Mother’s Day Hurts for Some

I woke up this morning to a silent house – Peter with his headphones downstairs, watching the news, the kids in a deep sleep. And in that silence, the thoughts that came bursting into my head first thing were for my friends who are not mothers, and this not by their own choice, and are struggling quietly today because of the hoopla and Hallmark.

To you I say, You are not incomplete. You are not “less than.”

I don’t have time or space here to delve deeply into the complexities of humanity’s love/love/hate/buyflowers/deride/canonize relationship with motherhood. And chances are high this writing is going to be clumsy, because of the delicate nature of the theme. And kinda sorta deep cause I usually go there… so sorry ahead of time! But still…

I am thinking of a gorgeous loving girlfriend whom I once callously asked at a baby shower,  “So, when are you guys going have one?” – only to be stopped in my tracks by  immediate overwhelming tears that brimmed her big eyes. “We can’t.”

And others, who would make amazing mamas, but are battling with health issues or life circumstances so their future in that regard might be uncertain. And amazing couples that are moving forward in their adoption process, after an agonizing soul searching and decision making process.

I just woke up wanting to hug all the women who can’t have kids and tell them the truth.  I write this because it seems tradition and society subtly conspire to make a woman feel “less than” when she hasn’t biologically experienced “the miracle of birth.” That – to put it eloquently – is crap.  I say you’re “more than” – more than amazing and inspiring, creative and beautiful and full of power to change lives and grow lives and be an agent of redemption. I salute you!

Yes, motherhood is amazing. And yes, I have often gushed over the miracle of it. But motherhood is not the most amazing experience in the world, and I mean that. I believe the most amazing experience in the world is connecting at the deepest levels with the human and the divine.

Bearing children biologically, and raising them, does allow us to experience that connection. But having a child is not the only way, doesn’t even guarantee it.

What do I mean by “connecting at the deepest levels with the human and the divine”? I wish I was a good enough wordsmith to flesh it out… Here’s my clumsy (I warned you), and admittedly limited, attempt:

Impacting another life – true, when you are raising a child you are literally molding another life. That is power and responsibility. Yet I can think of teachers, mentors, and relatives that helped mold my life. If you have that innate instinct to mentor, to impact, to help a person discover who they were meant to be, pursue it!

Agonizing heartache – one of my abiding ponderings is the mystery that heartache and joy are two sides of the same coin. The journey with another person through bad and good is the connection with the human to which I referred. Kids will absolutely sear your heart; some of the greatest pain in my life has come watching my children go through bad times. That feeling is matched in intensity by the joy of watching them make right decisions. All of us, to grow, have to connect at that level – and you can have that connection with a lover, a sibling, a kindred spirit…

Self-sacrifice – laying down your life for another is the beginning of connecting with the divine. This is another abiding pondering for me – self-actualization often only happens through self-sacrifice, because that is when you discover who you really are. Losing myself has helped me to find myself. Self-sacrifice means doing things when you just don’t feel like it; it means going on when you want to give up; it means being misjudged.  I promise you, there is someone out there who needs a hero like you today.

Redemption – a third pondering: the dynamic tension between my choices and my destiny (in religion-speak, free will vs. predestination). As life unfolds one day, one year, eventually one decade at a time, there is a matching revelation – things work out. With children you can see how a choice you felt forced to make (and feared would hurt your children) – say, to move to another state – ultimately leads to very good things for them… There’s something about the helplessness of parenting that ultimately helps you surrender to redemption. You already know about helplessness and surrender. And everywhere in life we can witness goodness and redemption working out, both despite and because of, the decisions made. With eyes wide open and an attentive spirit, we can see this redemptive grace at work everywhere.

Bottom line – it’s rough. The ache may never fade. But just in case you have subconsciously bought into the lies, be free. Motherhood is not the be all and end all of womanhood. Connecting with our fellow humans and our God, and channeling life through those connections, is the essence of womanhood.

Advertisements

“Tell me what you are afraid of”

This is an excerpt from The Shack, an allegory. The setting is a dock, on a small lake, out by a secluded country cabin. Mack is the main character, a man struggling with some serious pain and injustice (more than most of us will ever know). Jesus, in simple human form, is chatting with him. He’s invited Mack to walk with him on the water.

“Tell me what you are afraid of, Mack.”

“Well, let me see. What am I afraid of?” Began Mack. “Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that – ”

“Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster. If I may prove my case, do you think humans were designed to live in the present or the past or the future?”

“Well,” said Mack, hesitating, “I think the most obvious answer is that we were designed to live in the present. Is that wrong?”

Jesus chuckled. “Relax, Mack; this is not a test, it’s a conversation. You are exactly correct, by the way. But now tell me, where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination, in the present, in the past, or in the future?”

Mack thought for a moment before answering. “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. For me, I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.”

“Not unlike most people. When I dwell with you, I do so in the present – I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?”

Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true. He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack’s imaginations of the future, God was always absent.

 

My Relationships and Will Smith

Been thinking about a (supposedly) Will Smith quote today: “If you are not with me in my struggle, don’t expect to be with me in my victory.” Pondering. I know those that have stood with us during our strongest challenges. Sometimes fighting aggressively on our behalf, other times just patiently giving us time to grow and learn, still loving despite mistakes, others stepping in with strong arms that give support. Those people I never ever forget – I could name them for you even going back 30 years. My first book will be dedicated to them.

Those that don’t “stand with” – I can think of two types: the ones that hold back support, for reasons known only to them; and the truly painful – the ones that cause or provoke the struggle by doing harm. Ouch. They most definitely have no place in our victory, but there is also no bitterness in my heart toward them. I know my Father works all things together for my good.

But further thinking – what kind of person am I? Have I stood with others in their struggles? I don’t want to be so self-absorbed, vision blurred by my own battles that I don’t do what I can to help others succeed. I have failed somewhat on that front. Lord, help me to have eyes to see – really see. You love your children so proactively. Please help me to do the same.

Father of the Bride!

Here is the epic Father of the Bride speech…

Yours truly was the photog, but was laughing so hard sometimes (and panicked at others) that there is some shaking… This is classic Peter.

Story-telling is an art. Don’t underestimate the power of your own stories!

Enjoy!

Melissa & Chris, now Mr. & Mrs. Peterson!

Fresh Start

Morning glories are beautiful! They just might be my favorite flower… why?

Because every morning, this is what greets me: fresh blooms…


Morning glories ALWAYS remind me that God’s mercies are new every morning, that His steadfast love never stops…

If you look closely at these pictures from my back yard, you see that tomorrow’s blessings are all ready, poised to unfold tomorrow morning. How amazing is that?

I know this may seem simple, but let me tell you – some of the simplest things hold the deepest truths.

Every single morning I have this opportunity: to take my frustrations and failures from yesterday, and my frightening challenges from today and tomorrow, and place them in God’s hands.

I get to say, “Father, I know these things can seem overwhelming to me – just look at them all – look at this, and that, and how impossible this seems… Look at how so-and-so reacted, and look at that terrible mistake that leader is making… Look at how I messed this or that up. And look at that wonderful opportunity! Father – all this I lay before you and I say I hand you each and every circumstance, concern and dream – let’s make a fresh start of it today! I don’t know what you have planned, but I KNOW you are good and am so excited to walk this path with you! Oh, and yes, thank you for  morning glories…”


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” Lam. 3:22-24

Four Ways That Fear Creates What it Fears

“Never do anything out of a motivation of fear.”
Some of the best advice I have ever received!
Why? Because fear creates what it fears.

  1. Fear of rejection: If you are afraid of being rejected by colleagues or acquaintances, you become clingy and petty – possibly creepy – causing otherwise friendly people to want to steer clear of you, i.e., to reject you.
  2. Fear of losing a lover: If you are afraid of losing a lover to another, you become irrational and  jealous, controlling – potentially driving the person straight into your rival’s arms.
  3. Fear of discovery: If you have a guilty conscience, you become accusatory and defensive, arouse suspicion, and provoke others to dig into your life until you are exposed.
  4. Fear of betrayal: If you fear betrayal, you will consistently  misinterpret actions, become petty and treat others as unworthy of trust – a pattern of behavior that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy culminating in (you guessed it) “betrayal.”

It’s just how it works. I’m not sure why. But fear does create what it fears.
So now – before I take action or respond in a situation, before I pick up the phone or send the text or say yes or no to a request for help, before I censor myself on Twitter or Facebook – I try to remember to ask myself “why?” Why am I doing or not doing this? Am I acting out of fear?

Just might be the most important question we can ask ourselves today.

Your Voice

[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.

I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.

Just what is voice?  It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…

We each have a purpose.  God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.

I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?

We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!

Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.

Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!