Motherhood, Poetry, Spiritual

Don’t Blink, Mama. It Goes too Fast.

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By: Jana Greene

So you’ve joined the club of Motherhood,

You have a sweet baby at last.

Your body still groaning from birthing your child,

Don’t blink mama, it goes too fast.

When you wake for midnight feeds,

Bleary-eyed yourself,

Savor the world where only you two

Are the world, there’s  nobody else.

To every coo and cry and smile

You quickly become attuned.

Memorize those dimpled hands,

They’ll be holding a crayon too soon.

Before you have the time to think

Your baby’s a ‘terrible two.’

Hold tight, Mama, this too shall pass,

The trials always do.

Tantrums in the grocery store,

And before you can blink,

The Tooth Fairy is coming to call

It goes by faster than you think.

Milestones come rapid-fire,

Kindergarten’s here,

Drop her off at school and then

Go home and shed a tear.

The early years go by so fast

You scarcely have time to know

That your baby isn’t a baby now,

Who told you how fast she would grow?

Before you know it, she’s a tween

“Who IS this child?” you’ll say.

Buckle up, Mama, you’ll get through,

Tomorrow’s another day.

The next thing you know, she’s a teenager,

Full of angst and woe,

It will harken the days of the “terrible twos,”

Take heart, she has time to grow.

The early days of dimpled hands

And nursing by moonlight,

Those memories will see you through,

When parenting feels like a fight.

Oh to watch her find herself,

The pride in who she’s become!

Members of the Motherhood Club,

You’ve officially come undone.

The secret that nobody says

But I’ve found is very true,

Is that your baby is her very own person,

And not a extension of you.

You’ve nurtured, taught, and guided,

And now it’s her own turn,

To figure out this thing called life,

On her own (and very different) terms.

Now you’re a veteran parent,

Battle-scarred and rife

With sweet assurance that she still needs you

In her grown-up life.

Dynamics change, my friend, you see,

The stages never last,

But one day you’ll call your child ‘friend,’

Don’t blink, Mama. It goes so fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual

Sweet Baby James and two Little Girls who Grew up too Fast

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By: Jana Greene

Bittersweet moment alert!

Tonight, I’m remembering the thousand of bedtimes when my daughters were little and I would lay down with them every evening holding each of their tiny hands until they fell asleep.

Some might say that was spoiling them.

There wasn’t a term for it back then – more than 20 years ago –  but now I believe it is called “attachment parenting.” Every family is different, but i knew, in some deep, primal way, is that it was right for me and my girls. Co-sleeping. Extended breastfeeding, nursing on demand, and child-led weaning. No crying it out. Baby wearing.

And every night, the same playlist of lullabies by their tone-deaf Mom, including – always including – Sweet Baby James. I changed the lyrics about “glasses of beer” to”glasses of milk,” and nobody seems the wiser.

The funny thing I remember cognitive thought “memorize this, Mama.”

Memorize holding the tiny hand still a little sticky from where the baby wipe missed a spot of cotton candy.

Remember Lexi sleepily wriggling her lose front tooth between lullaby verses.

Stare into Ashleigh’s big, chocolate brown eyes as her eyelids drooped slowly little by little.

Indulge “sing it one more time, Mama,” even if it’s the tenth time in a row.

I intuitively knew these days were fleeting. I knew every bedtime took them a little farther from sticky hands and Sweet Baby James, and closer to the rest of the world they’d have to figure out for themselves.

The rest of the world I couldn’t make all better with a lullaby.

Until then, though, we had James Taylor and tons of cuddles.
And friends with littles, soak up every second.

It does fly by so fast.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO JAMES TAYLOR’S “SWEET BABY JAMES.”

 

Christianity, Parenting, Spiritual

A Lady who was Mean to her Kid (or “Grace for Jerks”)

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“Friends” by Liz Lemon Swindle

“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”– Matthew 19:14 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

In her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,” Anne Lamott wrote a chapter entitled “A Man who was Mean to His Dog.” She wrote about witnessing a guy being mean to his Golden Retriever at her local beach, and her incredulousness that anyone could be unkind to a dog of that breed. Goldens are the most people-pleasing dogs in the world, just so full of goofy and abundant love. They just want to win your approval.

I witnessed something this morning at the grocery store that may have been the human equivalent, which is even worse.

I live in a coastal town, and here’s one of the Rules of Living at the Beach on any 4th of July weekend: DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. And if you must leave the house, do it at 7 a.m. in the morning before the tourist craziness reaches fever pitch, usually around 9:30 a.m on a holiday.

But I had to leave the house, because I needed some things from the grocery store, so I trekked out early and thankfully there were few people out and about yet.  Unfortunately, one of those people was a really upsetting presence. A harried-looking mom (or grandmother? Could have been either) with a darling little tow-headed 3 or 4 year-old girl.

The first time she opened a tirade on the wee one was in Bakery.

“Put that down!” the mom shouted, when the girl reached for a free cookie. “Can’t you just ever do anything right?

To which the tiny, blonde adorable human being who has the inalienable right to enjoy a free grocery store cookie (it’s in the Constitution) responded with a muted “Sorry.”

I blew it off as a frustrated albeit really cranky mom, and made a note to try to avoid her for the rest of my shopping, which of course resulted in her passing me in almost EVERY AISLE.

In Bread, the girl skipped around the cart while her mother scanned the shelves.

“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.

“I’m just being silly….”

“Well, knock it off. You’re always silly. Its getting really old.”

Ok, now I’m getting angry. Who the hell reprimands a child for silliness? I catch the mother’s eye and give her a mid-grade stink-eye in return. She looks mean. MEAN, I tell you. But I thought she might think twice about berating her daughter if someone gave her the stink-eye.

But no.

In Pasta / Rice / Soup, I met them again. This time, the girl was trying to put a tiny stuffed animal she had brought into her mom’s purse.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped loudly. “Carry it! If you didn’t want to hold on to it, you shouldn’t of brought it. If you put it in my bag, I’m throwing it away.”

Let me stop right here and assure you that my mothering skills are completely imperfect and always have been. I try really hard and always have, but I make mistakes. I snapped at my daughters plenty as they were growing up, I know I did. We all have bad mommy days. Snapping at your child occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to judge this woman harshly, but as she systematically tore down her child in such a nasty way,  I started judging aplenty. Every word she directed at her daughter was full of scorn. I can only describe it as venomous. (The sad thing is that if this is mom at 7 a.m., I cannot imagine how she might treat the kid at 5 p.m. when exhaustion really kicks in, or at 8 p.m. when putting her child to bed.)

I started praying for the girl, who wasn’t even misbehaving in the least – just being a kid. Even on the aisles we didn’t mutually cross, I could hear the mom yelling at her.

When we met up in Frozen Foods, the little girl told her mom “You look pretty.” Anyone could see that this child was trying to win approval, and it was freaking heartbreaking, because her mother responded with “Yeah, whatever.”

Finally, at the checkout, who should queue up behind me but this woman and her daughter. The girl touched a candy bar and her mother loudly said in a seething tone: “You got a hundred dollars? No, you got nothing. Don’t even touch that.”

She didn’t get physical with the girl, but I wanted to scoop the child up and get her away for a while. I wanted to offer to babysit, and invite the girl to come skip around my dining room table and eat candy. I would take her to feed the ducks at the pond near our house, and I would put flowers in her hair and assure her that she IS doing everything RIGHT, and that silliness is a character attribute of the very highest order.

Instead, I smiled and winked at her. She was just precious beyond all description and she smiled back at me – as sweet and happy as a Golden Retriever whose owner had mistreated it. What I’d witnessed  wasn’t cruel enough to be reported to the authorities, but it was definitely cruel enough to chip away at the spirit of a beautiful little girl.

Four year-olds are full of glee and “why?” and skipping around. Quite frankly, that age is often the most lovable of the childhood years, the most people-pleasing age, just so full of goofy and abundant love. I continued praying for the girl as I checked out my groceries and put them in the cart. By this point, I’m beyond angry. I am rolling away to my car, imploring God to protect and comfort that child’s wounded little spirit.

And then I had a thought invade my pleadings: Pray for the mother.

Hurumph! I shut that thought down quick, dismissing it on the grounds of righteous anger.

I’m loading my groceries, and again – like an annoying internet pop-up ad, it comes again: Pray for the mother.

What do you want me to pray, God? Forgive her,  for she knows not what she does? She knows damn well what she’s doing! But still, as I started the car, God really just wouldn’t get off my back about it, so I prayed an honest prayer:

God, I’m just so mad. I’m mad but I’m asking you to somehow work in the heart and mind of that mother. I don’t know what she is going through, but you do. That meanie is your little girl. Forgive me for praying for her very last, and with trepidation.  You were pretty clear about praying for our enemies, and I ask for you to pour your supernatural, unconditional love on her. Show her grace, Lord. And show me grace and mercy too, please. I need it just as much.

Praying for thine enemies is very, very difficult. That’s why Jesus was the only person ever to do it perfectly. It’s especially hard when the aggressor is mean to a child or a dog. I’m working on learning to petition God on the behalf of the jerks in the world, because I’ve been a jerk before too in other ways, so maybe someone was praying for me.

God bless us, every one. Please, God. We need it so.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mental Health, Spiritual

The Very Slippery Assumption

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By: Jana Greene

I once sat in on a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class under a Super Zen Therapist,  and let me just say out of the gate, it was FASCINATING. I cannot even begin to touch on all the things I learned (and have on occasion, even practiced) but seriously, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to explore this therapy,  I highly recommend it.

The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change.

I love the premise, and the belief that OK, I feel this way, but I don’t have to. I can feel THAT way. Life is nothing if not a big, fat paradox on so many levels. I will take all the help I can get! I’m still about 95% emotion-driven, but hey – that’s a 5% improvement (and ‘progress, not perfection,’ right?)

About halfway through the course, though, we came to this one sentence in the teaching, and my spiritual breaks screeched to so such a sudden halt that it could have propelled me right out of the classroom and back into my AllTheFeels way of coping with everything.

That sentence was this:

Assume that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time.

Ok, hold up. HOLD UP!

I KNOW that’s not true in certain instances. For instance, when I visit my children in their homes and they are not super nice and tidy, I KNOW for a fact that they are not doing the best they can. I taught them, so obviously I’m calling BULLSH*T on this.

And what about other people, who have – and are actively –  hurting me by making stupid decisions? You are telling me that the person/people who have (to my mind) driven me to require therapy are doing the best they can? I have to ACCEPT that?

“No, you can accept it or not. Is not accepting it working for you?” Says Super Zen Therapist.

Huh.

Here’s what I’m still learning, and what is helping me oil those spiritual breaks and get them rolling in a forward-moving direction again….

You cannot keep a handle on another person’s issue. You simply cannot.

I came up with a dorky little rhyme to help me remember this, and I’ve probably said it to myself several thousand times (especially when the girls were teens):

It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.

You can die trying. You can contortionist yourself into all kinds of positions that only end up making you sore and tired. The stress will kill you, I’m not even kidding.

But that’s what happens when you assume that another person is not even TRYING, and you take it personal.

It’s not personal. That person is learning and morphing and all of your hand-wringing and brow-beating will not another minute add to your relationship life, but may well shorten it.

I don’t have to go back that far in my own history to recognize the power of this principal.

When I was an active alcoholic, I wanted to be better for my children. Even as intimate as the mother/child connection was, I didn’t always get it right!  I had to learn and do, stop and lurch forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My process spilled over to them, but it was never meant to be personal.

I was doing the best I could at the moment, I swear to you. I did the best I could until I could do better. I did better when I surrounded myself with people who were doing better and whose love for me was not contingent on my doing better.

It will behoove YOUR state of mind to believe that the person most getting on your nerves is doing their best in this moment, with their particular life experience.

(And when I really stop to consider it, even the example of my kids and their tendencies NOT to be neat freaks, It was I who cleaned their rooms for ALL of their lives when they lived at home, because in some twisted way, I was making up for lost ‘drunk’ time as a mommy. They may well BE doing the best they know how in this moment. Because something is important to me, doesn’t mean its the only ‘right’ way  (But that’s a subject for another therapy session….)

What about the big things?

If someone else’s life choices are spilling over on you and your heart is broken? Consider that they are doing their best. Go one further, even. Pray for them and believe for resolution to their situation. Petition God and plead your case, and then release.

It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.

You cannot grasp it because you aren’t SUPPOSED to grasp it.

You think holding on to it is helping, but it won’t be under your control.

You cannot drop it until you drop your Very Slippery Assumption and use both arms instead to embrace the person driving you completely crazy.

God  bless us, every one.

Parenting adult children, Spiritual

Trusting Adult Kids to God’s Care (Even when it really freaks you out)

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By: Jana Greene

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and because it was Mother’s Day, I cried a lot. I cried because it is my first totally empty nest Mother’s Day. I cried because  my own relationship with my mother is fractured into a bazillion pieces. I cried because someone I love didn’t acknowledge me at all. I did have a few tear-free segments of the day, but menopause was around to keep the good times rolling.

I may or may not have fed my feelings heaping spoonfuls of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream.

I’m still kind of mopey, honestly. But I’m getting a grip today. I must get a grip today.

You see,  I love my daughters. Oh my God, how I love my daughters. But they took different paths than I’d expected.

I think that every mother has a certain set of dreams and assumptions for her child. Those assumptions are that your child will grow up to be successful and kind and happy, and stop wiping boogers on the wall. Happily, this is usually the case.

I assumed mine would grow up and get scholarships to universities because they are super smart, they would naturally stay away from all drugs and alcohol (from, you know, learning from MY mistakes, like THAT ever worked,) graduate college and get jobs they are passionate about. That they would be in straight, monogamous relationships – not living together before marriage – then get married to Godly men, and have a couple of kids that they devote their entire lives to, just like mom. (But that was MY own dream, and I couldn’t even do it right!)

Then there are is The Big Granddaddy of All Dreams –  that they will follow God – really know Him on a personal, intimate level. That they will pray regularly, and allow Him to guide their lives.

The reality is that kids are not appliances – there are no warranties. They are on a crazy merry-g0-round. You can try to hop on if you dare, but it won’t slow down for you and in the end, there is a lot of nausea involved. It’s best just to stay out of the way. There is no control.

There is, however, a loving God we can trust them to.

Perhaps your child grew up and stopped wiping boogers on the wall (remember when that seemed like such a BIG DEAL? Sigh)  but instead ran away from home and you don’t know where she is.

Or is gay / transgendered.

Or is a drug addict.

Or is in prison.

Or drinks to much.

Or is mean to people who don’t think the way she does.

Or has turned her back on everything you taught her.

Or hates you.

Or hates God.

…Any deviation from the loving plans you made for that child when she was first born and they lay her on your belly. (Remember how EASY it was to TRUST GOD with that child when they were brand new? Piece of cake!) New babies don’t stay new, though. They grow up and do wonderful, glorious, horrible, confused, amazing, and confounding things. Things for which YOU HAVE ZERO CONTROL.

Yet, in the midst of whatever your child engages in that breaks your heart, you still – always – love that child.  If YOU love her so much, can you imagine how much ABBA loves your child? He isn’t surprised at your kid’s lifestyle choices, and He isn’t limited by  our ways of imagining our children ‘fixed.’

There is no grace deficit for your child that you have to worry will run out. God is merciful and FULL of grace! Because they are not the droids we were looking for – happy little predictable robots – does not mean God is not working out HIS PURPOSE IN OUR KIDS, even as they experience stuff.

I still pray every day that my wild and loving and confounding children will make good choices. I pray that The Big Granddaddy of All Dreams that I harbor in my heart for them comes to fruition. I will pray that until my dying breath.

I want to trust the Lord with my daughters JUST AS MUCH as when they lay on my belly as little newborns, squinting up at their mama. I want to trust Him that easily with them still, and I’m asking Him to help me do it.

Jesus, 

I lay my children down at the altar and TRUST YOU with their lives. Ultimately I know that my children must know YOU intimately. Lord, help me get out of the way.

And all God’s children said, Amen.

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His eye is on the sparrow, kids getting tattoos, Spiritual

More than Many Sparrows – My Daughter’s Tattoo

My daughter's tattoo, which has come to have significant spiritual meaning to me as a mother.

More than Many Sparrows

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A Tale of My Daughter and the Audacity of Ink 

By:  Jana Greene

 

      The first thing I noticed about it was the blackness of the outline, almost as if it were drawn with bold magic marker.   My next thought was that I must absolutely write about thisthe design that now lay bare on her skin.   As if, somehow putting pen to paper would give permanence to the moment, as the needle brought it to her flesh.

My daughter’s first tattoo.

     I had known that it was coming, that she considered it a rite of passage. My girl had always danced to the beat of a different drummer; a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture.  If she had a credo it would be this:  Live by Deliberate Acts of Impulsivity.

As her mother, I would surely prefer that she not bear any tattoos at all, because (and yes, I am the expert here) she is absolutely perfect the way God made her.  I am rather attached to her being, looking, sounding exactly like my daughter – the only one of her kind, anywhere.  Tattoos are just not my thing”, whereas she very much is.  

           Nineteen years ago, just after she was born, the delivery room nurses whisked her away for her first bath and returned with my infant girl swaddled very tightly.  No sooner was she in my arms than I was removing the blankets, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning.  As mothers have done since the dawn of time, I checked her, head to toe.  I found her birthmarks, the dimples in her plump hands, and worked my way to her tiny, peach-fuzzed back.  There, between two flawless round shoulder blades, I placed my open palm to her skin.  It was a perfect fit.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything marring that space.

  In her “growing up” years, there were manifestations of her free spiritof course… harmless acts of rebellion, none of them leaving a lasting mark.  She formed strong opinions before she could form complete sentences, and had no trouble expressing them.  At around age four, she developed magnetism to the camera (any camera) andmade it habit to insert herself into any and every photograph.  

Around the same time, Alexandra began displaying fashionista tendencies.  An ensemble she chosen for a summer day in the park might include: a sweater with leggings, plastic Disney princess shoes, a toboggan with ear flaps, seven necklaces and a life-vest (after all, it was July!)…all worn together and on dry land.  It soon became apparent that stares, glares and pointing in her direction by the public at large was not a deterrent to this behavior.  It was more the entire motivation.

This is when the adage “choose your battles” took on meaning for me.  And as I became a student of war, the years rolled on like a tank.

With the advent of tweenhood, there were lines drawn, of course. Not a fan of shirts that showed adolescent bellies and shorts that declared suggestive adjectives across their bottoms, those were not tolerated.  Alexandra compensated with crazy combinations of adornment, including stick-on tattoos of all kinds.  

At twelve, after spending a long day with friends at the beach boardwalk, she returned home with a henna tattoo, ecstatic.  

“Until I get a real one,” she told me.

She managed to graduate high school with only a nose ring as modification, butno sooner was the ink dry on her diploma than she was ready to display ink on her body.

“I’m ready,” she said to me one day.  “I’m getting my tattoo. A bird.”

          Okay.  A bird.

         “A Tribal Sparrow,” she added.

         “What in the world is a ‘tribal sparrow’?” My voice is more condescending than I intend.

          Eye rolling and head shaking.  Translation: Mother, you just don’t get it.

          I wonder about the subject she has chosen for the artist, and it’s tribal-ness.  Our family heritage is sort-of a homogenized breed.  We have no “tribe”. We have no “people”.  We are Scotch-Irish with German in the mix, and a little Louisiana-Cajun-French (but you have to really look for it).  No- we are very garden variety, Ellis-Island mutt American.  Perhaps that’s the attraction for her, the tribal aspect.

         “If you’re trying to belong,” I said, in an attempt to appeal to her lovingly (sometimes changing strategy can be effective)“You already do.  You don’t need a tattoo to belong here.”

She knows that, she says.  

Is a bird something you now,” I pause for effect. “And forever more want to be associated with?  Because you will.you will be ‘that girl with that tattoo. But as I am asking her, I am secretly grateful she isn’t branding herself with a map of Area 51, or the image of a pop tart, or a beer keg.  It should be something meaningful to you.”

         “It is.  It represents freedom to me, Mom.”

        “You still live at home,” I reply dryly. We pay all of your bills…..  Don’t you want to wait until you are free to commemorate freedom?”

        Heavy sigh.  “Freedom from things.  Personal things.”

        “If it’s so personal, why does it have to be permanently inked on your body for the whole world to see?”

        “Why would I not?” she counters, and I have no reply.  All their lives, my children have been told to be authentic, true to themselves.  Encouraged to be real.

Don’t be afraid to show who you are.  It’s the message I’ve tried to impart, even during the years of life-vest accessorizing.  Don’t wear the masks.

         “You know what?” I say. You don’t even know who you are yet!  You are whoyou are right now, and a mere five years from today, you will be in a completely different place.”

She says that none of us remain the same, not even for a single year. And it’s true  .I am a very, very different mother than I was when she was born, unwrapping her like apresent on Christmas morning.  The particular audacity of getting inked is that it alters your shell, the only one you will get in this life.    It is a deliberately impulsive act.

Parenting is not a sane endeavor, and complicating the matter is that she is, in fact, not a child.  Still, I have to believe she will listen to reason.

“Not everyone is going to be so accepting of your ways in the world,” I bleat wearily..   “There are people who will make value judgments about you based solely onthe fact that you have a tattoo.

But my instincts tell me to RETREAT, as I watch her body tense.

RETREAT, or there will be immediate launch into mutual hysteria, familiar territory for us.  It seems that – these days –she and I are either dissolving into tears of laughter together (our ‘inside jokes’ are legion), or hurling words of frustration at one another, rapid-fire.

If I ever care what people think of me based solely on my appearance, than I have bigger problems than having a tattoo!”

How can I not admire that statement?  Who can argue?  She is, after all, an adult.  I surrender, but silently, and with a slow refrain of “Taps” playing in my mind.  

What I want to tell her, but do not say aloud, is that she will be marked, molded, and modified, without ever setting foot into a tattoo parlor.  I look at my body, once just as perfect as hers, mapped by the story of my life.  Constellations of freckles from forgetting sunscreen a thousand times, and wrinkles from the same offense.   Smile-lines around my eyes from laughing, scars from mishaps and missteps, and from the pieces I have lost to surgeries….all part of the story.   But it’s the pink, translucent ribbons that cover my lower belly that mean the most to me.  Tributaries of skin stretched to accommodate the growing bodies of she and her sister long ago….These are my tribal marks.  

When the time arrives, Alexandra comes to tell me it is The Day.  .  She tells me the name of the artist who will do the work.  I recognize his name; he attends my church.  She is the definition of “all smiles”, luminous.

“Do you want to come with me while I have it done?” She asks.  “You can hold my hand.”  I am instantly frustrated with her for acting like a little girl – still needing my approval, and equally frustrated that she is not one anymore.

I politely decline, and her boyfriend goes with her instead.  I am considering the natural order of things, pondering the business of ‘letting go’ when she walks out the door with him.  I try not to think about ink and needles.  I’m glad he will hold her hand.

It finally occurred to me to talk to God about my qualms; it should have been my first  response.  How many times do I wrestle tiny inconsequential issues to the ground as though they are giants without asking the Almighty God to assist me on the mat?  As usual, He was already in that place I had hesitated to invite him.

The Bible has a lot to say, and the gist of the message that speaks to my life is Grace.  True, there are passages that warn about marking the body, scriptures that warn against cutting the hair.  But it is a verse about birds that God brought to my mind.  Leafing through the pages, I found it right away:

Matthew 10:29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Has my daughter inadvertently given flesh to the scripture I pray over her?    

Though I hate to admit it, Alexandra’s tattoo has forced me to consider the messy business of acceptance.   The “Choose-Your-Battle” cry of all parents has a different tone for each scrimmage and every life stage.  What do I gain, as a mother, if I choose not to accept my grown child’s decisions?  Am I selfishly seeking validation that I have “raised her right” if she refrains from what society might be uncomfortable with?  

The freedom she is trying to parlay is that today, she can still go anywhere from here.  This tattoo is meaningful to her.  And she is meaningful to me.

When she returns, she cannot wait to show me, walking backwards into my bedroom so that it’s the first thing I see.  There is no hiding the work; she will have none of that.  This girl, a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture….Now adorned.

So that’s a Tribal Sparrow...  

A clear coat of laminate covers the wound, so that it can heal properly.  In the mental melee of preparing myself to see it, I had forgotten that it would scab and scar…that it would be a ‘no pain, no gain’ commitment, as most things that become permanent are.

“It’s lovely,” I say.  And I think I mean it.

The Tribal Sparrow is a beautiful bird.

Her outline is striking and very bold, not the least bit likely to fade, but her plumage is just the color of Alexandra’s complexion.  Centered between my daughter’s flawless and round shoulder blades, the sparrow is exactly the size of my open palm…a perfect fit.  She is in flight, but I’m not sure she knows where she is going, her two tail feathers pointed high.  Her eye appears to be a soft swirl, peering neither downward or behind, but straight ahead.  Her wings are gently drawn with a curve, as if she is gliding, not yet looking for a place to land.  A true Artist painted her right onto my daughter’s perfect body.  And every time I see it now, I am reminded that His eye is on the sparrow,and that she can go anywhere from here.  

Anywhere at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams, Middle Age, Spiritual

The Dream-Maker’s Daughters – Women stepping out in mid-life

wish

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.

She even wrote a few.

She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on, fell away, or got too messy to maintain.

As things left, she sought new things to do. But she couldn’t remember what her inner little girl had dreamt of doing in the first place, when she finally had the time to consider it.

The messed up part of her says “Bah! All of it was frivolous and time-wasting. Better you don’t remember those dreams. And especially don’t ACT on the ones you do remember. Time is precious, don’t waste it.”

But her truest identity as Daughter of the King won’t be shushed for exactly that reason….time is precious.

Now, in midlife, she is finding that she has been considering God from a place of paralysis….so afraid to do the wrong thing, she does nothing at all.

“What if I fail?” She asks. “I’m too old to start over.”

Take action, God says. I will bless it if it’s the right thing, and if you are wavering and need to be corrected, I will restore gently. Either you win or you learn, but operate from a place of Love and move. Step out.

Time is only finite, but here’s the thing….it bends to the Creator.

In the tenderest places in her soul – the ones where the King keeps as storehouse for that crazy Grace of His – He keeps reminding her of the truth.

That she is kin to The Dream-Maker Himself, and is more than free to ask Him for new dreams. He delights in His children!

That she is still on a mission, with the benefit of experience to move forward expecting great things.

That this season is a time for exploring and listening, not being plagued with identity crisis. Satan is the author of confusion and the enemy of clarity.

That she is not ‘past her prime’ and done with her purpose until she stops asking “What’s next, Papa?” He placed the dreams in her heart for a purpose in every life stage.

That even though the world has gone mad, God keeps her full of Grace on every occasion. He does not finance her life in a deficit.

That it’s not too late. It’s never too late!

Do the things, Daughter! Do them with joy.

I have come that you have life to the FULL.

Once upon a time there was a woman approaching 50 years of age, and God gave her a little extra time to figure out who she really is.

In this new season, she is grateful for that.

 

Time is finite. Lord Jesus, help me to make my portion count. Let me use up everything you give me, every bit of talent.

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance, Anxiety, Brokenness, Devotional, Mental Illness, mothering, Parenting adult children, Serenity, Spiritual, Spirituality

The Privilege of Focusing Elsewhere

sunset

By Jana Greene

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” –  Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.

I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically.  Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.

People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.

Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)

I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.

Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.

Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.

While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)

But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.

It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.

MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.

Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.

My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?

Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.

After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:

sunset 3

It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)

But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.

You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.

The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.

It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.

Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?

“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”

And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.

sunset1And this happened too.

Jesus

And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.

My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.

“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”

I just love Him so much.

The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.

And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)

“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.

But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.

Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.

You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.

It’s a privilege.

Teacher, help us to be still.

Amen.

Empty Nest, Parenting, Parenting adult children, Spiritual

Mom, Re-purposed

birbs

By: Jana Greene

On my youngest daughter’s last high school theater performance, I sat in the front row to watch her take her last bow and had the sharpest pang in my heart. My husband and I had sat in that same theater through the band, chorus and theater productions of our three daughters seemingly hundreds of times through the years. On this last event, I had come by myself. As the crowd filed out of the theater, I just sat in the chair and felt tears well up in my eyes. The Drama teacher and her troupe of performers were packing up the last prop in the darkened room when I finally stood up and – much to my own surprise – loudly questioned to the empty theater, “What’s a helicopter mom supposed to do NOW!?”

It was a very sincere question, one that I would wrangle with for the next few years as the kids left the ‘nest’ one by one to pursue their own lives. Just as they should.

Being a Mom is a full identity, right? RIGHT!?

Except that it really isn’t and never should have been in total. When God created us and poured the emotions and and love into us, I’m not sure anymore that he expected us to pour every drop of it back out without leaving anything for our own spirits. I don’t think ‘wife’ and ‘mom’ is our only identity, even those roles are a huge part of who we are.

It’s not that we didn’t want our kids to grow up. Oh how we did! During the teen years especially, God prepares you to let them go by allowing the obnoxiousness and rebellious quotient to replicate exponentially in your child. Yes, they ‘grow up so fast’ but NOT FAST ENOUGH when they are full of attitude and angst. But what they say about kids ‘coming back around’ on the other side of the teen years is SO true, I am happy to report.

I am not asking them to move back in. PLEASE LET ME BE CLEAR ABOUT THAT.

I am just asking God to re-purpose me as a 47-year old woman whose kids have become awesome and independent young women.

Mother Identity Crisis is also known in more polite circles as “Empty Nest Syndrome.” The subject doesn’t get a lot of play in the media because it isn’t a hot topic. It pertains to middle-aged women and the grunt work they did with hearts a-burst with love who have lost their some of their purpose as the children grow up and need them less.

It isn’t a subject that graces magazine covers. It’s not the subject of Lifetime Channel movies.

It isn’t ‘sexy.’

But it needs to be addressed because the women who make up this demographic are a huge part of society and are walking around like shells as they try to explore who they really ARE now. All we really hear about as we near our fifties is the message that we are past our prime, and too many of us believe that.

I flatly refuse to be past my ‘prime.’

I had many ‘jobs’ when my kids were growing up, but never a ‘career,’ and that was purposeful. I wanted to pour all of my emotional energies into my kids and did so as I do every other thing – obsessively. Who needs hobbies when your whole life is about making sure these offspring have dance lessons to chauffeur and field trips to chaperone? Who has time for exploring interests when the 2nd Grade classroom needs a “Room Mother” (now THERE’S a calling for you!)

I just kind of lost myself in fray, and it seemed a noble thing to do at the time.

It WAS the noble thing to do at the time. Nothing makes one feel successful like cutting peanut butter sandwiches with heart cookie-cutters and packing a lunchbox with a note that says “Your book report will go great! I love you!” I’m not being snarky…things like that did indeed make me feel successful. Making my kids happy was tantamount.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

But mothers of youngsters take note – you will need to remember who you are at your own core one day. Take that pottery class. Pursue that degree, if you wish. Read books that aren’t only about Very Hungry Caterpillars and the adventures of Junie B. Jones. Listen to music not sung exclusively by puppets and cartoon characters.

Super importantly, go on date night with your husband. Your relationship with him needs to stay fresh for the day your children take up residence in their own lives.

A dear friend of mine has four children, all of whom are peering over the edge of the nest – the nice, fluffy, safe nest their mother has feathered all of their lives.

“So here we are,” she says. “And my life is still revolving around planning my celebrations around the fleeting loyalties of my offspring.”

She and I often compare notes about MIC and the challenges of this new season. Mainly, figuring out who God created us to be outside of the “mom” role.

“God is doing a new thing in my life. GOD IS DOING A NEW THING,” She recently mused. “Maybe I need to stop doing the old things and expecting them to fit in my new life?”

I think she is on to something there. Our kids still need us, but in brand new ways. They need us to do the new things, and  to trust in who they grew up to be.

But Lord Jesus, help us with ALL OF THESE FEELS!

Letting go is HARD.

Lord, help me to consider things not from the perspective of an ‘Empty Nester’  (with the emphasis on loss and hollow space) to being FULL and purposeful.

I’m not sure what that fullness looks like yet, to be honest.

But I know that I want to set a precedent for my grown daughters to know what a fulfilled woman in mid-life can be, just in case they have daughters of their own to pour into, who will – as it should be – leave their own nests one day.

I know that the Lord wants abundant life for us in this season. He wants His daughter to know her own interests and ministries outside those of her children. He wants us to be able to enjoy our marriages, which were so often put on the back burner in the interest of feathering those nests.

Re-purpose me, God. My kids are grown but you are nowhere near done with using and blessing my life. Take the front row seat in my life.

In each new season, re-purpose me.

Parenting, Spiritual

The Good Place (or ‘They Don’t Stay 14 Forever’)

This young lady gave me quite a time in her younger years, oy vey!
This young lady gave me quite a time in her younger years, oy vey!

By: Jana Greene

It’s not often that I write a blog post based on inspiration from another post,  but I got so excited about this one, I had to share. I laughed, I cried…..you get the picture. Consider it Blog Inception, if you will.

Here is the link to the Chicago Tribune story:  Raising a Daughter? Handle with care, especially when she is 14. 

You see, the article hit a nerve with me. As the mother of two now-grown daughters and one grown bonus daughter, I can relate. My husband and I blended our family when our oldest girls were 14, and my youngest was 11. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

So much could go wrong, and a lot of it did.

I chose the picture at right of my Firstborn for this post  because it was a goof-ball, on-the-fly, authentic moment between my 23 year-old daughter and I. It captures us.

Well, it captures us NOW. A few years ago, she and I were in a completely different space. It took a lot of fighting, ‘tough love’ on my part, and major frustration for both of us. It took time, prayer and patience to get to The Good Place.

There’s no manual on raising children, and certainly no map that leads you to The Good Place.

Look at your baby daughter’s tiny face (isn’t it THE most beautiful face in the world!?) and repeat after me:

“My child is not an extension of me. My child is not an extension of me.”

Now, keep repeating it for the rest of your natural-born life, and try to accept it. She will inherit many of your mannerisms and outlooks, but she will also shape-shift the ever-loving shit out of your preconceived notions for her life.

Like, you have no idea. Your preconceived notions you have about who she will grow up to be? They are just that – notions.

I know, I know. You cannot imagine those cute little pouty lips spewing forth “I HATE YOU!” but it’s almost a certainty that they will. If you have one teen daughter, buckle up for a wild ride. If you have two, buckle and strap yourself in. If you have three teen daughters, you may want to consider just super-gluing yourself to the seat. Any more than three at a time? Girl, I got nothing….yeah.

As your sweet baby grows:

You will wonder where you went wrong a million times. You will want to pat yourself on the back a million times, too.

You will wonder why it’s embarrassing to her that you breathe so loud in front of her friends. You find yourself saying, “I’ll try to breathe quieter,” only to be met with eye-rolling.

You will be certain that aliens abducted your sweet lovely little girl and replaced her with a clone with a nasty attitude.

You will blame yourself when she makes bad choices, and your heart will bleed each time she suffers consequences.

Missing your little girl, you will be tempted to despair.

But I’m here (as the mother of three adult daughters) to tell you STOP IT. Do not despair!

Fourteen is the brutal pinnacle of challenge for both parent and child (it HAS to be or you would never want her to become independent. The teen years prepare you to let them go. OH HOW THEY PREPARE YOU!)

These daughters of ours? THEY COME BACK AROUND, emotionally. They try and they test, and deduce and rebel, but they come back to you and a whole other relationship blossoms in The Good Place.

It’s all part of her figuring out who she is.

She got some attributes from her father, and some from you.

But she is 100% her own girl.

She will not be your mini-me. She will be her own maxi-she.

All of my daughters are out of the nest now, and it’s strange and wonderful that they are making it on their own, in their own ways. They are my favorite people to spend time with, honestly. We have so many inside jokes, and the same twisted sense of humor. I still kiss their foreheads, and sometimes we snuggle on the sofa watching funny YouTube videos when they come over, and drink hot tea. There were many years I could not IMAGINE these simple things would ever be so.

And really, if we hadn’t gone through the “14” era as mother and daughter, I don’t know that our relationships would be as close as it is now.  I don’t know that we would BE in The Good Place now, and that would be a shame. I would do it all over again to be at this place with them.

(I suppose it’s like having been soldiers together in the same trench. War was hell, but now there is a common bond that most folks cannot possibly understand. Yeah, raising teen daughters is a lot like that.)

My darling, strong-willed daughters and I talk almost every day. We don’t discuss politics, and sometimes avoid even talking about religion, as we disagree. We’ve learned to accept one another – a sign of maturity for both of us. I raised them to be passionate people, I just always expected them to be passionate about the same things I’m passionate about. It doesn’t work that way, trust me.

Guess why they have different ideas and opinions? Because they are not an extension of me, of course.

Make no mistake, they are 100% their own person. And they absolutely ROCK at being uniquely who they are.

I love that.

Parenting, Parenting adult children

One Stitch at a Time – A Veteran Parent looks at Hanging Tight

Stitch
My kid made this, on her first try ❤

By:Jana Greene

I wrote this after posting a synopsis my daughter’s birthday events on my personal Facebook wall. After reading my own post, I thought about all of my friends whose children are going through the lurch-and-soar adolescent and young adult years…

The parents who tense up every time their sullen child walks through the room. The parents whose baby birds are royally screwing the nest up but not quite flying yet. The ones who cannot possibly foresee their kids losing the attitude and sass. The ones whose hearts are breaking. The ones up all night praying that their babies will ‘come back around.’

It occurred to me that one single Facebook post about a blissful evening with one’s grown-up children over-simplifies the experience, waters it down. It was kind of nauseating, really, without any back-story. So I am writing this for the battle-weary parents out there who thought it couldn’t get any worse than the terrible twos (it can, and it does, I’m sorry to tell you. Each year of your child’s life you have less and less control.)

But…

Take heart! One day you will really genuinely LIKE your kids and look forward to having them all in one room! Crazy, right? But you will!

What a difference a couple of years can make. Just wrapped up the family birthday party for my precious Firstborn, turning 23. She came over early so we had some one-on-one time before the party. I love spending time with my daughters.

“Mom, will you teach me how to cross stitch?” she says, out of the clear blue sky.

So I do, and we talk and stitch, catching up on things. I tell her that cross stitching is not complicated. It is just making little x’s. And then continuing to make little x’s until you see the bigger picture.

“If you veer off the pattern, improvise,” I told her. “Get creative and make something beautifully original from it.”

Watching my wild and zany offspring – the one who only a couple of years ago required some painful (for both of us) Tough Love – the one whose Edgar Allen Poe “Nevermore” tattoo is still healing on her arm – navigate a sewing hoop with a needle and floss? It was darling, I tell you. She is adorable, and I’m not just saying that because I am her mother.

We’ve been through some tough times in our relationship. We are so similar it can be annoying to both of us. And where we are different, we are SO different. My children and I still disagree on TONS of things. So many things that it could easily cause a rift, if we allowed it. I refuse to allow it.

Kids go through all kinds of phases, but here is the big secret: So do we, as parents.

My younger daughter arrived to the party, and we all get louder and more animated, as has always been the case. We aren’t a quiet, staid family. By the time the boyfriend of the birthday girl arrives, my husband is home, and I serve a roast and mashed potatoes – very June Cleaver of me, even if they were Bob Evans frozen mashed potatoes and cheesecake from Costco.

The evening continued as a dinner for grown up people who love each other …  not like a tense and drama-laden mandatory occasion to get together and sing happy birthday because that’s the thing to DO on one of our birthdays. Honestly, when the girls were all teens, I dreaded birthdays, because someone always had her knickers in a knot for every family occasion. Somebody was PMSing ALL the time, myself included.

It occurs to me how VERY much I like my kids (I love them of COURSE)….but I just really like them as human beings, too. These beautiful, interesting, hilarious, passionate, and loving people I got to give birth to because God somehow determined in his Mysterious Ways that I was up to the challenge. And challenging it has been, but so, so precious is that honor.

Peace. No fights. Just love, and inside jokes and warmth. And cheesecake, of course!

We sang a haphazard version of “Happy Birthday” and she opened presents. The wrapping on the gifts had been chewed on my two very naughty kitty cats who shall remain unnamed. Also, one of the gift bags was old. It’s probably been in circulation since 1997. But no matter.

Parenting is like cross stitching. You just make one ‘x’ at a time. Some of them are messy stitches, but if you never saw the back of the fabric, you would never know. To the casual observer, it might appear to have been easy work, raising kids.

Everyone has messy needle-work on the side that doesn’t face the world. That family down the street in the big house, the family that participates in activities together every night of the week and whose kids go on mission trips? The “perfect” mom you see at preschool whose very presence makes you feel disheveled and less-than?

They have knots and tangles, too.

And you know what? God LOVES that side. He loves us, messy stitches and all.

One of my dear friends has a daughter approaching “Magical Seven.” The age of seven is – in my humble opinion – the pinnacle of parenting because at that age kids are still sweet and think you hung the moon. They are just delightful. After I posted about my Firstborn’s wonderful birthday evening at the house, she asked me if I had any advice on weathering the adolescent years. Is there anything you can do to prepare?

My kids are 20 and 23, and 23 (I’m blessed extra by having a Bonus Daughter), and I will not even PRETEND to have the actual useful answers. But I HAVE learned this:

Hang tight. Love hard. Don’t be afraid to make a hard bottom line and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m sorry.” Pray lots. Laugh tons. Find common ground, it’s always there. Never give up hope! Remember that she is not an extension of you…a part of you, yes; but not an extension. Her mistakes will be her own, and she will make them. But she WILL BE OKAY and so will you. And before you know it, she is calling you out of the clear blue sky to ask you to meet her for sushi or to see a movie. And while you are lunching with this young woman, you will be astonished that there was a time that she was so sassy and downright mean to you. She may even say, “Hey mom? I’m sorry I was such an asshole.” And you will say “I’m sorry I was an asshole sometimes, too. I made a lot of mistakes.”

Because that sort of thing can totally happen, and did to me.

I’m so grateful for all we have to do as mothers is keep making little x’s to the best of our ability until we see the bigger picture. Sometimes the finished product doesn’t look at all like the pattern but is even more beautiful. We make it complicated, but It isn’t our masterpiece to make.

And if you, as a parent, veer too far from the pattern? Improvise. God will make something beautifully original from it.

Parenting, Parenting teenagers

A Farewell to Car

carBy: Jana Greene

I usually do not entertain the follies of loving inanimate objects, but I fell for this one and I didn’t see it coming. She was regal, I tell you. And not just because she was, well… literally a Buick Regal.

In contrast to a man’s manifestation of Middle Aged Crisis – a sleek, beautiful car with a sexy prowess – I love this car because she is crinkled and bockety, and full of memories.

I got the car when I first met my husband. It was several years old by then, but looked brand spanking new (if you didn’t know your makes and models, which I didn’t.) It had quite literally been driven to and from the grocery store by a little old lady. Shiny and green – my favorite color, even! –  it came to replace the ancient Honda with the trash bags in the windows that wouldn’t roll up that had been driving since the transmission of my old minivan fell out. A single mom, I hadn’t many dollars. I was practical to the core.  It was a fine set of wheels and driving it felt like piloting a chariot of Heaven on a cloud, comparatively.

I was so grateful.

A year later, I was newly married. I drove that wonderful chariot to work every day,  and shuttled teenagers to malls, skating rinks, and church functions. Our daughters were 11, 14 and 14, respectively. In later years, my husband and I chauffeured many a date in that car. The rear-view mirror had been adjusted countless times to watch sheepish couples and their awkward hand-holding in the backseat.

Two out of our three daughters learned to drive at her helm, and she has the scars to prove it. Her exterior is a bit scraped and battered. Her front end crunched in, banged out by hand. The hood at the nose end is still crinkled in, like she has a permanent grin in spite of her trials. I like that about her. I can relate the crinkled-ness.

It was sturdy, and safe.

What the first daughter didn’t Christen with bumps and dents, the second daughter plastered with bumper stickers. Oh lord, so many stickers. Stickers for every cause that makes me shake my conservative head and say aye carumba.

Somehow, this Regal Lady carried it off, like an old Hollywood legend who has become saggy and wears too much lipstick, but nobody has the heart to tell her she isn’t fabulous. (Because she still IS.)

She has been ferry and barge.

She has been parked in apartment complex parking lots, the sun baking her paint.

The plush foam around the steering wheel is gone in places, and there are stains on the seats.

I swear I’ve nearly punched a hole in the floorboard of the passenger side, hitting the ‘invisible break’ during seasons of Driving Permits.

Her trunk has held nearly ten years of nostalgia…

Fishing gear.

Office supplies.

Suitcases for Mission Trips.

The earthly possessions of an angry child moving out of the house after a big fight with her mother.

Empty soda cans and CookOut bags …

and memories. So many memories.

I poke through the interior to make sure nothing of value is left in her pockets and under her seats. In the side compartment, there is a straw wrapper, a paper clip, and a single earring. Of course there is.

I took her tags off today. She won’t pass inspection again, it’s time. There were only three screws holding her metal tag in place, one stripped so bare that it turned to rusted dust in my hand. I stripped her of her legality, and took liberties to remove a couple of the bumper stickers that had adorned her rear window. I felt kind of bad doing that. It felt like she could feel the band aids being pulled off slowly.

A chariot of Heaven driven on clouds deserves better.

I left the owl air-freshener from my daughter’s driving time on the rear-view mirror that says “Life the Life You Love.”

The Regal, meaningful as she is, is not sound to drive anymore, and the cost of replacing her parts is more than the sum of her value. Her innards don’t turn, twist and fire like they should. I don’t know much about mechanisms; I only know that she lasted so much longer than we imagined. She can’t keep her drivers as safe anymore, so she’s got to go.

After taking off the license tag, I sat in her passenger seat for a while in the driveway, just because. And I cried a little. I don’t care if the neighbors think I’m crazy. Their children are still small and don’t drive cars; what do they even know? This car is worth crying over. Can’t they see that she is still so fabulous!?

I’ve never really loved a car before, but I do love this one. It feels right to love her for her decidedly low-key, un-sexy prowess.

Yes, she is crinkled and bockety. But sturdy and safe.

She carried memories regally.

Parenting

The Bravest Man I Know

quiver          “Children are a gift from the LORD;
            they are a reward from him.

Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!”

– Psalms 127:3-5

My husband has a full quiver of arrows, if the psalmist’s analogy is accurate.

When I met him seven years ago, it was love at first sight. I was a single mother of two adolescent daughters, and he was a single father to one. His girl was the same age as my oldest … on the cusp of 14.

If you know anything about teenage girls, you know about age 14. Brutal on both child and parent….14 is parental boot camp. Fourteen is a fiery raining down of arrows.

When we were dating, my Beloved swept me off my feet with romance – but really wowed me with his fathering abilities. His daughter was his heart….and because she was – he melted mine. He was so committed to her and to the job at hand – being the best Dad he could be.

“Love at first sight” morphed into  “I thee wed” in a year. In taking vows with his wife, my husband went above and beyond in assuming the daily fathering duties of his new wife’s daughters. The carpooling, trips to the dentist’s office, and buying the school supplies. This previously single father of an only child tripled his “dad-ness” factor overnight.

All three daughters lived with us in our “blended” family, all the time. Often, we wondered if the family-mixer was on “puree” instead of “blend.”  The girls were at the mercy of our love for one another. After all, our daughters hadn’t fallen in love with one another, but were arrows in the same quiver, nonetheless.

If parenting teenagers is walking through a minefield, step-parenting is navigating a minefield during a hurricane while under nuclear attack, without even having had the benefit of boot camp.

INTENSE. For all of us.

Through the usual growing pains of our daughters’ having boyfriends, breakups and broken hearts (and yet more boyfriends) – he offers advice and more importantly, sets the bar for how they should expect to be treated by the way he treats me.

Through graduations and awards, he lets them all know he is proud. He has sat through three times more middle school band concerts, chorus performances and class plays than he ever imagined when he was the father of one child.

He could have shirked some of this extra-mile “reward,” and still have been the bravest man I’ve ever known. He could have done much less and still have been a good father. But in true warrior style, he gave it his all. And still does, to this day.

He has been through 14 three times now, and not only survived, but learned to smile. Our daughters are all young adults – one is a married woman herself now.

Our little pureed family – which surrounds him in chaos, estrogen-laden crisis and drama – is strong. Because my husband is strong, and committed to the job.

How joyful also is the man, and the family who loves him.

The bravest man I know.

 

To My Beloved husband.

I see what you do, every day.

Fathers, Love, Marriage, Parenting

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”

 

Motherhood, Spiritual

Breast Practices – supporting nursing mothers

fresco
Fresco of Maria Lactans (literal translation: Mary as a nursing mother) at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Agliate, Italy.
As you can see, Mary is breastfeeding Jesus without so much as a blankie covering her shoulder.
Also, I can find no evidence that Mary – in either a fresco representation, nor the concordance of my Bible – fed him in a bathroom.

By: Jana Greene

A young mother on an afternoon shopping trip at the mall juggles her fussy, hungry four-month old son. She needs to feed him, so she:

a) Sits on a bench in front of Victoria’s Secret store, and digs through the diaper bag for a bottle of formula. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Shoppers smile as they pass by, because everybody loves a baby –  particularly a quiet one. Everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

b) Sits on a bench in the mall – this time in the Food Court –  and digs through a diaper bag for a receiving blanket. She drapes it over her shoulder and  lifts her blouse underneath discreetly, and with a swift motion of the other arm, cradles her four-month-old son to her breast. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Many shoppers either avert their eyes or make snarky comments amongst themselves as they pass by (some make them intentionally  loud enough for the young mother to hear) – Because everyone loves a baby, but apparently not everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

Which of the mother’s feeding choices do you find most offensive?

As it so happens, a mother shopping at an actual Victoria’s Secret store in Austin, Texas was asked not to nurse her infant in the store at all. Not even in a dressing room. It was suggested by employee that – are you sure you’re ready to finish reading this? – she nurse him in “the alley.”

Ahhhh. You can spend hundreds of dollars on bras in an effort to lift and separate,  push ’em up and hold ’em down – so long as you don’t use them in a practical manner. It would seem that the Land of Silk and Money is NOT the Land of Milk and Honey.

Shouldn’t we find  floor-to-ceiling-sized posters of nearly-naked super models (whose boobs are so exposed that only her areolas are covered by strategically-placed feathers) a bit more offensive than a breastfeeding mother? Breasts are made for feeding babies. If that makes you uncomfortable, take it up with God – it was His big idea. He designed them perfectly for it, long before plastic bottles and rubber nipples. Society has managed – as is so often the case – to make something pure and natural into something perverse.

(By the way, my  least-favorite reaction to a breastfeeding mother is: “Well, SEX is natural, too – but I don’t want to see anyone else doing it.” In what alternate universe is nursing a baby “like having sex?” Answer: In no universe. What a wildly inappropriate comparison!)

When my daughters were babies – and even into toddler-hood – I nursed discreetly  in malls, and concerts; in the park, and on “Its a Small World” at Disneyworld. I was living life and raising kids. We were on the go, and many times I thanked God for the convenience and economy of lactation – not to mention the bonding between mother and child in ensures. Who has time for fooling with bottles?

Once, when my firstborn was about six months old, I was feeding her at a museum, on a bench in a quiet, darkened hallway. I had a light blanket loosely over my shoulder,  fully covering my breast (and my baby’s head, face, and shoulders.) Only her tiny legs and feet were exposed, kicking happily. A couple walked by.

“She should nurse that baby in the bathroom,” said the woman.

Here is what I wanted to say: “Do you enjoy eating your lunch in the bathroom? Most of us don’t. I’m pretty sure my daughter doesn’t either!”

But I’m a wimp, so instead, my face burned a little. Her statement did what she had  intended – embarrassed me. But only momentarily; I knew that I was doing what was best for my child.

Can a nursing mother be 100% discreet all of the time? Sometimes babies pull away for a moment to hiccup. Sometimes the chug too fast and choke a bit, in which case they suddenly sit up.  And yes, you regularly have to switch sides, folks (that old “supply and demand thing.) If you see a mother and baby in a “nip slip” and for that instant your delicate sensibilities are offended, look away.  If you “don’t need to see it,” don’t stare.

Now – If it doesn’t bother you to see it, give the mother a little smile.  She is doing what is (sadly) considered a brave thing these days…a much, much braver thing to do than what is socially acceptable (Victoria Secret model displaying her perfect breasts in billboard-sized glory.)

The nursing mother is just feeding her baby as humankind has been nourished since the dawn of time. Somehow our more primitive ancestors “got” what we have  lost.

Breastfeeding is what boobs are for.

Christmas, Friendship, Holiday, Inspirational, Middle Age, Motherhood, Prayer, Recovery, Spiritual

Friendship – Sisters by Design

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C. S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

This letter is a gift to someone who is a gift to my life.  I asked her permission to publish it, to which she responded:

“You have full permission to publish it if you want—I hope it inspires others to have real friendships like ours!”

Amen, Sister-Girlfriend. The world would be a much better place.

My sweet Melissa,

Do you remember the first Christmas that we became friends? Our daughters – now freshmen in college – were fourth-graders who had just declared themselves Best Friends Forever. I was a struggling, single mom, just having divorced my children’s father after fourteen years of marriage. My little girl was having a terrible time.  I got her a good therapist, and tried to calm her fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded.

What she really needed was a very good friend. Your daughter was that very good friend to her.

It was a horrible, awful  time in my life. I was working four jobs to feed my girls after being a stay-at-home mom all of their lives. They became latch-key kids. I became a hot mess from the guilt.

When we first met, I was holding on to my four-year-old sobriety by a single thread, it seemed, and living on high anxiety. You invited me over anyway when the girls were having a play-date, serving coffee (and, I’m certain)  sweets.  You asked questions that nobody else had bothered to ask, and didn’t judge me when I answered honestly.

Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, God makes mystical things happen. Like our friendship.

At the time, you were wary of organized religion, and I was wary of everything. But in your guest bathroom, you had a display of decorative crosses. Every time I went to the loo at your house, I thanked God for you and your kindness. I prayed that you would trust Him again, even as I struggled to trust Him myself. Yes, on the loo!  I can tell you that now, all these years later.

That Christmas, I sat with all of our girls while you went on a date with your hubby. Before you departed for the evening, you gave me a pretty little wrapped gift box, and instructed me to open it when you left.  I did, and it was a lovely new wallet.

When you came back home, I thanked you, and you said that I should make sure to look inside of it. Folded in the zipped compartment was a hundred-dollar bill.

“Get your girls a little something for Christmas,” you said, like it was not a big deal.

It was SUCH a big deal, Melissa, to fill the girls’ stockings that year. Such a big deal.

Little did I know that praying for you on the loo would be the least of what we would come to discuss as our friendship deepened!  No subject was off-limits, no pretending to be who we were not. No pretense, all acceptance – what a wonderful foundation for a friendship.

I have to tell you, my friend, throughout the storms, you were my safe place. And always – even if there were tears –  laughter was ultimately the order of the day.

We are pretty cool that way.

Over the years, we have really been through it together, have we not?  With six daughters between us, holy cow – have we ever!

Teenagers and all the stupid stuff they do. Teenagers and all the awesome stuff they do.

Through a divorce and a new marriage (both mine) you were such a support. Through your steady marriage, you taught me so much.

When our husbands drive us bonkers, we have a kvetch session, and are a-okay again.

When our kids drive us bonkers, well … together, we find the strength to soldier on.

We’ve done the Mom Circuit, and weathered the “Mom, leave me alone!” syndrome.

Between us, we’ve done new careers, and unemployment.

We’ve drowned our sorrows in Queso dip at every Mexican food restaurant in town. (Cheese plays a major role in our relationship, as well it should!)

We’ve had pajama parties, and felt the betrayal of gravity (especially me….you look MAHVELOUS!) and – as we schlepped into our forties – the reward of chasing dreams and catching them, on occasion. (Or should I say, we sashay gracefully into our forties – and beyond.)

We’ve struggled with the discovery of what is out of our control (everything, essentially) and celebrated what we which we can control (keeping the faith.)

We’ve threatened to write a book togetherwhich, incidentally is still TOTALLY happening!

Most meaningfully, when my own family members high-tailed it out of my life, you ran towards me.

You and I …. we’ve  had spiritual crisises and awakenings, stumblings and triumphs. And shared with honesty every experience.

We discovered together that we are NOT orphans after all, but beloved daughters of the Most High King….princesses, really!

And that makes us sisters. Family.

Even our husbands became MFFs (Man Friends Forever…please don’t tell them I said that,) and our daughters as close as any siblings.

Family, like I said.

Your love, prayers and steadfastness have helped keep me sober. Honestly, I doubt I would have maintained it without your support.

That love….those prayers and acceptance – they have kept me from running away from home on numerous occasions (“This parenting teens thing? I QUIT!”)

In the midst of building this friendship, you had a revolution in your spirit.  When God lit a fire under you, he used spiritual kerosene!

Girl, you were on FIRE, and you are still on fire!  It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been witness to.

A spark from the heart of Jesus himself caught the hem of your garment, and you just had to serve Him. You served Him by helping other women, like you helped me. By genuinely loving them – fiercely. From it came additions to the sisterhood – the WAYwards – and lots of tears and laughter.

And laughter came in handy during the difficult times.

Several years ago, when I got sick, I stayed sick for nearly three years. It was another awful, dark time in my life.  Chronically fatigued. Endlessly in pain. And with no answers in sight, living on high anxiety once again.

For three solid years, I fought numbness, pain, fatigue….every single day, and bitched about it plenty. My complaining and frustration had to have tested your dedication! But you listened every time, and never gave up.

You prayed for my health fervently. Sometimes, when I was in the middle of exhaustion and complaint, you would just extend your right hand toward me and pray so hard that we would both cry – even when I was right in the middle of a bitching session!

It’s hard to be hopeless when someone is that dedicated to asking God to help you.

But sometimes – when you stop trying so hard – God makes mystical things happen.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I remember telling you. And I meant it. “I can’t!”

“God can,” you said, with no judgement. More listening, more praying, more encouraging. You listened. Like a true friend, you loved fiercely, calming my fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded. “Father,” you prayed. “Please heal my friend. But even if she doesn’t get better, we praise you. We LOVE you!”

Because you see, what I really needed was a very good friend. You were – and are – that very good friend to me.

All these many years later, how many cycles have we gone through !– Distrusting organized religion, and calling on God. Trusting God, and being there for each other.

I’m so grateful for you.

Thank you for being so steady a prayer-warrior. Thank you for never, ever saying, “This friendship thing? I QUIT!”

Thank you for all the times you still give me encouragement (and chocolate) and for being my “nothing is off limits” sister.

When I think about who you are and who you’ve become, and all God has in store for you, it brings me to my knees.

When I pray for you, I ask God to take that beautiful, bright, effervescent and glorious spirit of yours and just unleash it on the world in a way that brings him glory. I pray that the same joy your spirit brings me gets unfurled on the world, and comes back on you like a tidal wave.

I never forgot the Christmas that you folded a Benjamin in the gift of a new wallet  … so that I could give my daughters a Christmas. But more importantly, I never forgot that you reached out to this hot mess girl, that you went out of your way to be kind.

I never forgot that you treated my frightened, maddeningly insecure and hurting fourth-grade daughter like your own. Now a confident – gregarious, even!- young woman, she never forgot your love, either.

I love that you never stopped praying for my healing. I love your heart, that it breaks for hurting people.

I love that the most important prayer I ever learned to pray, I learned from you – “I trust you, God. I may not understand a single thing you are doing, but I trust you.”

It was a  beautiful thing to do for an old friend, to teach me that prayer.

I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for being family.

And Merry Christmas, BFF.

Motherhood, Spiritual

To the Moon and Back – a snapshot from motherhood

Not so far after all
Not so far after all

By: Jana Greene

One little snapshot. That’s how I remember the moment. Every time I hear the trendy expression, “I love you to the moon and back,”  I think about it.

My firstborn was only fourteen months old. We had just come in from a full afternoon of story time at the library  and playtime at the park, our tote full of toddler books.  She still had sand in the baby-crevices in her arms, and under her neck, all the cracks in her tan little body that the sun couldn’t reach but the sand always did.

She was whining and  going limp, the kind of tired that she couldn’t identify, and neither could I.

When you’re a mom, you think you should be able to identify all of the cries.

I sank into the living room couch and patted my lap for her to come sit with me. Opening the canvas tote full of hard board books, I started to read from the Very Hungry Caterpillar aloud.

She collapsed to the floor, shaking her head ‘no’ for a moment, and then toddled climbed up into my lap. She took the book from my hand, dropped it to the floor, and dug into the tote for her very favorite book. It was a book by Margaret Wise Brown that  we’d checked out from the library every week, even though we owned it.

“Goodnight Moon.”

She wanted to nurse, and I wanted her to be quiet. So, we made a deal.

Breastfeeding is the purest thing in the whole world. How it became more unnatural to the bottle, I will never understand. It nourishes both child and mother, and strengthens the bond. That bond comes in handy often.

With one arm I cradled her as she nursed, and with the other I flipped the cardboard pages.

“”In the great green room , there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of….” she pulled away in anticipation of the dramatic line.

“The cow jumping over the moon!”  All smiles, she got her pointing finger ready.

“Can you find the bunny?” I whispered. In every picture in the story, there is a little bunny in striped pajamas, hiding among the room lit by moonrise. We had read this book a hundred times. She found the bunny with her tiny finger and smiled before going back to the breast.

“Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”

She went back to nursing and reached her hand up to my face.  And she patted my cheek gently, just as she patted the bunny in her other favorite book (title spoiler: “Pat the Bunny.”)

We were content in that moment….my little girl in her bright pink Osh-Kosh B’Gosh overalls and oversized bow in her hair. You’d better remember this moment, I told myself, for some odd reason.  Remember it. You will need it when she is a teenager.

I tousled the hair at the nape of her neck, which curled up in a tiny blonde duck-tail when she played hard enough to get sweaty.  She was so tiny and perfect. Neither of us had made many mistakes, but we would.

And I loved her to that big old moon and back.

Holding her tighter, I vowed that I would not forget that single unremarkable moment.

Now, twenty years later, the moon seems a paltry distance to shoot for. I get tired in ways I cannot identify, and I do a lot of whining. Sometimes I just go limp from the worry that comes with motherhood and never, ever goes away.

My Firstborn doesn’t always find the “bunny” even when I point it out to her. She has to look for it on her own. I think I knew back in that moment, that finding the bunny was the least of it. I’m so glad I have that moment burned in my mind like a star. I cannot tell you how often the bonding we did when she was a baby has come in handy!

Today, she attended church with me. When we worshipped hand-in-hand, I looked over at her and had that same spasm of love .  She is taller than me now, with raven hair and those same great, green eyes. I’ve long ago accepted that I cannot identify all of her cries  (nor all of my own, for that matter.)

I reached over to her and patted her cheek, very gently. Remember this, I thought.

I hope my not-so-little girl looks for God, even when He seems to be, hiding somewhere under the moonrise. He can seem as elusive as a bunny in striped pajamas, or as big and clear as a full moon.

Even when contentment doesn’t come in the cardboard pages of a toddler’s book, but in the paper-thin pages of mystical scripture. I want the Son to reach all of her, but I know she has to look for Him.

I want to remember this moment forever. One little snapshot.

Goodnight stars,

Goodnight air.

Goodnight noises everywhere…..

Above the heavens, beyond the sun,

At the end of the universe,

I’ve just begun!

I love you to the moon and back,

And a million, trillion  more miles than that.

And we were content in that moment, my girl and I.

Spiritual

All the Sparkly Things: mindfully mothering in the moment

IMG_6548

By: Jana Greene

She doesn’t know it, I’ve pulled a muscle, and it’s all her fault.

I am lacing up the back of her dress, the periwinkle blue ribbons weave in and out of the stays, corset-style. I have to lift the tendrils of red hair out of the way as I work, and I worry it will be too tight -I can tell she is sucking it all  in.

Her dress has all of the elements of girly-ness that she guffawed only a few years ago: sparkles, lace and taffeta. All the pretty things she used to think were silly. It is strapless ballerina-style, showing off her young curves and fair skin. As I pull the last of the ribbon through and tie it into a bow, the muscle that is my heart lurches.

“There,” I say. “all done.”

Like Scarlett O’Hara she arches an eyebrow, and eyes herself in the mirror. Sunlight just so happens to be coming through the window at the perfect angle, setting the  on fire.  So many rhinestones! The perfect amount to be glitzy, without being  tacky. They are sprinkled throughout her dress and in her hair – even on her shoes. Just to be certain she sparkles enough, she slides on a bracelet chock-full of them, and clips on dazzling earrings to match.

The lurching again, in the heart. The pulling.

The heart is a muscle, and if it’s working properly it is always in motion. Lurch and soar, lurch and soar.

My daughter is always in motion, too. How can this be? I am wondering how this moment came to pass, sitting on the edge of the bed, watching her slip on ridiculously high heels. The reel of her growing up sped through my mind.

Don’t panic over time lost, I tell myself. And don’t rush into thoughts of the future. It’s a struggle to live in the moment sometimes. Even when the moment is beautiful.

Not very long ago, this girl hid herself away. Not very long ago, she didn’t want anyone to notice her at all. But now …

She cannot wait to see her boyfriend, to assault his senses with her girly-ness -sparkles,  lace and taffeta. He is wearing a suit with a vest to match her dress, and she swoons when she sees him. He is utterly handsome. I want to think that they look like two kids playing grown-up, but no. They really are growing up.

She beams while her date ties a corsage around her wrist.  It is a lovely, delicate gathering of white flowers, and it’s perfect. It had bloomed just the right amount to be perfect in time for the evening – just like her.

Boys were “gross” just a few years ago…weren’t they?  The memory of her chiding her older sister for liking a boy is still clanking around in my mind when we drop them off at the venue.

When we drive away, I look behind me, and they are kissing. The rhinestones in her dress are glittering, and she has one  ridiculously high-heeled foot slightly lifted – just like in the movies.

Lurch, goes the heart.

My hand goes over my chest  involuntarily, but my husband takes my other hand and squeezes. This daughter  is my youngest child; I will not go this way again. My husband knows that the stays are loosening, even as my heart tightens.

I surprise myself that think of my girl only several times – and not several hundred times – during the course of the evening. The occasion is making me feel a million things – old amongst them, to be honest. But mostly I am blissed-out that my daughter has come out of her shell in so dazzling a way. It is  her turn to have young curves and fair skin and wear so many rhinestones. I hope she wears all the pretty, sparkly things every chance she gets.

When she comes home, she is barefoot and  luminescent. She sits on the edge of my bed to share the details, even though its late.

Prom was wonderful. Her hands are fiddling with the edge of the periwinkle taffeta, just as girly as you please,  as she rushes to tell me the details.

“Swedish meatballs were the best, and I ate lots of them.  The courtyard was decorated with these candles and white lights, and linens and tablecloths… There was dancing, of course, and we slow danced, too,  but I  had to take my shoes off right away,  because I couldn’t really walk in them, and all my friends loved my dress…..”

When I unlace her dress and her remind her  to put away all of the sparkly things, she leans in for a hug. I take it, and hug her a little longer than usual, just because – like my daughter – the moment is beautiful.

And my heart soars.

Devotional, Inspirational

Sweatpants of Bloatedness and the Pimple of Doom….

Today, dear readers, another share from Redemption Feast, the WilmingtonFAVS.com blog I write for. It was previously posted as an origional on this blog under “Unhinged” and only minor changes were made for this publication. Anyway, it’s about feeling unhinged. Can you relate at all?

My apologies for not keeping The Beggar’s Bakery more current with new content. I’ve begun working full-time in addition to serving in Celebrate Recovery in church, in addition to all my other goings-on. I really need to become better at this time-management thing!

**also, if there is a video under this post….it is a WordPress thing – I did not post it! The views in expressed in whatever video is there may not represent the views of this writer.**

Thank you for reading, and God bless you and yours.

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/unhinged-by-the-sweatpants-of-bloatedness-and-the-pimple-of-doom

Marriage

The Geometry of Marriage

I really do!
I really do!

By: Jana Greene

“Did you lose the bet?”

It was a man’s voice. I was sifting through birthday cards at the drugstore, and it took a moment for me to realize he was speaking to me.

“Excuse me?” I said politely.

“Did you lose the bet with your husband?” He nodded at me, looking at the words on my t-shirt.

Emblazoned in simple, black lettering on the front of the pink shirt: I love my husband.

“Nope,” I said, laughing a little. “I just really do.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Another time, I had a nurse who was taking my blood pressure say, “That’s an interesting shirt. What does it say on the back?” He was thinking maybe that there was a snarky retort on the reverse…a zinger.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I just love my husband.”

“Huh.”

I’d bought the pink t-shirt it at a  bookstore several years ago when My Beloved and I were newlyweds. I had never been in love in the all-encompassing way that I loved him, and had never really expected to be. That head-over-heels-ness was for other people, I’d thought.

But God had other, better plans.

It’s the second marriage for each of us; not quite a May-December union, but possibly a June-September one, in that we were older and – if not wiser – more in tuned with God.

We actually did meet in church, and there was chemistry right away. But there was sanity, too – and that was a new wrinkle in relationships on my part.

As we fell in love more deeply, it became apparent that we were meant to be married. But because we had both failed at our previous marriages,  we decided to do something differently. We made a conscious and verbal decision not to make our marriage about ourselves – or even about each other. Making marriage about the other person is like making salvation about religion. It’s the relationship that really matters.

From the very start, we agreed to consider our marriage as a triangle of sorts, with God sitting at the top and he and I on the bottom corners, looking up. The “circle of trust” may be important, but the Triangle of Marriage keeps us in check.

In the years since My Beloved married me, reality has moved in and made itself at home, as is inevitable.  With the blending of three teen daughters came epic drama in the household. With reality came  economic ups and downs, health issues and challenges of getting older.  We are two very imperfect people, in love with each other and with God. And sometimes we disagree, and have to check our positions in the triangle of relationship and remember who is in the Highest Place of honor.

So, come to think of it….maybe I do wear the t-shirt because I lost a bet.

I happily and gratefully lost a bet with God. Before marrying my husband.  I had staked my understanding of the future on my own past failure in marriage. I couldn’t make it work, so I was doomed to be alone (or worse, repeat the cycle).

But God had other, better plans that are not dependent on my failures or successes.

There – at the top of the Triangle – He gives our marriage chemistry, sanity and loads of grace when reality makes itself at home.  In the all-encompassing way that only God can love us, he emblazoned it in simple, black lettering in the pages of His Word:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

We are His Beloveds, and He is head-over-heels for us.