Hi friends. I’m over at The Lookout Magazine today talking about how in the early days of parenting, I tried to be a perfect mom and then eventually began to rely on God instead. Here’s an excerpt:
I had a conversation with myself this morning, and it went like this: “My son’s 20-month appointment is coming up. I should probably research what vaccines he’s going to get, but I’m seeing Jayla today and I need to remember not to talk about it because she is very offended about vaccines.
“I wonder if he’s getting enough nutrition. He didn’t eat fruit last week and has declared war on vegetables. Maybe he won’t grow this year. What if he doesn’t grow? Must remember not to ask Betty about it because she’s a vegan and would die if she knew my kid was on a steady diet of chicken and more chicken.
“He didn’t sleep last night. I wonder if he’s teething. Must remember not to mention that to Susanne because she believes in the attachment theory and would shame me forever if she knew I didn’t go rock him back to sleep.”
That sounds like a fun conversation to have with yourself at 6:30 a.m., right?
A few years ago, we were living pretty disconnected and frazzled lives. Kyle and I barely passed each other in and out the door each night, and we were beginning to deprive one another of companionship. When we had Keegan, we decided to make some significant changes in our family rhythms to create a slower life, and in doing so–we redefined the word “boring.”
I’m over at Today’s Christian Woman this week talking about how embracing the mundane has changed the rhythm of our family, and also my spiritual life. See the article here.
I’ve been a journaler since I could write legibly, and I have the elementary pre-teen angst journals to prove it. They’re mostly filled with elaborate stories about boys I liked and American Girl dolls I wanted, but in between all the elementary crazy, there’s a question or two tucked in those pages about the meaning of life and spiritual curiosity. We grew up going to church on occasion, and we always showed up for the big holidays, Christmas and Easter. We dressed in our best, sang carols, and read the story of baby Jesus coming into the world as a yearly tradition.
Ever since I was a little kid, I loved learning about this big, infinite God who created everything there ever was. In my little eyes—I could never get enough of him. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know God. I’ve been curious about what God had to do with the human existence, if anything at all. As a fourth grader, I can remember being up late at night wondering if life had meaning, if any of this was real, and if the way I saw the color red was the same way someone else saw the color red. I was a spunky, philosophical little thing, asking adults questions like, “Do you think God exists?” as icebreakers to conversation.
During my middle school years, a family friend invited some of us to attend church with them one weekend. I’d never heard of a “Christian” church before, and coming from a very mainline Protestant background–those evangelical-types always seemed a little funny to me. It was everything I didn’t recognize or understand; people were dressed in jeans and approaching God like a familiar friend instead of a frightening man in the sky. I envied the way they spoke of God, as if they are referring to someone they’d just been with that morning, and I wanted to know if I could have access to a God like that.
When the worship leader got up to lead us in music, everyone all around me started singing right out loud, which was startling at first. A few raised their hands, some sang while sitting, and a small crowd quietly hummed to themselves. Because I loved music, I sang along with them, and wondered if the God they were all singing to could hear me, too.
I don’t remember anything about the sermon that day, but I do recall picking up a Bible for myself that morning and reading it with my own eyes. The first thing I read was in Romans 10:11-13, “For the scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I couldn’t stop reading. I took a Bible home with me that morning and poured over its pages for the next several weeks.
I met Jesus that year.
I was in seventh grade, and seventh grade is a particularly cruel time in anyone’s life—much less a girl’s. Seventh grade was a hard year for me for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because in lots of ways, I felt like I was losing my sense of home. Although my parents tried their best to maintain stability through the divorce (and I can never thank them enough for that), there was an inevitable piece that always felt broken and torn, no matter how much we wanted to put it back together. I had two addresses instead of one, different closets, different school busses—all kinds of different, really, and I had the zits to prove it.
But there on that Sunday morning, Jesus became my home. And every time I come to write, I come back to that truth—that there in my awkward years of wearing leopard-print pants with clogs (true story), Jesus met me. It was a naïve and simple faith, but it was Jesus all the same.
I’ve grown since then. My understanding of who Jesus is has continued to change and evolve, my perspective of God is bigger and richer, and in many ways harder and more complex. I don’t believe there’s a simple answer to everything anymore and there are days I actually long for the simple faith of my youth. But even still–even in the midst of my existential wandering, questions, and doubts, every time I come back to the Word, he is there, reminding me. Jesus is my home.
As I prepare my heart for Advent this year, I’m reminded of the picture at the end of John 6 when Jesus is talking to his disciples. At that point, many of his followers had decided he was no longer worth following, and Jesus says to them, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” And Peter replies, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I relate so much to Peter in this exchange–as I continue to grow and pursue God, I’ve watched people walk away from Jesus or just quietly drift into a faithless sleep. And I’ve drifted, too, of course–I’ve been in and out of a vibrant faith, sometimes even crawling my way back to trusting and believing God. But Peter’s words to Jesus touch me. When the uncertainty or pain of life feels like it might swallow me whole, I am just like Peter, saying, “Where else would I go, Lord? You are my home.”
During this Advent season, it has not escaped me that regardless of our circumstances, or no matter how far away God feels sometimes, he is not like our feelings. He is so much more, so much bigger. We can have as much of God as we want, and he withholds no good thing from us.
“You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who’ve never had any.” (Bill Cosby)
Truer words have yet to be spoken.
I confess, I was a little afraid of myself pre-parenting. I thought I would fight the comparison-game, size up other parents and wonder whose kid was better at eating organic carrots. I envisioned long days sitting outside of pre-school pickup, dodging other moms with fear of judgment and scowling.
But I’ve been shocked (and relieved) to find the very opposite. When I see a mom of three shoving goldfish into her kids’ mouths in the checkout lane, trying desperately to get them to be quiet and leave the store with limbs attached, all I think to myself is, “Solidarity, Momma. Solidarity.” Or when I see a mom going through the Drive-Thru at McDonald’s ordering a 3rd round of chicken nuggets, I just think, “Do work, girl. Do. Work.”
And just when I thought I was heading into the most judgmental season of life, where moms everywhere stared at one another and we all wanted to hide, I found the opposite. Instead I found companionship, support, and love. My inbox flooded with prayers, support, and encouragement. All I really feel is one big metaphorical hug from Mom-land.
I know Mom-wars are out there, but I haven’t fought them. What I’ve found instead is a group ready to support, give pats on the back in the grocery store, offer a shoulder on the strung-out days, and laugh when someone’s kid is having a meltdown in Aisle 8. We’re trying. We’re all trying. And I could care less if you bottle-feed or breastfeed, co-sleep or have-that-baby-in-the-crib-on-night-one, stay-at-home or send your kids to daycare. You know what? We’re all trying. And we’re all different. Let’s hug.
Cheers to you, Mommas. And an extra-special thanks to those of you working hard to make this space one that’s ready to embrace those of us who still aren’t wearing mascara in public. We know we look a mess, and we’re thankful for you.
By the way, this is what Keegan really looked like yesterday.