Celebrating the Small Steps

So I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with perfectionism and not feeling good enough. Recently I’ve had the chance to remember that I got these traits honestly (along with a whole host of good traits).

My dear mother had knee replacement surgery recently. She has just made it through her first two weeks of recovery, which I think is HUGE. But Mom, however, is not convinced. All along the way, in fact she has been a little hard on herself.

Take the moment her physical therapist taught her how to transition from using a walker to a cane. When mom took those first few steps with the cane, I was like a proud parent, clapping with joy at what the baby accomplished. Mom just looked at me like I was weird and kept trying to get her gait just right.

Yesterday Mom and Dad spent their first day without any outside help. I was a nervous wreck. Would they be okay? Could they make it on their own? After a day and half of wondering, I came to the end of myself and popped over at lunch to check on them.

“How did you do yesterday?” I not so casually asked. “Okay, I guess,” Mom replied. “I washed my hair. Did some laundry. Then your Dad and I went out and picked up Chinese to go.”

“Okay?” I’m thinking, “That’s AWESOME.” I guess I thought it so loudly it came out of my mouth. “Mom, that’s really awesome! I’m so proud of you.”

“You really think so?” she asks. “Everybody keeps saying I’m doing great, but I just don’t know.”

Now part of me totally gets where she is coming from. She is used to being a very active, on-the-go woman and now she is laid up at home. She is still limited in what she can do and she still doesn’t feel great most of the time. Knee surgery definitely takes its toll. She probably wishes the whole recovery was behind her and she could move on with life as normal.

But recovering from knee surgery doesn’t work that way. It’s a process. It a journey where you take two steps forward and one step back. You have good days and bad days. And this goes on for WEEKS if not months. No immediate results here.

Much the same is our spiritual journey. When we set out upon a time of healing or growth such as Lent, we have great expectations for ourselves. We want to get from our place of perceived lack to the place we think we should be and we want to get there FAST. Without any delays or missteps, please.

But of course that is not going to happen. Like any recovery or growth, it will be slow and sometimes painful. We will have good days and bad days. There will be two steps forward and one step back.

We may get discouraged or begin to beat up on ourselves.

But there is another way.

I had a chance to meet the beloved, brilliant Phyllis Tickle a few years ago at a conference. As she signed my copy of her prayer book for summertime, I was telling her how we used her daily prayer books at breakfast with our kids. A proud mother herself, Phyllis was intrigued. “Do the books work well with the children?” She asked. I got kind of sheepish and admitted that we didn’t say ALL the prayers or read ALL the scriptures for each day since the children’s attention spans didn’t allow for it. She said something in response I’ll never forget:

It is not the prayers you don’t say that are important. It is the prayers that you do say that matter. 

Oh, Phyllis. Thank you. Thank you for knowing how I beat myself up for all I don’t do and fail to celebrate what good there is in my life.

As you journey through Lent, I pray that you know this in your bones. It is not the things you neglect to do or mess up on that really matter. It is the small steps you are taking each day to grow into whom God made you to be.

And please know that God is not sitting around checking a watch wondering when you will get it together already.

On the contrary, God is cheering and clapping like crazy for every little new step you take like a proud, giddy parent. 

So during this season of self-examination, let’s all be a little easier on ourselves, why don’t we? None of us is perfect, but we are all doing good work. Even when we can’t see it.

But God can see it. And loves us relentlessly no matter what we do or don’t do.

And at the end of the day, that is what matters.

 

Sundays in Lent

I did not grow up in a highly liturgical church, so when I first began observing Lent, I thought of it as a 40 day block from start to finish. Whatever I gave up or took on or otherwise practiced, I did it straight on from Ash Wednesday till Easter.

Then I began attending an Episcopalian church where folks are old pros at practicing Lent. They shared some interesting info with me..

Lent doesn’t really include Sundays. I am not even sure if the Sundays are counted in the 40 days.

I mean Sundays are affected by Lent as we put up all the golden worship accouterments during Lent, say the confession every week, and don’t sing the Alleluia, but still. Sundays are different than other days during Lent.

If you have given up something for Lent, you may enjoy it on Sunday. Sundays are a day to take it a little easier, to be more joyful. To celebrate a little.

Why?

Because as one of my priests told us, every Sunday is a little Easter.

And Easters are for celebrating.

Feasting, not fasting.

I remember the year we gave up eating out for Lent and gave the money we saved to a hunger initiative. We still went out to eat after church every Sunday, because, well, little Easter.

I enjoyed those casual meals out as much or more than I have any fine dining experience. Because they were special. The exception.

Maybe that is part of why we fast from things. So that the feast has meaning.

When all of life is feast, we take the celebration for granted. It becomes more selfish gluttony than an intentional, joy-filled moment.

When all of life is fast we may get grim or self-righteous. Or just plain worn down by the effort of it all.

I hope you take a note from my Episcopalian friends and don’t forget to enjoy the little Easters each Sunday during Lent. In fact, they may become some of the more meaningful moments of your Lenten journey.

Happy Sunday Everyone!

 

Identity Crisis

So as I’ve mentioned before in this Lenten series, my family is in the process of moving from one house to another.

If any of you have moved recently, you may have gone through the practice of staging your house. Since when I do something, I do it all the way, I have been staging away for weeks.

Let me just tell you up front that I live in a house with two tweens, two dogs, and two funky grownups. We all have our special things that we like and apparently none of these things fit into the category of appropriate house staging.

Normally this is totally fine. We are a pretty eccentric family with an eclectic house and we just roll with whatever.

My husband’s large icon collection. Cool. My daughter’s duct tape decor. Cool. My son’s Lego/paper airplane/origami/stuffed animal collections. Ok. His ball of fur leftover from the clippings of our beloved dog that has now passed on. A little weird, but if you keep it under the bed, okay.

As long as our house was our own, pretty much anything was acceptable as personal decor.

But then the clock started ticking on the day we would take pictures of our house and put it on the market. They day we would let strangers come in to see our home. Strangers we wanted to like our home enough enough to pay good money for it.

And then we started having awkward conversations with each other about how most American Southerners don’t consider icons of bleeding people cheerful decor. Even if the guy bleeding is our Lord and Savior on the cross.

I was pretty good at dishing out the “You’ve got to box up your icon collection/duct tape collection/furball collection” news flashes. However, I wasn’t prepared to eat what I was serving.

The day my husband informed me most 40 something women don’t display rock collections in their bedrooms or extensive shell collections in their bath, I was really taken aback. How could anyone not love a rock collection? I mean these were some pretty cool rocks!

So bit by bit we started boxing up the stuff that expresses our identities.

We started putting little bits of ourselves away so people would like us better.

And it was really painful. The kids both stopped talking to me for a day. I stopped talking to me for a day. I began to question my identity as a capable wife and homemaker.

If I had been so wrong about rocks and shells and acorns and leaves being beautiful home accents, what else was wrong with me that I didn’t know about?

The painful removing of quirks and eccentricities continued until one day my son said enough. After putting up his 50 paper airplanes, half of his lego sets, and all animal sheddings, he finally drew the line at our icon of St Francis that hangs right by our front door.

When I took down St Francis to put him in a box, my son firmly grasped the large icon, looked me in the eye and said, “NO. This is who we are. It stays.”

So he hung the icon back and there it will remain until it hangs in our new house.

And I am so glad. Because the fact that I love rocks is one thing. But the fact that I love and follow Jesus is another. And dear St Francis reminds me that my identity doesn’t lie in money or things or even nature, but in loving Jesus so much it affects everything I do.

And in the end it doesn’t matter if the people who come in to see our house like or approve of me. It doesn’t even matter if my friends and family like or approve of me.

All that matters is that God loves and approves of me, just as I am. No matter what. Because I am God’s beloved child. And my true home is in God’s loving arms.

Holding onto that identity is enough to see me through any circumstance, even this crazy move.

So this Lent, if you have to let go of something you love or feel a part of yourself shedding off, take heart. The core of your identity remains and will always be firm.

You are God’s beloved child. Your home is with Christ. Nothing can change that.

And a home that beautiful needs no decoration.

 

 

The Reverend Mother – or why every nursery worker should receive a free margarita after church

mosaic of motherhood

Today’s motherhood story comes to us from Nikki Collins MacMillan. Nikki and I met during our seminary days, and since we are both Georgia girls, we had the grace of reconnecting and staying close all these years later. I cannot … Continue reading