Jun 052011

*A new monk in a monastery had just finished his breakfast. Finding the master alone, he approached him and said, “What is the meaning of life?” The master replied, “Have you had your breakfast yet?” “Yes,” the monk said. “Then go and wash your bowl.” *

One thing at a time. Pay attention. Listen while you work.

I’m feeling small and quiet today, and I like it.

I’m wearing a flow-y cotton dress and the start of a tan and a pink flower in my hair. My hair is loose and curly because I ban the blow dryer in the summer. I’m embracing my inner flower child. I’m peaceful and happy, at the moment. Which is strange because I’ve been on the receiving end of loads of bad news this week. News about the deteriorating health and marriages of friends. News about Monkees with sick children and breaking hearts. The world seems to be falling apart, all the time, and it can be a little stressful. Especially if one is stubborn and insists upon trying to make sense of it all. Trying to make sense of things is the kiss of death.

During the past few days I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes. It’s a book in the Bible written by a man named Solomon who insists that we quit trying to make sense of things down here. He was a powerful king who used his life to study happiness and the ways of the world. He determined that the hard cold facts are that bad things happen to good people and wonderful people die young and bad people get rich and good people starve and power is abused and people lie and cheat and steal and will do so forevermore. In so many words, he suggests that maybe we should quit saying, “everything happens for a reason” because what the heck do we know? Nothing makes sense. There is no discernable pattern, no way to avoid pain or predict what will happen next to whom. Solomon’s ultimate conclusion is that in the end, “a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.”

I can dig that.

We all must figure out what our work is. Sometimes it’s what we get paid to do, and often it’s not. Some people’s work changes with different seasons of life and others are called to the same work for a lifetime.

Part of my work is my writing. It’s also a calling and a privilege and a ministry. It’s not my most important work, though. The world could certainly do without it.

My real work is the work I do as a wife and mother. It’s the application of a thousand unnecessary band-aids and the sweeping and re-sweeping of the same kitchen floor and the folding and creating of little laundry piles. It’s the refereeing and car pooling and dinner burning and play-date hostessing and dog walking and tantrum monitoring and diaper changing. Being the mother of small children is a little like Groundhog Day. It’s getting out of bed and doing the exact same things, again and again and yet again – and it’s watching it all get undone, again and again and yet again. It’s humbling. It’s repetitive and solitary and mind-numbing . . . it’s monks’ work.

That’s why I named this blog Momastery. Because we mothers are like monks. We do manual labor, we serve others, we live in community, we nurse the sick, we feed the hungry, we comfort the sad, we sing, we teach, we pray, we breathe deeply, we devote our lives to love, and we ask nothing in return but deeper relationship with God and others, and peace and joy for our followers. Most importantly, like Monks, we are charged with the fearsome privilege of teaching our little people what God is like. With each reaction, each word spoken or unspoken, and each offering of true forgiveness, we teach our children what God’s love is like.

And He knows that there is nothing more important, so He is in our work with us each day. Like monks, we fold the clothes. We wash the bowls. We practice patience. We watch it all come undone and we do it again, as an offering. Our service to our family and our communities is our prayer. Our work is our prayer. It’s how we show God that we Choose Love, every moment. Since loving others through service is our choice, it becomes a spiritual discipline. And eventually our minds shut down and our souls wake up. And there is the miracle that monks and parents share. God speaks to us in the mundane. We worry that what we do is menial and insignificant . . . that people out there do more important things . . . but we are so very wrong. Our work in our homes and with our families is the type of work that is most conducive to prayer, to meditation, to peace. It is the ultimate work. This is why monks choose it. The ordinary is the extra-ordinary. God is in the details, you know.

Lovies, when someone asks . . . what did you do today? Please take the time to answer accurately. You did not “clean the bathroom.” This would be like Annie Leibovitz saying, “Oh, I stood around and pushed some buttons.”

No. Today I created an entire world for my family, my friends, and my neighbors. And I found God in that world. God and I talked and worked together all day. We love this family, God and I. And He loves what I do. He knows how hard it is; He knows. He’s so proud of me for taking care of this family. For getting out of bed each morning and starting over again – just like He does. We are up with the sun, God and me, loving these little people. He cherishes them even more than I do, so He’s grateful that I choose to be His partner in raising them. He is so thankful that I’m willing to spend my life teaching these people what it feels like to be Loved and to Love.

We don’t have to leave home to take journeys together – God and me.

We fold together.

We wipe bottoms.

We dry tears.

We scrub toilets.

He does seem to abandon me before every damn meal preparation. Perhaps it’s His break time.

Then we sweep.

And we spray.

And we scrub.

We tuck our angels in.

We straighten their rooms and blow kisses and shut their doors. We leap with joy that the day is done.

We make things beautiful together, God and me. He is into this, this world and people creation thing. We have it in common. It is work that we share.

Like God, you are an artist, and your canvas is your family.

May God Bless You in your work today.

One thing at a time. Pay attention. Listen while you work. Everything’s a miracle.

Jun 182011

Two weeks. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve written to you, and that’s officially how long it takes ya’ll to become worried about me.

I started getting “are you okay?” emails a few days ago. Then the “we really do appreciate you” emails trickled in, a few at time. When the “I’m praying for you, G!” messages started, I figured I’d better get back to the computer.

It’s interesting to realize that if you drop off the face of the Earth, a lot of people will notice and care. It’s a little terrifying to a roly-poly person like me, someone who likes to curl up in her shell and pretend she doesn’t exist. It’s scary to allow people to have expectations of you, to allow yourself to be needed. Once I got overwhelmed by others’ expectations and I decided that I wanted the Universe to leave me well enough alone. So of course the Universe said, Sure Sweetheart, Try It Your Way. I moved to a small town where no one knew or needed me at all. And it was wonderful – for about three months. Then I started dying a little. Being isolated from others, it’s like having your circulation cut off. You start to get numb, and then you start falling apart. It’s hard to be needed, but it’s harder not to be. So anyway, thank you for needing me. I need you, too.

While we’re on the subject, I must tell you that I’ve stopped replying to Monkee messages. I was losing even more sleep and worrying all day about to whom I’d responded and to whom I hadn’t – and whether my responses were good enough, helpful enough- and it got to be a little unhealthy for me. This blog is my big old thank you letter to the world. If you send me a thank you letter for my thank you letter I will be thrilled and delighted. But I won’t send you a thank you letter for your thank you letter for my thank you letter. Not right away, at least. I’ve never been big on etiquette.

What you do need to know is that your emails are the fuel for my writing. I read and save every single one and they make me cry and think and laugh and they are what propels my bottom back to the computer. I need your emails.I need you to tell me how you feel. And here’s my promise to myself and to you: I will respond to every single one, eventually. You and I may be eighty when it happens, but it’ll happen. Wouldn’t that be grand? Emailing each other as elderly monkees? I hope we’ll still be wearing our sassy hoodies.

Here’s what’s happening over here. I’m in a strange limbo-ish place. I keep swaying between gratitude and sadness.

I am grateful that my children and I are settling. I am grateful for my new community, my new neighborhood, my new church. I love my church. Church can be such a good place, done right. If you need a church home, you should come visit us. Sweet Loretta will welcome you and our pastors Elliott and Elizabeth will inspire you and we will all sing to you. You will be safe.

In my new community I’ve found several women whom I seem to need already, and who seem to need me, too. This is the kind of neighborhood where people expect a lot of each other, and that is good for me. People are all up in each other’s business and home and families the way people are supposed to be. It’s very small town-ish in that way. This small town way of life requires hospitality.

I have always yearned to be hospitable – my obsession with monasteries never ends, and I want my home to be like a monastery . . . to exist for others, to always take people in, to be a safe place to hide. I want this to be a home not just for my family but for my neighbors. Unfortunately, this sort of thing – hospitality- doesn’t come naturally to me. I have always felt terror at the prospect of having people over. But the thing is that I have a very narrow comfort zone, and so if I only do things that don’t terrify me I will spend my whole life in flannel pants on the couch with several bottles of Nutella and the Housewives.

So I’ve been practicing being a good neighbor, making myself open my front door and worry less about a clean house and pretty food and more about the people who enter. It’s been really, really, good. Letting people in is crucial for me. I can’t pretend that what I do here is enough. Letting people into my head and heart through my writing is not the same as letting people into my home and family. Gotta do both. And the more I practice hospitality, the better I get. I don’t mean the more Martha Stewart I get, I mean the less Martha Stewart I get. The less I concern myself with how my guest feels about my home and my food and the more I concern myself with how my guest feels. I can handle being that kind of hostess. And I amI’m doing it.

My home has been filled with people lately. And I’m discovering a new side of myself, who actually likes this hostessing thing. It’s like when I got Theo and realized…Oh my God, I’m an animal lover! I thought I hated animals and now I’m ready to get naked for PETA. Who knew?? Life is like playing with those little Russian nesting dolls that pop out of each other one at a time….just when you think there can’t be any more versions of yourself . . . look! There’s still more!

And in the midst of all my gratitude, I’ve also been very sad because of the adoption. Still nothing definite, but all signs point toward not gonna happen. Last week I was sitting on my back deck staring at the stars and begging God for a miracle, and I experienced major deja vu, which is God’s way of saying . . . Focus up, Sister – We’ve Been Here Before. I was reminded of my twelve year old self, sitting on the back patio of my childhood home, praying for a miracle. The miracle for which I was praying was that God would allow me to meet and marry Sebastian Bach from the eighties band Skid Row. Now I’m sure Mr. Bach has had a lovely life, but I just can’t imagine that giving myself to this man in holy matrimony would have been good for my long-term sobriety.

Now I don’t really see how adopting an orphan from Africa and marrying a drug addicted eighties headbanger would be similar. I’m just saying, life is weird, so maybe they are, what do I know? Maybe I don’t have a clue what the hell kind of miracle I need right now. Maybe God’s saying –

I know better, Lovie, I can do even better. It’s just like I told you on Bubba and Tisha’s patio when you were twelve . . . G- Hold On. Mr. Bach isn’t the one for you. Trust me. In fifteen years you’re gonna meet Mr. Melton….

Even though my soul knows that all is well and always has been well and will continue to be well -my heart is sick and my head is panicking and grasping at straws, trying to fix unfixable things. My head is such an ass.

My head is saying . . Kay. Next PLAN. Domestic adoption? Pregnancy? Nothing? Decide, Decide, Decide! My head is always trying to cheat loss with replacement. It says to me: Skip the grieving, it’s too hard! Get busy, get distracted! Sadness and stillness are too uncomfortable, too unproductive . . . let’s get moving!

And my soul says . . . No, honey. There are no shortcuts. Let It Be. When you skip the grieving, you miss the blessing. More will be revealed. Just sit with this. Life is sad sometimes, it’s okay to be sad. Even if you are surrounded by more blessings than you can count. It’s okay to be sad.

It’s okay to be grateful and sad at the same time.

My new friend Beirne taught me that. It’s a long story, which I can’t wait to tell you in detail, but basically she taught me that things can fall under the and/both theory. Two things that seem contradictory can, in fact, both be true. I can tell my family and friends that I’m fine, that I’m grateful for what I have, and mean it. And I can sit by myself in the bathroom and cry for what I’ve lost, and mean it.

These days, I am full of joy and sorrow. I am blessed beyond what one woman could hope for and I am also yearning for more, different, else. I am content and sad. Full and empty. Both/and. It’s okay. It just is. I’m human, you know.

Probably typos in this one…not gonna edit. Children all over me. 1,386 hours till school re-opens. Sweet Jesus Have Mercy.

Jun 302011

It’s six am and I already hear my littles stirring. This makes me sad because – well, because they’re awake, honestly. But mostly because I’ve had so little time to write to you lately and I miss it so much. Most of my life I’ve lived off of five hours of sleep a night. Now, because of the Lyme, if I don’t get ten hours I’m a mess all day. So there goes my writing time, and it’s making me a little nuts. I have all these posts swimming in my head each day and no time to write them to you. But listen – in September, Amma starts preschool, which I am devastated (ecstatic) about. And then I’ll have three whole mornings to write to you each week! Recently Craig and I were talking about that extra time and he said, “It’ll be so great for you to have that time to get the grocery shopping and cleaning done!” I just looked at him and laughed and laughed.

Okay, quick update:

First-no final word on the adoption yet. The reason we think it’s not going to happen is that the officials in the country from which we are adopting have become super strict about the criminal records of adoptive families. For example, a few families have been initially rejected for ten year old violations like “trespassing” and such.

Now please understand that had I been ticketed simply for trespassing in my festive days, I would have considered it a banner day. A day to write home about. Let us just say that in general, I have been much more poorly behaved. I laugh at trespassing. Ha. Ha. Ha. Trespassing? C’mooooooon.

As a matter of fact, after learning about this new strictness, Craig has predicted that we will receive a letter from the ministry of our adoptive country saying that not only have they decided absolutely not to give us one of their orphans, but they have cleared out some room in their orphanage for Chase, Tish, and Amma and are sending for them immediately.

And honestly, with the way that they’ve been behaving this week, I’m not sure I’d appeal that decision.

So there you have it. That’s where we are. Waiting each day for a final decision so we can get some closure or celebrate a miracle. You know what, though? I’m really okay. I have my sad, sad moments but mostly I’m all right. There’s not a moment that goes by that I don’t feel completely forgiven and even grateful for my festive past, but I also accept that there are some unavoidable consequences of the choices I’ve made and crazy life I led. For some strange reason, I wouldn’t change a minute of it. None of it, no matter how this turns out. I love my mistakes. Love the twisty, tumbly ride I’ve survived. It’s made me an open and loving and forgiving person. And so if this doesn’t work out – I’ll try something else.

But there will always, always, be an extra chair at my family’s table for a child who needs one. Actually, there are always several extra chairs available at my table because at meal times around here everyone hides. I’m just saying- if you know a baby who needs a home- I know a family who needs a baby.

*No background checks, please. Gotta be a pretty desperate baby.

Tomorrow- book update.

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