Easter Wake Up Call

I had a bit of a wake up call yesterday morning. Being Easter, a high holy day for our family, we knew ahead of time that there would be a lot of moving parts to our day. Some of these were church related. My daughter was to acolyte for the 9am service, meaning we had to be at church before 9 am.  There were giving boxes to be returned for the special offering and deviled eggs to be shared at the after service brunch.

We knew all of this was coming, of course. We had prepared the eggs the day before (with cheddar cheese and bacon mind you) and laid out our pressed Easter outfits before we went to bed. We had talked about how this service was an hour earlier than our usual time, so even though we stayed up a little late watching stupid movies on Netflix, it was to be like a school morning (i.e. get up and get going).

If I had been really together, I would have set an alarm for some pre-dawn hour so that I could greet Easter morning in peace and tranquility and then be mentally prepared for our busy day.

But I am not really together. I am fairly lazy by nature and slept in until a bit after seven when the combination of dogs, kids, and the birds outside my window stirring awoke me.

Our morning might still have been tolerable if I had not kept fixating on what we looked like. As is our tradition, I was hoping for some nice family Easter photos during the day.  I treasure photos taken in years past of our kids hunting eggs and of our family together in front of the beautiful flower gardens at our church.

So instead of gathering up all the people and items that we needed to pile in the car and transport north for 45 minutes to arrive at church on time, I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about things like my hair and shoes. The hair was a crisis since I had no time to shower because of the sleep in (who am I kidding, my messy hair is always a crisis, I just usually forget to care). And shoes? What shoes could I wear that would match both my favorite “Easter egg skirt” and the damp, chilly morning that greeted us yesterday?

I finally decided to wear boots with the easter egg skirt because of the damp cold. No one has ever accused me of being a fashionista.

I finally decided to wear boots with the easter egg skirt because of the damp cold. No one has ever accused me of being a fashionista.

The ridiculous amount of time I spent worrying about my appearance A) made us leave later than we should have for church and B) distracted my thoughts from more important matters such as remembering the deviled eggs which were chilling in the fridge.

About 8:17 we finally hurried into the car and began racing towards church. About five minutes out my husband looks at me and asks, “Did you get the eggs?”

I’ll spare you the details of the fussy fit that ensued. You can imagine that I replied sweetly and calmly “No dear, let’s return home and get them, shall we?” However that would leave out the tears and frustration induced muscle spasms in my left shoulder that leads it to be still sore 24 hours later.

There was a moment where I honestly wondered why we were going through all this effort just to get to an Easter worship service. I honestly wished we had just decided to stay home. 

Thank God my husband is a calm man with a heavy foot. He eventually got us to church safe, on time, complete with cheddar bacon eggs. And it only took me about five minutes after we got to church to remember why we came. I came to be with all the other draggy, messy, beautiful people who were pulling at the pretty skirts they don’t normally wear and fussing with their hair.

Because even though we are not normally a fashionable people, we are a people who claim that life is greater than death, love is greater than fear, and God’s grace is greater than any other force imaginable. And Easter is the day more than any day that we claim this truth.

 

The real wake up call came for me about half way through our service when we celebrated two baptisms. One was the baptism of a tiny baby and the other was of a child my son’s age. Baptisms are like weddings and births for me. They are so beautiful and symbolic of all that is good, I am brought to tears every time I witness one. As I listened to the familiar liturgy and watched the light and joy play out on these families’ faces, I felt so small. Ashamed actually. If I really believe that God loved us enough to come to earth, to reach down into the deepest, darkest, dirtiest place on our behalf and then break those powers of death and darkness so that we could be free of their hold on our lives. If I really believe this amazing, almost incomprehensible idea to be true, then how could it possibly matter if my hair is up or down? If I have worn sandals or not?

Death is conquered for crying out loud!

Who cares what I or anyone else looks like!?! We are alive in a beautiful, grace filled world. Isn’t that enough for a thousand pictures? 

We took those family pictures anyway. Silly, goofy pictures. Pictures where admittedly I look more hung over than perky Easter bunny. But I am proud of them. For they are pictures where I finally realized that the importance is not how I look, but that I am alive and with people I love. Pictures that capture how I got the privilege of living life amongst beauty and grace.

Easter wake up call

easter wake up call

Easter wake up call

I would say next year I’ll try to get up early and have it a little more together, but the truth is that is a long shot. What is more likely is I’ll let go of the special outfits and hairdos. If I remember to put on my joy and gratitude, that will be more than enough.

When a Garden Grows

When a garden grows

My very first experience of gardening was with a community garden at my seminary. My husband, some friends, and I went in together on a ten dollar 10′ x 20′ plot. Our friends had years of experience from working in their families’ … Continue reading

Middle School in Hindsight

It is link-up day with my blogging group and today’s prompt provided by Karen at Dogs Don’t Eat Pizza is “If I knew then what I know now. . .”

When I read this prompt I immediately thought of all the conversations I’ve been having with my daughter recently. She is in the last few months of 5th grade and her thoughts have drifted ahead to middle school. As you can imagine this is a subject that has prompted some fear and trepidation (for both of us!). She knows enough to realize that middle school can be rough sometimes, but doesn’t understand yet how she will navigate these tricky waters.

I have a lot of compassion for my daughter when she gets nervous and asks me repeated questions about the middle school years. I remember dreading that time myself in all its awkward drama myself. But the big advantage that I have over my daughter is that I know without a doubt that middle school can be survived.  So, if I could go back and comfort my younger self as well as my daughter, this is what I would say:

 

Believe it or not, yes, you will eventually have a boyfriend.

I know your shy, quiet self wonders if any boy, let alone the one you are interested in will ever notice you. You watch your friends pair up and then listen to them giggle about getting their first kiss. You feel hopelessly geeky and alone. But one day, soon enough you will have a boyfriend. Several in fact. And then you will meet a boy so wonderful that you have to marry him. It all work out just fine. So relax a little about the boy thing, huh? There is plenty of time to worry about that. For now enjoy the friend friends you have all around you. Someday you will miss staying up all night and sharing your deepest secrets with good friends.

 

Speaking of boys, never dumb yourself down to win a boy’s affection.  

I see you over there pretending like you don’t know the answer again when you are called on in math class. You worry that boys only like girls with boobs not brains. Since you have very little of the former you try to minimize the latter as much as you can. You hide your test grades under your folder as soon as the teacher passes them out not because you are ashamed your grades are too low, but because you are embarrassed they are so high. For everyone knows boys don’t like girls who ruin the class curve. Go ahead and pretend like you don’t know how to play pool so that cute boy will teach you how if you want to, but someday you will find a boy that loves you precisely because you can outsmart him. It is really the only kind of boy worth having anyway.

 

 

middle school hindsight

the brown mop being tamed by barrettes the year before junior high.

You will always have bad hair days, but eventually you get used to it.

I know you look at that wavy mop of brown mess on the top of your head and have no idea what to do with it. You experiment with mouse, curling irons, perms, no perms, and God forbid, hot rollers. Thankfully you chickened out on the sun-in fad. Even if you had tried that beloved 80s spray-in, you still would never have had the long, golden silky locks you wish for. My advice? Get over it. Embrace the brown wavy mop. You will still have plenty of days where your mess of hair makes you huff in frustration. But in college you discover pony tail holders (well scrunchies actually) and realize how little it matters. And the ironic thing is the girl with long, silken blonde locks probably sometimes wishes she had darker or curlier hair. If we can all just learn to love what we have we will be a lot happier. As Malcom X said, “Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you’ll be a thousand times better off.”

 

Learn now to stand up to a bully, for they never go away.

Teenagers say really mean things to each other during middle school. Things that make you want to go home, cry your eyes out, and hide until you are thirty. The best thing you can do is to learn now to look the bully in the eyes and make them blink. For the sad truth is that bullies last a lot longer than the years you are in school. You will find them at work, at church, and someday at your own kid’s school. Never try and pick a fight with a bully, but if a bully continues to lay into you, you must learn to stand so tall and strong that they back away.

 

So to my younger self and my growing daughter, the best advice I have on middle school in hindsight is that though sometimes it will be awkward and confusing and just hard, it will end. And you will move on. And you will be just find. So relax and be yourself as much as you can. Most people will see how wonderful that person really is. And the rest? They’ll someday be just a picture in a yearbook you try to remember.

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

My husband and I just finished writing and teaching an eight week course on anxiety management from a faith perspective. (Hence the silence on the blog. Thanks for your patience while my creative energy went to creating a curriculum).

It was such an honor to hear our group’s stories each week as we talked about how to find that peaceful place deep within us even in the midst of life’s storms. As they shared and we shared, I noticed a common theme emerge week after week.

 

We are way too hard on ourselves. 

 

This may not be universally true, but it is true for most of us much of the time. We are our own worst critics. We expect unreasonable things from ourselves day after day. We give ourselves grief instead of grace when we fail. Even when we succeed, we barely pause to enjoy the moment. We are quick to move on to what bigger and better things should come next.

I think of my own reaction this weekend after finishing our last class. As we were looking over the surveys which gave us good feedback, my husband asked happily, “so what do you think?” My only response was this. “I know we can make it better.”

Really? I’ve just finished the first class that I’ve taught on managing anxiety, just finished polishing off what is now basically a book waiting to be published, and the best I can come up with is, “I know we can make it better?”

Later on that evening the familiar words of a dear friend surfaced in my mind. It is the line with which he often ends his grace-filled letters and cards.

Be Kind

I doubt our friend knows the power these words have had in my life. They have prompted me to let go of crazed dinner prep and give myself the grace to order our favorite pizza during a stressful week. They have reminded me to slow down and care for myself with a cup of tea or a nice hot bath when times are tense. And today they reminded me to take a day to rest and celebrate after weeks of hard work that in the end bore good fruit.

So today being kind to myself looked a bit like this.

IMG_4219

 

Be kind to yourself

 

 

I reclined on the sofa reading a new fiction book for hours (Written from a dog’s point of view? I’m in!). Then I baked my favorite Paleo friendly apple/egg muffins. I let the kids alternate between playing outside for an hour and then playing minecraft for an hour instead of insisting we have an actual activity to pass the time.  It was nice. It turns out being kind to myself feels good. And it helps me be kind to others too which is always a nice result.

So whether you are struggling this week or celebrating, I encourage you yo take my friend Harry’s advice.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF.  

Do you have a favorite ritual for being nice to yourself? Feel free to share below.

 

Ash Wednesday: On Limits

Ash Wednesday could possibly be my favorite day of the year. It is an odd preference, I know. Easter is lovely with all its joy and pageantry, but there is just something about Ash Wednesday that calls to my soul.

I don’t remember celebrating Ash Wednesday in my church growing up. Therefore, I clearly remember going to my first Ash Wednesday service while in seminary. I was all of 22 and out to save the world. I was young and full of idealistic expectations. Expectations of the world, the church, myself. Many days it was exciting, but many others it was exhausting. My internal demands and perfectionism were quickly wearing me down. Also, no matter how much I wanted to help others, it seemed the world’s need was always so much greater than my ability to contribute. All that I was pouring out was landing like tiny drops of rain in an endless desert.

It was with this struggle that I walked into my first Ash Wednesday service. So imagine my surprise when I went forward to the altar, knelt and heard these words,from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” At first I was slapped in the face with the image of my mortality. But then I found myself heaving a huge sigh of relief. Yes, I was mortal. My life had not always been and would not always be. My mortality gave me certain limits. Not only the limit of a lifespan, but limits of my energy and ability.

Ash Wednesday showed me this saving the world business was not up to me after all. That job belonged to someone eternal. Eternal in time, eternal in energy,and eternal in ability to save.

These days I attend Ash Wednesday services with my two children. I come forward with these precious creatures that I have dedicated my life to rearing. Many days I try so hard to get it right by them. To love them, to comfort them, to teach them. But many more days I struggle. I struggle with my temper and my impatience. I struggle with my ability to save them from the problems in their lives. I struggle with doing enough to form them into the people I know they can be.

With this in mind, I can’t wait to go forward and hear those words again.

From Dust you came and to Dust you shall return.

I need to be reminded that I am nobody’s savior. I am limited in every arena of my life. I will never be a perfect mother to my children. I will never do enough for them. But in the end, that is not my job. There is another who is endless that they need to rely on.

For my days are numbered. Though I pray every day that I will outlive my children, I also feel guilty at the thought of leaving them behind. But maybe that is as it should be (though I confess to still praying for the leaving to be later rather than sooner). For there is one they should learn to depend on that is greater than me. In the end, my love will always be too small for them, my mind too weak. I pray that the sight of dust on my forehead will remind me to always lead my children to The One who’s love is endless and wisdom is beyond all my understanding.

Love heart made of ash

I pray this Ash Wednesday that you are able to find grace in your limits and freedom in your mortality. Know that it is not all up to you. Take heart in the knowledge that there is a Savior greater than all of us mortals put together. This eternal one is the one who holds you, who loves you, whose dust covered hands you will return to at the end of your days.

How Community Heals

This is the last in the trilogy of blog posts on what the new dog I didn’t even want is teaching me about life. Otherwise know as, Dang it dachshund, how did you win me over so quickly?

I will readily admit that I was not in favor of getting a new dog. I was hurting over the death of our beloved terrier and couldn’t imagine who would replace him in our home. We still had the hound dog with us and I was content to spend my days comforting the spotted one about his brother’s absence. I really thought the hound dog was okay. I was walking him extra, petting him extra, snuggling him on the sofa more. But then after Christmas I noticed his tail. He had begun licking a spot that was now balding and red. We assumed maybe he got a scratch or bug bite and it would go away.

It did not go away. So we wrapped his tail with athletic tape (we are nothing but cheap around here). This slowed him down a little, but eventually he always got the tape off. Time wore on and the place on his tail got worse, not better. We would find it raw and bleeding. Eventually I broke down and took the spotted hound to the vet. We gave him prednisone for a couple of weeks. It helped a little, but I think only because the medicine made him feel so bad he didn’t even feel like licking his tail. The vet advised that if the prednisone didn’t work maybe we should try Xanax.

Xanax. For my dog. Who apparently has was having depressive/anxious symptoms.

how cummunity heals

another adventure with spotted hound and terrier

So yeah, I guess dogs go grieve the loss of their friends. For we all want a best buddy. We crave someone who is like us, who gets us, to go through life with.

The Xanax comment sent me to the papers to start checking out rescue pups. We visited a couple of shelters and started meeting animals. I think I knew the chubby dachshund undergoing heartworm treatment was our guy when the vet nurse caring for him started interviewing me on the phone when I called to ask about him. She even got a little chocked up talking about how great he was and how they had all grown very fond and protective of him.

I’ll be honest that it wasn’t love at first sight between the little hound and the spotted one. Our big guy moped and pouted for a day or two that someone new was getting attention in the house. But then we noticed them playing together. And then we’d catch them cuddling on the sofa at night. After a few days the spotted one had a new bounce in his step out on walks again. He would come back from our school run car rides with a look of joy I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

IMG_4209

And then about a week and a half after we got the new dog I noticed it. Spotted one’s tail. It was almost entirely well. There was no more redness or bleeding at all. The skin had all grown back and new fur was coming in.

I jumped up with relief and started sharing the news with my husband. My guy, the therapist, said he was not surprised. He talked about how horses that are kept in pastures alone often suffer from tail biting. He went on to say that when he sees a teenager or young adult that is self-mutilating he always asks them about what kind of community they have.

It makes sense really.

For we were not made to be alone. We were meant for community. We were designed to need buddies to walk with us and share in the great joys of life like car rides and after dinner treats. 

Its just as well really. Life does seem to be better when we travel with a beloved pack. We play more and smile more. We have someone to keep us warm during the cold, dark nights.

So thanks little hound. Not only for making me smile everyday, but for bringing joy back to our sad spotted guy.

And you out there feeling sad and lonely on the sofa by yourself? There’s are buddies out there for you too. I know many days you don’t feel like making the effort to find them. But pick yourself up, start looking around, and take a chance on community again. Once you find a good pack of people, it will heal wounds you could not have imagined possible.