A week or two ago I sat wrapped in fuzzy green blanket on the leather chair upstairs, on a conference call of sorts with a couple of writerly friends. We couldn’t figure out how to get the sound to work, so we each sat there staring at silent bobbling heads on a shared Google screen with phones affixed to our ears. When it came time to update everyone on all the writing I’m doing, on the output that’s a-flowin’, on the hoards of book deals I’m getting,I just laughed. Because life is far from that right now.
So I asked these women to hold me accountable to not producing, at least through the month of October.
To not writing.
To not pounding the pavement or putting the pedal to the metal or trying to get ‘er done …or whatever fill-in-the-blank production-infused I liken to use in order to get one morearticle submitted and one more chapter finished and one more blog published.
Because right now my job is to snuggle my seven-week old and breathe in that perfect baby smell.
For now, my fingers aren’t to sit glued to a laptop, clicking away, seeking that perfect combination of verbs and adjectives and nouns, but they’re to absorb. They’re to absorb the newness of our family of four and to marvel in the wonder that is us, even if this transition is hard. Even if I wonder how anyone ever successfully raises more than one child. Even if the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I are playing our own game of Monday Night Football, one-on-one defense at its finest.
But for now my hands are to chop the onions and carrots and celery for dinner, slowly and mindfully, and to smile at the realization that this right here, right now is my sublime.
These are my halcyon days.
Because these are the fingers that hold the glass of water I chug around two every morning when Baby Brother starts to cry, begging, grunting, pleading for food. These are the fingers that just minutes later click “play” on the iPad screen so I can take in another early morning episode of The Gilmore Girls. (God, I love the 90’s).These are the hands that hold A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and these are the limbs, somehow connected to the rest of my body, that remind me to relish in this time of filling. Newborn-parched, I get to rest and take in and simply receive input without feeling an ounce of guilt.
Even if, when I step into the ugly game of Compare and Contrast, I still feel the guilt.
Even if, like right now, there is an aliveness that happens within when my soul is granted permission to speak words to paper. Because this too can wait.
So, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to curl up with book and baby …and be.
What about you? What do you need permission to take a breather from? What are your halcyon days?
Today’s post was originally featured yesterday on Prodigal Magazine, but due to current events in the life of our family, we’re a little late getting it up…
At the beginning of May, my husband received news that his company was downsizing – his own job included.
As a single-income family, this news struck at our core, making time seemingly stand still before us. It was as if we stood staring at an antiquated, broken-down grandfather clock, seconds hand perpetually stuck ticking at quarter past four in the afternoon, long into the night and through the morning, day after day after day.
Paradox began to mark our thoughts, invading our conversations, menacingly toying with us each day.
We live in San Francisco, a city that has surely captured our hearts, though not without its share of growing pains.
Was it finally time to leave this place that we were just now beginning to call home? Was the closure of one job – and the inevitable adventure that lie ahead – seemingly our ticket to next steps and new beginnings?
Click here to read the rest of this post via Prodigal Magazine…
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Thank you, thank you and thank you again for cheering on my writing.
Might you rest and laugh and be and be reminded that your identity is not in what you DO vocationally with your day, but in who you ARE at the core depths of your being.
It’s your you-ness.
And let’s be honest, sometimes we take ourselves a little more seriously than we ought – I mean, I know I do! So to you and to me, to all those who have a tendency to sometimes believe that the world around us is going to stop functioning if we don’t answer that email, if we don’t make that phone call, if we don’t write that post (…), let this ol’ Bugs Bunny clip be a reminder to chill out a bit:
So, go: hike and grill and nap and read. Get off your computer (as I’m about to do in 2.5 minutes), hop in your car, or on a bike, go for a walk, enjoy the last remnants of sunshine, and labor not this day.
We found ourselves piled on the couch again last night.
It’s become a before-bedtime ritual for the Little Man, and I think for Mama and Daddy as well. The clock strikes 6:52, and Baby starts to rub his eyes, so we push our dinner plates to the side, popping salted lime chunks of avocado in our mouths in a to-go effort. We let the taco dishes be, because, well, there will always be more dishes for washing, but there won’t always be an eager mine before us.
I take one end of the couch, my legs like bowling bumpers hanging over the edge; hoisting Cancan over his lap, the HBH takes the other end, our feet kissing in the middle. And then we just let Baby choose his own adventure.
He’s like this hyper-energetic, miniature version of a WWF wrestler, racing on all fours from one end of the couch to the other, and then standing up all-wobbling legged, rocking and walking and grinning that slaying smile, denting the cushions. He sees the sunny Palermo and Capri pictures hanging beyond the cushions, just within reach, and he lunges for them.
Of course he lunges for the Cost Plus World Market beauties.
And, of course, I let out this elongated “…no-o-oooooooo, Cancan,” because Mama and Daddy are still figuring out what it means to set boundaries and discipline a 13-month old.
I try to put on my stern face, for just 2.5 seconds, catching his eyes, letting him know that I’m serious, I mean business – but it’s no use. His cuteness overwhelms me, and he knows that he’s captured my heart, so he joins in the rousing chorus of “…no-o-oooooooo” by moving his head horizontally from side to side, smile growing with each shake.
I’m slain. I’m toast. I’m a crispy egg fried on the sidewalk in 100 degree temperatures.
But slowly, slowly, he moves his hands from the print, reaching toward me. And then, his professional wrestler-self back in the arena, he dive-bombs towards me, laughing the most perfect, incandescent mini-man giggle you’ve ever heard.
We are all now dying. We’re soaking up the perfection of this moment, and we’re entering into its glory, to the little miracle of life that our son is.
And then we’re realizing that we’re hopeless – absolutely hopeless – when it comes to setting boundaries and disciplining and “not letting the couch be a play arena,” because he keeps going back to the Palermo picture, hands reaching upward, waiting for my “…no-o-oooooooo” before lunging head-first again.
And again and again and again.
I guess that’s what being a parent is: it’s about entering into the moment, and laughing and giggling in marveling wonder, while rendering your heart hopeless to this little creature that is yours.
This little mine.
Thanks be to God.
What about you? How have you entered into that perfection-filled moment? How has your heart been captured?
Now, when you’re nine, and your 3rd grade teacher writes this in the comment section of your report card, this is very goodnews. Because you’re then encouraged to go home and let the mind soar, wheels churning out letter after letter from head to finger on your piece of wide-ruled piece of notebook paper.
But when you’re 34, and said active imagination finds itself creating a new reality of sorts, this isn’t very good news. Case in point: shoe-bugs.
Last week Baby Cancan and I were getting ready to head out for a walk; he was dressed, and I was already in my Mom Uniform [ie: yoga pants], my shoes the final touch. Baby sat on the floor of our bedroom, “sorting” all the books from bookshelf to floor – what a helper! I grabbed my running shoes, throwing them on the bed as I leaned against the bedpost with the right side of my body while bending down with the left in an attempt to un-sort his growing stack of “to-reads.”
(Should I make him a Goodreads account now, or wait until he’s two? He totally gives five stars to The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon, by the way).
Then, grabbing a shoe, I heard the sound: ticka-ticka-ticka, ticka-ticka-ticka. Shoe-bugs! Horrified at the aliveness just inches from my fingertips, from my Baby, I chucked the shoe into the hallway, evidently scattering and freeing bugs into every crevice and corner of the house. Cancan giggled heartily, eyes dancing, baby hands clapping, at my tremendous throwing skills: Do it again, mama, do it again! We’d tromped through the playground’s sandbox the day before, and in the course of 24 short hours, little tiny jumping sand creatures had nested in my Nikes, certainly already invading the rest of my shoe collection and closet to boot. Is Parks & Rec aware of the buggy-infestation problem? Should I call them now, or wait until I’m lying in the hospital, one toe at a time slowly being eaten away by the rare strain of shoe-bug disease?
Cancan signing More! More!, I inched my way over to the hallway, and putting on Brave Face, I bent down and peered inside the shoe: sand.
It was sand.
Pure playground sand that makes a ticka-ticka-ticka sound when there’s a bucketful nesting in the bed of the shoe.
A couple days later, the mailman knocked on our door, resulting in this Facebook status update:
“Postman knocks at our door, attempting to return a large, declined, return-to-sender package. That’s our address, but no one by that name lives here. Mr postman questions the address again, and again I tell him that my name is not Ingrid (nor is the HBH’s). Postman then runs down the steps, holding the package in front of him, yelling ‘suspicious!’ as I’m left standing in the door.”
Still standing in the doorway, in the course of 3.5 seconds the following internal dialogue soon ran through my mind: Surely we’ve become involved in some intricate postal service scheme. Someone pretending to be named INGRID – a solid, innocent Swedish name, at that – had used OUR address to deceptively mail a fake package to be returned to us because they knew we’d open it out of curiosity! Is it drugs? A bomb? Sweet Baby Jesus, someone is out to get us, and it’s all because I deleted over 1000 people on Facebook! They’re gonna make a movie out of us, dead or alive!
It was then – about 3.5 seconds later – that the HBH appeared beside me, his, “Uh, honey, hello?” interrupting my thoughts. Imagination awry, I’d again created the most untrue of scenes, mind still wandering over who I’d wronged that’d be angry enough to send me a package of poo in the mail. (Poo, too, was a part of the 3.5 second mind option).
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is a time and a place for the thrill of imagination. As a storyteller myself, I value its gift and desire an explosive use of its powers – especially when it’s time to explore a story. For there is wonder and magic and childlike awe in between the pages of the imaginary.
But when my mind has needlessly chosen to read into what isn’t there, creating an unhealthy second world based on assumptions, with a false, made-up world somehow have more weight and bearing than the Reality in front of me, the value of imagination is lost.
I once attended a retreat by a man named Father Rock; whether he was actually a priest, or just a really, really wise man, I’m not sure – but this I do know: he was in his 80’s, and having loved God and life itself for a good long time, wisdom was his to share. Giving us handouts of his own Father Rock Aphorisms, I took these pieces of paper to heart, wondering what the old man had to say to me.
I remember soon thereafter, holing up on Whidbey Island with Lizzy-friend, Father Rock’s handouts on my lap as I sat on the back deck, water just inches from my toes. I was finally taking the time to sit and be and still my mind, when I read something like this from him: The Spirit is Reality. Don’t read into what isn’t there and stop jumping to conclusions.
Whether it had to do with work and ministry, friendship and dating, or even (at that time) God’s greater will for my life, I’d created solutions and scenarios in my mind, believing the made-up stories of my own active imagination more than the reality in front of me.
I realized how I’d begun to live not so much in the ever-present reality of the here and now, but in my mind’s built-from-scratch island. And that wasn’t where I wanted to live anymore.
Staring out into the perfect, stormy Puget Sound water in front of me, eyes filling with tears, I remember uttering something of a prayer: Spirit, center me and help me BE. Jesus, let me creatively use my imagination when it’s appropriate, and when it’s not, help me slam the door shut.
I guess I’m uttering the same today. So, sand-bugs, be gone. Suspicious return-to-Ingrid-sender, see ya. I’m using my God-given imagination, but when and where it’s appropriate.
Mrs. “I’ve got nothing but sand in my shoes and an old lady who doesn’t remember her address and keeps using mine” Meredith.
What about you? Does your imagination sometimes get the best of you? Do you jump to – albeit – silly conclusions?
I’ve been sitting with a book, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, for a couple of weeks now; albeit, the title is somewhat cheese-worthy to me, but regardless of my own cynicism, the intersection of faith and art, the melding together of one’s soul with the act of creating is fresh on the forefront of my mind.
In particular, showcased artist Makoto Fujimura’s paintings have given me reason to shut my mouth, be, and partake in the Christ-Truth exposed in his work. I know I’ve seen his paintings before, but this week, this day, this minute, it’s Beauty exposed, raw and real and new for the very first time.
Does he do the same for you?
Happy Friday, friends. xo, c.
What do you see in these paintings? What artist sticks out to you, grabbing hold of your soul at a deep level?
Shelly is the real deal, folks: She’s a small, southern, blonde-haired bundle of intentionality and joy, and I love being around her. (I also love that we crossed over from her being a friend of the HBH to being a friend of my own). So delight Shelly’s words today, as she lives out the idea of BEing in the most intentional and natural of ways.
When my friend told me that she’s sitting with the word ‘be,’ I was so excited to share how I have been learning to do the same the past few years. I have been a habitual worrier of the past, future, and of things out of my control in the present. I started to realize how much I was missing in the moment. I was allowing my life to pass by without truly experiencing it.
It was after several conversations with a good friend about a specific fear in life that I realized I had to change my life because I could live kidnapped by the fears, worries, planning, what ifs, etc and miss daily life.
Even though I am writing on the topic of BEING, I think it’s important to note the word life. It is not a trivial word we should toss around and say lightly. Life – the joys, the actual breath from God, the miracle of birth, obstacles, laughter, relationships, love, people, nature, absence of death – Life. At times, I feel that we should capitalize the word, similar to God, because of how important the word is and the impact it is on us daily. Life. If we have respect for this word and treat it as the gift that it is, we can start to accept how to actually live, how to be.
I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching, this is as hard as any other task you may try to master. For me, connecting with my faith, not just relying on it, believing, connecting with faith and holding myself accountable to live in the moment. Three year, five year plans are great, but while you trying to craft that plan, what happened today? What did you possibly miss?
It was a secondary thought, but the realization did occur that I was disrespecting those around me by not being fully present. It’s like showing up to a party via Skype. You’re there in a form, but not fully present. I started living in the moments by fully using my senses. I started making eye contact with everyone I spoke to and came in near contact with. I was aware of sounds and those around me. I took time to listen to what people were saying.
I’m not against social media at all, but I don’t participate in it. I like connecting with people, ideally in person, second favorite via phone, then over email. I’m not concise (although I try) and I love to hear people’s experiences that I feel you can’t get from Facebook, etc. I am aware that I miss a lot of what’s going on, particularly pictures, but I make an extra effort to be a part of my friend’s lives.
I still believe in cards, notes – I probably help employ a USPS employee! Again, I try to use all my senses to experiences people. Yes, it takes time, but what are we here for if it’s not to connect with others, learn, live, and most importantly love? Love. We can always use the excuse we don’t have time, but the truth is, we never will. Make it. Make time to be present in YOUR life.
I also knew that I could learn from others – I observed others behaviors, I watched closely how they reacted to me. I realized that a lot of us live one step ahead of the moment we are experiencing (or trying to), including myself.
God gave us a gift. It is up to the recipient to use it properly and respectfully. Be present. Allow others to fully experience you being; it may be the greatest use of your gift.
Thank you, Shelly! Leave a comment for her below! Also, would you like to be a guest writer on Cara’s blog? Message me! Finally, help Cara’s writing grow by liking Be, mama. be on Facebook, or by subscribing to receive posts in your inbox by clicking on the Follow button to the left of the home page.
First, my friend Corrie came over; we ate coconut-macadamia nut-banana bread while the coffee flowed freely, and talked about everything from the difference between boys and men, to life and love, and current discussions of gay marriage and the purity movement within the church. We played with Canon and we laughed and we walked to Whole Foods, and even in the midst of chopping up tomatoes and avocados for lunch, we celebrated just being.
And then our time overlapped a little bit, and Steph and baby Maddy showed up, and while we ate chicken tacos and drank hot tea, we talked about being mamas. And about how being a mama is really, really good, but it’s also really, really hard. You can’t imagine life without your little one – I mean, what was it like before the babies showed up? – but then sometimes you look at him or her, and you go, I’m your mama? I’m a mama? How’d this happen anyway?
And so you reach out to each other in grace, with grace because somehow these little ones have begun to show us what it means to not live so tightly within our schedules and our to-do lists and the demands we place upon ourselves and other people.
You encourage each other and you cheer each other on, and you keep talking about everything under the moon because you can. Because you have the time and space, so it’s then just altogether lovely.
I feared when I left ministry that I’d face utter loneliness.
But instead I’ve found that I get to hang out with people and just be. It’s agenda-less.
I feared days inside the four walls of our house, with the fog pouring in from every skylight, rolling over my every last bit of joy.
But instead I find that I need to limit our comings and goings, because it’s just as easy, even if I’m not toting him around with me 9-5, to run myself – and baby Cancan – ragged.
And I even feared when we went down to one car last month in order to live more simply that I’d then be stuck and burdened when James took the car to work on Thursdays.
But instead I find that it’s freeing and it’s refreshing to walk to the grocery store instead of driving there, and that I kind of like an excuse for people to come to me.
This I realized tonite: I’m a closet Brit, or at least I want to be.
Following a delightful dinner with friends and new-parent buds, James and Alisa, this evening, we began to talk about the cultural differences in times of crisis between Americans and the British. Granted, although we could classify welcoming a baby into this world as more of a life-change, it still yields itself as a crisis according to Webster’s:
*Is it an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life? Check.
*Is it a decisive moment (as in a literary plot) that brings about change? Um, yes, like the second that little one arrives.
Take tonight, for example: we, as (my) James, Canon and I, responded to an email asking for us to provide dinner for this family. We said yes, but this – this – was key: we waited for the email to come to us. We showed up gleefully, no doubt, with taco fixins and a warm bottle of Chardonnay to boot, but had we not received that email, I’m sure it would have been a couple of months before I’d reached out to Alisa, asking to bring dinner over.
Had the couple been living in England, there would have been no Meal Plan [email sign-up], but the community automatically, without assumption or second thought, would have showed up with dinner. Death in the family? A ticket would have been purchased without question.
Have we, as Americans, become so culturally sensitive (or desensitized, as one could argue) that we’ve lost the guts to simply be present in times of crisis?
In not wanting to step on toes or offend the other party, are we missing out on opportunities to live and honor and bless and be?
I think about my time on maternity leave: I was eager for the world to meet our little man. Granted, I bounced back quicker following his birth than a lot of women (and therefore was eager for friendship beyond our four walls), but I wanted, I yearned for a phone call or text, checking in to see how I was holding up. After playing that silly female “uh, did I say something wrong?” game, I realized that they were waiting for me.
As Americans, we want to give space and we don’t want to offend and intrude and step on toes, so we back away and wait until we’re invited in.
What if we turned the tables and became the inviters?
When someone says, “Let’s do dinner,” I’m going to pull out my calendar right then. (Is it not already immediately on hand, right there on the phone anyhow? This also, selfishly, applies to offers of babysitting as well; when someone offers to babysit, take them up on it right then and there. Our friend, Keith, taught us this, and we’ve gladly heeded his advice).
When a new mama welcomes a little one into this world, I’m going to call her. Even if it takes her a week to listen to this voicemail, I know that message can mean the world in a new place of isolation and change and helplessness.
When death happens, I’m going to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and ask my friend how they’re really doing. I had a friend a couple of years ago who tragically lost her son; this, no doubt, changed her and affected her greatly. A year or so after his passing, we found ourselves on a walk; we were both quiet for a while, and finally I asked her how she was doing – albeit completely awkwardly – with his death. Her response? Thank you. Most people, she said, were fearful to even mention his name, but she needed to talk about him and remember him and process her emotions.
So, what do you think? Am I off my rocker here? Had we had one too many glasses of Syrah (as the Chardonnay was cooling in the fridge), therefore creating a cultural mountain out of a molehill?
But if I’m not, what would you add to the list? How can you be an inviter and a closet Brit yourself?