Letting Go as Our Kids Grow

 

Twenty four hours after pushing and groaning my way through her birth, I clicked the silver snaps on the bottom of my daughter’s onesie and wrapped her in a cotton blanket blooming with rosebuds the color of her fingertips. I slipped a matching cap over the dark peach fuzz of her head, and I cooed over her as we waited for her daddy to arrive and drive us home.

The two of us fumbled with the straps on the car seat, and I slid, tender and raw into the seat beside our baby. Side by side, apprehensive, in love, driving into the unknown.

I clutched the new car seat as my husband sped home. I had no idea then that motherhood is learning how to let go–from the first day to forever.

As I stepped across the threshold of our little brick house on Sunny Hill Lane, I held my baby wrapped in rosebuds, and I waited for someone to stop me. Someone older and wiser would surely step in and save this child from the imposter posing as her mother.

I had never felt so disoriented or disconnected from my own life with its new responsibilities, its new role, its new body. Overnight, I became someone’s mother. With two steps and the creak of a screen door, we entered our home as a family.

I had no idea what I was doing. Eighteen years later, I still don’t. Give me a toddler, an elementary aged kid, a middle grader, and I can advise you on the joys and pitfalls of each stage. Give me my own child, now posing as an adult and living in another state, and I am once again an imposter. I slip through the screen door and feel my way around the new shape of our family.

My rosebud baby is in full bloom–a garden of soft-petaled roses. I watch her unfold from a distance. At the sight of the small, empty well on the right side of her bed, I pick my way through thorns and velvet. There is a daughter-shaped space in every room. Her laughter lingers like smoke in quiet corners.

I miss her.

I realize now, she’s been preparing me for this from the first car ride home from the hospital. From the first time she ran in the opposite direction when I called her name, the first time she slept at a friend’s house, the first time she drove away with a driver’s license burning like fire in her pocket.

Until she’s a mother herself, she won’t realize the exquisite joy/pain I feel every time I pass by a mirror and see the shape of her eyes looking back at me. She doesn’t know that while I practiced letting go, I never stopped carrying her inside of me.

Transitioning Well with the Change of Seasons

I woke with a start at 4am this morning. The coming week is pregnant with change, and by four in the morning, my overloaded brain, heavy with the weight of all the unknowns, could no longer rest. It spun and twisted around each anxiety that I haven’t given myself the space to process.

It reminded me of the final days of my long ago pregnancies, when my body couldn’t rest for all of the life humming beneath the surface of my skin. In the quiet hours, I traced the shape of elbows and feet sliding under the surface of my belly, as my baby rolled and kicked in anticipation. Soon, the womb would give way to the wide-open world. Soon, lungs would expand with oxygen and limbs would feel the brush of air. Soon, freedom, space, room to breathe.

Within the next week, my oldest daughter will leave for college, I will begin a new job, and my youngest will begin a new school. The days are ripe, heavy with the impending change, and I have filled them with lists upon lists of things that must get done. As I’ve run from one task to another, I feel the tug of my soul, pulling against the weight of my to-do lists. I worry that I’m not ready in the ways I should be. I feel unprepared and unfinished.

My schedule is slowly sorting itself out, but my soul is just beginning to whisper hints of what it needs to survive in this new space. I asked a friend how she transitions well as she gives birth to a new season, and tears welled up in my eyes at her reply. She said “by stopping”.

How simple and yet, how impossible this sounds. How does the soul stop when the schedule requires us to keep moving? My friend suggests we give ourselves the gift of time. Time for thought, reflection, and acknowledgement. Time to ask ourselves all the questions that bubble to the surface.

At four a.m., time is what my wide-awake soul craves.

Somehow, I expected myself to enter this new season fully ready. But, as every mother knows, all you really need to grow a life is time led by the hand of love. So, I’ll give myself space to trace the lines of impending change as it moves beneath my skin. I will ask myself all the questions that accompany it. And I will trust that breathing space will arrive, as it always does, when giving birth.

Quieting the Noise of Everyday Life

The moon sat veiled behind clouds as we arrived at the RV park just before midnight. My husband pulled into our allotment, and with the aid of a headlamp, hooked up the RV to water and electric. The kids and I, woozy and tired from the dark, winding journey through the mountains of southern Utah, stayed inside the camper and fell into a fitful sleep, unaware of the stunning scenery surrounding us.

We woke up to sunlight pouring through the windows spilling onto every surface like a slow syrup. I peeked outside through the window and as my eyes adjusted to both the light and the peaks rising in the distance, I gasped at the beauty of the mountains surrounding us in a rising circle…

Join me at GraceTable to read the rest of the story on accepting an invitation to peace.

Scripture as an Antidote for Despair

I am a glutton. I have gorged myself on the news, on social media, on outrage and hatred and lies and righteous anger. Consuming all of these words as I scroll and click has cost me words of my own. I am full on a steady diet of rage, and it has stirred up both the holy and the unholy in me–neither of which I’ve been able to express in a way that inspires hope rather than despair. If hope is an anchor for the soul, then the rope tethering me to hope is worn and frayed.

I could choose to turn off the news and shut down social media, but I know in doing so, I risk becoming apathetic towards evil as it crawls out and raises its middle finger to the light. And so I read, I watch, I absorb because it is the bruised places which create the most tender hearts.

In my effort to understand and grow tender in my hardened places, I can’t purge everything I’ve consumed. By rejecting what I’ve read and seen, I would become the priest and the Levite who walked by the bloody and beaten man on the road to Jericho, averting their gaze.

But, while I carry these hard things inside of me, this steady diet of despair keeps me from envisioning a future where we love our neighbors as ourselves. My vision for a world where we fight racism and we right injustice and we repent of our sins is clouded.

I need renewed sight, and so I return to the scriptures where I meet Jesus all over again. I meet the man who flipped tables at the evil found in his Father’s house. The man who drew letters in the sand and who refused to cast the first stone. The man who turned the other cheek. The man who called religious leaders a brood of vipers and who called entire cities to repent with sackcloth and ashes. The man who healed.

In the scriptures, I meet the Jesus who died on a cross and calls me to pick up my own. As I sit with his words, I begin to assume his vision for equality, justice, and peace. I am able to release my flawed vision, driven by my emotions and outrage, and assume a vision driven by a God who is Justice, and whose very name means Peace.

If you find yourself full on a steady diet of despair and rage, don’t turn away from the hard things. Don’t cross the street and look the other way. Instead, meet the face of injustice and hate with the words of Christ. Not the words of someone talking about Christ, but the words of Jesus himself. Allow him to renew your sight, uncover truth, and stir up a vision where we recognize the face of God in every person we meet.

On Giving Up Vague Prayers for a Well-Defined Faith

While the house sleeps, I curl up in the stuffed green chair to pray on quiet summer mornings. I find myself searching for words beyond the perfunctory request for God to “bless” my day, my children, my endeavors. “Bless” is shorthand for all of the needs around which I can’t form words. I don’t even know what it means, or what I want him to do for me. My prayers carry a vague notion of wanting–desires unformed and ill-defined.

This summer our family sits in an ellipses, those three small dots that indicates a pause before the end of a sentence. Autumn will enter with a flurry of change for each one of us: two new schools, new family dynamics, a new vocation. We need more than the blessing of God. We need wisdom, comfort, peace, and guidance. We need eyes and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit. We need each other. New friends. Courage. Confidence in Christ. We need a renewed reverence and the ancient words of scripture buried bone-deep from which our muscle memory rises.

We need more than blessings. We need answers.

Shelly Miller’s book Rhythms of Resthas been a faithful companion this summer, and her words have encouraged me to find words of my own as I pray. She writes:

I’m learning to say what I want with greater clarity and definition, even when it feels uncomfortable and presumptuous, because I don’t want a mediocre life as a result of vague prayers and ill-defined faith. When you are tired, depleted, worn out, and weary, imagine Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus often receives one’s question by responding with another. I feel this question, rather than hear it, as I re-learn how to pray. What is it I want? By sitting with this question all summer, and allowing it to take root in the deepest parts of me, I discover with greater clarity what we want and need as a family. I discover that the things I thought I wanted are not always the things God wants for me. I discover that prayer is less a vague collection of “bless me’s” and more of a conversation.

The “God bless…” prayers feel like throwing a handful of dust in the wind. The wind sweeps them away, and I am left holding nothing but unknowns. As I become more specific in prayer, and I define my needs before God, I find the words to tether me to Him. I know what it is I want–wisdom, a friend for my child, an open door, a willing spirit–and I ask for it. When Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” I sit with open palms and robust prayers as I wait for him to answer.

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Do Shelly’s words resonate with you too? Do you pray in generalities or with a well-defined faith? How have your prayers changed as you’ve grown in faith?