loaves and fish: on showing up anyway

I don’t know. I don’t know their names or their faces. Or why or what home they come from. I don’t know what they’ve been through or when or if they’ll go from here. I honestly don’t even know how we’ll do this at all. All I know is that we have to.

The day I found out I was pregnant with Margo I knew something was wrong. Hand to God the very second I looked down at those devastatingly blue lines, these words scrolled across my mind: “Something bad is going to happen.” But I swallowed them down and opened the bathroom door and on shaky feet brought the test to my husband. Five months later when we went to the hospital because I was leaking, the midwife tested the fluid and looked up at me. Not a breath passed by before once again, I knew. “We’re going to lose her. She’s not going to make it.” I knew, I knew, I knew and it did nothing. Knowing does nothing.

Two days later I sat empty and sad, hollow and soft in the thin, starchy, pink gown. The one with buttons for nursing your alive and well newborn. Hours before I sat crying alone in the dark, my arms wrapped around myself like a prayer. Like maybe if I held on tight enough I could stop my backstabbing uterus from contracting around my fragile daughter. Eventually my ever so steadfast crisis mode clicked on, the tears stopped, and I stood to pack my things for Labor and Delivery. And somehow my heart kept beating. Ever since that day it has been a whisper and an ache in my bones – foster. 

I don’t know how, but I know I have to. There have been things in my life that I wanted to do. In fact, my anxiety makes anything I want to do something I want to do badly; I don’t like waiting. Even with all that urgency in my veins I have never felt anything like this. This is not a “thing I want to do”. I mean, it is. But, it’s not a thing. It is a calling. I like that word. Calling. I use it a lot in regards to my faith. We are called. We are called to do that, and that, and that. I am called to do this.

Call. It has become a heavy and fervent word.

Since beginning the process to get our license I have second guessed myself a thousand times daily. Save for the days when everything is magical and easy and I think to myself, “Oh hell yeah I’ve got this. Look at me – parenting the shit out of this tough cookie. Well done, Rachel.” Very quickly however, the universe realigns itself back into chaos and I wonder as minutes and routines pass by, “Where is a stranger’s baby going to fit into any of this?” At 8pm when my toddler is running naked through the house, being chased by her father wielding a toothbrush, I look inward and upward to ask, “How?” Faithfully the answer always comes, “Just show up.”

And you know what? Thats exactly what I am capable of doing. I don’t get it perfectly. A lot of the time I don’t even get it well. I curse and I shop at Target too much. Our house could use some new carpet and we have frozen pizza every week. But I can show up. Ragged, but here. This has become my mantra when I can’t possibly understand how my meager offerings will be enough. Just. Show. Up.

Just show up. With your store bought muffins and your dying plants. With your endless fatigue and no bra. Bring your OCD, your anxiety, your depression. Come with your car on it’s last legs and your walls with peeling paint. Bring your debt and your yoga pants. Show up and watch God feed the multitudes with your tiny townhome pantry.

They are here now – right now. They don’t have the time to wait around for perfect people. But they can make do with me.

“Learn to do right; seek justice.

    Defend the oppressed.

Take up the case of the fatherless;

    Plead the case of the widow.”

Isaiah 1:17

water

how can broken people heal a shattered world?

maybe we can’t.

maybe we’re not 

supposed to.

what if we just wait for the flood?


it cannot be much longer until God regrets, undoes

what we’ve said They’ve done

our veins pulse with shame, for shame

we are the drought

f o r    s h a m e.

dear daughter: a letter to my wildfire child

Dear daughter, the world cannot and will not love you like I do. It is simply not possible. You see, your veins are continuations of mine. When I was growing in my mother’s womb I held you already inside of my own, matryoshka nesting dolls of women.

Dear daughter, you are golden like honey and also flame. People will try to consume you then pull away, scorched. Do not let them douse you to ashes. Do not let them have your sweetness and not your heat.

Dear daughter, you are not broken. At least, not any more so than the rest of us. You are not to be fixed. You are to be taken whole and loved entirely.

Dear daughter, I have patience enough for you and when my stores run low I will dig deep and find more. You are worthy of time and understanding and effort.

Dear daughter, know your flaws but neither justify nor apologize for them.

Dear daughter, listen to the voice in your belly when it prods you to speak louder. Understand that passion can scare people who are not ready for it. Get loud anyway.

Dear daughter, there is peace and goodness in silence, too. Understand that reserve can scare people who are not ready for it. Be still anyway.

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of the world. Intelligence is far superior to beauty. Pretty is not your purpose.

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of your mother. Kindness matters far more than intelligence. Superior is not your purpose.

Dear daughter, know that God is love and love is God’s work and above all, above all, above ALL it is what we are called to do. Your self, your family and friends, the man who cut you off in traffic, and the people you cut out for your own peace and health. Let love humble and restore you with the rise and set of the sun.

Dear daughter, balance is a facade. Behind its serene mask a toxic perfectionism is haunting. Let yourself bounce freely and at times wildly from one state to another. Label your days good or bad but never yourself. Allow yourself to be human – hung intentionally between animal and divine.

Dear daughter, remember wherever or however you wander there is a place for you by my side or in my arms. Come what may, I have always been and will always be a home.

icicles

Winter is finally touching down in Georgia this week with lots of rain and below freezing temps. After what happened last year, we’re all understandably cautious and schools & businesses have already begun to close down in preparation for the “wintry mix” that’s been forecast. On my way home from work tonight I noticed icicles quickly forming on power lines, traffic signs, and trees. Thankfully the roads were a ways away from succumbing and my drive was safe, leaving me free to enjoy the way the light sparkled through the tiny bits of ice. I couldn’t wait to get home and snap a few photographs before curling up under multiple blankets with my small family all nestled together.

IMG_9378-1We like the word “blessed”. We love it, actually. Hashtag blessed. “Got free guac at Chipotle #blessed” “Three day weekend! #blessed” “The wings on my eyeliner are symmetrical #blessed” We straight up love being #blessed. And I’m counting myself in this crowd.

There’s synonym for our beloved blessed that isn’t nearly as favored. I think we’re scared of it, honestly. Our hackles rise in defense when it’s tossed our way and we’re quick to respond, “You have no idea what I’ve been through!” We freely admit to being blessed all day. But being privileged? Hell to the no, I’ve earned what I have with my own blood, sweat, and tears! Screw you AND YOUR MOM TOO.

This is particularly a problem in American Christian culture, I think. At least, from my limited perspective and experience in this world. (That last sentence should be how we all end most of the statements we make. Agreed?) We like what “blessed” means because it has a positive connotation: God has chosen to bestow upon me this big/medium/small gift not because I have earned it but because He loves me and wants me to be happy. Hallelujah, bring on the #blessings. We do not feel the same way about “privileged”. We get mad at “privileged” because it brings with it a heaviness and at times, a guilt. There is a difference between blessed and privileged, that is definite. Does it have to be a bad thing, though? Privileged is: God has chosen to bestow upon me this big/medium/small advantage not because I have earned it but because He loves me and wants me to use it as a tool or platform for loving and helping others.

No wonder we hate privilege. It comes with responsibility. An obligation. Damnit.

Blessings we feel free to enjoy like birthday gifts. Just because. Just because you’re special and lovely and a good person. You have to DO something with a privilege though. It is a call to action. It is our highest and most important calling.

A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34

This is where the guilt comes from. We are called to love each other in a Godly way. But we are human. And selfish. And it’s so much easier to call something a blessing and move on. It’s hard to acknowledge a privilege and look for ways to utilize it for the good of others. Who wants to give away birthday gifts, ya know? We’d prefer to just deny its existence.

This is a difficult subject to broach. I have a lot of thoughts about it and there are so many different points to cover (the American Dream culture and celebration of busy-ness, etc). I sit on my words for a long time. I don’t like to talk about something until I feel comfortable that I actually have a decent amount of knowledge to contribute and not merely an opinion. Opinions are easy to have. Kind of like blessings. I don’t really know if this jumbled collection of words can or will do much good. But the teacup of my brain was overflowing a bit and I needed to pour a little out. So thank you for being here for that.

It is both a blessing and a privilege that I had a warm group of huddled bodies to come home to tonight. That I have a warm house in which to retreat after enjoying icicles for the beauty they have to offer. It is a privilege that is not shared by all.

Please consider donating to your local organizations that work diligently to bring short-term and long-term solutions to the challenges faced by our homeless brothers and sisters. Might I suggest Gateway Center in Atlanta.

IMG_9379-1

thrive

I wrote last year about the powerful influence words & mantras can have. I love words. I love the process of choosing the right ones – trying them on like clothing and leaving behind a crumpled mess on the floor. I love thinking about the subtle nuances of their definitions and listening to the marked differences in their sounds. As a critical optimist I keep a foot in both camps when it comes to New Years Resolutions and the like. On one hand, it’s just another day, week, month, etc. You’ll lose this burst of motivation by March. And did I mention nobody cares? BUT- FRESH START! NEW BEGINNING! TURNING OVER A WHOLE TREE OF LEAVES!

I’m a proud fence-sitter.

So I’ll don my lemming suit while keeping a good sense of humor about it all. That seems to be the right balance for me.

My word for 2015: thrive.

verb / to grow or develop well or vigorously; prosper; flourish

On paper my last few years don’t seem so bad. College graduation, bought a house, got hitched, got pregnant – on purpose. A lot of wonderful things happened and those blessings should not be discounted. But when I think about how those last few years have felt rather than how they looked, so much of it was spent in survival mode. Just trying to get to the next day. To the next weekend. To the next paycheck. To the next breather. I have some guilt when I think about the amount of depression and anxiety I experienced during what should have been golden years. But there it is. Depression doesn’t often choose convenient moments and it doesn’t really care about what your life looks like to other people. It just is.

Those years were hard. And exhausting. And so, so good for me. Those years prepared me for whatever it is that this year has for me. The person I need to be this year needed those experiences in her hand. I firmly believe that God doesn’t intend for us to just “make it” through this life. There is a reason we are animals and not machines. We are meant to have joy. We are made to dance and laugh and make love. We are made to thrive.

I know this year won’t be void of challenge or obstacle. I know this year won’t be “easy”. We are about to have our little world turned up on its head. And I am so excited for that. I am ready, I have been prepared. God has laid the foundation and given me the tools I’ll need. Let’s go, 2015. Let’s do this. Let’s thrive.

joy