Sunday Specials: Happy Mama’s Day

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

 For mamas who need permission to live into who they truly are…

I believe that too many women give themselves away bits and pieces indiscriminately for years and years. And then they never have the time or the energy to discern their unique calling from God. They never have the time or the energy to play the redemptive role that they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result then is a lot of good hearted Christian women who are exhausted and simultaneously depressed. ~Shauna Niequist

Watch as Shauna Niequist reflects on how she watched her mother blossom into the woman she was created to be.


For women who want to mother the world in ways that don’t involve having her own children…

Elizabeth Gilbert reflects on her decision not to have children:
HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED NOT HAVING CHILDREN?A dear soul on this Facebook page asked me this question the other day, and I thought I’d make the answer public. The simple answer, blessedly, is: No. The longer answer is that I have come to believe there are three sorts of women, when it comes to questions of maternity. There are women who are born to be mothers, women who are born to be aunties, and women who should not be allowed within ten feet of a child. It’s really important to know which category you belong to. 

It can be a tragic situation (personally, for a family, and for the community at large) when a woman ends up in the wrong category, based on her true nature. Women who long for children but cannot have babies suffer enormously, as we well know, and my heart aches for their loss. But children who are born to inadequate or unprepared mothers also suffer enormously (and their mothers suffer, too—trapped in a responsibility that they can neither meet or enjoy.) 

Those of us who are natural-born aunties are luckier. We love children, we enjoy children, but we know in our deepest heart that we are not supposed to have children of our own. And that is absolutely fine, as not every woman in history needs to be a mother, or would be good at it. Now, listen—if you put a baby in front of me, rest assured: that baby is going to get cuddled, spoiled and adored. But even as I’m loving on that beautiful infant, I know in my heart: This is not my destiny. It never was. And there is a curious rush of joy that I feel, knowing this to be true—for it is every bit as important in life to understand who you are NOT, as to understand who you ARE. 

Me, I’m just not a mom. I bow before all good and loving mothers, but I think it’s better for everyone if I create and nurture in other ways — in ways that are more suited to my talents and my heart. Having reached a contented and productive middle age, I can say without a blink of hesitation that wouldn’t trade my choices for anything.

Lucky is the woman who can say that, and lucky is anyone who can choose her own path, in line with her own nature.

Blessings to everyone, and thanks for asking!



For mamas hurting on this day…

I don’t know how long I’ll sleep with the blankets she was wrapped in, her scent now long gone. I don’t know how many times I’ll hold the nightie she wore, touching the spot of her blood, knowing it’s the last trace of her life on this earth. I don’t know how many days I’ll Google adoption agencies, searching for baby girls who need a mommy who is ready to love, or spontaneously erupt into sobs at the grocery store checkout line without any warning at all. And I definitely don’t know how long my soul will scream for every old, numbing trick I’ve ever tried over the course of my life.~Christa Black

Christa Black was featured in the Huffington Post this week as she continues to honestly share her process through grief after losing her daughter forty minutes after she was born.

For mamas who need a laugh…


Twinkies and Ho Hos

Earlier this week, we were graciously blessed to have Margot Hale share her story with us.  She described how she discovered and subsequently was diagnosed with MS at age 27.  Take a moment to read about how a life full of struggle has yielded so much strength and beauty.

I was captivated reading her story.  And there was one particular paragraph wherein I could immediately identify myself.  When Shauna asked why people responded to Margot’s MS diagnosis in seemingly ignorant and callous ways, Margot says,

I get it. It’s hard to see people hurting. And it’s hard to not have something to offer. You feel dumb. But all I really wanted was for people to say, “I am walking alongside you.” I didn’t need people to tell me to be thankful for what I had and thankful for it not being something more life-threatening. I’ve learned that it is really hard for all of us to just be quiet, to listen, or to simply respond to the people we see going through pain with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry…this sucks!”

That’s me.  It’s a struggle for me to see people hurting.  I feel like a burden if I don’t have something to offer.  Saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” just doesn’t feel like enough.  And yet, I believe Margot.  I believe she has put words to what many can’t or don’t know to say.  Be quiet.  Just listen.  Bring your heart, not your words.

And I’d like to add, if you pass a grocery story on the way, bring Twinkies too.

While I have notoriously used too many words in the face of  loss, I can attest that one time, I did bring my heart…and a box of Twinkies.  When I was a very young adult, a dear friend of mine lost a family member.  It was the first time in my life that I had to watch a friend suffer the agonizing pain of loss.  I knew nothing other than I wanted to be near her and with her and offer comfort.  However, I’d learned by then that my words would not bring comfort.  But I thought, “What would bring comfort to me if I were suffering?”  And then it came to me: Twinkies!!!  I don’t know why I thought a yellow, capsule-shaped squishy pound cake stuffed with cream filling would be comforting, but I followed my heart and brought over a whole box.

Looking back, my heart was telling me to grab the box of Twinkies because if you’re eating Twinkies, you can’t talk.  I didn’t want to be a burden, I wanted to be a support.  I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, but I didn’t want to be absent, either.  Of course I couldn’t lessen the pain of loss by showing up with something as ludicrous as a trans-fattened, high-fructose corn syrupped, poly-sorbated chemical compound, but at least I couldn’t make things worse if I just ate and didn’t say the wrong thing.

Turns out, the Twinkies were for me.  My quiet presence in her home and by her side was an attempt to share the burden of my friend.  But I don’t think I could have had one without the other.  So, we do what it takes to offer the care, compassion and kindness someone enduring pain needs.  Margot reminded us, it’s our hearts they need, not our words.  And if Twinkies don’t help, try Ho Hos.


“Mommy? I think I need some love.”

It was the fall of 2008 when Lucy was four and Peter was two that I was frantically trying to make use of the two-hour afternoon nap time.  That was the only time of the day where my kids were both otherwise occupied when I could scour the final surfaces of my home before I had company over that night.  The night before, I had already scrubbed four bathrooms, vacuumed the upstairs, main level and basement, swept and mopped the kitchen floors, ran the dishes, cleaned the refrigerator, wiped down the oven and microwave, Windexed the glass backdoor and dusted all the wood furniture in the house.  That afternoon, I just had to Comet the kitchen sink and countertops and I would feel adequately ready to have friends in my house.  My two-hour window was closing and I just knew that Lucy would likely be ready to get out of bed before Peter.  As I desperately wrung my Comet covered sponge under the kitchen faucet willing it to get rinsed quicker I began my Hail Mary.  In those moments, a mother hopes, prays, promises, says the rosary, barters, pleads, bribes, and otherwise commends her spirit into the hands of the Universe to just make her kids stay asleep a little longer so she can finish her tasks uninterrupted.  That’s when I heard a voice in the distance.  Only it wasn’t the Universe.  She hadn’t heard my plea.  It was my daughter, “Mommy?  Can I get up now?”

I ripped off my rubber gloves and threw them on the counter in an attempt to punish the Universe for not accepting my righteous petition and huffed upstairs to let Lucy come out of her room.  I told her I would put a show on for her to watch while I finished cleaning in the kitchen and would get her a snack in just a little bit.  I sat her down on the couch and turned on Curious George for her to watch.  At four years old, she had surpassed an interest in Sesame Street which meant Peter practically missed Big Bird and Elmo entirely.

I rushed back to the kitchen and skipped trying to wriggle wet rubber gloves back on my hands and instead proceeded to douse the countertops in Comet.  [I for one, am a Comet kind of girl.  When I was young and cleaning the bathrooms was my chore, I picketed if my parents ever bought the grocery store version of the same cleaning solution.  It was Comet, or they could clean the bathrooms themselves.  Paying the extra $.59 per canister was apparently worth it, as that remained my chore until I moved out of the house at age 22].  Bending over, I proceeded to apply the elbow grease my mother and grandmother swore got the job done and scrubbed the cracks and crevices of the Formica countertops.  Mid-scrub I heard Lucy call from the living room.  I stood up straight, with both hands on the countertops and my head tilted back chanting to myself “Why me? Why me?” and finally answered her as calmly as I could muster “Yes, Lucy?”

“Mommy?  I think I need some love.”

I looked down at my hands clutched a little too tightly to the blue sponge and thought, “Love.  Love.  Love.  Ok.  I can do that.  Love.  Ok.”  So, I rinsed my hands and went to sit next to her on the couch.  She was still watching the onery monkey and I ran my hands softly on her back…side to side up and down in circles back and forth.  When I thought she had either forgotten her request or I had fooled myself into believing she had gotten enough love, I slowly removed my hand from her back and snuck back into the kitchen to pick up where I left off.  My time was most definitely limited now.  I knew I only had moments before Peter would wake up and between the two of them I would not have a minute to finish.  I started scrubbing again when I heard, “Mommy?”  I responded more quickly this time, “Yes, Lucy?”

“Mommy?  I think I need some more love.”

I sat the sponge down and rinsed my hands again.  Then, I proceeded to sit next to her on the couch and rub her back a second time the same way I had done the first.  And when I thought she had either forgotten her request or I had fooled myself into believing she had gotten enough love, I snuck away to the kitchen and was able to finish rinsing the sink and countertops before Peter woke up.

I was able to reach my goal.  I succeeded in getting my house clean by the time both kids woke up.  Friends came over that night and enjoyed a very clean and hospitable environment and left with plenty of food and fun.

It is difficult for me to find these next words.  I am trying to be kind to myself – to look back on the young mother that I was and extend to her grace and mercy, because she didn’t know any better.  But, really, in my shame I want to grab her by the arms, drag her from the kitchen to the couch, sit her down and say, “This is what matters!  Not a clean countertop, not a clean sink!  Love on this little girl right here, right now, so much that she doesn’t have to ask you twice.  Scoop her up and rock her in your arms for all the times you couldn’t…for all the times you didn’t!”

Tears of regret stream down my face as I remember that moment.  What I wouldn’t give to have a do-over.  And…in the same breath, I also believe in redemption.  I know that because of that moment, I have been more aware of my daughter’s need for love.  I have listened more closely, been more attentive, picked up on the nuances of her needs more acutely than if I had not failed in that moment so terribly.  She has never made a direct request like that since.  And for that, I am deeply grieved.  But, because of my mistake, I have grown a strong attunement to her heart’s needs, and I believe she still asks me in many ways to give her more love.  Every time I pause to scratch her back or give her a squeeze, or snuggle with her in the morning to wake her up, or sit extra close to her on the couch when we watch movies, or insist on having my arm around her when we sit in a booth at a restaurant, or hold her hand anytime we are out walking, I get my do-over.

What actions or goals or values get in the way of you being able to give others more love?  Is it your to do list, or your image, your busyness, or external pressures?  Is it all the ‘shoulds’?  We’d love to hear specifics from you in the comments below.


Sunday Specials: Kurt Cobain, Death, Noah and the Lion King (to preserve some sanity)

Kurt Cobain…20 Years Later

April 5th of this past week marked 20 years since the suicide of Kurt Cobain. When I was reminded of this anniversary while driving earlier this week, I was mentally catapulted back in time remembering the first time I held the Nevermind cd in my hands. As a 12 year old, there was no way I could have understood the level of internal wrestling evident in Cobain’s lyrics, but there was something about his resistance to the status quo that both frightened me and made me feel less alone in the world. My exposure and love of his music synced up with some very dark and troubling years in my own life. His story led him to ending his own life. For whatever reasons, my story led me to the resources necessary to experience transformation and healing.

It saddens me to acknowledge that too many people who struggle with addiction, self-injurious behavior, depression and other forms of mental and emotional disturbances struggle to find or utilize resources for help still today today. I love the work of To Write Love on Her Arms and am thankful for how they are trying to bridge the gap between the hurting and the help. In this short TEDx talk, Jamie Tworkowski (founder of TWLOHA) reflects on how all of us have a story that includes both depression and desire and how much we need each other to unpack all that our stories hold.

One Mother’s Story of Beauty and Loss

Every time I come accross a raw and honest personal story that someone has found the courage to write about and gift to the world I am reminded of how storytelling has the power to be mutually transformative for both the teller as well as the receiver. Christa Black’s raw and recent account of the loss of her baby girl who only lived outside of her womb for 40 minutes has been working inside my own heart in mysterious, painful and wonderful ways this week.

NOAH, Philosophy and “Divine Madness”

There is a lot of buzz about the newly-released film NOAH. I haven’t seen it yet because four kids ranging in age from 1 to 13 necessitates waiting until films are released to dvd in most cases. I have been reading some of the philosphical engagements with the film, however,and had to share this reflective article from Peter Rollins mainly because he compares the film to Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

Flight of the Lion King (because this post is too heavy without it)