To My Boys on Their First Day of School

IMG_1143.jpg

 

My Dear Boys,

The thing that I love most about both of you is that while you are mine, you are utterly yourselves.

Your souls cannot be contained or controlled, and that’s exactly what most terrifies and thrills me about being your mom.

Today you started school.

And what I know is that while you are not alone on your new journey, neither am I. I’m surrounded by other moms and dads who are doing the same thing, loving their kiddos while they are with them and while they aren’t.

So here’s what I know.

Transitions hurt, and stretching feels like a small kind of death, and that's okay.
There’s this saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and I feel that already, felt it the moment we stepped out that door and left you for a few hours to learn and grow.

When you wake up in the morning, there will be things like oatmeal and strawberries waiting for you, and when you go to bed, there will be stories of Grandmother Moon and Waynaboozhoo.

And the next morning, I will be waiting with sage, so that when we burn it we can remember who we are. And when you go to bed that next night, there will be stories of Harry Potter and Hagrid, Ron and Hermione to lead you to the deepest parts of your imagination.

You see, this is why the stretching is both beautiful and hard.

Because of the stretching, we will make room for the sacred. We will gather when we are together, and when we are apart, we will do the work we’re called to do.

 

IMG_1148.jpg

 

My Dear Boys,

When you see the world, both now and later when you’re grown, I might ask you to report back to me.

I might ask you to let me know what you’ve seen and heard, what overwhelmed your senses, what distracted you, what brought you comfort, what hurt you.

I might ask, because for now, we’ve got things to share with each other, before the leaving and the cleaving that one day will come in one form or another.

Before that, we report to each other so that we grow together, so that this world experiences all of us, our stories meshed and molded with one another’s stories.

We do this now so that one day, when you build family and community far from my grasp, I can watch in awe of the people you become.

I can watch in awe that your souls grew and stretched to bloom into exactly who you were created to be.

 

So, my dear boys,

Go, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.

Go, and when you come home, I’ll be there, waiting.

Go, make the world more beautiful and right wrongs, because that’s the shape of you.

Go, and as you go, I’ll be going, so that when we come together we will know how to be ready for whatever lies ahead of us.

 

Albus Dumbledore says, “there are all kinds of courage,” and I know that to be true, because I’ve seen it in you time and again.

Let your kind of courage be the thing that guides you.

 

I love you.

 

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Our Single Parents This Christmas

during this holiday season, let’s remember our single parents.-2.png

I’ve been doing what a lot of Americans do during the Christmas season: watching cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. Recently I watched one called My Santa, a movie about a single mother who falls in love with Santa’s son. While I wouldn’t recommend you spend an hour and a half watching it like I did, it reminded me of the difficult time so many single parents have at this time of year.

I was a child of a single parent at one time, and right now I’m solo parenting for a few weeks. Every time my partner goes on a trip, I’m reminded of that time when my mother had to care for three kids and work full time. I remember that she was tired, and while the holidays are still really sweet memories, simple memories—I don’t think as a child I picked up on the stress that she carried constantly. What I remember is that we listened to Nat King Cole and Harry Connick, Jr. while we decorated the tree. What I remember is gratitude that I was loved.

After my partner had been away for a few days, I shared a thought on Twitter about how hard it is to be parent, and at the end I said, “Please tell me I’m not alone in this?”

A flood of responses came in, parents of all ages telling me that I am not alone, that parenthood is hard and beautiful, that our children are a handful and that’s absolutely okay.  I was given permission to breathe a little instead of telling myself over and over that everything was fine and I shouldn’t be stressed because I have a good life. I was forcing gratitude on myself so that I couldn’t admit that it’s just hard sometimes.

And because we don’t like to admit it when things are hard, we don’t let others admit it, either. We often make it more difficult for our single parents, especially in a society that prides itself on consumerism and the idea that kids can ask for whatever they want from Santa and will get it.

It puts single parents, who are often struggling to make ends meet, in a difficult, exhausted position, not to mention the fact that they are missing out on the partnership that gives them the opportunity to receive their own gifts on Christmas morning.

It snowed here in Georgia recently, and that morning, I noticed a lot of birds flocking to our empty bird feeders that hang from hooks out front. So I refilled all of our birdfeeders out in the yard, and watched as birds flocked to the newly filled feeders, stocking up on food before the snow began to fall and the temperatures dropped. I watched, with great honor, the creatures I had the chance to care for. I was in awe that I had the energy to care for creatures other than my two boys and our puppy, because while I’ve loved our time together, it’s been exhausting.

I remember single parents who do not always have the ability to step back and rest and care for others because they are exhausted and this season requires so much from them. I remembered that the years when I had a single mother, we struggled but found grace in the kindness of others who took the time to care for us, whether it was our  landlord or family friends.

So during this holiday season, let’s remember our single parents. Let’s remember that those of us who have partners shouldn’t take it for granted. Let’s practice sensitivity over judgment, and follow a few simple rules in honor of the single parents around us:

Don’t Assume.

This isn’t a time to wonder if a parent is single because they are divorced, or because they had a child out of wedlock, or because their partner died. It’s not a time to wonder how much they’re putting in the offering plate or why they seem so exhausted around their kids. This is a time to hold space and to give as much grace as possible. It’s a time to listen instead of talk. It’s a time to embrace the idea that our souls are connected to one another because of our humanity, and that is enough.

Let go of consumer culture.

One of the best things we can do for our children, for our culture and those who are less fortunate in it, is to pull ourselves away from the constant consumer culture that involves Black Friday sales and expensive shopping malls. For those of us who love gift-giving, consider shopping at antique malls or thrift stores, making homemade gifts or sharing an experience with a loved one. If we can change our culture, maybe we can make space for the single parents in our midst to do what they can for their own families with our full support.

Offer Holiday Help.

If you know people in your life who are single parents, reach out to them. Let them know that you see them, that you’re aware of the difficulties they face during this time. Offer your time so that they can wrap some presents or have an afternoon to themselves, or invite them over for a holiday meal. Drive around and look at Christmas lights together. Bring them into your spaces, put yourself in their spaces, and learn what it means to be community to one another.

 Be Kind to Strangers.

As a general rule, right now everyone needs to be kind to everyone else. This goes beyond social, political and religious circles. We cannot afford to continue living in such a toxic, dual mindset that seeks to divide anywhere we can divide. Actions and attitudes like this begin in the heart and trickle out to everyone around us, creating waves of chaos and hurt.

Often, our children get caught in our fights, and this holiday season, we need to make space for our children to simply be children, and for our single parents to have peace to care for them without worrying about being judged by their neighbors or a stranger on the internet. So we practice kindness in the grocery store, in the airport where a single parent is traveling with their children. We buy someone a cup of coffee. We practice it at the park, standing in line at the post office to mail packages.

Maybe if we put on Christ-likeness this Advent season, we’ll take on the work of being blessing to those who are tired and in need of that kindness, and we will remember that God chose one single woman to bring the Savior into the world in the most beautifully humble way.

May we remember that as we care for the single parents in our midst this holiday season, as we thank them for the hard and beautiful work they do every single day. 

LEARNING TO BREATHE IN THE WORLD

When we got home from an afternoon at the pool, my oldest son took a nap. While he was sleeping I crept in to lay down beside him for a few minutes. I looked at his fresh haircut and his eyelashes, listening as he quietly breathed in and out.

For a minute, I synced my breathing with his– in, out, in, out, in— and watched as he slept, dreaming of brighter and brighter tomorrows.

I am often asked how I do this–how I write and parent and manage work and family and joy and sorrow in all places.

What I’ve realized is that when I do something that I am passionate about, something that has ripple effects out in the world and connects me to humanity and to God, it is directly tied to the way I parent my children.

What I write is affected by my relationship with them, mostly by what they teach me about myself and about being a better person every day. So when I synced my breath with his, I thought about how we are tied to one another, connected to one another, a team in the things we set out to do in this world.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still his mother, still his parent, still someone who should guide and lead him, but it does mean that what I care passionately about I share with him, and what he thinks is important, he shares with me.

CurticeAll-46

So how can I teach him to sync his breathing to the world? As a five year old, seven year old, fifteen year old, fifty year old? What can I do for him to understand that the way he moves and breathes and has his being is meant to be of use and impact every place he inhabits?

What does it mean to work and live with the pace of the world, and not just our experience of it? What does it mean to live into a reality that our way is not the only way, that our story is not the only story?

Our children, when they are young, before we teach them otherwise, have an innate curiosity to know things, to dream things, to imagine things.

While they are still young, they seek to understand how things work, why the world is big but looks so small on a map, what it means to be human.

Is it possible that as adults we can re-learn those things from the little ones who make those curious thoughts their reality?

Absolutely.

So in watching the way he engages the world, I learn how to engage the world. When I listen to his dreams, I am listening to the dreams of God, a vision for all of creation to be restored to and known in its original beauty.

When I sat still enough to breathe in and out with my son, I felt the whole world breathing. I felt faces and names, places and stories come alive to me in a way they never have before, and with that, the love of God spread itself out across everything, this beautiful and deep root system that gives life to everything under the sun.

We read things about breathing in Jewish stories– the name of God, Yahweh, meaning simply breath, simply being alive to the reality of the Creator. As my friend Bob shares in a post about Breath Prayer, our spirits are intermingled with our breathing.   

That means that when we practice breathing with the world and with our own spirits, we align ourselves with the things God.

In Native American culture, breath and stillness are important parts of daily life, because with quiet breathing comes steady listening– to the world around us, to ourselves, to the voice of God. When I am still enough to notice the ant on the ground, or the birds chirping at sunset, I enter into the practice of coming more fully alive.

When I light sage and let it cleanse the space around me, or lay tobacco on the ground as I pray to Mamogosnan, the Creator, the good Father, my breathing interacts with that sacred space and I meet God in the quiet. I meet God in the world. 

Maybe this is why I hear so many parents talk about why they love watching their children sleep– the deepest peace settling over them, the deepest quiet, a vision of humanity at rest in shalom.

We know that after hard work comes rest, and after something momentous happens in our lives we have a catharsis–a moment to stop and quiet ourselves, to process, to breathe. 

The steady breathing afterward is just as important as the hard work beforehand. The world teaches us this in its changing seasons, in its cultivation and evolution, in its growing and steadying.

So next time I go to sleep, I’ll remember that in those moments before my mind slows and enters into a dream world, I am communing with God, with creation, with the world in the call of Yahweh.

And when we wake again to the dawn, we stop and breathe. We look out the window and listen to the steady in and out that gave life to us in our very first moments.

And we know that it is good to be alive and breathing in this sacredly created world.

Amen.

 

 

To My Sisters Who Mourn on Mother’s Day

Sister,

I wish you could have been with us in that room, four walls surrounding a Hannah Service to acknowledge the grief of children lost, never born, sometimes not even named. We gathered because someone said she did not want to leave you out of this Mother’s Day experience, because you may very well be more deeply affected by it than others.

Sister, I lamented with you, for you, because I have not known what it is like to lose a child, to lose a baby or a pregnancy, to struggle in this way. I cannot understand it, so I hold the silence with you and for you.

I was there to lead worship; I was there to sing a few songs about the faithfulness of God in seasons that are so raw.

Someone said, “I don’t want a hope that will make me deny my grief,” and I thought that so many people should hear this message.

It is universal. It would calm so many hearts and ease so much pain, just a little, if we were allowed to out-loud-grieve and wail and try to make sense of what doesn’t make sense– together.

I cried for you in that space. I grieved with you in ways I didn’t know how, but still, I tried.

We remembered Hannah, who was not afraid to come to God and demand to be heard. We remembered her courage, and I thought of you, of all of you who have been courageous.

FullSizeRender 18.jpg

We lit candles to mark our lament. There were only a few of us, but we lit more candles than I’d imagined, because I realized there that you are hurting with more than one kind of hurt today. We counted our grief and I so wish I could sit with you and count yours, so that you know you are not alone.

We remembered how our grief burns like fire, how we carry heavy loads as women. So we demanded there that God hear us, and we turned to trusting that God does.

We had three strings to braid together to remember that grief, hope and trust are often intertwined in our lives. As I braided it, not for my own grief or loss, but for yours, I challenged the church to be better to you and for you.

I challenged myself to remember, to not forget, to hold silent space, to learn what it looks like to lament beside others who lament.

I prayed for everyone who may not know what it’s like to hold their own child, let alone two, like I do.

I thought of women in my life who have fostered and cared for children in their homes, who have tried to adopt and it has fallen through; I thought of you, how loss comes and comes again and it hurts.

We ended the evening with hope, but we asked what hope looks like.

Is hope the realized dream of a baby of your own?

Is hope finding that the pain hurts a little less?

Is hope that Mother’s Day will one day feel different than it does now?

We sang, “You make me new, you are making me new,” over and over again as a proclamation– not that we know the answer to what newness looks like, but that we trust in a waiting God who hears the lament, the cry of grief brought from the people.

This Mother’s Day, I pray that the church does better by you, sister.

I pray the church sees you, I pray that the church is quiet and humble enough to understand that we can’t possibly understand, but walk beside you.

Nevertheless, we are here.

You are not alone.

Daily my work is to try to make the church better, to see things she didn’t see before, to notice the things she’s been missing.

I believe the church has work to do to get closer to the call of Jesus, and wrapped up somewhere inside of this call is the challenge to better learn how to grieve with each other.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we believe politically or religiously, how our views of God are different.

We literally set it aside and we wade into grief together, unashamed, unafraid, to let it do its slow and steady work.

And along the way, we pray for hope and trust to settle in somewhere, to make a home among our grief, to commune with our grief so that we know that we are not alone.

This Mother’s Day, I’m leaning in with you, sister.

I’m holding space that I don’t understand toward a God who holds space far better than I ever could.

For you.

 

Practicing Parenthood In a Time of Chaos

curls .jpg

During long drives in the car, I’ve had some difficult conversations with my boys about justice, the law, the difficult history that we’re a part of as native people and as Christians, and the overall climate of our nation today.

A hundred years ago, we probably would have been told that parenting is hard– just like it’s hard today. Maybe the world is worse in our century, or maybe it’s a little better– whatever it is, chaos is still present, and as parents, we still have a job to do.

So with that challenge in place, we pray that we lead our little ones both in the right way and in their own way— we help them find their gifts, we walk beside them, we teach them to value the journeys and stories of others, we discipline and shape their character, and we let them see the world with the tethering of hope through which Jesus saw it.

Even so.

I don’t like living in a world in which I have to tell my son that laws are meant to protect people…usually.

I don’t like living in a world in which the history of indigenous people is known by stories of kids being taken from their savage parents and placed in boarding schools or with civilized, non-native families.

I don’t like living in a world in which my child’s sexuality is defined by their favorite color or toy preference or ability to be creative.

I don’t like living in a world in which the word enemy is defined by political party and reconciliation is not practiced enough between people of faith.

And yet.

I love living in a world in which my boys can grow up to change laws.

I love living in a world  in which we can challenge social norms with the power of shalom.

I love living in a world in which they can change history for their own people generations down the road,

that they can redefine what it means to be strong and brave and smart,

and that they can love their enemies and engage reconciliation on a daily basis.


 

Sometimes I wish Jesus had been a parent. Then maybe there would have been stories about his encounters with his kids that we could draw advice from–

That time his toddler threw a tantrum in the synagogue and he had to compassionately parent him into understanding;

That time they saw someone poor neglected by the law and he had to tell his kids why before they engaged in protest for the least of these against the rulers of their day;

That time he had to tell his teenager to fearlessly pray for a society  that objectifies her, the same way he told her to stand tall and proud of who she is, that her voice matters, and that love trumps hate.

But we don’t have those kinds of stories.

We have stories that tell us he healed lepers and looked children in the eyes, that he challenged the concept of seen and not heard.

We know his heart, and it guides us in these days, in this country, in this world, in which we have all the things that make living difficult and all the things that make living sacred.

So if we know what Jesus was like, we walk in that spirit of shalom.

We teach our children the lessons that we learned and the lessons we should have learned. We teach them to be better and we don’t fear learning from them.

And in our social, political, and religious climate, we follow the rules of shalom– the rules of peace– and they guide us in our conversations, in our actions, in the way we interact with other human beings.

Because honestly, I don’t know how to be a parent now. I know that there is a Mystery within the realm of God that gives me strength when I need it, and that Jesus leads me, often through the lessons my little ones teach me.

I don’t know that the world today is any worse or any better than it was.

But I know that chaos cannot last forever, and in the midst of it, Jesus still makes all things new.


Jesus,

Teach us the lessons we don’t read on scripture pages.

Teach us the lessons that give us grace in our everyday lives,

lessons that remind us we are not alone,

we are not abandoned,

that you are the partner in all things we do.

You are the partner when we are at our wits’ end.

You are the partner that pushes us through the next challenge.

You are the partner that gives us grace to say no,

grace to change direction,

grace to start over.

So much is given to us in the words of scripture,

and yet,

we learn so much in our humanity,

in our person-to-person encounters,

there is no way we can say

that we did not see you

here in our day,

in our time,

when we thought chaos would win.

And so we remember that you are better.

You are stronger.

You are a kind leader.

And we rest in the lessons you teach us right now, today. 

Amen.

 

 

 

7 GRATITUDES: always a sacred thread

sevengratitudes

My upcoming book is about finding glory in every season of life. One of those seasons for me was a particularly difficult one, when I was abandoned by a family member. You can read about it when my book comes out this fall, and if you read that story you’ll hear that thin place, where I was lonely and afraid, but I was held by the grace of God and the people who loved me.

As we search for glory in our every day lives, we search for gratefulness, too. It is hidden sometimes, and we have to dig to get there. It is difficult to place it, to name it, and yet we try, because we need it to survive.

This week, I’m grateful for seven things, seven things that keep me tethered to the good, to the holy, to the sacred, even in the midst of a mad world.

But before we get to my gratefulness, watch this video of my favorite lullaby to help you get in the mood:

  1. I’m grateful to be indigenous. Today is the Natives March on Washington, and I am with my brothers and sisters in spirit. I pray that their peaceful voices rise, high across the tallest buildings of Washington. Peace cannot be ignored, and I’m so grateful for that.
  2. I’m grateful for the endorsements I’ve received for my book this week and a more official release date in October. Endorsements include this one from Brian McLaren:”Kaitlin writes with a gentle voice that leads us on a journey. In this book, she walks with us into the heart of glory, asking what it means to find sacred spaces in everything. Her young, indigenous voice brings a fresh perspective of lyrical prayer and storytelling to the world. If you love the wisdom and poetry of Kathleen Norris, Barbara Brown Taylor, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, and Richard Rohr, you’ll love Kaitlin Curtice.”
  3. I’m grateful for that moment, lying on the couch with my five year old, when I told him stories about my childhood, stories even I’d forgotten. Now I’m trying to trace my memories back, to recall more moments that I can relay to him about the beautiful childhood I had with my siblings, so we can laugh and remember together. Those moments are sacred, indeed.
  4. I’m grateful for a husband that gardens and knows his days are meant for holy things. He bought pansies for our yard and fashioned them in a pattern around our bird feeder because our five year old thinks in patterns. It is a difficult and hard-working season to pass through to get a PhD, but he persists. He works and he plays and he asks questions of himself along the way. He loves us and shows it and I’m grateful I get to be his partner, to watch him grow, even when it feels long and slow.
  5. I’m grateful for the whispered prayer of “Thy will be done.” It may be subconscious that I tilt my voice a little heavenward when I do something that I am unsure about, when I’m looking for an answer to a question or starting a new leg of the journey. Thy will be done invites me into adventure, but tethers me to the sacred love of God inside that journey, and I’m eternally grateful for it.
  6. I’m grateful to be a woman this week. As we celebrated International Women’s Day, I also celebrated my Grandmother’s birthday, a woman who doesn’t journey with her body on this earth anymore but speaks to me every day with her spirit. I carry her with me, as does my mother every day that she learns about her own roots. Women– we are never alone, and our bonds are not easily broken.
  7. I’m grateful for #letterstotrump Tuesday at a local coffee shop where I sit with my boys to write a weekly letter to President Trump, and I’m grateful that whether or not he ever answers or reads those letters, they work something out in me, a slow and steady crawl toward dealing graciously with someone I don’t agree with. I’m grateful that shalom covers us and restores what is broken, and that the work of our hands is sacred when we use it for good. You can read more about my letters and the work of my hands as resistance at Sojourners. Grateful they are willing to publish the things I write every now and then.

And of course, I’m grateful for the group of women who pour out their seven gratitudes weekly, including my dear friend Leanna, who began this link-up in the first place. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, I encourage you to! 

If I love all the pieces of myself today, I can love all the pieces of you today, too..png

 

 

ONLY LOVE (every part of yourself) TODAY

cfc75002-8b21-41ee-9b68-00960aef691a.jpg

In a small group exercise recently, all participants were asked to rank our life identities or roles from 1-4, most to least important. Twenty-something of us sat with our papers folded into four spaces, our pens and markers unsteady for the task. We sat around the quiet room for a few moments and thought about what we call ourselves, what we do, who we care about, and what we dream to one day be.

Immediately I felt uncomfortable and conflicted with the assignment, but chose to go along with it. Some of us were moms, some dads, friends, brothers and sisters, lawyers and educators and students and nurses. Parents and grandparents. We were many things, but being asked to rank those things by their importance was a very difficult task for me.

Am I a Native American woman more than a mother, wife, or worship leader? Do my roles bump up against and fight with one another or do they feed into one another? What do they teach me about who I am and what I do, about how to be better in loving myself and others?

CurticeAll-80.jpg

For weeks after that exercise, I felt guilty that I’d put my identity as a native woman before my motherhood.

Until I went to a conference in Nashville. There, I’d decided to put pieces of my identity behind other pieces. I’d decided that in that space I’d be worship leader Kaitlin and not Native American Kaitlin. By the end of the conference, the fact that I’m Potawatomi became who I was in that space to all the people around me. I needed that part of myself in that setting, and by trying to stifle it, I’d denied myself my own voice.

Driving four hours home, I realized that every piece of who I am is connected.

My dear friend Rachel of Hands Free Mama has a new book coming out on March 7th, and her words speak to what I’ve walked through:

“…life– despite its challenges and daily disappointments– holds moments of joy, hope, comfort, and peace when we choose to start over and offer a second chance to others and ourselves…”

When Rachel writes about slowing down and stopping, about listening and curating moments for the sake of spending time with the people who matter most to us, she’s writing about you and me. She’s writing about our relationships, about our humanity.

But she’s also writing about the things going on inside our own skin, our own tendencies to not listen to ourselves, to neglect the parts of us that may be asking to be heard.

“I just want to celebrate you as you are instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.”

So if I don’t have to rank my identity and split who I am into pieces, can I love all of who I am called to be?

Can I Only Love Today, my Potawatomi self, my wife self, my worship leading self?

Can I love that all that I am bleeds into everything else that I am or ever hope to be?

There, I find both grace and responsibility.

There, I find grace for other’s stories too, an understanding that every part of our stories matters and makes us who we are today.

If I love all the pieces of myself today, I can love all the pieces of you today, too.

“I hope you feel brave enough to bare the colors of your soul.” 

Only Love Today.

Only Love [ your child-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your adult-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your broken-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your black, white, muslim, jewish, atheist, foreign, native-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your brothers and sisters ] Today.

Only Love [ your enemies ] Today.

Only Love [ the story of your neighbor ] Today.

Only Love [ all those people who are outcasts ] Today.

Only Love [ the outcast parts of your own soul ] Today.

Only Love [ when you have no idea how to love ] Today.

Only. Love. Today.

512-3MxiFXL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Pre-order your copy of Rachel’s book today, and find daily reminders that all of who you are deserves love, and all of the love that you give deserves to be given.

Together, may we Only Love [ every part of ourselves ] Today. 

Let Autumn Come: a toddler’s dream & a home ready for fall

fullsizerender

Every fiber of my being wants autumn.

The first day of autumn comes on the day of my birth and so the month of September is something incredibly sacred.

In my Native American tribe, the Potawatomi, seasons are celebrated by lighting a fire at the equinox of fall, spring, summer and winter for four days at a time, to celebrate each of the four seasons.

Instead, I’ve been pacing myself. I’ve been waiting and practicing patience, because, after all, it is still summer.

But I raise a son, a four year old boy who loves the changing of the seasons.

fullsizerender

He’s watched me decorate and re-arrange rooms for four years, putting out pumpkins and wreaths, replacing them with a Christmas tree and nativity in December, later with winter whites followed by spring blooms.

So it is no surprise that when September hits, he is ready to celebrate fall- and my birthday.

For days I tried to distract him from it, but he persisted–

“Mom, let’s decorate! It’s fall!”

And finally, after days of struggle, he woke from a nap one afternoon in tears, waiting another day to see fall come to life in his home.

I was ready to resist again, just one more week, but my husband, who sees his boys with intense love–

he looked back at his oldest on the car ride home and said, “Sure, son.”

And he and Eliot planned our evening– pumpkin waffles for dinner followed by a fall decorating celebration.

I found an autumn jazz Pandora station.

fullsizerender

And we listened to it and ate popcorn and read poetry while the bacon sizzled in the pan; the event was just as it should be, full of impatience and excitement and a tantrum or two.

Our ideas or reservations mean nothing to the dreams and hopes of our children, no matter how small.

Eliot longed for something beautiful and good; he longed to welcome autumn, just a little earlier, into his home this year.

So we let autumn come, even though summer is still lingering for a few more weeks.

fullsizerender

And in the mornings we wake up to orange leaves and red raffia and pictures of acorns, and we take life slow and steady and let it seep into us, the promise of a new day, the treasure of time together, the magic of the season happening upon us, giving us permission to see each other, to honor each other, to remember that we hold a fire never to be snuffed out.

An American Story: Poverty of Perspective

FullSizeRender

I gauge my happiness by my comfort, by my lack of worry–

A few months ago, I struggled for a few days with renewing the insurance for the boys. Someone had checked a wrong box on a computer somewhere, and I was on the phone for days trying to find the right person to fix it.

The worry that loomed over me because of a simple wrong click in the system was constantly palpable.

It is our American poverty to believe that life is only lived when we are free of worry.

I heard an interview on NPR last week with a mother in Yemen. Today they live in constant fear– constant worry that their children will die hungry and terrified, and that they will never taste anything other than bread and tea.

And I worry that my stress will get the best of me because my boys holler too much in our little apartment.

A few days ago, I sat with the boys and thought, “I am so much more content right now, so much better off without the stress of those few days.”

But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away, when worry lingers all over the place, hiding in corners and never letting go?

And the American church doesn’t help us weather any storms in our lives, because we often step through the doors with a smile plastered to our faces, everything is fine coming from our lips.

And I’d never wish this suffering on them, this hurt that carries so much weight over their tired bodies and hearts.

But for those who live into their suffering, there is an amount of dignity and grace that they carry, and I am always in awe of them.

Because I have a poverty of perspective, it takes a moment to remember that other mom in Yemen who is struggling to understand that our souls are wired somewhere deep to hold intense sorrow and pain.

But here, we are afraid to suffer, afraid to be uncomfortable, afraid to be on the dark side of anything.

And so when things get uncomfortable, we take another pill or schedule another appointment, and our world nearly collapses because we don’t know how to function without comfort.

The tension of our world is that things are good and things are bad, and we are healed but not really healed, comfortable but really pretty uncomfortable.

But when we suffer, we learn lessons that stream from a deeper vein than the ones we learn when we are okay.

Our cycles of healing are off, our perspectives are linear instead of a more human-like walk of back and forth over and over again until we get somewhere new.

But remembering the way the world works might give me a moment to stop next time, to remember that I can step into suffering and learn something there.

And the reality is that we all suffer with something, and if we recognize that the community of people around us all suffer too, we walk in it together, and we don’t run away.

Then the world seems to grow smaller, and our differences disappear, and our Americanness becomes humanness and our suffering becomes a journey,

and we are ever closer to Kingdom, where Jesus gathers the hurting close and calls us to the light.

 

 

The Ordination Lesson: practicing kenosis-parenting

“If you should happen to catch a glimpse of what really matters in life, regard it with care. Decorate it with flowers. Cover it with love. Hold it in the sunshine. Give it a little bit of time and attention. And when the world tries to push you forward, listen to your heart instead. Because if you don’t make time for what really matters, no one is going to do it for you…” –Rachel Macy Stafford 

Last Sunday, I was ordained as a deacon at my church.

We sat in chairs around the room and people slowly mulled through the spaces around us,

stopping by to lay hands,

to give a quick, quiet prayer or encouraging word.

My four year old, Eliot, came to me and took my hands and looked deep in my eyes,

asking without words, Mama, let me be with you.

FullSizeRender
“Some genius and a great deal of love. They are a grand team, and, when well driven, astonish the world by the time they make it in the great Race.” -Louisa May Alcott

 

When these things happen, these momentous events, we want them to happen slowly, to let things sink in and simmer for awhile without distraction.

I struggled through the morning about how to do it, how to keep this sacred space for myself–

But when my son is asking to share a holy moment with me,

I give in to kenosis– a pouring out of my own power–

and I invite him to pray over me.

I invite him to stay with me, to give himself to whatever God is speaking into his little world.

And when he speaks the words, “Jesus, please give her peace, and just be with her,” well, that’s all the prayer I’ll need for a long time.

When your children pray for you, listen to them.

Those are holy words,

not meant to be ignored or quickly forgotten.

FullSizeRender

As people, we naturally want to hold special moments for ourselves, because sometimes they mean the world to us.

They are an experience for us–the child, and God–the parent.

And we examine whether we can handle our own children mucking up the magic or distracting us from the words we need to hear.

But when your four year old is at your knee, his head rested on your lap,

the Spirit of God pulsing through his toddler-sized veins,

his tiny voice speaking life over your very being,

you have a choice to make.

FullSizeRender

The truth is,

our children want to know God with us.

Our children want to know good with us,

to practice kindness the way we do,

to learn humanity and holiness the way we’ve been learning it all these years.

If we don’t know how to give up our power, to practice kenosis,

then they won’t know how to, either, when the time comes.

So we choose to loosen our grip

and unclench our fists

and bring down our shoulders

and stretch out our hands,

where we find our children

waiting and ready to bring

the Gospel back to us.

Hallelujah and amen.