I so much enjoyed seeing how Caleb has matured recently. I witnessed it in the “fire” of his fight with Brody last night. I am still not quite sure what caused the fight, but they starting throwing fists. Caleb took some blows before I could break it up, and I saw how Caleb restrained himself . . . even though he said, “I want to hit him really bad.” I know at that age, it is SO hard to use self control, but he did. He had great manners and just seems to have grown in being a gentleman.
And sweet Brody . . . I know he feels emotion very deeply, and I could tell he was feeling a lot anger after his fight with his brother (which made him cry that he wanted to go home)!. Once he settled down, I told him I was sad that he wasn’t having fun at our slumber party. He announced that it wasn’t a real slumber party since we hadn’t had a pillow fight . . . so I whacked him with a pillow! After a few minutes of pillow fighting fun, Brody got in bed and turned into mister chatterbox (so funny). Anyway, after coming to tell me (a few times) that he was having trouble sleeping, he said, “God made my with lots of problems.” Before I could object, he caught himself and said, “But he also made me with lots of good things.” I loved that, because I knew those were words of truth that his momma spoke to him, and he is hearing them and believing them. In the morning, he also said, “Miss Angie, I’m sorry that I cried about going home.” That is so mature to apologize for something (and the next day too). And remorse shows sensitivity to wanting to do what is right. I know you are diligently directing him in what is right.
And Asher . . . what can I say? I ADORE him. He has the sweetest little heart and is so articulate for his age. I think your youngest will really bless you.
Anyway, just wanted to give you some words of encouragement, because you looked so discouraged when we met up. And since you asked for advice, here it is: keep up the good work, stand firm, and don’t grow weary … you WILL reap a harvest!
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I looked up Gregg Harris' 21 Family Rules, printed them up, and thought I'd pass them on to you down below. Because we need one another. We need a Tamara to walk with, an Angie to remind us of the fruit that is being produced in our midst, and an Ashley to inspire fresh ideas for tomorrow.
I can't be the only one who wanders into the valley some seasons, and so I share. Here's hoping you are blessed.
The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris
1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept
the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Looking back, I must have been mental! Either that or I was simply an odd concoction of narcissism and ignorance. 5'5" and 117 slim pounds. I hadn't birthed a baby, no sun spots on my face, fine lines around my eyes, or weird skin hanging from places that (no one told me) skin would eventually hang. And yet I was having a "fat day." A what?
My mom looked me over, up and down, and said in a flat tone, "Wendy, this is the best you're ever going to look."
Here's the real bummer, where was my self-esteem? I'm not saying it should have been wrapped up in my physical beauty, as tight as the elasticity of my young skin, but it surely is a shame I spent so much time judging myself, my thighs, my waist; feeling not good enough. Now here I am, 10 months out from my 40th birthday, and a reverse conversation is happening between the mirror and my self-image. I look at my reflection or a photo that's been snapped and think, "Who's that? I'm prettier than that? Aren't I?"
Just a decade and a half ago my self-image was lower than my reality, and now that my self-image has finally gotten acquainted with my physical reality... it's all shifting again. Downward. Steadily downward.
I'm going on a women's retreat in one week. I mentioned that here. In just 6 days. This isn't just any retreat; this is a group of writers, thinkers, photographers, and cooks. It's a spectacular time of recharging in their collective midst. And I'm giddy at the thought of what's to come. (While it may seem I'm heading off down a rabbit hole, stay with me...)
Last year, one of our photographers captured each of us in the late afternoon sun at Castello di Amrosa, a midievil winery in Napa Valley. While I love the photographer and can appreciate the pictures of me she took, I still look at them and wonder who the subject is. Not me, surely. Something strange happens to my face when I smile now.
Anyway, this year Tammy, from Tammy Labuda Photography in Texas, is attempting to create unique, artistic portraits. We've been asked to do a little bit more than simply "show up and smile" this time. We've been charged to search both our souls and pinterest for images that capture what's going on in our imaginations, what's collected over these forty years on our insides, in our dreams and ideals. We've shared pictures like these.
As pictures and creative ideas have flown between us, via pinerest, emails, and texts, the most fun has been shopping for costumes for one another. Bethany in St. Louis, Kelli in Florida, Tammy in Texas, and me, out here in California. Pictures of hats on heads, scarves round necks, dresses hung from bodies, curtain rods, or strewn on beds, are photographed and sent on. We're teenagers again, trying on clothes. Stall after stall after stall, all lined up side-by-side in the dressing room. Giggling as we hand each garment over the dividers for the next female to try on. O, the comrodore of women.
Of all the hilarity that's ensued from our dressing room frivolity, one email exchange pierced me most deep:
Kelli: You guys are amazing. I love the creativity you have rolling around in your brains. All I can think is, "I hope Tammy's camera will actually take ten pounds off rather than add ten pounds." These are the thoughts in my brain.
Wendy: The pounds! Kelli. I know. For three years now! After Asher was born I lost it all, then suddenly there were 13 extra pounds. I knocked some of it down, but the last few are just hanging on me, unbecomingly. The thought of Tammy's camera was stressing me out. The thought of bathing suit season was even worse. But, I tell you, the thoughts about all the self-centered thoughts were the final nails in my coffin. That's when I thought, "I don't want to see me, I want to see Jesus". Not just in these pictures, but in life. I"m rather tired of thinking about myself so darn much!
Tammy: Regarding those last few stubborn pounds, Wendy, I have struggled with not being happy with my physical appearance for far too long. Self esteem has never been my strength. My bum is droopy, my thighs are dimpled and jiggly, and my skin is not as youthful as it once was. As our time together approached, I was starting to fret. But, then I remembered I was going to be with all of YOU. Like Jenni said in her blog post last summer. We share a fellowship of friendship that embraces and celebrates who we are - as we are. There is acceptance and a celebration for who we are. I'm loved regardless of whether or not my knees look smoking hot in a shorter skirt. It just doesn't matter. My soul is enriched each time we are together. I leave with more confidence — that oozes from the inside out — making me feel more beautiful than I have ever felt before. That doesn't mean I don't wish I were more fit and trim. But it is what it is. I'll still work hard at it, but even if I haven't reached my fitness goals, I'm going to come to California and hang with you beautiful ladies — as I am. And I'm once and for all perfectly okay with that. Besides...I know Photoshop!
How to wrap up a post like this? I charge us all; let's not just embrace friendships that celebrate who we are... let us do the same. Stretch in the morning, with your naked feet firmly planted on the cold hard floor, breath deeply and tell God what a good job He did when he wove you together in your Mother's womb. Celebrate that and do a little naked dance step before stepping into the shower, for we are, ladies, fearfully and wonderfully made!
I'm going to practice this personal celebration, because I reflect more real beauty today than I did 3,000 yesterdays ago. It's been hard won. And the trophy of my years should be shined up and displayed without embarrassment! I have persevered and loved longer and better, and each line reflects that; my widened hips tell of loved ones birthed and then propped upon them.
So shine up that camera, Tammy! I'm bringing my A Game! Not because I sport the figure of an A list actress, but because I am Absolutely Amazing, today. Every Phenomenal ounce of me.
by Maya Angelo
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Today I took a long, soul-satisfying walk beside the lake. Spring was underfoot and in the trees; it budded, chirped, and blew all around. I strode happily, though the hills were high and the heart in my chest beat steadily. Time alone in God's creation is rare for me. If you have little ones with you all day each day you understand. But here was my moment and I walked until my muscles quaked from exhaustion... and then turned back and headed home. Celtic Music wafted from the cell phone in my pocket, keeping a happy rhythm for my feet to jig along home to.
When clouds gathered to block the sun I untied the sweatshirt at my waist and put it on. Mist came upon thick in a Springtime moment, then cleared away again. On and off my sweatshirt went.
Around the last bend I came to a meadow of wild lupine, cobalt and striking, and stopped to pick myself a nosegay. Instantly I knew the vase I'd use for the evening dinner table.
As I continued up the final hill to our home, with the music, and the flowers, and the vista, it began to rain. Not a rain that soaks you through or makes one melancholy, but a happy sort of rain with just the right number of droplets to increase joy.
As I cleared the final hilltop and saw my home I thought how much like a character from a Jane Austin book I must appear, and a soul-springing-up smile spread across my face. My husband stood on the porch talking with a neighbor, and I waved.
It was a wonderful walk. I came home nourished from the inside, ready to love my beloveds fresh again.
Green is the color of new growth and fertility. Green evokes a sense of safety, peace and harmony. Green is soothing; calming anxiety and bringing healing to the body. It is the most restful color for the human eye. In heraldry, green indicates growth and hope. And, of course, green is the signal imploring us to "Go".
poem by Ellen Bau
At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she'd been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.
Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching -
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.
But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after - if she beat you or left you or
you're lonely now - you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.
Last week I received a riveting compilation of poetry selected by Garrison Keillor, sent to me by my new friend Bethany. I met Bethany less than a year ago. As we talked and shared, and got to know one another I said something like, "I love poetry." "Really?" She asked, "Who's your favorite poet?" I mumbled, tossing out a couple of names of long dead wordsmiths, whose lines I treasured years ago. Then I confessed, "I guess I haven't read poetry in a long time. Not since becoming a mom anyway."
Bethany's a mother too. She understood how easy it was for me to lose this part of my autonomy and forego this passion in the midst of spit-up and diaper changes.
Since our meeting I have received three such collections of both old and modern day poets from my dear new friend. The above poem, C22, rattled me to the core two days ago as I read it aloud to my husband, driving north on Interstate 5. At the poem's end I sighed and said, "That's poetry."
Last night I found one of my well worn books and brought it to my eldest son's room. We read Robert Frost aloud together. Ironically, when we came to his famous "Nothing Gold Can Stay" I saw those same two words written by the title, and the date penned beside it.
"That's poetry 9-5-90"
Not only is my passion for the written word in tact after all these years of laying myself down to pick up the needs and passions of so many little ones, but my response to what moves the core of me is unchanged.
It's the same. The same. I'm the same. Way down deep. Though time and mothering has separated me from some hobbies, I find myself the same today at 38 as I was as at sweet 16.
I love poetry. Always have. And as I start to untie the binds I've willingly bound these past 8 years I'm discovering some of my old passions again.
I've missed me.
Not just anthologies of poetry and rose bouquets, but me, and my thoughts, and my dreams, and my skin, and my heart.
Thank you, Bethany, for the gift of this discovery. And might this post be the inspiration you need to grab a good book, turn up the radio, or plan a date to walk along the shore with your love and Kiss, kiss, kiss. Long and hard. Remembering how good it feels.
“Holy solitaries' is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.” (John Wesley)
Yesterdays blog post about my new friends, caused me to think of some of the most encouraging friendships I have right now in my life.
They are, simply put, The Mothers of Other Brothers... Specifically those women who have multiple, interesting, strong-willed, boyish-boys in their home. Boys who push one another down for the sheer pleasure of it, only to have it end in a broken arm or black and blue forehead; boys who climb high into a tree and come up with the brilliant plan to pull down their pants and take a pee together; boys who look forward all day to a light saber battle with their dad, only to melt down when Dad comes home, because they all want to be Luke Skywalker; boys who go on hikes and think nothing about picking up arms full of old dear bones and freshly shedded snake skins.
"Yuck, yikes, pull up your pants, and quiet down please!"
That's what most people would holler. But not The Mothers of Other Brothers! While the decimal level may skyrocket when there are multiple families with multiple boys altogether in one place, encouragement comes in seeing other families lovingly parenting their way though similar testosterone-charged chaos.
We even live on a cul de sac, right smack dab between other families with boys. As the boys battled it in the street with a football the other day, another mother and I laughed as we saw similar challenges in one another's children. "Same stuff, different house..." She said with a laugh. Grace, I thought.
Without that laughter, I can feel isolated and like a failure compared to my friends with only one boy. Boys who don't have another ball of boy energy to bounce off of and pummel, are different than boys who do. Now I know I'm generalizing here, but it's been my general experience thus far.
While I've heard it said "the more the merrier," where boys are concerned it's not always the case for me. For me. Because I thrive in peace and quiet. But I don't just want to learn to be content with what I have, i want to find joy in their chaotic, stinky, boyishness. Without these Mothers of Other Brothers, I can lose track of the Merry experience of Mothering Brothers.
Today I am very grateful to get to Mother Strong, Squirrelly and Stubborn. And I'm thankful for the Others Mothering Brothers all around me.
We need them! Don’t we? I’m talking about The Mothers of Others . We rub shoulders with them as we drop the kids off at school, sit in the bleachers beside them as the kids play their sports, and laugh with them on the cul de sac as our little ones close out the day with one more bike ride or sidewalk chalk-masterpiece. They are the other mothers all around us.
From afar they may look better, stronger, more loving or fit… they appear more gracious, joyful, resilient and calm… but truth be told we’re all in the same boat as we parent our miniature charges. And the chief thing that ties us all together, as we walk shoulder to shoulder, is that we all desire to do our best, but need encouragement to keep marching lovingly on. We need an Atta-Girl! over the fence. We all need exhortation, inspiration, shared recipes, laughter and tears. We need companionship, adult conversation, and comfort. Comfort when we struggle with nursing issues, or when our hearts break over the physical or emotional pains our children struggle with. We need fellowship as we celebrate their victories and our own achievements. Yes, we need friends.
Today I made two new friends.
I’d seen them before at back-to-school night, the Kindergarten picnic, and in the pick-up line at school, but today was the day we became friends. Here’s how it all went down:
This morning a small group of us moms stayed around after drop-off to help chaperone the Kindergartener’s first field trip to the local Pumpkin Patch. By late morning the temperature soared into the hundreds as children, teachers, and parents alike began to melt. We gulped down water bottles, lovingly tugged the children back towards the school bus, and laughed our way back to campus with 35 red-faced girls and boys. On the ride back to school I overheard two other mothers discussing if they were going to drink hot or cold tea this afternoon.
As a certifiable, tea-drinking nerd I had to interrupt. Turns out they were going to go for tea at a new little tea-house this afternoon after returning the kids to school. Unashamed (until the words actually fell out of my mouth) I asked, “O, can I come? I love going for tea!” Praise the Maker, they said yes (enthusiastically in fact), and off we went to The Grand Tea Room in Escondido: Lovely little place with fabulous scones, flavorful salads and savories, and finger sandwiches.
Within five minutes of sitting down we had progressed from another reminder of one another’s names and the names of our children to the stories of meeting our husbands. Fun facts about our passions and our husbands interesting hobbies practically splashed out of our hearts and into our tea cups. Plans were made to get our families together soon and we beamed at one another, satisfied with new friendship.
I know that I'm embarrassingly out-going at times, and you might be the farthest possible opposite of me imaginable, but today I wanted to share this story with you because we all need friends. And I've come to see that the Other Mothers all around us on the playground, at MOPs groups, and on the sidelines, are uniquely equipped to laugh, encourage and march on with us during this specifically glorious albeit challenging season of life.
Tell me, are you out there seeking friendship or waiting for friendship to find you? Let me encourage you to extend the hand of friendship to someone this week. Blessings...