Chase The Light

I have wanted to get a tattoo since college.  I used to doodle waves and wildflowers, like all 19 year olds I suspect, but my mom swore it would “break her heart” if I did it so I didn’t.  At 42 I am glad I don’t have my college whimsies with me forever but the desire to express myself to the world hasn’t changed.  What has changed, with each new season, is what my imaginary tattoo would be.

I like words.  I’m a words girl.  I read them, I write them, I decorate with them.  So, the imaginary tattoo is definitely words.  I have taken to writing different words on my wrist most every morning as a reminder for the day.  A focus.  Almost a centering prayer.  A tattoo trial.

Today the words I am writing are “Chase the Light.”  I have decided this will be my summer mantra in the Middle Season.  In my life I have chased the dream, I have chased the ideal, I have chased the toddlers, I have chased the schedule, I have chased the clock, but this summer I will chase the light.

I want to chase the light and lighten up.  I want to sit in the sun and linger under the lights in the trees.  I want to light candles for sacred moments alone and wine nights with my friends.

As an enneagram 4, light is not my default.  Whether I like it or not, I usually reside in deep waters.  You may not know it to look at me in my yellow baseball cap and acceptable smile, but my emotions, thoughts, and desires are somewhere on the ocean floor.  Not bad, just deep.  But this summer I’m swimming to the surface.

No matter what personality type you are, what enneagram number, where you live or what stage your are in, the world feels pretty dark a lot of days.  Parenting gets more complicated with every year, no matter how much we dig our heels in.  We can love our life, recognize the blessings of our season, and still be honest that there are some shadowy places of hard, loneliness, and insecurity, can’t we?  But my prayer is that in the space called summer, we can lay down the heaviness, at least for a few moments each day, to chase the light.

God has been teaching me a lot about the spiritual discipline of celebration over the last few years.  Celebration as a discipline seems weird at first but when I look up from the the grind that is my life most days, when I look at the sorrow around, when I look at a culture of distraction and apathy at best and hatred and isolation at worst, celebration seems to be something we’ll have to fight for.

I’m fighting this summer.  I’m chasing the light.  Who is with me?

In his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines” Dallas Willard says this, “We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.  We concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us.”  That’s a little long for a tattoo, but it’s good!

The heartbeat of my mothering has always been to honor the childhoods of my children and summer is for childhood!  I will try to say yes more than no and will cultivate a place for creativity, intentionality, and all that good stuff.  But I’m wondering if the biggest gift I can give to my children this summer isn’t another vacation, play date, or pool toy.  What they may want most of all, whether they know it or not, is a happy mom.

Matthew 6:22 says, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body.  When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.”  This tells me to look for the light first with my eyes, to focus on the good, the beautiful, the fun, the LIFE-GIVING.

So each day, I will look for the light.  I will plan to chase it.  I will plug it into my days.  I know it can’t all be fun and games.  There is laundry to be done and floors to be cleaned.  There are fights to break up and meals to be prepared (so many meals….).   Real joy, real peace, real celebration, real light is found in and about the cracks of real life.

One of my son’s favorite books is a Ninja Turtle story with glow in the dark pictures.  We hold each page up to the lamp and then turn it off and watch them glow.  I think it can be like that.  We reach for the light so that then when the dark moments come, the less-than-fun tasks, the boring invisible days come we still glow from being near it.

We reach for the Light of the World. We reach for the blessings of the ordinary.  We reach for a little delight each day.  I will chase the light this summer on my mango orange bike.  (Have you ridden a bike lately, just for fun?  You should.)  I will eat lunch outside and ignore the patchy spots in the grass for a moment to feel the sun on my face.  I will walk away from the mess for a bit to catch the magic of the sunset and I will force myself to stay up late enough to look at the stars.  I will say yes to the life-giving relationships more, the conversations that leave me filled and fueled up.  I will drink sangria in my kitchen and blast the music I like for a song or two and embarrass my kids with my dancing.  I will work at it like a work out for my soul.  I will look at it like worship because it is.  I will rebel against the darkness and heaviness both out there and in here with a banner of light.

The fish on the ocean floor are weird anyway.

Maybe summer isn’t for a big plan and deep intentions.  Maybe we are overthinking this happiness thing.  Maybe all we need to do is chase the light and turn our hearts to the good.

And maybe I’ll get that tattoo.  (Just don’t tell my mom.)

Tell me what you’re doing to #chasethelight this summer.  Let’s inspire each other and be light chasers together!

 

To The Middle Season Mamma in May

middle season mama

To The Middle Season Mamma in May,

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do you want to laugh out loud at that sentiment?  Do you kind of want to puke?  What a joke that Mother’s Day is in May!  MAY!  The month that breaks mothers and then sort of backhandedly celebrates us.  At least me and my fellow “Middle Season Mammas.”

To you precious “New Season Mammas” this isn’t for you.  Turn your sweet, sleep deprived eyes away.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  I refuse to be the bitter, middle-aged person at your wedding rolling their eyes and saying “just wait…”  Go nurse the baby, sit on the floor with your toddler, cut up some hot dogs, worry about the baby weight, and tell yourself this is the hard part.  We’ll let you.  It’s our Mother’s Day gift to you.

If you have more than 2 children in more than 2 stages… I’m talking to you.  I see you with your toddler having a melt down at the late Jr. High baseball game.  I see you missing the elementary Easter party on “accident” because it’s kid #4 and you literally CAN. NOT. WITH. ANOTHER. EGG HUNT.  I see you trying to figure out after-school schedules like some sort of military commander.  I see you wistfully wave to your friends in the car-pool line knowing it will be a solid month before you catch up.

Happy Mother’s Day.

My 4th baby was born the year my 1st baby started Kindergarten.  Next year I will have 1 in high school, 1 in middle school, and 2 in elementary.  I can’t do the math after that because it is May and my brain is tired.  I can’t do one more fraction, decimal, long division, place value, math fact, or algebra problem.  I also can’t with The Iliad, The Odyssey, any creative writing prompts, egg drops, robotics reports, blank maps, president projects, mock debates, family trees, or “all about me’s”  Nope.  Can’t.

It’s May.

We only thought we were tired when they were babies, right?  We only thought it was exhausting to get up with them in the middle of the night just to hold and rock them.  Ha!

Now, some of them are up at 5:30am for cross-country/basketball/football/2-a-days, and some are still out at 11pm for rehearsals/games/dates/movies. I literally can not stay up later than my kids do.  But when I turn out the light and get under the covers, at least partially at peace with whatever the plan is for the rest of the night, they don’t even notice.  They will walk into my room and talk to me like I am sitting at the breakfast table in the middle of the day.  “Mom, can I borrow your charger?”  “Mom, where’s my baseball stuff?” “Mom, I need money for tomorrow.”  “Mom, did you email Mr. ______ ?”  “Mom, what are we doing next weekend?”

I AM SLEEPING BECAUSE I AM TIRED BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL ALWAYS AWAKE AND IT IS MAAAAAYYY!

May started early this year for us Middle Season Mammas- on April 26th to be exact- when TSwift and The Avengers plotted to keep us up all night!  Half of us were waiting in line to see a 3 hour movie and half of us were watching the countdown on Instagram where the snake turned into a butterfly and we all know who really saves the world (“MEEEEE”)!

(If you don’t understand, it’s ok.  Go enjoy some Mac and Cheese, Paw Patrol, and simplicity.  I told you to turn away.)

Sorry.  I’m sorry.  It’s May and I’m tired.  You New Season Mammas are killing it with your gorgeous Instagram feeds and your advice on date night and self- care.  You’re adorable.

And the whole world is for you.  There are sweet old ladies waiting to hold your babies at church, and college friends flying in for your showers.  Your parents can still handle your life when you need to get away, and it doesn’t take a 20 page spread-sheet to make it through the weekend.  You have things like MOPS, and “Mommy and Me” classes, and Library Story Time, and Play Dates… and your kids take a nap.

Sometimes I want to have another baby just so someone will see me.

Maybe it’s the loneliness of the Middle Season that is the hardest of all.

See, us Middle Season Mammas live in our car.  We eat a lot of fast food and haven’t sat around a table since Christmas.  We live and die by email and GroupMe and literally have 0 control of our own schedules because a teacher/coach/director can change our family’s day/night/weekend in less than 200 characters.  We can make a plan, but chances are good that something will come up and it will change.  We may not need a babysitter anymore to grab drinks with friends or a date with the hubs but we are so tired we’d rather stay home.

See, we’ve aged out of all the cute “Mom” clubs.  We’re on our own.  No one is gushing over our teenagers.  We’re all so busy with our own lives all we can do is send a fist-bump emoji to our friends in solidarity.  We haven’t had a conversation with our husbands in 6 months that doesn’t sound like a board meeting or attack plan for the week.

The only thing we feed on more than Chick-fil-a and coffee is Mom-guilt and worry.  Because unlike our New Season kids, our Middle Season kids remember the fails.  The stakes are high and the expectations are huge.  I used to worry about SIDS.  Now I worry about suicide rates, SAT’s scores,  school shootings, and sexting.

Are we doing enough?  Are we doing too much?  Are they too sheltered?  Too exposed?  Is she mean?  Is he smart?  Will they make it?  Will they ever like each other?  Will they ever like me again?  What are they listening to?  What are they watching?  What are they talking about?

There is a lot less grace passed out to us Middle Season Moms.  I miss the whole, “all you have to do is keep them alive till Daddy gets home” season.  Now it is “all you have to do is make sure they excel in every class, activity, and relationship, monitor every online activity, read every text, be intentional about their mental, spiritual, and physical health, and be available for every call, conversation, and late-night ask” season.

Maybe there is less grace because we are actually invisible.  The moment our kids step out into the world we start fading away; merely the master of the calendar and driver of the car.  But no one really sees us.  We’re like the electricity that keeps it all running.  Invisible.  No one notices until it goes out.

It’s May and I’m about to go out.

So imagine our confusion when one random Sunday amid the deluge of activities and invisibility, there is a holiday dedicated to us.  The teenagers grant us their first smile in months.  The kids slow down for a second and direct a kind word our way.  Long past are the sloppy breakfasts in bed and glittery excitement of crafts celebrating Mommy.  We stumble through the expectations of this day… all of us.  Where do I want to go?  Want to eat?  Want to do? Wait, you can see me?  I am disoriented with the deference.  Mother’s Day in May… how ironic.

What I want for Mother’s Day in the Middle Season is to be sent on a silent retreat because life is incredibly loud and fast.  But I’m lonely so I want my friends to come with me.  And I want there to be mimosas.  (And that cute little bistro set at Target for the courtyard, K Babe?).

Next month I will feel bad for what I said when it was May.  Baseball and ballet will wrap up.  The showcases will stop.  The parties and programs will be over.  The finals will finally end.  Next month I will sit by the pool with my friends.  I will read a bedtime story to my littlest.  I will consume real food and good books.  I will emerge a human and I will Embrace Summer.  I will really celebrate Mother’s Day.  I will remember that the Middle Season is good too.

Hold on Sister.  Remember that they love you though they side-eye and sigh at everything you say.  Remember that you are more than the keeper of the planner and the driver of the car.  Remember that there are thousands of us sitting in the stands, running to the thing, revising the paper at midnight, COUNTING DOWN.

Remember that it is the electricity that warms a family and lights a home.

A fist-bump of solidarity to you all.  See you on the flip side.

 

 

Mothering Screens Rather than Monitoring them

mothering screens

I was recently over at iMOM with a guest post on my heart for my children when it comes to “Screens.” We are the first generation of mothers who must brave this new territory and it can certainly be overwhelming but I believe we can honor their childhoods when we choose to “mother” rather than merely “monitor” this aspect of their lives. I am by no means an expert, but if you’d like to read my “6 Solutions to Screen Problems” and then tell me a few of yours, I’d love to enter this discussion with you!