Monthly Archives: March 2010

What Insecurity?

I’m in a Bible Study every other Sunday night. It meets in Hudsonville at someone’s house, and women from all over the Grand Rapids area crawl out of their lives and into this basement to connect with God and each other. What’s so interesting about this group of women is the diversity. I was invited by Stacy many months ago, and I originally pictured the group to consist of women like her: women who love Target, who love old movies, and who host craft nights. This, naturally, seemed like it would be a great fit for me. Immediately, though, I was surprised. These young women truly have one greater thing in common over any hobby or interest, and that’s Jesus. I couldn’t tell you from the months I’ve been attending who is close with who, who shops with who, who lunches with who. Usually this is pretty clear with groups of women; even when we have no intention of being divisive, we still manage to hang with our own kind. But, this group has truly been designed by a God who is ultimately creative. Some of us are moms, some are single, some divorced, some dating…but everyone who comes is struggling, in some varietal way, with herself.

The book that was chosen most recently for our study was Beth Moore’s “So Long Insecurity; You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us”. When I found out this was our book, I was thrilled. Mainly because Beth Moore had earned my trust as a teacher with her Believing God series.* I need to re-do the Believing God series each year in order to pound in the Truths that my stubbornness and humanity don’t always let in. My heart is much more open and accepting than my head seems to be. I even get frustrated with Beth Moore, but in a backwards way. Some of her points and her word choices are so pround, so beautiful, so largely impacting, that I don’t know how to respond! And it seems she brushes over them. It’s an odd thing to be frustrated that a writer or teacher is TOO right. I only hope that she, as as well as her other readers, have the patience, intelligence, and wisdom to soak in the validity and direction of her advice and observations.

Within my first read, I began searching for a highlighter, fearful that I might lose a thought that is so central to my life right now. (I lose things easily, even my spot in a book). But these thoughts are so True, so helpful and so honest, I needed to make a greater note of them. Some stand still by themselves, steady as rocks, without any commentary needed. Others I felt are better if is elaborated on.

1. “I realized that maybe I don’t just doubt myself. Maybe I subconsciously doubt God for using me.”

2. “Insecurity’s best cover is perfectionism. That’s where it becomes an art form.”

3. “Loss of favor and approval and harmony is excruciating to people with insecurity.”

4. “Never think for a moment that pride and self-centeredness have no role in insecurity.”

5. “We can be so blessed in certain relationships that our unrealistic expectations often seem met and, therefore, reasonable.”

#1–It’s difficult to face as a Christian the potential you have as a human being when you’re open to all of God’s capabilities. Through people, God parted seas and performed healings. (In fact, He still does. All the time.) People are His greatest vessel for contact with brokenness and dysfunction. But I’m constantly doubting my own capabilities. I just don’t realize how offensive that has to be to God, who not only created me, but who’s hands I put my life into. To say that I’m not good enough is to say He isn’t. It’s totally backward thinking, but I get stuck in it everyday.

2#–I’ve always seen the pursuit of perfectionism as ambitious and respectable. That is, until I’ve seen the people in my life who aim for perfection completely crumble under this pursuit (including myself). But I’ve never realized the correlation between perfectionism and insecurity. They are close family. I never realized that trying to be perfect is actually a method of compensation.

#3–If you know me at all, then it will be no surprise to you that this statement hurt. But it’s something I need to hear, and I need to be secure enough not to cave under conflict or consider it to be my personal responsibility to resolve conflict, even when it has absolutely nothing to do with me.I

#4–No comment.

#5–I believe that I’ve experienced this truth more than any other mentioned. I’m so blessed in my relationships I don’t know what to do with myself! Without realizing it, I become spoiled and even more insecure because these blessings are overly abundant and entirely undeserved. (Josh, by the way, is the greatest example here. To say he is a blessing to me is a sick understatement).

I will continue to wrestle with what other roles insecurity has in my life; and I think this book will cover most relationships and identities that are present in my life right now. And if you’ve been a victim of my insecurity before, please accept this apology. And pray for me to keep working on it.

*I’m finding out that my spiritual skepticism, in itself, is an enemy to my faith. Often disguised as discernment, this skepticism keeps me locked up and tucked away. I’ve been exposed to so many authors and teachers over the years, and I spent a portion of my life disgusted by any book that would have the author’s portrait, plastic-like and polished, on the front cover. When I went to Family Christian Stores to purchase the book, I felt embarrassed carrying it up to the front, as if it was a Joyce Meyer or Joel Osteen book. (Both, I’m sure, offer many people hope and guidance in their walk with and search for God). I’m learning to swallow this, because ultimately it’s my own insecurity (ironically) that bears these feelings. And I’m incredibly proud to say that I own a copy of the glossy book that has a horribly written..and unbearably long…title

Frailty

Saturday mornings at JP’s are busy with chatter, coffee spills, counting change, long lines, and moving through laughing crowds. The energy is alive and familiarity feels tangible. 80% of these weekenders of regular customers, ordering the same half-caff, skim, easy-on-the-syrup drinks they do every single Saturday. I look forward to this shift–and even prefer it–because of the bubbly people and the casualty that the weekend brings. (During the week, people order coffee because the need it to survive the big meeting or because they are running late for work. On the weekend, they slept in an extra hour and are there because they can go for the 20 oz. drink and take their time).

I remember first telling Josh of my favorite customers over a year ago. A warm, friendly dad brought his two children, a boy about 9 and a girl about 5 or 6 years old, in for breakfast. I used to think that he was letting Mom sleep in each week, but over time I eventually discovered this gentleman was a single father. The way he treated his children, I thought, is exactly what I hope to emulate as a parent. Spencer, the son, was the cutest boy I’d ever seen. I used to tell him that I wanted Jack to be just like him. He looked exactly like his dad. You could instantly tell they were buddies. And Emalee was the sweetest, most innocent child I’d ever been around. Her hair was always parted perfectly with a strategic bow or barette placed over the rubber bands of her pig tails. I found their trio so special, so inspiring. And I had so much respect for Rick, the hero of a dad who could melt any heart of stone. Being around him simply made me want to be a better person. I believe people are placed in our lives like this as messages from God; the connections of the human spirit are so deep and beautiful that words do not belong on them. I can’t explain why I felt so drawn to this family, but every Saturday morning, I couldn’t wait to see them put their coats on the black chairs of JP’s.

At work this morning, as I’m opening the store and stocking the lids, I mention to a co-worker how thrilled I am that I would get to see my favorite customers. It had been three weeks, which was probably the longest it had been that I had seen them in over a year. She tells me the words that have haunted me all day: “Yeah, Bec. Rick died. He fell at his house.” My response was so instaneous: “No. No. No. No.” …grabbing my throat because I’m losing air… “No way. You have to be thinking of someone else! Please!” She continues with more information about the incident, leaving me gasping for air and feeling like my entire reality is somehow crashing down around me.

I wasn’t particularly close to this family. In fact, I wasn’t close at all; I merely watched their interactions from a distance, absorbing their affection from afar. But, I was, in one instant, so deeply affected by grief I had nothing to do but run. I ran to the back room, pacing back and forth as the tears fell. I crouched down, as if that would help, holding my knees and rocking. I pictured Rick’s face, the face that drew me in with kindness. I couldn’t believe—can’t believe—this wonderful man is gone.

The grief I’m experiencing is of course for Rick, for his amazing life as an ER nurse, for the thousands of lives I imagine he made better simply by being in them. But, my deepest concerns, the part that shakes my bones, is thinking about his children. It is baffling to me that God would allow such an incident to occur when all He had to do was simply break a fall. These children will never sit on their daddy’s lap or come to JP’s with him for Saturday breakfast and hot chocolate. It’s unfair. It will never be fair. And I have to live on remembering that Spencer and Emalee will grow up, graduate college, get married…orphaned from their dad.

Maybe we all need to realize now and again not just how precious life is, but how fragile it is as well. Each of us walks up and down stairs, in and out of doors, around corners…that could change the course of our life or even threaten it, at any moment. To say that each moment is a gift is such a cliched understatement, I almost didn’t want to mention it. But, it’s a message that is so desperately worth mentioning and even more worth heeding.

I would give all I have in order for Spencer and Emalee to have their dad. Without even knowing him, I would cut off a limb to bring him back to his family, back where he belongs. But I am prayerful that as his children ache for their daddy, they find their Heavenly one instead. I am hopeful that they remember how special their dad was, and that they grow to connect with him even though he is Elsewhere. And I’m trying to be thankful for everything I have, none of which I deserve, and the frailty of the lives that are most precious to me.

Michigan!

I decided to revert back to my old habit of throwing on tennis shoes mid-evening and going for a ‘quick’ run on a pre-determined, overly familiar route. In Michigan, January and February (and, oh lord, even March) can become so dreary that the collective mood is as gray and dead as the clouds that loom above us. But, occasionally, there will be a winter day that the sun decides to show up for and the icicles no longer look like daggers, but rather like melting popsicles. The sky is blue again, and you can actually tell where one cloud ends and another begins. Days like this are so preciously rare that strangers begin to converse, which, in February, is almost like giving someone you’ve never met a love note. The sun is bold and proud, and color glows everywhere distinguishably. It becomes beautiful again.

The summers here in Holland are unmatched. In fact, during the summer, I can’t believe anyone would even bother living in the bi-peninsular state unless they were settled on the west side. Life is bursting from the lighthouses; and restaurants are packed with people with sunburn, open shirts, and sandy feet. The Grand Rapids is surprisingly artsy, so there are outdoor fairs or displays to attend weekly throughout the summer. Everyone responds to the weather with such gratitude, making up for the months they spent in hibernation.

Having married a Michigander, I’ve heard about how wonderful Michigan is for years. Josh even published a book about our state because he loved the idea of promoting it and having an excuse to experience more of it. (Case in point: taking his pregnant wife to the U.P. for a ‘babymoon’ before Jack was born. This is not a Texan’s idea of a good time). For years, I overlooked the beauty that is here because I didn’t have windshield wipers to get rid of the snow. It’s all I could see. I couldn’t appreciate the sailboats on Lake Macatawa because, in a few months, I’d have to start my car an hour before driving it and watch my house become an igloo.

Today was the unique compromise of the two polarized seasons, and it’s this kind of day that I live for. The air was crisp enough to make breathing fluid and effortless throughout my run, and instead of looking down at my next step–fearing that I’d land on black ice and fall backward–I was able to look ahead at the long stretch of sidewalk that my feet couldn’t cover fast enough. The tree branches that hung above me were picturesque with the sun rays poking through the holes. Even when my ipod would shuffle to a disappointing 90s tune (normally this gives me an excuse to stop, rest, and find a worthy song), I couldn’t help but run faster and farther with an ear-to-ear smile on my face. I felt like I was slicing the wind, blowing in its gusts past the same stores and buildings I’ve run by a thousand times; but today, I noticed.

I only wish I could create this happiness when the sun is hiding, giving its love to wiser states who chose to be down south. Like many things in my life, when I run in the winter, I’m so consumed by the next block of sidewalk, the next patch of ice or melted puddle, that the run has very little contentment. All I see is gray; all I’m concerned about is my next little step or frozen finger tips. I don’t even think to try a new street, notice a ‘for sale’ sign, or watch kids making snow angels. I honestly believe I miss half of my life because my eyes are down, not up. My sky is gray, not blue. My belief that the sun is still there is small and useless.

Today was a reminder to all of us that the sun IS coming! But regardless of what is going on around me, I’m going to miss most of it if I’m only looking at my tiny next step.

Engedi

Josh and I began the search for a new church home 4 weeks ago. Let me take you back a bit before explaining why this is so important.

Josh and I were both pastor’s kids, both raised to know and love Jesus, both grew up in several church homes and were over-familiarized with youth group songs and common liturgy. I believe, somehow, we both maintained an innocent, dependent love for God despite our over-exposure to hypocrites, politics, and pious religious debate. We made our way through college trying to help each other answer questions about faith, doctrine, and other religious wonderings that college courses are supposed to dig up. We wandered down paths of lingering questions and human wisdom, straying from our home base of the Christian message. We did this at different times, one being the anchor for the other when we were drifting, allowing a new idea or trend serve as the current for our spiritual direction.

Somehow, even through the pain and discomfort that doubt was creating, we found solace in Mars Hill and especially our pastor (you might know of him…), Rob Bell. There were times in college when we couldn’t even proudly proclaim we were Christians; but, in the gray chairs of the Mars Hill auditorium on Sunday mornings, God found us. At least, he found me. My spiritual life was dying, but I could water it just a bit, just enough, at Mars Hill. My foundation in Christ was still there, buried underneath the weight of doubt and worry.

When we moved to Colorado, Josh and I were convinced that there was no church like Mars Hill (I still believe that), and it almost wasn’t even worth looking for a church elsewhere. (I don’t have time in this post to address how spiritually flawed and deeply misguided that thinking is). It took us a while to land at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, CO. There, God opened my eyes to the Church at large and taught me that He is bigger than any one religion or institution, and that His followers are supposed to look for Him in ALL things, EVERYWHERE. Flatrions is uncompromising when it comes to the Gospel, so I was able to widen the perimeters of my heart and make more room for the Good News that Jesus was still, in fact, my Savior.

Having spent 2 years opening up this reality, learning from new teachers, and accepting more of God’s grace…returning to Michigan was almost spiritually frightening. I felt as if I was going to go backwards. (Again…FLAWED thinking). Once we got all cozy in the mitten that is now our home state, we returned to Mars Hill. Except, when YOU have changed, everything that is from the past looks different, and it even feels different when you try it on. Josh and I clapped our hands to the music, prayed earnestly during church, and had a decent discussion about the sermon on the 20 minute drive home. Once we arrived, we’d close the car doors, go inside the house, make lunch, and move on with our lives.

Whatever had been alive in us spiritually was struggling to grow, merely holding on to the small drops of water we gave it each week. Josh blogged, Facebooked, and read magazine articles about religion, religious politics, a new Jesus trend, or anything else that had a spiritual echo. I completed a Beth Moore study during this time, hoping God would tear down the walls of my mediocre, controlled spiritual room. In some senses, He did. And I know that Josh’s interest in religion, at its core, is/was to pursue God through examining other pursuits and understandings (or misunderstandings) of what is ultimately REAL and True. Not all good things, not all bad…but all WAY too reliant on our own interests and interpretations.

Eventually, something grew stale. When Jackson was born, a spiritual awareness shifted. (I can’t imagine it NOT, considering Jackson is the most important gift God has entrusted to us thus far). The staleness became almost moldy. What was familiar and comfortable was no longer challenging. We began to talk about looking for a new church.*

This morning was our 4th Sunday at Engedi Church, and we’ve committed to giving each church that we “try” a 6-week period of faithful attendance and prayer. The reason I felt so moved to mention our spiritual past (which is the tip of the iceberg) is because today I felt like it was a turning point toward our spiritual future. Occasionally, even through the seasons of drought, I will have the connection with God through worship that is so beautifully intimate, I don’t know what to do with myself. Literally. I want to dance, but not weirdly. I want to sing, but not loudly. I want to cry, but not hysterically. Yet my emotional consciousness dissolves into a puddle of tears, and I surrender.

Today, it was the line from “In Christ Alone” that reads “From life’s first cry to final breath / Jesus commands my destiny” that did me in. We’d just heard an amazing sermon about mystic activism…the way in which Christians must have a spiritual belief in Christ as God’s son and allow that belief and reliance to bear fruit of action and response. This message was powerful to me (and the congregation added it’s fair share of “Amen”s!). But when I sang the line about the first cry…and the final breath…I couldn’t help but–in one instant–be completely overwhelmed and overtaken by three connected ideas: 1. I love Jackson and would give my life for him 2. God loves me enough to give His life for me and 3. Jackson’s existence is nothing short of a blessing given to me by my Living and Heavenly Father. As you can imagine, experiencing these feelings in one colliding second can bring a person…especially, perhaps, a mother…to tears of joy, surrender, and love.

I’m unsure what church family will eventually be ours. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have yet another season of drought, doubt, and spiritual distance in my life. But, tonight, I’m so amazingly grateful for the Grace that is given to me, freely and openly. That God is patient enough with me and loving enough to provide both coves of spiritual rest as well as long, sandy stretches of spiritual endurance. I’m most especially grateful that the greatest Gift I could ever ask for is downstairs, sleeping in dinosaur pjs that say “Snore-a-saurus”. And I’m grateful for Mars Hill, Flatirons, and Engedi, each for their own unique response to God’s callings. It has been an honor to attend each place, watching the seeds of Jesus being planted all around. It will also be interesting to watch where God places our family, which we’ll only know in time.

Regardless of where our church family is, I’m so thankful that revival is here, Jesus is coming, and while I’m here for the blink in eternity that is my life, I get to spend it pursuing God with Josh and Jack, experiencing Him in the daily miracles of making pancakes, playing hide-n-seek, and butterfly kisses. The tears that poured during “In Christ Alone” are hopefully similar to the ones that will fall at my ‘final breath’: tears of thankfulness, awe, painful awareness, and most importantly, tears of Love.

*This post, or any other for that matter, is not intended to–in any way–draw people away from Mars Hill. I believe it’s wonderful, and I’m continually amazed by the fruit of the Mars Hill community in the world. I’m sure I’ll always feel that way.

Biology

I found out today that good friends of ours are pregnant with their second child. They’re first child is 3. I discovered the news at church, when the husband was cradling a friend’s 6 month old. He leaned over to tell me that he needed to get used to this again; he’d be cradling a lot in 6 months. I filled with glee, opened my arms to give them both a hug. The news of other people having a baby makes me elated. I watch my friends’ pregnancies closer than I did my own not only because I love my friends as family; but also because there’s a part of me that wants to live vicariously through them, possibly as a way to skip over my own experience of having to go through it again someday.

There were things I loved about being pregnant, but my son is 18 months old and there isn’t a single day…not one…where I’m not reminded of the difficulty of my pregnancy and the aftermath of my postpartum period. I have no interest in whining about it anymore. I don’t even wish it was different. There is no way I could be the mother and person I am today if God didn’t deliberately pull the rug out from under me. There’s no way a controlling person can unlearn control unless it is taken from her. Completely. I feel like I started over, from scratch, rebuilding who I am, what’s important to me, and where my life is going.

I can’t say I’ve arrived at Who I’m Supposed to Be. I honestly don’t think I ever will while Jesus is Lord (which, if you didn’t know, is forever). I won’t be That Person until I’m with Him. But, while I’m here, living the blessed life of Josh’s wife, Jackson’s mother, and everything else I am…I feel like I have recently found a wholeness that I couldn’t feel before. Undoubtedly, this feeling is from and of God, but it also involves that gifts, wounds, trials, and blessings that have been handed to me.

The past year and a half has been a long, deep search for identity, purpose, and balance. All the while adjusting to the overwhelmingly amazing responsibility of keeping a little human being alive. I feel like…just now…I’m merely beginning to live the life I’ve been struggling to uncover. I’m afraid to rock the boat because God just began to calm the storm around me.

But when I celebrate other friends’ new babies, the befuddling miracle of life, I can’t help but wonder when the next child will make his or her way into our family. But the pressure from questions like “Are you guys only having one child?” or “When will Jack be a big brother?” can boil within me. Occasionally I’ll feel inspired by them, but most often these questions make me want to run and hide or cry out in fear. The innocence of the question is impossible to respond to when my own insecurities overwhelm my thoughts within a single moment. I realize that most people assume that a happily married couple with one biological child MUST be planning on having at least one more. And surely this happy couple…like most…wouldn’t want their children to be TOO far apart (gasp!). I’ve thought the same things myself about other couples, especially ones who have one child who is going on 5, 6, or 7. “Aren’t they going to have more?” “Why are they waiting so long?” Before having a child myself, I never even thought to consider that perhaps Mom struggled with depression, her career is on hold, dad could get laid off, they need more time with child #1, they might be moving, Mom just got in shape again, they’re not ready for midnight feedings, child #1 should be potty-trained, they can’t afford it, or…they’re Just. Not. Ready.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to go through another postpartum experience. The truth is, though, I know…whenever it happens…it’ll be different. Better. And I do want to give Jackson the irreplaceable experience of being a sibling. But, I will pursue it when it feels right. I believe God speaks to me through intuition. I can discern the difference between a Godly intuitive feeling from a superstitious, flippant one. And I am confident he will tell me very clearly who our child needs to be and when/how we are to pursue it.*

This has definitely given me perspective on how to handle unknowns. I hope to be more cautious and respectful when I ask loaded questions. And I hope to never ask a loaded question and pretend it’s a casual one. Unless a person is an intimate friend, I have no access to the cobwebs and wounds that lie beneath their surface. And unless you’re my intimate friend, you don’t have access to mine. So, be careful what you ask.

And to my pregnant friends and to my amazing sister who gave life to my nephew 6 weeks ago, I’m so thankful God has given me not only YOU, but also your babies and bellies to love before he gives me another of my own.

* Josh and I have been in prayer and ask your partnership in prayer for whether our next child should be biological or adopted. God knows the answer; just pray for discernment, patience, and direction on our parts so that we can clearly hear His response.

The Sewing Room

I can’t remember how many pictures we had growing up with my sister and I posing, wearing matching dresses. Most sisters have similar memories. But Sara and I had a mother that made several dresses for us a year with floral designs, extremely low waists, and poofy sleeves; and usually a satin bow made it’s way into the outfit, normally atop a spouting ponytail. We had Christmas dresses and Easter dresses, and the occasional mid-year dress because fabric was on sale.

Mom majored in Home Economics and knew her way around a sewing pattern. Most of the time, she barely even looked. In each of our homes (except the Princeton apartment from ages 5-8), there was a room dedicated to her sewing. That was completely normal to me. Sara’s room, Bec’s room, Sewing room. The ironing board was there, possibly old frocks and coats in the closet, but the room consisted of her sewing machine, table, and a stool for us to stand on for measurements. Growing up, I didn’t even realize that mom was participating in something creative or enjoyable. I honestly thought all moms did this. And I certainly had no understanding of how talented she was.

In college, I remember making fun of a co-worker at Barnes and Noble because she and her friends would get together and sew exotic-looking clothes from the Renaissance Era. (Ok, perhaps there’s a lot to tease about this). The sewing, however, seemed stranger to me than the choice of era. I thought to myself, “Who sews besides Moms with nothing to do?” Rude, yes. But, nevertheless, it’s what I thought.

I first changed my narrow mind about this craft when one my best friends from college…the friend who has always been one step ahead of me towards “cool”…the friend who I rely on for an annual mixed cd so I can be in-the-know…told me she was taking a sewing class. She even made curtains for her modern condo. Hmmm. “Maybe I don’t have to be so close-minded afterall.”

At MOPS, I struggled with the idea of doing crafts bi-monthly with other moms. I never had been able to see myself finding pleasure in such maternal triteness. But over time, I began to look forward to the glue sticks and markers. This shouldn’t have surprised me so much. In high school, I ran with the theater and music crowd and could also be found in the art wing working on sculptures, paintings, or developing my own film. Creativity, I felt, was in my blood. But scrapbooking, sewing, and crafting seemed to be in a different category, and it took months before I could really admit to myself that I liked it. And even longer before I could admit that I loved it.

After the flower pin awakening, I began doing collaboration pieces with flowers, frames, and the ever-popular artistic use of phrases and words. I even got up the guts to ask at local boutique owner if I could sell my pieces in her store. She said yes. I haven’t decided if she said yes with a sense of obligation because I was a regular shopper or if she really did, in fact, like the flowers. Still, I brought them in with a picture frame that displayed the “Becca Bee” logo proudly. (The previous night, Josh helped me design a logo and come up with “Becca Bee” as the name for my designs. I was thankful we landed on that; otherwise, it would’ve ended up atrociously called “Whispering Petals” or some other generic phrase that sounds like a desperate poem title). She put them right by the register and came up with a price. Becca Bee designs was born.

It’s amazing how things in life really do come full circle, and how you’ll end up doing things you never, ever thought you would do. I’ve always trusted my artful eye. I know how to put an outfit together, where to hang picture frames, and what to purchase from Hobby Lobby to make a room 100% complete. I can feel the rhythm of music in my bones and know that a beat is working, that a harmony is missing, or that one string on a guitar is out of tune. I’m not that great at any of these, just comfortable enough to trust my own judgment. But I never thought this creative energy would end up with needles, thread, scissors, paint, scrapbooks, and glue. I feel…in some small un-admitable way…like my mom. Especially when I’m stitching, ever-particularly, the fabric petals of the flowers.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if Jackson grew up with the reality that mom is busy; she needs to measure your inseams; she’s in the sewing room.

Flower Pins

I’m taking on a new identity as a “Flower Girl”. One of my dearest friends, Stacy Spykerman (who is also Josh’s cousin) has introduced me to an all-consuming world of sewing and crafting. (I could and WILL have to write a post committed solely to Stacy and the millions of reasons why she’s wonderful). I tend to be the type of person who jumps in with both feet when I’m interested in something. When I began to love music as a child, I ended up learning the piano, flute, violin and guitar because I needed a taste of everything. (I have only kept up my piano skills and I can make my way through most guitar songs that involve major chords). The same is true of fabric flowers.

Stacy and I always try to keep up on mutual inspiration and disciplined crafting habits. Because she works and I stay home most days, our craft dates are usually in the evening, and they get interrupted by my child who needs a diaper change or who is dancing naked in the living room. Evening conversations are always choppy and challenging at our house before 8 pm, when the munchkin goes to bed. She and I will be threading a needle or analyzing a fashion website and then…gasp!…we get attacked by the playfully aggressive little man that seems to run this household. Still, our co-efforts have managed to be fruitful. We figured out, one dreary winter afternoon, how to assemble a fabric flower based on simple pattern we found online. We worked slowly and carefully, making each fold of the fabric simple and deliberate. We chose buttons for the centers: “Should I use a white for simplicity or make it pop with turquoise?”. And when we were finished, the result was a delight! The flower pin was born.

I know Stacy believed that the flower pin was a success and she no-doubt wanted to continue making more. Me…on the other hand… I thought the pin was SO fabulous that I needed to hit every fabric store immediately, stock up on a variety of fabric scraps, and work continuously until I had a fabric garden of them! The flower pin brought me so much pleasure and happiness not only from making it, but also from allowing a small handmade item to represent me. Flowers are such a simple delight in life, and it almost felt like these pins grew from the snow-piled soil that had become my creative life. There was life again! I began distributing the pins to close friends, using them as test runs. Lindsey (Paul’s, my brother-in-law’s, girlfriend) added a pin to her bright red pea coat that had a navy floral fabric, a multi-colored floral fabric, and a small orange button. (I loved the way it looked, but I also loved how it changed and brightened the coat.)

However, when I get carried away with something, I don’t always have an end result in mind. I sometimes dive into things without ever even CONSIDERING the goal, end result, or destination. In fact, sometimes I deliberately ignore it. I have countless examples of this in my life, including moving to Colorado, cutting/dying my hair, having a baby, picking out my first car, and choosing a prom dress. At prom, I had to live with the reality that my dress was probably second-best to the one I could have loved if only I had shopped an hour longer. I hope my days of “I feel like doing something different!” and ending up with neon-yellow hair are over. (I remember my dad looking at me and my sister as we stood in front of the mirror doing the “It’s not THAT bad” routine and saying, “I have 2 words: 1. butt 2. ugly”. He was right. It took 2 boxes of brown dye and 2 years of growing it out to prove it). I made flower pins the same way: I had absolutely no idea what I would do with them, but I knew they made me happy.

Once I looked at the pile of flowers on my kitchen table, I decided it would probably be best for the flowers as well as my creative efforts if I made a plan for them, found them a purpose or a home. I pinned a few on other friends, made a frame concoction for others, and decided I would take the rest downtown to a boutique to inquire about selling them. I wanted more coats in this town to look like Lindsey’s, sporting a badge of delight on their collar or front pocket.

Graciously, the owner of the store agreed to sell them. She also asked that I put them on headbands and bring them in this weekend. I will most likely spend my evening rummaging through thrift stores and Goody hair supplies to find the perfect headbands for this project. I’m fortunate (as are the flowers) that they will be displayed, hopefully admired, and possibly even purchased. Things, overall, tend to turn out that way for me, even when I don’t even know that’s where I’m headed.

This whole experience has been very symbolic for me. I’m so grateful that my spontaneity and passion, although aimless, usually land somewhere beautiful. I’m blessed through the chaos of my own decisions. And even though I’m not the most put-together person and oftentimes my ideas are like balloons that float away, I want to be just like the flower pins I make. I want to make other people lives better and brighter just, simply, by being pinned on.

Monkey Business

If you don’t know this already, my son is the cutest boy that has ever lived. I would die defending that statement. No other person can make me laugh simply by shrugging or finding their bellybutton. The most hilarious part of motherhood for me thus far has been watching my son independently develop quirks that, seriously, were never modeled for him. The shrugging does not seem like it would even be noticeable, but imagine a chubby, blue-eyed one year old boy meandering about in a diaper and a long-sleeve tee. He looks up at me at the table, eyes widened with expectation, realizes Mama is busy, and shrugs his shoulders so purposefully that it looks as if they’ve fallen two inches in his shirt. His arms hang like a chimp’s. And he trots away from me, arms swaying, his steps deliberate and loud. His whole body is expressing disappointment that Mama isn’t eternally available to play. His fat feet even drag behind him as he makes his way to his inferior toy box.

Perhaps I shouldn’t find my son’s disappointment so adorable. If he only knew that Mama was applying to graduate school in order to allow for more possibilities for our family or paying bills so he can sleep in a cozy, heated bedroom. I’m confident in the attention I give my son, so when the shrugs come upon him, I am able to laugh at the monkey that walks away from me. He transforms his body to an ape-like character, never having seen a monkey move except on Baby Einstein. Maybe I’m confirming Darwinism; or maybe I’m merely amazed at the concept of individualism.

I remember being pregnant (all too well) and discussing our baby with my husband, Josh. We would talk about the scientific realities taking place within my body, how one plus one equals two and cells contain DNA and do their job. But it was impossible not to be fascinatingly dumb-founded when thinking of our child taking on characteristics all his own. Case in point: monkey arms. I had nothing to do with creating this primate-like child. He decided, in his small, glorious brain, to shrug so hard his shoulder blades might disconnect, in hopes of getting my attention.

I have many fears as a mother, but one of my biggest, most consumable fears is that I’m going to forget. I never want to forget how his legs roll under his diaper, the sound of his feet slapping the floor as he runs to get me in the morning, how he confuses “Shh” with “Choo-Choo” and puts his index finger by his mouth for both. I never want to forget the monkey arms swaying back and forth. I never even want to forget the slaps I get in the face as I pick him up from the gym or church nursery: he runs to me so quickly his stumbly feet can’t keep up, I pick him up and swing him around, and he is so full of thrill that he puts his thick, little hands to my face–almost as if he is confirming it’s me–and moves them so quickly in excitement that it ends up whacking me.

I know there will be a day when he rolls his eyes when I pick him up because he doesn’t want to leave his friends. There will also be a day when the stories of his monkey business cause him to withdraw, blush, or change the subject. There might even be a day when he sees me and decides to run not toward me, but away. For now, knowing the depths of our beautifully mutual admiration, I’d rather be slapped.

Goodbye Journal

Sorry, Journal. My journey with you was long, meaningful, and necessary. But, unfortunately, my motivation to keep you around has become too low. Primarily, you require too much of my wrist and forearm. This may seem silly, but consider that I have a 35+ pound child that I tote around regularly. This child also uses my entire body as a jungle gym. My arms are busy swinging, moving, throwing, lifting, sifting, rearranging, changing, cleaning, opening, closing, placing, holding…my wrists also suffer from these inevitable activities. The weight on my forearm required to prop up my son on my hip, holding his bottom tight enough so he doesn’t topple onto the linoleum, creates a tiredness that…unfortunately for you…keeps me from picking up a pen. So, I’m moving on to the art of blogging. This is difficult because it’s less intimate for me. I will miss our candlelit sessions at night, listening to the melodies of Josh’s snoring. I will miss the inflections of my private voice and the openness of your gloriously blank pages. I will also miss the beautiful design on your cover, encouraging me to find the same intricate qualities in my own life. You helped me find the mosaic charm of my everyday life as a mother, wife, teacher, and child of God. But, our visits together have been too infrequent lately. I haven’t grown or searched these past months because of the basic reality of the pen being too tiresome to work with. It’s time, then, for me to move on.

Hello, Blog! From the start, you must know that I don’t really like you. This is a tough place for me because I’ve chosen to invest in this relationship, even though I don’t believe in it. I already miss my journal. You will never smell as good as its pages. You will never give me reasons to shop for quality pens. But, I still believe it’s worth giving you a shot. Here’s why.

You are more available to me in this time of confusing contentment. My time is more precious now than ever. But my heart and soul are also cherished, beloved, and neglected. I no longer have the emotional energy or physical exertion it takes to stay in a relationship with my journal. You might think this is all too dramatic. You might be right. But, as a writer and a person deeply in need of introspective clarity, this is where I have landed: I need a less-exhaustive way of exploring the personal and maternal dimensions to my life.

Here is what I hope to gain from this relationship (I think it’s important you know from the start): I want you to provide motivation for me to externalize the chaos that exists inside my head. Let me explain. I am a person that never stops thinking, never stops questioning, never stops striving to become the best version of myself. Right now, however, I do not have many outlets for these thoughts, nor do I have energy to explore them the way they deserve. There are many dusty ideas, shelved in the back of my mind, that I’m hoping to get out, clean off, and set forth. This is not your responsibility, but being the nature of what you are, I believe that you will be the platform necessary for me to begin building this towers of thought and ideas. I’m hoping that, if anyone ever joins this journey through reading, others might find motivation to do the same.

So, this is the beginning of a lot of nonsense, most of which will not be worthy of readers. I admit this now. Others use this public venue of self-exploration mindlessly and immaturely. That bugs me. Yet, here I am. I admit that I am a hypocrite, but I believe you can forgive me for that. I hope that this journey stretches me, challenges me, and even provides guidance for me as I navigate through the waters of motherhood, marriage, and identity.