Choosing Our Words

princesskate500

I wasn’t going to say something. I was trying to keep my mouth shut. But the coffee kicked in earlier than usual and gave me some extra caffeinated courage. The following words are not meant to criticize, only to offer another perspective.

When yesterday’s news story and pictures emerged of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge standing outside St. Mary’s Hospital proudly showing off their third child, they were met with much joy and the expected storm of comments and opinions. There were plenty of happy congratulations and joyful reactions but there were also a lot of opinions and statements that rubbed me the wrong way. That red dress! Her perfect hair! I didn’t look that good until three years after I had my baby! Oh, poor Princess Kate!

It made me wonder. How do we know that the Duchess of Cambridge was not completely happy and did not relish in that moment? How do we know that standing in front of the crowd did not remind her of how proud she was to be a princess, a wife, a mother, a woman? How do we know that the dress wasn’t picked out by the Duchess, for this exact occasion, for some special reason, and she couldn’t wait to wear it?  And honestly, what new mom wouldn’t like her hair and makeup done?

Critiquing others online has become the newest, most easily accessed type of tabloid reading. We need to stop relating to each other by comparisons. Stop giving compliments with underlying tones of sarcasm, dripping with false empathy. We need to stop using our own experiences as the ONLY benchmark for what others should do, should say, and what they should look like.

Yes, maybe the comments and posts meant no harm. Yes, we absolutely have a choice to ignore, not to read and not to respond. And, yes, everyone has a right to their opinions (I am giving mine now.) But all this represents part of a bigger issue.

Words have become more accessible than ever and virtual platforms are available to anyone at anytime. I believe we need to choose our words more carefully than ever before. Words hold the power of life and death, of creating positive influence or gaining negative attention. Words gather people together and hold them attentive.

And ladies, we use our words A LOT! Younger generations of women are watching us, seeing how we interact, listening to the comparisons and the comments, forming their own opinions and reactions, and they are gathering and influencing their friends based on our example. So, let’s be good examples. Let’s practice pointing out the positive and affirming uniqueness. Let’s use our words for good influence so that our comments would be uplifting to others and celebrate people for who they are, no matter what we may think they are or the situation may be. Let’s be the positive change, one word at a time.

relatingbycomparison

 

The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

 


Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

wordpress

Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

motherhood

Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

signature

 


Peacocks and Nuns

biexplore

One of the reasons why I love walking is the interesting things that I might see or the unique people I might come across. There are routes and roads that I have been down a million times before but I always manage to find something new to discover.  I make it my mission to keep my eyes open, searching for a sort of keepsake or souvenir from the day. I collect these mental images and memories like snapshots filling an imaginary photo album that documents all of my “journeys.”

There have been many interesting encounters. A lot of them involving birds. I have quietly ducked under a perched hawk, followed an Eastern blue bird off the road and into the woods, and one time I met a handsome peacock.

I was living on a small island then. The quiet island roads and spectacular ocean views made walking a gift and a treat. It was a glorious, sunny day. The sea breeze was salty, cool and refreshing. I did not have a care in the world or any particular place to be.

As I walked along,  I started to hear this strange click-clacking sound coming from behind me. There was nothing else on the road. No people, no houses, no cars. I turned around to see what it was. Coming up behind me was a power-walking peacock. One big, beautiful, blue peacock shimmering in the sun. As the peacock came up to me, it did not slow its pace but looked me squarely in the face and straight into my eyes as if to say, “Excuse me! You are blocking my way!”

A little taken back, that a bird could display such arrogant behavior, I moved out of its way  to watch that proud peacock pass me and continue his walk with his beautiful tail swaying behind him. I have always wondered what that peacock was doing or where he has heading. Even though I never came across him again, our chance meeting has left me with a lasting impression of peacocks.

bird-13882_640

Then there are the people I meet. A skull-cap motorcycle rider, the UPS guy, groups of teenagers, and the three cheerful, preppy, older ladies who all look the same and walk their dogs together.

Yesterday morning was abnormally warm and the sun was peaking out from an overcast sky.  I laced up my sneakers, secured my ear buds in place and pumped up Toby Mac on my phone. Dance-walking down my driveway, I turned on to the side walk. The beat of the music took over my steps and provided rhythm to my thoughts.

I was about twenty minutes into my walk when something caught my attention. I noticed two people gracefully making their way down a side street. Their long, black clothing and head coverings looked out of place in my empty, quiet neighborhood. I stopped to “check” my phone, very intrigued to see two nuns quietly walking and talking in the middle of the street.  Maybe they were visiting friends? Maybe they were praying through the neighborhood?  Regardless of the reason, their presence provided peace. It made me happy to see them and I purposely stalled to say hello and tell them what a beautiful morning it was. After they went by (and I snapped a picture), I continued on my way with a smile and my heart full with gratitude that we live in such a diverse world that still contains hope and good things.

walking

All these encounters makes me wonder what lasting impression do I leave on people. How do I impact someone’s day?  Am I leaving a lasting impression of cheerfulness, friendliness or peace? Or is it one of pride and arrogance like my peacock friend?  Am I like the hawk? Are people ducking to get out of my way and avoid my talons? Or am I more like a blue bird leading others to new discoveries and encouraging people to take a new and braver path? Oh, I so hope that I am more like a blue bird or a peaceful nun.

Our world is full of beauty and adventure. It is filled with good people and people who may need and desire more goodness in their life. Open your eyes to see the beauty and the adventure. Open your eyes to see the people who need a lasting impression of love and hope. Discover what makes your heart sing and search your heart to find ways to bypass paths that should be avoided. Discover ways that your heart can lead you to help other people. Bravely explore and move forward. And help others do the same.

 


On Sickness

We had made it three steps into the store, when my son began making an unpleasant but familiar retching sound. I didn’t even get a chance to think. He had already thrown up all over me and the floor of Rite Aid Pharmacy. Helpless and stuck in a puddle of sickness, I was not sure what to do next.

Almost eight years as a mom and this was a first for me. I had been ignorantly hopeful that I could escape a public display of sickness by one of my own.

My thoughts were interrupted by my crying son who was vomiting a second time, this time all over the store’s New England Patriot’s holiday merchandise display. Standing behind me, my daughter looked on in both horror and shock. I could relate! My composure and confidence were gone. I wholeheartedly yelled for help.

Out of the aisles, from every direction, a team of people came.  The first responder was a friendly, emphatic cashier. She spoke to my son in a soothing and comforting voice, “It’s okay, honey. Everyone gets sick sometimes.”  A stout, unemotional, authoritative manager came next. With her she carried an empty, plastic candy container which she tossed at me with skill and the authority as to say, you are a mom, you know what to do, now do it.  The third team member was a pleasant young man rolling a mop and bucket towards us with a smile. Cheerfully and dutifully, he cleaned up the mess with no judgments or a bad attitude, making small talk as he mopped.  When the cleanup was complete, our $300 + damaged merchandise bill was forgiven, and we were sent on our way with our souvenir plastic candy container. What had just happened???

Unfortunately, this was not the only sickness that I have been dealing with. From the outside I seemed a little tired but otherwise healthy. But in the weeks leading up to the pharmacy fiasco, I have been struggling with sickness of my own.  I had let my guard down and allowed lies, self-doubt, discouragement, lack of faith, joy, and hope a place to take hold and grow in my heart and mind. I was tired, some days in a very bad mood, and everything seemed just plain difficult.  I tried to pull myself out of it by halfhearted prayers, routine Bible readings, and depending on the prayers of others on my behalf.

I kept trying to heal myself with everything I knew how to do.  And I wondered why I wasn’t “getting better.”  It wasn’t until I was completely helpless, sinking down in my own puddle of sickness, not knowing what else to do, when I called out wholeheartedly to God, “HELP!”

Out of bends and corners of my heart and mind, the TEAM emerged. A peace that I had prevented myself from receiving started soothing the cracks of my weakened heart and mind. I heard the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me,  you know what to do, now do it!  Verses and Bible passages that I passively read before, beckoned me to take a second look.  I reread passages about joy and thanksgiving through suffering, identity in Christ, faith, hope and love. I let the words linger and impress on my heart.

It was work. Some days were very hard.

I am still working on it. Some days are still hard.

But with God’s help, I am shifting my perspective and working on setting my eyes to see the good things happening around me. That means even in the sickness, sleepless nights, the hard stuff, the humiliating stuff there is always, always good stuff to see and blessings to be found.  Blessings like emphatic cashiers and cheerful, throw-up-cleaner-uppers.

I am persevering through doubts and lies by repeating and dwelling on the truths that I read. I am constantly resetting my mind to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8.) I have decided to surround myself with people that are uplifting, loving, and that have my best interests in my mind. And I am working to let go of control- my failing, imperfect, human strength and working on holding on to the perfect, all-powerful, never-failing strength of God.

There really is no I in TEAM. Whatever you are struggling with today, I hope you take a moment to surround yourself with a team of loving people, a God who cares deeply for you, and depend on the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you.  Shift your eyes to notice the good things. Find laughter in the difficulties. Come away from life’s situations with souvenirs of peace, joy, and thanksgiving.