May 302013
 

This sister’s got some peace and wisdom. Let’s borrow a little today. Enjoy Rachel, Friends. Happy Friday. Love, G

I am an imperfect human being who happens to be a writer. A few years ago, I felt compelled to share my imperfections, my struggles, and my journey to grasp what really matters in life on a blog. This was not easy, but it was what I felt I must do.

Shortly into my journey, I found that in order to gather the courage to share my stories, I needed a place of refuge—a safe haven from unrealistic expectations, harsh comparisons, hurtful criticism, and inner doubt.

I found two such places.

One is an open road about a mile from my house. With a playlist of my favorite songs and the wind at my back, I cry. I laugh. I rejoice, and I pray. In this place, I am okay “as is.” In this place, I am enough. I am refueled.

The other place is the sanctity of Glennon Doyle Melton’s words. With brutiful truths and hope spreading like my grandma’s arms, I cry. I laugh. I rejoice, and I pray. In this place, I am okay “as is.” In this place, I am enough. I am refueled.

So being here today—right smack dab in the middle of my place of refuge—is surreal. I look up and the walls are colorful … vibrant … and it’s not because of Glennon’s red tutu or canary-yellow shoes (although they are lovely)—it’s from every sister that has shared her story, her struggle, her words of encouragement, and her brutiful truths. When Glennon says everyone is welcome here, she means it. And I see the marks you’ve left, my friends. And they take my breath away.

I know my truths will be safe here in your loving care, and I thank you for that.

Friends, this is my story. May it bring hope where there is doubt. May it bring peace where there is conflict. May it bring love where love is needed most.

Thank you, Glennon, for inviting me in, as you have so many. It’s beautiful here.

*********************************

Love as a Reference Point
By Rachel Macy Stafford

On very rare occasions, I find myself alone in the car with my six-year-old. And when I do, I try to stay extra quiet to see what gems my deep thinker might feel like spilling out to the headrest in front of her.

On this particular day, we had just dropped off her playmate. The setting sun was illuminating her tangled curls and freckled face as she gazed out the window with sleepy eyes.

Suddenly, she perked up. “Could you play, ‘Daylight’ by Maroon 5?” she asked, sounding more like a sixteen-year-old than a six-year-old.  “It’s my favorite song,” she added as if she knew her request might require a bit of explaining.

And she was right. Coming from her, it did strike me as an odd song request. For the past three years, my happy, little ukulele player had strummed and sang her way through the likes of Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, and Carly Rae Jepsen. Romantic ballads by heavily tattooed rock stars had never once come from this southern girl’s lips.

But I pushed play on “Daylight,” and ever since then I have been able to breath easier, even on the hardest of parenting days.

You see, as Adam Levine belted out the following lyrics in his signature falsetto, my daughter’s face turned wistful, almost sad.

And when the daylight comes, I’ll have to go

But tonight I’m gonna hold you so close.

Cause in the daylight, we’ll be on our own,

But tonight I need to hold you so close.

My child noticed me watching her in the rearview mirror. As we locked eyes, it was solemnly revealed why this particular song was her favorite. “That song is about morning when I have to go to school,” she said pushing up her tiny spectacles so they sat squarely on her face. “I don’t like morning to come. I like night when you hold me in your arms.”

For a moment, I couldn’t speak. My child’s interpretation of this blatantly obvious love song surprised me. How could she get that meaning from those lyrics? I thought. But then I reminded myself that children make sense of the world using their own experiences as a frame of reference. Therefore, her lyrical interpretation of “Daylight” made perfect sense. The reason this song wasn’t about two lovers parting at daybreak was because my child hadn’t experienced that. But she did know what it felt like to be so safe and secure in your mother’s arms that you never want to leave.

And that’s when it hit me.

Warm, cleansing tears dripped down my face as an indescribable feeling of peace came over me.

For the first time in a long time, I felt I had done something right along this parenting journey. The nightly tuck-in had become my child’s frame of reference.

It was the one thing I managed to do consistently for all six years of her life …

Through the baby years when piercing screams of colic, cutting teeth, sleep deprivation, and sibling jealousy hallowed me out until I felt empty … I still managed to hold her every night despite my exhaustion.

Through the toddler years when pajamas were itchy, getting out of bed was her fulltime job, and lost stuffed animals ensued atomic meltdowns … I still managed to smooth her hair every night despite my frustration.

Through her preschool years when I was present, but absent, focusing too much on electronic screens, to-do lists, and keeping up the façade of a perfect life … I still managed to kiss her face every night despite my distraction.

Through the daily struggles of raising children, I managed to reach my child’s bedside. And for a few minutes each night, I would hold her and say, “I love you,” so those could be the last words she heard, even if I failed to say them in syllables or actions during day.

And through a pop song with a catchy tune on a Sunday afternoon drive, I learned this nightly ritual mattered; it mattered a lot. It was a little beacon of light in a sea of failings, and I intended to grasp it.

Because let’s face it. We need this validation. We need to know we’re doing something right. We need to know our children are going to turn out okay despite it all. We need to know love prevails over failures, flaws, and imperfect days.

Because sometimes the “experts,” the psychologists, the well-meaning friends, the sweet ladies in line behind us at Starbucks, and the critics inside our head suggest otherwise … making us feel like there is more to it than just loving them.

But then you attend an end-of-the-year school program. (And no matter what age the children are, this always happens.) You see a child on stage scanning the crowd with eager, almost frantic, eyes. And then suddenly, her eyes stop. As she enthusiastically waves at a focal point in the crowd, a visible sigh of relief comes from her small chest. If you follow her gaze to see what brought her such great comfort, you will see love etched across the face of the person who met her gaze. That child found her reference point, her source of comfort, her go-to place in times of uncertainty and doubt—and it made all the difference. 

I don’t care what anybody says. It’s the love that sustains them.

Whether he’s stepping into kindergarten or into battle …

Whether she’s walking out on stage or out of a bad relationship …

Whether he’s taking an honest look inward or a stand for what he believes in …

Whether she’s reaching up to grab her dream or reaching down to help the fallen …

When faced with the fears, uncertainties, and worries of life, children need a reference point—a place in their mind where they feel loved and safe. And we can provide that. My friends, we can provide that.

So let’s not worry about doing everything right in this parenting gig. Let’s just focus on doing one thing right: a little love each day.

Love them as they walk out the door.

Love them before they hop out the car.

Love them as they pull the covers up to their chin.

Love them in such a way that it becomes their reference point in a cruel, harsh world like the lyrics to their favorite song that never quite leave their head or their heart.

 

Three years ago, Rachel Macy Stafford admitted the honest answer to the question that had been a long-time source of pride: “How do you do it all?” Rachel’s answer was painfully simple: “I miss out on life, and what I miss I cannot get back.” That very day, Rachel began her Hands Free journey to let go of distraction, perfection, and societal pressure to grasp what really matters in life. Join her on her journey to let go and live at www.handsfreemama.com and by visiting “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook. Rachel’s book, Hands Free Mama, published by Zondervan, will be released in January 2014. 

May 292013
 

I’ve been really, really down for the past two weeks.

I know this because I’m eating like a mad woman. I’m not overeating because I’m hungry or even interested in food. When I get sad I eat like some people work or snark or run or Facebook. Like I’m desperately trying to distract myself from something I’m afraid of. Like I’m frantically trying to fill up an un-fillable hole.

I noticed that this frantic thing was happening a few days ago. Noticing is good. It’s the first step, usually.

I eat mindlessly when I’m down and I get down when I’m lonely. I’m down a lot because I’m always a little lonely. I can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. It’s just the way I am- I feel a little island-ish. I am both afraid of connection and totally desperate for it.

Do you know that I have 80, 000 of you but I haven’t had a real live conversation with a real live friend for weeks?

I think I secretly believe that I don’t NEED real live people. Like I can serve all of you here and that COUNTS as connection. Judging from my mental health this last few months- I’m not sure that’s true. I actually think we might need real life time with real life people. This makes sense, I guess, but I also find it disconcerting.

I fell in love with Sean Penn during a recent interview he did from a refugee camp. He had moved there to help and was completely immersed in the people there. He was passionate and real and educated about the issues. Then the reporter asked him about his crumbling marriage. Penn paused and said, “You know, I love humanity. It’s the humans I hate.”

I loved him for that bit of honesty. It is so much easier to save the world than it is to save yourself. So much easier to serve the world than serve your family and friends.

I have to find a way to help myself out of this low-ness. It’s been a while – it’s time. So I am going to wrap this up here, and go jump in the shower. Then I am going to drive the kids to school and after I drop them off (on time!) I am going to get coffee with some other mamas from school. I am going to sit and be present and listen and share. With humans.

I am going to:

  1. Show Up
  2. Be Brave
  3. Be Kind
  4. Rest

I love you, Friends.

G

 

May 282013
 

Sisters and brothers- summer is coming. Momotony (doing things all day that just get undone and then doing the same things the next day and the next and the next and…) is on its way. Let’s prepare…and let’s remember how our Momastery got its name.

 

 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 wash your bowl.”

Part of my work is writing. I write to tell my truth and it’s a calling and a privilege.  I’ve been told that the most revolutionary thing one can do is introduce people to each other. This is how walls are broken down, prejudices are shattered, and peace is slowly built. That is why I feel honored and grateful to be a writer. By sharing my truth through my writing, others have felt inspired to share their stories with me, and that exchange has helped us to see that we belong to each other.

But the other part of my work is the work I do as a mother and that work sometimes makes me feel isolated and lonely. A mother’s work is the application of a thousand unnecessary Band-Aids and the sweeping and re-sweeping of the same kitchen floor. The folding and creating of little laundry piles. The refereeing, and car-pooling, and dinner burning, and constant cheering on the sidelines at soccer games. Being a mother 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, monotonous, mind-numbing, and solitary.

It’s a monk’s work. Mothers are like monks. We do manual labor. We serve others. We nurse the sick. We feed the hungry and comfort the sad. We sing. We teach. We pray and practice, practice, practice patience. The work of a mother is repetitive. We fold the clothes, we wash the bowls, and we sing the same song and read the same bedtime story night after night.

But that work is our prayer. We express our love through service, so that service becomes a spiritual discipline. As mothers, we devote our lives to love and ask for nothing in return but peace and joy for our children.

So, mothers, the next time someone asks, “What did you do today?” Please take the time to answer accurately. You did not “clean the bathroom.” This response would be like Annie Leibovitz saying, “Oh, I stood around and pushed some buttons.” No. Today you did the holy work of raising human beings. With each word spoken or unspoken, with each offering of forgiveness, you show your children what it means to be brave and kind. The mundane becomes holy, the ordinary extraordinary.

Whenever I feel all alone in the work of being a mom, I think of monks in a monastery—living in community, doing their holy work together—and I picture all my fellow mother monks in their own little monasteries around the world. I imagine us folding together, wiping bottoms together, drying tears together, scrubbing toilets together, sweeping together, spraying together, scrubbing together, and blowing kisses together. And I imagine us all together, after a long day of holy mother monk work, relaxing on the couch and watching some quality television—like “Wife Swap” or “Real Housewives.” Because really, we don’tactually live in monasteries and TV-watching might also be a spiritual practice.

So moms, the next time you feel lonely in the work of motherhood, remember, we are all in this together. Together, we are doing something beautiful: the sacred work of shaping humans and creating the future.

 

*thank you to the brilliant Monkee who coined the word “momotony” a few weeks back. PERFECTION!