life where it sits right now

I went to bed late last night after a long weekend with high school students. You would think that I would go to bed early after such a weekend, but when I get into the late-to-bed habit, its hard to break. So I was on my way to bed, but then Hoarders: Buried Alive came on TLC and I was equal parts appalled and enthralled and only planned to watch until the commercial and ended up watching til the end while promising to throw away every. single. item. in my garage that does not sell on Saturday.

I didn’t have a post planned for today because being gone all weekend with over 150 teenagers sucks every living, loving, inspiring cell out of my body and I’m left only with enough attention for mind-numbing television and a couple of Oreos. So I had nothing to say, and I went to bed but then 30 minutes later the dog threw up and the next thing I knew I was outside in my jammies hosing out the dog crate in the pouring down rain at dark-forty-five and I thought to myself that maybe I was due for writing a post that wasn’t all that living or loving or inspiring but just had some of life where it sits right now.

Here is a photo a student took during lunch on Saturday after she made me hand over my camera so she could capture us. So he wrapped his arms around me between bites of camp food on plates partitioned up and we posed for her shot compliantly and it wasn’t until later when I dumped all 200 photos onto my laptop that I realized how thankful I was to her for doing it. I still get a little fluttery in the head when he does that and maybe even a little cheek-flushed. I wasn’t crazy about our wedding photos which is one reason why I think I so love taking photos of brides – I want to give them the gift that I missed out on. And so that is why I think this photo makes me happy and brings tears a little. There are so few of us together.

I am one of those weird people who liked high school, and these girls remind me why. Because it was fun. Because you could act like a fool with your girlfriends and laugh until you couldn’t breathe. Because you would think to bring an old prom dress on a retreat just so you could prance around in your red sequence and knee high socks for no reason except that you can. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t relive those days for any amount of food or money, but I’m happy to hang out with our students and watch them live theirs. And maybe even sometimes have a little breathless laughter right along with them.

While cleaning out the closets in preparation for the yard sale, my son found a small box with this stuff in it. They used to be mine, those red-headed sisters with the green outfits on, that white-haired teacher sitting in the desk, that small doll with the big head in the background, a blonde Dora before her time. I know I should get rid of them, but I can’t. Don’t say it.

31 Days starts this week and it comes at a good time for me. For the month of October, I’ll be posting everyday, something about grace. I need graciousness these days. I need to remember gentle and compassion and patience and love. I need to hold onto those things, especially this week in the midst of a new and more intimate awareness of suffering and life-fighting and fear in the lives of some of those most dear. It really is all grace, each breath.

Because of 31 Days of Grace in October, tomorrow will be the last Tuesdays Unwrapped for a while, so I look forward to having you here in the morning with your stories and photos and glimpses of gifts in the midst of your everyday ordinary. And thank you for listening to me share mine.

tuesday lines on a saturday morning

Here are some of my favorite lines from Tuesdays Unwrapped this week. It is hard to read every post, so I wanted to highlight a few incase you missed them. Maybe you’ll find a new blog favorite among them – I know I have.

“Life, the being aliveness that is each of us, isn’t a little thing, but it’s the sort of thing we tend to forget about until we stumble into it in the middle of the night and try to remember what exactly this large thing is we left lying in the middle of the floor. Oh, yes . . . I am alive.”

– from Blessings Like Winged Horses

. . . because the way she talks about living is the way I think it in my head, and I like to find people who talk how I think because it makes me feel normal and connected.

“I was going to leave the meeting and finish out the day at the coffee shop, but halfway there I took a hard right and drove home to my boys instead. I rattled into the driveway and there they were – all five of them: three littles, light sabers drawn and ready for battle; one big, sipping a hoppy ale and smiling at my early return; and one hairy, lazily raising his head to check me out before resuming his afternoon snooze.”

– from Boy Crazy

. . . because she’s all girl in a house full of boys and she knows what it means to come home.

“I spent all year last year trying to be someplace else. I wanted big open skies, I wanted silence, I wanted to see the stars, I wanted a chance to start all over again, to create a different life. And then I got a job two blocks from my church, and an apartment a mile from both, and I realized, I am called to be here right now. I am called to be in the city with its light pollution and its noise pollution and its lack of green space and because I am where I believe God has called me to be…”

– from Simply Life

. . . because her choice to embrace the now rather than wish for the later is the perfect reminder to be where you are with all the gifts, however small, that right now has to offer.

“I sit, open my small journal, the one for LIFE and not so much DREAMING, cautiously I peek inside. It holds to do lists. I hate to do lists. I try to start a new page, one with “Direction” as the title. Hoping to find mine. I doodle a poinsettia along the edge instead. I write down “up”. And close the book.”

– from To Think is to Create

. . . because her life is spelled surrender, and she knows the gifts that come from living it upside down.

the professional hider :: a guest post by jenny rain

Jenny Rain is passionate about missions in Africa, deep relationships with God and others, and a myriad of other fun things. She and her new husband live in Northern Virginia. You can find her on her blog, Jenny Rain: Rainmakers and Stormchasers, or follow her on twitter @JennyRain. When I first read the post you are about to read, I was immediately struck with the similarities: Wow. She hides just like me. Perhaps you will see yourself here as well.

I am a professional hider. Whether it is skating through a crowd to find an elevator I do not have to share, or eating lunch in my office to avoid the lunch crowd, I know how to hide. I hide because of fear.

Fear has been a constant companion in my life, but not a welcome one. It has been an uninvited straggler in my attempts to prove myself in the world. The weight of fear has lumbered awkwardly like an extra appendage and tethered my should-be-soaring-leaps to the flattened landscape. Like a genetic anomaly, fear has woven its code into the DNA helix of my life. I hide because of shame.

When I was younger shame tangled around my ankles and wound itself like a creeping vine around my abilities. By the time I was six, the roots had embedded themselves in my life and I could barely move. Most of my younger years were spent encased in my toy-room creating make-believe worlds with my Barbies. They had fancy toy cars, lots of friends, and lived in a world inaccessible to my tiny imagination.

I lived my life behind a mask. My masks took many forms . . . self-reliance, people-pleasing, religiosity, intellectualization, corporate success, infatuation with beauty, and relationships. But the masks were all formed as a reaction to the same two villains named: Fear and Shame.

Hiding was so natural for me. It was no longer what I did, but who I was. Like Adam and Eve, the fig leaf was no longer an unusual decoration in the land of freedom, it had become my permanent wardrobe. Yet even in my hiding, God saw me and loved me into being.

He knew my heart rhythm. When I placed my hands over my ears to drown out the fluttering palpitations of my
heartbeat, God heard a melody. When I plugged my ears to the screams of my silenced heart, God tuned into my aria. He was never afraid. He was never ashamed of me.

And it was in His knowing that I reached up my tiny fingertips and clung to His Vine of hope. I dug my toes into the sides
of the muddy hole I was stuck in for leverage, leaned my entire weight on the Vine, and allowed the Vine to heave me
out of the pit into freedom. There are days that I still hide, but now I realize it is a choice, its not who I am.

I am thankful for this reminder this morning – that the hiding is sometimes a way I cope, but it is not who I am. To learn more about Jenny, visit her blog and say hello.

embracing the now normal

Every weekday morning, we get up and move through the lunch-making, hair-brushing, shoe-tying routine. Around 7:40, my girls and I set out into the cool morning air to meet our neighbors at the bottom of the hill, I in my tennis shoes holding steaming cup, the girls wearing school clothes and fresh, first grade faces. We walk, the nine of us together. One mama has her stroller, one daddy holds their lunches, three kids ride their bikes, a few run beside them.

It doesn’t take long to get to the school, maybe 10 minutes depending on what bugs or animals we may see along the way. There are so many gifts in this journey walk. It seems normal now, to feel the rhythm of this slow-spinning earth change morning by morning, leaf by leaf, steady and predictable. It feels regular and typical to walk beside them from home doorstep all the way to their classroom, to greet their teachers every morning, to watch them smile shy at classmates as they walk through that door. It feels normal now.

It is tempting to think things will always be how they are right now, both the good and the bad. But they will not be. That bad thing will slowly morph into something else, the good will pass into some new good thing. Or new hard thing, a new gift opportunity. There will be a day when normal will be different, so I decide to enjoy my now normal on purpose.

the tuesday

Here is the song that inspired, not only the name of this blog, but also the heart and intent behind Tuesdays Unwrapped. It is fitting that it is simply entitled Tuesday. Listen while you unwrap today?

So today is our Tuesday. But I hope that the Tuesday heart is rubbing off on your Wednesdays and Saturdays and Fridays, too. It is the day we gather to pause and unwrap the gifts to be found in the daily minute. We take a moment to stop, to notice, and maybe even chat at the sky.

If you would like to join in, welcome! If you have questions, check out the information on my Tuesdays Unwrapped page. If you are reading in a reader, you may have to click over to see the links and I really hope you read at least a few. So happy here on my favorite day of the week. Join us?

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

for women who work from home

As I walked up the hill to our house this morning after taking the girls to school, I considered all the things I had to do today. Several of them were normal house-y things: grocery, laundry, dishes, call the tree guy, price the yard sale stuff. Others of them were work-type things: finish those photo edits, turn in that thing my publisher asked for, write that article, prepare a post.

I could feel my heart rhythm speed up as I picked up the pace to the front door. My breathing got a little bit more shallow than it had been, my craving for coffee shot through the roof. When I begin to feel the weight of this pressure, I become the opposite of productive. And lately, I’ve been feeling this weight more than usual. I wash a load of towels, and then forget about them. The next morning, I have to wash the same load again because hello, they stink now. I’m wasting water and brain cells. The fog is thick and getting thicker.

And today, I realized one reason why: I am a mother who works from home. Since I signed my two book contract last January, I have been working from home. I would write on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 until 2, and I basically wrote the entire book that way. I finished one book in July, and as soon as the room stops spinning upside down and crazy, I’ll begin work on my second book due next September. But it has taken me this long to actually realize that I have a job. My time is flexible, which I love. It provides space for me to go to the girls’ school and eat lunch with them, to prepare the chicken for dinner in the middle of the day, to go to the grocery when there aren’t big crowds.

But the lines between home and work are hard to see, and I’m the one who has to draw them. I love what I do, so it’s hard to step away from it. But if I don’t take the time to step away from it, then heavy clouds of discouragement and anxiety will quickly settle in. Hence, the foggy mess.

Don’t get me wrong, I think every mother, outside job or no outside job, can relate to the foggy mess. I felt that way the entire first two years of motherhood. But I do think there is a unique stress that comes from knowing you have a job that isn’t home related, a job that has to get done in the space in between everything else. For you who work from home, can you relate to the foggy mess?