The internet has been all a flutter this week over the arrival of the new royal baby. You would be hard pressed to visit any news website or social media outlet and not see something about the big news.
And for each media outlet post, there has been every manner of remark about Kate herself, and the timing and fashion in which she left the hospital. I have seen everything from undying devotion and awe to downright hatefulness. She went home too soon, too fast, she was dressed too nice, and on and on.
April was C-Section Awareness Month and for every article I saw float across my Facebook feed, I saw hundreds of hateful, argumentative and judgmental comments from all sides of the C-Section “debate.” Even an article I wrote about my own experiences with my third baby received some of the most spiteful and downright vicious comments I’ve ever heard in my life.
How is it that we who nurture sweet babes at our breast, who lovingly tuck notes into lunch boxes and blankets under chins long after the lights go out, can be so destructive to one another? How can we who love, hug, cry and defend; we who care for and nurture because it’s in our nature suddenly become divisive, angry and hateful to the very ones with whom we should declare unity – all because of the way in which our children came into this world; or how soon we came home from the hospital; or how we choose to educate; or immunize; or, or, or…
I truly believe that all women mother someone, whether or not that’s what we call it. LisaJo Baker just wrote a stunningly beautiful article on this very idea. As she says so beautifully:
We mother because we can’t not. Because there are friends in the cubicle next to us who have been hurt and need a soft, safe place to come undone. We mother because we’ve watched our grandmas make slow, determined soup for the sick. We mother because the next door neighbor can’t change her tire in the blistering March wind and of course we call AAA for her and wait and shuffle feet and rub cold hands because she asked for help. Because, of course. This is what we women do. We give ourselves away — little bits and pieces of who we are, of our courage, of our deep faith even on the nights we’re the most afraid. We bear down and we find ways to bring life to people desperate for air.
Every decision we make is a global decision.
Like the dropping of tiny pebbles into a pond, every word and deed splashes deep in this world and then ripples out unto the farthest reaches of the shore. One standing on the other side might see the tiny motion of a minuscule wave and not realize the point from which it began, so small and insignificant it seems, but it reached that shore none the less.
It is the same with us, dear sisters. Each harsh word, every divisive comment, every hateful and smug action against one of our sisters ripples round the world and shakes deep the core of our humanity.
Likewise, every act of kindness, each word of compassion, every hand extended in peace changes the landscape of this world. Though they may not seem to splash as loudly, I believe they reverberate far deeper and reach far wider than any act of hate could ever hope to.
What if it started with me, plopping a pebble of grace here, a stone of kindness there, as I walk alongside you, my sisters? Then, what if you joined me? And then your neighbor? My teacher? What if one by one we made our mark? What if the ripples of grace and compassion surged and spread until the whole good earth resonated with the weight of it until one day, pulsed to action by the rhythm of grace, we moved together so that our grandchildren awoke to find this world a very different place?
What if they found themselves raising children alongside one another with support and love regardless of homeschool, public school, un-school, under-the-sea-school? Whether home birth or VBAC or in-the-car-on-the-way birth, each woman discovered herself and her story truly valuable? Truly beautiful?
So, sisters, on this Mother’s Day – and every day after – let’s give one another the gift of grace…and maybe a piece of cake that we don’t have to eat hiding in the bathroom…and together let’s start a ripple effect that will change this world.
I love people. I always have. My nickname in elementary school was Hug-a-bunch. Yeah.
For me, the more people I’m around the better (within reason…huge, massive crowds like those found in Times Square on NYE freak me out), but in general give me people and I’m a happy camper.
I enjoy doing workout videos in the comfort of my own home (Jessica Smith is a fave), but give me a jam-packed Zumba class full of other women rockin’ out and just trying not to catch a glimpse of our own reflection in the mirror, and I’m in seventh heaven. I love it!
However, after living in a large, urban city for just over a year now, I’ve noticed my extroverted tendencies are changing. And, just so we are on the same page, when I talk about an extrovert, I don’t mean someone who likes to talk to anyone and everyone, super outgoing. While I can be that way (just ask my introverted husband), I’m equally happy to just be in a group of people and observe and listen. So, I’m operating from the definition that an extrovert is someone who draws energy from being around people; and conversely when required to spend extended amounts of time alone, find themselves feeling drained of energy.
1. I now prefer smaller, more intimate groups where I feel known, rather than just any gaggle of humans. One of my favorite ways to relax and spend a “me day” was to go to the mall and walk around. I used to love going to the mall at Christmas time. The crowds very rarely bothered me, because it gave me prime people-watching opportunities, and I would feed off of their energy. I would come home feeling refreshed, energized and excited.
These days, I find trips to the mall or window shopping on the local shop street draining and stressful rather than energizing. I’m sure is has something to do with the fact that it’s all in another language and I can never fully “shut down” mentally and just enjoy the experience. But now, give me three or four good friends with whom I feel safe, some coffee and a sweet or two and time to just hang out, talk, laugh, whatever.
2. I need more down time between large social gatherings. I used to be able to go from church, out to eat, to the mall, to an evening hangout and thrive on the energy I got. Now, after church, a school play or a day at the mall, I need time alone in the quiet to recover. This is totally new for me, and it took me awhile to recognize and respect that need. Now, I’m careful not to overextend myself socially – something I never thought I’d have to worry about. Small gatherings with close friends still energize me, and actually help strengthen me for the “bigger” social experiences. For that, I am so extremely grateful. It makes my Tuesday morning coffee and prayer times with my friends here that much more special and meaningful.
3. I need more true alone and quiet time than ever before. I’m finding I need to be very diligent about building in time where I’m truly alone and in the quiet – no music, no media. This is a struggle for me. For one, I have 3 kids and we live in an apartment. I’m trying to get up earlier to get a few minutes of quiet to pray, and energize my soul before the craziness of the day. However, I”m also not a morning person. Like, at all. So this is proving to be a challenge; but I’m learning just how beneficial it is for me and how in the long run it bolsters my energy level even more than an extra half hour of sleep does. Did I just write that? Who am I? Also, did I mention I’m struggling with this one?? Right now, I’m in the “knowing is half the battle” phase. :)
4. Self-care is proving more important than ever. I suppose this goes hand in hand with number 3, but it’s a bit different. I’m learning I need to make time to make my own health a priority. I need to plan – and stick to – times to exercise. If I go more than a couple of days without it, my stress level rises and my ability to handle the noise and chaos being around people nearly 24/7 brings plummets. So, I’m working at making time 5-6 days a week for exercise, and to make the time and energy to prepare healthy, real food for me and my family. Simple, but healthy. Because energy is a scarce commodity for me these days, and spending all day preparing every last thing from scratch leaves me grumpy and bitter, and completely defeats the purpose for which I would be doing it. This is another work-in-progress for me, but the more I work at it, the better I feel…and the happier my family is, I’m sure.
I’m still an extrovert at the core. If I spend too much time alone I start to go crazy and feel like a lead blanket has been laid upon me. But in this phase of our lives, I’m learning that extrovert is a trait with many facets, and I’m enjoying learning more about myself and how I fit into those facets.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does your current lifestyle affect how those tendencies come out? Have those things changed over the years along with your living situation?
Someone once said that Paris is a woman, London is a man, and New York City is a transvestite.
Granted, I haven’t been to New York outside the airport, but after my visits to Paris and London, I must say I find that statement to be shockingly true.
It always amazes – and delights – me how each major European city has a distinct and unique personality.
Paris is the haute cotoure model that intimidates everyone; strong and beautiful inside and out, but with a hidden daintiness that surprises even the model herself at times.
London is the slightly stuffy businessman. He’s all propriety and decorum with a hint of conceit. During business hours, anyway. There’s a wild/unkempt streak running through him that he tries hard to conceal, but it is there nonetheless.
Athens is the vibrant, eclectic woman that lives across the street. The one with the amazing energy, infectious laugh and zeal for life everyone else secretly wishes they possessed.
Dublin is the angst-ridden teenager trying desperately to find his place in the world, not sure if he loathes or loves himself. His convictions and culture run deep and strong, but at times he longs to be anyone but himself.
But Vienna…Vienna is somewhat of an enigma. Some might call her a melting pot of cultures, languages and ideas, but I see her with starker dividing lines than that.
Vienna is like the Johnny Depp of cities. Vienna is the city that is cool beyond reckoning – without even trying or meaning to be, and I’m not sure she cares. She can be both stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly disturbing.
She is full of art, music, and culture; vibrant and alive, brimming with life, love and creativity. Sometimes you feel as if your very breath might be stolen away by the sheer weight and magnitude of the beauty displayed in the most mundane of places and around unlikely corners.
Other times, she scares the crap out of you with her dark secrets and mysterious ideas that are more terrifying than intriguing.
Vienna is a city loved and revered by young and old alike. The elder folk loving the tradition, the stability, the classical nature of architecture and music that runs deep in her life’s history. The young come for her vibrant night life, new ideas in art, science, language and more.
But when I love Vienna the most – when I most relate to her and feel I most belong – is in the morning. Early. This city never stops, it is always teeming with people. Streetcars. Subways. Taxis. Buses. All the time. Day and night.
The morning commute is somewhat of an anomaly that resonates deep within my own heart. The trams are full, subway cars packed to the brim. Sidewalks and stations full of people, of shuffling feet. And yet, all is near silent. Words are only spoken when absolutely necessary, and eye after eye is bleary and groggy.
In one way, Vienna is quite the morning city. Schools and businesses open early, and people are on the move before the sun many days. And yet…she is also like the jazz-playing-actor who spent too many hours the night before wailing a tune or spinning a tale for friends over a drink. She functions in the morning because she must – but she’s not happy about it.
I love the morning in Vienna. It feels like a collective protest against rising early and getting things done. We’ll do it, but we don’t have to like it, the city declares in silent unity. This, too, is how I feel about mornings.
By midmorning, and certainly by the lunch hour, the delicious coffee has been had and the city is truly awake and interacting with one another. Conversations in a hundred different languages heard on every street all the live long day.
Yes, Vienna to me in many ways is a very strange city; one that I will likely not ever fully understand. We have had our ups and downs, not always having started off on the right foot. But Vienna and I? We’ll always have the mornings.
Having grown up a desert rat in central and southern Arizona, skiing was always somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It was something either rich people did, or college kids on winter break. Certainly not an option for a girl like me: not an athletic bone in her body who lived hours away from any possibility of snow.
Then we moved to Austria.
During the week long semester break in February, just about everyone in Austria who has kids does one thing: go skiing.
My husband, who grew up with a ski-instructor for a father, also naturally grew up skiing. He’s told me fondly many times how he remembers skiing between his dad’s feet when he was only three or four years old. Our nomadic lifestyle, coupled with the fact that most of our adult life had been spent in either Ireland or Texas – two places not well known for great ski conditions – made it so it had been years since Seth had been able to ski, even though it’s one of his favorite pass-times.
Guys, I was slightly terrified. Excited, but terrified.
I mean, what if I was awful at it? What if I hated it? What if I embarrassed myself, not even able to make it down the kiddie slope? What if I broke my whole body??
1. I’m physically stronger than I thought. My instructor (yes, I took lessons rather than my husband teaching me. We were told it would be best for our marriage…I believe “they” were right. Anyway.) started me out not with going up the mountain on any kind of lift, but side stepping our way up. “To help me get a feel for the skis and my body on them.” Ha. Also, once I did use a lift, it wasn’t the kind with a seat. It was just a rope that I had to grab onto for dear life as it tugged me up the hill, but also had to let go of soon enough that my hand didn’t get sucked into the vortex of death. You guys, I spent the day tugging, pulling, squatting, lifting, bending and all manner of other “-ings” and I’m not too humble to say I rocked it! I had much more stamina and physical ability than I would have imagined (Thank you Shuan T and Insanity!). At the end of the day, my muscles were totally shot and that’s when I learned the next lesson about myself.
2. I’m mentally stronger than I thought. There were several times when I just wanted to give up. Like the time I ventured higher on the run and bit it big time and slid halfway down the slope on my back. I briefly asked my husband to just bury me there and go on; and tell the kids I love them. But I got up anyway, and my mind gave my body the strength to continue on – without breaking every bone!
3. My husband and I make a pretty darn good team. This one I knew – it was cemented home in the deepest corner of my heart just how great a team we make after the birth of our first child. However, I was reminded of it again this trip. After the massive face-plant described above, Seth was encouraging me to try again from the higher spot on the run. I was – ahem – less than willing. He offered to go with me, and I reluctantly agreed. As I started down the slope, speed caught up with me quickly and I started to panic. That’s when I heard his voice behind me, “You got it. Pizza slice the skis. There you go, good. Now turn, gently. Keep turning, keep turning. Great! Now straighten out. Yes! You got this!” and so on. Man, guys, just hearing his voice – so calm, so confident – gave me the mental boost to get myself under control and do what I had been taught to do. Cross over into real life? Uh, yeah. In short, my husband rocks and he’s my hero.
4. I’m more of an athlete than I thought. I have used many words to describe myself over the years. Athlete or athletic has never, ever been one of them. However, as I was skiing down that hill, it hit me: I am actually quite athletic – as long as it doesn’t involve a ball, puck, or any other such device. I’m great at sports that require self-awareness, balance, and good body control. A friend bestowed the word “sporty” upon me when she saw a photo of me on the slopes on Instagram. At first I balked, but now, I take that adjective and own it proudly!
5. I’m still not an adrenaline junkie or extreme sport enthusiast – and that’s ok! I have spent most of my life (and particularly my childhood) wishing I was something other than what I was. I wished I was more sporty, or better at math. I wished I longed for adventure and excitement; that I would love the “thrill” of the free-fall feeling on a roller coaster. The truth is, I just. Don’t. I’m finally, at the age of 36, starting to feel at home in my own skin, and appreciate who and how God made me to be. I don’t want to waste any more time mourning the things that I’m not – and that Susie Smith next door seems to be. No. While I never want to grow complacent in life, and I never want to be unwilling to push myself and try new things, I want to spend my energies and time developing and honing the skills and gifts God placed in me from the beginning. Skills, gifts and talents He gave me on purpose. For a reason. To wish those away for some other trait or talent I see in someone else is not only insulting to my Creator, it is denying and wasting who I am.
So, there you have it. Some deep personal/spiritual lessons I learned about myself last week while undertaking a new and scary endeavor that I ended up loving.
When was the last time you tried something new and/or scary? Did you learn anything about yourself? Share in the comments!
Bombs exploding around the world.
Children gunned down in their schools and classrooms.
The world is going to hell in a hand basket and it flies in the face of what we see and hear during this Christmas season.
We sing songs of Joy, Hope and Peace. We declare peace on earth and goodwill to our fellow man, and yet what we find when we step outside our doors or turn on our televisions or scroll through our Facebook feed is the exact opposite.
I read an article the other day bemoaning this exact state of affairs. The author shares her experience of how she no longer anticipates Christmas with excitement and jubilance, but rather with lament. She says,
Around this time of year I become a battering ram of lament, pounding against the season’s greetings and wreath-clad doors. We are dying here and there are none to comfort. Does anyone sense the dissonance between our Christmas songs and our actual stories? Does a quick scan of the headlines remind you that Christ, the deliverer, is a long way off? Does anyone care that West Africans are still dying of ebola, Syrian families hang by a thread and brown bodies are under constant threat in their own country?
When I first read that, my heart groaned in agreement. Yes!, I thought. Why are we proclaiming peace and joy when we should be mourning and lamenting the state of the world and the godless existence so many experience?
Yet, something didn’t sit right with that thought alone. My heart laments the state of this world. It breaks under the weight of grief, despair, depravity, hatred. And yet, I sing.
Peace on earth, good will toward men is not some naive declaration of the way things seem to be every time December rolls around. It is not some empty platitude used only to fill the void and make an attractive Christmas card.
Joy the the World is not merely a rote exercise in remembering better days long past. On the contrary.
It is a prayer. It is a cry lifted to the Holy One, to continue to bring about His master Plan.
It is Hope embodied as I turn from that which is seen to that which is unseen yet so desperately hoped for.
It is a reminder that the best is yet to come, and this world hasn’t been fully left to its own devices. Yet.
These days, these dark times are but a glimpse of what humanity without Divinity would be. We are looking head-on into a dingy mirror of our own souls and seeing what would become of us if left to our own devices. If the Holy, the Almighty, the Great and Compassionate God were to remove the entirety of His presence from among us.
I sing JOY because I see what could be, and I see what He has done.
I declare HOPE because I see what Christ has rescued me from. It may seem now like a mere tiny candle flame in a Grand Canyon abyss of darkness, but it flickers there nonetheless.
I sing PEACE because I look ahead to the day when our Prince of Peace will come and make all things new; will make things as they were always meant to be before the decay of pride set in on that day so long ago under the apple tree.
The darker the day, the louder I will sing.
Because though my heart lament the Shadow of the Valley, my soul will sing His praise because the break of dawns glows dim on the horizon.
My soul grieves in the depths of me for the evil in this world, yet my heart shouts joy! because I’ve been lifted out of that miry, disgusting grave.
My view today is only as a smeared image through a filth-coated glass, but I see it anyway and it burns hope so deep and so hot that song nearly bursts forth on it’s own.
These days are hard. They are dark. Full of pain and grief. Humanity groans just like a woman in labor for the pain. But I sing PEACE and I sing JOY and I sing HOPE all the stronger because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is more than able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Will you sing with me?