Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.


Leave a comment

Growing


My baby girl will be ten years old in less than two weeks. That is both wonderful and hard. That’s what poetry is for, right? 

Oh beautiful ache

that stretches with my children’s growing limbs

that curls around the need to hold them close as nursing babes

but sighs with painful joy to see them reaching out for life. 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

A Psalm of Hope

It has been a REALLY long time since I posted. Lots of reasons, and that is not the point of this post, but I am very conscious of how much I need this medium for words today. I need the healing of exploring my own soul and sharing that exploration in the belief that I am not alone. And, what is more, I need the belief that this sharing can be a way back to humanity, and compassion, and most of all HOPE.

And so, this is me sharing my soul. It is written in the form of a Psalm, because a psalm is what I needed today. So, I read the first 24 verses of Psalm 18 (I am very inconsistently working my way through the psalms as a self-care practice at the moment, and this was the next one up) and from that inspiration, I wrote my own.


Psalm January 29, 2017 (Loosely inspired by Psalm 18:1-24)

I said “I love you, God, my source of safety.”

God is the one I can always rely on – the one who is always there, who never rejects me.

God is my support.

I don’t have to prove myself to God.

God protects me from myself and from my need to demonstrate my worth.

I am safe with God.

Because God is so completely trustworthy, I came to God in prayer, begging,

and God filled my soul with the assurance that God is bigger than everything I am afraid of.

I was scared of so many things –

of pain for myself and for others,

of failure,

of coldness in my soul,

of people feeling abandoned and my guilt for that abandonment,

because I am relatively safe.

In my tears and fear, I prayed.

I cried out to God, “HELP!”

And God heard!

In the truth of God’s glory, and power, and perfection, my  fears and tears were NOT too light a thing to claim God’s attention.

God paid attention.

 

And when God responds, that response cannot be ignored.

God’s power, and truth, and righteousness are far beyond control.

God it not tame.

Even when I might get nervous about God’s righteous anger, it’s not for me to hold it back.

God’s love is fierce.

God’s commitment to creation and to each precious person will not sit back;

God will not wait and see;

God will not be conciliatory where there is evil in the world.

God’s love can burn like wildfire when it needs to.

And God’s truth can be as invasive as the darkness –

working where we cannot see

in preparation for the painfully revealing light.

When loud voices speak lies, God will speak louder,

and the enemies of God will be scattered.

They will be exposed in the places they thought they were safe –

in the center of their assumed power –

they will be shaken.

Nothing can resist God’s righteous anger.

 

God does not stay remote.

God has already touched me, grabbed me, and pulled my spirit to safety.

The quicksand cannot pull at me

when God has hold of me.

It tried –

it surrounded me with lies and fears and memory-scars of pain.

But God is stronger and God saved me.

God loves me and shows that I am worth saving.

God knows my failings, but God also knows my heart is turned toward love.

God has given me faith,

and so I seek God’s will,

and I reject fear and self-protection that denies God’s sovereignty.

I seek to know and understand how God’s way of living works,

and then I follow that way, imperfectly, through grace.

And so, God has protected me and given me this life –

to live in joy with love

keeping God’s way.

AMEN

 


Leave a comment

Sometimes, and Clinging

IMG_4066 (2)

Sometimes only a few shafts of light break through the clouds.

At the Good Friday service tonight my church – like many others I imagine – sang a classic, simple reflection on the cross. The lyrics for the first stanza run like this:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 

Ooooh

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 

If you have never sung or heard this hymn, take a few minutes and look it up on youtube. (This is a nice version). It has become one of my favorite quiet, soul-stirring hymns. This preference is not because of the aching, soaring arc of the melody, hauntingly beautiful as it is. Nor is it a response to the poignant images it holds before my mind’s eye with slow, insistent repetition. My heart is pulled by this song because of one simple word:

Sometimes.

Sometimes. Not Always. Not whenever I turn toward God or train my mind to properly spiritual things. Sometimes.

That one word is probably one of the truest things I ever sing about my own spirit. Much as I love to sing in worship it can be hard to really claim the feelings the songs ask me to name: feelings of desperation for God, or a love that supersedes all other loves, or complete and total trust. On an average Sunday morning I am more likely to be experiencing heart-stopping love for Princess Imagination as she cuddles up to share the hymnal and sing a little off-key; or I am battling distracting questions of whether to trust the Gigglemonster to come straight back from his second bathroom run. Even before I had children, maintaining total focus on God for even the length of a simple praise chorus was not a foregone conclusion.

It’s not that I have never in my life experienced the relational intensity described in the many wonderful psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. It’s just that, in the midst of normal life, they feel like such an unattainable ideal. Life is full – full of responsibility, and activities, and far too little sleep. I simply cannot maintain a perpetual emotional high no matter how hard I try.

Plus, I thought that I had moved past the try harder orientation of my evangelical roots. I have embraced grace and rejected performance Christianity. I have found God in the valley in ways that are far more relevant and palpable than God on the mountain top. I know better than to try harder at being the perfect Christian.

But perfectionism is a hard master to shed. In these very early stages of my candidacy for ordination, perfectionism has been dogging my steps and flicking my ankles with the whip of shame.

Do you really think you can be a spiritual leader?

Is it really that hard to spend 10 minutes a day in silent meditation?

Does prayer time really count if you are still curled up under the covers?

Did you notice how you just FAILED to treat that rude driver like a beloved child of God? 

Performance. Expectations. Perfection.

That is what I find so beautiful about the one word Sometimes. Sometimes means it does not have to be all the time to be real. It means that the holy trembling that does happen – sometimes – is a precious, not an inadequate, experience. It means those moments are a shared reality with the whole cloud of witness for whom the trembling is also sporadic. Sometimes is a wonderfully reassuring word.

That word was hanging in my consciousness for the whole drive home, and my imperfect, easily distracted mind was hoping to get the kids in bed quickly so that I could sit down to this computer and work through the learning that I knew was trembling inside my deep exhale as I sang about sometimes.

But the Gigglemonster can always sniff out any sense of urgency to leave him and it triggers an even greater sense of urgency in him. Tonight it elicited tears, and fierce, insistent hugs, and hiccuping, vague stories of school bullies, and the desperate declaration that “I want to cling to you because I never want you to leave me.” I stayed much longer than I had planned. We talked, and I offered reassurance and cuddles, and I finally extricated myself with a promise to come back in 20 minutes as long as he stopped screaming and practiced his self-soothing.

Of course, when I returned 20 minutes later he was fast asleep, curled around his stuffed animals and not apparently scarred by the trauma of having a Mommy who refuses to sleep in his bed with him just because he clings.

And that peaceful slumber in no way makes me question his love for me. The intensity of his declarations of devotion are not somehow diminished by their limited duration. They are not even tarnished by my consciousness that they are part totally genuine and part master manipulation (there can be all kinds of imperfect dynamics to trembling love). They are sweet and beautiful glimpses of true closeness – a self-opening love I couldn’t even have dreamed of before I became a parent. They are real.

And thank goodness they are only sometimes.

As I left his room with the image of his sweet sleeping cherub’s face, I wondered whether God feels the same way about me? The moments of ecstatic adoration are wonderful, but they couldn’t possibly be always. That wouldn’t be a good thing even if it were possible. The Mother-Father heart of God knows I need those moments of closeness and trust, but I also need moments of play, and learning, and falling down to discover the pain and healing that comes with growth. A God who hangs on the cross to show what love really is does not look for perfection. My God doesn’t look for a love that is all emotional highs and total, focused devotion.

Clinging is a part of love, but only sometimes.

IMG_4069 (1) (2)

Goodnight my sweet little clinger.


3 Comments

Moving at Shutter Speed

This past weekend my little family got together with an old friend and her camera.

The friend is Sabrina Norrie, and the camera is a new off shoot of the website she began as part of her little family’s adventure of living at their own pace – a pace that lets them really experience the world they are moving through.

I scheduled this “family photoshoot” on a bit of a whim… because it looked fun, and I love pictures, and because it was a chance to get some great post-able snaps of my kids while also getting to see Sabrina for the first time in close to a year. That time lapse in our friendship a reflection of the pace at which my family generally moves – a rushing momentum so full of activity that it often precludes moments to just stop and experience… or connect.

While not much thought went into the decision to meet Sabrina at the park that afternoon, some thinking has come out of it – in addition to some really beautiful photos. [editorial note – this endorsement is completely unsolicited, but if you live in the New Jersey area, I highly recommend Family + Footprints!].

For an hour, the task at hand was to slow down long enough for the camera to capture our connections. There is real beauty in that slowness – a beauty that is capture in the pictures, but more in the recognition is has brought to my soul.


Moving at Shutter Speed

Before

The hurry of preparation layers on the daily pace of rush:

fights over clothes, and brushing teeth

attempts to corral childhood attention

to tune young minds and hands to tasks at hand

and set their expectations for the coming hour.

This extra step is meant to smooth over the wrinkles of a disconnected life,

to make it somehow shimmer with ephemeral beauty,

just like the colors that I layer on my face – a camera-ready mask.

Then we arrive

The sunset light is playing in the gently curving trees

a game that breaks the ice of shyness for my tinies

they understand these rules

without my adult explanations.

We’re here to play.

And so we are, although my instinct still is to direct:

“perhaps the posed shots first…

or we will never pull them back.”

So sweet young hearts comply with Mommy’s worry.

But

they bring the play along as well

and sing a bright duet of giggles mixed with camera clicks.

And as bright smiles and warm sunshine melt my cold perfectionists’ mask

I laugh as well.

The wrinkles might show through,

but so does Joy,

the joy that comes with slowing down enough to

just

sit

in this moment

and let the laughter linger on my lips

for long enough

to let the camera

and my soul

join with my family’s song

played in the meter of

slow-motion shutter speed.

DSC_0031DSC_0053 DSC_0080 DSC_0090 DSC_0104 DSC_0121 DSC_0155 DSC_0187


Leave a comment

What I have learned in 14 years

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the day Tyler and I made the most important promises of our lives. We loved each other very much, AND we did not yet understand very much about love, or what all those promises really meant. That ignorance was OK, however. It has been part of the gift of our marriage – the chance to learn together about love, and all the work involved in love, in the context of a commitment to do that work together, however hard or unexpected it might be.

If I were to make those promises again today, I would understand them very differently…. and I would mean them more, especially  the promise to love. I would understand love in a way that was much less romantic, and much more about the daily texture of a shared life. I would understand love as a shifted center that creates not just a partnership but a family, which then proceeds to shift the balance yet again. I would understand love as a willingness to stay still instead of walking away, even when you don’t know what to say and know that saying the wrong thing could hurt both you and the one you love. Most of all, I would understand love as a joy that is so much more real than happiness.

So, for my shared reflection today, I offer this love poem to my husband and children about all the things that they have taught me about love and joy in daily moments.


 

What is this joy?

 

What is this joy?

that fills like helium,

one deep inhale and I am floating, tether-less…

What is this joy?

that sets my eyes to dance

in rhythm with the eyes I gaze and laugh into…

What is this joy?

in gentle fingers twined

through my long, tangled hair to make it beautiful…

What is this joy?

that fills the silent space

with promise that the words will come if I will wait…

What is this joy?

that rides the swells

and troughs and will not sink beneath the rolling waves….

What is this joy?

that forms a solid core

for this togetherness of constant, changing life…

What is this joy?

this joy is love,

the virtue that can only grow… when shared.

 


Leave a comment

Life Magic

Today we took a little time out… from endless to-do lists, and dirty laundry, and spreadsheets, and electronic distraction… and we spent the day in Philadelphia just hanging out together as a family. It was not a perfect day. It took ages just to get out the door because of a tantrum about flip flop prohibitions, and our last stop involved a very tired little Crankymonster who did not care how pretty the river view was because he wanted to sit on Mommy’s lap and have his chicken nuggets RIGHT NOW!

Looking back on the day, though, these moments of frustration did not ruin an otherwise perfect day – they were part of it. Today was a chance to appreciate how lucky I am to live my life – in all of its imperfect reality – inside this little family.

Life Magic

This day was built of moments
none perfect, or inspired,
but lived together they were worth
the soreness, worth the tired.

My feet are sore from walking
at slow and halting pace
beside slow feet that lag behind
then hurry up and race.

My aching back is tired,
so too my drooping head,
but overflowing heart won’t let me
rush now to my bed.

For my heart aches to capture
ingredients of bliss,
to pen a recipe to tell
the magic in a kiss.

Or, I should say, one hundred
kisses rubbed into my heart
by gentle hands and whispers
that turn child love to art.

But joy was not the only magic
built into this day.
It had a few much harder moments,
sharper words to say.

Rebukes for selfish attitudes
and whining, angry tears.
The moments that play on
my insecurities and fears.

Am I doing this all wrong?
Teaching them to try
to win their wants by throwing fits?
Rewarding when they cry?

But in the context of this day
those moments fade to take
their proper place within the whole;
they’re part of what’s at stake.

For, as we build this family
we do so inside life,
made up with each a portion
of shining love and strife.

And now I know the magic
that so fills my soul tonight
is knowing how the loving
is always worth the fight
.

20140720-000830-510863.jpg

20140720-000829-509383.jpg

20140720-000828-508989.jpg

20140720-000828-508272.jpg

20140720-000830-510159.jpg

20140720-001059-659936.jpg


6 Comments

Poetic Purge for a Pensive Parent

Sometimes the hard of parenting is nevertheless gratifying, because you know that the effort you are investing in your children will eventually pay off. You are shaping their character. Giving them self-confidence, or empathy, or the ability to understand and respect boundaries. It is not the stuff that goes into hallmark commercials, but it is worth all of the lost sleep and grocery store temper tantrums. You are helping your children to grow.

The last few nights have NOT been that kind of hard. They have been more the “what the %@&$ am I doing wrong? My children are selfish little monsters. Why must they treat me like a prize to be won by any means necessary?” kind of hard.

The rational side of me knows that this is not the full picture. My perceptions are warped by sleep deprivation and back pain and an overdose of that delirium-inducing cocktail made from equal parts whining and sibling squabbles. Things are not nearly as bad as I feel.

The rational side of me also knows, however, that every other parent out there with more than one child has had nights like this. And so, I offer my poetic purge of all the frustration as a form of public service.

Sister…Brother… we have all been there. You are not alone.


What kind of love…

 

I do not want to be loved like a commodity,

whose apparent scarcity invokes incessant bidding,

where market share is based on skill at whining,

and wins are computed by monopolizing bedtime attention.

I do not want to be loved like a shrinking pie,

trying to divide myself in equal shares,

while they squabble over crumbling capacity,

and I disappear into the vacuum of bottomless appetite.

I do not want to be loved like a soap opera,

where manipulation and deceit are central characters,

twin ploys to force compliance to demands,

and happy-ever-after only lasts until the next frustrated longing breaks all promises.

I do not want my children to see themselves as greedy consumers of my love.

And yet, I have to wonder…

Have I taught them to love this way?

to see love as a game that must be won through someone else’s loss?

to see love as a limited supply for which they must compete?

to see love as a selfish gratification for their desires?

And if I have…

How can I change that lesson?

And teach them now, instead, to see Love

as the Source

and self-giving purpose

of their lives?


That last question is genuine. Ideas welcomed.