When I was a child, I considered freedom to be something grown-ups enjoyed. They can eat what they want, stay up as late as they want, watch what they want, buy what they want, and do what they want.
Little did I know.
As a teenager, freedom meant breaking rules, rebellion, and choosing for myself. As a young adult, it meant not being tied down, buying something I couldn’t afford, and a readiness to explore my place in the world. As a new mother, freedom meant I had three hours when my children were in preschool to go to the grocery store, exercise, pursue an interest, shower, or do dishes.
Those remain the quickest three hours of my life.
Now I think about freedom not as what I can get away with, spend, or get done, but who I am meant to be. What was I created for? What’s constraining me from that?
I have never been a horse person. In grade school, some of the other girls had pictures of the shiny brown mammoths on the cover of their Trapper Keepers, the eighties in-vogue binders with the velcro flap. The horses had perfectly straight hair and were frolicking in a pastoral scene of rolling green hills. I suppose it was designed to inspire students to organize their notes, which much like the attraction to horses, was a concept lost on me.
But all that changed with Ruby, a horse I came to know through a friend.
She and her family move every couple of years because of her husband’s career. She handles the challenges with such remarkable grace that it would be easy to assume that it’s as simple as getting back up on that proverbial horse after an unanticipated fall.
Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” He captured in lyrics what we know from experience – the agony of the wait.
Last summer I experienced waiting in a completely different way, as hope. A publisher was considering my manuscript on works of mercy. We began conversations in June, and she presented the manuscript to her Acquisitions Committee in August.
In the time between, the waiting, I was so excited to have the opportunity. I felt like everything was coming full circle and that God really did have a plan for me. I worked hard polishing the chapters and helped put together a marketing plan, but I wasn’t anxious. Instead, I felt like I was in a pale pink bubble, not made by a fairy-tale godmother, but by God himself. I was on the cusp of a dream, closer than I ever thought possible. Instead of feeling like the waiting was the hardest part, I wanted to remain in it. It seemed too painful to be so close and experience rejection. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine hope. I would have been content to float on that hope for the rest of my life.
The work of mercy that most embodies parenting is to instruct the uninformed. Only it took me a while to figure out that maybe it was me, the mama, who needed the most instruction.
From the earliest days of motherhood, when I frantically thumbed through pages of parenting books in the dark of the night in a desperate attempt to find a way to coax my son to sleep, I felt more clueless than confident.
No matter how many books I read, I could never get my son on a nursing schedule, sleep schedule, or a mama-really-needs-a-shower schedule. I had friends who were more successful with following the instructions, and, of course, I resented their efficiency and ease.
I like the month of June because I finally have time to think about new year’s resolutions. I can’t deal with them at the end of December when I am recovering from the Christmas frenzy. The months that follow feel like I am running just ahead of falling dominos. But now that summer is officially here, my year sprawls out in front of me like a beach towel on the sand. (Okay, half a beach towel.)
I am feeling so optimistic, I bought a new calendar. It was no easy feat, since apparently most stores quit selling them by the time Cupid starts shooting arrows through month-old resolutions to get its candy on the shelves.
I want to be on fire for God, but sometimes I feel more like the worn edges of two sticks that were furiously rubbed together but never produced a spark.
We aren’t even halfway through the year, and I have been to four funerals in almost as many months. I have tried to find light from each of the lives I mourned, to formulate a takeaway, some kind of life lesson that will make sense of all this sorrow. I did okay at first, feeling a heightened gratitude for my own life and the people in it.
The gift of death is that it edges life, delineating what matters most. Because of the sorrow, we see clearer, act more deliberately, and love more purposely. All the unimportant things that sent us into a frenzy are momentarily deemed inconsequential. The stark contrast between life and death gives us a clearer perspective and realigns priorities. Read more →
I am trying to be a list person. Typically, my lists get left behind on the kitchen counter, or if they are more goal-oriented, require me to breathe into a paper bag. Instead, I am a do-one-hard-thing-a-day-and-act-peppy-about-it kind of girl. Read more →
While eating breakfast in a quaint French café in San Francisco with all the clichés of lace curtains, marble top tables, and chocolate croissants, I watched a homeless woman rummage through the trash outside. She had plastic bags stuffed in the holes in her shoes, and she didn’t appear much older than me.
I grabbed my son’s half-eaten breakfast sandwich off his plate wrapped it in a napkin and ran outside. The homeless woman was walking briskly down the sidewalk, and I had to run to catch up. The travel books never mention what to do when you encounter homeless people in other cities, but it’s probably poor manners to chase them. Read more →
I keep seeing ads for Mother’s Day with petal pink letters in frilly font and slight women wearing flowing flowering frocks. It’s like advertisers think mothers dress in doilies, cover their heads in bonnets with perfectly tied grosgrain ribbon, and smile demurely all day wearing pink champagne tinted lip gloss.
I guess I should be glad they think that. Maybe they don’t notice that my flowing hair is tied back in a rubber band because I haven’t washed it, the dew on my skin isn’t from sprinkles of rose water but the sheen of oil on my face that I didn’t have time to powder, and my tinted lips are from biting them in an effort to avoid saying something regrettable. Read more →
Writers are told to write what you know. I started writing about mercy for the exact opposite reason. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t understand it. It was a word with a heavy veneer covering the solid wood underneath. While I almost never heard the word outside of a church, I could see the need for giving and receiving it everywhere. It’s as ancient as the air we breathe and as transparent. It’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it and life is suffocating without it.