For Your Weekend

for your weekend May

Around here it’s been one of those weeks; the kind where you have so much to do that you finish one thing without time to look around because you have to dive into the next thing. Too many weeks in a row like that and I start to feel like a robot.

Yesterday while one child was at a trumpet lesson and the other two were upstairs playing, I forced myself to sit on the corner of the sofa and start The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (yes, that’s Ted Dekker’s daughter) because it’s a story.

After full weeks like this one, I long to get lost in a story. It’s good so far and reminds me all over again how thankful I am for stories and the people who write them. (Sidetone: If you have a story, write it down. They are gifts you know.)

And so may your weekend be one of rest, may you find a story to get lost in, and may Jesus be kind company for you as you breathe in grace and breathe out exhaustion. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Here are a couple of things I wanted to be sure you see:

Leave a Legacy You Can Be Proud Of by me for (in)courage – I wrote a post I completely forgot to tell you about – on motherhood, legacy, and the trail we all leave behind.

The Day I Realized I Had a Job – The Hope*ologie Podcast – Listen in as my Dad, my sister, and I talk about the sometimes confusing tension between work and home when you work from home. My favorite podcast we’ve done all year. (Listen on iTunes or on Soundcloud)

What Everybody Ought to Know About Self-Reflection

I don’t know what I’m like. I get glimpses of myself in other people’s eyes. I try to be careful whom I use as a mirror.” – Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Last month I flew out to Portland, Oregon to speak at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference. Many of you know this. What you don’t know is that I almost said no to that opportunity. Here’s why.

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I didn’t think I was going to be the kind of person they would like.

I had never been to Portland before, never met many of the people I knew would be there. I thought maybe they would be young, cool, hipsters and I would be not those things. Maybe I’m the Kenneth Parcell to their Liz Lemon, the Jessica Day to their Nick’s-girlfriend-Julia, the Hallmark Channel to their HBO.

Maybe they write brilliantly about social justice and politics and living among the poor and other important issues. And I write from my home office in my quiet cul-de-sac about creating space for your soul to breathe.

On a good day I know what I write matters. But not all days are good days.

When I was invited to speak at the Faith and Culture Writers conference, I hesitated.

Is it possible for me – one person – to speak at both a conference hosted by the Proverbs 31 Ministries in the Bible Belt of Charlotte, North Carolina as well as the Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon?

Where do I fit? What if I choose one group and they find out I’m not actually one of them?

What if I’m fooling everyone after all, including myself?

“Here we are, living in a world of ‘identity crises’ and most of us have no idea what an identity is. Half the problem is that an identity is something which must be understood intuitively, rather than in terms of provable fact.” – Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

As often happens when I’m wrestling through these kinds of things, I asked Kendra all of these questions (and many more) as I struggled with this inner tension. She listened and became a mirror for me. And somewhere in that reflection, I saw Jesus.

She reminded me that my job is to listen to Jesus and then to act. She reminded me my job is to be myself no matter who else is there.

The words I share are not only for one particular group, but for anyone who wants to come to the table and sit on my bench. And their words are for me, too.

I’m gentle by nature, I like funny TV, I think deeply about Jesus, faith, culture, grace, and people. I write to know what I think about things, but I don’t write down everything I think about.

I share my life on the internet. I am deeply private.

I often wish I was more naturally lighthearted. Instead I have to work at it.

As it turns out, I don’t have to define myself. I simply have to be myself.

“An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.” – Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

And so I said yes to speaking at this writers conference in Portland. I settled within myself that I belong even though I’m not a cool hipster or a rabble rouser or a policy maker but because I am in Christ. And the gracious people there, they proved those words were true.

sit on the bench

We came together from different backgrounds and life experiences, but isn’t that always how a group of people come together, no matter how alike we may seem on the outside?

I confess my tendency to try to see myself through someone else’s eyes. I also confess how terrible I am at it.

But every now and then you have the opportunity to do this, to see yourself through someone else’s eyes because they use words to say what they think of you.

That happened last week, as Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference attendee Esther Emory wrote a post about me.

That’s not actually true at all. Her beautiful post was about her; about her perspectives and impressions and her own spiritual formation. But there was some of me in there, too, and within the post she offered her honest opinions and impressions of me, some I understood and others that surprised me.

When I saw my name in the post title, I braced myself. I’ve been written about on the internet before. It isn’t always kind.

“But we aren’t always careful of our mirrors. I’m not . . . I’ve looked for an image in someone else’s mirror, and so have avoided seeing myself.”

- Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

I met Esther for the first time at the conference. When we spoke, I saw her as brave, grown up, confident, kind, and smart. (In her post she called me ‘bucolic’ and I had to look up the word — twice — because I didn’t know what it meant. Insert cry laugh face.)

When I met her, I immediately liked her. I walked away from our short conversation wishing we had more time to spend together but also questioning all the words I used. I’m an introvert. Why do I use so many words when I talk to people? Dear Emily. Say. Less. Words.

When I read her post, I saw her words as a vulnerable gift, as they reflect a soul that’s similar to my own even though our lives are different. I do what she does, too. I form other people’s opinions of me for them too.

I shut people out and lock myself in even though I know better.

This post is tough to write because it feels so painfully self-absorbed. It is that, I admit. But it’s also true I think many of you can relate. Don’t we all question where we fit and how we’re perceived? Don’t we all protect the lingering child, longing for security, acceptance, and love? Don’t we all hope for connection but often choose protection instead?

we are free

“The people I know who are the most concerned about their individuality, who probe constantly into motives, who are always turned inwards toward their own reactions, usually become less and less individual, less and less spontaneous, more and more afraid of the consequences of giving themselves away.”

 – Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Here’s one thing I know: sometimes self-reflection gets in the way. Not the kind I do in the presence of Christ – no that’s the important kind. But the kind I practice while I looking the mirror or in your eyes or at your reactions? That kind gets in the way of the gospel in me. If I spend too much time trying to define myself, it’s easy to forget that I’m free.

We are free to holler with the world changers.

We are free to ponder with the contemplatives.

We are free to campaign with the activists and be still with the liturgists.

We are free to be quiet and free to be loud.

We are free to live in the center, on the side, or in the back.

We are free to go.

We are free to stay home.

We are free to linger and to leave early.

We are free to dream big and free to dream small.

We are free to draw boundaries and free to change our minds.

There’s room at the table for Liz Lemon and Kenneth Parcell.

We are free. We are free. We are free.

For Your Weekend

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Today, may you find a way to count the blessings without discounting the sorrows. May you take a break from trying to boss your personality into being someone she isn’t comfortable being. May you be gentle with yourself, patient with your grief, and slow to move on from your celebrations. May today be the day you catch your breath.

Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads for along the way:

I Pray You Have a Wilder Imagination by Hilary Yancey, a letter to her unborn baby:

“We think that motherhood and philosophy graduate seminars can’t possibly both be successful; we think that you must choose between art and biology; we think that you cannot travel AND or be married AND or work this challenging job. We teach this to each other, with our well-meaning questions and our expectant looks, with our heartfelt, “But how will that work?” Our imaginations grow small in the shadow of what we think more realistic. I pray that your imagination is wilder than that.”

52 Things Sons Need From Their Moms by Angela Thomas, an excerpt from her new book:

“I just took William to his first day of preschool. Blink. Yesterday, he began his last year of high school. Blink. Blink. And the whole thing went exactly like they said.”

It’s Not Just My Story by Annie Downs for (in)courage, on being single and getting mail from a 12 year old friend:

“And then, as I kept reading, this one little sentence came into view…’I KNOW Jesus is going to bring you the perfect husband one day.’ I was stunned. It was such a beautiful and kind thing to say. It always matters when someone else believes with you.

Cozy Minimalist Course by The Nester – You can still download this course (and take it whenever you’re ready!) for only 29 dollars. To get the discount, you’ll need to use the link I offer here, then enter “emily freeman” as the one who referred you. You’re gonna love it!

This One’s for the Mothers

It’s May, what I like to call work-with-the-windows-open-in-my-office month. Now I can hear the community sounds as they rise up to greet me at my desk – the distant lawn mower, the mailman pulling up into the cul-de-sac, kids laughing from the trampoline, bark-gossip between neighboring dogs.

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Sometime during the past week or two, newborn baby cries have joined the neighborhood chorus.

Our backdoor neighbor paces their yard several times a day holding their newest member. Through the trees I can’t always tell if it’s the Mom or the Dad, but I always know it’s the baby – short wails and baby hiccups give her right away.

I think these sounds mixed with the arrival of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge have me thinking back kindly on the early days of having a new baby.

But I’m no fool.

Motherhood is both miracle and madness.

And so here is a toast for all the mamas everywhere during this week before Mother’s Day. It’s not the first or the best ode to mothers on the internet, but the words came to mind this morning and so I offer them to you:

a toast for the mothers

Here’s to you, dear mama, with the tired eyes, the impossible schedule, and the sour milk smell all over your clothes.

Here’s to you with the PBS cartoons in the background, eating a handful of goldfish and calling it lunch, with the toddler who just learned the word mine and won’t stop secreting bodily fluids from all of their orifices.

Here’s to you who negotiates bedtimes and snack times with a special kind of finesse, the likes of which Wall Street and Washington have never seen.

Here’s to you who would gladly and without hesitation jump in front of a bus for your children but, for the love, cannot manage to find the energy to make one more PB & J.

Here’s to you leaving work early to pick up ginger ale and saltines for his upset tummy and digging through the trash for the accidentally discarded lovey.

Heres’s to you buying poster board at the only open drug store at 11 pm because someone forgot to mention that science fair project.

Here’s to you making the ten thousandth school lunch, driving them to practice, trying to remember the multiplication tables while you make the dinner they probably won’t eat.

Here’s to you asking for help, letting someone else do the laundry and take them to swim practice because you need a minute.

Here’s to you who fights off guilt, comparison, and shame.

Here’s to you who chooses love, laughter, and a light-heart every chance you get.

Here’s to you who is raising them up all by yourself, doing the job of two parents with the energy of only one.

Here’s to you praying for their friendships, playing in the backyard, buying shoes again.

Here’s to you who doesn’t always have the answers to the endless questions, the patience for their constant demands, or the words to communicate just how much you love them.

Here’s to you cringing in the passenger seat, staying up til curfew, making pizza for bottomless stomachs.

Here’s to you cheering on the sidelines, laughing at their humor, counting down the days.

Here’s to you straightening the bow tie, listening in doorways, braiding her hair.

Here’s to you making reservations, holding up a camera, waving from the driveway.

Here’s to you who prays in the darkness, longs for connection, hopes for the future, and always wants what’s best.

Here’s to you, dear mama, who no longer has children in your house but holds them always in your heart, who leaves backdoors open wide and arms open wider.

Here’s to you – sisters, aunties, grandmas and friends – who do the mother work as you listen, cheer, help, and walk with children in ways only you can do.

Here’s to you who longs for the children you don’t yet have or children you now only hold in your heart.

Here’s to your courage, creativity, and faith.

I raise my coffee mug to you.

And maybe a wine glass or two.

You are exquisite.

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