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?

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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.

A Different Kind of Bucket LIst

I’ve been seeing a lot of “bucket list” posts on Pinterest and Facebook…memes, right? And they are typically centered around travel, kissing celebrities or other unlikely events. Now, this is not judgmental or holier-than-thou (single moms are not allowed on the moral high ground and I want to kiss Brad Pitt as much as you do), but my bucket list doesn’t include any of those things. In fact, there are only three things I absolutely want to do before I die.

1. Adopt a Child
I love being a mother more than anything else in the world and any time I think about having more children, adoption seems more likely than carrying another baby. Had I been a slightly different person, Eva could have been adopted and…(sorry, I have to take a moment and thank God He gave me the courage to keep her)…I would love to honor a woman who couldn’t decide to parent her child.

2. Serve in Africa
As much as I know it wasn’t my time to go in 2007, there will come a time when it is. Something in my heart calls me there. (No, it is notto meet a man and produce more genetically-blessed biracial children.) Maybe I’ll adopt from there, maybe I’ll have the chance to rejoin the Peace Corps, maybe I will get to work there, MAYBE I’ll start my own non-profit there–I don’t know yet–but I will serve.

3. Give Abundantly
I was constantly showered with blessings from complete strangers during my pregnancy all the way up to providing a place for me to live rent-free. In my one-day home, there is a bedroom for someone who needs it. What a joy it would be to honor Larry and Linda by giving the way they gave to me.

So, that’s it. The sum total of my life goals. I don’t actually care about how much money I make as long as Eva is provided for. I would love to travel the world but I haven’t been out of the States since 2004 and can still breathe normally. I would like to get married but…yeah, I don’t see that happening at this point and that’s ok. There are plenty of things that would be fun to have in the future–a big house with a big family and a big dog, a big bank account thanks to a big fancy job–but what if none of that happens? Will I consider myself a failure? Nope, I sure won’t. What if for some reason life doesn’t go as I planned (oh, wait…that has never happened anyway) and I don’t even accomplish those three things? Fail then? No way, Jose.

The life you live is greater than the plans you set aside. Trust me.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s popular and trending, I am so guilty of thinking about things that are less than productive: industrial-grade kitchen appliances, hopping on a plane to Vienna at any given moment, how the heck I am going to survive Eva’s teen years (because if I haven’t already mentioned, she started those 9 years early) and so on… But when I stop for a moment and re-center my thoughts on the things that are present and important–Eva is only four, we have immediate needs to fill, I am blessed and already able to give to others–I can take a deep breath, say thank you, and keep on going. Things will happen in their own time.

Today I will focus on today.

At least…that’s my plan…

Happy Saturday!

When No Means Yes

Before I get to the intended topic, I just have to say I had my first search engine driven view yesterday! They searched for “downton abbey and wilkie collins ‘the moonstone.'” Yes. If you come back, let’s be friends. I can tell we like the same things.

Now, the post…

My daughter, Eva, developed an interesting habit a year or so ago. Sometimes, when she really wants to answer a question with “yes,” she’ll respond with “no.” Do your kids do that? I know she is just being stubborn and testing my resolve to give her what she wants–especially after she has been cranky or in trouble–but it can be bewildering.

Example: Meltdown early in the morning, couldn’t decide what to have for breakfast, wanted bacon and we only had sausage. What grief. Mom thinks, “let’s turn this around.”

“Eva, do you want to go the the park?”

She eyes me warily.

“No…” and subtly conveys, “how dare you offer me something I like after all this commotion?”

“Ok, we don’t have to.”

WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH.

It is so frustrating to be offering her a chance to redeem what has been an awful morning/afternoon/experience and have her deny the good things out of sheer willfulness.

Let’s condense that thought…

It is so disappointing when I offer her grace for her behavior and she rejects it because she knows she doesn’t “deserve” it.

…reflective pause…

On Thursday, I received a ridiculously well-timed and meaningful gift from a buyer-turned-friend, “The Renegade Writer.” It’s a guide to freelance writing. I would dearly love to write full-time. Truly, that is my dream job. Sometimes, I dream about running off and saving the world but really… writing. Writing is what keeps me going. And the moment I pulled back the wrapping paper and saw the title, I felt something start settling in my soul. A piece fell into place. Peace began to unfold.

Yesterday morning, I had a job interview. I knew pretty quickly that, while the employer was very enthused about my potential, I am overqualified to the extreme and worth way beyond the offered salary. I knew at least three people had prayed that I would have a clear yes or no feeling after the interview, so it was easy to focus on being thankful for the no rather than disappointed at the closed door. So I applied for a few more jobs afterwards, to buoy my own spirits and stay on the right track.

Then yesterday afternoon, I heard from my buyer-turned-friend; she had a few last minute orders for the store. I played delivery girl and we were chatting afterwards about her plans. She mentioned starting a blog about value wines in the local area. (Many times, wine reviewers focus on the expensive bottles and who really wants to spend $60 on their table wine?) I casually offered to write a restaurant review accompaniment for her…but as we talked through it a little more, light bulbs started flashing, there may have even been a neon sign lit up over my head. We are going to lunch next week to brainstorm. Plus, earlier in the week I’d actually called one of my best friends about blogging our dating adventures (hers for upbeat “that shit’s funny” hilarity, mine for “gosh, I’m glad that happened to her, not me” hilarity/gravity) and gotten an affirmative from her as well.

Looking back on the week now, the “no” of the interview yesterday is at the bottom of the list. I don’t even care that it didn’t work out like I hoped, in fact I’m GLAD it didn’t. Why? What if my eyes and ears had been clouded over with a yes from that interview yesterday? Would I have heard the opportunity when my buyer-friend spoke? Would I have even offered to write with her? Would I still be excited about the other blog my best friend and I might write? Probably not. Most likely, I would have been too excited about the job to notice what was in front of me.

I would have been focusing on the wrong yes.

Like I said, I was gifted discernment and peace over seeing that door close in the interview. But how often do we see doors closing without seeing an open window nearby? How often do closed doors feel like punishment? How often do we perceive an open window to be covered with bars when it is only our own hesitation (or even fear and shame) blocking us?

It’s arresting to reflect on things that have happened in my past and wonder what I missed because I didn’t believe I deserved the chance, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. That, like Eva, I said no because I thought it was just a tease or there were conditions on it I couldn’t possibly meet.

Maybe God has only been leading me with closed doors because I wasn’t leaping with faith through the open ones. Because it was easier for me to function knowing what I couldn’t do, rather than all that had been made possible (remember, the unknown is scary?). Lately, my prayer has been to clearly see His way and follow it. Basically for Him to push me through the right door.

Today, I consider myself shoved. Now, if someone can please make sure I don’t turn around and run the wrong direction? Thanks.

Don’t let the no’s get in your way; sometimes, they’re a yes in disguise.