13 February, 2018

I Wanted To Be The Perfect Mother

The day I promised to be the perfect mother
I woke up yesterday morning eager to start the day and the week. I was and am excited about work this week, senior night for Caroline, hanging out with family and friends, and yes I'll admit it my birthday. I felt light and hopeful--and productive. I had a long to-do list and was already marking things off. As I went through emails I clicked on the video that begins the Society of St. John's Lenten study "Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John." Admittedly I was half way listening, but his final words caught my attention; he said something to the effect of 'if I was personalizing this for prayer I would think about how God loves me. All of me--the good, the bad, and the ugly' I thought to myself, "That is something I need to reflect on and get back to later this afternoon--I've got a list of insecurities and faults." But now I needed to wake Caroline and drive her to school....

 (Watch and see the video here   The Reflection)

And within minutes my mood changed....

Suffice it to say I am a morning person, Caroline is not. It was not a pleasant ride, and if I'm really honest, I was glad when she got out of the car--the feeling, I'm sure, was mutual. Almost the entire way, okay the entire way home, I had many thoughts--none loving.

I walked back into our home tears stinging my eyes--I didn't know if they were tears of sadness, anger or perhaps because I had just walked barefoot across an icy driveway. "You're going to have to start helping with driving her to school, " I spat at Chris at the same time he tried to say "Good morning," "I am sick of it all..." "Are you going to work out?" Chris strategically interrupted, I'm sure to avoid the tirade that was simmering....

I stormed up the stairs to get dressed. I sat on the floor tying my shoes and the words from the video replayed in my head and I thought, "Well there it is. The part of me I need God to love--the ugly part. I mean seriously what kind of mother thinks these thoughts and even sometimes says them?  I want to ignore them; I want to run away and seriously I just told my youngest child I didn't want to take her on her final spring break?!?!" (And just the night before I made a statement about the children and Chris said, "That sounds like something your mother would say..." words he has rarely ever said.)

I continued to think about the last 48 hours and how angry and hurt I was by the children--things said and left unsaid; done and left undone. I thought to myself about how I've spent my life trying to be the perfect mother. The little voice in my head, the one I don't like very much, said, "Yes and sometimes you try too hard..." Truth. But still--all I've ever wanted was to be a good mother, a loving mother, a forgiving mother, a mother whose children always feel loved, welcomed and accepted. A mother whose children, I admit it, I wanted to be, still want to be, adored. Instead, here I was thinking (and meaning) these horrible thoughts about my children. "But they are so ungrateful", I continued in my rage, "I've spent my life trying to be the perfect mother..."BIG PAUSE

"Actually," that voice in my head said, "Perhaps that is the ugly part--it sort of sounds arrogant to me. What makes you think you can be the perfect mother? What makes you even think you know what the perfect mother is? Maybe the perfect mother isn't what they need." I stormed back down the stairs with the stupid voice trailing behind.

The last few days had been and continue to be emotional--maybe it's age, maybe it's approaching empty nest, maybe it's hormones, maybe it's all of the above or something totally different. I have no idea. But I've been especially sensitive. I also think, and still think, they have been unkind and relentless (some I may have deserved).

As I worked out, much to my chagrin, my anger and hurt didn't subside. I wanted to write about this and tie it up neatly in a little bow--you know the perfect story that tells how God spoke to me (and it would be good if God could also speak to them--now the voice is appalled again--stupid voice) and we all kissed and hugged and sang kumbaya.

We did laugh some last night; I still held and maybe even still hold some anger and definitely some hurt. But I'm not a perfect mother and it's not a perfect story--

But I believe God loves the whole story--the perfect and the imperfect. And I know the rest will come.

12 January, 2018

Voices in My Head Need to Just Shut Up

A couple of weeks ago a dear friend reached out to see if she could stay with us for six days before she started her next semester of graduate school. Several months ago Chris and I had told her she was always welcome in our home anytime, and we were so glad she had taken us up on it.

She was to arrive Sunday night; the boys were to leave Monday morning; Epiphany was Jan. 6 but I didn't get home from North Carolina until 1 am Jan. 7 (and we keep Christmas up through Epiphany--we're good liturgists like that)--it was a perfect storm. A perfect storm for chaos...

She came and used our home as home base--some nights she had dinner with us, some she didn't. But every evening when she came home we sat and talked about the day. We shared our lives--our hopes and fears in the most vulnerable ways.

Last night was her last night here and I was exhausted. I went to bed before she got home from visiting other friends... I heard her come upstairs. She knocked on my door and came into talk (told you we were good friends...) As we talked about people she had seen and conversations she had with others she said this, "I told _____I loved being able to stay with y'all. It was like coming home. It was like being at my parents but with no expectations. It was so comfortable." So maybe for a minute I could hear the heavenly chorus getting ready to saint me....

Then she added, "I told him I loved there were piles everywhere and it was just comfortable to plop down. I love how it feels so lived in, so homey, so real." Now if you know me you know where I got hung up....piles everywhere, so lived in....

And the voices in my head started---not clean enough, clutter, and then they went to voices still in my head from the last decade, "you know you should clean out and organize your spice cabinet every 3 months" (that could help prevent the 3 containers of basil and 4 of cinnamon). I heard the voices that say, " a good mother, a good wife, a good person would have a home where dinner could be eaten off the kitchen floor on any given night." I heard the voice saying, "See you're really not managing life..."

I went to bed with voices fighting in my head. I knew in my heart what she said was meant to be a compliment, but that other voice is so damn pesky! Today I finally told Chris about it because that voice wouldn't shut up! (it was either that or blow up and go into the cleaning frenzy that is not pleasant for anyone...okay maybe I did a little of that...) And he said, "I know she meant it well, and I'm glad she was here and we could offer that comfort."

You know what? Me too. I thought about the parable of the friend at midnight (Luke 11:5-13), and I thought about all the scripture that talks about welcoming the stranger and the foreigner and I can't help but believe that also means those who need a place to rest and to have no expectations--a place to find solace, a place where tears are honored, and a place to have lots of laughter (we do have Caroline still in residence).

Sometimes I do wish my house could be in a magazine for being beautiful and everything would be in its place always with no clutter, where spices are organized by date and I don't have to empty the roomba several times during its trek because of dog hair, but that's not my life, and even though I sometimes tell myself someday it might be, I'm probably delusional.

Instead I have a bathroom where my daughter leaves her tape from icing after basketball because she works hard and through the pain so she can be part of the team AND she's rushing off to study (or socialize)

A counter that has bills piled on it because Chris and I have vowed to work on finances together this year.

A hamper that is in the den because I told the boys at least FIVE times to take it up before they left for Florida and I'm determined to fight my urge to do for them what they can do for themselves (their wives can thank me later).

Christmas decorations partially taken down because the day off I thought I was going to have I got to spend with some wonderful people who ministered to me and I to them. (and the nutcrackers still have nuts in their mouths from friends who already know my home is theirs....)

A chair with a blanket thrown haphazardly on it with my needlepoint always ready because the men in my family believe I am their personal belt server and I LOVE it!

A kitchen counter with fresh fruit and vegetables
because the fridge is full (thanks be to God) and we promised to eat healthy this year, and it is covered with chargers because we are fortunate enough to have multiple electronics (oh and we might kill our children if one more charger goes missing)

A dining room table covered with work because Chris and I are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us to work from home if we need to and a table where many meals are shared full of laughter (and when we clear it there are ironed cloth napkins)

My grandmother's desk which has become my personal chapel and
consistently has an open bible or journal or book or piles of stationary because those are things that mark my day.

And the room my friend stayed in is SK's which has boxes that are waiting to be moved and sorted as she finishes her final semester of college along with left over streamers hanging from the window from the decorations I put up when she scored a 35 on the ACT and was accepted to her first choice college so that she would learn to celebrate herself--cluttered with love AND ironed sheets.

So I'm telling that voice to shut up ( a word for years my children thought was a "bad" word), I'm telling that voice it doesn't get to decide what makes me a good person; I'm telling that voice it doesn't get to define what makes a house a home.

And our house, our home, is always open to anyone who needs a place to stay, a warm meal, a hug, laughter, a place to cry or just a place of quiet (okay maybe not the quiet)--and that's exactly what I want it to be--clutter and all.

Y'all come, pull up a chair and stay awhile (just toss whatever's in the seat onto the floor), we can stretch any meal and the sheets are ironed.

And those voices can just shut up--I am enough.

22 December, 2017

The Greatest Teacher Ever

Moving is horrible when you're in high school. Trust me I know--in
1983 our family moved 3 hours down I-20, well four of us did. My sister got to stay in Atlanta to finish her senior year...another horrible part of the move. (Just a hint...if you're going to move your high school children don't do it on June 1 so they have all summer to really hate the new home.....)

Anyway, move we did and in August of 1983 I stepped through the doors  of Westside High School. (Spoiler alert--I learned to love it. But not that day or even that year.) I crept through the halls keeping my head down wishing I was back at Marist. And then I walked into second period--

I walked into the physics classroom and froze. Standing around the front desk were huge boys wearing letter jackets. I couldn't even see the teacher, but apparently she could see me. "Come on in! I'm Ms. Byus." she said as she moved toward me. After she introduced herself she introduced all those large people--I was scared to death. As we all took our seats I realized I was one of three girls in the class and the only sophomore among all seniors. I vowed to never say a word.

But it quickly became my favorite class and the one place I actually smiled. How could you not when you had an incredible teacher who talked football with a passion and made learning the periodic table fun. Her love for her students was so obvious and secretly I hoped that one day she would know as much about me and my life as she seemed to know about everyone else. I wanted to be one of the people who crowded around her desk before the bell rang laughing and sharing stories. Instead I always quietly walked in and moved to the back of the room.

Three weeks later that all changed.....

We got our first test back--the one where you had to recreate the periodic table. "Katherine," Ms. Byus said, "I need you to come up here with all your books please." I'm sure I was 18 shades of red as I moved to the front of the room terrified she was going to tell me I had failed and was being kicked out of the class. I got to the front and she said, "_____ you need to move to the desk next to you. Katherine you need to sit in the desk where ______just was." Then she reintroduced all those large people who were now surrounding me and said, "Katherine is going to be your new best friend because we are going to beat Evans next weekend and you're not going to get to play if you can't pass this test. She's very good at physics and I've heard she knows a little about football too."

"Great," I thought, "Now I'm going to be the total nerd who has no friends..." but as I raised my head I saw six smiling faces. And those scary large boys became some of my closest friends that year.  (Y'all know who you are...) We studied together, talked football together, and I began being one of the people crowded around her desk.

One Monday as we were standing there replaying the previous weekends football games Ms. Byus turned to me and said, "When will you get to go to Atlanta and see Meredith?" (my sister) My heart burst--she knew me and she cared about me.

It wasn't a perfect year; I still dreadfully missed my sister and my friends in Atlanta; but second period every day became a haven for me. It was the one time each day I knew I belonged.

Over the years I have stayed in touch with Ms. Byus. She never failed to ask about my children. I called her once to tell her how my eldest aced a conversion test because I had taught her the Byus box--she went on to teach her teacher and the whole class. That teacher still uses it--from Augusta to Louisville the Byus box lives on.

When my own children were having to learn the periodic table I shared the way to learn gold (Au) and silver (Ag)--"Hey you! Bring me back my gold." and "Go you Ga silver britches." They've never forgotten.

I stayed in touch with Ms. Byus but not enough. As the years got busier we would comment on each others facebook pictures and occasionally send one another messages, but I haven't seen her in 10 years.

Yesterday I learned that Wednesday Ms. Byus  (she kept telling me to call her Libby but I just can't..) died. I was shaken in a way I haven't been since my grandmother died. Suddenly images of times in her class or at the wedding of her son (who as adults had become friends with Chris and me). I saw her smiling face laughing and cheering her students on. I remembered that scared lonely girl I was and the teacher who reached out to me. All four of my children knew exactly who I was talking about--all four remembered the periodic table and the Byus box. "How," I wondered, "could I be this upset?"

This morning I know--because Ms. Byus changed lives. She wasn't just a teacher and yet she was everything a teacher should be--she wanted her students to succeed not to make herself look good or because of standardized tests, but because she wanted to instill in each of us that we mattered and that we were capable--that we were smart enough and good enough. She cared about her students as people--individually and a group. She didn't care who you were when you walked in her classroom; she loved you; she accepted you; she knew you--and years and distance didn't matter. Once you were one of Ms. Byus's kids you were one for life.

Rest in peace Ms. Byus. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for caring about education and lives. Thank you for being a legacy. I love you and I will miss you.

Now Dawgs bring home a national championship for your greatest fan ever.

19 December, 2017

Taking Over Closets

Sometimes words are said that seem no big deal but they stick with you--maybe even for decades....

When my sister, brother and I left for college I remember hearing my mother say on more than one occasion, "We don't have empty nest at all. I was ready for them to go and let us get on with our lives." (or something to that effect) Now truth be told, I have no idea if she was a) trying to cover up her feelings or b) meant them in a way I as a young adult didn't hear them.

I heard these words as we were replaceable, irrelevant, and in the way. As the years progressed and my own children began to move towards leaving home for college, the words stung even more. I was NOT ready. I couldn't imagine not having a full house--with laughter and even tears. I could not imagine setting the table for less than six, and I certainly didn't know how to cook for 2--we weren't married long enough without children for me to master that skill....and I couldn't imagine ever saying those words.

So SK left first and I was kind of a tyrant about her room. I wouldn't let anyone go in there even though that first year the boys shared a room and we added a foreign exchange student and Caroline's room might be the size of a large walk in closet. I kept it exactly the same...

The second year things got a little more loose. Maybe it was because she was thriving and I loved seeing how happy she was. Maybe I was just getting worn down, but that year I "let" them sleep in there, sometimes--still couldn't move their things into her room or change anything.

Last year two were gone, and I really began to loosen up. I started moving some of my clothes into their closets. (They swear I really haven't given away that much, but I promise I have--bags and bags but I do still have a lot....working on it). I wanted my drawers to not be so cramped and finding things in a stuffed closet was difficult, so all the dresses went into SK's closet and the pants into Boss's. My assortment of purses went into the top of William's closet--really what does he need it for anyway?Keep in mind we live in an old house with small closets--please don't judge!

We have lived in this house for almost 8 years, and in all that time we couldn't park in the garage. Why you ask? Well for many reasons which probably require more therapy, but one large reason was out of season clothes had to be stored there--we have no attic and remember small closets.

I have no idea what got into me, but one Sunday afternoon in early September I decided it was time
to clean out the garage--I was insane throwing boxes and bags and furniture out and taking it to the street for garbage pick-up. Chris would start to utter, "Are you sure?" And I would shriek--"Take it!" He might have been concerned about my mental stability....I don't know what happened, something in me snapped and I was ready to let go of some things I didn't think I would ever let go of. Then I moved the out of season clothes inside which of course  required me to move a little more into their closets...but we could finally park not one but TWO cars in the garage. Victory!!!!

This holiday season the children have noted on more than one occasion my invasion into their space. I wonder if it causes them pain the way my mother's words hurt me? I wonder if they interpret it differently than how I do? I wonder if they know while I like having more space, I miss them so much that sometimes it is a physical pain. And I wonder if they know how incredibly proud I am of their growth--it just happened far too fast for me.

Am I fully ready for empty nest? No. Am I enjoying watching them grow and flourish? Yes. Do I believe they will all four live under the same roof with me again for long periods of time. No. Do I enjoy spending time with Chris alone? Yes. Am I conflicted? Obviously

Regardless of the answer to any of those questions, it's happening. While I still call them my babies (and always will) they are now young adults. And I believe over these past 4 years without knowing it I was easing into it. From no one can be in her room, to occasionally y'all can sleep there if you have to, to okay you can sleep in there whenever you want, to this year me saying on multiple occasions, "Caroline clean up your roomS" Until I really thought about it this month, I didn't even realize the progression.

And my taking over the closets--visual reminder...

Two important things I have learned--or am learning and hoping to remember.

First, words and actions can have unintended consequences. They can be interpreted in ways never intended and others can carry that pain with them. We must be aware and more importantly we must be able to talk about it. We must be able to express our pain and to be able to hear others. And we must be able to apologize...

Second, as we move through life and through our spiritual journeys, sometimes the changes come so slowly we don't even notice them. We don't realize our hearts and minds are moving towards the future in ways that will protect and enhance us. Sometimes learning to accept reality is a long gradual process and we don't notice our inner growth and change. Often it feels that way with God.

Sometimes we feel like our lives are careening out of control towards a future we're not ready for, a future we don't want, and it feels like we are alone,like God is absent. The truth is God is always working in our lives--when we feel his presence and when we don't. It's so tempting to want to rush through painful experiences, to mask them with words and behaviors, to pretend they're not happening, but part of the growth comes from walking through it, even when we don't feel like we're progressing at all, even when our heart still feels like it's breaking. God is with us as we move towards our uncertain futures. Perhaps I'll be more ready when Caroline leaves in August (probably not) but I do know she will be moving into the future God is calling her to and I will continue moving into mine.

08 December, 2017

Out of My Comfort Zone

I boarded the plane in Tampa exhausted from 3 days with youth and
youth leaders. It was a great leadership conference, and I was feeling incredibly hopeful for the church and the world, but remember it was with youth--you know those little creatures who stay up well past my bedtime and need to be chaperoned even though I still get up at 5:00 am? So I was completely exhausted and even, and this is hard to believe from this off the chart extrovert, needing some alone time.

I was heading home late on a Saturday night with Advent 1 the following day. I was worried about all four of my own children for various reasons and various degrees of severity, and while over the weekend I had experienced great joy and comfort from others who didn't even know they were comforting me, right then I just needed to be left alone.

The lights in the cabin dimmed and the youth with whom I was traveling inserted their earbuds and began watching movies--I settled in and began to read. The flight attendants began to deliver drinks and snacks...

We were sitting in the first half of the plane (not first class--seriously, you thought that?) but the first half of coach. Every few minutes I looked up from my book and watched the cart move towards our row. One flight attendant caught my eye. She looked just like a friend of mine who I know a) isn't a flight attendant and b) doesn't have a sister, but I kept stealing glances at her because it was so eery. I tried to be subtle--I didn't want her to think I was creepy.

As I watched her, I noticed she kept pressing her fingers to her head and a few times she gripped the cart with both hands and seemed to swerve as though she was dizzy or was afraid she would pass out. I thought to myself, "she must have a migraine." and if I'm truthful I desperately hoped it was that and not something contagious...being real here--I was worried about her, but I was also worried, read very worried, about getting sick myself.

Then I began the debate that often goes through my mind when wondering whether to speak up--should I ask her what's wrong? "No," I told myself, "It's none of my business and might embarrass her." I couldn't concentrate on my book and kept stealing looks at her hoping she wouldn't notice. And my stomach kept flipping like a puppy begging for attention--say something, say something, it seemed to say with each flip.

The cart stopped at our aisle and she asked me what I'd like. All I wanted was a pack of cookies (is there anything better than airplane cookies?). As she reached around the cart to hand them to me our hands touched. I reached out with my other one, placed it on top of hers and asked, "Are you okay?" She pulled her hand back and said, "Yes I'm fine." Ugh--had I offended her? I should have taken an antacid and ignored my stomach. Then her face softened and I said, "I just noticed you might have a headache." "Yes," she replied, "But you weren't supposed to see that. I have a job to do." And the cart moved on.

Twenty minutes later I looked up again and saw her approaching me. She knelt beside my chair and said, "Thank you for what you said. It meant a great deal, and I'm sorry if I sounded rude. It's just that I have a job to do and I was embarrassed someone noticed I might be a little off." I took her hand and said, "Yes you have a job to do but you are also human. Please take care of yourself." and then I blurted out, "What's your name and may I pray for you?" Honestly I froze--I was on a flight to Atlanta, Georgia and flashbacks of fundamentalism and judgmental religious rhetoric enveloped me--was she going to think I was one of them? (so maybe I'm a little judgmental too...) Instead she teared up, told me her name and said, "Yes."

And I didn't stop there. "I'm a priest." Why did I feel the need to add that? It doesn't matter--I can pray for her regardless....just this very minute I realize why I did and I'm not proud--I did it to defend why I asked her if I could pray for her so that she wouldn't think I was one of those overly annoying religious people--well that's another blogpost...I was so out of my comfort zone.

She looked down at the book I was reading--Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God--and she said, "I wish I could feel God right now." She continued sharing with me her story. "It's not really sickness, but it is a headache and I am dizzy because I can't breathe. I tried to get the day off but they wouldn't let me. You see I have an 18 year old estranged daughter whom I haven't seen in over a year. I made the mistake last night of looking at her instagram and it broke my heart. My husband tells me to stop looking but I just need to know she's still alive even if her life is one of destruction and danger."

I held both her hands and looked into her eyes as she continued talking. "Again thank you for noticing and for saying something," she finished, "It means more than I can say." "We are all humans struggling through life," I responded, "We need to notice each other, and please know you were doing a great job, it just hurt my heart to see you suffering." and then I added, "You are a good person and clearly a loving good and heart broken mother. I understand and I will pray for you." "Thank you," she whispered, rose and walked away.

One of the youth leaned over and said, "That was your good deed for the day. I'm glad you said something to her." It didn't feel like a good deed--it felt like a connection between two souls--two mommys who shared a common humanity.

Over the past few days I have prayed for this woman and her daughter. I have tried to figure out ways to contact her; perhaps I will be able to some day or perhaps that's not part of God's plan.

I didn't want to speak to this woman; I wanted to be left alone. God had a different plan.

I was out of my comfort zone...but not out of God's.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians1:3-4) New International Version

29 November, 2017

Oops I Did It Again--The Perils of Texting

Oops I did it again lyrics have been playing in my mind for a couple of hours....

Or perhaps I should start like this, "Hello my name is Katherine and I'm an over sharer...."

It is true--I over share (everyone can stop falling on the floor laughing). On good days I consider my "over sharing" to be proof of my realness, my transparency, my authentic nature; on not so good days...well, today was one of those.

Earlier I was in a group text with several people I love dearly. It's an interesting group text--as was noted this morning--it could be a comedic sitcom. We're a group of people brought together by our shared faith. I hope you all have friends like that--friends that "society" would say you have nothing in common with, but then something brings you together and you realize society doesn't know what it's talking about. YEAH COUNTER CULTURE!!!

But back to today....

We began talking about how we met and what our first impressions were of one another. I was entertained. Two couldn't even remember the first time they saw each other... As we were communicating I was thinking about writing about us and our counter cultural friendships...then I piped in with my original impressions.

Let me set the stage for you---I was on my way to a meeting dressed in one son's basketball shorts over bike shorts, wearing another son's over sized lacrosse jacket that I had just split coffee down the front (more on that in a minute), and an ale 8 hat. (Note my sons are close to twice my size...)AND, I was walking into my daughter's high school to bring her coffee (the spilled coffee) and her forgotten medicine. As I was walking in she informs me I'm going to have to bring it to her AP biology class that she can't remember the room number but according to her, "You've been to the room before..." The entire class was staring at me and the teacher, who I also love, was shocked at my get up. So to say I was tickled is an understatement. I was in a very silly mood.

So I texted out my first impressions giggling to myself (might have even let forth a snort) because they were so funny and SO inaccurate. Problem was I didn't add that part....other problem was it might have been better if I never said a word...

I went on about my business until a few hours later I received a text which very clearly indicated it was not taken in a humorous way. My first reaction was shame and complete remorse; my second was gratitude. Gratitude that my friend was able to tell me how she felt, explain her reasoning, and I was able to apologize. (Let me add here as an aside--I apologized and told her my real intention BUT they are not an excuse...)

I was going to save this story for later--you know when said "I don't know where my biology class 17 year old daughter" comes home so I could demonstrate the dangers of texting and oversharing. I was going to explain to her that once you put words out there in texts they can't be taken back and they can be read over and over. And I was going to explain to her the words can be so misunderstood. I was also going to tell her how sometimes texting and not seeing someone's face breaks a boundary and we say things we wouldn't normally say--or at least as soon as we said them we would recogize our mistake. I was going to tell her that not everyone will come back to you for clarification--you know I was going to make my mistake a learning experience for her---

Instead I came to work and thought about advent and Christmas--and it became a BIG learning experience for me.

Here's the deal. I do love to text (no comment oh beloved husband of mine). I love staying connected to friends. I love sharing funny stories, pictures and jokes. I love I can stay connected to those I can't see often. But what this season is about is waiting for the birth of God. God in the flesh--Emmanuel--God among us.

God came to be with people in the flesh. Let's face it, it's God. God could have just stayed transcedent and spoken to us in other ways--burning bush, dreams, smoke signals, shoot God could have had his own hashtag #Godspeaking. But God came to be with us, to love us, to see our faces and so we could see his face. God came to be in relationship with us IN THE FLESH!

Those high school seniors who saw me today would probably have not taken anything I had to say seriously; I was laughing and cracking jokes as I handed my baby her medicine. They had a context and a body (albeit a very strange looking body) to understand my words. My friend didn't.

So yes, my name is Katherine and I over share AND I text. But today reminds me of the importance of face to face relationship, and it reminds me that God came to be present with us and God's deepest desire is that we are present with God and one another---

(and btw I really dislike that song and what it means, so please someone send me something to replace it in my head!!!)

28 November, 2017

Advent, Waiting, and Blowing Up Christmas

The other night I was talking to a friend about Christmas traditions--our family has a TON! While recognizing I created these tradition monsters, I am NOT the one who insists we do everything exactly the same every year--from pj's and books on Christmas Eve (hell hath no fury like the four monsters er I mean children the year I bought robes instead of pajamas!)to where pictures have to be taken, to the meal, to the order of opening....and the list goes on.....but last year was different and that's what I was telling her.....

Last year for the first year ever I didn't think all four children would be home and my heart hurt--it wasn't that Boss wasn't going to be home because he was with the love of his life or was on some fabulous trip--no, he had to work and he would be alone. I could find no joy (and I’m sure I’d be FINE if it was the other..) I had no energy-- no energy to decorate the house, no energy to bake cookies, no energy to put out the advent calendar, no energy to continue the traditions without all four. I decided that it would be a good idea to do something different so I didn't have to remember I was missing 1/5 of my heart. I told myself we could return to the traditions the next year when they would all be home. The traditions would just have to wait.

My, I believe great idea, was to BLOW UP CHRISTMAS--literally.  Everyone, except one who shall remain anonymous but might be the one who has had the traditions the longest, was all for it. (or perhaps they were just all for making sure their mama didn't cry every day....)

Every week Chris and I added another inflatable to the yard--it was totally not us. It made me smile; it made me laugh even if it didn't feel like Christmas.
The First Week

As I'm telling my friend this story fully expecting her to also agree I was perhaps the most creative genius that ever had to celebrate the holidays for the first time without all the children, she looked at me, somewhat kindly, and said, "I get you were sad and Boss wasn't going to be here, but what about the other children? Didn't they want to keep the traditions? Wasn't it important for them?"

I deflated like one of the blowups when the cord is pulled.....

This conversation, along with my renewed commitment to running, has made me think deeply about the holidays. As we begin to approach Advent I have been thinking about what that means--

Advent is a time of waiting...

So many of us are waiting for so many things...children to come home for the holidays, reconciliation with loved ones, a new job, retirement,  grief to subside,  a loved one to enter recovery, graduation, college admissions, enduring pain to end, release from the monsters in our minds---and the list goes on. Sometimes the waiting can paralyze us; sometimes the waiting can make us impatient; sometimes the waiting can make us say or do things we may or may not be proud of---much of the time the waiting is anguish.

During Advent we are waiting to celebrate the birth of the Christ child--the incarnate--the flesh of God coming to dwell among us. We are waiting both to celebrate what happened over 2000 years ago and to acknowledge that we are also waiting for the second coming--for the Kingdom of God to fully break into this dark world where pain seems unbearable and waiting seems interminable.

The One Tradition We Kept
As I've been running and thinking it occurs to me that yes we are waiting, but God is asking us to continue living. Advent isn't about doing nothing and waiting for our pain to end, our hearts to heal, the darkness to be lifted. Advent is about being the light--reaching out in our, through our, and despite our pain. God is asking us to remember and reach out to all those who need to feel and experience God's love (perhaps through traditions), and through our reaching out we too will experience God's comfort and love. God is asking us to not get so caught up in our own lives, our own pain, our own grief that we forget others. God is asking us to join with God to help bring the second Advent to a close more quickly. God is asking us to love.

(Oh and all four ended up being home last year and will be again this year--let the traditions continue!)