rituals: holding on with all my might (nicole t. walters).

I’m constantly amazed at all the different rituals parents have with their children – while this was never the intention with this year’s theme, it’s been fun to see the progression. Enjoy and dive into  my friend Nicole T. Walter’s words today, and who knows? Maybe it’ll prompt an extra snuggle out of those nearest and dearest to you. Lots of love! 

Photo cred: Creative Outlet
Photo cred: Creative Outlet

It happens every night. Sometimes it is tiny little tiptoes and sometimes it is a tired, clumsy climb up. Regardless of how they get there, every morning I wake up to find two little bodies intertwined with mine. My son, just four, snuggles between my husband and I while his sister, six, curls up firmly against me.

Sometimes I tell other moms that the kids end up in bed with us every night and they gasp, “I would never let my kids do that.” I usually sleep like the dead, so it doesn’t disturb my sleep when they crawl into bed. But it is those morning hours that I would never trade for the world.

I wake to find two little blonde heads laying on one part of me or another. I usually try to get up the first time my alarm breaks through my sleep, but their presence holds me there. I cuddle deeper into the covers and warmth of four bodies nestled into a queen size bed.

I can’t pull myself from their sweet embrace just yet.

It isn’t natural for me to be able to take moments to just hold them. I am so “Type A” that slowing down is literally work for me. Extreme drivenness, mile-long to-do lists, multi-tasking and the drive to be perfect – these things come easily for me. It is slowing down that is hard.

As soon as that first ring of the alarm sounds, my mind starts racing. Most days I wake up already feeling behind, wishing I had gotten up earlier so I could get more tasks done before the day really begins and the kids awaken.

My tendency is to jump out of bed and into the day ahead, listening to the voices in my head telling me all I need to accomplish.

But there are these two little reminders in my bed. Their sweet sleeping faces pull me back for a moment.

I know it won’t always be this way.

So this has become the ritual of my day that reminds me to slow down and not take a moment for granted. Some nights that I am feeling extra rushed, I can’t wait to hold them. I need that sweet feeling of slow, so I scoop their tiny bodies up in my arms and nestle into bed with them.

I certainly don’t cherish every minute. Life gets busy and I rush them through the day more often than I should. I nod and smile while not really listening sometimes when they tell the same story over and over.

But there are other moments, too.

I will be walking my preschooler down the hall to class and he reaches up to grab my hand. I close my eyes for a minute and try to memorize the exact size of his hand in mine. I run my finger over the back of his thumb and try to slow my walking so that short hall feels a little longer.

I know there will come a day, probably not too far in the future, when it won’t be cool to hold mommy’s hand anymore. His fingers will be bigger than mine someday and won’t fit so perfectly into the palm of my hand.

Every night before I go to bed, usually much too late because I have been up getting all those tasks done, I kneel down in the nightlight’s glow. Since mommy and daddy aren’t available yet, he his found his way into big sister’s room.

I lay my head on their chests; I close my eyes and just hold them in the dark. I breathe prayers over them that I may not have found time in the hectic day to pray. I thank the Lord for these quiet moments and ask for more of them.

Help me to slow down, God. It is all going too fast. Help me to just hold onto them with all my might.

Then, I crawl into bed and spend a few precious moments with their dad. We know there will be little arms prying their way between us soon.

Then, we quickly fall into welcome sleep, listening for the approach of little feet.

Nicole T. Walters is a writer from metro Atlanta who has written for Relevant.comHer.meneuticsSheLoves Magazine and is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild. Nicole blogs about faith and being on mission wherever God has placed you at nicoletwalters.com. You can connect with her on Facebook and TwitterIt’s Cara again: Even though we don’t have littles who join us in bed most mornings, this kind of makes me want to MAKE them plop into our queen with us. Room for all, room for all! Leave Nicole a note and tell her how much you appreciated her words, will you?

lessons in love (and really angry Ford F150 drivers).

There’s a recurring theme in my life that goes something like this:

  1. Mama isn’t in a good space (see also: needs vacation, needs a full-time nanny, needs a sister-wife of her own, needs to go sit with her soul and be).
  2. Mama decides to Rage Against the Machine at the service worker at closest firing range (see also: Target employee, parking garage attendant, 18-year-old YMCA front desk worker).
  3. Said Target employee, parking garage attendant, 18-year-old YMCA front desk worker becomes a regular part of our everyday lives (see also: shakes head, pounds fists, screams Why, God, why?)
  4. Mama eventually has a Come to Jesus moment and apologizes to aforementioned Target employee, parking garage attendant, 18-year-old YMCA front desk worker.
  5. Mama’s little preschooler decides that he wants to be Best Friends Forever with every human on this earth (including but not limited to Target employee, parking garage attendant, 18-year-old YMCA front desk worker).

So we begin to learn their names, as we should have in the first place. We roll the back windows down and call Miss Lisette by her first name when she rings up our parking toll after a trip to the YMCA. We practice looking people in the eye, and then Cancan the three-year-old asks in his most scraggly monster voice, “Howareyoudoingtoday?!” He scrunches his nose and he closes his eyes and even though she can’t really understand what he’s just said, she too plays along. She too tries her hardest to show kindness to the woman who was far from showing kindness to her one day not so long ago.

Because even though the lesson is seemingly hard for me to learn, I want my boys to know and understand and realize in their depths that every human on this earth has value.

That we are not better than anyone, not one.

That all of us – Cancan and Frodo and Mama and Dada, and all of our neighbors and all of our friends and all of the people we see when we’re driving down the street – matter, deeply.

And sometimes I feel like a broken record player when I say it: we all just want to be known and understood, we all just want to be known and understood, we all just want to be known and understood, but it’s true.

We all just want to be known and understood.

This morning – in that same parking garage, with that same parking attendant – a man pulled up behind us. He revved his gas pedal impatiently, and because his window was down, I could hear his “Come on, lady!” shouts directed toward me. His threw his hands up in the air and he slapped the top of his truck and he sounded his horn while I waited for the car to my right to pull out of my future parking space.

And I thought about shouting back at him, because I am a rabble rouser! And it’s my right to this parking space! And who are you to think that your time is more important than my own?!

Exclamation point. 

But I didn’t.

Instead, I just waved, which probably pissed him off even more.

And then, when he finally was granted the freedom to pass me – Jehovah, Jehovah! – I wildly waved my left arm at him some more.

I wasn’t mocking him and I wasn’t trying to make him angry, I was just trying to acknowledge that he too is a human. He’s a human who probably spilled his coffee this morning, which made him have to change his nice button-up shirt, which made him late for his 10 o’clock meeting, which made him shout curses and beep horns and pound steel at me.

Because it happens to me all the time (even if Ford F150’s aren’t really my vehicle of choice).

So friends, this is my song. It’s my song and it’s my cry and it’s the message I’ll likely be shouting from rooftops every other day when I write and when I drive, when I walk and when I tuck my babies into sleep at night.

Would you like for it to be your song as well?

xo, c.

UnknownThere’s a book I read recently – A Man Called Ove – that really reminded me of this message. Within a chapter or two the reader is reminded that Grumpy Old Men are not merely Grumpy Old Men, but there’s a story behind each and every one of us, behind the grumpiness we sometimes clothe ourselves with. It’s a fun, funny, and endearing story, so check it out if you’re in need of a new fiction read. Otherwise, what lessons are you learning over and over again? Who do you need to practice kindness toward? And really, how do YOU feel about Ford F150 drivers?

*Amazon Affiliate Links, yo.

rituals: tracing tiny crosses (laura kelly fanucci).

Guest post Tuesday!  As you know, we’ve been diving into the theme of #rituals this year, making space in our ordinary, everyday lives to notice the not-so-boring rituals that make the story deeper.  And today’s writer, Laura, is no exception to noticing the deeper tales.  Enjoy her words, and the blessing it brings not only to her house each night, but also to your life as well.  

Flickr Creative Commons: bostankorkulugu.
Flickr Creative Commons: bostankorkulugu.

It started small. Maybe all rituals do.

Each night before bed—after bath and books, before songs and kisses—I’d sweep my finger across each boy’s forehead to smooth back their damp hair. Then with my thumb I’d trace two small lines on their brows—one down, one across —to make a tiny cross.

A simple blessing.

Sometimes I whispered a prayer, something short and sweet. Sometimes I was tired and gave only a quick kiss as I turned to go. Either way, it become our bedtime ritual.

I don’t know why I started years ago. No one taught me to do it. I’m a Christian, yes, and crosses are powerful symbols about death and life and love that rises.

But this instinct to reach out and touch my children’s heads in a more meaningful way? It went beyond religious ritual.

It was a yearning to encounter my children outside the everyday actions of cleaning, correcting, and comforting. It was born of a desire to slow down and look into their eyes. It was an intuition that ordinary touch becomes sacred when we make space for the holy between us.

And the most surprising thing about this simple ritual? How it slowly started spreading into other corners of our life together as family. How we began blessing each other at other times, too.

Once after I lost my temper in a furious scowl, I crouched down to ask forgiveness of my five year-old. Ignoring my words, he reached over and brushed aside my hair to smudge a clumsy cross onto my forehead with his marker-stained thumb. “Bless you, Mommy,” he said, scampering off to play.

Leaving me behind, kneeling on the floor, the trace of his fingers still warm on my face.

One night at dinnertime, our middle son refused to say grace with us. I leaned over and ask if I could bless him instead. Even with his brow furrowed and his small chin stuck out in defiance, he bent his head toward me just enough to let me reach him. A tiny cross. The rest of the meal went on in peace.

One afternoon after our third son was born, I gave into the constant pleas of “can I hold the baby?” and told the big boys to climb up on the couch to cradle their brother in their laps. As they gazed down at him, our oldest son reached over and traced a small cross on the baby’s head. In a sing-song voice, he added softly, “I bless you for God.”

I held my breath. Here was a ritual of welcome, one of those rare and holy moments between siblings. A blessing between boys who would (of course) come to shove and slap and pinch and punch each other on the bumpy road to becoming brothers. But who also knew, at the beginning, that they belonged to each other. And they belonged to something bigger than themselves.

Our practice of signing tiny crosses had sealed the deal.

Sometimes I confuse the practice of faith with excellence in faith. We need to do it all and do it right, or else everything will fall apart and fail.

But my small children and our smaller rituals are teaching me that the opposite is true. That perhaps what matters most is not getting the big things right, but getting the small things right.

As a parent, all I can hope to do is trace a tiny blessing on my children’s foreheads. Sweep aside their messy hair, wipe off the sweaty smudges, and bless their brows with the smallest sign of the One who calls them for love.

All I can do is offer traces of faith, over and over again, hoping the thin lines from my fumbling fingers will leave an imprint on their hearts. Trusting that any efforts I make are already swept up in the embrace of Love itself, the mystery in which we live and move and have our being.

So I’ll bless them again tonight. Our simple bedtime ritual.

I’ll trace a tiny cross for them tonight, and tomorrow, and all the nights after – until the night when they turn their heads away and tell me no, they’re too old for that now. That night I will close another chapter as I close their bedroom door behind me.

But still I will carry the same prayer with me: that they will know love and that they will carry love’s traces with them all life long.

One tiny touch at a time.

LKF headshot colorLaura Kelly Fanucci is a writer and mother of three boys. She is the author of Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting and the Research Associate for the Collegeville Institute Seminars. You can connect with Laura on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and on her blog, Mothering Spirit.  Cara here: I mean, are you encouraged or what? I can’t wait to trace tiny crosses across foreheads this evening.  Leave Laura some love below!

the little things: the speed of change (heather caliri).

Well, ready, set, go …that’s all I have to say to you. We only have TWO more Guest Post Tuesdays until 2015 commences (eventually). So enjoy my new friend Heather’s words for us today, because friends, she is a bonafide word-master.  Enjoy.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley.
Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley.

“Look, Mama,” my youngest said.

I was at my desk, a few feet from our dining table. Both my daughters were busy with markers and colored pencils; stray copy paper and card stock littered the shining surface.

I pressed send on my email, then got up and walked over to her.

And almost gasped with surprise.

She’d drawn a girl. A girl with a circle for a head, and a body: torso like a rectangle, arms like blocks, plump hands at the ends of each. The girl wore a dress, she had curly hair, she was smiling up at me with joy.

My daughter drawing wasn’t notable. No, she and her big sister used reams of paper every month.

What surprised me was that yesterday, and the day before , and the days and weeks before that, her way of drawing people had been completely different.

They were stick figures, torsos a slender stem. Arms stick straight to the side like a T. Legs also to the side, parallel to the arms, as if each figure were a gymnast doing the splits.

Both ways of drawing were dear. Both wonderful. Both made me smile.

But both were completely, absolutely different.

In one day.

“You did it different!” I said, my voice full of the excitement I felt. “You came up with a new way of drawing people.”

She grinned up at me, pleased with her work. Then she got a fresh sheet of paper and started again.

I watched her for a moment, in wonder.

Because I will never, ever get used to watching people change right in front of me. Not slow-motion change, like hair or nails growing. No: the gigantic, lightening bright flashes.

Before I had kids, I thought all change happened slowly. I assumed that I evolved like the Grand Canyon, worn down over millennia. I thought everyone changed too slowly to notice, that new life required endless patience and gritting my teeth for the long haul.

But the very first moments of parenthood started changing my mind.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I gripped the test stick in my hand, blinking at the positive result. Moments ago, I had been me, with everything that signified sure as stone.

Now, I was radically, basically different. I was pregnant.

The speed of that change mystified me.

Birth happened that way too—I was all roly-poly possibility, then a writhing dervish, then a still, astonished mother with a baby at her breast. All in a few short hours.

No, the longer I see my children grow, the longer I walk alongside them, a student of humanity, the more I realize change isn’t slow.

It happens in great gulps, in sudden jerky leaps forward. My children circle around a new skill for a while, hesitant and nervous, and then they lurch forward with bravery into something new.

And suddenly they are walking or potty-trained or reading or drawing a girl with solid fingers and toes.

We notice children’s changes because they’re so physical, and because they’re celebrating them at regular, predictable intervals: walking, losing teeth, mastering bicycles and roller skates and hitting a baseball. We know it’s a special window of possibility; we know we have to savor the anticipation.

But I don’t think the changes end in childhood. They just go underground, into our hearts and spirits. Sometimes circumstances change us—losses or heady gains, life shifts or hardships. Or sometimes we start moving with intention in a new direction and end up far, far away from where we started.

I start journaling each day and find it thrusts me into a new way of praying. I pray in a different way and suddenly my way of relating to God is profoundly altered. A new expression of faith starts working transformation in my marriage and family relationships and creativity.

This sense that nothing changes, that we are who we are, forevermore?

It’s a lie.

We do not have to walk in slow motion through life, waiting for wind to sand us down. No: we’re all poised on the brink of new possibilities, new ways of moving through the world. We’re all at a precipice, facing dizzying choices that might plunge us into new adventures.

What if we had that same sort of anticipation with ourselves that we have with our kids? What if we waiting, with bated breath, to see what might happen next? What if we were ready, at every moment, to astonish ourselves?

h bio pic_june 2014 editsHeather Caliri is a writer from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith two years ago and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Her new journal for people anxious about the Bible is called Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us.  And friends, I don’t know if you’re breathing a sigh of blessed LOVELINESS at Heather’s writing, but I sure am.  So, what can you say to our friend today?  What is change to you?