Stillness

It’s late and the thunder is grumbling at me outside, little cracks of heat lightning here and there, and the proverbial crickets are still chirping.

The world moves when I am still. Life doesn’t stop when we wait.

How does that even work? I’ve been attempting to co-exist with God over the past few weeks, waiting in his silence, and life as I know it hasn’t disintegrated. I’m shocked. Part of me actually believed that if I stopped moving, if I stopped actively propelling myself forward, the time-space continuum would collapse and I would spontaneously combust.

Nope. Didn’t happen. Bummer.

Because now that I know that, I’m obligated to learn from that lesson and I just haven’t come to terms with that yet. Am I really old enough to be patient now? Yeah, I guess I am.

I haven’t been writing. I turned down a job offer. I stopped spending my time dreaming up amazing, fantastic alternate futures in which I save the world. I’ve just lived one day at a time. And you know what? I was happy today.

Whoa.

And not only was I happy, I was at peace.

I was in my car this morning, parked and preparing to meet a buyer, when a woman parked next to me and started getting her two young kids out of the car. The youngest (a ridiculously adorable little boy about 2) somehow slammed the car shut on his finger. I had ice packs to keep my wine samples cool so I grabbed one and jumped out of my car with it to give to him. The mom was so sweet and her son soon calmed once he had the ice. We chatted for a bit. She was interested in the wine business, her oldest–a little girl–is the same age as my daughter and had hair just like hers; we had things in common. I ended up giving her my business card.

Maybe nothing comes of it. Maybe she’ll call me to say she got a job in the business in 3 months. I don’t know. But I left that situation feeling like something real had happened. I held that feeling nestled in my heart all day.

Last Sunday, our church met at a new location–a dedicated church building–because we’ve been invited to share it with the current congregation. It would be a huge change from meeting in an elementary school, but I think it would be a positive step. So we had a trial service. Everything about it was lovely, especially communion which my friend, Bonnie, got to serve.

If you’ve read any of the comments on my blog, you know Bonnie. She’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. Her joy, her passion, and her love for others is awe-inspiring.

I hugged Bonnie before I took the Bread and I felt at home worshipping there. It was special to receive communion from someone so dear. But I found out after the service, it was much more special than that. It was Bonnie’s first time serving communion. She told me she’d always wanted to be asked but over the past 2 years or so just hadn’t been. Not being asked was a disappointment to her; she’s been a part of that family since day one. But when she arrived at the church last Sunday, they chose her. On a very special day. She said it was infinitely sweeter and more meaningful that her first opportunity wasn’t until then.

God did that for her. Bonnie waited. She didn’t ask, she didn’t assert her wishes, she just waited. And it was so much better this way, His way.

He loved her enough to not only give her what she wanted, but to make it better than she imagined it could be.

Bonnie’s experience helped me reconcile myself to this season of waiting. Do I believe that God has something big in store for me? Yes, yes I do. I really felt like it was happening soon. That tomorrow or the next day there would be some big POOF of Holy Spirit glitter and my life would be more meaningful and important. That I could figure out where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do because I’m actually trying to be committed to my faith and seeking God.

Yeah, it’s not that complicated.

It’s actually quite simple. I typically reject the notion that anything worthwhile could be simple but this concept I like.

Here it is: God loves me. I don’t have to decide. I make decisions in stress and anxiety, that’s not what God wants for me. I don’t have to figure it out; God ALREADY has it figured out. (Although, Big Man, I am cool with you sharing the plan sooner rather than later!) I kept telling myself that I could wait on God and still search for the right way to go. That was in fact code for “still retain some control and mentally jackhammer myself into a rubbled mess.” That’s not resting in Him, that’s not waiting, and it’s definitely not being still. I mean, have you seen a jackhammer in action? That is the opposite of stillness.

So it’s not some big magical overhaul. It’s little moments. Like being there to give a little boy ice for his finger. Like getting to serve communion on a special day. Like being the kind of person that lives one day at time. It’s less stressful and more meaningful. I’ll take that today. And probably tomorrow, too.

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Silence

I get really irritated when God is silent.

There, I said it.

We were doing really well there for a hot minute. Thoughts were churning, mind was turning, heart was burning… then POOF. It all went a bit flat. Maybe it’s my fault. I can be a tad manic with projects. I’ll get really, really excited to begin and then just lose all my oomph. Perhaps the product of never training myself out of procrastinating? In college, I was always a wait-til-the-last-possible-moment kind of girl. Deadlines–and nothing else–made me move.

Now, without enforced due dates, without anyone to impress, and without grades to earn… I kind of fail. Unfinished blog posts in my queue. Ideas for businesses, non-profits, and books. I have not finished one of them. (Although, to be fair to myself, once this is finished, I will have a finished something. Yay?)

Admittedly, the majority of the responsibility rests on my shoulders. But on top of that, the past week or so, I’ve just had a sense of silence. I had moments of, “Ok, here we go…” that felt like the precursor to a “big” moment. But, no. I was wrong. It’s been quiet. Quiet with no indication the Big Thing I’ve felt approaching is any closer.

What does it mean when God is silent? He’s not less present. He’s not punishing me (I think) and He’s not abandoning me. So what is this about?

I don’t know. Honestly. I don’t get what this is about. What lesson am I supposed to be learning? Trust? Faith? Perseverance?

Are my desires getting in the way? I have a deep, deep longing for a home right now. A little house with a big yard where I can plant a big ol’ garden and have play-dates and sleepovers and dinner parties. I’m also just really, really losing my interest in working a traditional job (call me crazy, go ahead). It’s time to start thinking about where Eva will go to Kindergarten (cue mommy tears). I’ve sort of come to terms with staying in North Carolina (now you can really call me crazy). There’s a lot of stuff to think about right now!

Is it that none of the stuff matters? No, I don’t think it’s that extreme. The details of life can be just as meaningful in our interactions with God as the big picture is.

Is that I am going the wrong way? No, I don’t think it’s that either but it could be that I am getting ahead of myself (happens all the time).

Is it that I just need to be still? Yeah, could be that.

Am I not listening hard enough? Maybe? Ok, ok… PROBABLY.

I don’t think God begrudges me my irritation but He probably does take issue with my worry….

Man, that really bites me in the butt every time! Worry! (insert lightbulb clip art here)

Worry gnaws at joy, ruins productivity, stifles creativity, and is just an all-around buzzkiller. Who’s got two thumbs and is guilty?? This girl!

Worry also interferes with worship. Do I believe God cares about all the little details in my life? Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt. Do I also believe that He is way bigger than the  details? Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt. Worry is like making a to-do list for God. “I need _____, _____, and ______ dealt with and while you’re at it, could you please take care of _____ and _____, as well? Thanks.” That has been the majority of my approach to Him lately.

Worship puts everything in perspective. Worship is that part where I step back, lay my concerns aside, and just wonder at the splendor of creation, the unfathomable depth of grace, and the limitless reach of love.

When I think about Him that way, I feel kind of silly complaining about… all of it. And when I think about silence in terms of worship, it all comes together. Be still and know: be silent and learn.

Alright, Lord. I see where you’re going with that. Well-played, sir.

I’m going to go enjoy the sounds of crickets chirping now, thanks.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 1-6

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Draw a long breath and shut your eyes. What do you see?

I see a house on a farm. Inside the house lives a brave little girl who happens to be coloring and singing to herself right now. Her mother’s in the backyard feeding the chickens. The goats are farther back on the property. There aren’t that many acres but their first harvest will probably be decent. On Saturday, they’ll host a middle school class to visit and learn about how to grow the right produce and ways to cook inexpensively. There are herbs drying on the back porch for homemade spice mixes and seedlings just starting to sprout in the greenhouse. It smells of fresh bread and sweet breezes and the sun is playing peekaboo with the treetops.

That’s the first impossible thing. It’s the first thing I see when I close my eyes because it is the hope filling my heart. I know, I’m too girly to live on a farm, but that’s kind of the most beautiful part of the picture.

Second impossible thing: I could overcome my pride and my flaws enough do whatever crazy thing it is God is calling me to.

Third: Everything will turn out okay in the end.

Fourth: If I never get married, I will not waste time regretting it.

Fifth: We will somehow find a way to provide Eva with everything she needs.

Sixth: I can stop procrastinating.

What impossible things can you believe when you close your eyes and breath?

Setting a Table of Plenty

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. –Virginia Woolf

A good meal is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In a world of fast food, quick service, and complimentary bread baskets, we can quickly lose sight of the joy in planning, preparing, and sharing a meal with others. Having worked in the restaurant industry for a number of years, I’ve seen this first hand. Parents neglecting their children in favor of their iPhones, friends talking to each other without actually having a real conversation, and kids coloring on the windows (even my child has snuck an errant doodle past me). It’s discouraging to see the way people interact with each other in restaurants. Don’t even get me started on their interactions with servers. Many days I left work with no hope for humanity because I’d seen such rude and insincere behavior.

One shared meal banishes thoughts of restaurants and always reestablishes my love for people: church Potluck.

I have vivid memories of potluck meals at my grandparents’ church. A tiny church in a tiny town. Their congregation couldn’t have been more than 100 people of whom the average age was well over 50. But there was always plenty of food, home cooked food. Five kinds of bread, rolls, and biscuits. Three kinds of potatoes. Fried chicken. Casseroles. Green beans. Deviled eggs. And dessert to end all desserts. My mouth starts watering just thinking about them. But the most striking part of the meal wasn’t just how great the food was, but that there was always more than enough. There is nothing more disappointing (even as an adult) than being at the back of the line and finding all the macaroni and cheese pans empty. Never happened there. They made plenty.

Our current church home won us over with their potluck. They share lunch together every Sunday, I don’t know of another congregation that does that. Our first visit, people introduced themselves and made sure we stayed for the meal. Immediate and meaningful hospitality to me; kind words and food. I saw the huge bounty of food prepared and could instinctively gauge the health and vigor of the church. Big potluck = big hearts. They planned on having visitors, on having enough to give to whomever walked through the door. They made plenty.

This past Sunday, the sermon was actually about potluck and how sharing a meal expresses Christ in so many ways. Which initially caused me a little guilt; I’d made cupcakes Saturday from a new recipe and did not take them to church because I thought (a.k.a. my pride and perfectionism told me) they were overcooked. Once I got past that little pang of conviction, I sat through the rest of the message absolutely buzzing.

Remember how I said here the last sermon I heard was one of those indirect answers to my prayers kind of sermons? Well this one was the arrow to my heart, the frying pan to my head, and the chord at which I resonate.

God has not just made me enough, he has given me plenty.

Wait, what crazy thing did I just say? I, single mother living with my parents because I can’t afford an apartment, I have been given plenty?

I have never gone hungry because there wasn’t food available. Thank the Lord, Eva has never gone without a meal because we couldn’t afford it. There are people in this country and many others that go hungry every day. And I just can’t live with knowing that and not do anything about it any longer.

Feeding the hungry is one of the most basic and most loving things I can do. I’m sure it could be as simple as volunteering at the Food Bank but I think God may slowly be revealing something bigger. And it starts with me setting a table of plenty.

It’s been so long since I could visualize my future and now these hopes are bombarding my mind. I have been so hungry for purpose! I thank God for the walk in the desert that has made me long for His plenty. The closer I get to sitting at His table and seeing the bounty there, the more equipped I feel to set my fear and pride aside and say, “Ok, let’s go where you want me to go.” And the more I can affirm that, the more clearly I can see a way.

Help me set the table. I need your support, your thoughts, your prayers and your love. I am terrified of the crazy obedience this journey requires. I’m tired of the bad rap Christians have because not enough of us live in the radically loving way Christ calls us to live. I want to go there even though it’s scary. Once the plans I’m working on come together a bit more, I will share more, but for right now just hang with me and pray that I am going the right way.

I’m Not Daddy Too

How many times has a single mom somewhere said, “I have to be Mommy AND Daddy,” as a means of explanation?

Probably hundreds of times of day. I have definitely had those moments. I could list all the things I’ve never gotten from Eva’s father…but the list of what I did get is much shorter:

1. Sperm
2. A Headache

He doesn’t pay child support. He lives hundreds of miles away. He doesn’t send Eva presents. He doesn’t call. He does text, but they are all about the same as the one discussed here. He is virtually nonexistent.

To some degree, I have allowed that. I don’t wonder when he’s going to step up. His name is not on her birth certificate. I have never asked for money. I do not fight or rebel against his lack of interest. In fact, on some level, I prefer it this way. It’s simpler, not necessarily easier, just less complicated. (Which is specific to my situation and should not be misconstrued as a recommendation for other single mothers.)

I do everything I possibly can for Eva. My parents help. My sister helps. My friends help. All things considered, I am raising Eva well. We make it work even though sometimes that is a gigantic, nearly insurmountable challenge. Even though sometimes I feel like I am failing miserably. I’m not a superhero, I’m just a mom.

But I am also only that; just her mom. I am not Daddy too.

Eva doesn’t have a Daddy. I don’t know how to explain that to her. I don’t know how to make it bearable or understandable. She hasn’t asked about it, but I know it will happen soon. She is old enough to make the correlation that the other kids have pictures with their daddies and she has a picture with her grandfather when they make Father’s Day cards at daycare.

What can I tell her? That he’s far away and can’t see her? In my mind, that only explains why she doesn’t have her father around, not why she doesn’t have a Daddy.

I would give her that if I could. I would be another parent to unite with her against Mommy when she’s tough. I would give her extra kisses after Mommy’s kisses when she falls down. I would tell her yes when Mommy says no. I would scare away the ambitious 3 year olds trying to flirt with her when Mommy only laughs. I would show her how a man is supposed to treat a woman, instead of just telling her. I would be the rational one when Mommy gets too emotional.

But I am just Mommy.

I carry a responsibility that two people typically share; that does not make me equal to two people. Am I a great mother? Yes. Do I struggle with this burden? Yes. But I don’t see the point of placing an additional weight on my shoulders by attempting to fill a role I was never meant to have.

I certainly don’t fault any single parent for saying they act as both parents; it’s certainly the most succinct way to describe something that no married parent understands. No, that weekend that your husband spent away for a friend’s bachelor party does not even begin to compare. But I don’t exactly understand how you make your marriage a priority when you’ve got little ones to watch either; I’ve never had to do that. I’ve never lived your life and you’ve never lived mine. Single parents provide on one income with one pair of hands, one pair of eyes, and emotional support from a network of loved ones instead of the one you love most.

I’m sure my choice mom friends may see this issue a little differently. I definitely see (ahem, hope for) adoption in my future regardless of whether or not I ever marry. But no matter how many children I have, be it just Eva or a handful more, I will always choose to just be Mommy.

Enough

I’ve clicked through a lot of blog links on Twitter in the past few weeks. Especially the ones that seem geared towards feeling overwhelmed, making big decisions, or being a single parent. I’ve been struggling with writing and just wanted some direction, a filter to make all this nonsense in my mind coalesce into a cohesive post. A flint stone to throw myself at until I spark. I have 8 unfinished drafts in my queue. Not joking. This is the ninth attempt at saying what I’ve been agonizing over for two weeks.

The most significant issue in the mix is my career. One day, driving on the highway, I was so struck with an achingly painful certitude that God made me a writer, I started weeping. Not the pretty, romantic kind of weeping, but the ugly hyperventilating, pull-off-the-side-of-the-road kind of weeping. And as much as I know that’s what I was made to do, I am equally struck by the weight of my responsibilities to provide for Eva. I’m not exactly in a position to drop everything and make it happen. It’s not an impossibility, it just can’t happen today. But I desperately wish it could happen today.

So I kept reading other posts, hoping that maybe someone has said something that will help. Lots of people have said things, good things, but none were the words I needed.

Sunday I arrived at church starved for hope and comfort. I was relatively confident I could find a bit of each while there. Mark, our pastor, passed out a stone to each person before he began his sermon. They were small, smooth black stones, probably something you’d normally use in a decorative water fountain or floral display. He gave no explanation except that we needed to hold on to them. I chose a triangular stone with a little crevice on one side. I held it in my left hand, calmly nestled in my palm through the whole service, as I listened to Mark and tried to sift through everything on my heart.

I’d really hoped that the sermon would be an easy answer to my problems–some variation on “Do what God made you to do” or “Go where the Holy Spirit calls you,” something I could latch on to and run with. But it wasn’t. It was about love. God is love, not just that he loves us, not just that we love him but that everything about love is God and everything about God is love. So my job as someone that follows God is to love. (Yes, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack did just start playing in your head–“The greatest thing you’ll ever know is to love and be loved in return.”)

At first I thought, “God, this is not helpful, this is not an answer.” But then I realized it was an answer that made my question obsolete. To some degree, it doesn’t matter what I do, I am still able to love on people–Eva, my family, my friends, you readers. It doesn’t matter what I do to provide financially, I can still be a writer.

I am already exactly the woman God made me to be.

I’m not perfect, I have so much learning to do, so much faith to grow into, but I am just as capable of living a life set apart for Him now in a job I hate, without a home of my own, with Atlas’ burden on my shoulders, as I would be if I had my dream life. In fact, I might even be better off this way because I am reminded of my desperate need for God every single day. If I had a cushy job, a house, a dog and the stability I crave, would I crave God’s grace so much? Probably not.

So if I am who I need to be, if I have everything I need to love and fulfill that purpose, what is stopping me from feeling fulfilled?

Mark finally told us what the stones were for as the service ended. Each stone represented a fear, just a single fear, and we were supposed to place the fear on the altar and let God deal with it. (Yes, some objects lessons are simplistic but no less meaningful in action.)

And with a rush of clarity as strong as the day I wept in the car, I knew that the only thing holding me back is my fear of not being enough. Not good enough to succeed, not smart enough to make the right decisions, not in tune enough with God’s plan to go the right way, not woman enough to ever be a wife, just simply not enough.

I know exactly where those feelings of inadequacy originate. I know that even though they resulted from real situations and feel like legitimate worries in my mind–they are not legitimate. They are damaging and debilitating. They prevent me from loving myself and loving others because I am too scared to try. They stop me from feeling fulfilled.

I laid the stone of that fear on the altar; I didn’t fully relinquish my fear to God. I acknowledged it. I said to God, “I know this is getting in the way of…everything, help me give it to you. Help me see the opportunities you give me to heal.”

I will struggle to place that fear before God every day. To truly be free to believe I am enough requires a daily overhaul of how I think about myself, but I am going to try. I’ll probably fail more often than not, but I am going to try.

With Love, Your Momma

To My Daughter on Mother’s Day,

I told you in the car yesterday that I couldn’t be Momma if it hadn’t been for you. And you said, “Mom, I’m just Eva. You’re the mommy!”

You’re right, sweet one. You are your own person. You are Eva and I am Abby. But being your Momma is the best and most wonderful privilege. It does not define my existence, but you have shaped me and helped me grow in ways I never anticipated.

mommy daughter love

From the moment I saw your perfect form on the ultrasound, to holding you as a newborn, to witnessing your first step, to you mastering all manner of tasks and expressions, you have taken me on a journey that I have cherished every single day–even the tough ones.

Right now, I adore how you love your family with such a sweet constancy. You are always talking about the people you care about. Oly, G, Auntie, and our many friends. I giggle inside when you talk about anything that happened in the past because it was always “yesterday.” You approach everything with a vengeance! So strong, so confident, and so very beautiful.

Your face absolutely glows with delight when you accomplish something new. I can’t wait to see that expression when you bring home a great report card, dance a perfect routine, or graduate high school. There are many happy days ahead.

But there will be days that aren’t as happy, too. Life isn’t easy or fair but, little one, you will be shown a way. I promise. You will have enough grace to make it through.

You have never asked about your father, but I think you might soon. I dearly hope that you don’t wonder yet because you are so surrounded by love that it doesn’t matter that he is gone. One day, you will ask and one day it will matter. I am thankful today is not that day. I don’t know if he will ever find the strength to give you the love you deserve. I don’t know that we’ll ever find a man to be my husband and your Dad. But if I teach you anything in life, please, let it be that you are no less worthy than a little girl with two parents.

God would not have trusted me with you if I was going to fail; He would not have given you this life without the strength you need to succeed.

You are more than I ever dreamed a daughter of mine could be. Thank you for filling my heart with love, my days with laughter, and my future with hope.

With love,
Your Momma