This post is also featured on the MOPS blog Hello Darling! today.
Shhhhhh, it’s okay, Mommy’s here. Words I whisper often in the dark. During a child’s night terror. Or fever. Or middle of the night change of the sheets. I take my fingers and push her hair away from her forehead. I do my best with my presence and my words to reassure both of us that she indeed will be okay. That she is safe. That I will take care of her.
And how many of those nights have I crawled back into my own bed, pulled the covers up under my chin and wondered, Am I going to be okay? Those moments where I’ve asked God to turn up the whisper so I can hear his reassurance that he has me and I don’t need to fear. I’ve never heard an audible response, but sometimes I’ve felt a sudden peace fill my heart reassuring me that I am not alone in this world. But not always. Sometimes there is just the fear.
It almost doesn’t matter the worry. Because fear creeps in through many channels. Stress about enough money to cover the bills, about pediatricians’ concerns, about words that were misunderstood. Fear about growth charts and milestones, friendship and acceptance, marriage and meaning as a mom and a woman walking this planet. Seriously, give me something to worry about and my heart can be convinced quickly that it is a noble fear worth agonizing over.
But that fear does more than just keep me up at night. It takes over my body in tension, my thoughts as I fixate on things that are usually unlikely and certainly out of my control. It reigns over my heart as I am pulled away from dwelling in the mystery of life I’m surrounded by.
And oh so much easier to talk about living a brave life than actually doing the hard work of living it. But I know you are. I know, fellow mama, you are perhaps letting the tears hit the pillow at night as your own worries swirl around, but you are getting up in the morning. You are making those phone calls, going to that job, showing up to those appointments that might have difficult words to hear. You are listening and learning and making choices. Because you are the mother. And motherhood requires bravery.
I tell my girls you must be afraid in order to be brave. The presence of fear is not the absence of courage, it is the soil of it. Because courage grows and blossoms despite the worry. I see you mom and you are already brave. Now go and Be you, Bravely.
Last week Derek and I were invited to a retreat about generosity. I went mostly because it was a night away at the beautiful Glen Eyrie retreat center next to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. For two days a small group of us talked about holding things loosely because everything, EVERYTHING, here and in our care belongs to God. Much of the conversation revolved around being generous in areas of finance, but I spent much of my time thinking about what it means to be generous with my talents and to have a generous spirit in everyday interactions with people. That I want a generous heart with my attention, not just my stuff.
There is a thing about generous people, they give and they make you want to give too. That’s how it is for me with author Kathi Lipp.
I met Kathi a few years ago at the MOPS office. She did a talk for the staff, a preview of sorts before MOMcon and I was an instant fan. Kathi is engaging and warm and made me feel like I was her new best friend, though I was one of many in a crowd listening to her. And when I talked with her after, it was confirmed I was willing to be her BFF if she would have me. Because she has a generous spirit!
And in the years that have followed every interaction I’ve had with this woman has been genuine and encouraging. She is generous with her attention and her heart. I’ve watched as she has been surrounded by women who connected with her during one of her talks and she has made each one feel noticed and special. Because she DOES notice them and she knows they ARE special. So in lots of ways I want to be more like Kathi because Kathi is more like Jesus.
So I was thrilled to hear the title of her newest book: I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. I knew I’d be hearing from a seasoned mom (of both the old fashioned and step variety) who had my heart in mind. She is generous you see and she wants us moms of youngers to know God’s reassurance when our kids (or really life) doesn’t go like we think it will.
Even from the introduction she reminds us moms that she is in it with us. In Kathi’s words:
“Like you, I want the best for my kids. I would lay down my life for them. (Alex here, okay so she gets me right off). I want to take every pain away, to stop every potential issue before it happens (Alex again, does she REALIZE I’m about to have a child in middle school?!), to keep them safe and healthy. And I want them to grow into men and women who love God and live by his word.(Yes! This woman reads my mind and I’m sorry this book was written just for me, but keep reading.)
But, frustratingly, sometimes the next step isn’t “do”. Sometimes the next step is just to be still and know that he is God.”
And there. Bam! Right from the start she hits us with the hard part. We must trust God in all circumstances. Yes ALL. And not just the wayward child who has made bad decisions (and I don’t use “just” lightly there, I’m thinking there may be no deeper pain than a child we believe to be self-destructing in some way.) What I mean is there are ways our youngers are “not going according to plan” as well.That Kathi’s definition is broad and includes unexpected life that impacts our kids.
For me it was a child’s hospitalization. Which over years turned into five emergency room visits that developed into longer hospital stays. Or the split-second just last week at preschool that is forever seared on my heart at the devastation on my daughter’s face when a group of girls turned their backs on her and left her out. Kathi’s words are generous because they have my heartache in mind. They are all about God’s promises that he loves my girls in the midst of their pain. In the midst of them growing up in a world that is not as it should be. This side of Eden.
So here’s the thing about generous people, they give and they make you want to give too. So let me be as generous as I possibly can through written words on a screen, you have my full attention as I say this, life hardly ever goes according to plan. Parenting even less. We need to remind each other that the only unchanging factor is God’s nature. Kathi’s book is this week’s reminder for me.
God sees you. He knows you. He loves you. Regardless of how your day is going and how your kids are doing.
Hear it. Believe it. Absorb it my friends.
I learned this weekend you can take the girl out of the sorority, but you can’t take the sorority out of the girl
I’ve been out of the college life a long time now. Sixteen years of marriage. Four children. Lots of jobs. Those years of pins and letters and secret handshakes are not even full memories, just whispers of a younger, more slender woman. My brain filled with car pool schedules, grocery lists and parent-teacher conferences doesn’t have time to reminisce about late night studying, big sis/little sis parties and quiet floor policies. It’s of a different world. A different life. A different me.
I’d heard Saturday morning about the shooter at the UCSB campus and beautiful town of Santa Barbara. The story caught my husband’s attention, in part because of the horrific nature and “Not again!” internal cry. But also because of our Santa Barbara connection, a place where both my sisters-in-law attended school (Westmont College) and where Derek and I honeymooned. We could picture the California ocean town with its pier and bars and shuddered at the horror of a lovely Friday night gone wrong. As parents we grieved. Because now we grieve when anyone’s child is hurt.
But Sunday the story expanded for me as we learned about the sorority house where the gunman banged on the door for a minute, no one answered, so he turned and shot three girls on the front lawn. The YouTube videos where he named this particular group of college girls and his determination for blood shed there. A bad horror movie plot with a real-life Hollywood connected killer.
And again the location is what caught my attention: the Alpha Phi house.
Sorority means sisterhood. And I felt the sisterhood Sunday despite the years and life I’ve lived since I’ve been an active sorority girl. The tudor house on Warner St. in Tacoma, WA flashed in my mind. Where a hundred of us crammed into our basement meeting room on Monday nights to attend to chapter business. Where living with a bunch of girls had drama, but also true acceptance. It was a safe place in lots of ways making its mention in context of this news story that much more shocking.
My sorority experience didn’t mirror the stereotypes. I can say with complete assurance that I always felt supported by my “sisters” in a developmental time when doubts were more plentiful than self-confidence. I still credit my sorority experience to preparing me for the small talk required to be a grown-up (where else do you learn tricks on how to remember people’s names?) and the ability to participate in and run a meeting when I entered the workforce. But I also had a connection to the past, a history of women who attended college long before it was the norm who came together to support each other. None of those were reasons I joined Alpha Phi as a college freshman, but we often gain unexpected benefits in unplanned places.
And now a mother of four girls I’ve found myself wondering if sorority life is really what I want for them. I don’t know. I automatically default to those stereotypes of mean girls and college craziness that now makes me feel a full-blown prude and old. But I do know I want sisterhood for them. In friendships and in motherhood and in the workforce and in church. All places where I’ve found it.
What surprised me Sunday is the allegiance I felt to these college girls who certainly are living a different life than I. Who aren’t thinking about mortgage payments and retirement plans. Who Friday afternoon were likely thinking summer internships and returning home to a few months of mom and dad’s rules. I grieve that they now have to think about blood stained sidewalks and potential copycat aggressors.
I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of motherhood, where I see every person now as someone’s child. I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of Jesus following women who pray to the Prince of Peace.
And I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of the ivy and lily of the valley, of Alpha Phi, and I stand Union Hand in Hand.
AOE dear sisters.