Raindrops & Rivers

Raise your words, not voice. It is the rain that grows flowers, not thunder. – Rumi


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Swim.

I started swimming when I was four years old.

I joined my first swim team competitively at age 5 and for the next 8 years – I never took home a ribbon that was not 1st or 2nd place in any event.

My swim coach, Dave, was the type of coach every kid should experience. He saw the potential in every kid he coached and received no greater reward than to push until that potential was fully achieved. He loved to celebrate milestones and he did so with fanfare.

Around the age of 12, Coach Dave pulled me aside and told me that he would love to coach me year round, with the intention of getting me to the place where I could qualify for the Junior Olympics.

I¬†lasted about six months.ūüôā

I joined the high school swim team my freshman year. For the first time in my nine years of swimming, I was told that how I LOOKED in a bathing suit was as important to my swimming career as my times.

The pressure to be a size 0, to only eat carrots for lunch every day, to eat a meal and then subsequently throw it up in the locker room stall brought my competitive swim career
to
an
end.

But that is not even the worst part.

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Over the past 20+ years, I can name the number of times I have been in a pool to swim laps, where there might be other people around me.

Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

The bathing suit became a source of shame for me.
The bathing suit became a loud and persistent voice that told me the exact amount of my worth, and friends, it sure did not add up to much.
The bathing suit because the summation of the voices of other women I know who also have found it to be a source of shame,
or in their insecurity, have deeply damaged other women by their comments,
or for some it had become an ill-placed source of ego.

Recently, I found my way back to the pool.

Lap Pool

Oh, how I have missed the water!
I love the sound of it lapping as my arms hit the surface and descend.
I love the sound of it as my legs flutter kick behind me.
I even love the smell of the chlorine as it intermingles with nostalgia.

And how my body feels when I get out!
A hallelujah chorus.

I gave the voice of a coach too much power over me.
A man, who many years later was my colleague and whose career unraveled due to how he treated female students and colleagues.

I gave the voice of other women too much power.
I allowed their own issues to be put upon my shoulders and then I willingly carried the weight around for years like a martyr.

I inadvertently have been sending a message to my daughters that unless one reaches unattainable (and ultimately unwanted) perfection outwardly, one is not worthy of enjoying certain things.

If it weren’t for my husband and my daughters, I may have never been able to enjoy the pool again.

My husband, who knows my body more intimately than anyone else, who finds me to be  beautiful, who only has eyes for me, watches me swim now and says things to me like,
“Carrie – you are utterly breathtaking when you swim.”

My daughters, who tell me over and over again,
“Wow, Mom, you can really swim!”
or
“Mom, I just love to swim with you!”

Why did it take me so long to get to this place?
When did I replace the voice of man/woman with the voice of the Giver of All Things?
How did I allow a false narrative to replace a God-given part of me?
I’ll never know the answer to that, but friends –

I made it.
I’ve reclaimed it.
I have shed that skin of shame and lies.
And now –
It’s time to go

Swim.

 

 


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12.

“Carrie – do not hold on too tight.”

I scoffed at our beloved neonatologist when he said this. We were standing over the examining table, inspecting Bella’s double lumen port that lead¬†to her vena cava. She had just had this life giving mechanism inserted the week before and really this appointment was to scrutinize me and my ability to care for her and keep infection at bay.

For the past twelve years I have held on too tight.
I admit that.
And, to be quite honest, I am just now starting to recognize the emotional and physical toll it has taken on me.
Torrential.

In my weaker moments, the movie reel of the past twelve years plays in my head as I examine it frame by frame, wondering what I could have done differently.

In my more graceful moments, I am acutely aware that for over half of the years shared with her, my one and only goal was to do my darnedest to beat the odds and keep my child alive past her scientific “expiration date” of five years of age.

In my weaker moments, I glance to my left or my right to examine what other moms are doing and I find myself with longings and desires for myself and for my kids and sometimes – jealousy and envy creep in as well.

In my more graceful moments, I am aware of the gift I have been given and how it has forever changed me for the better and I am able to accept this season and embrace it.

In my weaker moments, I find myself longing for another mom’s “bad day”.

In my more graceful moments, I can extend grace as I am grateful to also be the recipient of it in spades.

And then
all of a sudden –
she
is
12.

All of the sudden, she is wanting to do things on her own.

All of the sudden, she has friends.

All of the sudden, she has places where she excels and is receiving positive feedback for it.

All of the sudden, she craves independence and hobbies.

All of the sudden, she is taking initiative.

All of the sudden, she becomes my helper and my friend.

All of the sudden,
she
is
stable.

And all of the sudden,
I am
getting to breathe a little bit,
and start dreaming
for
myself.

It is probably the hardest thing I have had to do since she was born.
That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Well, it feels crazy.

What has defined me for the past twelve years,
what has been my role and my focus,
what has been that which has almost smothered me,
is
changing.

Can we say it together,
“Transition is hard”!

This weekend, we begin
The Year of 12.
We plan to celebrate all year long –
Bella’s Rite of Passage.

I have a feeling that this year will also become a rite of passage for me as well.
I look forward to it.

I think.

 

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Exposed.

The roots of a tree in our backyard.

In January.

Exposed.
Battling the elements.

The connectors between the fruit,
the trunk,
branch,
and leaf.

The exposed roots continue underground.
You can’t see them.
The roots that seek out nourishment,
sustaining the tree –
in its entirety.

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The roots of the tree in our backyard.

In March.

The roots are blanketed in moss.
Protected from the adversarial elements.
It’s as if the Giver of All Things whispers,

Rest, Beloved.
Take solace now.
Trust me as you relinquish control.
The battle is mine.

 


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And I wonder.
Why did the blanket not come sooner?
Why did these roots need to do battle before relief comes?
Why were the roots exposed to the point of expiration?

Perhaps it will be revealed in the
brilliance of the
blossoming.

Perhaps it will be revealed
in the
splendor
of the
foliage in Fall.
Vibrant.
Fiery.

Patience affords wonder.
Nature never lies.
Nature always reveals its Creator.

The Giver of All Things
is
ALWAYS
on
time.

 

 

 


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When Your Child’s “Love Language” is Acts of Service.

She is seven and I am only allowed to kiss her once a day on the top of her head.

Hugs are only given, never received.

Snuggling is only when there is a subsequent fever.

At first – I thought perhaps my daughter was merely attempting to emulate her tween sister. I waited until she and I were alone, with hope and a prayer, that snuggles would be imminent.

But they weren’t.

I began doing what all good mothers do – research and reading every article on parenting my friends of happy, affectionate kids posted on social media. I did exactly as they instructed, but with a futile outcome.

It started with my daughter’s stuffed animals. Consistently, my daughter asked me to arrange them on her bed for her. At first I resisted, not wanting to become the indulgent parent. I would tell her she could do it herself and noticed her face become crestfallen. When I did participate and at least “help” her arrange them, she became animated and told numerous stories and I was rewarded with a ginormous hug and thank you.

I started to notice a pattern.
Whether it be helping her with reading, helping her clean her room, helping her help me make dinner, helping her learn to tie her shoes – her joy radiated.

But wasn’t this just what I am required to do as a mom? Aren’t these the very things that cause me to want to run incognito to a beach in Mexico , with the fruity umbrella drinks lined up at the bar?

Like most of my Christian couple friends, my husband and I attended a Couples Retreat early on in our marriage.
We fought the
ENTIRE
TIME.

We did leave with this resourceful book that has been very helpful for us in our marriage called The Five Love Languages, and one of them is entitled Acts of Service. This is part of the description::

“If this is your spouse’s primary love language, nothing speaks as loudly as these acts of service. You may give him or her words of affirmation, but they are thinking, ‚ÄúCut the talk. If you loved me, you would do something around here.‚ÄĚ For them, actions truly speak louder than words.”

Interestingly, this is my daughter.

For her, acts of service are a tangible example to her of our love for her. She feels special and cared for when we are attentive to her needs and help her accomplish every day tasks. For her Рthese actions on our part do speak much louder to her than a hug, her favorite cupcake, or even the traditional ways of spending time with her such as playing a board game, doing a craft, or going to a movie.

It took us a while as parents to figure this one out.
It has been frustrating when we try to love on her or project on to her other ways we think she should respond to as an act of love.

Once we let that all go, and once again took on the stance of the learner, it all began to fall into place.

And what joy it is now to love on her the very way she was created to receive it.

We can’t wait to share this with her fianc√© some dayūüėČ

 

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Unjustified.

I am sharing here an article that I wrote for READY magazine with their permission.

I cannot recommend this magazine highly enough and hope that you will click on
this
link

to sign up to receive their quarterly publication via print or download.

Start by getting January’s publication entitled, “Shattering the Myths”.
I am very honored to be amidst such talented writers.

*****

Unjustified

 

 


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So, Unemployed Then.

“So, are you employed?”

“Yes. I work about 60 hours a week. I teach my eldest daughter 5th grade, and I am her full-time nurse. I train our service dog. I run a household of four. I am a contracted writer and an amateur painter. I also volunteer my time for a couple of non-profit organizations on an ongoing basis.”

Long, drawn out pause.

“So, you are unemployed then.”

Last night, our family attended my husband’s work holiday party. I appreciate that his company allowed for it to be a family affair. I also loved the creativity as the event had a Star Wars theme. My daughters were thrilled to see Star Wars characters menacing the halls bedecked for the holidays, and every child (including a few parents – myself included) were gifted light sabers and storm trooper masks.

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“Mom – if you post photos like this of yourself, I’ll have trouble finding someone who wants to marry me (marry into this family)”

My husband’s office is absolutely amazing. Situated on the 29th floor of a building whose lobby currently adorns various color-themed Christmas trees, marble inlaid in the floors, and adorable storefronts with every imaginable trinket for purchase, it also boasts 360 degree views of Portland.

I was so enamored by it all, that I even took a picture of the sign above the women’s restroom.

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Hipster Restroom

 

This night had a star next to it on our family calendar.

 

 

My eldest has been in a lot of pain for the last couple of days. We gave her a large dose of meds prior to the event and because of my role as her nurse, I found myself with about 15 minutes to get ready for the party.
My daughters fought the entire ride there, and besides the excitement connected to receiving light sabers and seeing characters, the two were out of sorts and complaining.

My expectations were so grand for the evening – a night out in downtown Portland, an incredible office I had longed to see, and I was excited to take the girls to see the Christmas Tree in Pioneer Square – a short distance by foot. Magic!

We stayed just under an hour.

I have been thinking about the conversation above.
I have been thinking about how difficult it is to admit that sometimes I really do not enjoy being a stay-at-home mother.
I have been thinking about how taboo it is to say that out loud, or in this case write it, because inevitably my inner voice responds,

“You are so fortunate to get to stay at home!”
and
“You are so fortunate to be a mom!”

As you read this, Dear Reader, you might be thinking the same.

Can we be honest and just admit that sometimes it can be both?

I AM fortunate.
Beyond measure.
I am aware.
I so get it.

Having acknowledged that, I find that it is equally important to recognize the longing and the tension and the desires that creep in where if I could trade places with my husband and work from the 29th floor in Downtown –

I would.

I believe the Giver of All Things referred to the tree and the branches in order to remind us as a humanity that every Beloved has value and that every Beloved has a role to play that creates synergy and allows that tree to grow and to flourish.

When a branch is cut off, the tree loses strength and vitality.

My current branch is stay-at-home mom. A title that I long to see permanently removed from the dictionary and replaced with,

                            Renaissance Woman, Doer of All the Things
                                               (or something similar)

or at least give me a box under the employment option on the forms I have to fill out that states, 

“a Human with Value”.


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Fear Not.

This week.
Oh, my heart.
Too much.
Too much.

Bombings and pain,
displaced people,
grief and loss,
war and terror,
fear.

My husband was a Television and Radio major in college.
He had a professor of media who has had a long and illustrious career in the industry.
He shared with his class that the predominant emotion for the highest Nielson ratings or numbers of viewers
is
FEAR.

If it bleeds, it leads.

Here is a great article on fear and media, as well as other cited sources for further study.

The Bible has over 50 verses related to fear.
And there are two types.
The first type is the kind of fear that is encouraged.
And it is VERY specific.

We are encouraged to

                                              fear the Lord our God.

The earliest translations are more related to wisdom and reverence of God, and that is certainly not something to be taken lightly, nor is it an excuse of being of lesser importance.

In fact, I would argue that it is a discipline we as Christians need to exercise more often.

The second type of fear mentioned in the Bible is

                                                                   a spirit of fear.

And this type is wreaking havoc.
And it is NOT FROM GOD. (2 Timothy 1:7)

In fact, in the case of the 365 times the Bible says “fear not” in the Bible (King James allegedly only has 103), it is in reference to this second type of fear.

The type of fear that causes
anxiety
depression
anger
hatred
suspicion
pain
grief
broken relationships…

you get it.

I have dealt with levels of anxiety all of my life – and was even diagnosed with PTSD after the very scary birth of my firstborn.

A dear friend, mentor, and clinical psychologist encouraged me to chronicle how many times I felt fearful – the second type of fear – throughout any given day.

Have you ever tried this?

It was quite daunting to me, and over the course of a few days, it became more and more clear to me how so many of my thoughts and actions blossomed from that seed of fear.

I am not going to preach to you about how you should or should not respond to recent horrific events.

I am going to encourage you (and me!) to exercise more of the former type of fear and a whole lot less of the latter.

I believe with all my heart and soul and mind that this is the only path
to Jesus,
and therefore,

   LOVE WINS.

 

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