Dear Holly…

by Kari

skeeze / Pixabay

Three years ago
we took a step
FORWARD
TOGETHER

And I’m humbled to
GROW
with you

Ups and

D
O
W
N
S

Twists and turns
SURPRISES and
disappointments
have not rocked our journey
FORWARD
TOGETHER

Because
God
Knew
God knew we needed
EACH OTHER

…on that little tea hike in the woods
…on that crazy trip to Portland
…on the phone when I questioned cutting off my dreadlocks
…on countless occasions of tears and silence

You share my joys
Help carry my load
You see my heart
And help tune it towards
our Father’s

And so we
GROW
offer grace
unconditional love
in the mysterious places

W
I
T
H
I
N

Continually asking Christ to
accompany us in our
COMMITMENT
PARTNERSHIP
FRIENDSHIP

I thank you
SINCERELY
for holding this fort down
over these many months…
for believing in me,
being patient with me

You are a beautiful writer
INSPIRATIONAL
EFFECTIVE
CONNECTING
INSIGHTFUL
LOVING

Happy 3rd Blog Birthday Holly!

 

 

 

skeeze / Pixabay

We Don’t Have to See Eye-to-Eye

by Kari

445693 / Pixabay

For a few years now our church has taken VBS off-site to an underserved area of our town. It is privilege to learn, share and grow in this amazing community of people where there are many needs and many hands helping to bring light, love and hope.

I am sometimes at odd with myself as I lament how some of us who love this community used to walk hand-in-hand together only to part ways over reasons not always understood.  Now we fumble, bumble and stumble alongside one another in service instead of doing it in unison.

And guess what?

I’m okay with that. I am learning to celebrate the mystery and the love and the grace as we serve alongside one another and not necessarily hand-in-hand.

biancamentil / Pixabay

biancamentil / Pixabay

Is there a redeeming work
in Christ’s body
when we don’t see
eye to eye
yet work side by side?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there still a heart beat
when I feel cold
and maybe you do too
yet wordless glances
speak love?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there forgiveness
when walls are built
built, to protect
but does not love prove
to seep through the cracks?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there love written
in graffiti beautiful
because much is there
that cannot be understood
about our mysteries?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there our Jesus
with you, with me
and someday
we will be made whole
forever hand-in-hand?

Alleluia, yes.

A Surprising Life Ambition, On My 41st

By Holly

All those years while working part-time and navigating early motherhood, I thought my life was balanced.  I practically bragged to anyone who would listen about how lucky I was to be a mom with a job I loved away from home three days each week. And a dream of a babysitter.  It looked, sounded and felt like the perfect solution to the mom vs. career battle within me.

Unsplash / Pixabay

But it wasn’t balanced.  When your work is your obsession, it doesn’t matter how many days you are home each week.  While your body works in the kitchen, plays at the park, or hosts a playdate, your mind rehearses the next difficult conversation you need to have with an employee or composes the email you wish you would have written.

I wish I could say that work is the only obsession I’ve ever had.  But my tendency to fixate is pervasive.  In my college years, I spent so much time working out in the gym that a professor called me into his office and gently suggested that maybe I should consider exercising a little less.  “Don’t you think,” he asked with just the right mix of concern and sarcasm, “1000 calories on the stationery bike might be a little overkill?”  I knew he had a point.

At 41, I’ve given up my pursuit of the balanced life.  Maybe my obsessive ways have led me down path of defeat one too many times.  Keeping life’s teeter totter in the air is not how I want to live.

This is why, on my 41st birthday, I declare a new life ambition:  to live in the middle.  To find that fulfilling flow between the extremes of perfectionism and apathy, and to stay there.  This is how I see it:  We all tend to live toward the right or left of middle.  On the left, we avoid, escape, freeze and self-sabotage.  On the right, we obsess, overdo and perfect.  And the middle remains a mystery.  

FullSizeRender

Not surprisingly, one extreme creates the opposite extreme.  We work to utter exhaustion, then become productivity-paralyzed by stress and fatigue.   We try so hard to control a relationship that it completely collapses.  We go through life wasting our energy swinging from one extreme to the other, all the while missing out on the middle.

Buddhists call it “the middle way.”   Christians refer to it as the narrow gate and the easy yoke.  The Chinese name it the tao.  Whatever words are used, it’s the idea that there is a space – somewhere in the middle – where we can flourish.  It’s the notion that we don’t have to oscillate from good feelings to bad ones or from control to letting go; instead, there is a both/and place where the messy and the beautiful were meant to coexist.  Where we are meant to exist.

In the middle, we:

  • Embrace work with dedication, not obsession
  • Exercise for health instead of numbers
  • Parent with influence, not control
  • Love with openness instead of fear
  • Consume with purpose rather than escape

Staying in the middle means reeling myself in from the tantalizing sea of control, perfection and overwork.  It means holding boundaries that keep me out of resentment and allow me to accept help.  The middle is where letting go happens, creativity flows and there is space for my soul to be filled.

And so I wonder if, at the very end, the good life is being able to say, “I stayed in the middle.I found my flow there, took chances and flourished.I stayed away from fear’s paralyzing edge on the left and obsession’s self-destruction on the right.
I forged a path less traveled –
the middle path.”

Turning One of My Big Regrets Inside Out

By Holly

pixelcreatures / Pixabay

Out of the corner of my right eye, I could just barely see the green tassel dangling from my cap as I felt a surge of anxiety.  Suddenly, my attention split between the professor calling students with last names starting with “O” and the familiar cries of my youngest daughter coming from the back of the room.  I filled up with self-consciousness and spilled out these sarcastic words to the student seated next to me: “That would be my child.”

My tired husband hopefully bounced and walked our baby girl.  He had spent the day flying four hours with two small children to attend my graduation ceremony.  They were a trio of exhaustion.  Despite my anxiety-induced paralysis, I had a vague sense that my daughter wanted me.  But my name was about to be called.  So, without much deliberation, I stayed in my cap and gown role and did what was expected:  I walked to the stage to receive my diploma.

That was three years ago.  And as I recall the scene, I am still filled with regret.

If I could do it again, I would detour to the back of the room, take my fussy daughter from my husband’s weary arms, and proceed to the stage with her in my arms.   I know it would have been okay; it was a casual ceremony in a hotel conference room.  I feel sure that she would have stopped crying.   And I would love for that moment to be a memory filled with love instead of self-conscious regret.

I used to believe that living a regret-free life was both noble and possible.   I hoped that, in my last minutes on earth, my wrinkled reflection would reveal eyes free from regret’s dark weight.   I thought doing everything I could to avoid remorse was how to make the most of this fleeting life.

I didn’t realize that “no regrets” was my personal code for “do everything right.”  I wasn’t in touch with the depths of my perfectionism, or the truth that I doubted my ability to live with myself if I made bad choices or big mistakes.  I didn’t understand that my wish to live with no regrets was rooted in fear.

You see, our choices can look wise but actually be covers for our fears of feeling like a fool, doing things wrong or hurting someone.  We can self-protectively tremble behind inspiring-sounding maxims like, “no regrets.”   We can feel good about following rules, keeping it together, and be blind to our boxes:

My Box2

Staying in character on that graduation day made sense; some might even say it was the right thing to do.  But here I am, three years later, naming it as one of my biggest regrets.

Nothing bad happened.  My daughter won’t even remember the day I chose self-consciousness over her.  But the moment stays with me because I was true to my fear instead of my heart.

As I reflect, I wonder if this is regret’s recipe:  Letting fear win.  I am starting to believe that regret has far less to do with morality and perfection than with the choices we make around fear.    And, I am letting that cap and gown moment teach me.

We can live with regret and live free.  How good is a life of no regrets if we have stayed in our boxes?

I no longer want to live boxed in.   Or under the spell of life mottos that sound good and look pretty.

I want to look my elderly face in the mirror and see wrinkles that pushed me past my fears, lines that draw good stories, and eyes that learned to see my heart.

For Those Times When You Feel Unfit to Be a Parent

By Holly

Bhakti2 / Pixabay

Some days, I just feel so unfit to be a mom. More specifically, to be the mom of my children.

I have two highly sensitive, self-conscious, anxiety-prone, and emotionally expressive (e.g. frequent crier) daughters. People call me “even-keeled” or “laid back.” It’s a curious combination:  me, them, me parenting them.  At times, I feel downright unqualified.  Incapable.  Like I am failing.

It’s not that I can’t see them – and their emotional makeup – as gifts. I believe that God made them perfect, and in so many ways, I would love to be more like them.  There are times when I want and need to cry.  But can’t.  I’m just not a crier. I would love to feel like they feel, and talk about my feelings like they do.

So why is it so stressful when my 5 ½ year old is crying for the 15th consecutive minute, for the third time today, and it’s not even noon yet?   Why does my anxiety rise when her preschool teacher has to peel her off my legs at the doorway of her classroom after 3 years at the same school?   When water spills on a school library book and my 8-year-old’s fear and anxiety are off the charts, why do I feel like crawling back into bed?

Why, God, did you think I could do this?

Thank goodness God answers my fear-of-failing-at-motherhood cries. Gently, gracefully, he whispers stuff like this:

I didn’t think you could do it. I thought we could. 

I made them in you. I made them just for you.  You need them like they need you.

Let her cry.   Stop making it about you and just be with her.

My perspective tilts a little.   Just enough to breathe in some peace.  To catch a glimpse that maybe I’m not failing.   To start to feel like maybe, just maybe, I am growing.

Aren’t we good at making things about us that aren’t about us at all?  After forty years of practice, I claim mastery over this unhelpful skill.   In a fraction of a second, I can talk myself into thinking that my less-than parenting is causing my daughters to feel anxious, cling or cry.  Fear can lure me into believing that I am just not fit for the job.  I can become convinced that what I do – or don’t do – will destroy their beautiful emotional nature instead of nurture it.

But God. He speaks in words like, “we” and “let” and “be.”

And these “little” words, they change me.