Divine Intervention

I went to the gym yesterday, then after dinner the kids and I walked to the library and the cupcake shop. By the time I got everyone settled into bed I was too exhausted to clean the kitchen, and my shin splints hurt too much to stand up anyway. So for the first time in a couple weeks I spent the evening on the couch watching t.v. – a recorded episode of Austin City Limits with the Decemberists (a lack of cable has returned me to my geeky love for PBS).

And just now as I think about how I spent my evening, I do not feel overwhelmed or guilty. I still had a basket of laundry to fold, and dishwasher to empty, and a kitchen to clean – but given the hard day’s work I had already put in, it just seems logical that I did what I could and rested in the fact that today I can finish.

This is a much different feeling from times past, when I shuffle about all day not knowing where the time has gone, and feeling stressed that I have so much left undone. I think I knew deep down that I was dragging my feet and allowing myself to be distracted.

I’ve been reading Proverbs lately, which is a book full of wisdom for the wise and warnings for the foolish. Here is what struck me in the last couple weeks:

The one who stays on the job has food on the table; the witless chase whims and fancies (Proverbs 12:11).

The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work (Proverbs 12:24).

A lazy life is an empty life, but “early to rise” gets the job done (Proverbs 12:27).

After resting on the couch, I just assumed I would get a second wind and be able to get up and do what needed to get done. But when Bryan turned in around 9:45, I decided to follow him up to bed and watch t.v. until I fell asleep. But who am I fooling when I think this? What usually happens is that I stay awake long enough to watch Sex and the City reruns at 11, then I might as well watch the beginning of Letterman at 11:30, and before I know it it’s midnight and I’ll be hitting the snooze button in six hours.

Well, last night my cable mysteriously went out when I went to bed (we have the very basic cable that gives us a clear picture for all 15 channels we get), so all I saw was static. It was just working fine downstairs, and this morning it’s working as well. But last night I think God must have pulled the plug to prove a point, because I fell asleep right away, and when my alarm went off at 6am I bounced right out of bed.

Today I have decided to stay home from the gym. I hope this doesn’t start a dangerous pattern of playing hooky the rest of the week, but it’s the first morning that my shins have not hurt, and I’d like to give them a day to completely heal. So if you think about it, check up on me tomorrow to make sure I made it in again!

Free write reflections

Argh! One day of wearing really crappy shoes last week got me shin splints, and I’m mad. I thought resting for four days over the weekend would heal them, but I was still feeling pain this morning when I woke up. So instead of running, I lumbered along on the Monotonous Machine of Monotony first, then WALKED on the treadmill for a low impact workout.

I really had to hold myself back from running once I got on the treadmill because my adrenaline got me going and the music was great and I really just wanted to take off running into the florescent sunset. But in my restraint I discovered HILLS! Yes, instead of running running running, I walked up steep ‘hills’ all morning at a very fast walking pace and ended up getting my heart rate up there pretty good despite the not running thing.

I read this post today by my friend Jenny, and much of what she said resonated with me. I’ve struggled with the same sort of thing lately – the unwillingness to submit my will.

After two weeks at the gym I’ve actually gained two pounds. And I don’t think it’s the muscle-weighs-more-than-fat kind of two pounds. I think it’s the I-worked-out-today-so-I-can-afford-this-ice-cream-sundae kind of two pounds.

And after several months of improved relations with Bryan, we fought this weekend. It was difficult and stressful, but we worked through it – though sadly we lost an entire day to the situation, and it set us back in many practical and emotional ways.

We are hosting a Bible study through the How People Change curriculum on Sunday nights. After our study in Chapter Two last night, I was compelled to start reading the book of Colossians. I made it through three chapters this morning before the kids noticed I was not paying attention to them, and this is what zapped me:

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already IN – insiders – not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.

and this:

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, ACT like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from HIS perspective.

In our study of the material and in our discussions last night, I was really struck by how driven I still am by the circumstances right in front of me instead of seeing the bigger picture. How I feel in the moment is what I end up basing my choices on.

We read 2 Corinthians 11:1-3 about being married to Christ. I have heard this marriage analogy my whole life, and tend to just gloss over it when discussed. But last night it jumped out at me; it grabbed me. Marriage. Fidelity. Christ’s love for us is perfect, yet we are enticed away by our own desires. What kind of marriage would I have if I continually flirted with men at the gym, or left Bryan at home to go trolling in the bars? If I don’t focus my love toward Bryan alone, we are doomed!

We have everything we needIn the notes in my leader’s guide for the curriculum it says to ask the group to name possible lovers that tempt us away from Christ. I wrote in my margin: I am a spiritual slut – I have many lovers. In the midst of so many good things, so many blessings, so many things to be thankful for, I am enticed away by things that glitter a bit more fanciful, that meet the mood I am feeling right then. And it clouds my vision with bitterness and anger when my perceived needs are not met.

I have no pretty bow to wrap this up in. All of this is raw reflection from the weekend, and I am still processing. Really, I was trying to leave a comment on Jenny’s post, and three paragraphs in I realized I had just started writing my own post. Curiously, I am not depressed or discouraged – so please don’t send me an email saying I need medication. Rather, I am grateful and encouraged that I am not given up on; that like Jenny, I can click the RESET button in my mind and try again.

Thanks for listening.

Uncovering Imagination (in the post-dora age)

When Ruthie was just two months old, Bryan and I coordinated a babysitting co-op with friends. Every other week we would go on a date and have free babysitting, and on the opposite weeks it would be our turn to babysit. Various families have been a part of this co-op in the past, but for the last two years (at least) we’ve been trading with the same family, so our kids have grown very attached to each other. No more fussing at goodbyes, no more anxiety at bedtime – every Saturday is like a slumber party now, and we are literally pushed out the door by our kids.

One of the things I have loved about their time playing together, is the way their children influence ours. My children influence other children in the ways mothers whisper about when they hear you are invited to the same party. But these kids? They encourage my children to explore their imagination.

I walked into the room one night to find Ruthie and Olivia buried under a pile of blankets, then watched them dramatically stretch out from under the pile as they ‘hatched’ like chicks coming out of an egg. This moment was the first seed planted in our eventual decision to cut ourselves off from 642 HD channels, as Olivia and her siblings don’t watch conventional t.v., but enjoy a variety of videos from the library that teach them new and interesting things. My daughter previously had no idea where baby birds came from, and suddenly she was hatching like one – learning in community.

On another occasion this summer, during a daytime play date over lunch, I walked into Olivia’s room to find them performing ‘puppet’ shows for each other. It was beautiful and silly and creative, and it made me jealous that I am not a child anymore. I am so glad we don’t have cable anymore (shut up, Bryan), because I am looking forward to more moments like these:

The Hard Work of Waiting

Why I ever thought it was a good idea to quit working out I will never know. Running (on the elliptical or otherwise) has always been a cathartic, meditative experience for me. In that space of breathing and following a rhythm I am more focused than at any other time, except maybe during the contractions of labor.

After nursing a back injury last week, I jumped back on the elliptical each morning this week for 30 minutes. It is during this time – ALWAYS – that I am able to shut out everything but the sound of my music and the voice of God. At the end of a workout I find myself centered, at peace, and usually running for my computer to jot down some revelation that came to me.

I listen to the same mix of seven songs during my workout:

Quiet Place – Sheri Youngward
Invitation Fountain – The Violet Burning
Clean (My God has Rescued Me) – The Violet Burning
Forty Weight – The Violet Burning
Lord Raise Me Up – Matisyahu
King Without a Crown – Matisyahu
Shalom – Matisyahu

Yesterday, during The Violet Burning’s Forty Weight – my arms and legs burning, and sweat dripping – I found myself bearing down into a difficult interval, pushing harder and harder into the resistance. Momentum was building. I was sprinting. Out of breath. And wailing over and over into the silence outside my iPod earbuds, “I WAIT FOR YOU…” In my tiredness and out of breath-ness, it was a pleading call, a reaching out.

The irony of ‘waiting’ for God as a motivator to run harder struck me.

There is an illustration I hear often in the church that describes a man who crashes his plane in the wilderness and survives. And he prays that God would deliver him from the wilderness he is in. Then a hiker walks by and offers to guide him out of the wilderness, and the man declines, insisting that he is waiting for God to deliver him. Then a helicopter flies overhead, the pilot offering to airlift him out of the wilderness, but the man declines and says he is waiting for God to deliver him. The man then dies in the wilderness. And when he faces Jesus in heaven he is angry and bitter and says, I prayed for you to deliver me from the wilderness, but you did not hear me. And Jesus says to him, I sent you a hiker to guide you out, and a helicopter pilot to carry you out, and you did not see that it was me delivering you from the wilderness.

I don’t want my waiting to be like that. I don’t want to be standing around waiting for God to zap off my ass like a good liposuction surgery. I don’t want to be sitting in my chair waiting for God to suck the anger vapors from my body like a fancy Ghostbusters trick. I want my waiting to be a running toward God, a desperate seeking of his presence. Not because he can heal me or fix me or make me feel better, but because in his presence there is a peace that passes understanding.

As Mufasa told Simba: Rembember who you are (I really need to watch a grown-up movie).

Something has clicked in me.

Jen Zug has entered a new era of motherhood, one in which she is relatively nice to her children, gets things done, goes to bed at 10:30, and takes hardly ANY time to write, though she is infinitely inspired.

Must be the sun. Or all that excessive drinking I’ve been doing.

But most likely, I have remembered who I am and what my purpose is.

Four and a half years ago, belly swelling with a baby that was due any day, I asked my OB how soon after this one I could get pregnant again. I had always wanted many children, but was getting a later start than I had anticipated in my childhood dreams (which included fielding a team of baseball players who would go on to the major league). I figured if I got the hard part over with quickly it would be smooth sailing, but I wanted to be sure.

I remember my OB’s words very clearly – his children were less than two years apart. He said that having children close together is very stressful for a few years, but as they get older and play together, having kids close in age is a great joy.

It has been good to remember this conversation – to remember that Bryan and I made a conscious decision to have our children close in age. Sometimes I find myself looking at The Way Things Are Right Now, assuming this is how things will always be. But this is not the case. Things will not always be this way, but will change so quickly I will cry for the time I am living right now.

This reality is what causes me to slow down and enjoy Today.

On a recent weekend away with girlfriends, one reminded me that I am the only person who can be a mother to my children. Someone else can write that newsletter, someone else can plan events for the board of directors, someone else can even write a book. But my children only have one mother, and she is me. This is a job that cannot be delegated, though everything else can be.

Brilliance.

In related news, the Mommy Wars have kicked up dust in the media again, thanks to a new book out called, “The Feminine Mistake.” I had drafted an entire post about this book, but decided it was not worth my server space to publish – not to mention that I hadn’t even read it. The description alone sent me on a tirade. Other media points have come onto my radar, such as this interview (thanks to Notes for the link), and this article, as well as this one.

My mind has been churning for weeks as to how I can jump into the debate of this issue and make my opinion an important part of the landscape. But the reality is, it’s not that important anymore for me to justify why I do what I do.

Why would I? To convince you? To convince the other preschool moms? To convince the wives of all the people in Bryan’s tech network? Sometimes motherhood can be like Junior High all over again, and I judge myself by what all the cool moms are doing: breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, homeschooling, private school, large families, two income households, work-from-home moms, whatever.

The truth is, what I always wanted was to stay home, and I don’t need to be ashamed of that or be afraid that someone might think I’ve compromised my financial future, or that I can’t cut it in the ‘real world,’ or whatever other nonsense opinions are out there. (And by the way, I have a Plan. If Bryan kicks the bucket I will cash in his life insurance policy, rent out a couple of our FIVE BEDROOMS, and write for money. I’m not naive to the fact that Shit Happens).

This is what I wanted, and I married a man who agreed with me. He didn’t make me stay home, nor did I have to beg him to stay home. We agreed.

I’m sad it’s taken me four years to get into this groove, but I’m thankful that I still have time before my oldest goes off to school full time. I’m tired of living with regret – these are the days I want to remember, and these days are short. There will be another time to pursue my own avenues.

Life in Intervals

Lest you get the idea from recent posts about being happy and setting priorities that my circumstances have changed to make my life better and more manageable (read: enjoyable), let me assure you they have not. I still feel like a selfish, raging, bitch most of the time. But I have been allowing my perspective to change.

This morning while on the Monotonous Machine of Monotony I made a connection in my brain. I do an interval workout, meaning that the resistance is set high for two minutes, and low for one minute. During the two minute high resistance my head is down, I’m leaning forward, and pushing through a sprint. When that one minute of low resistance hits I stand up straight, throw my head back, and shake out the intensity of my muscles. And around and around I go with this cycle for thirty minutes.

This is my new perspective on life.

In the book of James he says, “Whenever you face trials…” meaning that the trials will inevitably come. Thus far I have lived my life as a victim, as someone who feels entitled to an effortless existence until someone or something crashes my party and ruins everything. With this perspective it is easy to complain and feel bitterness toward whoever or whatever is causing me discomfort or inconvenience.

This morning I was reading in a book about the Israelites who wandered through the desert for 40 years after being freed from slavery. I have always considered this story a lesson in the consequences of our sin or of our specific trials. But this author mentioned, almost in passing, that our life here on earth is like one big desert wandering: “We too are in the wilderness of a fallen world. We have not yet entered the promised land of eternity, so we face hardships like Israel did.”

It is my response to these trials that determines whether I will learn, grow and move forward, or complain and wander.

And so it was that this morning I realized my life is one big interval workout in which I push through certain times with my head down and muscles burning, and yet I can experience seasons of joy and relief in the midst of it. My perfect life is not periodically interrupted by pitfalls. Rather, this life is a struggle – though it doesn’t have to be seen as drudgery. Life is work, marriage is work, parenting is work, writing is work – but within all these things I can experience great joy and blessing.

My hope is to take more time to enjoy the blessings in front of me, and to slow down and hear what the trials are teaching me – but to also not get stuck in a cycle of thinking my life is a pile of shit because I’m not getting what I want.

Please secure your own mask before assisting others.

I have flown in a lot of airplanes in my life as my family has always been scattered around the country, and this particular instruction regarding the oxygen masks always confused me. For some reason I always thought it made more sense to help the person next to you first. Aside from the fact that it just seems like the nice thing to do – looking out for someone else’s needs before your own – it seemed logical that someone who can’t help themselves might panic if you don’t assist them right away.

Then one day it hit me that I would be of no use to anyone near me if I passed out for lack of oxygen because I didn’t have my mask on.

As a wife, mother and home manager I have a lot of balls in the air. Sometimes I can keep them all going effortlessly with various tricks and twists, but other times I drop a few. The problem is, all the balls are important, so when one of them drops it moves the Earth and leaves a giant crater. Many times this leaves me feeling stressed and overwhelmed because, in reality, this gig is 24/7 with no deadline in sight.

I wrestle often with the notion of self-care, especially as an Introverted mother of two energetic children and the wife of a busy entrepreneur. Motherhood is a sacrifice, for sure. But to what extent? When does the sacrifice become detrimental? And when does self-care become selfish?

I brought this up with my therapist recently, as I have been unable to see through the issue with any clarity. I feel it is important for me to have pockets of time alone to recharge my energy – sometimes only twenty minutes is all I need to be at peace again in my head, after which I can deal with all the demands of life. This means sending the kids outside while I unload groceries, or running a quick errand to the store alone, or stepping outside to weed a patch of garden for fifteen minutes. Most of the time it doesn’t take much for me to bounce back from The Crazy, but the trick is I need to be alone in order to recharge.

I find that when I’m not getting small pockets of time to recharge my energy, I start obsessing about being alone. I get grouchy with my kids just for standing in the room, I show disappointment that they are awake from their naps, I’m gruff as I rush them off to bed, and I find myself wishing Bryan was still in San Jose. I scratch and claw at anyone who asks something of me.

I’m not excusing my behavior, but I am becoming more aware of what triggers it.

Yesterday, as a long six-day travel week still looms in our recent past, I mentioned to Bryan that I would like to leave the kids when he was done working and run to the garden store really quick, as they close at six. Why don’t we all come with you? he suggested.

The disappointment on my face hurt his feelings.

He misses us when he travels, and keeps us close to him when he’s home. And when he’s home I like to take advantage of the dual-parent household to get out unattached, even if just for an hour. We bickered for a few minutes, strongly defending our individual cases, until we each adjusted our expectations. In the end, he was fine with me going, but after the kids both took good naps and I enjoyed an adult beverage on the deck for half an hour after cleaning the kitchen, I didn’t feel the need to get out anyway.

So I guess I’m learning the importance of securing my own mask first, of taking care of myself so I can be a better mother and wife – knowing that when I’m obsessing about being alone, it means I’m not getting the pockets of time I need to recharge my energy.

Floating

Alaska Air has this really cool feature where you can track the status of a flight. By typing in Bryan’s flight number I can see that his plane is now at 32,000 feet and directly over the central part of western Oregon, and that he should be walking through this door by 11pm.

Bryan left last Saturday afternoon for a conference, making this a longer trip than usual. Surprisingly, the kids and I had an extremely great week. Normally I dread these long trips, having grown accustomed to the typical four day/three night trips he takes every couple of weeks or so. This week I managed to create an excellent ratio of down time to activities, and kept us out of the house doing things. When we were home, we were hard core home – with jammies and movies and junk food, totally elated and exhausted from our adventures that day.

This week felt like a very similar experience to the trip we took to San Jose in January, in that I was feeling as if I didn’t need to control every moment and every move of my children – especially Ruthie. I felt relaxed and at ease. I wasn’t perfect, and we had our moments, but the overall vibe of the week was enjoyable and, dare I say it again, relaxed.

And what’s nice, I was able to feel this way within the fairly normal routine of being at home, instead of relying on a vacation or change of scenery to make me happy.

I really am in awe of the week. It feels surreal.

Floating.

That’s the word and the feeling that continues to come to my mind when I try to capture what I am experiencing. A weight has been lifted from me – probably in many more ways than one, now that I think about it – and I am experiencing great joy and freedom in my heart, and it is spilling over into my relationship with my children.

This week is another rock cairn to mark along the path I am on.

Tulip Festival

Last week the kids and I drove nearly two hours north with some friends for the annual Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley. It was semi-spontaneous in that an original weather report indicated Wednesday would be cold and rainy, so we decided to do something indoors. But at ten o’clock Tuesday night I checked the weather again to find a prediction of sunny skies and temps in the high fifties. I started making phone calls around 8am on Wednesday and 10am four adults and four children still managed to make it out the door with a picnic lunch!

I commented to my friend that this was one of the first adventures I’d taken the kids on without pushing a stroller around ‘just in case’ Thomas got whiney or Ruthie would not follow my directions. We are entering a new era of freedom and independence, one in which Ruthie responds to my calls to stay close and Thomas charges forward on sure feet, no longer toddling. This age is so fun – to be able to do things and go places with nothing but a few snacks and a single diaper in my purse. Even at the grocery store the other day I let both the kids walk.

I often think about the possibility of getting pregnant again. For a long time, through my depression and the height of my rage problems, I was sure I’d have to be institutionalized if I conceived again. I am not a happy, glowing, pregnant woman. I puke for nine months. And I’m terrified of being depressed again, and of losing all the ground I’ve gained in overcoming rage.

But in order to ditch the hormonal birth control that was driving me insane, I had to be at peace with the possibility. At least, I had to be 89% at peace. And I am.

While I am enjoying the growing freedom from the labor of childrearing, I would not freak out if the stick turned blue. The worst thing to cross my mind would probably be the 30 lbs I was about to gain, and where on earth it would go.

But if or until any of this actually happens, I am simply enjoying the moment.

God Bless This Beautiful Day

I am on FIRE with love and joy this afternoon. I made music mix that inspired me to teach Ruthie ‘the running man’ dance and the party just hasn’t stopped for me, even though they are sleeping. I’m actually CLEANING on a Sunday afternoon because I am so motivated by this music.

Getting to and from church this morning was a bit of a logistical nightmare, but with the help of friends who are like family we more than survived. “It truly does take a village,” I quipped as we stepped off the park and ride bus. As I swoop around the house removing clutter I am listening to music that reminds me of Light, and Joy, and things that are Amazing, and I have cried the Ugly Cry several times time in the process.

There is just no escaping how rich I am in love and friends.

Our pastor touched a bit on anger today – defining the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger. I did not feel condemned, though I am more often sinfully angry with my kids than anything else. I felt empowered to change. It was a friendly reminder to me that I have everything I need in life and godliness to MAKE THE CHANGE.

I just need to do it.

I think this is what Grace is suppose to feel like – freedom and health of the mind, even in the midst of the undone-ness of my process.

Here’s my mix:

For the Record

I appreciate the comments and emails I have received regarding this post about a stressful situation that is happening offline, and I definitely appreciate your prayers. It has been a difficult couple of months, and most of the writing I have done on the issue has remained on my own hard drive simply because it is not my intent to use this web site as a means of gossip or complaining or ranting about anything or anyone other than myself.

Last week when Anne Lamott was in town I heard her speak on KUOW (thanks for the call on that one, Julie!), and she talked about the issue of her privacy. She said that she doesn’t write about the private things in her life, but only those things that she feels are universal, and to those she adds her own unique perspective.

I thought that was a great point – and in a sense I’m already practicing those boundaries. When I write about my difficulties as a mother, I try to make it about me and my own weaknesses. When I write about Bryan and the ten different ways he makes me want to activate my life insurance, I try to inject my own faults into the story.

I think this is one of the most specific benefits I find in writing an open journal online – it keeps me honest. If I want to complain about Bryan, I have to think really hard about how I am portraying myself – especially since I have a tendency to go into Victim mode – and I have to think really hard about whether I am still respecting him, even though I may be frustrated with him at the time.

So as I wrestled back and forth for weeks as to whether I would bring any of the Offline Issues That Shall Not Be Named up here, I landed on the side of caution and chose to keep it offline. However, when I read several posts in the aftermath of the Kathy Sierra incident – especially the two posts I quoted from Maryam and Robert – I realized that dealing with Trolls and figuring out how to respond to them is a fairly universal problem.

This prompted me to break my silence online and attempt to add my perspective to the conversation. I hope it was clear that I was writing to process through my own anger as it dangerously approaches bitterness; and I hope it was clear that I was not feeling very rational about my situation at the time of writing, and that I was fine with being in that place as long as I did not remain there; and I hope it was clear that bitterness is definitely NOT where I want to end up.

I also want emphasis that I will not discuss the details of any of this with anyone via email, comments, or in person. That’s just not what it is about. Anything I write on the subject will be about me, as a Believer in Christ, working out my faith ‘with fear and trembling,’ as the Good Book says.

So again, I want to thank you deeply from my heart for your concerns and your comments. If you are a person who prays, you can pray specifically for my heart to not enter into bitterness, you can pray for reconciliation, and you can pray for my continuing journey out of co-dependence as I learn to let go of things that are not my issue.

Thank you.

Did I say that already? I’m really thankful for you, so thank you.

Thanks.

Okay, bye now.

Musings of a Red Letter girl

I was about to shut off the computer and turn in for the night when I decided to read ‘just one more’ blog post from my feed reader. It turned out to be this reflection on Jesus’ last supper before his crucifixion, which reportedly happened on Thursday night. Tonight.

I wonder when exactly did Jesus make the decision that his love of his Father and of all humanity was more important to him than what awaited him the next 24 hours? Was it while he broke the bread and gave it to his most trusted disciples as they argued about who would be the greatest? Was it in Gethsemane? Was this the ultimate struggle during the night of prayer while the disciples fell asleep?

At what point in our lives do we decide that we love Jesus more than our ________ (fill in the blank…children, spouse, parents, job, money, drugs, sex, shopping,) and start to demonstrate (act out!) that love?

All too often I breeze through the Easter season without pausing to reflect on what this means to me. I am a task person, and often get lost in the everyday Piles that life throws at me. Wednesday looks like Thursday, which looks like Friday – and before you know it, it’s Monday again and Easter felt like just another Sunday.

Only with more food.

I didn’t even think about today being the night of the Last Supper. And all I was thinking about regarding our Good Friday service tomorrow was when to fit dinner into the schedule.

So I am grateful that I stumbled across this reminder to slow down and reflect, and I hope that tomorrow – after preschool and vet appointments – I will step away from the computer and the kitchen and the laundry long enough to Remember and be thankful.

Bitterness lets the terrorists win

[Update: I originally posted this the evening of 4/3/07 but felt unsettled about the wording of certain sections, even after several re-writes. So I pulled the post late that night. After a night of sleep, some more prayer, and discussion with Bryan, I still stand by it. This morning I revised it a little more to round out the sharp corners, and reposted. And I believe this is how it will remain. So if you view this in a reader, I apologize for the multiple posts and encourage you to read this latest version.]

Lately I have been thinking a lot about anger and forgiveness and trust. How does one forgive someone who hasn’t expressed they’ve done something to hurt you? And if they do eventually ask your forgiveness, is it true forgiveness if you can not bring yourself to trust them again? Does forgiveness require trust? And what about anger? Even if one feels anger righteously, if the conflict is not resolved how long will it be before even the righteous anger turns to bitterness?

In the blog world we use terms like ‘flame wars’ and ‘trolls’ to describe the mean people and their words. I don’t know what to call what is happening to me offline, but since it feels like a flame war, that is what I will call it.

In the aftermath of Kathy Sierra’s post (which I wrote about here), there has been much said by people I respect – things that cause me to stop, think, and reflect on my own situation.

For instance, as I sat down to write and lament and cry some more, I noticed that my friend Maryam had written a beautiful essay about letting it go and moving on. Specifically, she says,

When you are punched, your immediate response is to want to punch back. If you are blinded by rage and hurt, you may not be directing your aim correctly. Most of what I’ve been going through and how I have been feeling last week after what I read about the anonymous attacks on me resonates with this point. In trying to deal with the hurt caused by those words, I was punching the wall over and over again. As a result, I was getting hurt, crying, screaming and feeling helpless. Well that was pretty useless.

Maryam’s husband, Robert, also posted his thoughts

It’s very hard to not focus too much energy on attacks. In the past few weeks hundreds of people have come up to me at various events and said “I love your blog.” I don’t know that I can name more than a few of those people (I have business cards, though, heheh) but I can name tons of people who have said something nasty about me over the same time period. Something wrong when we give those who hate us more time and emotional energy than those who love us. Guilty as charged.

These statements were convicting to my soul, and they made me think about my own situation and how much power I am giving to people who personally attack me and my husband. They remind me, once again, that I can not control what other people think or say about me – I can only control how I respond.

So I have responded by finding comfort in God’s word, and these are some of the things he is saying to me through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (using a paraphrase called, The Message):

It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.

There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.

Wouldn’t it be far better to just take it, to let yourselves be wronged and forget it? All you’re doing is providing fuel for more wrong, more injustice, bringing more hurt to the people of your own spiritual family.

We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions – but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.

But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did.

I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth in to the open and confirm it.

For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are part of.

When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony.

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

And finally, I love this from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

I am really struggling with wanting to punch back. I am really struggling with giving the hurtful things too much of my emotional energy. I am really struggling with forgiveness and trust. I want to believe the words of Paul, and I want to find comfort and conviction in them. I want to let go and let God fight the battle for me and bring about his own reconciliation, but at the moment I am too angry at the hurtful words being flung my direction – hurt to the point where even ‘I love you’ can only be heard as a smarmy platitude.

Sometimes I think I could fight a really good war of words, inflicting a lot of bloody casualties of my own. But in the end I know I will only end up getting hurt, crying, screaming, and feeling helpless. And that, as Maryam says, is pretty useless.

And to top it off, I was blown away when I read this on Kathy Sierra’s latest update:

When I was first bombarded by the media about this story, I refused to answer questions. Having no media experience, I found that when you don’t answer a reporter, they’ll tell your story without you, so I agreed to speak with a few. When I was asked for a short CNN interview, I said that I would do it only if they would let me invite Chris Locke as well. Needless to say, everyone including Chris was stunned to hear this.

But these stories should not be about me… I am simply one of a gazillion examples about what’s happening today both on and offline. Nor is it a simple Nice Vs. Bully story, and I thought having us come to an understanding would encourage others to stop fighting on either of our behalves and try to listen first, and then talk, and maybe something good and useful really will come of this.

Honestly, I cannot imagine sitting in the same room today with some who have hurt me. I cannot imagine having a rational conversation. I cannot imagine some still having eyeballs when I walk out of the room.

Harsh?

Of course – this is definitely NOT what Jesus would do.

Will I always feel this way? I hope to God I don’t. I hope that, like Kathy, I can spend hours on the phone or over a drink working this out and finding reconciliation. And even if joint reconciliation can’t be found, I hope I can forgive. I hope I can let go. But that will definitely be a God thing.

In the meantime I pray. I cry. I run miles on the elliptical. I take hot baths. And I write.

I know God loves me. I know Christ is in me. I know the Holy Spirit will convict me. Anyone not in concert with them can put a sock in it.

Grace (Eventually)

Last night Bryan and I went to see Annie Lamott read from her new book, Grace (Eventually), which she nearly titled Forgivishness.

I was first introduced to Annie’s writing when I became pregnant with Ruthie and my sister-in-law gave me her copy of Operating Instructions. I think I read that book in one sitting because I had never before experienced something so frank and honest.

It seemed like she left nothing out.

Several years later my book club read Traveling Mercies, and it was during this book that I had an epiphany. I had known for some time that I had a story to tell, and that somewhere inside of me was an incubating talent for writing. But at the time I was taking myself too seriously. I was focusing too much on time lines and overwhelming details and structure, and I was getting lost in the big picture.

I didn’t know where to begin, therefore I didn’t.

But as I read Traveling Mercies, which is a collection of essays on the theme of her faith, I was suddenly able to see my future as a writer. I knew I could tackle essays of 500 – 1000 words in length, I knew I could write honestly about my journey, I KNEW I wanted to say things that many women are not willing or able to say out loud. It was my What About Bob moment, realizing that all I needed to do was to take baby steps.

And so, as I grieved over many things during the winter of 2004/2005, I began to write on this blog. And I wrote honestly, and I was very raw, and I quickly hit my stride and found that elusive ‘voice’ that writers always talk about. Blogging has sucked me into a routine of writing and into the alertness of story telling, and now I see everything that happens to me or around me as a potential story to tell. It has helped me to not take myself so seriously, and as a result, I now have over 500 shitty first drafts categorized into topics in the sidebar to your right.

But enough gushing about how Annie changed my life.

A question from the audience brought up the topic of Annie’s ‘God box,’ which she wrote about in a previous book – I can’t remember which one at the moment. Annie had described how, when she is concerned or worried or fearful, she writes these things down on a piece of paper, folds it up, places it in God’s ‘in box,’ and tries to not do anything about it until she hears from him.

It is doubt and surrender made visible, she says.

To me, it is also letting go of the notion that I have anything to add to God’s wisdom. This comforts me during the times when other people think things about me or about people I love – things that are hurtful and untrue – or that are true, but expressed in a way that crushes the Spirit (bearing little fruit).

I can not control what others think. I can not control what others do or say. I can only ask God to convict me of the ways in which I need to repent, and ask him for grace and reconciliation concerning everything else.

Somewhere along the line I let myself believe that it is up to me to change the minds of other people, to convince them of who I really am, or in some cases, to convince them of who they should be. This is evidenced in many past relationships, romantic and otherwise, in which I was involved for all the wrong reasons and for far longer than was healthy. Little by little I am learning to let go of Things I Can’t Control and trust that God still loves me even when I don’t have all the witty answers and grand solutions.

He has, after all, been taking care of every one of us on his own for a long time, and has the gray hairs to prove it.

Listening to Annie read and tell stories and speak honestly and truthfully brought joy to me on a day when I wasn’t feeling very joyful, and I continue to be inspired by her writing and by her truth-telling.

Learning from the Little Things

There are days when Ruthie teaches me many things. Like the days when she pretends to mother her purple teddy bear – feeding it, wrapping it in a blanket to sleep… and disciplining it. I often find her setting the bear in a nearby chair, cheerfully explaining to it the reasons for a time out, and when the whole thing is over she gives the bear hugs and kisses and moves on to the next thing.

I am in awe of this. And usually quite relieved.

I am in awe that, despite all my dysfunction, it is the healthy forms of correction that she imitates in her play. It is something I had always attributed to luck, relieved that she did not point an angry finger or spew swear words or speak harshly.

But the other day Ruthie taught me something else.

Bryan was out one night at a business dinner, so I was on my own with the kids at bedtime. I tend to rush the process, as by that time I’m emotionally spent and need to retreat into my introvertedness. Shortly after I came down to the kitchen, Ruthie peered through the door and asked me to do something. I was rude. She started crying. She asked for it again. I was rude again. She cried more and begged. And like a bratty twelve-year-old, I said “FINE!” and stomped upstairs to do what she had asked, and stomped back downstairs, saying something completely ridiculous like, “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?”

Yeah. I did that.

After a few minutes I, of course, realized how ridiculous I had behaved, and how rude. Love is not rude. So I hung my head, and quietly went upstairs to apologize. When I snuggled onto her bed and came nose to nose with her, she popped her thumb out of her mouth and said sweetly, ‘Did you come to say you’re sorry?’

In that moment I knew luck had nothing to do with the way she interprets her mother. It is about grace.

I have often lamented over why God would give a control freak like me a daughter who is equally stubborn. It seemed to make better sense to give me someone more willing to comply with my shortcomings, who doesn’t do things that naturally draw out the ugliest parts of me. But it is becoming clearer to me how God is connecting me to my daughter through the connection of our personal journeys. She is teaching me as much as I am teaching her. She is part of my journey, and I am part of hers, and we are learning together. One without the other would leave nothing with which to challenge, and we would remain as we are – selfish and depraved.

As I am prompted by God to apologize to Ruthie, he is teaching me humbleness, and she is learning the process of reconciliation. She gets it. She is understanding, as seen in her pretend scenarios, the graceful way to correct. And she is understanding, as seen in her prediction of my apology, that mommy is not always graceful. She is understanding sin and redemption, even if she doesn’t know the language.

I find comfort in this, in knowing that I am not alone in this journey of motherhood because God is with me, in knowing that God takes even the broken parts of me and uses them to make something beautiful.