Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When I Put Down the Microphone

It's only been seven months.

What ON EARTH have I been doing, you ask?


I've been in my laundry room. I moved in for seven months thinking I could finish all the laundry and clean out the mess.

Nope. It will never, ever be finished. Ever.

One day, I'd just had it. I couldn't take one more day of the squalor. So, I came. I saw. And, I cleaned out TWO YEARS of mess, and now I'm moving back in. Because it's the cleanest room in the house.

But, listen. Can we just have a moment of silence for all the members of Messmakers Anonymous in this world who TRIUMPH over things like this? Because this is like "BEST DAY EVER" for someone like me. And, I moonwalked outta there LIKE A BOSS, drove to Starbucks, ordered a Venti, and told the drive-thru girl I'd cleaned my laundry room and I was celebrating. She was 12. And, handed me a cup full of apathy.


It's a big mess, again. Not as bad as it was before. (Random boot, anyone?) But, it only took me 10 years to come to the conclusion that the laundry will never, in fact, be finished.

But, that isn't really where I've been. (Duh, Sar.)

One morning last Spring, I was sitting having coffee with my husband. In this very candid conversation we were having about why he and I were having trouble loving someone, he said, "She always has to have a microphone."

And, that sentence hit me like a ton of bricks.

"She always has to have a microphone."


I mean. Ouch.

It was time for me drop the mic. And exit stage left.

You know, I love that God gives each of us a unique story. Stories filled with pain, heartache, difficulties, and trials. But, always - always filled with His goodness, His hand, and His love and grace through all of it. We get to tell HIS story when we tell ours and there is so much beauty and wonder and I imagine He delights when we say to others in any way we can (in pictures, in words, in social media or in books or articles or small groups or large groups or sitting across from a friend) - "Can I tell you what God's doing in my life?"

But, I've learned something these last several months:

When I put down the microphone, God can whisper.

In the quiet absence of social noise, He can speak softly into those hushed spaces of my life in ways that He can't when I fill them with my own thoughts and words.

I didn't disappear from the face of the planet. I didn't "go off the grid" or stop taking photos or blare No Doubt's "Don't Speak" from my iPod in some sort of musical irony.

But, I put down the microphone that represents this space here - and it helped me really listen to Him.

Do you know what happened?

For the first time in ten years, I picked up a microphone. Like a real one.

I started singing, again. This thing that I have loved my whole life. And after ten years of being away from it, God started prodding - like He does. And, in that quiet space, as I sought out how to best serve Him in this season of my life, I felt that nudge.

Maybe I should start singing, again?

And, it has blessed me so much to help lead worship in the church that I love.

I always laugh (and cry and scowl and eye roll) that my husband can speak such wisdom into my life - when he isn't trying to.

This friend? The one we were discussing last Spring - I have found grace for her. Because I now see the struggle in me. But wow - how God can use seasons of quiet contemplation - of searching instead of saying. Of listening instead of speaking. To whisper His will, to reveal His tenderness, and to crack open doors that we wouldn't hear opening had we been shouting out the window.

Seven months. 2.4 million loads of laundry. And, I've learned: I don't always need a microphone. (Well, unless I'm leading worship. Then let's hope I actually remember to step up to it and sing. On time. And don't pull over my monitor during communion causing a church full of prayerful juice holders to wonder, "WHAT IS THAT NEW GIRL DOOOOING???")

Yeah. There's that. Humble pie, y'all.

Before I sign off today, here's a ragamuffin photo of my people.

Reppin' the Ravens. Of course.

And, lest you think this microphone thing includes quiet where our Ravens are concerned?


You know me better than that.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Moms, We Will Never Be Enough

And, so.

I glanced over at that mountain, coffee in one hand, other hand resting gently on my hip and wondered:

Will it ever end?

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And, all of these questions pop into my head as I flip through this mental Rolodex of motherhood and wonder:

Will these dishes EVER be finished?
Will I ever fit into those clothes, again?
Will I ever really know if jeans should go over my baby-made, flesh-colored fanny pack or do I muffin-top it the rest of my life?
Is there ever, like maybe, just once, a last load of laundry?
Does jelly come out of silk throw pillows?
Will I ever sleep, again? Ever?

Do only mothers wonder everything and anything - all at once?

A wise friend once told me:

You can have a clean sink, Sarah.
Clean laundry, clean counters, clean pillows...

And no children.

Or you can have a messy sink,
Dirty, Mount Vesuvius rivaling laundry piles,
Dishes caked on, stacked up and jelly-stained pillows...

And, have your family.

Wouldn't you always, every minute, choose the latter?


Of course. I would. They are my family.

Sarah, she said:

You have a family.

So, for the Moms with dirty sinks - who wonder if it will ever end. Who scrub three day-old "pasketti" sauce off of white porcelain plates. Who stand, achy feet and weary heart, over a sink full of yesterday and the day before and the day before that. You have a family.

For the moms with laundry piles that aren't really piles because the gathering and sorting and lugging from this room and that means no piles, but instead life strewn memories dropped all over and everywhere of backyard football and front yard toddling into melting snow piles and peanut butter sandwich lunches and Oreo dunkfests. Who, arms heavy with memories, gently gather what is dirty so life can dirty it, again. You have a family.

For the moms who wonder if a baby-made pouch of flesh-colored I carried you here should be stuffed beneath a too tight waistband or left to hang out above. Who wear birth scars and thigh dimples and yoga pants and Things Just Aren't Where They Used To Be. Who sweep their hands over the heads of the ones they once carried and feel those tiny hands wrapped around dimpled thighs and I love you, Mommy embraces. And, muffins and dimples could never carry more weight than this love. You have a family.

For the moms who turn off the lights, well after midnight, when the work isn't finished, and walk upstairs with But, there is so much more to do. Who climb into bed, unshowered and unselfish, and climb out of bed, again, for one last peek and one last forehead kiss. Who know that unfinished is the theme of this season but who will fight tired so that sleepy-headed children know love. You have a family.

For the moms who pack and unpack, sign and date and who marvel at stacks of papers wearing Froot Loop rainbows and backwards n's and new math and Great Job stickers and who wonder if there will, maybe one day, be a system that works that doesn't feel like imminent Death By Paper Drowning. Who throw away and save and throw away and save and can't quite keep it all straight. You have a family.

For the moms who give. Every day. You have a family.

For the moms with mismatched sock bags and dirty sinks. You have a family.

For the moms who wonder - Am I enough?

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

For the moms, in every season, in a thousand ways, who wonder if they are big fat failures - too fat, too tired, too much laundry, too many dishes, too little patience, too little Playdoh, too much coffee and chocolate, too many kids and just Not Enough Me To Do It All.

This truth:

God gave you your family. Knowing you are not enough. Knowing you can't do it all alone.

So, He gave you Himself, Jesus - full of grace and mercy and power in every day, every moment, every failure.

You have a family. And, you are not enough.

But, He is.

Rest on this grace today, my friends.

We aren't enough.

We never have to be enough.

Because He is.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Pinwheels and Pillow Fight Tattoos

I was laying down next to my boy the other day, elbow on my pillow, cheek resting on my rounded fist, watching him breathe in and out.

And, it struck me how each picture in my life tells a thousand stories:

How he wore a button down shirt and tie to church on Sunday. Only we didn't leave the house for church because baby girl was sick and we decided to have "church" at home. But our Whit, he would choose a shirt and tie for "home church" but never for "go the building church". Strong, independent, do-it-his-own-way and how I'd change him if I could so the angels stomp and shout that I, Master Celebrator of Convenience and Ease and Practicality, can't touch that spirit within him.

How the cut above his eye from a Play at Your Own Risk family room pillow fight bears witness that little boys live here and that pillows aren't for sofas or making pretty but for war. Rowdy, rambunctious, so much energy, so much unapologetic zip and zing. How my life is never serene.

How wild life reigns here.

How blond tresses, heading this way and that, won't be contained - just like his three year-old spirit - all. day. long. - because in-place is not as cool or adventurous as all-over-back-and-forth and his hair and three year-old body tell the same story: We are dapper and free. They are made for each other.

How he wears a goatee of leftover Oreo cookie and can't be bothered with face washing or cleaning up - not when the promise of naptime in Mama's bed is waiting upstairs. How I've given in to this simple request because he naps long and hard here and I've learned that choosing my battles, one by one and different for each of them, creates a freedom I didn't know when I was newly Mama.

How I've let go of what doesn't matter, so I can hold on to who does.

How pinwheel sheets - the ones that we picked out when we were engaged are still hanging on - just barely. How they cup the head of my sleeping boy now but how they could tell a thousand stories of their own of how two sinners come together to love and cherish and create a family and how we've hashed out our dreams and disappointments laying stubborn on the edges and how tears have fallen, heart-soaked, onto the pillowcases. In joy and in sorrow. Plenty and want. Sickness and health.

And, all of this, swept into just one moment, proclaiming in living color how God's penmanship on our lives is so powerful and vivid that our life stories can be told and retold in everyday living. On everyday things.

Like pinwheel pillowcases.

On sunny, Sunday afternoons.

On sleeping boys with pillow fight tattoos.

If only we pause long enough to soak it in.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

This Other Thing I Didn't Know About Motherhood

There's something I didn't know about motherhood.

(Well, there were and are a million things.)

But, this one is everyday now. It's this always present, always pang, always tug and grip on my heart.

It goes like this:

I want my kids to grow up. But, only a little.

I want my kids to grow up. I do. I love watching them change from squeaky newborn to cooing infant to house-wrecker toddler to "I do it" preschooler to "look back at you and wave goodbye" Kindergartner to OMG - I have a tween who ONLY wants skinny jeans and boxer shorts, people.

But, man, I don't want to let them go. Mayor of Denial City over here. I see them changing. And, I just wanna crawl in the corner and weep over how babies become bigs and bigs used to be babies and my older friends tell me that NINE is so little and I'll look back on them at this age and realize they WERE just babies and I had it all wrong thinking they were anything but.

Today, I saw my nine year-old carrying my one year-old baby, and he asked me:

"Mom, can I take her up for her nap this time?"

And, there before me was this other thing I didn't know about motherhood:

When they grow up, they want to help you.

Like really help you. In this amazing and proud and moving way. Maybe it should've been obvious. Maybe it's because my first four children are boys and I'd heard that when girls are oldest, they are born to mother and they'll help you and care for the littles and I just never saw my boys as my helpers. Maybe it's because I get in this "It's all on me" mode and the process of them "helping" is harder than just getting it done.

But, whatever the reasons, as I watched my first son - my blue-eyed, skinny-jeans, boxer shorts, "I'm growing my hair out cause I like the way it swooshes" - carrying his baby sister over to me, I almost jumped up to grab her: "Wait, no. I'll do it."

But, instead - I stopped. I'm not even sure why:

"Yes. I would sure love that, bud."

And, he smiled so big, arms full of sleepy baby girl, and headed for the steps.

So proud.
So willing.
So grown up.

As I listened to him, mimicking me from inside her room: "Here's your blanket, girl. Here's your tiny baby. No, no - don't cry because I'm coming back when you wake up..."

This growing up thing didn't sting as much.

I have a helper.

Who is watching me, and wanting to be big, and begging me to let him. Who is learning to serve and love his family in little and big ways with a willing heart.

If this is growing up, I think I'm ready to let go a little.

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