Tag Archives: Motherhood

Embracing the Quick Change

I’m married to an actor.  I hear there’s a thing called a “quick change” in which you have to take off one costume and put on another …well, quickly.  Usually this is because the actor is playing multiple parts or in different scenes.

I had a stunning revelation the other night that womanhood in general, and my life in particular, is much like live theater in this regard.

I had this revelation around midnight lying on the floor of my daughters’ room.  There I was in striped flannel pajama pants and a VBS t-shirt, wrapped up in a Backyardigans blanket waiting for Lucy & Penny to fall asleep so I could army crawl out of their room and into my cozy bed that kept beckoning me. (Scene note: Parents, don’t judge.  We are transitioning Penny into a toddler bed and sharing a room with her sister.  We don’t always lie on the floor nightly until our children fall asleep.  But sometimes you gotta do what you’ve gotta do.)

10 minutes prior to that scene I was in a black cocktail dress and 4 inch heels returning home from an awards banquet where Starving Artist Productions had been nominated in several categories.  (Scene note:  A ballroom full of theater people is…no note can prepare you sufficiently for this, actually.)

Earlier that day I was kicking off my pumps to jump on the trampoline with my family in my church clothes.  This was after I shed the apron I was donning while making quiche and cutting fruit for brunch, which was an hour after I took my fancy magnetic nametag off of my red sweater to hand to Lucy to play with while pulling out of the parking lot of the church where I work.

We often say that women wear many hats, or perhaps in this analogy, many costumes.  It’s true.  We are constantly moving in and out of scenes, changing roles.  It makes for a busy, full life.   Some days all the hats and quick changes can run us ragged and leave us wondering who we are- which character we are and which ones we are just “playing.”  Which parts we wish we could play, which roles would be more glamorous.  Which ones are boring and which ones are fun.  Which ones we wish got more stage time and which ones we resent having been cast in.

I certainly have those days.

But as I pondered all of life being like a stage while lying on the floor last night in my flannel pajamas, my feet throbbing from excessively tall shoes, my eyes heavy due to a lack of sleep that comes with raising toddlers, my heart was grateful.  Grateful for all the quick changes to remind me of who I am and who & what I love the most.  All these parts we play, as it were, aren’t meant to confuse or cause compartmentalization or fragmentation or schizophrenia.  Rather, they are gifts that ground us and grow us.  They are gifts that keep us from painting ourselves and each other too broadly or flatly. They keep us humble and strong, needy and needed.

I’m embracing the quick change.

I’m calling it an honor to be entrusted with so many things to do and people to care for.

I’m believing that while I am more than the sum of the parts I play, each part helps to shape my life in profoundly beautiful and important ways.  I may not be exclusively defined by my roles, but I’m learning the grace that is letting my identity be informed and shaped by them.

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The Constant

My sister, Trish, and I haven’t always been as close as we are now.

We use to fight over everything: who got to ride shotgun, who got to wear Mom’s earrings or whose turn it was to have a friend sleep over.

When I was 3 she convinced me to touch the electric fence in our backyard. When I was 8, I was insanely jealous that she got to go to the Tiffany concert and I didn’t.  (Can you blame me?!!)  Over the course of my entire childhood, my sister would find it amusing to sit on me, pinning me down and then proceed to pop my toes until I could break free.  She still thinks this is funny though it wasn’t and still isn’t.

I was forever blackmailing her and tattling on her. (In my defense, she was always getting herself into trouble. I was just using her rebellion to my advantage!) She was always trying to boss me around and I was always shouting “you’re not my mom!” at her.  It was a rocky decade or so.

Fast forward to 1993.

A shift happened when Trish left our home at the time in Mons, Belgium for college in Abilene, Texas.  I actually missed her! And I realized my need for my sister in her absence more than I could have known in her presence.  I was 13 and my parents were on the verge of divorce.

Fortunately for me, she came home to Georgia when they actually did file for divorce a year later.  That was the summer before I started high school in a new town.  Trish and I shared a room in an apartment with my mom. It was the first and only time in our entire lives that we shared a room.  (Luckily that didn’t last long!) For the next four years, I would have my sister by my side helping me navigate through the drama and friendships and relationships that are in full effect for any teenager.

Trish took me to freshman open house and dropped me off at band camp.  She attempted to teach me how to drive stick shift (which incidentally almost sent her into premature labor with my nephew)!  We ate pineapple pizza at crazy hours and watched the same movies over and over together.  She was always in the stands to cheer me on playing soccer and conducting half-time shows.

During that same season we watched our father remarry and our mother begin to date.  Both surreal experiences, I might add.

We survived it together, me & Trish.  When the foundations of our family began to be re-negotiated in every conceivable way, our sisterhood was the thing that remained.  It was the constant in the tumultuous equation we were forced to solve.

We stood beside each other on our wedding days.  Trish married an Army officer and moves every few years all over the country.  (In fact, he deployed for Afghanistan on the day of my wedding! What a bittersweet day that was for her!) We don’t see each other very often and don’t get to “do life” together now that we are adults.  But she remains a constant.  She’s my first phone call when I need another mother’s advice.  She’s who I want on the other end of the line when I have a problem I can’t solve or a crisis to weather.

I now have two daughters.

Lucy & Penny are 25 months apart to the day. They play and laugh and hold hands. They push and grab toys from one another. They vie for their parents attention and affection.  They hurt each other and cry and hug to make up.

I am smart enough to know it’s going to get harder before it gets easier for them.  They will likely slam doors and say hateful things to one another (especially in middle school, I predict)!  They will compare themselves to the other in academics and sports and appearances.  They will be each others’ source of comfort and frustration, seemingly simultaneously at times.

For as much as they will change and grow and make their own choices, it is my forever prayer that they always play and hug and fight and laugh and cry together.  Because they are sisters.  And, praise God, there’s no changing that.

Rest

Those who know me well know that I love sleep.  I love naps and sleeping in (which rarely happens when you have 2 children under the age of 4!) and talk about sleep all of the time.
A couch and a blanket always sounds appealing to me.

I wake up thinking about the next time I get to go back to sleep, no joke.

Despite never getting enough, I love sleep, but I know nothing about rest.  And while they share some space, they are not the same things entirely.  Rest is even more elusive than sleep for me.  It’s infinitely more difficult for me to prioritize.

In fact, vacation often feels like house arrest or being in witness protection the first few days for me.  It feels like an expensive and inconvenient consequence when if I had it “my way” and a few days off I’d rather be at my house painting a room or organizing closets or something that will make my daily life feel less chaotic and more peaceful in the long run.   Crazy, right?!!

There is definitely a place for productivity and chores, I know.  But rest is not optional.  Rest is not a luxury.  For a human, it’s essential for your health and sanity.  Additionally, for the Christian, it’s a mandated grace all throughout Scripture.

Rest (from what I hear) is taking the time to be.  To be reflective, to be silent, to laugh, to read, to walk barefoot in the grass.  To do whatever renews your spirit and breathes life into your soul.  Maybe it’s meaningful conversation with a treasured friend on a porch swing.  Maybe it’s a long drive with the windows down.  Maybe it’s a quiet night and good book.

It’s generally not the stuff that makes you feel proud and accomplished and productive.  It’s not usually the stuff that shortens the to-do list.

Most of us don’t want or need to escape or be rescued from our lives.  What most of us need- what I need- is just a moment sometimes.

Give me a minute. 
Give me rest.
Give me a chance to get some perspective, to see things as they actually are, not how they seem.
Rest is about giving yourself the time and space to respond to all the life you’ve been living.  To process that tough conversation you had last week, to prayerfully consider “what’s next” in this season, to be grateful for the little things, to be inspired, to be renewed.  Who doesn’t want that?  Yet we fight it and neglect it and trade it for a dozen lesser things.

Years ago I discovered a hymn that has stayed with me.  It’s my reminder and invitation to rest.  I hope it can be the same for you.
Jesus I am resting, resting In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For, by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole

Jesus! I am resting, resting In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness  Of Thy loving heart.

Oh, how great Thy loving kindness, Vaster, broader than the sea:
Oh, how marvelous Thy goodness, Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise, And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art,

And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, Satisfies my heart,
Satisfies its deepest longings, Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings, Thine is love indeed.

Ever lift Thy face upon me, As I work and wait for Thee;

Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory, Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting, Fill me with Thy grace.

Ladies, We Just Don’t Know The Whole Story

There is great wisdom in thinking before speaking, for following a thought through before opening one’s mouth.  We’ve all been both transgressors and victims of careless (or at least less than thoughtful) questions or comments.  And I am willing to bet that the vast majority of our awkward and hurtful exchanges could have been avoided if a little more consideration had been paid upfront.

Specifically, I want to address wounds inflicted among women.  And more specifically, when women inquire of other women about their desire, or lack there of, for children.  It’s usually done innocently enough: “So, when are you guys going to start makin’ some babies?!” or “Why no kids yet? You know there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ time!”  Right.  Or how about when we bring up each other’s sex lives when we ask, “So, are you guys trying right now?  You gotta try a lot!”  Keep Trying. Or when we put our foot a little further in our mouth when we do get a reply, but misinterpret it as an invitation to dig a little deeper:  “Well, don’t worry- it’ll happen when it’s suppose.  And you know what they say, stressing about it makes it even harder to conceive!” Thanks for the tip.

Ladies, please hear me.  There are times and places and relationships in which these conversations are more than appropriate.  What I’m referring to is when an intimate family choice is discussed flippantly and casually, as if it were commonplace and open to the public.  I know we don’t mean to offend and certainly don’t set out to hurt each other, but inevitably, without proper care we end up face to face with a woman who is:

In an unhealthy marriage and praying to God she doesn’t get pregnant right now

Struggling with infertility and all the shame and insecurity that comes with it

Trying really hard to be supportive and content and full of faith in light of her husband’s infertility

Recovering from miscarriage #3 and really wants to hit you right now (please do not say anything remotely like, “it just wasn’t the right time” or “it’ll work the next time” or “it’s probably for the best”)

Content and at-home in her decision not to have children, but who still has a hard time communicating that choice without feeling judged or condescended to (“Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!”)

18 months into “trying” and getting nowhere, who has spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, and is praying that this month will be the month that the stupid stick produces a plus sign for once!

Still reeling from postpartum depression & sleep deprivation like no other and if another person jokingly asks when she’s ready for Baby #2 she might just implode on the spot.

The list of potential scenarios could go on and on.  I do not mean to make anyone fearful to ask a question or have a meaningful conversation with someone.  I am simply suggesting that when discussing issues of family planning to consider the nature of your relationship with the woman, choose your words carefully, and be mindful of your context.  Maybe a dinner party or waiting in line for the bathroom is not the best time to discuss the most successful positions for conceiving.  Or maybe what is easy for you to talk about regardless of the time or place, is not as easy for others.  Be discerning.  Express interest, love and concern with as much propriety as you can muster.  And when those times come when we are on the receiving end of a well-intended word that feels more like a blow to the uterus, let’s agree right here and now to find a gracious way to say as much to one another.  Let’s acknowledge that we rarely know the whole story and ignorance is no excuse for recklessness.  Let’s love one another carefully.