Tuesday, November 17, 2015

inside out.

Image result for joy
Image courtesy of Google
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller
Last June we went to see a little animated flick called “Inside Out,” and it completely caught me off guard. My own insides at the time were a jumbled mess and I was taken aback by how a fun matinee with the kids could grab so tightly onto my heart and so beautifully and simply illustrate the convoluted chaos of human emotion.

Joy. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Disgust. Joy is the leader and you can see it from the start. You root for her. She wants the best for her little person, and you think she IS the best for her little person. She brings with her smiles, laughter and a sea of warm memories. She seems the most logical, the most sane, the most well-intentioned. She plays nice and works well with others. She tempers the other emotions, keeps them in check and helps them from garnering too much of the upper hand.

I root for her. I’ve rooted for joy my whole life. Because joy is the product of so much that is good and noble. Thankfulness. Humility. Faith. Perseverance. Reverence. Love. So many times – SO MANY times – joy doesn’t win. Joy is overtaken by heartache, jealousy, bitterness, loneliness, desperation.

But the thing about joy – the joy that is inside me and inside so many others – she fights. Joy is a fighter. She might play well with others and wear a smile, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t fierce. She is strong. Relentless. She may be forced to drag sadness along with her for miles and miles, but she keeps moving, keeps believing and she perseveres.  I respect Joy for that. For her tenacity to pursue how things should be despite how they are. For her ability to find thankfulness, humility, faith, perseverance, reverence and love in places where they are not obviously found.

I love Joy.

There is a scene in the movie where the main character, Riley’s, childhood imaginary friend, Bing Bong, loses something precious to him. Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong are on a mission with little time to spare, and this loss sets Bing Bong back. He sits down and laments. Well-intentioned Joy does what she does, encouraging him to buck up, keep moving and essentially look on the bright side – none of which provides any solace to Bing Bong. In his moment of disappointment, Sadness sits beside him, acknowledges his pain and listens. Bing Bong has a good cry, pours out his heart a little and then feels better- ready to join Joy and Sadness again on their journey together.

Of course that little scene becomes the larger theme in the movie, that these other emotions are needed. They are necessary. There is beauty in sadness, meaning in suffering, reasons for fear and righteousness in anger. Allowing these emotions to seep in and be felt – sometimes THAT produces the best joy possible.

I think of when my kids get hurt or disappointed, I’m so quick to say “you’re okay!” or “you’ll be fine!” – anything to catch them or distract them before they realize it hurts and start reacting. My intentions are good. I don’t want them to be sad and I don’t want to “deal” with them crying or pouting if I have the power to stop it first.

The other day I found myself taking a different approach. Caleb was getting dressed for school and he didn’t want to wear jeans. He wanted to wear shorts. We were running late, it was raining and cold outside, we still had to get Kenzie and ourselves dressed and ready, and we had little time to deal with whining. I was about to spew my usual responses “Come on buddy, you’ll be fine.” “Caleb, these are just pants – it’s no big deal. Lots of people wear pants when it’s cold outside!” Or, my personal favorite, "Think about the kids who don't even HAVE pants!"

But instead, I looked at my five year old boy pouting on the couch, with the jeans in his hands. 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. First morning after a fun weekend. Waking up, as most of us do, in not the best of moods. A boy who really, I mean REALLY hates jeans.

And I sat down. Right beside him. I put my arm around him and he pulled in for a giant hug. He sobbed into my shoulder and I just squeezed him, held him, stroked his back, kissed his forehead. I said “I’m sorry buddy.” And I was sorry. I was sorry he hated jeans, but had to wear them. Sorry it was dark and cold on a Monday morning and that he had a long day ahead. Sorry that things weren’t quite going his way, and that they wouldn’t – at least not as far as his pants went. Sorry. Sorry that he was sad.

Much to my surprise, when he was done crying and I loosened my grip, he got dressed. Without complaint. Not one word about how he didn’t want to wear jeans. Not one more tear shed. And by the time he walked out of the door with Luke that morning he was smiling, joking around and giving hugs. I couldn’t help but feel grateful we didn’t try to push sadness under the rug or distract or punish it away. If sadness hadn’t won for a little bit that morning, I may never have gotten to see joy walk out that door.

I do love Joy. But I know she has her place. Sometimes when my insides feel raw and vulnerable, Fear can feel like a friend, Anger like an outlet, Disgust like an advocate and Sadness like a salve to my soul. They fill unique, empty spaces – spaces where Joy does not quite belong. At least for that moment in time. And I know that even as Joy takes a backseat in those moments, she is somewhere inside, lacing up her gloves, bracing herself, waiting to get back in the ring and fight.

So I am inspired. Inspired to teach my kids to feel without shame or reservation and to please, PLEASE allow us to be their soft places to land. I’m inspired to give myself that same freedom to sit with sadness and dance with joy, knowing that rejoicing and weeping are both divinely-given gifts that have deep personal and relational value. I want to embrace brokenness rather than flee from it, trusting in the resilient nature of Joy - but even more so - in the benevolent Giver of Joy, who assures us that His blindingly bright light is not diminished even for a second when it is time to weep.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

those things you do.

You love pretty days. Whenever the sun is shining, you say, “Mama, look it’s a beautiful day.” Or you beg to forgo your nap, saying, “But mom, I can’t sleep because it’s such a pretty day out.”

You are thoughtful. When coloring a picture for your brother the other day, you made sure to use his favorite color, black, and when I thought you were done with it, you insisted on adding orange saying, “I don’t want to ‘dispapoint’ brother.”

You are a fan of cozy. The other day, you set up blankets and pillows on two chairs for us to read together and said, “Mama, I made it cozy for us.” You keep your eye on the details and always want to create a warm, comfortable place for yourself and others.

You are one organized chica. The other day, when we were going out of town, I walked upstairs into your room and found you folding shirts, shorts, pants and swimsuits to take for our trip. You made sure you had socks and unders and your bunny, Squishy, and books and blankets and headbands. You made my job easy … so easy in fact, I was tempted to ask you to pack for me.

You are a helper. You love setting the table and make sure that each person has the right bowls and spoons and drinks at their seat. The other day daddy was a little late and you asked, “Is daddy eating dinner, too?” and when I said yes, you said, “Daddy loves green” and pulled out a green plate and green cup. You came up to me, so proud of yourself, and said, “Look, they match!”

You are my exercising pal – or as you like to call it, ‘extercising.’ You’ll do jumping jacks and squats and stretches and say as you struggle through it, “look mom, it’s not too hard for ME.” And of course you love the cool downs when we get to sit “criss cross applesauce.” You keep asking me if I can buy you your own set of weights.

You are full of curiosity and this can be both magical and maddening. You ask, “Why is that boy sad?” or  “Can you I help you with that?” and it’s heart-melting. But you also ask, “What kind of grocery store is this?” “Why is this called a trunk?” “Why does the wind sound like that?” “Why did you say why?” “Where are we going?” “When will we be there?” Why, when, how, what, why, why whyyyyyy? It’s all day every day. Magical. And maddening.

Quite simply put, you are amazing, Kenzie. My little pal, my ray of light. So much silliness and sweetness and strength swirls around you and I am all blissfully tangled up in the beauty you create every single day. Thank you, Kenzie girl. You illuminate everything inside of me.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Caleb B,

I’ve had time to reflect on why the first day of kindergarten is so hard for me, as it is for so many other moms in my place.

It’s a little of this, a little of that, and pretty much everything in between.

It is the dropping you off. It’s the walking away. It’s the wondering … the all-day wondering about what you will do and who you will meet and how you will feel. It’s the hoping you’ll be accepted. It’s the hoping you’ll accept others. It’s the clenching my hands together and squeezing my eyes shut and praying you’ll make the right choices, learn from your mistakes, and know that you are loved no matter what.

It’s the letting go. And I’ve done it before – in many ways and to different degrees – and it’ll be okay, but it always hurts. The letting you go – it always hurts.

I don’t want to. I want to pull you in. Closer than ever before. I want to brush your hair back, kiss your forehead, wrap you up in my arms and tell you, the school district, the government … whoever made the rules that five year olds are ready for this nonsense … that NO THEY ARE NOT. They are babies. Babies that we watched breathe their first breaths, see their first sights, cry their first cries and need us more than they’ve ever needed anything. We taught them to crawl, to walk, to eat solid foods, to sleep on a schedule and use the potty and say please and thank you.

And now we are packing them lunches, shoving rulers and glue sticks into their backpacks and sending them off. To meet new people. To find their own way. What if they are scared? What if they feel left out or unsure? What if they want to go home and we’re not there to hear them?

I mean it’s crazy. Five year olds going to school. Who in the WORLD came up with this?

But lo and behold I’ve caved to the system and I’m sending you off. Spiderman backpack, Batman lunch box and all. I’m letting you go a little more than I’ve ever let you go before and my heart is crumbling and it’s bursting.

Crumbling because this is just plain too soon too fast and WRONG, as I’ve stated before.

And bursting because of the privilege of getting to go through this milestone day with you. To know that this moment represents the first day of you “becoming” what you’ll eventually be.  I cannot wait to see where your bright and curious mind will take you. I can’t wait to see who you gravitate towards and who you will draw in with your hilarious, quirky and compassionate nature. I can’t wait to see your interests evolve and to journey right alongside you and encourage you in your passions.

So maybe stopping time isn’t the best thing for any of us. Because watching you grow and change and become your amazing five year old self has and will forever be my life’s joy. And I want to see more. I can’t wait to see more – no matter how gut wrenching the act of letting go has and will be – my tears will be both crushing AND delirious because I CANT WAIT to see more.

And on the subject of you “becoming,” I can’t wait for that either. An athlete, a scientist, a fisherman, a builder, or a “sharky shark.” The possibilities are endless and I promise to devote myself to loving and supporting whatever you love.

But just know, even before you set foot in that classroom, you have already “become” to me. You already ARE a phenomenal human being – full of warmth, sensitivity, compassion, zest, humor, excitement and love – lots of sweet, Caleb-sized love that is beyond compare.

Happy first day of becoming, Caleb B. Be your best- you are already mine.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

keeping it real.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m not sure this is a trait with all kids, but at least with mine, they let us KNOW when they are sick. And by let us know, I mean LET. US. KNOW. As in loud, guttural cries, “MY TUMMY HURTS!” followed by sobs, moans and pleas for help. It is painful to be home with them when they are that sick – to hear their distinct cries of agony and feel helpless to stop them – to wish the squeeze of my hand or warmth of my arms were enough to take the discomfort away. But it often doesn’t.

There are many things I admire about a child’s ability to be … well … childlike. I found myself this morning adding guttural screams to the list.

When something hurts, they tell us. They don’t hesitate, they don’t worry about being too loud or too pathetic, they don’t worry that their cries will fall on deaf ears, and they don’t even necessarily expect us to fix it. They just want to tell us they are hurt, in the real, honest raw moment that it hurts, and have us be there. While my hand squeezes and back rubs and snuggles may seem to me like inadequate remedies in their momentary suffering, it means everything to them. They hurt, but they are not alone.

I just started reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I’m not too far into it, but from what I’ve read, she considers vulnerability to be a very courageous, necessary thing to lead a wholehearted life. It is brave to acknowledge your feelings, to really feel your feelings, and to let others in without pride or shame.

Being vulnerable has somehow, somewhere along the way, translated to us adults as weakness. And who wants to show weakness in a world that teaches us to outdo, out-perform and portray our lives through all kinds of rosy filters?  I get it. It's easier to use filters. Showing your weaknesses is freaking scary. But, I love and appreciate and admire how others can be truthful with me without caring about how it makes them look. And I can only imagine that people appreciate the times when I can muster the strength to be vulnerable with them, too.

It hurts to see my kids hurt. And in my adult lens I realize that it hurts those I love to see ME hurt. But I know that I am honored beyond belief that my kids want ME and trust ME when they are at their weakest. It’s a great privilege to be their “person” in those hard moments and I will cherish that role forever. They teach me that vulnerability is not only helpful and freeing to the vulnerable – it is an honoring, life-giving, supernatural, relationship-building gift to the person who gets to receive it.

Exposure is pretty dang humbling, complicated and scary - so there will always be an inclination to hold back – to not put it all out there. But, as I’ve learned from the tiniest, purest little souls, when you strip away all of your filters and bare your truest struggles in the most raw, authentic ways – the broken walls of isolation, the freedom, the going forth into the light, the absence of hiding – even the squeeze of a hand – makes it all worth it. You are naked, you are scared, you are real, and you probably look a lot more messy than you ever have - but still - you are so much better off than you were before. Because you are no longer alone.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

chelanigans 2015.

this is all i wanted. uninterrupted time with these four without school or work or schedules or obligations. the glorious sunshine, daily french fries and overall gorgeousness was a bonus. but them. just time with them was like stopping time to taste a piece of heaven. i will never forget it.