Spiritual

Swamp Blogger

By:  Jana Greene

The Mister and I went for a car ride last Sunday afternoon, deep into wilderness of Pender County, North Carolina.  I was grumpy and fretful with the busy thoughts, and he doesn’t seem to mind being in an enclosed area with me when I’m like that, God bless him.

So, off we went with a half-tank of gas and our trusty camera.

The further we drive away from named communities with neat, rowed housing, the more interesting the scenery.   My mind slips slowly out of busy-ness and eventually relaxes somewhere between the first blueberry field and the fifth “No Trespassing” sign.  By the time we get to the old river roads, find something to worry about becomes find something beautiful.

Beauty is everywhere.

Pender County is locally famous for being a filming site for the Discovery Channel show, Swamp Loggers.  The Cape Fear River winds black and lazy through the land, in such a vascular way that the ground never feels quite solid enough to walk on.   Water, water everywhere, and everywhere you sink.

On the river, it seems that everything in sight was, is or will be some shade of green in its existence.  Animal, mineral, vegetable…covered in either water or algae or moss, and wild.

We stop at a “boat access”, although it is only wide enough to put in a John boat, or a couple of kayaks.  I take pictures of a family of ducks, an old hollow stump and some moss in a tree.

We get back in the car and ride around for several minutes without saying a word.   I see a bunch of insanely yellow flowers blooming by the roadside and stop to capture the visual Prozac on film.  Later that day, we snap photos of a tree that seems to have a goiter in its trunk, and a random puppy flopping through some tall grass with his family at another boat access.   Anything anomalous, anything strange and wonderful……*click*.   The transmission has completely slipped at the crossroads of my grumpiness and fret, like a rusty old pickup truck resting like sculpture in a field by the riverside.

But, it is also the quiet that disarms me most there; humid, comforting silence.  Quiet from modern life…quiet from myself.

I don’t have a lot of that in my mind.  I’ve always been a worrier, and although I know it is the least useful (and faithful) venue for my brain to seek out, it knows the way so well it sometimes gets there before me.  Half of the battle is getting out from the worn ruts.  Driving into the swampy country in Pender County, North Carolina is like taking my spirit off-roading in the best way possible.

Find something beautiful.

Beauty is everywhere, messy and wild.

Wet and green.

Spiritual

Blogging by the seat of my pants!

Hi, readers 🙂  A big ‘thank you’ for following this blog….and just a little fyi…changed my settings to NOT automatically publish comments, as I want to respect privacies.  Please send your email addy to me @  jana.greene@yahoo.com  if you’d like so that i can reply in private when necessary.  Sorry about the confusion…I’m STILL learning the ropes here!

Recovery, Spiritual

First Do No Harm

By:  Jana Greene

I’d written the post I’d set out to write for the blog, but hesitated to hit “publish”.

It was a pretty raw piece about addiction and motherhood; two things I have experience with that often end up awkward bedfellows in my writing.  Addiction and motherhood don’t belong in a single story, but long ago they had an affair, and the resulting lovechild was a story about my grieving choices I had made but reveling in the grace of Christ.

Still staring at the glow of the laptop screen.  Perhaps I shouldn’t put this ‘out there’, I thought, finger hovering over the enter button.

Some Christians will be offended.  They will judge me twice; once for being the person I was, and again for admitting to being that person.  They might think I am playing fast and loose with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a poor representation of a Christian.  I would never want to do that.

And – far more importantly – what about those who don’t know Jesus yet?

Still, I can’t shake the urgency to write about these things, to ‘put them out there’.  So I pray….

”God, first let me do no harm.”  A spiritual Hippocratic Oath of sorts –“ let me do no harm to Your name”.

Be the beggar, I feel Him saying.  Stop trying to “bake”…..

Sometimes, writing, I feel like a rebel deserter of my formerl self;  a New Creation counting on Christ to do the jousting because I am rusty from old war injuries.  A grateful and humble flawed veteran…not measuring up to what the world thinks a Christian should always be, but gratefully not of this world.

Old war stories sometimes need to be told, and telling half-truths distorts history.

I press the Enter button to Publish.  And revel in the grace of Christ.

 

Devotional

One Ridiculously Important Thing

By:  Jana Greene

Jesus replied:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All of the Law and Prophets hang on to these two commandments. – Matthew 22:36-40. (NIV)

Recently, the “weird and ridiculous” advertisements are all over the internet.  I cannot seem to surf a news site, weather channel blog or Facebook page without being promised “a ridiculously easy trick to stop smoking for good!”  Or, “one old, weird tip for cutting belly fat!”

Although I quit smoking in 2006, I am still tempted to click on the links.  Who doesn’t want to know a ridiculously easy trick?   And a singular old and weird tip for cutting belly fat?  Sign me up!  I’m oldish, definitely weird, and a big fan of the ridiculous.

And marketers know:  The word “one” appeals to us.  If it only takes ONE step, most of us figure we can handle that.  One-step solutions promise us the same results as those requiring work, but without as much of it.  And tricks?  We all like magical resolution– “trick” implies that NO effort on our part to take even the One Easy Step.

Jesus said there really is One Thing.  Love your God with all of your heart, all your soul, all your mind.  Everything else will fall into place if you do that One Thing, in regards to what really matters (which turns out not to be belly fat).  Certainly not ridiculous or weird, and with no trickery involved:

He never said it would be easy; most things worth with permanent results are not.

God’s advertisement strategy for His love is not proclaimed in internet pop-ups or one-click promises.  His advertising is the word of mouth and love in action of His people.  He isn’t seeking a quick sale…He wants a relationship.

I imagine that’s why it’s so important we remember The One Thing, so we can keep loving people the way He loved us while we were still sinners.  The wonder of grace is that it promises forgiveness, but through relationship and acceptance instead of work.  There is no trickery to it; our only effort to receive is to seek Him and ask for it.

No sleight of hand, just willingness of heart.   The One Thing:  Love.

Spiritual

How to Accept a Magnolia Blossom

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were out riding around in the car. I don’t remember where we were headed, if anywhere. Sometimes we just ride a few blocks together to get away and be alone, decompressing from the estrogen-laden drama factory that is our home with three teen daughters.

Our conversation turned to trees, somehow, and what we might like to plant in the front yard someday.  It was a short topic of discussion, as neither he nor I can name more than five different kinds of trees.  We like things in our outdoor space to be more green than brown on the color wheel, but are not otherwise yard-workers.

“Magnolia trees,” I said offhandedly, “I love Magnolias; I think they are my favorite.”

We quickly decided that a Magnolia probably wouldn’t work in the space available in the yard, and that was that.  Besides, I am not contributing to the family income right now. Until money grows on trees, we shouldn’t be buying any.

Several days later, my man came home from work with a huge Magnolia bloom. The flower was still tightly compacted around itself.

He remembered I had mentioned liking Magnolias.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy in a household.  It’s also the little things that keep you afloat.

I placed the flower in a bowl of water, arranging the big, dark, waxy leaves around the bud just so. The flower would open in time, but it wouldn’t be rushed.

“Thank you, Baby,” I said, kissing my husband, not knowing what else to say.

That particular day, I had been in my PJs all day long and never managed to get dressed.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, yet managed to produce nothing publishable.  The house was messy and dinner hadn’t been started.   I felt a little embarrassed receiving the flower because I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

I am in a season of accepting things right now, but earning was easier.

Earning was easier, because I felt like I had contributed to the outcome of things. But the best things in my life have all been undeserved and given to me through grace, not ability. Certainly not through my earning them.

It’s humbling, really. It is a mental holdover of self-condemnation.  From impromptu flowers from my husband to the miracle of God’s grace, I am learning how to be a gracious accepter who doesn’t have to feel she has to earn every good thing.

For the next few days, the Magnolia blossom lived on a table behind my writing desk…it’s big, soft pillowy white petals opening a little more each day.  And every time I passed by it, the bloom opened just a little more. ..rusting  around the edges as a Magnolia blossom does.  Just a little more….just a little more…..until it was open completely. It would not be rushed.

The entire house was filled with Magnolia perfume. It blessed everyone who lives in the estrogen –laden drama factory as it opened.  Isn’t that just like a simple, thoughtful gift unearned to spread like Magnolia petals?

Gracefully.

Devotional

Open Arms

By:  Jana Greene

Happy Sunday, day of Worship and Rest!

I just wanted to share a very short devotional with you today.  Mercifully short, in comparison to my usual blog posts, you might say!

This morning, I opened my Bible to Romans 14:1 and read about how love and spiritual hospitality meet in a place of tolerance and acceptance.  I’ve been trying to read scripture lately with an “amnesia of the preconceived”.  Praying that my  blinders will be removed (while being scared that they actually WILL!)  just soaking in what the Word says without my personal moral preferences auto-correcting everything I read.

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do.  And don’t jump over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department.  Remember, they have their own history to deal with.  Treat them gently.

Hmmm.  Whether I “know” I’m “right” or not?
Would I rather be strong in my opinions or strong in the faith department?
I’m learning that its hard to be both!

Dear God,

 Forgive me for judging those who have their own history to deal with, and help me to show them YOUR love, uncontaminated by my own point of view.  Oh, and Lord?  As you remove my blinders, please treat me gently, too.   Thank you, Jesus.

Spiritual

Self-Condemnation Deflation

By:  Jana Greene

A dear friend and I were having a discussion about self-condemnation the other day; about how it is a struggle for both she and I to avoid condemnation of ourselves.  When I put myself down, I am believing what the enemy says about me is correct.    That with my past actions –I am worthy of condemnation.   I get stopped in my tracks, stopped from moving forward.  Whatever holy and good things I was hoping to do today to pass along the love of God, gets buried like tires stuck from driving on deep sand.  The more I try to move forward out of a self-condemnation mindset, the more my wheels spin.

I am no Theologian.  I am un-schooled in psychology.  But I am a sinner, and I have taken putting myself down to an art form.  I’m working on breaking out of self-condemnation; working on learning not to self-condemn.

In my life, condemnation usually happens in one or two ways.  Half the battle (if not more) is remembering who is the perpetrator of this oppression is – satan.  If he can keep me stuck like tires in the sand, I can’t go anywhere forward-moving.

My self-condemnation says:  The things I have done in my past determine my feelings of worthfulness to God now. 

Confirmation by the Enemy:  Who are you to tell other beggars where you found bread?  You made every mistake in the book, and now you want to spread the Gospel.  If you want to help God, don’t drag His name into your mess.   Who is going to listen to you? 

My self-condemnation says:  I can’t do anything right…I am my own worst enemy.  If you compliment me, I will find a way to point out something negative about myself so fast I don’t even have to think about it.  I just keep messing up, even though I love God with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with my entire mind. 

Confirmation by the Enemy:  I am your worst enemy, but thanks for listening to what I have to say.

One stream of thinking applies to my past, and one to my present and future.  But both of them show a lack of trust in the one who pulls me out of the ruts of my own making.  I don’t need self-esteem, I need my esteemed Savior, Jesus Christ, who can and will do for me (as much of a mess as I am) for you, for anyone.

I researched a little bit the word “condemn”, hoping to find an accurate definition, and learned these things about the word.  Those of us who apply condemnation to ourselves are, in essence:

1.       Declaring ourselves to be reprehensible, wrong or evil without reservation, usually after we weigh “evidence” that we decide is obvious.

2.       Associating ourselves with the following synonyms:  Damned, denounced, denied, and pronounced guilty and unfit.  Oh, and convicted, sentenced and DOOMED.

Those are big-ticket items, Spiritually.  Self-condemnation is really an act of sentencing ourselves to doom.

Interestingly, there is only one antonym- one opposite – given for the word in Webster’s online dictionary:

BLESSED

That’s pretty powerful. There is a battle going on to determine how we view ourselves.  We can’t always get to the  self-loathing feelings before they get to us, but we can be lifted up out of them.  As a matter of fact, we have already been lifted out….

Romans 8:1-5:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could NOT do.  He sent his own SON in a body like the bodies we sinners have.  And in that body God declared and end to the sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for  us., who no longer follow our sinful natures but instead follow the Spirit.” – (NLT)

There is no fine-print disclaimer to this verse.  It doesn’t say, “some” or “a tad” or “a smidgen” of condemnation of those who belong to Christ Jesus.  It says there is NO condemnation.

On my own, I am totally condemnable.  But with Christ as my salvation, I am just  BLESSED.

Blessed to know that negative self-talk is NOT of God, and that I have the authority to rebuke it.

Blessed to know that the Lord is infinitely patient, and doesn’t expect me to change overnight.  I’ve honed some really effective self-condemnation techniques over a lifetime, and it will take His supernatural help to reprogram the way I think.

Blessed to know that I cannot “out-mess” His love for me…I am His daughter.  Like a good father, He has already done for me what I could not do for myself.

Blessed to know the sound of my Father’s voice, whose words never tear me down, but build me up in love.

Blessed to know that the enemy of God is referred to in the Bible as ” The Author of Lies”, unable to tell the truth.

Blessed that, as Romans 8 reminds me, “And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”  That leads to doom.

No Condemnation at all, for those in Christ Jesus!
AMEN!

 

Spiritual

Broken Beauty

By:  Jana Greene

“Look what I found!” my oldest daughter exclaimed, cupping something in her small hands.  Beach sand flew up behind her feet as she ran toward me.

When she opened them, I saw the perfect oval of bleach glass, as big as a silver dollar and the same color as her sea-foam green eyes. I congratulated her on the find.

“You can buy sea glass at any old gift shop,” she stated proudly.  “But the best ones are never man-made.”

We walked together toward the water’s edge, where her little sister was playing sea-tag.  At eight years old, she still enjoyed the game – teasing the waves with her toes and shrieking with glee as she out-raced them every time.

My oldest girl, holding the glass and rubbing the smooth edges with her thumb, asked, “How did it get to be so smooth?  Glass is mostly sharp!”

I explained to her how, at one time, her discovery was probably someone’s trash; a beer bottle, most likely.  It had been in the ocean for a long time, battered about by rough waves, the sharp edges polished by coarse rocks and the sand of the ocean floor.  That piece of a broken bottle – someone’s careless litter – rode the strong ocean currents until it arrived here on this very beach for her to find…polished, smooth and perfect.

Satisfied, we walked back to our blanket, and she placed her prize on its tattered edge and ran to join her sister at play.

I sat down and relished the warm sand between my toes, considering the parallels between the little piece of glass and my own life.  I was reminded about God’s aptitude for taking brokenness and refining it through grace and adversity both.

Sometimes, we arrive in this world broken….or feel as if we did.

From a lifetime of abandonment issues, I’d felt disposed of – thrown starboard from a ship like refuse, years of rejection culminating in self-hatred.  Loathsome feelings then contributing to my own battle with another bottle; one that contained the ability to anesthetized pain….alcohol.

Sometimes, we become broken….it’s hard not to feel that way at times.

The years of drinking and the shame incurred tossed me about until I was lost, feeling I’d become all sharp edges and splinters.  The process of newfound sobriety I’d embarked on three years earlier an attempt to un-break myself, but instead I learned to trust in the currents of the Father’s will… And to abandon the ship of my own.

Sometimes, we must accept that we will remain broken….and that’s ok.

For awhile, the trials did not cease upon my journey into recovery, but seemed to magnify – hurricane force – to my initial dismay.  Life on life’s terms.  Life on God’s terms.  Not my own terms, but still – trusting.  Shattered by marriage problems, money problems, disappointed by all, but learning to trust in He who steers the currents and calms the tides which rise and fall.  Trusting in He, who, when choosing to allow the seas to roar and the storms to surge, comforts me even in brokenness.

Slowly, my prayers in the midst of these squalls changed.  They were not so much, “thank you, God, for the sharp rocks and storms,” but “Thank you, God, that you are refining me through it all; loving me through it all.

Somehow, he spared me from becoming a shard through this drifting.  Edges were softened by those tribulations, and slowly, slowly becoming refined like the sea glass at the edge of my beach blanket.

Like us all; forever being either sharpened or softened.

We are lost, but then found – becoming a treasure in the process…a rare find.

Supremely important to remember those times when circumstances are treacherous and pain is abrasive, and the currents seem haphazard in their direction.  If we surrender, we are refined by this Living Water, the mostly-sharp margins and flaws buffed away.

A jagged, judgmental spirit supplanted by a compassionate softness for others.

A self-righteous edge polished to the shape of His righteousness.

So that we can know what it feels like to be lost and feel discarded.

We can say the world, “I’ve been broken, too!”

And when the world finds us, we can reflect just a little of the Father…His hue, glinting in the sunlight after a long journey.

A treasure.

The best creations, after all, are never man-made.

Save

Spiritual

Chocolate Salad for the Soul

By:  Jana Greene

“I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn’t. It’s a chocolate thing.”  – Donald Miller, Blue like Jazz:  Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

The first time I read the quote above, I laughed out loud.  Mr. Miller put to words my feelings about the Bible.

In the past, I have believed:

The Bible was bland like ice-berg lettuce…I’d  had it a hundred times; I knew what it has to offer.

Or filler,  like fiber.  I knew  I should have it to keep things in working order, but I resented needing it.

Or as justification to imbibe in something decadent ….. because I was  planning on doing things my way later.

If I’d  bought a pretty case to carry it in from a Christian bookstore (bonus points?) , it was nearly as good as consuming it.  For some strange reason, that made me feel better about never opening it.

All dressing.

In the past, I have considered The Bible a “salad” thing:  devoid of surprises, ancient, boring.

Read it.  It’s good for you.

It will help you grow big and strong.

But when I stopped thinking I knew everything about it….I found it to be Chocolate for the Soul.

A few years ago, my family presented me with the gift of a new Bible.  The scriptures were written so  that I could  easily consume and digest them.  The Message is the translation for which my craving for holiness and my short attention span decided to cooperate with one-another.

Thank you, Jesus.

It turns out that The Good Book is indulgent, but I  have to open the wrapper in order  to indulge.

The Bible is a chocolate thing:

Rich and personal, as if someone knew exactly what I would go through at different times in my life, and wrote me a letter about it.

Available to savor.  I have the privilege of picking it up anytime I like.

Satisfying.  I know of nothing else that fills the soul-space, the empty mold I’ve tried filling up with  all of the things that the world believes will satisfy.

It’s a treat to know what God thinks about me.  It’s the sweetest thing to know He loves me  with decadence.  He loves  me in a very non-ancient, un-dusty, and unpredictable way.  Not boring in the least.

I rarely crave salad, but chocolate?  All the live-long day.

Go ahead, unwrap it.  It will help you grow big and strong….in ways you never imagined.

 

Inspirational, Recovery

Shame is a Parasite (and other suprises)

By:  Jana Greene

I once watched a television show about a woman who had traveled to **insert the name of sub-tropical paradise here** and returned home with some strange symptoms.  She felt crawling under her skin, and she couldn’t figure out what it was.   In one episode (a year later) after many trips made in vain to doctors,  she glanced down at her forearm and  saw a worm wiggling around just under the surface of her skin.  During her trip to paradise, something had bitten her and deposited its eggs into her body, where they had been growing unchecked for all that time.  She ended up getting treatment that killed the parasites, but she still had the sensations on occasion.  The feelings she can’t forget, and she is paranoid that they will resurrect.

Ew.

Yesterday, I blogged about the process of preparing to write a memoir, which I have been threatening to do for years.  I wrote about getting honest with the world, “coming out” as a recovering alcoholic and my hopes that someone somewhere might find hope in a similar circumstance.

As repugnant as the worm story is, it’s a pretty good analogy for my issues with shame.  Years ago, I considered alcoholic drinks paradise, going hand-in-hand with the sun, sand and surf at the beach where I live – socially acceptable and readily available.  And nobody judges a soccer mom who enjoys a nightly glass of wine (except that it was NEVER one nightly glass….I will address the amazing enabling phenomenon of Wine by the Box in a later column….) but I started having strange symptoms, including – but not limited to – nausea, vomiting, shaking, yellowing of the eyes and skin, blackouts and the worst of all:  a shameful sensation of self loathing had gotten under my skin.

Yet I couldn’t stop drinking. I could hide the magnitude of the issue with some measure of confidence, but  I COULD NOT STOP.  Self-diagnosis?  Crazy, weak and powerless.

Now, many sober years later, the shame I thought was gone seems to have only been lying dormant.   Reliving the experiences of those dark days through the journal pages has made me feel shameful again:

Sample entry:  Try not to drink, stop for two whole days, and relapse.  Stop again for one day, feeling triumphant.   Take one drink to stop the shaking….full-blown relapse.  Over and over and over again.

I cry while I’m reading the pages, but slowly my shame dissipates, as I realize I don’t hate the woman I used to be at all.   She is weak, yes – but not bad.

She is just only sick.

She doesn’t know the ironic  thing yet; that admitting to that  powerlessness is the thing that will get and keep her sober.    That just feeling powerless says, “Its useless…I am weak,” but admitting powerlessness to God and others says, “Ok, I am weak.  What now?”

In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 12:9 assures me that those phantom sensations of self-loathing have no place under the surface of my life.  The feelings that I can’t forget keep my active disease from resurrecting, but shame has no place.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (NLT)

So, in writing about my experience with alcohol, I am boasting about my weakness for sure, but   Jesus considers our weaknesses to be His greatest stronghold.  He is also a big proponent of forgiveness.  Even when we must apply it to ourselves.

I think I’m starting to forgive myself.  Someone, somewhere might find hope to employ some self-forgiveness, too, in a similar circumstance.

It’s a start.

Inspirational, Recovery

Rigorous Honesty and Other Risks

By:  Jana Greene

This morning, I was at a loss at what to write about.  I’ve had a headache pretty steadily for nearly a week solid, and have a busy schedule today, and these two conspired against my wanting to write at all.  But still….

Under my desk is a big cardboard box full of writings; articles, poetry and general musings about life, some of it going back to high school.  This is my sad attempt at organization…throwing things into a box, so that the oldest pieces end up on the bottom, and the most recent on top, like layers of sedimentary rock.

So, I consult The Box this morning for writing ideas, digging down a few layers.  Somewhere in between the top (which is from yesterday) and the bottom (the Jurassic period when the dinosaurs roamed the earth – known to my children as “the 80’s”) I found a single manila folder.  Everything else in the box, at least seven inches deep, is thrown in willy-nilly.  The folder is named simply:  “The Bad Years”

Immediately, I knew which era was chronicled in this layer:  The later stages of my disease, and most likely, the very early stages of recovery.

I am an alcoholic.  The Bad years, I have had.

I flip through the pages, and catch words like:  drunken, AA, lying, puking, embarrassment, shame and rejection…..words I don’t necessarily associate my “now” life with, but words that have been my life at other times.   And no matter how hard I try, I cannot shake the feeling that I am supposed to write about the experience.  Trust me, I’ve tried to shake the feeling.

More than a feeling, it is (dare I use the term?) calling.  At the end of the day, I just cannot imagine that we must endure the really difficult things in life alone.  What is the point of coming out on the ‘other side’ of something horrible if you keep it to yourself?

But writing about it is going to require what 12-step programs refer to as “rigorous honesty”.  In my interpretation, rigorous honesty is different from regular honesty in that it is subject to the sin of omission tenfold.  Writing about my journey is going to require including the words:  drunken, AA, lying, puking, embarrassment, shame and rejection – and that’s just for starters.

I pray about it often, asking God about what to include in a book, if I were to write one.  I tell Him that I don’t want to embarrass myself, but I know it’s a little late for that consideration.   I try to tell Him that I don’t have the time/money/confidence/smarts to write a book.  I think He is telling me that I don’t need those things to write my story.  What I need is faith in Him.  Period.

He reminds me that I still have tons of issues, in my “now” life, and that I get through them One Day at a Time the same way He got me through The Bad Years….with grace.

He is enough to save my life.  He is more than enough to handle the seven inches of literary sediment in a cardboard box.    I cannot undo my past, but I can write about my redemption so that maybe someone somewhere will know that they can survive The Bad Years.

Grace really is amazing.

Spiritual

To be Big-Souled (and Beachfront)

By:  Jana Greene

There is a scene in the Movie, “The Bucket List” in which Jack Nicholson‘s character, Edward, and Morgan Freeman’s character, Carter, are flying in a private plane over the polar ice cap.  Both terminally ill, they engage in a conversation in which Carter waxes about the beauty of the night sky and the ice and ocean below, giving God credit for its splendor.

“It’s indescribably beautiful,” he says.  “Really one of God’s good ones.”

And Edward, dry and skeptical, barely glances out of the window from above his bifocals.  He describes the same starry landscape as “desolation”.

“I envy people who have faith,” he says.  “I just can’t get my head around it.”

Carter’s reply:  “Maybe because your heads’ in the way.”

I love this scene, because it is relatable.  I can certainly relate to Carter’s appreciation for what is Creation.  But I’ve also felt like Edward –although he was a very wealthy and intelligent businessman – in that  faith seems the single luxury he cannot afford.  He wants to believe, but he has absorbed too much of what the world has to offer, and what the world says makes sense. 

There are things so beautiful in this world that they make no sense at all.

My “polar ice cap” is the beach.  Having lived within 15 minutes of the shore for a dozen years now, setting my eyes on the sea is still exhilarating for me, and searching the sand for treasures is still a Zen-like experience to my spirit.  Scanning the edge where the water meets the land, I watch carefully as the waves deliver shells with every flow and suck them back out with every ebb.  It is an endlessly different place every time I visit, and I like suprises.

Years ago, I was fascinated with the process of the tides.  Why does the moon pull and push at the seas?  How did the ancients know enough to produce charts in advance of tides and navigate dangerous waters?

The science was fascinating to learn, but it didn’t help me to enjoy the beach.  The more I researched, the less I reveled in the mystic marriage of water and earth.  Believing that if I could understand something, I would  appreciate it even more is exactly opposite  tenant of faith.  I appreciate the One who made it in order to understand His nature, not nature in general.  It was missing the point entirely.

He is my Father.  I know Him personally.  The world tells us not to be “small minded”.  I try to remind myself not to be “small-souled”.  It isn’t that what can be proven is unimportant; it’s just that He is so much BIGGER than that.

Look at a single sea shell… Is the intricate design a happy evolutionary accident, or one of the millions of ways God pays attention to detail?

A pearl may have started as an errant grain of sand, but who decided that it would not remain a grain of sand?  (As an errant child of God’s, I especially appreciate that His penchant for making beauty out of randomness and mistakes.)

Google and Wikipedia can tell you what makes a sunset over the river red, pink and orange…but there is no textbook answer for why the colors just happen to be so pleasing to us.

Human beings can break down the chemical make-up of the oceans, but the depths of it are still more mysterious than known.  Do we even make the correlation between the vastness of the seas and diversity of the life living in it to a Supreme Creator, or do our heads get in the way?

Sometimes, my head gets in the way, too.

It’s easy for me to remember that God is present in the creation when stroll by the seaside admiring His handiwork. I know that without Him, the greatest majesty on this planet is only desolation.  Sometimes, that I go to the seaside to remind myself that God is present in the creation that is my life, too. That He is still in charge…that He is, indeed, ‘in the details.’

I forget that I am “indescribably beautiful” to Him.  And you are, too.

Really one of God’s good ones; you can afford to have faith in that.

Devotional, Spiritual

The Beekeeper’s Bounty

By:  Jana Greene

The “Local Honey” signs alerted me that I was approaching the Beekeeper’s house.  I’d passed it every day for several weeks now, debating whether or not to spend a little extra for the “good stuff”, vs. the sweetened corn-syrup available at the grocery store.  They say that locally harvested honey is good for curing Spring allergies, although I’m not sure who “they” are; I just heard it somewhere. Allergies I’ve got, and it is as good excuse as any to buy pricey honey.

Plus, honey on toast is just about my youngest daughter’s favorite thing in the world.  “Honey is bee vomit, you know.”  She told me once, trying to gross me out.   “Sweet, delicious bee vomit.”

The gentleman sitting on his front porch with his wife stood up as I approached the house.  There are a couple of old Mustangs in various states of repair and disrepair in the front yard, and an oversized American flag billowing from a pole hung off the garage.  Right away I could tell they were good people.  Good, Southern, God-fearing “salt of the earth” type folks.  You have to fear and trust God to keep bees, I would think.

They shake my hands and we commence Honey talk.  They have fourteen hives ‘out back’, he says.  It’s just a little hobby of theirs.  His wife goes into the house, shooing a yippy dog away from the door, and returns with two jars of The Good Stuff.

“This here is the Spring honey,” he says, handing me a jar of honey so light yellow, its transparent.  He tells me to take off the lid and smell it, and I oblige.  “Take a sniff of it.  What do you smell?” he asks.

“Flowers,” I say.  And I do, it hints of honeysuckle and wild roses.  There is a thin veneer of golden film at the top of the jar.  It smells like heaven in a jelly jar, I think.  But I think that might be a little dramatic to say out loud.

“That’s a bit of honeycomb that rises to the top,” the Beekeeper tells me.  “We just gathered this honey yesterday.”  I want to dip my finger into the jar and taste the honeycomb, but I assume there is a policy about “you taste it, you buy it”, and I’m not sure of the price yet.  But it is so fresh, I’m sure I will end up buying it regardless.

The other jar of honey was a deep, dark amber.  “That there is the Fall honey,” he says.  “It’s richer and heavier, on account of the sugars have been blending since the fall.”  He unscrews the lid and invites me to touch the inside of it.  “Give it a taste.”

By this point, I just want the taste of honey on my tongue, but I hesitate, not knowing how many other fingers have swiped at the lid.  He pushes it closer to me.  “Go ahead,” he smiles.

So I do.

“I think we must of gathered this last October?” He asks his wife.  She takes a drag on her cigarette and pauses, thinking.  “Yep.  Last October.”

I’m surprised how good the Fall Honey is.  It doesn’t smell of flowers, it just smells of think, dark honey.  Sweet, delicious bee vomit, as Ashleigh would say.

I bought both jars, of course, thinking about how the Bible describes the Promised Land as the “Land of Milk and Honey”.

When I got home that evening, I felt a little envy of the Beekeeper and his wife.  Their lives might well be just as complicated as ours (or more so), but they had a hobby that ensured them easy access to one of the simplest joys in life – fresh honey.  They had a shared hobby as a couple that they seemed to enjoy, and a little side business as a result.  Or was it easy access at all?

I often look at the result – the “fruit” (or honey) of a person’s life, and feel a little envious.  Sometimes I forget that sweet results of the Spirit are usually fought for and won in another realm altogether and are the result of hard work, investing of oneself and some measure of pain.  How many bee-stings did the Beekeeper and his wife endure to get to the honey?  And how many more to get enough honey to share with the world?  If you met this couple casually, you might think their beekeeping endeavor is “all gravy” now…or all honey. 

I jokingly mention to my husband that perhaps we could take up beekeeping as a hobby, but he thinks that maybe the HOA might have a problem with it.  It’s just as well anyway, as I’m not sure we could get past the requirement of having actual bees  and having to deal with their rear-ends of barbed-weaponry.  I’m glad there are salt-of-the-earth people willing to endure the process those of us who enjoy it on our toast, and to treat our allergies.

Land of Milk and Honey, right here in town.

Spiritual

HOLD ME UP!

By:  Jana Greene

When I was a young mother and my children very small, I carried them on my right hip.  This went on long after they were able to walk by themselves, and so often that now -all these many years later – that hip has a tendency to jut out a bit when I am standing still. The youngest child in particular, I carried for a long time.

“Hold me up?” she would say in a tiny rasp, her small arms stretched upward.  In times of particular urgency, she would stand tiptoe for extra height and open and close her tiny hands rapidly, like the motions to the nursery rhyme about all the little stars, twinkling.  Of course I would pick her up…what else is a mother to do?  Her gesture acknowledged that she was small…that she wanted a better view of her world.

Fast forward a dozen years or so.  This little girl is in her teens, nearly grown –and trying to figure out who she is meant to be.  And I, as her mother, am on a similar journey to find purpose, I suppose you could say.  Of particular fascination on this leg of the trip is the fairly recent tendency I’ve developed to be more open during worship at church.    Demonstrative, actually.  With the lights dimmed during service, praise music hammering with invitation to God to be present with us, in us…first come the tears. And then the hands.

I did not grow up a “hands-raiser”, or a “tongue-talker”.  I was raised swaddled in a quilt of various Bible-belt denominations, Baptist and Methodist chief amongst.  Shouting was for cheering at football games, “amen” was for saying grace at dinner, and hand-raising for students who had a question for the school teacher.  To shout in church was to call yourself out as a “Penty-costal”, to clap out of time was to call attention to yourself, and calling attention to yourself made you that thing which to was to be avoided in order to self-preserve: vulnerable.

But now, not caring who was witness to my worship, I wonder why? Why when falling to my emotional knees, did I try to stifle raising my arms?  Why did I question my own motives for worshiping in such a manner?

Choking with tears, I remembered my baby daughter’s pleas with outstretched arms.  And the urgency, in times she felt the most overwhelmed.  Or restless.  Or too weary to walk.  Was she raising her hands up to me in order to receive?  Surely, yes.  But also because I was so much taller than she, my vantage point offering an entirely different view.  The action of lifting her tiny arms to me made her vulnerable.

The first time I raised my hands to God, I was vulnerable, too.  But there is wild, unexpected abandon in vulnerability.

“Pick me up so I can see, Daddy!” is what my spirit says, in the most raw and relinquishing  of times – when I feel smallest with no need to self-preserve.  “Carry me”.  Certainly, a request made to receive his lifting-out, but also in the purest form of worship….the kind in which my spirit calls the shots, and my body must obey.

And He always, always picks me up.  What else is a Father to do?

Spiritual

Band of Mothers

This week, as I celebrate the birthdays of my friends Cris and Liz, I am posting today’s piece in honor of them, and in honor of our friendship.  I love you, girls!

By:  Jana Greene

My friend Liz and I had signed up for the “Gymboree” class together.  Gymboree was kind of a “Mommy and Me” class for moms and their babies to meet and play.  She and I were fledgling friends back then;  our husbands worked with one another and our daughters were born six months apart.  When her Caroline was a newborn, already lithe and lean, I would bring Alexandra over to visit and we would sit on the sofa and drink International Delight Coffees and breastfeed our babies while we got to know each other.   It’s been nearly twenty years now, and we’ve been talking ever since.

We met our friend, Cris, at the same  Gymboree class.  Her son Billy was a blonde, blue-eyed doll of a boy, the same age as our girls.  Cris, a sweet and gentle, maternal spirit, found her identity in being a mom, too.

The three of us took our babies all over the ” Mom Circuit” in those early days, which is to say we frequented Chuck E. Cheese, the toddler program at the local library, and a human gerbil-maze called “Owlberts”.  We chased our kids through every park in Raleigh, including our favorite one,  Pullen Park, which has a real train to ride and the kind of ancient, metal playground equipment that we had played on ourselves as kids.   We taught our toddlers how to swim at public pools on sweltering summer days, and met at the mall to feed the kids at the food court on the chilly winter ones.  At  one-another’s houses, the host-mom would often serve lunch sandwiches cookie-cuttered into stars and hearts, or chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs.  The kids would play and fight and run and nap together.  And we moms were bonding, too.

We three just “clicked”.  Cris and I were brand-new at this parenting thing, but Liz had a five-year-old son as well, so we  looked to her for advice.    The three of us  were stay-at-home moms with beautiful new babies, and truly – it just doesn’t get any better than that.

It was becoming apparent that the three children were individuals; that there was something to the “nature” portion of “nature vs. nurture.  As they grew, their personality traits surfaced a bit, showing us a glimpse of who they were born to be.   Caroline, the quietes,t was the most driven to succeed at building a Lego tower or stringing the best macaroni necklace.  Billy had a competitive streak, and was all about the playing games, and being outdoors.   Alexandra was all about the  dress-up, creating some of the most interesting outfits, and talking the whole time.  She was bossy and extroverted, and strived to be the center of attention.

Still, we moms had tons in common.  We built relationships with one-another beyond play groups and potty-training.  Beyond sharing recipes for homemade play dough, our friendships were about sharing life, albeit with a lot of interruptions.

Most of the conversations we had with children present were stuccatoed with motherly reprimands: “I know, it is so hard to find a babysitter who NO, ALEXANDRA-YOU PUT THAT DOWN….  BILLY WAS PLAYING WITH IT FIRST you can trust and who GET THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!  WHAT IN THE WORLD? Has good references….”

Or tinged with worry, about what is “normal”:

“She has had a fever for days now, and the antibiotics aren’t touching it.”

Or with our heads cocked with “Awwwww!” at the cutest things they did;  Liz ever-ready with a camera, recording those moments.

One summer, Cris invited Liz and I (and our now nearly 2- year- olds) to her mother’s beach house a few hours away.   It remains to this day  one of my favorite beach trips of all time.  Cris had a daughter now, too, and she was only a few months old.  We swam with the kids in the pool and sang Raffi songs, played in the waves, and while the toddlers were getting drowsy watching Barney VHS tapes (ad nauseum) and napping, we ate chips with Cris’s homemade salsa and had glasses of chardonnay and talked without much interruption.

We- this Band of Mothers – forever linked by the sweet years of our children’s babyhoods, and the saltiness of the ocean.

A few months later, we met  met one afternoon at the local McDonald’s to let the kids blow off some steam at the new playground.  While the cultural phenomenon (and germ receptacle) of the “ball pit” was not new, it was new to us and new to our town.  There, I told Liz and Cris the great news that  that I was pregnant.  Six months later, I had my second daughter, Ashleigh.  And what couldn’t possibly get any better, got so much better.

And deep inside, I think we knew this, and feared it – that these were the best parenting years; the easiest ones.  We felt like we knew what we were doing to some degree, and we suspected that it would not always be the case.

Shortly afterwards,  some major life-changes happened in quick succession.  The children, who had gone to preschool together for years, started different Kindergartens and I homeschooled Alexandra for school.  Soon after that, me, my girls and their father moved a few hours away from Raleigh, to the beach.   Goodbyes were hard, but we kept in touch for awhile.

Our kids did not.

Christmas cards each year told a little about our friends in Raleigh.  Photos of grade-schoolers missing front teeth, shots of Billy in his Football jersey, Caroline in dance recitals.  And later, in the awkward adolescent years, reluctant siblings posed together in family photos near the Christmas tree, faces sprinkled with a little acne.  The next year, new hairstyles and more genuine smiles.  Eventually, they morphed into  the young adults that we didn’t realize they would be.   Strangers with the inclinations of our babies, but so different from who they were nearly two decades ago.

Christmas card snapshots tell you so precious little.

It would be over ten years before the three of us and our children would reconnect, gathering once again at the beach for a reunion.  There was awkwardness among the kids, for the simple reason that they were virtually strangers.   They scarcely remembered spending their earliest days at the park together, finger-painting pictures in preschool for each other.

But we remember it.  We, this Band of Mothers, now in our mid to late 40’s, we remember it all.

We remember when the biggest issue our child could  face on a given day might be sitting in the  “time-out” chair for refusing to share.  We remember agonizing over choosing the right chewable vitamin, and getting the little ones signed up for the best Vacation Bible School each summer.

We remember laughing at the antics of our beloved babies in what would indeed turn out to be the best and  easiest parenting years.

And sharing our innermost thoughts about motherhood with each other without fearing judgment, the truest measure of a good friend.

Since those easy days, each of us has been thrown he inevitible curve-ball or two.  I am divorced from my daughters’ father, and I’ve also been sober for 11 years from the alcoholism that nearly killed me – the alcoholism that I hid from my dearest friends across the miles because of shame.  Each of us has lost loved ones during the many years we were apart; there were medical issues that presented themselves in each of our lives to be dealt with.

And the kids?

The Dancer; Caroline….still the quietest, lithe, lean, driven and successful.

The Handsome Jock; Billy…still a blonde, blue-eyed doll– in a rugged, manly way, of course.

And Alexandra, the Free Spirit…still the chatty, opinionated spitfire she ever was.

They grew and challenged boundaries, and found low-grade trouble to get into, and learned the consequences.  They made good choices and and soared, made poor choices and gave us all gray hair.  One of them got a tattoo (mine, of course) and one of them got into an excellent out-of-state university  (Billy), and one has also gone to university and  found so much success as a Dancer that I won’t be surprised if she becomes a Rock-ette in New York City.

But I think the biggest change in nearly 20 years of friendship for the three of us is this:  Our faith has gone from being a minimally-important in our lives, to an absolute necessity on a daily basis where our kids are concerned.  Whereas we would think to pray bedtime prayers with them when they were small, each of us Mothers has a deep, abiding trust in Jesus Christ and we cover our kids with prayer continually.  We were right back in the day:  we wouldn’t always know what we were doing as parents.

And this deepened faith has also deepened our bond to one-another, Liz, Cris and I.  We are A Band of Mothers not just for a season.  We supported each other through the play date years, and enjoyed one-another’s company.  We thought we knew our children intrinsically, and helped each other out with advice.  But now, I see the three of us for who we really are:  A Band of Mothers sharing a friendship for a lifetime, supporting each other through the really difficult times (should Caroline move to NYC to dance?  Billy wants to go out of state to University!  Good Lord, Alexandra finally went and got her nose pierced), through marriage crisis, through health scares, and diagnoses, and through crises of our very identities as Moms.

Who are you, really, once the kids are out of the nest.  Who are we now?

We are meeting at the beach again this year, to enjoy one-another as who we are now, all these many years later.  Because we are not just a Band of Mothers, but a band of Sisters in Christ, and friends on a level that many do not understand.  On a level that I, myself, don’t even understand.

We will talk – uninterrupted now – about sharing new recipes, about sharing life.  We will still wonder “What is normal?” but perhaps less frantically.  Frantic takes energy that we don’t have as much of now, so we try to hand it off to God, having learned that we can’t handle it.

We- this Band of Mothers – forever linked by the sweet years of our children’s babyhoods, and the saltiness of the ocean.

Forever linked by one-another.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Spiritual

Flexing the Faith Muscle – Frankenankle Style

photo: 3dimensionallife.wordpress.com

By:  Jana Greene

My leg, which I had surgery on in March, is healing very nicely.  Frankenankle, as I affectionately refer to it because of the hardware that now holds it together and the scar that holds in the hardware, has become a bit of a lesson to me about various things.  One of those things was a reality check on my faith.

Two days before the injury, I’d had faith that all would be okay.  My plans to do projects around the house get in shape and find a new job had been carefully crafted for weeks.  I thought I was really flexing my “faith muscle” in believing my plans were foolproof!  “Lord, bless my plan,” was what I had prayed, essentially.  And believed, foolishly, that it was a reasonable request.

Many weeks later…..

When the surgeon first assessed the damage, he declared that the surgery “shouldn’t put you back all summer….”

Excuse me?  This could take all summer to heal?  That’s just not ok! 

But it would have to be.

But I’d had faith!

I found out what the doctor had meant about the time-frame when I had healed well enough to come out of the “boot”.  Even after graduating from the boot to the support bandage, Frankenankle would be weak.  I mean   very, very weak.   It looks puny and pale, and although I can walk on it for short bursts, it is painful when I’ve put it under too much pressure, flexed it the wrong way, or stepped out of a normal pace.  It revolts, “Oh no you DIDN’T!”

I am so over it – over my injury – in my mind.  My leg, however, has to regain strength.  By not moving it for months, it atrophied – plain and simple.

And I’d had so much faith in my plans.  Sigh.

My plans.  Hmmmmm.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, we are told by Jesus that “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

Which of course, having had years in active recovery from alcoholism, I know.  I’m familiar with the verse; I just forget that His grace is all I need in relation to all of my weaknesses.   In having faith in my plans, I wasn’t using my faith muscle at all.  Faith in myself is puny, pale and usually results in pain.  It atrophied my faith muscle.

But looking to His plans with great expectation?  Supernatural strength.   It takes some stepping out, and sometimes my flesh – wanting my way – revolts…”Oh no you DIDN’T!”

Oh yes.  Yes, I did.

Today, my prayer is “Lord, bring me into your plan, your will.   Stepping out of my normal pace, I am expecting His strength to be manifest in my weakness, and I have plenty of weaknesses.   My faith is again being strengthened again by Him.  He is so patient and  awesome that way. “I’m at your disposal, God….”  I pray.

I’ve got all summer (plus a lifetime) to be present for His plan, and authentic faith that yes – all will be ok.

 

Spiritual

The Saint-Sinner Paradox: Come as you ARE

saint-sinner ambigram tattoo – inkarttattoos.com

By:  Jana Greene

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

 –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I don’t know if you are familiar with Brennan Manning’s books, but if not…I recommend them highly.  Although Ragamuffin Gospel is a classic, “Abba’s Child” spoke to me the plainest. 

I like plain talk, I like honesty. 

Brennan Manning is just plain honest.  A quick Google search of his name will alert you of the controversy among Christians about his life.  It seems that Brennan Manning is an alcoholic whose theological views go against the grain of some denominational teaching.  He is a sinner, whose view is that life is messy, and relationship with God is all about grace. 

Are you a bundle of paradoxes? 

Some of my favorite people are, including my other two favorite authors – Donald Miller, who wrote “Blue Like Jazz”, and Anne Lamott, whose “Traveling Mercies” literally changed me forever.  I love everything these two write.  But they are not what you might expect, if you were to expect traditional Christian literature.  They are honest in a literary way like Bob Dylan (or perhaps Adele, for the younger generation) is honest in a musical way….raw and real.  And I love that.

I once attended a live simulcast by a very famous Christian author and speaker.  There was a sense of excitement leading up to the event that I can only liken to the Super bowl, if the Super bowl was geared toward middle-aged females of the Caucasian persuasion.  The speaker, I must tell you, is very charismatic and popular.  She is “The Face of the Christian Bookstore”, I suppose you could say.  The simulcast was very nice.  It was two hours well spent, but not two hours that changed my life.  I’m glad that there are people whose lives are touched by this speaker.  There is nothing wrong with her message, she seems to have gotten past some truly difficult times in her life and she gives God all of the glory, as she should.

But “very nice” doesn’t hook me anymore. 

Donald Miller’s bestselling “Blue like Jazz” is a semi-autobiographical account of Mr. Miller’s departure from his Christian upbringing by attending university at “the most godless campus in America”.  Some Christians are shocked that the book (and recent film depiction) contain references to both sex and drugs, and believe those things should be omitted.  Had they been, the story would never have been told.  Because sex and drug issues are a part of life, and a very real part of what many people struggle with….even many Christians.

And Anne Lamott?  Although I personally disagree with her political views, I adore her honesty.  She writes like a sinner; like a sinner who is crazy in love with Jesus.   A 2003 Christianity Today article b Agnieszka Tennant describes her this way:  “She came to Jesus just as she was—a foul-mouthed, bulimic, alcoholic drug addict. One week after having an abortion, she surrendered to him in her very own version of the sinner’s prayer, punctuated with the f-word. The author calls Ms. Lamott “a Born-Again Paradox.”

Indeed. 

Please don’t think I am condoning any of the behavior mentioned.  Being a follower of Christ means that you try to walk in His footsteps because He was perfection incarnate.  But being human means that you will misstep sometimes because you are not.  That’s my theology.

Are you a paradox?

I am a bundle of them, when I get honest.

I admit that I forgive and struggle with grudges.  I am sober but crave oblivion.  I run to the downtrodden but turn away from what I see.  I am real but I still sometimes wear a mask.  I am no rational animal; my emotions run the show far too often.

A Born-Again Paradox, crazy in love with Jesus.

Inspirational

An “Inside Job”

By:  Jana Greene

“The career of motherhood and homemaking is beyond value and needs no justification. Its importance is incalculable.”
― Katherine Short

My kitchen sink is clean, and I’m proud of that.  I have dinner in the crock-pot, and I’m proud of that, too.  And my kids, who are now sixteen and nineteen, sit down with me and  talk to me about drama that is their lives.  And I’m grateful .  I am not an active member of the Outside World Workforce (can I call it the “OWW”?) right now.  I am a homemaker and a writer, just for this season in my life.

I worked from home when my daughters were small so that I could watch them grow up, and then…just when they hit the adolescent years, I entered the OWW.  Well, I was still Mom, of course.    I fed them, and clothed them, and loved them tremendously.  But I had other things to do, like work to put food on the table.

In 2004, going through a divorce sort of forced me into the OWW.  At first, I worked four part-time jobs with flexible hours to support my girls.  Eventually, it became simpler to work one full-time position to keep a roof over our heads.  My babies weren’t really babies anymore, although they needed me just as much at nine and twelve as they ever did in infancy.  With their parents divorcing and three moves in as many years, they probably needed me more. 

It is at this point that they became “latch-key kids”.   Once again, I became one of the mothers whose heads I had previously heaped the hot coals of judgment upon.  When life was easier, I had the luxury to judge.  Now, I was one of those mothers myself.

I am learning – slowly – that coals are for fueling compassion, not for heaping in judgment.  But I can be a slow learner.

Those mothers, they do what they have to do – and yes, sometimes what they want to do. 

I am glad that women have a choice visa vie working in the home and/or out of the home.  But I don’t believe she must work outside of the home to be successful.  There is success in a clean home, and dinner on the table, and in being present for your family in the moment.  I’m not sure when the value of those things diminished in society, but it’s sad that they have. Many women don’t get the opportunity to choose at all.  I have been both, at times.

My recent stint as a homemaker?  Caused by a series of unfortunate events, or so I’d believed when the first “domino” fell. 

 I am actually most fortunate.  For however long it lasts, I will enjoy caring for my family in ways that – to be honest – I resented having to care when I came home at the end of a long work-day.   Tired, fried, irritable and stressed-out.

 
A workday that was supposed to make me feel successful.

The truth?

Looking forward to my husband returning from a day at work – and doing the little things to remind him that he is appreciated…..is a luxury that I am enjoying to the fullest.  Making sure he has clean clothes and a hot meal at the end of the day?  I find that fulfilling.

Yeah.  I said it.

When my girls approach me after school or work to talk to me about what is going on/ not going on/ bothering them/ elating them/ the latest crush/the latest heartache….we talk about it.  We laugh a lot more these days, because I am not too exhausted to engage.  Again, to God be the glory that I can be present for them now, in this moment.  Time is fleeting, and they are so close to departure from the nest.  

Sooner or later (most likely sooner) I will again seek employment out “in the real world, and I will work hard at whatever job is next, and do my best to be successful.  This season, too, shall pass.

But I don’t feel “un-successful” now.   Not everyone smart and passionate finds fulfillment in the OWW.

Some women are  better at “bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan”.  I’m just not that good at “having it all”, I guess.  But I sure do love all that I have.

It is fulfilling.  And that’s the truth.

Inspirational, Spiritual

YOURS

By:  Jana Greene

I didn’t mean to keep them all to myself, honest.

There were two of them, and then later, three….and they brought so much joy into my life.  Well, you see…I sometimes I forget that they are ultimately yours.

You trusted me enough to care for them, and I have taken good (but not perfect) care of them.  Being one-of-a-kind, each of them were fussed over and coddled, adored and applauded.  I made a lot of mistakes.   You knew I would make mistakes with them, but you trusted me anyway.

Remember how I asked you for them before they arrived?  I wanted my own long before you lent them to me.  I guess I lost sight of whose they really are when I started making long-term plans for them.  It’s easy to do, when you love them so much.  

Sometimes, even now, I can’t believe you just handed them to me like that; priceless treasures, but you did.  They are really beautiful, by the way.  Thanks for sharing them.

Small and defenseless at first, strong and defiant as they grow.  Oh, how I love them all.

Now, all these years later, it feels like you are wrestling them away from me, one clenched finger at a time, stealing them back. 

Except that you are not stealing. They are rightfully yours, God.

 These daughters.

Thank you for letting me be their Mom.