Tag Archives: being loved

On Sweetness and Mother’s Day

Copyright © 2012 Erin Molloy Photography

It’s Mother’s Day morning and last night was one of those up and down kinds of sleeps. Chris and I are at the stage where we go to bed in the unknowing: will the boys sleep all night? Will they wake four times? Last night August had to pee, then he couldn’t go back to sleep. Then he still couldn’t go back to sleep. And, then he really couldn’t go back to sleep. Each trip to his room, I found myself accidentally kicking my leg against something: a laundry basket, a couch.

By 5:45 when Brooksie was crying, I was so fuzzy and frantic (my usually style of mid-night waking) that I literally ran into the doorframe in our room. I slammed my cheekbone loud enough that Chris jumped up and I moaned and fell back on the bed. (He went to check on Brooksie.)

So, sleeping in on Mother’s Day morning is not only called for, it’s fitting. I’m sort of a mess this morning, what with my bruised cheekbone and puffy eyes (I accidentally got cucumber juice in them while cooking Friday night and they don’t take kindly to cucumbers. Remind me to tell you a great story about that sometime.)

I’ve been reading in bed with coffee by my side, brought to me by Christopher in my favorite bright red mug. And my boys are in and out. Brooksie loves to waddle in and gaze flirtatious and mischievous at me. He raises his eyebrows, makes a serious face, then smiles and almost laughs and waddles away. So far during my reading time, he has come in to find a waded up receipt (which he played with for five minutes, carrying it back and forth from my room to the kitchen), a green pen (from which he couldn’t remove the cap, thankfully. He used it to “comb” Ezra the Super Cat, who will take any form of attention he can get, even when it involves a green pen in the hands of a one-year-old.). Now, Brooksie is back in the room bare-handed. He walks to the side table, shakes the lamp a few times while I remind him how that’s not a good idea. And then he’s pinching his pointer and thumb together and touching the table. He’s amazed with this development, that his fingers can gather and make a cone of sorts, that he can push them against the table and experience some sort of finger-sensation. He looks at me and smiles. Then he opens his hand and looks inside at his palm. He does some assessments. He’s happy with what he sees. His palm is good, he decides. Then he’s out of the room again. Off to something new.

Soon, Chris calls me to the kitchen where my favorite meals is being served: Eggs Benedict (and I promise my love for the creamy sauce has nothing to do with my love for the saint). Chris makes it for me every Mother’s Day, every birthday. Homemade hollandaise stirred perfectly over boiling water. Today, though, the lemon is moldy and there is nothing Chris can do to replace it. The sauce doesn’t congeal and it doesn’t help that August is crying on the couch. (His morning show on Netflix has been buffering for ages.)

So I enter the kitchen in my pjs, hair in a pile on my head, cheek beaten by the doorframe, eyes puffy from the Cucumber Incident. August is crying about the lack of “Busytown Mysteries” and my husband hands me a mimosa, because that’s just the sort of thing he does. And I think how all of it is perfect: the uncongealed hollandaise, the frustrated three-year-old, the baby astounded by his own hands.

We sit at the table to pray and just before we bow our heads, August whispers to Chris across the table: “Should we get Mama’s flowers?”

“Let’s pray first,” my husband says. And they do, thankful for me.

Then they slip away and return with orchids in a vase. August choose them, he says: yellow, my favorite color.

And on the card: A list of questions Chris asked the boys (of course only one of them could answer):

  1. What is you favorite part of Mama? A: Leaning on her belly.
  2. What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? A: Play cars
  3. How do you show Mommy you love her? A: This answer is acted out: He squeezes the chair with his arms.
  4. What do you want to say to Mama? A: Thank you
  5. For what? A: She lets me get frozen yogurt even though I didn’t get it for my dessert

 
Also this morning, during the lazy coffee drinking in bed, I read words about sweetness in Lauren Winner’s book Still. They’re the words of a twelfth-century Cistercian named Baldwin of Forde. He says:

“Jesus is sweet…He is sweet in prayer, sweet in speech, sweet in reading, sweet in contemplation, sweet in compunction, and in the jubilation of the heart. He is sweet in the mouth, sweet in the heart, sweet in love; he is the love of sweetness and the sweetness of love…Those who have tasted of him grow hungry, and those who are hungry will be satisfied and the sated will cry out the memory of his abundant sweetness.”

And I think: Is there a better word for this moment, this time in my life while these babies learn to be themselves and my husband loves me better and better, while all at once I feel so young and still so rich with age? Sweetness.

Oh, Jesus, we cry at the memory of your abundant sweetness.

 

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A ‘Mother Letter’ for the Mamas

Dearest Mamas,

When I was pregnant with my first child, my friend Emily (one year ahead of me in the baby-making) gave me a piece of advice: Have grace with yourself, she said.

She was talking about those first moments when I’d hold his tiny squirming flesh to my breast: When I expected fireworks of passionate mother-love and instead felt afraid, overwhelmed and happy, exhausted and adrenaline-rushed. She said, “Don’t expect the love you feel in that moment to be enough. You love your kid as you learn them.”

Have grace with yourself.

I carried her words over into those first weeks and months of exhaustion. The long nights, the moments of fury at this little thing whom I loved desperately but who was wreaking havoc on my brain and my body. I learned to have grace on myself when my friends were reading their 4-month-olds books for 30 minutes a day and helping them progress in their development and I still felt like it was all I could do to get my baby to sleep and eat and stare at me every day, much less be faithful to my calling and career.

Grace: Such a word for such an act. It’s love, yes. But it’s love that offers free kindness, freedom, acceptance. Jesus gives me that kind of reality. It’s not an act that allows me free reign to ruin myself. It’s an act that draws me in with loving kindness, that sets me up to use my gifts and my heart and offer to the world what’s good that’s already been placed into my hands.

Have grace with yourself, my friend said to me. She knew what I would feel some days: The temptation during your baby’s first year to long for her success, to judge yourself in light of her advancement, to value her in light of what the world values: appearance, physical impressiveness, signs of intellect. How often did I compare my kid with another? How often was I the one bragging of some sign of my child’s superiority?

Have grace with yourself.

When it’s your kid who is screaming on the airplane. When every person around you seems to think they know the answer. When you determine to trust your instinct despite his rage, despite your tears and the bite marks and the passengers who are tweeting about the horrible child and his incapable mother they were stuck with on the flight.

Have grace with yourself.

When every one at the park is obsessed with getting their almost-two-year-olds into language-immersion classes, when your friend’s three-year-old already knows how to read, when your strong-willed child is achingly sweet at home but yelling at the Sunday School teacher at church. When you’re afraid no one but you understands him.

Have grace with yourself.

There may be a day when someone you love questions your parenting choices. There may be a day when you stare at your tear-soaked face in the mirror and ask, “When my kids grow up, how will they remember my failures?”

But motherhood is not a series of situations that have a wrong and right answer. It is a relationship. How many times have I described Jesus that way to one of the high school or college students I’ve ministered to? Jesus is not religion. He is relationship. Engaging with him requires our hearts and our minds and souls and our strength because it involves living, not simply rule-adherring.

Have grace with yourself, Mama. This thing is complicated. You will hold that newborn and you won’t know how to love him but you will and you will wonder is this enough? and it may never be but he needs you any way.

See that’s the secret: You are his only mother. The only mother he will ever know. He loves you desperately. He needs you to love him back, to gather him when he crumples, to jump in the pool when he sinks, to snatch him up when the other kids are picking on him, to trust yourself to know when to protect and when to let him find his way.

So gather her and love her. Laugh and cuddle and read and make choices. And trust that in spite of your imperfections, God is making all things new: even you, even your child.

There is refreshment in that grace: the chance to begin every day, the chance to learn and change, to stick by convictions and let some of them float away on yesterday’s balloon. You don’t have to be the same mother you were last year. You are being refined.

Once, another friend said: Stop being so ferocious with yourself.

I’ll say the same to you, friend. God has given you to your child and your child to you. And every gift you own combined with the strength of God’s Spirit is enough to do this beautifully.

You may not be the mom who speaks two languages in the home. You may not perfectly balance work and mothering. You may not feel secure in the complexities of discipline and correction. You may receive every kind of judgment over the way you sleep-train your baby.

When it’s all too much, promise me this: Walk your stressed little (okay, let’s be honest, probably not-so-little) hinny to the bathroom, look in the mirror. Breathe deep. Look in the mirror again. Imagine Christ’s hand on your head, let his peace wiggle in to those brain wrinkles. And say: “I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.”

Because sometimes, Christ’s love is the only thing that gives us strength to love completely the little ones who have been given to our care.

Linking up with The Mother Letters ProjectRead about it then join your “Mother Letter” to the conversation. And get your copy of the Mother Letters ebook here.

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Good Thankful

  • For a sweet birthday celebration. Look at that guy in his hat! For a backyard and dear friends and good food and all these kids running around who somehow belong to us. How did that happen?
  • For how turning one automatically makes a baby into a little man. All the sudden Brooksie is such a grown up. Yesterday he insisted on walking all the way into August’s school. No being carried for him. So, I held his hand and we walked like snails across the lawn and into the door and down the hall.
  • For August’s love for science and the ten minutes he spent with his dad looking a silkworm through a microscope yesterday evening.
  • For the picture of a volcano my brother took for August while he was in Nicaragua and texted to me yesterday. (So thankful that my brothers love my kids as much as I love theirs.)
  • For thunder storms and a late night dinner date with an old friend.
  • For the goodness of a full day, the goodness of well-deserved exhaustion.
  • For August’s first ever soccer match on Sunday, which he spent running the opposite direction of the ball and “sliming” pretend dragons on the other side of field.
  • For pulling weeds by the root in the garden while my kids play around me. For sunshine and gardening gloves (even though I know nothing about gardening). Weeding is so satisfying! (It’s satisfying for the same reason I like to tweeze my eyebrows. Don’t tell anyone I said that.)
  • I had a moment last night when I realized how much more at peace I am with how God loves me than I was a year and a half ago. It’s making all the difference in how I live and how free I feel from striving. I used to secretly believe that time wanted to hurt me. Now I am learning how to find joy and satisfaction in the daily.
  • For wonderful news: The lab results are back and my mom is cancer free. All the cancer was contained and was removed in her surgery! So grateful!
  • And for more exciting blog-type news which will be shared in its own post on Thursday. Lots of thankful going on around here…

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{Practicing Benedict} Work and Prayer and Rest

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore all the community must be occupied at definite times in manual labour and at other times in lectio divina.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 48)

One of the things that makes St. Benedict’s Rule so significant in the canon of ancient Christian writings, is that he had an unusual sense of balance and gentleness. He wrote at a time (7th century) when many believers were burdening themselves under a weight of self-induced abuse (as a way of worshipping and feeling Christ’s pain) and were choosing to sacrifice community for the sake of enlightenment (a lifestyle that Benedict saw as unhealthy and unbiblical). He wrote against the life of the hermit. He wrote with a practical understanding of holistic worship. He understood that our bodies need care as much as our souls need nourishing. And he wrote with grace offered.

What I loved about the small amount of time I’ve spent at monasteries was the opportunity to see monks in their daily living. Yes, there was the liturgy of the hours and the eating and the time alone for prayer. But there was also the morning work because somebody has to fix the stopped-up toilet and somebody has to make a living around there. At St. Andrews in Valleyrmo, there was a ceramics shop and several monks worked daily crafting and creating. At the monastery in Pecos, New Mexico, a nun was well known for her weaving. It was her work. She wove and she sold it and she prayed.

We often define ourselves by separate categories. We are spiritual and physical and emotional and relational. And those layers are not separated into tidy sections. The spiritual is shaped by the physical. The relational forms the emotional. To care for another, to offer water to a thirsty child, is to worship.

So, yes to St. Benedict and his simple message: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.” We pray and we work. We study scripture because in it we find the word of life, and then we live and engage and serve.

Don’t be mistaken. There is a difference between idleness and rest. There’s a difference between blind striving and hard work. How do we know where one stops and the other begins? We know who we are in Christ. We believe in grace and in God’s deep love for us. We work out of a healthy knowledge of our own value because we know it is not a result of our accomplishments. We work knowing that our hope is in the one who offers rest at the end of the day, at the end of the week.

Work and prayer. Work and prayer. Always knowing who gives work, who calls us to work, who equips us for work, who brings the day to a close and calls us back to the candle burning in the window of the stone chapel, where the monks chant the Psalms…

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

Psalm 116:7

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Thursdays are for healing…

As I write this on Wednesday night, my mom is home from the hospital, sleeping on the couch across the room. (I should actually get this posted and turn the light off so the dear woman can sleep.) She’s sore but she’s not a complainer. And she’s happy to have the boys around to entertain. Brooksie’s been putting on an “I can walk!” show that none of us can get enough of.

The other Brooks (the grown one, aka my brother) is home as well. He’s been in Haiti for the past week caring for kids at two different orphanages. These are children he knows, who wait for him to come back each year. Brooks is one of my personal heroes. Children flock to him because 1) He’s funny and can do some sweet magic tricks (Illusions, Michael!) and 2) He loves beautifully. He has this gift from God that allows him to know what a child needs to hear, to say exactly the thing that will give hope and a future to that child. (That’s why we all know he was always meant to be in ministry to hurting kids.)

So, if you understand that about Brooks, you’ll be even more moved by the post he wrote for his ministry’s blog yesterday. I never cease to be amazed by how God uses the broken of this world, the most destitute, the least likely, to be His voice and His touch and His healing balm.

Please click over and read “Jesus in the dirt,” my brother’s story of losing his friend Jeremy this past Sunday and receiving from a little boy named Rosy a message of God’s kindness.

Grateful for your prayers this week, friends.

Micha

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A Very Valentine-y Thankful Tuesday

It’s Valentines Day! If you are reading this in the morning, I am probably in my smiliest morning mood, the one I reserve only for special days. August and I will be popping open the can of cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Then we’ll move quick from them into a mid-morning mixing and baking of “pink velvet” cupcakes (box-mix courtesy of World Market). Ahhh, the sugar intake of Valentines Day!

I love Valentines Day for its heartfelt kid-ness. I love handmade valentines. I love candy and cookies. I love little children and stickers and the sweetness of making a Valentine for someone because they’re your friend. I also think that once Valentines Day becomes about kissy kissy relationships circa 7th grade, it loses all its earnestness. Though I think there are plenty of other days to celebrate your significant other, I’m not a total Valentine grump. I did buy my husband a present. It’s just that his present happens to be a $10 variety pack of old fashioned root beers (which I will share with him the next time we eat a burger…) And, we will celebrate tonight. He will cook me my favorite pasta…the one he used to make me when we were dating and he hardly knew how to make anything else. We’ll watch Breaking Dawn because I haven’t seen it yet and because his watching it with me is the greatest romantic gesture he could possibly make. But, mostly, today the boys and I will celebrate Love with lots of sugar and construction paper, just as St. Valentine always intended his day to be celebrated.

In that spirit, I have a full list of Thankfuls for today. This past week was emotional and good and hard and rich. I’m grateful for…

  • My grandfather’s miraculous recovery from his broken hip last week, his being released from the hospital into rehab. A conversation with Meemaw on the phone and being reminded of her deep love for him, getting to see a bit more of her heart and her commitment to him.
  • Being able to give my 90-year-old grandma (the other one!) some much needed snuggle time with Brooksie this past weekend. (We drove to Dallas Friday afternoon and came back late Saturday night for a day-long visit.)
  • My sister-in-law and my mother were almost in a terrible, terrible car accident  this past weekend. It’s a miracle that they weren’t hurt. It’s a miracle that, despite my sister-in-law’s car skidding across several lanes of traffic and refusing to start (in the middle of two interstate lanes), they were safe and surrounded on all sides by the cushion of grace. In a week that was overwhelming for my family in several ways, it’s a gift to have such a tangible reminder of God’s good care.
  • Brunching (can that be a verb? a super snobby verb?) with a table full of friends from college on Saturday while I was in Dallas. I love how after all these years of wishing I could be close enough to actually see my Texas friends, I am. It’s such a joy.
  • Speaking of Texas, look at this baby and the Texas flag in my husband’s office. Had you shown me this picture a year ago, I would never have believed it was possible.
  • Being stuck in traffic with Melissa, one of my college roomies, for an hour and a half and getting way more time than I planned for to talk to her alone.
  • Jesus’ promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, not only for ourselves but for the people we love who suffer physically or emotionally. Easy and light. There is so much rest in “easy and light,” isn’t there?
  • Brooksie’s new favorite word, ball. “Bah bah bah bah bah,” he sings while he crawls around in search of one.
  • Sunday morning pancakes
  • August’s little book about St. Valentine, who risked his life to perform weddings when marriage was forbidden by Claudius the Cruel. Did you know that?
  • Chuck E. Cheese with friends Sunday night.
  • Finding August asleep in his room with a Thomas the Tank Engine Valentine book on his face
  • My friend Trisha’s handmade Valentine she gave me yesterday (I put it on my fridge)
  • Talking about poetry at Writing Group Monday night
  • My friend Andrea’s new book will be released this week! (More to come…)
  • And, of course, a warm cat in my lap while I type

It’s a very Valentine-y Thankful Tuesday. List your thankfuls, people!

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Sweet Monday Morning Goodness

I read this words in bed yesterday morning, in my Christmas pajama pants (yes, I’m still wearing them). And I lifted my face up to the blank white ceiling and half prayed/ half sighed “Yes, Yes, Yes.” Oh, these words, friends. I pray they are just what you need to hear today as well…

“If I am appreciated for what I do, what I achieve, I am not in fact unique since someone else can do the same, and probably do it better than I. When my estimation and value of myself depends on what I can produce with my hands or with my mind, then in Henri Nouwen’s words I have allowed myself to be ‘a victim of the fear tactics of the world’. This is the self that so often leads me into activity to prove my value. But if productivity becomes my main way of overcoming self-doubt I lay myself open to rejection and criticism, and so to inner anxiety or depression. I am constantly checking myself and my achievements. So my productivity really only reveals how much I am driven by fear of not being up to standard and by an insatiable desire to justify myself. It is only when I am loved not for I do but for who I am that I can become myself, unique and irreplaceable.”

-Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality

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