I happened upon a intriguing quote. The wisdom was dispensed by none other than the one and only, Mother Theresa (in ONLY God knows what year...well, I guess the internet might also know)...and I don’t know why, but I keep wanting to call that saintly nun, Martha Stewart...who is (obviously) a totally different sorta gal.
I should probably clear the air now and confess that I’m not super sane today as I’m fighting a cold, a super sore throat and a VERY froggy, man(ish) sounding voice. As a kid, the thought of a horse, deep, scratchy, lady voice always seemed so sultry. Today, not so! Disappointingly, today, I’m just frog-man.
Being that I’m in a fairly compromised state; not my best mom-self and struggling to be lovely to not just my kids but the world at large, all this ‘not-so-sultry sick business’ made the quote (that I promise I’ll share) all the more gripping. The quote was this: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”.
Am I the only one who feels a sting in those saintly words?? Maybe the wounding is entirely unintended...who knows. But jeez, please tell me I’m not the only one who felt the piercing urge to search my soul!
In my heart of hearts, I believe every morsel of MT’s words. Strung together, it’s pure, unadulterated wisdom!!
But the noise of the world can be SO distracting. The messages that tell me to “do something great” and “be someone great”, “create” and “conquer”, they’re inundating, blaring and relentless. The thing is this: the pressure to “do” and “be” it isn’t a movement of rest and peace and contentment, confidence in self or wholeness. It’s a pronouncement of lacking and inadequacy.
The preoccupation with accomplishing great "stuff" isn’t an equal opportunity employer. It’s true and primary interest is with only certain types of contributions to society, like the kind that get recognition and applause. The voices that shout within us, “Carve a name out for yourself!!”, aren’t interested in the unseen, immeasurable, nameless, faceless sorts of investments in our world.
So, quite frankly, as an invisible, nameless, faceless contributor to society, I’m constantly feeling a tug to make myself (notably) more than what I currently am...MOM.
Reality is that along with our world undervaluing "hidden" contributions and "hidden" contributors, I add to the pile. Although I always wanted to be a ‘stay at home mom’, I never wanted motherhood to be ALL of me. I’ve always had additional dreams and interests; aspirations separate from motherhood. I’ve always seen myself as mother and...(fill in the blank). I certainly see nothing wrong with being a multifaceted or ambitious individual, but could it be possible that I’m less intentional with the most 'world changing' responsibilities of my day (motherhood) because I'm distracted by a longing to be "great"??
Am I a 'stay at home mom' who’s just biding my time till I can make a real difference in this world by founding a nonprofit to save other people's children or solve world hunger on some other continent?? Am I so focused on rescuing and aiding others that I’m not living motherhood out, acutely aware of my impact on the future generations that originate from within my own home?? Some days, yes...100% guilty!
For me, looking at the world through a glory hungry lens, hoping for recognition; a star on humankind’s “walk of fame” or longing for some sort of an audible applause is a constant temptation. But it’s also a complete distraction from what matters most. Ego is a rather ravenous beast, constantly growling for a feeding, never full and never satisfied.
I don’t want to reduce my role or my impact on my kids to glorified babysitter by forfeiting intention for position. Changing the world starts at home; It starts with me...one kid at a time...or 4 (in my case). Thank you Mother Theresa for the brilliant reminder!
There are thousands upon thousands of pivotal moments that fill a lifetime. Moments that are capable of shaping identity and defining who we are and who we will become. The contents of these moments have the potential to forever shift and adjust the trajectory of our lives.
We think of milestone moments like graduations, cross country moves, marriage or having children as the ultimate transformation makers. And those sorts of major events can certainly change and define us, but I’d like to argue that it’s the seemingly random, ordinary, nameless and usually overlooked encounters that have the true capacity to be the momentous life changers.
When a quick, casual exchange includes a phrase, or maybe even just a single word, that seems to glisten and glow, standing apart from the rest of the entire conversation and apart from ALL the other ingredients of the day, as anything but ordinary. The value and meaning of the moment, unmistakable (to YOU and YOU alone); as if the full day and all it’s contents, plus maybe all nine (or eight) planets in the solar system aligned just to make that chance encounter, at the precise moment, possible...just so YOU could hear those precious words, that no one could have possibly known that YOU needed to hear.
Those secret moments, those course adjusting, mind altering moments, I contend, are the TRUE pivot points in life!
I’ve had a number of huge, life changing moments. I've experienced all the traditional stuff, and all of those events have changed me in one way or another, but some of the biggest changes and moments of personal revelation have sprung from seemingly inconsequential encounters.
One of my very top, most pivotal moments happened nearly a decade ago and it changed me forever!
At that time in my life, I had a patchwork composite style sort of religion. It mainly consisted of obedience, performance and a form of ‘Christian karma’...this was my faith. My spiritual concoction made perfect sense to me. Believing that God would want to reward my good behavior and punish my bad, how could it be any other way?? Interacting with God upon the premise of a reward and punishment system felt very equitable and it seemed to fit perfectly with my daily reality. When I “sinned”, I could swear I felt God’s scorn and shame, his disapproval and rejection of me. The only problem was that when I performed, I didn’t feel the glorious opposite. I felt maybe a lighter version of the negative, something attune to him tolerating me or “toughing out” my existance.
I’d read verses about obedience and “being worthy” and the verses filled me with questions and fear and darkened my personal little shame cloud; my constant companion that drenched me daily in overwhelming amounts of unworthiness.
I’d constantly (secretly) wonder if I was entirely missing it. Could it be possible for me to want the whole thing SO bad and live SO carefully, so intentionally, and still entirely miss it?? It was such a horrific and haunting thought for me.
I was miserable and exhausted. I had no idea how to embrace anything more or better than what I’d been believing and experiencing, until one life changing encounter...
All my bad theology was turned completely on it’s head the day I met a girl. I didn’t know this girl. I’d never met her before and actually I’ve never seen her since. She simply wanted to pray for me and I said “yes”. She didn’t know my struggles or my secret fears. She didn’t know how emotionally and spiritually exhausted I’d been, for sooo long. There’s no possible way she could have ever known.
We sat silently for a bit, with her hand on my shoulder while I cried (as quietly as I possibly could, because I hate feeling like a loud weepy spectacle). I had NO idea what to expect, but after a long pause she softly said, “I feel like I’m supposed to say something to you. What I feel I’m suppose to say, is something someone once said to me, many years ago, but I’ve NEVER felt compelled to say those same words to anyone else until, right now.” She then, gently but confidently said, “I feel like God wants me to say something to you, from him...I think he wants to say, ‘Why won’t you let me love you?’”
My tears flowed like a gushing river! I wept and wept and wept giant, ugly, red splotchy faced, puffy eyed, spit string tears till I had no more tears left to cry. And when I finally felt composed, I also felt new. I felt light. My struggles hadn’t vanished but the shape and color of them had been altered a bit. Heaps and heaps of perceived rejection, disappointment and unworthiness...GONE!
I’ve spent the last decade or so, since that night, replacing and unlearning false and damagingly flawed Christian theology with truth. It’s taken me years to shift my thinking and expectations away from anticipating pain, punishment and spiritual spankings from God, to embracing a Biblically accurate depiction of God. No more making God in to the something that I imagine him, want him, wish him or even fear him to be. Biblical truth says that I have a good God who loves ME and ALL my fellow humans desperately and unconditionally. It’s taken me years to grow to the place of believing, wholeheartedly that God is the giver of good gift and not bad, that he desires a relationship with each of us and that no sin is too great, no mistake or misstep is too much. He wants to take it all, regardless of how broken or flawed we think we are. His love is greater!
My fear, spiritual insecurity, feelings of shame and unworthiness and my ‘Christian karma’ theology unraveled (slowly) as I began to see that I’d been believing mountains of mistruths. I'd had TERRIBLE and completely, unbiblical beliefs! My Christianity didn’t involve grace or genuine love from God. I imagined God feeling more obligatory love towards me, like “She’s family...so I kinda have to love her. I wouldn’t have chosen her...but since she’s here, I guess I love her”.
I couldn’t fathom a reality where God desired ME or my company, my companionship, my thoughts, my time, my humor or that he might possibly think I'm amazing...or maybe exactly like him in some tiny, obscure and unique way...like maybe he could see some piece of himself when he stares into my eyes, like how we’re both passionate and a little intense about certain things, like justice for the hurting. I was incapable of seeing that he could be proud of me, just for being ME...for merely being who he made me to be. And I certainly couldn’t see that he’d been chasing me for years, or that I’d been pushing him away; pushing away his acceptance; not mere tolerance, but 100% acceptance, because I couldn’t accept me...and if I couldn’t even accept myself, how could a perfect God do so?? (Or so I thought)
But in one beautiful moment, my paradigm completely shifted. I tell this story hoping to encourage and maybe inspire, maybe just one person, to step in an unnatural...supernatural direction. Maybe a full step is a bit too much for right now. Maybe just a lean is all you can muster. Even if it’s only an itty-bitty lean, a longing for more, even just that’ll do! Because God will bridge whatever divide and cross any distance he needs to, just to be with YOU! He did it for me and he’ll do it for you too. I'm not his favorite, each one of us are (uniquely)! You're touch might not look exactly the same as my encounter did. That’s OK. Expect great, but also expect unique, because God isn’t tame. He won’t be placed in a box or in a formula or a building or a room. But expect him to be great!
For a while now I’ve been noticing a major uptick in the reporting of stories about child sex trafficking or child sex abuse and exploitation. At first, as I’d happen upon the, sometimes terribly graphic, stories of these victims, I'd get only a few sentences in...maybe as much as a couple paragraphs, and need to turn away.
The horror and trauma that these little kids suffered, and continue to suffer, overwhelmed me and drown me in sadness. The heinousness of it all...I felt sooo helpless. Lacking the access or an avenue for physically stepping in to alter the circumstances of these little souls; it made reading their stories unbearable for me and left me feeling heavily hopeless.
But something's changed! Sometime, over the last few weeks, I’ve gone from feeling that awful overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless feeling to extremely ANGRY!! And I'm not just a little mad either...I’m wildly enraged!
It feels like a fire's been ignited inside me and I can’t just read bits and pieces of heartbreaking, stomach churning stories anymore. I can't wade into the grizzly truth and then wade back out and try to shake off the clinging dark sludge so I can jump back into my role, as mother, to my 4 kids and back into my comfortable middle class, American life, where these sorts of atrocities don't exist. I just CAN'T anymore!
I have no doubt that my "awakening" is connected to the season of life that I'm in; raising my sweet kids and trying with all my might to keep them healthy (spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally) and safe; away from the sorts of evils that crave twisted things and would love to exploit my children...and your children. I imagine my children with each of the terribly tragic accounts I read and I feel even more sick and compelled to action.
There have been many, many moments through the years where I've wished I could reach through time and space to rescue hurting people. I imagine we all have those impulses towards the hurting and towards causes that tug at our hearts. But this one...this reaches notable heights. I've felt a similar level of craving for justice only a couple of times before. One specific time also paralleled a season of my life: pregnancy. I felt a sorrow and heavy burden for children while pregnant each time, but mostly heavily through my second pregnancy.
While I was pregnant with my daughter, Mia, we lived down the street from an abortion clinic and nearly every errand I needed to run required me to pass that building. Often picketers were there, standing on the sidewalk, in front of the clinic with graphic, gory signs depicting the dismemberment of tiny babies. I’d wait at the street light in tears, willing that red light to turn green while feeling my little life, my tiny baby, moving inside me. The light never turned fast enough!
Anger towards the people who'd bring and display those horrific signs, assaulting the general public; innocent bystanders (children included) with awful, heartbreaking photos, might feel like an appropriate response. And yes, the pictures ABSOLUTELY felt assaulting and they felt like too much to handle...too much to know and FAR TOO MUCH to see, but the absence of signs and pictures doesn't change reality. Shielding my eyes doesn’t alter the truth. It doesn't make it pleasant, it doesn’t make it pretty. It doesn't turn death into life or wrong to right, EVER!
Do I wish I could forget those grotesque images, YES!! Desperately, yes! But more than that...I feel an ache and a drive to fight for life; for the lives of the ones who can't fight for themselves: the babies. Do I sympathize with the mothers who have, and are, making complicated (VERY complicated) and difficult choices for what they imagine will better their own lives?? YES, God, yes!! I can’t even count the number of times I’ve thought to myself, "Thank God I didn't get pregnant before I got married!!" Truthfully, I would have rather dabbled with the idea of ending the life of my unborn baby than confess a pregnancy to my parents. I know this is only one, out of maybe a million, reasons a person might consider abortion, but how disturbingly easy would it have been for me to just make it all disappear and pretend none of it had ever happened??
As a mother, pregnant many times over, I’ve felt thousands upon thousands of tiny movements within me. EACH bulge was literally part of a tiny body: an arm, an elbow, a knee, a heel, a bum. Having felt all of this; having experienced the brilliance of life growing inside of me, the thought of bringing it to an intentional end now fills me with unimaginable sadness.
With each sensation of in utero baby hiccups, with each ultrasound and heartbeat check and eventual, PAINFUL but miraculous, delivery, beautiful LIFE was boldly on display. I know that not every pregnancy springs from a love story and regardless of the presence or absence of love, not every pregnancy is joyous...I’ve been there. But ending...killing a tiny human life, this can’t be our first or even last option. Acceptance of this option, or even mere pacifism, is eroding our humanity, mine included.
I know that through this post I’m wadding into some very turbulent and murky waters. These are HEAVY issues that carry deep emotions for people on both sides. There are many, many worthy causes world wide; causes that deserve crusaders with passion and vision and a battle cry; champions who can unify hearts for a common good and work to awaken and sharpen the collective conscience of a nation...of our world.
For me, these two issues, the issue of child sex slavery and abuse and abortion, call to me the loudest. They hold positions of prominence in my mind and in my heart. They're what I see as being two of the top social injustices of our day. A war rages against our littlest and most vulnerable members. One of these causes, we're pretty well in agreement over (as a society)...but as for the other, we're sadly, very divided. These are causes that as a culture, nation and world, we must fight for.
I’m so thankful that our nation is waking up to the evils of child sex trafficking. Yes, I wish desperately that we/I didn’t need this awakening, that these evils didn’t exist and that our world was a safe place for children, both born and unborn.
But the weight of these abuses aren’t burdening me anymore, they’re propelling me to action. I don’t know yet what this ‘need to act’ is going to end up looking like for me or my family. But I know that there’s something I need to do...there’s something I’m meant to be doing!!
I know I'm coming a little late to the fight. But I'm here now!
I need to confess that I was TERRIFIED about saying all this so boldly and about putting myself, my thoughts and my convictions on display. I feel VERY exposed. I imagine there will be some (maybe many) who won't be happy with my words.
I bought myself a ring the other day. The message inscribed on it says, "I am fearless". Quite truthfully, I struggle with fear and anxiety and a longing to be accepted and approved of...but this ring, it challenges me to be fearless and even though I feel fear often, I'm close to someone who never, EVER does. I'm reminded that "Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world" 1 John 4:4. I can be fearless because I AM is fearless!!
“Reentry”...it's such a rugged word! I’m not referring to the version of “rugged” that’s most often used to describe something as being (extra) manly, with a GQ(ish) stubbly chin and a plaid flannel shirt, stretched tightly over upper body muscles, that threaten to burst seams and loosen buttons while this “rugged” guy chops heaps and heaps of wood aimlessly. OH- NO, sister! We’re talking rugged as in space-travel reentry, rugged.
A slough of other, less than lovely, descriptors scamper along supportively through my mind when I think of rugged, as in 'barreling through the atmosphere'. None of which could EVER be classified as lovely. The words rough, bumpy, awkward, painful, uncomfortable, hot, miserable, potentially lethal, etc., come to mind. Now you’re seeing it, right?! Reentry...ick!
So, let’s pretend, for a minute, that the moon, outer space or the great beyond, represent my family’s most recent vacation. It was tremendous! It was amazing! I can't wait to share all about it! We discovered new lands, blazed new trails. We met new people and enjoyed many old ones. We deeply loved EVERY second of it. Truthfully, we didn’t want our Smith family adventure to end, but it had to end. The job and our house and our scheduled return flight, all beckoned us back to reality.
Now we’re re-entering normal life. No more vacation living and reentry hurts! Rather than bumping through earth’s atmosphere the way astronauts do, we’re verbally and emotionally colliding with one another and all our intense relational friction is setting us a blaze.
We’re physically exhausted and emotionally thin. We’re weepy and gristly, not to mention a little sickly. Oddly, I didn’t see the trauma of reentry coming. Maybe I didn’t anticipate it because we don’t vacation often and morning number one of reentry, started off just fine...famous last words, right?!
Morning one started something like this: I got up and started some coffee. My three older kids happily watched a movie and my littlest joy wanted a bath. Piece of cake...at least it should have been.
I happily sipped coffee and fed bites of banana to my bathing beauty while she played with her dress-up bath-toy sponge people. I stepped out of the bathroom for mere minutes (2...maybe), to pop an English muffin into the toaster. I returned to the bathroom to find a guilty little face and a foul confession, “I pooped in my bath”.
Yes, I've written about this same little one’s terrible and traumatizing (for me) poop-capades once before. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often in our family. My first EVER foul encounter was when my oldest daughter was only one. After that, a long, long bath + poop dry spell was ushered in. We didn’t experience another bath issue until this very year; 2 girls later. So, this morning Nyla blessed her bath for a second time. It doesn’t really matter how scrumptious a kid is (and she's really quite scrumptious), bath time blessings (poops) are ALWAYS awful and wrong!
The morning crumbled from there...
My once content older kids transformed into trolls as arguments picked up where their movie left off. They fought over what to watch next and who should choose. Each grizzly child abrasively argued their case and then communication devolved further with fights over who should have choosing authority. Unity vanished and a once clean tub of bath water was replaced with gallons and gallons of bleach water.
I can’t help but wish, as I stare at our tub full of sanitizing solution, for a way to sanitize my kids’ interactions with one another. Obviously bleach water is NOT an appropriate cure for all my woes, but wouldn't it be sooo lovely if there were such a thing as a relationship fixer/cleaner spritzer?! I know I can't be the first mama to imagine the bliss of that possibility. With just a few squirts all the storm clouds would vanish and the negativity and grouchiness would be swapped with sweetness. For now, Mario Kart seems to be doing the trick (well enough), but I know the Wii is just a diversion.
So, to all you mom’s who have felt, or are feeling, the unpleasantness of “reentry”, I get it!! I 100% sympathize. There’s one thing that comforts me on days like these; it’s the knowledge that it won’t last forever! This relieving reality also occasionally turns on me and brings me to premature mourning over the loss of my young family...as if it’s nearly all gone and slipping from my grasp like a vain attempt to hold water in my hands.
Quick side note to all the sweet, precious grannies out there, who comb supermarket aisles looking for frazzled mamas (like myself). I know how you love to impart nostalgic wisdom like, “Enjoy these moments, because they’ll be gone before you know it.”, I have to have to confess...in the midst of the mess and the crazy, with my hair flying everywhere and my mascara puddling under my right eye (the way it unexplainably does), as my kids scatter in four different directions while I attempt to checkout, your wisdom (and it truly is wisdom) feels a bit like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Oh how I wish I could bottle the wonderful pieces of parenthood and simply liberate myself from the awful(ish) parts; sorta like a moment by moment version of 'catch and release'. I’d hold onto that perfect evening last week full of Midwest wonder and fireflies and release the bulk of today.
Still, reentry woes and all, I LOVE my crazy, messy, life and wouldn’t trade it for another. I hope you feel the same way.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.