that in that process, they are actually extremely dependent and needy.

[Quick eFullSizeRender-1xample: Lucy is convinced that she can eat all by herself with silverware now. But her idea of that is me placing her food and utensils in front of her and letting her stir the food and ask for help in between each bite. It actually takes more of my time, energy, and patience for her to learn to eat with these tricky utensils (independence in this stage) than it does for her to just keep eating with her hands the way that she already knows how to do very well.]

All of this to say, the combination of being 1) cooped up in the house all day and 2) an ambitious, growing toddler has been an altogether fun, exhausting, frustrating, sobering, reflective experience.

The hard parts of parenting, or life in general for that matter, tend to be the ones I deter from. It’s much easier to throw Lucy in the car and run some errands to kill time in a day than it is to sit on the ground and play with her and consciously open my mind and imagination to enter her world, to see life through her eyes, to be with her as we play blocks or read books or practice for the millionth time what a doggie says. What a kitty cat says. What a bird says. What a cow says. {Repeat.}

But having the privilege – yes, privilege – to be smacked in the face with those indoor activities for three days straight has been extremely invigorating and exactly what I’ve needed in this tricky season of toddlerhood. Instead of needing her to just learn faster or communicate more clearly or better understand what I’m trying to teach her, I’ve needed a perspective check.

Thank you, snow, for being an excellent teacher.FullSizeRender-2

It’s exactly what Lucy needed, too. And it’s what she still needs every day as her mind is developing and growing and changing.

She needs time. She needs attention. She needs my presence – not just physically, but mentally. She needs me to be all there, seeking to better understand what she’s trying to communicate because for goodness’ sake, she’s just trying to learn how to be a human. That is no easy task for her, either.

And if I’m being real, I’m still learning too.

And if I’m being really real, I’m still pretty needy too. I need my most valued loved ones and mentors to be present and hold me accountable, too.

This is what it means to be human: Real love. Active love. Involved love. Messy love.

Young and old.

Because being human doesn’t just mean being able to operate eating utensils. Or being potty trained. Or learning the social graces of living in a society.

Those are all large parts, yes. But to say that’s what it means to be fully human would be to say that efficiency in life is the ultimate goal. And I’ve been learning lately that that’s just not the case.

Or it shouldn’t be, at least.

Thanks snow. Your timing was perfect.

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Remind Yourself

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.”

-Psalm 103:8-14

Today I’m thankful for a God who remembers that I am dust. For this beautiful reminder of God’s role first and foremost as a loving Father.

Whose expectation of me is surrender and trust in his unconditional love for me. Yes, because of this I have the freedom to embrace the fullness and chaos of life, knowing that my every shortcoming and failure is separated from me as far as the east is from the west.

Today I’m thankful for grace in a fallen, broken world. In a fallen, broken humanity.

In my fallen, broken self.

For I am merely a broken, dusty human. But my identity lies in the humanity that has been restored and made whole in the only perfect human to walk the earth. He paved the way for us because he knew we would be such needy people.

So take joy in being needy of him today – for that is all that he calls you to be.