Friday, August 26, 2011

the price of art

My favorite picture from the week . . .

This isn't today, but life is still this full and my kitchen nearly as messy.  Today I am enjoying the rare pleasure of two littles napping at the same time, and my oldest beside me coloring at the table.  The long naps are thanks to a few incredibly busy days- or has it been weeks?- and my kitchen thanks to this as well.

I am sitting here torn between the urge to get my house back in order, and the urge to sit here with my daughter, to enjoy the silence as we both make our respective art.

In case you wonder- the fire extinguisher was hung by our landlords before we started renting, and has nothing to do with my cooking.  Really.

Today I choose art.  

I am choosing it more frequently lately, to pour out the paints and trust that it is worth it: color, the dripping brush- or words and wondering- they are more important than the drips and stains, than the messy kitchen.  The quest for beauty is more worthwhile than the futile effort to keep my house clean.  I wonder- have I taught my children this?

There is no making art without making a mess.  In fact, when I stop to think about it, a mess is required for just about anything that is worthwhile.  

I think I have wasted a lot of time fretting over imperfections.  Life.  My own.  How often has the fear of failure or imperfection kept me from making art- from trying something beautiful?

The most beautiful lives I know bear their worn, tattered patches.  Tender, wounded places.  Places of discomfort and unanswered questions that they do not attempt to cover or explain but simply hold, however painfully, toward the light.

Could it be that whatsoever is lovely contains colors that are unlovely?  Does whatsoever is true bear it's own aura of intangibles?  

There is a patch of weeds in the corner of our yard.  It is where the butterflies gather.

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to 
give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Quick Takes, and why sleep is 1000x better than coffee

1.  Sleep is 1000x better than coffee
4:20 a.m.  I am awake awake awake!  It is amazing, A-Maz-Ing what good sleep can do for a person!  Josie has been sleeping sooooo well, as have the others, and I feel like a new woman!

Not only is she sleeping better, but she has become a happy, content, giggly little one as well.  Ah, life just became so much easier!
(forgive all of the exclamation marks- it is the sleep + coffee)

2.  School
We've decided to send Sami to public school this year.  It was a difficult decision but she is so excited, I know she is ready.  I keep telling myself that if we see that she's not thriving we can always choose to homeschool, nothing is permanent.  (Then I read a post like this one and I doubt again, because that's what I do).

Now if I could just keep myself from becoming sentimental about every. last. thing!  I may be slicing the last watermelon, sob.  Only a few more afternoons to read together, sob.  She and her sister may never play together like this again, sob.   No more vacations during the school year! (ugh.  I already hate school).

3.  City

We have been trying to finish off our summer list and fit in some more fun things before school starts.  One of those was to take the Rapid into downtown and walk around the city.  Then, the other night the girls (just the littles- Sam was with her Nana and Papa) and I took the rapid into town to meet Jim for dinner.  Really an easy way to enjoy the city, and so much nicer than driving.  (Jim takes the train to work and back and I am a little jealous, doesn't a little parenthesis to spend reading a book each way sound wonderful?)

4.  Jealousy  
When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 2 Cor.10:12
This verse has been on my mind this week- comparing ourselves is so common among women.  Why do we do that?  It is so annoying.  Comparing only breeds jealousy and discontentment.  I think there are two really important things to keep in mind always:

1.  God doesn't compare me to anyone else, so why should I compare myself to anyone?
2.  God has promised to complete His work in each of us, I do not need to judge how He should do that.

I think that after being married to someone in the ministry, or just being a friend to women, I am always aware that every single person has hurts and struggles- many of which no one will ever know anything about.  There is never any need for jealousy.  We all need mercy.

5.  and other annoying things

I listened to The Challenges of Child Care: Emotional Decisions and a Constant Juggling Act on All Things Considered, and although I didn't hear the entire program, as I was juggling my own three kids, I couldn't help but feel:
1. incredibly sorry for these women who must live this kind of hectic, stressful existence,
2. incredibly sorry for the children being tossed into childcare and away from their mothers for "10 to 12 hours a day" and "dropped off at camp even when they are sick!"
3.  incredibly annoyed that our society can find no better way to support mothers- is this really the best we can do?

On the other hand, I loved this post, Motherhood as Calling (and where your children rank)
‎"Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? . . .You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel." . . . YES.
6.  abundance
I found myself praying the other day that God would help me to "live this day most effectively. . ."  This is a pretty common theme of my thoughts and prayers, how to be most efficient, effective- but it occurred to me that Christ never calls us to effectiveness but to abundance.  How would I approach my day if my prayer was to live it more abundantly?  How much more effective might Christians be if our lives were more abundant?

7. Pinterest
Oh, Pinterest, don't you know there are already not enough hours in the day?  My boards are here.  Let me know if you are on so I can follow you!

This is one of my favorite pinterest finds this week- I am ordering this for my kitchen!  (on etsy here)

Just so you aren't jealous- heh- life indeed is not perfect . . . Josie has been awake and fussing since 6;  so much for my quiet morning :-) ah, well . . . it's going to be a beautiful Friday!  Have an abundant one!  

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary.  While you're there check out this post: 4 Steps for Starting Your Day the Right Way.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

breastfeeding part 3: wonderfully made

photo from Bellies and Babies

This is part three of my reflections on breastfeeding.  You can read part one here, and here is part two.

In part two I wrote that breastfeeding brought me back to life, and I know that it was motherhood that became the role I would most treasure and embrace, but it was breastfeeding that released the sense of inadequacy and shame that came with being female.  

I am not blaming anyone- I don't think it was a message that anyone meant to communicate- but somehow just showing up on this earth as a female often implies that we are already too much.  We are afraid of talking too much, needing too much, being too passionate, displaying too much emotion.  There are so many parts of a woman that need buried, and especially in the Church it sometimes seems like what God really wants from women is two things: to look pretty and keep her mouth shut.  I have never been very good at either.

But somehow in the act of feeding a baby I felt finally accepted- affirmed- breasts, emotions and all.  Woman are born to be too much.  God gave us deep wells of emotion, creativity, courage, passion . . . what would the world be without our too much?  Nursing a baby reveals a glimpse of it- the way God created us.  We leak life.

And yes it is good for women- (and men)- to live soberly, temperately, quietly . . . but in the way of peaceful waters that can pull great gushing buckets of love or emotion . . . femininity. . . to the surface.  Or as a woman is most discreet of the ways she is most generous, nourishing, life-giving.

Related: A Woman is Life

I love Megan's post at Sorta Crunchy, Responding to Our Ezer Calling
That Mama Bear instinct that takes over when a child is in danger, that unique sense of fulfillment you get when you empower the powerless, that overwhelming urge to stand up and fight for the one you love - all of that is inherent to the nature of women because of the way God created us! Does that not just change everything for you?

Friday, August 5, 2011

breastfeeding part 2: shame and magic

disclaimer: this is a the second in a series of posts about breastfeeding, specifically, my own story of breastfeeding.  I believe that men need to be informed and supportive of this subject . . . however if you happen to be my dad, or one of my brothers . . . look- there is something really funny on YouTube.

disclaimer #2: there is a deeper story here, one that tells the story of all women . . . I happened to discover it through breastfeeding, something that has been significant and meaningful for me, but it doesn't make me a better mother or more of a woman than any woman who has never breastfed or never had children.

Breastfeeding did not come easily.  I know for sure that after Sami's six week check-up I was still experiencing gasp-for-air, toe-curling pain every time she latched on- which she did about 700 times a day.  I had never imagined that it would be this kind of commitment, that simply feeding my baby would demand everything from me, body and soul.  But it was during these sleepless nights and *WOW* moments that my mothering instincts were honed, my desperate love for my child was forged, and in some joyful, quiet way I experienced the tender, mothering side of God.

It felt like love, the way milk could stream out of me.  It was physical- I was so full of this love that I literally swelled with it, I would wake soaked in it.  It was visceral - all of the things that I most wanted to be for my child- nourishment and comfort and pleasure- and it came straight from my own bones.  Just the sound of her cry caused my milk to let down- as much as she needed me, I needed her.  I would think about the fact that in some mysterious way, a child first begins to hope for God at her mother's breast!

Nursing was pain and exhaustion and amazement and contentment.  Mostly, it was magical.  I couldn't believe that my body was capable of producing something so pure and good.

But the magic was something kept secret only between baby and me.  Because outwardly, breastfeeding was still a little bit shameful.

Youth group girls don't know what to do with our breasts.  We're taught to feel a kind of shame of them, to keep them well under-cover, and so when it comes time for them to perform we are . . . flustered. Struck with a kind of guilt for our immodesty and embarrassment that now everyone knows we do indeed have them.  

At first I nursed almost solely in private, far away from people, until I finally got tired of hiding.  Because with every ounce of milk the shame was slowly fading, and growing in it's place right along with my baby's thighs was a newfound confidence and joy in being a woman and the way God made us.

And this is where the act of breastfeeding somehow merges into a deeper story and that is the way that breastfeeding brought me back to life.  It is, by it's nature, a contemplative time, one of the graces I am sure God gives to new moms- time throughout the day to sit and be quiet and hold your child- and it was during these archaic rituals of feeding a baby that I discovered the first twinkle of what I decided must be God's delight in women.

. . . Part 3 coming soon . . .

Until then,  I love this post by Megan at Sorta Crunchy, Breastfeeding as Worship
Entirely too many contemporary Christians see the body of a woman exactly the same way our culture does . . . "a breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing."  Yet this sentiment stands in direct opposition to God's Truth as revealed through creation. 
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was my saving grace during my first days as a new mom.  I am so thankful for the person who recommended I read it before I had the baby!  -It is now my stand-by gift for every baby shower-  I would never have been so committed to sticking with nursing even though it was mind-numbing painful and exhausting.  I consulted this book for everything.  It was the only book that made sense at the time, that gave me any kind of reassurance for my baby's never-sleeping/constant fussing/constant nursing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

she's weaned- reflecting on breastfeeding

Pablo Picasso Motherhood
disclaimer: this is a the first in a series of posts about breastfeeding, specifically, my own story of breastfeeding.  I believe that men need to be informed and supportive of this subject . . . however if you happen to be my dad, or one of my brothers . . . look- there is something really funny on YouTube.

disclaimer #2: there is a deeper story here, one that tells the story of all women . . . I happened to discover it through breastfeeding, something that has been significant and meaningful for me, but it doesn't make me a better mother or more of a woman than any woman who has never breastfed or never had children.


She sleeps.  We sleep.  I can't believe it.  Finally, Josie has been sleeping so well.  Ever since she was weaned while I was gone, Josie has been sleeping better.

It was the thing I worried most about being away for a few days- Josie weaning.  I hadn't actually managed to do it, she still needed me to nurse at night, and I kept telling myself that I would wean her but then I just never did.  She is sixteen months.  I nursed the other two for one year, and I'd considered long-term nursing Josie, to nurse her long enough so that I could ask her why she likes it and she would tell me because it tastes like butter or rainbows or snickers chimichangas.  But then there was the possibility of this trip and I decided that she was ready, I was ready . . . the night before I almost decided to take her with me, but this time, my friends trumped my mommy guilt.  Josie would be fine.

I was leaving them in the best possible hands, and her to the only person on this earth who could possibly manage to wean my baby: my dad.

All of our girls when they were babies, and probably still, loved my dad more than us.  My dad is the baby whisperer.  He speaks their language.  He makes them laugh.  When they are with him he makes sure they never touch the ground.  Babies learn early that they only have to point and my dad will take them wherever they want to go.  When they are with him they forget all about me or mama's magical milk.

Eventually as they get older they learn that Nana is the one with cookies and ice cream, the one who will paint their nails and be their advocate, who makes everything a party.  The newest grandchild now assumes her rightful position on Papa's lap, and the others run off to sip Nana's latte or convince her to let them paint the house purple.

So just before I left for Colorado I nursed Josie for the last time, and I thought I would be sad and I suppose I was a little, but mostly I was just happy for the time that we've had and looking forward to the next season of life.

. . . now it has been two weeks and I am feeling a little deflated (ahem) and sentimental and reflecting on breastfeeding and what it has been for me . .. Part Two coming tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


(this one has been sitting in drafts for a week . . . finally hitting publish).

Of the most important things in life there are only moments, never enough...





rich conversation

snickers chimichangas . ..
(oh yes you read that right; there is a snickers bar cozied under that mess of goodness!)


The most precious times and people are the most difficult to write about.  We ate too much and slept too little and didn't stop talking for four days straight . . . exactly what I hoped the trip would be and more.  

And coming home was magical, too . . . the sweet faces I found waiting for me at the airport.  
For days, I couldn't stop touching them.

I don't know why I am this way, but transition sends me underground, every time.
It is this in-between place so hard to find my footing . . .  
leaving one good thing to go to another, 
I get stuck in the gap. 
I do not know what to do with it. 

I heard it described once a long time ago on npr as though the plane has landed but your soul was never meant to travel so fast, it can't catch up with your body and is still trailing mid-air, suspended on a giant umbilical cord somewhere between Denver and Cleveland.  
That's the way it feels.

But I am learning to accept it, to give myself the time and grace to feel my way in-between.

The thing is the good-byes, the either-or. ..
they were never meant to be. 

"The problem with good-byes is how much they feel like death . . ."
so begins the book I began on the plane,
and I felt this feel of death acutely while I was gone, the empty spaces around my knees where children are meant to be . . . and back home the empty spaces of friends I left behind.
I don't like it.
I want my friends and our talkingtalkingtalking and the calories and my husband and kids and you-are-my-sunshine and red rocks and big sky and silence and city-
I want them all, together.

And so for a few days I hug my kids and stumble around the unpacked suitcase-
and then there is another transition, more good things:
a few days on the farm,
 a favorite aunt moving close,
aunts, uncles, cousins.

Driving home finally one daughter in the backseat, so much like her mother, 
she's weeping.
She'll be fine when she's home, but it's the car ride that hurts,
the in-between;
leaving one good thing to go to another-
it was never meant to be this way,
she's convinced.

Me too.

I think it is the Fall that we feel- 
why my daughter weeps.
Good-byes feel too much like death,
they send us reeling, spinning.
There was this one moment of Earth-as-it-is-in-Heaven-
we peered in it's windows, remembered it's scent . . .
now try as we may we find ourselves still falling, flailing,
all off-balance, in-between;
homesick for the Garden.

It is difficult for me not to make impossible demands on my communities as I sometimes make them on myself. . . It is difficult for me to accept that all my beloved communities are going to die, and that even while they exist there are incredible spaces between human beings, and even the closest.  And, despite my urgings toward community I will always be, like Abraham, a wanderer, far from home.  But the people who are most aware of their own impermanence are the most able to throw wide the doors of heart and hearth to a stranger, to hear his message, receive his blessing.
-Madeleine L'Engle