Tag Archives: sweet monday

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.



Filed under Motherhood

Thoughts on Kairos and Epiphany, the ‘unbidden and unexpected’

Sascalia on Etsy via Pinterest

I’ve been reading and loving my newest happy discovery, In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice. Its author, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, is a theologian and the book is a straightforward theological teaching on the things we’ve been talking about around here. She’s a mother who believes the Church has missed its opportunity to honor the spiritual formation that can arrive out of the mess of everyday parenting. Often we’re taught that in order to encounter God we need to step out of the dailyness of life with children. Miller-McLemore, instead, holds up Christ’s own mother (and all that pondering she kept doing!) as our mother-hero of the faith.

Miller-McLemore is sharp and dryly witty and her insight is fantastic. I’m having this problem where I’m underlining every other paragraph and drawing lots of hearts and exclamation points in the margins, as well as phrases like: “Ordinary Awe!” and “Live graciously WITHIN time” and “Mysticism of Everyday life—-> Ignatius.” If all that doesn’t prove it to you already, this book is right up my alley.

So, on this Monday morning following a weekend with four trips to the airport, one night of watching New Girl episodes and eating Vietnamese food with my sister-in-law on the couch, one soccer game, four emotional breakdowns from August, one 93 degree/shadeless soccer game (with a back sunburn to prove it), and two bags of popcorn, I’m going to share some of my favorite words of Miller-McLemore’s so far.

Seriously, I can’t get enough of this stuff.

Just when my six-month-old fell into a predictable sleep pattern and I thought we had it all together, he grew and changed and we had to adjust…

The profoundly interminable and shifting nature of the work of parenting is both its challenge and reward. More than this: many parents would agree that in this practice of attending, they must learn, change and develop or the child will not thrive. For decades, modern psychology presumed that parenthood required little or no change in the already existing mind-set of the parent … Only recently has it begun to dawn on us that birth and rearing children a powerfully transformative for parents an children alike.

If I attend well to my sons over time, there is opportunity, however irregular, for astonishment … Children’s author Judith Viorst has learned , from watching her three sons, that “it is possible to find delight in us hanging around the kitchen while one kid is making a chicken salad sandwich and the other is tossing a napkin into the trash and missing.” It is just this potential for joy int he most mundane moment, pondered and attended to with care, that leads her to conclude, “Family life is better than most any other thing going on in the universe.”

Recently, a pastor who is also a father admitted to me apologetically that family devotions fall by the wayside in his household…

Here’s what I wish I could have said. Although family prayer has its important place … prayer and scripture reading do not alone determine faith. Faith is not one more thing to check off the list. Family prayer; check. Bedtime prayer; check. Ritual for dead hamster; check. It is not something set aside outside regular time. It is what we do in time and space, with our bodies and through our movements. The practices of this man’s family—playing with the children after school, interacting around dinner, greeting and parting, attending and pondering—these practices are formative of faith…

There is no ultimate solution to the dilemma of enacting faith in families in time. One cannot control kairos or schedule an epiphany … This is precisely the gift and bane of kairos and epiphany: such moments come unbidden and unexpected.

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, 2007 Josey-Bass, 56-57, emphasis mine.


Filed under Books

Walk slow and notice

The plane lands and you have a connection to make in a city you’ve never see the ground of. Two or three times your body has hovered close here: once in a suburb, twice at this airport where you taxi now toward the bulding. A bell chimes and all at once, as if a symphony, you all unclick seat belts, reach forward for purses and backpacks, stand to feet with heads bents, eyes facing down under short ceilings, waiting.

How strange it is for you to be alone. Always those boys are attached to you. Always you are the one gathering misplaced playmobile pieces, always cars in the row behind you. Always a baby in a carrier, a child holding onto your hand. Always three bags and plans for the next destination: how to move forward. Always someone is hungry, thirsty, always dirty hands, diapers or quick hustles to the potty.

And here you are. The emptiness around your arms is softer than you have words for. You think, What did I do, once, when my arms were free and I stood alone among strangers? You think: Music. And there on that plane, you pull the wires through fingers, place buds in the your ears. The music shocks you. You’ve heard it before, but lately, so diluted. Watered by voices and calendars and doings. And here, the older woman in her hand-knitted purple shawl looks into your eyes, as if she knows: Oh, her face says, you are alone. Beautifully alone. You smile back. Yes, your eyes answer. Yes.

There are signs of who you’ve become. Perhaps if strangers looked close enough, they’d recognize the extra skin that folds your belly, the tired eyes, the good ache that comes from giving yourself to children. But here, as one by one the people lift their heads, set eyes toward their destination, walk the open path, you know you don’t know what they carry. They don’t know what you are lightened by.

Then, your turn to move. You step into an aisle. How many asles have you walked in your life, sweet Baptist girl? Always walking aisles toward a calling. Always coming forward pulled by grace. And here, you step into this space, arms empty, one bag, a book, this music. You turn it up louder than comfortable. You want it to burn a little.

You move off the plane into the long tunnel and the warm air rushes at you, past you, light skimming your surface on every side. And you are alone in that tunnel, illuminated.

You walk into the maze of spaces and people, all of it moving toward you.

Walk slow, the Voice whispers.

Walk slow and notice.

And every place you step is shimmering, every face is the image of God.


Filed under the Praying Life

A couple of photo shoots, some bluebonnets, and one lovely photographer…

When I made the decision to make the move to Patheos, I knew it was time to spruce things up around here. That meant having a banner with a higher quality photo than Chris’ iPhone pic circa 2008. A friend recommended a local photographer and I had an actual photo shoot. (I don’t think I’ve been in a photo by myself since I was pregnant with August. Why are moms always holding something/someone during pictures? What was I supposed to do with my hands?!)

Erin from Erin Molloy Photography was lovely. And talented. And super fun. This is what she did:

We had such a great time together. Erin was fast and she knew how to get great shots without taking ten gazillion of the same picture. She was encouraging despite my awkwardness and made me feel totally comfortable. Plus, she picked an amazing location (woods, tall grass and city scape in one park!)  The photos were so wonderful, that I asked Erin if she would take pictures of my family. And then I demanded (okay, asked nicely) that she take them in a field of bluebonnets. I’m still stunned by their loveliness. 

This is what my life looks like on a daily basis. Minus the beautiful flowers. It also, gratefully, looks like this.

She was great with the kids and able to catch us interacting so that it didn’t feel forced. Plus, she had grace for this mama who was ten minutes late and still slicking down finicky boy hair when we got to the photo shoot. I’m so grateful to Erin for her skill, generosity, and creativity! She is a such a find. (Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, Like her on Facebook, and send all your Austin-types her way.)

We’re still ironing out details for the move, so I’ll keep you posted. Until then, happy Monday, friends!




Filed under Uncategorized

Micha tries to write about music…

Su Blackwell installation via Pinterest: "While you were Sleeping" 2004

I don’t consider myself a “music person.” I love music and I always have. It moves me and speaks to me, though usually, it’s the lyric that lingers longest in my heart.  Though I have spent a good portion of my life dancing in my closet while simultaneously buttoning my shirt and using my toothbrush as a microphone in the morning, I’m just not one of those people who talks about music in the cool kid language. I have nothing to say about rifts* and lifts and other things that rhyme with “ift.” So, in that sense, I don’t really fit into the music scene of Austin. I’m okay with that. I tried to be a cool music person in 2002 and it turned out that I was just lame. (I wish I could link here to the ridiculous review I wrote of Matt Wertz’s album in Spring of ’02 as an example. Relevant has–rightfully!–removed all hint of it.) So, since then, when people start talking band names I’ve never heard of that I obviously should have heard of, I say, “Oh, I’ve never heard of them,” and I brace myself for the label that will now be removed from their mental assessment of my awesomeness.

Last week I posted about an organization called “Trade in Hope,” which is making a feature-length film about sex trafficking in the US, specifically in Austin, and I was genuinely blessed to be at its benefit showcase this past Saturday night. I went, knowing that the showcase would involve an art display, live music and a viewing of their short film. I assumed the music would be your typical Austin fare, stuff that I would appreciate but fail to connect with because I’m not cool enough or musically learned enough.

The film’s score was written by Casey McPherson from band AlphaRev, whose voice and presence was shockingly powerful to me. He only sang two songs and I audibly sighed when he left the stage. The score was performed by a gathering of musicians called the 1211 band who played live along with the film. (Such an amazing idea, by the way.) And I was reminded that despite my feeling awkward and unsure when it comes to bands and rifts, I have always been moved by music and have always recognized beauty. What I experienced Saturday night as 1211 played was an orb of light moving from the stage toward me and settling in my chest before it exploded all over the room. (That’s dramatic, I know. But it’s true.)

Do you know that moment when you dive into a wave on the shore and you crash through the hard edge of it and find yourself momentarily touched on all sides by soft water? It was that flowing that I experienced. I had to close my eyes so I could feel the drum beat pounding my lungs open and all that good could spill out.

I think what I’m trying to say is that the next morning as I walked forward  to receive communion, loving the words we were singing, I stood as I always do at communion, facing the cross with my hands open, begging bread. And I closed my eyes while the drum beat pounded into my chest again and I felt for a moment what I’d felt the night before: the diving into the hard water, the swoosh through the cover of its softness. The priest put the bread in my hands. I took it. I drank the wine.

When I sat down and closed my eyes to say something to God about the bread and the wine, I saw a picture of the bread in me, a picture of the bread sticking to all the broken parts, holding them together. And just as they stuck, just as I knew the healing was moving through my insides, the wine was a flash-flood past the sticky broken places. The flood rushed through my center and out towards my extremities, lighting my fingers and toes, flashing out of my head and chest.

It was like music swelling and pulsing out…


* I’ve recently been made aware that the word is actually RIFF…further insight into my ignorance!


Filed under Beautiful

Because grace is brave and it always wins

You’re 16-years-old and the boy who kisses you beside the light blue Chevy Spectrum under the moon has berry-thick boy lips, his knuckles rough and cut from punching walls. He is all man, you think. And somewhat good. Becoming better. You hold hands and snuggle in the back of the church van on the way home from a praise and worship service on a Friday night in Oklahoma City. Before that, he tickled the inside of your arm outside under fireworks, side by side with friends around.

Why that boy likes you when he has dated the most beautiful, you don’t know. But you accept it, his face, his words a constant conversation in your mind through Algebra II, through American Lit.

How can four months be so long? So short?

It’s the night before New Year’s Eve when you call him and he’s distracted, girls laughing in the background of his house. Your friends, you realize. Your friends are at his house and he’s talking but not saying anything and you feel so confused until you realize he’s ending this. On the phone. He’s ending this. It’s dark in your room. You called him in bed and your phone is one of those 90’s beauties, clear with colored wires running through it, curly cord connecting the receiver to him, five miles away, where he laughs about you to your friends. And you stare at your phone as you close it, the phone, the line that held you to him.

Sixteen years old, and you lie in your bed in the dark begging God to love you because never have you felt so humiliated, so stupid for believing you were valuable. You weep in your pillow what feels like hours until you hear your brother come home, his door open across the hallway. Every thing in you begs to go to him. Tell him what’s broken. Hear him say that you matter. But the grief holds you bound. You can’t rise out of this bed. It’s yours for the night, girl.

So, like Jacob, you wrestle the angel who holds you there till morning. And the mark, the blessing, is the sound of God’s voice to your teenage ears. I love you I love you I love you. And this: Forgive him now because there’s more to this story. And in that night, you forgive. The wound is opened wide and into it God offers relief. “Listen,” God says. “You forgive from the softness of the wounded place. Forgive before it hardens.”

And so, five days later. When you force yourself to Sarah’s party where you know he’ll be, your eyes red from crying in the car in her driveway, he pulls you aside with Josie, one of your dearest of friends, to confess that they’ve been together behind your back. You suck in holy air. The sort of holy air that fills wide and hurts every inside part. The sort of holy air that wounds first so that you can forgive while tender.

Josie’s friendship goes the way of broken hearts though. She had loved you just as you loved her. Friday nights, the two of you had sung Wilson Phillips at the top of your lungs driving through Amarillo with nothing else to do but sing and talk and drink Sonic Oceanwater. And now she hates herself, you know, even as she dates him. Even as you watch them across the room in youth group and leave to sit in the bathroom, cry.

Forgiveness is a process and sometimes that process feels fully arrived at and sometimes five years later you stop and consider that night in your room, the Spirit beside you whispering love while the ache of rejection holds your body down. And you think, “How did Josie love me and still hurt me?” And you pray again to remember that confusion of being young and wanting to be loved. You pray again that you will forgive her.

So, when you open your Facebook 16 years later, the night after the funeral of a friend you all had loved as teenagers, a friend who had been at Sarah’s party that night, you’re shocked to find a message from Josie. A message asking for forgiveness. Life’s too short, she says. I always loved you, she says.

You’re at your parents’ house and it’s dark because your boys have gone to bed in the rooms that once belonged to your brother and you. Your parents are asleep. And you read her words that she loved you, that your friendship mattered to her, that all those nights laughing and shouting the harmonies to “Keep the Candle Burning” were not in your imagination. They were real and they mattered. And you’re crying in the living room, staring at your computer, your 16 year old self still aware of the ache of that loss. You go to the bathroom and stare at your 32 years face in the mirror, lines around the eyes, thinning cheeks. You cry and watch yourself and say, “God, what does this mean?”

What does it mean to forgive? You wonder, two hours later, 1 am, when your son cries out from a bad dream and you join him in bed in your former room, still decorated the same as it was 16 years ago, Josie’s face with a group of friends from high school framed in the corner. That night so long ago whispers to you while you tickle your son’s back. What does it mean to forgive?

The next night she picks you up from your parents’ house in her SUV at 9:30, after you’ve both put your respective kids to bed. And you drive to Starbucks. You tell her how you ended up in Syracuse, how you met Chris. You tell her about Young Life and writing and calling, about your kids.

She says, I’ve never regretted anything more in my life. And you believe her. And you listen to Wilson Phillips in the car and laugh about that boy and how he kissed. And grace wins.

Because grace is brave and it always wins.


Filed under Friends

Julie Bowen and our Bellies

Last night was a sucker punch of bedtime crazy. My screaming preschooler woke his brother up twice between the hours of 8 and 9:30. I was back and forth to them and finally finished bedtime at 10:30, three hours after it had started. I’m still at my parents and felt sorry for myself. So I poured a bowl of M&Ms and sat in the bathtub talking saltily to my husband on the phone until I finally said, while staring at my “smushy belly” (as August describes it adoringly), “I can’t talk anymore. My belly’s too huge.” Because, of course, that’s a good reason for hanging up on your husband.

That’s why I don’t have a new post, but am sending you this throwback to the early days of Mama:Monk. (Like, 2 whole years ago!) It’s a reminder to me that I do love my belly. Because I do, even as I stuff it full of M&Ms.

* * *

Sculpture by Sigrid Herr via Sarah Bessey on Pinterest

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a link on Twitter to an article about a photo of actor Julie Bowen breastfeeding her twins. There was some fuss made about her desire to show the photo when she appeared on The View. The talk show made a decision not to display it, which had some breastfeeding advocates up in arms about our culture’s willingness to display breasts when it comes to sexuality but hide from them when breasts are actually being used for their intended purpose.

I was drawn to this story, first of all because to me Julie Bowen will always be Carol Vessey, the beautiful, unrequited love of Ed from the TV show of the same name in the early 2000s. Ahhh. Those nights of watching Ed in my Abilene apartment on an uncomfortable couch with Molly and a Papa John’s pizza. Cue nostalgic music.

I was also interested in seeing the photo (I’ll link to it here instead of posting so you can choose whether or not you want to look at it) because I believe in breastfeeding. I’m one of those crunchy types who breastfed as long as possible and then cried for days when I stopped. I loved it. I didn’t just love how it connected me to my son in a way that no one else in the world could connect; I also loved how it connected me to the billions of women who ever lived on this earth and fed their children. In our modern life, we have changed everything about how we exist. Electricity, technology, fashion, food. Our lives look nothing like the lives of those who lived 300, 400 years ago. But, we all breastfeed the same way. Mouth to nipple.

Something I didn’t expect though, in seeing that photo, was the link on The Huffington Post’s site to Julie Bowen in a bikini. She is obviously fit. Her muscles are defined. She’s a tiny thing. And I, unlike all 124 people who commented, was grateful to see that her stomach was no fake Hollywood, post pregnancy belly. Her belly button is stretched, her skin is loose. In short, she’s the mother of three (including one year old twins) and it shows.

I read the comments in shock at the general hate readers had toward this woman’s body, as if she had done something sickening to them, as if she and her 120 pound frame were walking around bikini clad in order to cause massive in-mouth vomiting wherever she trod. Readers felt lied to by her small, clothing covered body on Modern Family. Whatever they had imagined of her, the reality was more than disappointing.

Glancing at those comments stung me. I know, I know. I’m not naive about our culture’s obsession with body perfection (meaning: skinny and taut at all costs, despite age or life situation). I know that our society is full of Kardashian watching, porn obsessed, image hungry IPad users. But really? Does my culture despise women that much?

Are we so afraid of women actually looking like their bodies have done something miraculous? Look, I’d love to have the flat belly I enjoyed at age 17 (it was downhill after that) and I’d love for my belly button to be its cute round former self. (Wide and wrinkly with a stretched piercing scar doesn’t do it for me.) But, look at what my body made! He’s a person. With a brain and emotions and an intense love for dinosaurs and shooting hoops.

And so I will honor this belly, which did not cooperate with the intensive two month Crossfit training I put it through last year, which will never snap back to its pre pregnancy tight-skinned glory. And I won’t apologize. I’m a thirty-year-old woman who has earned a stretched belly button.

And, friends, I hope that as I get older, I won’t complain about this body to my kids, that I will somehow be able to teach them that there is honor and joy in aging, that we earn the imperfections we carry with us just as we earn our scars and every memory attached to them. I hope I can teach them that boobs are not just sex symbols and that breast-feeding is not gross or embarrassing. I hope they believe that their value is larger and deeper than whatever 124 online commenters may have to say about their flaws.

This is a freakishly broken world. I hope we can live out an honest and authentic beauty in the midst of it.

Here’s to our bellies, ladies.


Filed under Motherhood