Sep 192011

“Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

I’m not sure how to explain what has happened in our family during the past week.

I think it might be best to just report it, without commentary. I’m not real sure what any of it means yet, I just know that it means a lot.

Last week, one of my little ones had a full blown panic attack. Heart racing, drenched with sweat, vomiting, clenching my arm so tight that I’m still bruised….repeating “Mommy, I’m dying. I’m going to die.”

During the days after the attack, Craig and I came to believe that our baby’s anxiety is due to my deteriorating health. I’ve been sick for a month straight now . . . in bed by 8:30 every night and weak all day. The kids are noticing, and they’re afraid. The whole family is, but it took the ingenuity and courage of our little one’s body to make us all face our fears.

So one night last week, Craig and I sat down to talk. To really talk.

I will just tell you that we removed that “love barrier” I wrote about before and we finally told each other the truth.The whole truth, the broken and confused and resentful and lost truth. As we spoke honestly, without holding back, we came to know things that we’d each been avoiding knowing. We admitted that I was really sick. And that my illness was putting some stress on our marriage.

But we also admitted that my illness wasn’t the real problem between us at all. My illness was just making our real problems harder to avoid seeing.

We have come to believe that our real problems are that we’re not taking care of each other in the most important ways. We each have needs that the other isn’t meeting, that the other doesn’t even know about. Our problem is that we are not best friends. We want to be, but we lack the skills to reach each other. We are so different. Craig survives by skating gracefully on the surface of life and I live at heights and depths that he can’t see and doesn’t know how to reach. I do not skate. I crash and fly. So, the Truth of the matter is that within our marriage, we are each lonely. I am high and low and he’s in the middle and we can’t hear each other, we’re so far apart. We admitted this to each other. We said it out loud.

We admitted that we are good at taking care of our children, we are good at taking care of the world- but we are not great, yet, at taking care of each other’s hearts.

We admitted that we needed help.

Because we also agreed that we love each other so crazy much. We will die trying to take better care of each other. There are no other priorities for us. We will find a way to trust each other with our real selves, to become best friends.

So I called a Monkee whom I love and respect and is a therapist and I said, “Help me, please.” She drove from another state and met me at a coffee shop and let me talk for three hours. Of course she did, because We Belong To Each Other. She helped me find therapists for my littles, to help them deal with having a sick mama, and for Craig and me, to help us learn how to become best friends. That’s what we want. We want to learn how to know each other, inside and out.

We start therapy soon. We are afraid and excited. We have felt something shift between us already. We are on the verge of something new.

It’s kind of like we are deciding, once again, to marry each other. And by choice, this time. I mean, I’m not even pregnant. Craig must be wild about me, to start over like this. To want so badly to be my best friend. And he’s my favorite thing on God’s Green Earth.

Anyway, wish us luck.

Also, My Favorite Monkees:

Love You,


P.S. Thanks again, Lyme.

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.

Jan 182011

There was a couple who’d been married for twelve years. The first two years were good, happy even . . . but then the kids came and work got hard and money got tight and the shine wore off of each of them. She used to see strong and silent but now she saw cold and distant. He used to see passionate and loving, but now he saw dramatic and meddling. They allowed themselves to become annoyed with each other. And so they stopped being careful. They stopped taking care of each other because they each decided they needed to look out for themselves.

And the distances between them grew longer and deeper until it felt impossible to touch even when they were in the same room. And one day she said to her girlfriend. . . I just don’t love him anymore. And it felt terrifying and exciting to say. And he said to his buddy . . . I don’t know if I ever loved her. And their friends said what about counseling but it all seemed tangled up too tight to try to unwind.

She got home from work one evening and fed the kids and put them to bed and she was tired to the bone. And he was late again. Late again. And even though he was late and the house was a mess, she knew that he would walk in the door, pour his glass of wine, and sit down at the kitchen table and relax. He’d sit and relax. She couldn’t even remember what relaxing felt like. She was always either going like hell or sleeping. Somebody had to keep the family running.

She stared at his bottle of wine on the counter. Then her eyes wandered over to their wedding photo on the wall. Clueless, she thought. We were clueless. But happy. Look at us. We were happy. We were hopeful.

God, please help us, she said silently.

Then she walked over to the counter and poured a glass of wine for him. She put it next to his book on the kitchen table, the place he loved to sit and relax, and she went upstairs to sleep.

He tiptoed into the house fifteen minutes later. He knew he’d missed the kids’ bedtime again, he knew his wife would be angry again, and he prepared himself for her steely silence. He hung up his coat and walked into the kitchen. He saw his glass of wine, and his book, and his chair pulled out for him. He stood and stared for a moment, trying to understand.

It felt like she was speaking directly to him for the first time in a long, long while.

He sat down and drank his wine. But instead of reading, he thought about her. He thought about how hard she worked, how early she woke to get the kids to school and herself to the office. He felt grateful. He finished his wine and then walked over to the coffee maker. He filled it up and set the automatic timer. 5:30 am. It would be ready when she came downstairs. He placed her favorite mug on the counter. And then he walked upstairs and quietly slipped into bed next to her.

The next morning she woke up and stumbled downstairs, exhausted, to the kitchen. She stopped when she heard the coffee maker brewing and stared at it for a few moments, trying to understand.

It felt like he was speaking directly to her for the first time in a very, very long while.

She felt grateful.

That evening, she stayed up until he got home. And she allowed her arm to brush his as they prepared dinner together. And after the kids went to bed and they assumed their TV viewing positions on the couch . . . he reached out for her hand. It was hard, but he did it.

And things started to unwind. A little teeny bit.

Look. I know it’s hard. It’s all so damn hard and confusing and complicated and things get wound up so tight you can’t even find the ends sometimes.

All I’m saying is that somebody’s got to pour that first glass of wine.

Because love is not something for which to search or wait or hope or dream. It’s simply something to do.