Archive for the ‘just life’ Category

The Work of Christmas

I found myself praying for strangers as I was Christmas shopping this year – the stress on people’s faces, the grim looks as dollar after dollar was being spent on STUFF. Stuff the stockings, stuff the boxes, stuff the houses… how many were in the very act of putting themselves in debt. It felt extremely HEAVY.
I love Christmas for what it represents to me as a Christian. I love the way it still feels magical as friends and family (and even strangers) reach out in loving ways toward one another. But I DON’T love what our westernized culture (myself included) has allowed Christmas to become.
In a prayer I read to my students yesterday, it said that “Heaviness is not from my kingdom.” If Christmas was about the very incarnation of the kingdom here on earth, and that kingdom isn’t heavy, then what in the heck am I witnessing and participating in? And what should I be doing instead?
#foodforthought

 

The work of Christmas

 

Posted on January 7th, 2017 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Being in the moment

being in the moment

being in the moment

This has been a ridiculously, stupendously busy year.  I am full time teaching after being off for 14 years; I’m enrolled full time in graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in Religious Studies; and I’m still running this crazy household.  When friends ask me how I’m doing, how my life is going, all I can say is this line,”It’s really good.  I love everything I’m doing while I’m doing it.”  While this is absolutely true, it’s been bothering me that this is all I can think to say.  So I did a little intentional thinking about this the other day.  How am I really doing?

First, I am filled with joy.  Oh, I am stressed out –  a lot.  Organizing 5 kids on 4+ sports teams:  carpools, snacks, meals, all on a budget, and trying not to forget anyone at any given time or field… it’s a lot to manage.  Finding time to plan and grade for 140 freshman students whom I dearly love and desire to provide great, meaningful education…it’s a lot to manage.  Squeezing in chunks of quiet time in which to read fabulously deep books on theology and writing the necessary papers and assignments that accompany quality grad. classes…it’s a lot to manage.  But there is much joy to be found in all of these activities.  It shows up in the conversations I get to have with my kids when we’re in the car, driving to yet another practice.  It shows up when those students are genuinely shocked that I sent out a quick email letting them know I’m thankful for them.  It shows up as I’m using parts of my brain that have been dormant for so very long.  I am truly joy-filled.

being in the moment

being in the moment

I have such amazing support.  My husband and kids love me in the midst of my insanity.  My family and Rob’s family – especially those Grandmas – have made themselves available in so many ways – caring for these 5 lucky kids,  caring for me in practical, loving ways.  Friends who listen to me whine, treat me with suprise doughnuts, jump out of running cars for much-needed hugs, reach out through quick emails and texts…I am loved in all the ways I need to be, and much more.  And I know that I am lifted up in prayer.  That, along with spirit-provided comfort and inspiration, is the only way I am walking through this and am still fairly upright, and mostly-remembering to breathe.

As I contemplate my joy and my aforementioned response to my current life, I think the way I’m feeling is HOME.  I am home in my body, in my spirit, in my soul.  I’m not complete, and am still pretty much a mess (my house reflects this), but I am more perfectly me than I have ever been before in these 42 years.  THIS is the biggest blessing of my life right now.  I’ve always been a performer.  I put on “Becky-shows” for whatever needs I anticipated my audience may have.  And I’ve been really good at this, if I do say so myself – which I do.  And it’s not all been a lie, a piece of my true-Becky is included in every performance for the low, low price of free!  But at the heart of every performance now is… me.  This is where my life thus far has brought me – home to me.  So when I’m performing now, it’s rooted in authenticity and (I almost wrote maturity – which is hilarious, and would be much-debated!) this giant store of love I’ve received.

being in the moment

being in the moment

And how does one put all of that into a simple response to, “How are you?”  I guess, just the way I’ve been answering will have to do.  No, I don’t watch much tv and I don’t sit down much, I don’t exercise as much as I’d like to, and right now I don’t have time to read or write much for pleasure (although I”ve gifted myself this time today for my birthday).  My garden will probably be a mess again this year, and I’ve sent more than one kid to soccer practice in a semi-clean (who am I kidding – dirty) jersey… But I am loving everything I’m doing while I’m doing it.  Even in the most stressful moments or the painful ones that are prevalent in this broken world, I am acutely aware of the ways I am held…and blessed.  There’s a lot of ugly amidst the beautiful…but I choose to focus on the beautiful.

There is much that is sacred in my ordinary life.  And I’m so very thankful for every moment.

Posted on March 28th, 2015 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Portaging

 

I haven’t been reading much for pleasure this summer.  (Although I HAVE been finding much pleasure in the books I’ve been reading for grad. school!)  But I snuck in the excellent novel, Orphan Train a few weeks ago.  There was a concept that was key to the story, something I have heard about before but struck me with new significance at this different place I’m at right now in my life.  This concept was called portaging.  Imagine you are on a canoe trip where the river dries up or becomes so low that it’s necessary to carry your canoe along the bank until the next river begins, or the current river reaches a level you can once again properly navigate your canoe. You would need to pack light, carrying only the essentials, otherwise the canoe would be too loaded down and you would be unable to move along to the next point of your journey.

2014 has been a year of portage for me.  This year of transition has been a time where I am sifting through my collection of thoughts, lessons, and experiences from the last 14 years, deciding what the essentials are that I’m going to carry with me as I prepare for the next leg of my journey.  I’m sure as I paddle into this new adventure, I will continue to realize essential items I will need to hold close, but here is the list as it stands right now.

1.  Creativity.  I didn’t realize how fundamental a need this is for me – and I would say, for all of us.  This looks different for me every single day, but it’s such a soul-engaging NEED that it makes the top of this list.  I need to do something creative nearly every single day.  Painting a bookshelf, baking brownies, weeding my garden, moving furniture, writing a blog, etc.  It is a discipline to allow myself to be creative.  It is a way to connect with who I am created to be.  It fulfills a need within me that then allows me to be a better wife and mother ~ and person.

2.  Bittersweetness.  I stand rooted in hope and grief.  Like a flower that emerges stronger because of those creatures who gave their lives to feed the soil I’m planted within, I carry with me the yin and yang of this life.  As I proudly watch my children mature, I weep with the loss of their childhood.  Though I mourn my sweet girl, I am thankful for lessons learned in the wake of that tragedy.  Like the seasons that change, I too am evolving and learning to recognize these changes as opportunities for growth or rest.

Kate's Lily

Kate’s Lily

3.  Honoring the moment.  Not typically one to plan, I usually live for the moment.  Learning to HONOR the moment, however, is a different, crucial element.  When I can let go of expectations and rest in the present moment, I fully engage and experience the sacredness within that moment.  Whether I’m teaching my boys how to brush their teeth (again), listening to my girls complain about one another (again), folding laundry (again), or laughing during a family dinner, if I am concentrating on those people in that moment instead of the thousand other things that may need to be addressed, then I am honoring that moment ~ that relationship.

4.  “I’m tired” can be translated in a variety of ways.  I say this a lot.  Too much.  It is usually true, but there’s often an undercurrent that lies just beneath this surface, beckoning me deeper.  Sometimes “I’m tired” means “I need to talk.”  Sometimes it means “I’m feeling sad.”  Sometimes it means “I just need some time to myself.”  I have learned that I am so quick to dismiss my feelings that I often fail to even recognize or name them.  When I hear myself saying, “I’m tired,” I’m learning to pay attention.

5.  Coffee.  Goodness gracious, however did I live without this beverage?  I started drinking coconut frappachinos and now drink it black, although I appreciate its multitude of subtleties and uses.  Though coffee is indeed important, it also serves as a metaphor to me that sometimes I need help making it through my day.  My first inclination is to muscle through any situation by myself, but in reality I am better served (and a better servant to others!) when I admit that I need help.

Just one more cup...

Just one more cup…

6.  Less of me leaves more room for Him.  Perspective is powerful.  When I enter into a situation with my own prejudices, my own preconceived notions, I influence and manipulate that situation often without even realizing it.  If my goal is to be a vessel for divine love to be shared with others, I need to ask for help to make it not about me, but about using my life and experiences to serve a greater good.  This is something I need to ask not just daily, but in every waking moment, so that it becomes as natural as breathing.

It is too difficult to sum up 14 years of stay-at-home-motherhood in one blog post.  But as I portage to this next stage, I carry with me essential, valuable components that will help guide me through this next passage.  It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  What essentials are you carrying with you throughout your travels?

 

Posted on July 21st, 2014 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Joy is a Choice

When I lost Kate, I was 5 months pregnant with our first son, Ty. Of course, this precipitated extra concern for his welfare, as he was being housed by a grieving mother.  But without much conscious thought, my instincts kicked in and I was able to feed my body (seriously, when have I EVER failed to feed this body?!) and this new baby in the way that he needed to be nourished.

4 months later our serious, thoughtful, sensitive baby boy entered our world. I won’t lie and say I felt the same kind of joy as during the births of our girls, but there was something even more powerful born that day – the promise of joy. And for a mother who was still reeling from the shock and suffering that accompanies losing a child, that promise was something beautiful and tangent. In Ty’s birth, more than perhaps any event in my life, I was reminded (or maybe it was then that I first truly learned) that joy can be a choice.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a choice.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, says “Gratitude precedes the miracle.”  This is so much more than a quote to me – it is the air I breathe. For it is in being thankful for the time I had with Kate that I am able to continue living without her. It was in being thankful for this baby boy, that I was able to choose and feel joy again.

It was a miracle.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

That serious, joy-reminding baby how now become a rambunctious, intelligent, athletic, 8 year old. I cannot fathom how that happened so very quickly, but here we are. He is still so very sensitive – I often wonder if it’s because of what he endured in the womb as we were connected in my physical and emotional grief. It is one of the many mysteries held deep within this mother’s heart. And he continues to teach me how to choose joy, only now it’s in the form of smelly, tousled, soccer-practiced hair and perennially dirty fingernails messy from prying up carefully-placed rocks from my flower garden.

He teaches me to choose joy when he says no to my embrace and yes to Dad’s. He teaches me to choose joy when there is roller skating AND basketball-playing AND Skylander-tossing AND Keith Urban-singing ALL at the same time. He teaches me to choose joy even as I stumble and flail about, entering this new boy-mom territory that involves so much more more than the boy manuals teach.

Joy is a Choice

Joy is a Choice

I am so thankful for my Ty-Ty. And in that, the miracle abounds wrapped in grace and hope and love.  I choose joy. Thank you, buddy.

 

 

 

 

Posted on April 10th, 2014 by LilBS  |  3 Comments »

“Yes” to 41

I turned 41 today. And if I had to describe this day in one word, it would be “Yes.”

Yes to 5 kids and 1 husband singing an outrageously racous version of Happy Birthday complete with Cha-Cha-Cha’s and whoops and hollers.

Yes to handmade cards that said, “I love you Becky” (from the 6 yr. old) and an original song performed which included the lyrics, “You teach me that I’m special just the way I am.”

Yes to the newly-turned 4 year old remembering to wish me a Happy Birthday before he asked for his strawberry milk.

Yes to specialty cake eaten with coffee – for breakfast.

Yes to a shower that wasn’t rushed.

Yes to the necklace that physically reminds me of her presence when her body cannot.

Yes to a BMV where people are smiling and to (FINALLY) replacing that 9 months-pregnant picture from 4 years ago.

Yes to a (DOUBLE) fish filet meal and permission to eat the whole, entire thing by myself – ’cause GIMME THAT FISH.

Yes to candles in fudgery and the true fire of the Holy Spirit resplendant in 4 lovely women.

Yes to casual conversation with 2 of the most important forces in my life – my mom and my husband.

Yes to guilt-free Candy Crush.

Yes to starting the week’s laundry because that’s just what I do to serve this family I love.

Yes to ignoring the sink full of dishes because sometimes time is better spent throwing headers to the soccer girl.

Yes to an IPA with fudge, and altogether too many calories for one day, and just being okay with it because you only turn this age one time.

Yes to run-on sentences just for the sake of run-on sentences that follow this crazy, blessed stream of consciousness.

Yes to Facebook for connecting me with old and new and temporary and permanent friends who took a few seconds out of their day to bless mine.

And Yes to 2014 and 41 for all the days I’ve had and the days yet to come – the struggle and the light and the change and the love.

Yes.

 

Posted on March 28th, 2014 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

A Pinhole in the Pail

“I need you.”

These words make me cringe.  I think, “just love me, help me, and hug me… The End.”  – It’s all I want in a tidy little package. But NEED? From my husband? I already have five little people who need me. They need breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They need that soccer uniform washed, the lost knee pad found, the refrigerator fixed, the three dollars for lunch, the permission to walk to Frisch’s after school with friends, the discipline that follows hitting a younger brother, the birthday party RSVP’d, the homework assistance, the reading practice, the chauffeur to everything and everywhere,

ETC.

ETC.

ETC.

And what about my own needs? I need to buy new toothbrushes for everybody; I need to wash the kitchen floor; I need to finish the book I started; I need to sleep. Oh, how I need to sleep.

So why do you have to NEED me, husband? Daggonit. Can’t you see I’m busy over here?

But that’s really the question for me to answer, isn’t it? Why am I “OVER HERE?” Why is this my go-to perspective – that it’s me against the world? It’s one of the things I’ve learned about myself: that it’s a built-in defense mechanism or survival skill to go into “survival mode.” It’s not pretty. I wear righteous anger and frustrated martyrdom like the mythological Cerberus.  Impenetrable walls lock in place with a single snap and I’m ready to go. Bring on the most complicated schedules, details, and NEEDS – I’ve got this.

But then Ann reminds me (Ann Voskamp who penned and LIVES One Thousand Gifts):

“The best use of time is to freely love.

The best way to love is to spend time.

The best time to love is always right now.”

and

“A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted, small moments missed.”

It’s challenging enough to remember this with the 5 little people who paw me, claw me, and wrap their bear-hug-arms around me while clambering into my lap every chance they (and I) get. It’s harder yet to remember this with the 1 big person sitting across the room, trying to wait patiently for the mama to remember that she was first a friend and a wife.

So after they’re tucked into their beds, soft slow breaths…tousled hair…adorned with dancing puppies, smiling Broby, fuzzy hearts, adorable abominable snowmen, and yesterday’s soccer clothes…

I ignore the laundry basket and the overflowing sink and the strange smell coming out of the basement…

and I go sit by the one who needs me. And we don’t have stimulating conversation or figure out our finances or really do anything except sit and rest in the presence of one another. Because I need him too.

“And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.“  ~ One Thousand Gifts

 

Posted on March 25th, 2014 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Walking by Faith

Right at this moment I’m staring at a room full of high school juniors clad in green and white and gray and black with a goofy grin on my face.  Some of them are looking back at me, slightly confused at this strange blonde woman giving them such a ridiculously happy look. Some of them are slightly annoyed at my joyous mood, and who can blame them? After all, I’m not the one sitting in the classroom desk, facing a long day of lectures and assignments and homework.  And some of them – many, actually – smile back.  And even though I don’t really know them, I love them all.

One year ago, almost to the day, I was sitting at my surprise 40th birthday party telling my sister how I had experienced an “A-ha” moment where I felt the world opening up to me once again.  After 13 years of child-rearing, I had 3 in full-time school, and 2 in half-day school.  There was a little light at the end of the tunnel, a new transition about to occur. I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back into teaching. I know this is a common thing many female teachers do, but after being out of the classroom for 13 years, I wasn’t sure it was my calling any longer.  I didn’t know what this new path might be, but it just felt good to be able to consider some options.

Just months later, my husband and I found ourselves in a situation where we needed to fill a financial “gap” of sorts and out of this necessity, I called my friends at my former place of employment to see if they might need a substitute teacher. I was back in front of a classroom within the week.  Within a month, I was talking to my good friend Gina about possibly coming back next year as a substitute or some other part-time position. And now, 5 months later, I am applying to my college alma mater’s graduate program in order to not only garner enough credits to renew my teaching certificate, but eventually obtain a Master’s degree.

Oh my, how the tides have turned.

But while I chuckle at my newly-turned 40 year old self enjoying the thought of not teaching again, I know that moment was a turning point for me. I feel like I was opening a door – not one to a specific destination, but a door open to a new path. Now, don’t get me wrong – I struggle with change. And while the idea of a new phase of my journey sounded plausible – good, even – I was in no hurry to begin it. But now I have…

And it’s led me to being back in front of a group of kids – and I feel

Home.

I felt this way when I gave birth to Kate. God touched my heart and gave me such an experience of joy that it affirmed everything about being a mother to my children. And I feel this way today.  It’s hard to explain.

I mean, I am raising 5 children and tending to many of their needs – including dinner, bathing, homework, soccer practice, volleyball practice, girl scout meetings, art classes, etc, etc. And I am in charge of the building that houses us all and the labor that is required to keep it functioning and clean (ish).  And I am working many days out of the week currently in my role as substitute teacher.  And I still need to find time to communicate with my husband – not just about the details of our overly scheduled days – but about heart stuff, and life stuff, and just stuff.  And now I’m going to add school? And possibly full-time teaching? And who knows what else?

I should be stressed out of my mind, but instead I have a stupid grin on my face and my heart is singing.  And guess why?

I didn’t open that door. God did. He knows my heart and my strengths and my weaknesses and my hesitations and my stresses and my needs.  His Spirit was in that hospital room with me when I was holding my Kate – the daughter whose life would alter mine more substantially than I would ever realize in that moment.  And His Spirit was in that “A-ha” moment, readying me for this new journey. And His Spirit is with me now, providing the peace and joy I’m feeling as I take these new steps into what seems like certain chaos and struggle.

But I feel like I’m just walking simple steps of faith. I’m trying to stay open – a daily choice – to where He is guiding me.  I know it will be difficult and there will times I question it all.  But he doesn’t promise me that it will be easy…

Just that I will not be alone.

And it feels like

Home.

 

 

 

Posted on March 11th, 2014 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

A Prayer for a Weary Mom on (yet another) Snow Day

I was looking up patron saints or prayers for moms who are struggling with having all their kids home day after day after day after day…sorry, you get the idea. This winter we have had extended snow days that have happened to occur after holiday breaks and long weekends, making for – well – LONG days. (ohmygoshsoveryverylong) I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for so I decided to write my own:

  • Please have mercy on me, your unwashed, unbrushed, flannel pant-wearing, smelly pink fluffy slipper-wearing, wreck of a mom just barely hanging onto her sanity with bitten fingernails.
  • Please help me to find a quiet place where they – won’t – find – me: to whine, complain, argue, and scream.
  • When they find me, please help me to remember to breathe inward only to gently release the breath instead of expelling it with the force of a large dragon that spews mighty fire after being awakened from gentle slumber where he finally eats the dainty delicious princess.
  • When they tell me no, and you’re mean, and I hate you, and you’re the worst mom ever…please whisk me away to fields of daffodils where I am 10 pounds lighter wearing a white dress with handmade eyelet trim on which no one will ever spill or wipe or pull.
  • When I tell them no you can’t bounce that basketball on my dining room table, and no you may not bite your brother’s butt, and no you may not roller skate on the stairs…please help me to stand firm in the nasty pile of dog poop left by the sweet puppy who won’t go in the snow.
  • At the moment I feel as though I might explode like the great volcano that devastated Pompeii, and reduce their little witty-bitty self-esteems into piles of withering ash, please remind me of their infant fingers curled around mine back before they could talk, or walk, or blow nasty raspberries directly into my stern face.
  • Please have mercy on me when I bake oatmeal raisin cookies because I know my kids won’t eat them – and eat them all myself – in one sitting – while re-watching Downton Abbey.
  • Please have mercy on me when I take 2 showers – one because I needed it, and one because the water drowns out their never-ending noise.
  • Please help me to remain lighthearted when I mock their whining because I haven’t made tacos yet, oh when are you going to make tacos, I’m going to starve, what can I eat.
  • Help me to speak their names in love and kindness instead of the bitter, biting fury of the negative windchills trapping us all in this house together in the first place.
  • Please grant me speed and gazelle-like grace instead of the oatmeal raisin-cooking-eating butt when rescuing the entire loaf of bread from scattering across the kitchen floor before the dog gobbles it up like she hasn’t been fed a steady diet of who-knows-what-is-really-in-that-dogfood.
  • Please – oh please – fill my mouth with words of love and encouragement when my wayward husband texts about his oh-so-rough day.
  • Please…
  • Help…
  • Me…
  • finish these tacos before this child spills another loaf of bread.

Amen.

St. Jude, pray for us. (Patron Saint of hopeless causes)

St. Monica, pray for us. (Patron Saint of mothers, married women, and alcoholics)

 

 

Posted on January 21st, 2014 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

10 Signs Dad is Ruling the Roost

Last month I went back to work substitute teaching, and my husband has been in charge of getting two elementary school kids up and on the bus, and entertaining the kindergartener and preschooler until their afternoon school times. I’ve noticed some consistent behavior in this last month that has prompted the following thoughts.

 

Top 10 signs Dad is ruling the roost:

1. The dishes are disappearing from the kitchen cabinets and drawers. (In other words, they are in the bedrooms, basement, behind the couch, under the dining room table, in the bathroom sink, possibly in the trash.)

2. Lipstick and toothpaste tubes are found, chewed & demolished by a dog left unattended.

3. All the Halloween candy is gone within a month. 5 kids’ worth. 1 month.

4. The kids keep coming home from school wearing the same outfits I just cleaned and put in the top of their drawers.

5. Pre-packaged snacks FOR SCHOOL LUNCH USE ONLY are disappearing rapidly.

6. I’m pretty sure the kids are using the hand lotion in the bathroom to wash their hands.

7. None of my boys have underwear in the dirty clothes pile.

8. Brushing teeth once a day is better than not at all, right? Right?

9. Suggestions of a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich are met with blank stares unless I package it with cut-up apples, Sprite, and a toy.

10. There’s a mysterious brown stain in the middle of my bedroom floor for which no one is claiming any knowledge or responsibility.

 

They make substitute teaching feel like a day at the spa.

Posted on November 27th, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

Back to School Again

Today is my first official day back in school as a teacher.  Although I am well-aware that “substitute teaching” bears a far less burden than full-time classroom teaching, I was still a bit apprehensive this morning, as I switched out my gray Converse comfies for my heeled camel-colored teacher boots.  I am blessed to return to the halls of Badin High, the school where I began and then ended my teaching career to begin a family; a hiatus that would span thirteen years and six children. The familiar smiles and warm encouragement offered courage and hope that it would all come back to me like the proverbial bike rider. Though there have been many changes – both in myself and to the school – in these past thirteen years, here are some things that I noticed today, on my inauguaral re-entry.

 

1.  Posters.  Where else do adults get to splatter posters all over their walls and have it be perfectly acceptable?

2.  Ceiling tiles and flourescent lighting = classic classroom.

3.  The girls still have better shoes and better fingernails than I do.

4.  You know the kid that acts all smart-aleky and silly, but then sits quietly and does his work?  He’s still there – and he might be my favorite.

5.  Being in a classroom this far away from the bathroom now and 13 (+6 kids) years ago is an entirely different experience.

6.  A turkey sandwich with string cheese, pretzels, and brownie in my 3 year old’s Avengers lunchbox was the perfect lunch.  But I can see why my kids tire of this by December.

7.  When I think of myself thirteen years ago, I cringe a little bit.  But the smiles, hugs, and chuckles I’ve received today remind me that there were some good parts, too.

8.  I used to do back handsprings across the gym floor.  The last time I did a somersault in the swimming pool, I was nauseous for 30 minutes.  No more back handsprings.

9.  The faculty lounge is still full of people who laugh a lot and love what they do.

10.  I still love high school kids.

Posted on October 28th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »