17,000,000. The number of apps to manage to-do lists.
TOP priority. Get ‘er done.
The feeling of accomplishment.
Promised peace at the end of the day when it’s all crossed off.
I was trained from a bitty girl to spend time at the day’s end confessing my sins out loud and asking God for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I lied.” “I’m sorry I said mean things to my friend.”
No matter how much good I had given to the world, my final thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had MESSED UP and what I had NOT done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes). NO peace for sure.
Fast-forward to my adult years. Same. Same. Same. Just different stuff. “I’m sorry I screamed at my kids.” “I’m sorry I took a too-long lunch at work.”
One night, my little rebellious self changed it up. “What did you do right today?” I quizzed my husband as we collapsed into bed after wrangling four kids into their beds.
“I smiled at the store clerk,” he mumbled at long last.
I shook my head. I knew he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, treated everyone with dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his “to-do” list.
Realizing how much of our day (and night) was taken up with negative thinking, we decided to make this a best practice in the moments before we fell into slumber. “What did you do right today?”
We still began our days with a “to-do” list, but we ended them with a “ta-da” list.
It was STILL NOT the peace we were looking for, but at least a step in the right direction.
Help came in the form of what usually happened right before we crawled into bed, wiped out from the day.
Most nights, the last thing on my never-ending “to-do” list was to slip into each of my kids’ rooms and just watch them sleep (something I still do from time-to-time, even though they are giants at this point).
No matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more. I would just stand there, gazing at their cute little heads barely visible above their comforters, completely and utterly in love with them, happy.
Yes. Yes. This must be how God feels about us.
While the “to-do” lists and “ta-da” lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.
At BOTH the beginning and end of each day (regardless of either of those lists), he gently reminds us, “I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah)
“I miss you, Mom.” If I see this, or hear this, I am a puddle.
I know. I know. It might mean, “I miss your meals. I miss you folding my clothes.”
What I secretly hope is that it means they miss my good mom love for them. There’s nothing like a mom’s love, right?
But what does that even mean?
Protecting them? Feeding them (way too many meals a day in my opinion)? Keeping them safe?
Granting them freedom? Freaking out inside when they hop behind the wheel of a car? Letting them make mistakes?
This mom gig is hard.
It’s a very tricky tight rope to walk. It’s more nuanced than some quick A+B=C equation. Beyond COMPLICATED!
If I protect them at all costs, I might suffocate and smother them, not allowing them to become themselves. NOT GOOD.
If I grant them unlimited freedom, they might feel uncared for and unsafe, and very unloved. ALSO NOT GOOD.
So what’s a mom to do? How do I best love them?
Maybe I don’t have to choose either or. Total SAFETY or total FREEDOM.
And maybe it’s A LOT about how I make them feel inside.
Maybe it’s about them knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt they belong to me, no matter what they do. They are grounded, or rooted, in that place, whether they are 10 feet from me in their childhood bedroom or they are 1,000 miles away in their new apartment.
AND maybe, just maybe, it’s about them also knowing they’ve got what it takes to sprout internal wings, and I’ve given them complete freedom to become all that they were designed to be (as messy as that process is).
It doesn’t seem to matter if they are 2 or 22.
It takes lots of mom time and energy (and a lot of asking God) to make all these decisions with wisdom, not to smother, but to give proper roots, AND to know when and how and why to lovingly “kick them out of the nest” to soar to heights way beyond my mom imagination.
My teacher/daughter and I were chatting about the upcoming school year and ALL. THE. THINGS. surrounding it.
I had a million ideas and shared them a little too eagerly.
Here’s what you should do!
Look at this idea I found on Pinterest!
Ya-da ya-da ya-da.
“Whoa, Mom,” she gracefully, yet boldly stopped me. “I can’t do this right now. I have to take one step at a time. I need to WAIT for my district before I dive in.”
You know what I did?!?
Not my normal, “but I think you should…”
I stopped. Just like she asked me to.
Yes, often I am the teacher, the wise one, the mom giving counsel.
But motherhood is a two-way street. I am ALSO often the learner, the ignorant one, the mom receiving guidance.
We got off the phone, me feeling beyond grateful that I have a daughter who is really coming into HER OWN VOICE and here is what she wrote only an hour later.
WISDOM beyond WISDOM.
Yup. It was good for me to zip my lip and open my ears.
Education is under fire right now. It’s the next big thing under scrutiny during this pandemic. School districts, administration, and educators are under a microscope as the world cries out, “What do we do next?”
As a teacher wrestling with this very question, here’s the truth: No one knows! There is no right answer.
At the same time, there are lots of other true things:
Kids are falling academically behind
Parents need to go back to work
COVID cases are rising in many states
There are high risk teachers, students and family members
Children’s mental and emotional health is important
All of these truths exist in exactly the same space.
The questions we must ask ourselves are:
Can we sit there with them?
Can we sit there as one truth butts up against another, rubs it the wrong way or opposes it completely?
Can we sit there with truths swirling around without letting go of others?”
That is HARD.
And when things get hard we want answers.
We want certainty.
We want someone to blame when things go wrong.
Instead, can we acknowledge that when things are hard, mistakes are most likely going to get made not because we are bad but because we are HUMAN?
Brene Brown (my famous life coach and secret BFF) speaks to this phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. In her words, cognitive dissonance is “the psychologically painful process of trying to hold two competing truths in a mind that was engineered to constantly reduce conflict and minimize dissension.”
In a nutshell, holding opposing truths is real soul work. It is hard but worth it.
In the sacred space of my classroom, I teach my students that mistakes make them HUMAN, not bad. Together we engage in the truly and completely vulnerable act of learning. I want them to extend grace to themselves and to others as we find that perfection does not exist, but love does.
As teachers, as parents and just simply as people, may we have the wisdom and willingness to get uncomfortable sitting with multiple truths at the same time. May we model for our students and our children, not how to make perfect decisions but how to make them in love.
So what are you, your family, your school, your district going to do this fall? Let’s aim for love, not perfection.
FRAUGHT. Adj. (of a situation or course of action) filled with or likely to result in (something undesirable).
THIS IS OUR LIFE right now. NO clear answers, much less any that we like.
Should I send my kids to school in person, online or homeschool?
How should I respond if someone puts their hand out to shake mine?
How can I safely see my aging parents? Should I quarantine? For how long? What does that even mean?
What do I do at work when someone comes in without a mask on?
When should I plan that dentist visit?
How do I respond with my friends, online, on the news, with my family when other people are not making the same choices as me?
Should I have friends over? Inside? Where will they go to the bathroom?
Is it okay to serve at the soup kitchen? How close will I have to get to the other volunteers?
YUP. We are FRAUGHT.
Whatever decision we make is likely to result in something undesirable.
So what are we to do to have PEACE in the middle of it all?
DISCLAIMER: I’m on the same struggle bus sitting 6 feet away from you with my mask on. We are here kind of socially-distanced together, high-fiving and cheering each other along on this bumpy, twisty ride.
Okay. Back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
I had one of these FRAUGHT-FILLED decisions just this weekend. I was officiating a small wedding and I suddenly remembered I was going to have to talk to people. The bride. The groom. The wedding coordinator. The parents. The little cute kids wandering around. I’d always done it with ease and now it was complicated. FRAUGHT!
Will they think I am rude? Should I stand six-feet away from them? What if someone is immunocompromised and I have no clue? What if they want me close to them?
I would love to tell you that I knew exactly what to do and how to do it and that I was super confident in my decisions ahead of time. HAHAHA. NOPE!
I reverted to all those things I normally do.
I asked my husband what to do.
I wrung my hands.
I called an officiant friend for his advice.
I freaked out a little inside.
But then, I had to get out of the car. I had to make my decisions. The wedding was upon me.
I put on my big girl pants (I mean dress in this case) and I did what I knew to be my own best practices.
JUST DO THE VERY NEXT THING. I am not in any kind of position to plan ahead because my world is changing at break-neck speed. Don’t add anything extra to my plate right now. Add my best version of LOVE into the mixture and trust it will be really okay in the end.
DIG DEEPER TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE. Is it fear? Is it bad boundaries? Is it people-pleasing? Is it comparison? Maybe it’s something good. Faith? Good boundaries? Being true to myself? Take a minute to listen.
WATCH HOW MY BODY RESPONDS TO EACH OPTION. Do I tense up or do I sigh with at least some measure of relief? Check myself again and again until I sense which direction my body is sending me.
SINK DOWN INSIDE OF MYSELF WHERE GOD DWELLS. He is filled wisdom and love, goodness and life, healing and hope and SO AM I. Trust my God-filled gut.
GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE MY MIND. The decisions I make do not have power over me. I have power over them. There is not one right one choice and everything will go to “hell in a hand-basket” if I make the wrong one. Change is often a good thing. It means I am learning and growing.
Yes. I am FRAUGHT. I certainly was this weekend and will be again for the foreseeable future. So are you. We all are. It’s a perfect word for the times we are living in. NO GOOD OPTIONS.
But good options are not the dictator of whether we have PEACE. Peace comes from within, not from without. Nothing has the right to steal it away from us. NO ONE. NO THING.
We need PEACE so very desperately because it’s our GUIDE, our HOPE and FRIEND.
And it’s ours for the taking because, after all, the very Source of PEACE is with us and for us and around us and IN US.
So struggle-bus companions, let’s keep asking for and giving ourselves the gift of peace. The unexplainable, undeniable PEACE that is rightfully ours, if I may say so myself.
From bad choices.
From all that’s wrong with the world.
It feels really good.
For the moment.
But I know it’s not good.
For their hearts.
Because when I am their savior,
I am also “saving” them…
From good choices.
From all that’s right with the world.
Doesn’t sound like much saving in the end.
Then what’s the point of this motherhood gig?
If it’s not for saving?
Hang on a minute.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
What’s that still small voice whispering inside?
What’s that “aha moment” I can’t deny?
Has motherhood saved me?
bringing me JOY that I’ve never known before
revealing PATIENCE as I stumble along in the unknown
breathing HOPE when I need it the most
reminding me of BEAUTY in the ordinary moments
granting KINDNESS when I can’t find any in myself
allowing me to experience unconditional LOVE
opening my heart to see the tenderness of good good GOD