posts tagged with 'faith'

a prayer for the morning commute

God, you made the day and the night, the morning and the evening—I praise you for the wonders of creation. You made us, women and men in your image—I praise you for the strength and wisdom you have given us. You give us work to do—I praise you for work that is rewarding intellectually and financially.

God, please bless the world this morning: bless each person and their work and their journey to work this morning, and every morning.

Bless the walkers: give them a peaceful moment of quiet contemplation as they walk, and open their eyes to the beauty of your creation and the people around them. Help them feel unhurried and free from stress, and bring them to their workplace calm and refreshed and ready to begin the day.

Bless the cyclists: let them be attentive to the joy of using the greatest means of transportation ever devised, and free them from any feeling of hurry or competitiveness. Protect them from the dangers of distracted drivers and potholed streets, and bring them to their workplace safely, feeling fully alive and exhilarated after a lovely ride.

Bless those who ride buses or trains: give them a bubble of privacy and quiet space, even on the most crowded trains; at the same time, give them a feeling of connection and common humanity with everyone around them. Let each person fully enjoy the pause in their own effort to read, talk, text, or just let their mind drift—as the transit system runs perfectly and gets them to their workplace on time and ready to engage with the tasks of their day.

Bless those who choose to drive or need to drive. Fill them with them your peace, even in the most frustrating traffic. Help them to feel connected to the world outside their own car: to see other drivers and cyclists and pedestrians as humans that they can bless and wish well, rather than obstacles. Bring them safely to their destination, and touch them with a sense of your powerful love for them.

Bless all of us in our work of the day, and give us strength and courage to do it all again this evening.

In Jesus's name, Amen.


a good Friday

We didn't go to church this evening—instead we hosted our regular Friday evening small group, which is now a mix of churchy and non-churchy folks. That was a good call—we had a great full gathering—but I did feel a little disappointed to miss out on a lovely moving service at our church where, more and more, we're figuring out how to make things lovely and moving. We tried to make up for the lack by visiting the Stations of the Cross at Bethany House.

Me and the boys (plus one) in the monastary garden looking at a sign

cursory examination

Thanks Katie for inviting us, and for the picture above! Katie's church hosts an interpretive Stations every Good Friday, and we meant to go to that—only with the steady drizzle it was cancelled. So we just got the unlabeled illustrations (in very nice wood-carved semi-relief), but also had the place to ourselves. That was a fine trade-off for our rambunctious crew, who were more interested in statues and puddles than liturgy.

Zion kicking water in a giant puddle

holy water?

Still,we were all there, and they got the story; they know what's up. After the big boys had all run off I was looking at some of the pictures with Lijah, and asked him if he knew who that guy was. "It's Jesus," he told me. Yup. Then he went on, "Jesus dyin. Onna cross." Then I put him down so he could look at a tiny house and a fountain, and stamp in puddles deep enough to cover his boots.

Lijah looking at a fountain in the scraggely monastary garden

contemplating the depths

I think all in all it was a good balance of "holiness" and regular life. I wouldn't have bothered to write about the day at all—it's way past my bedtime!—except for an terrific blog post I came across while failing to do the work that was keeping my away from bed in the first place. It notes an interesting coincidence: "2016 brings a rare occurrence this coming Friday — the coinciding of two very solemn observances, one fixed, one moveable: the Feast of the Annunciation, and Good Friday."

Apparently it happens every once and a while; John Donne wrote a poem about it.

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;

(There's lots more to the poem; read the rest of it at the link above). The post concludes with a celebration of the idea of liturgy, including the following:

It's a way of reading the Bible in dialogue with itself, with the ongoing tradition of which it is a part, and with the whole community of the faithful, out of which flashes of realization can emerge, sometimes slowly dawning on you, sometimes flashing out in startling clarity.

Yes. That's why, even when we skip church, we're always looking to let the liturgical spirit into our lives. I think we had a good Friday; I hope you did too!


our stories and winds

Back when I worked at schools with lots of people who didn't know me very well, every winter brought near-daily comments about winter cycling—most of which were about how I managed with the cold. As I've mentioned lots before, the cold isn't really the problem, and as I rode in to work yesterday morning I concluded that 20°F was about the perfect temperature for cycling: not to hot, not too cold, and I didn't have to stop once to adjust my outfit! On the way home, though, I ran into the real hazard of cycling in winter: the wind.

I've never paid enough attention to notice if winter winds are stronger overall that what you experience other times of year, or if it's just that there's less vegetative matter to provide ground-level shelter—probably a combination. Whatever the reason, I totally noticed when the wind was against me almost the whole way home. There were moments when I felt like I could barely make any progress at all: I had to work so hard to move so slowly I was just about ready to give up and walk.

The funny thing is, it was about as windy in the morning, but of course then the wind was at my back. And that way I didn't notice it particularly; I just figured I'm a really strong cyclist so naturally things were easy and quick! I wonder how much something like that dynamic plays out other places in my life. When things are going well, it's easy to take the credit myself: I'm naturally gifted and well-prepared! If work is tougher, I may be more likely to notice the external causes for my troubles. Of course, it can go the other way too: lots of times we can fail to notice the conditions we can't control that are holding us back, instead attributing our failures to our own faults. In both ways, the stories that we tell ourselves might be totally removed from an objective consideration of the situation, a consideration that would have to show that sometimes the wind is blowing our way, and sometimes it's against us. Maybe knowing that can help us relax a bit.

And anyway, as windy as it might get here this winter I don't think it'll top what the folks in this video experienced—"Watch riders battle 100kph headwind". The only upside of that much wind—besides that it's probably kind of cool to feel your bike blowing away—is that you can't fail to notice it. Sometimes, no matter how strong or skilled you are, you just aren't going to be able to make progress. And when you're faced with that much opposition, maybe the only thing to do is laugh, turn around, and try again another day.

Yesterday wasn't that bad; I made it home, and after an hour or two I had even recovered from the effort!


Speaking of poop...

I gave a talk at church last Sunday titled, "how to live after happily ever after." You can hear the audio recording there from the second service. I didn't get as many laughs the second time around, but I didn't say "poop" either, so I thought that version might be more appropriate for the official website.

i tried to look fancy with the skirt and the boots, but I leveled the playing field by not wearing a bra

But now that you're here on my blog, here's a moment of reality: POOP!

It's funny getting up on stage and talking about how life is poopy, and then everyone says hurray good job and I feel like maybe life isn't so poopy? And then I get back home and I'm like No Just kidding, life is still pretty poopy. While we were out at church Rascal ate turkey out of the trash can and then shit on the play room rug. The first thing I did when I got home was to stain treat the carpet. Which took me down a level from my moment of public speaking.

I have been wondering lately whether I should do something with my thinking brain, something normal people call "work." Part of my thinking perhaps includes an assumption that if my labor was remunerative I wouldn't have to deal with this other shit. At some level of success, perhaps, I might be so valued that I'm no longer touching other people's feces?

But no, poop is omnipresent. And even if I have an important speaking gig, that steaming pile of poop will wait politely on the play room floor until I get home.

I have been thinking that perhaps the work of this life cannot be outsourced. There is not someone else I can hire to nurse my baby at 2 in the morning. Or to wipe my 4 year old's bum. Or to validate my 6 year old's emotions. There is not a streamlined solution to replace the devoted attention of a mother.

Nor is the work of this life scalable. I think perhaps I will get systems in place, I will make all their lunches ahead of time, and then everything will go well, we will all get on the moving assembly line of Happy Day!

But no, there is no amount of prep work possible, no pre arranged bento boxes, that will alleviate the need to stop everything when a child has a breakdown. To put myself in the middle of their problem, to look them in the eye, to love that little screaming banshee, I cannot put that on my checklist. The march of progress much be stopped. lunch be damned.

There is no way to scale up love.

Love is teeny acts of attention again and again and loving little people is that plus cleaning. And no, I can't get out of it, because humans don't come out factory ready. For some stupid reason. Something something God probably knows what he's doing.

I wrote this blog post on my phone while nursing. It didn't get me out of nursing every 30 minutes all bleeping night. There is no app for that.


how faith is different from identity

One time I was invited to a baby shower with all my old jewish friends, and I totally went there with this big gold cross hanging from my neck. Like some kind of wanabee rapper. But, you know, offensive.

It was the year that I was finally SAVED and I wanted everyone to know. I was a different person now. Not plagued by self-consciousness. Or doubt. Or the oppressive weight of my own jerkiness.

As if someone could express such a thing via necklace. Indeed, my actions probably contradicted my own theology. An instant internal makeover, one in which I became a sane, lovely, considerate person, was a tall order. Even for Jesus.

At the time I was very concerned with IDENTITY. A decade in, I'm more interested in FAITH.

There is some controversy in the news right now, or so I gather from Facebook, about the seasonal color of Starbucks cups. On the one hand, I can see how this irks people. A white and green cup is annoying enough, in the way it communicates, "Look at me! I can afford a five dollar coffee!" But a RED cup? Visible from a block away? It practically screams, "LOOK AT ME!!! I can afford a FIVE DOLLAR COFFEE!" And also, "My christmas is gonna be OFF THE HOOK, you guys! I'm buying my children mother fucking SKIS!!!!!"

So yeah, Starbucks. For the rest of us who take our caffeine at home, this was a little bit of a jerk move.

Some folks, though, seem to take umbrage with the red cups, not for the conspicuous consumption but for reasons of identity.

"My Christmas" means something different from "your Christmas," they say, and it's very very important that you understand that.

Know me. Understand me. This is an argument about identity. And look, I don't want to get down on identity. Identity is important. If you feel like you're one thing and other people say that you're not? That can be downright oppressive. Please please please, if you feel you're not adequately representing your true identity, do whatever it takes, buy whatever you need to buy, until you feel like a real punker / hippy / hipster / Christian. Solve the identity problem so you move onto other things.

Like faith.

Because as much as identity says, "I've got this Christian thing SOLVED!" long term faith stirs the realization, "I have absolutely nothing solved."

Ten years into following Jesus I am still a self-conscious, doubting jerk. I've been confessing my sin for over a decade and I still haven't reached the bottom of the great well of my wrong-headedness. I thought I knew a lot about Jesus when I broadcast my new allegiance through jewelry. The more I follow him, the less I know. Like how can he possibly stay interested in me? Day after day, with all my bad choices? Why did he extend his interest in the first place? When he know what a shitty person I was to begin with?

Know me. Understand me. This is actually the business Jesus is in. Once we can get past the identity thing.

I like Starbucks coffee. I wish I could afford it more. According to some infographic I saw on Facebook, it's very high in caffeine.

But I worry that all the choices Starbucks offers us, even the choice to be mad or bemused at a certain colored cup, these choices stoke the fires of our own personal posturing. How does this coffee fit into my IDENTITY? Am I a tall? A grande? a venti? What does that say about my discipline / income / work ethic? What does this say about my Christianity?

You guys, I invite you this not-yet-holiday season to take a multi-colored view of faith. Where all of us look like posers in one way or another. And that's okay. For some reason Jesus doesn't care.

leah with coffee

reusable red cup, cracked just like me.


is there a point to goals?

So I was at the gym yesterday PUMPING IRON... okay so not really. Really I was lifting 20lb weights over and over again to make my biceps look like they can lift heavy things, which in reality they can't, as Dan knows from my lame-ass attempts the other day to help him move two big pieces of plywood to the stage he was building (Dan: "Can you hold this up while I get the ladder?" Me: "Nooooo!"). And when I wasn't lifting those vanity bells I was doing crunches on the decline bench with a 10lb weight, also a non-transferable skill unless the skill I'm trying to build is professional loathing of my mid-section. So I wasn't really "pumping iron" which sounds hard and productive, it was more like I was airing out my personal vanity while treating it to a spray tan.

Anyway, while I was so engaged I eavesdropped on a personal trainer describing her regimin for an upcoming fitness competition. The best way to display well-developed muscles is to cut all the fat around them, so now that it's getting close to competition time she has to work out harder without eating hardly anything.

"People ask me why I haven't made pro yet," she said, "and I just say it's really hard. You have to be PERFECT. Like, you can tell I work out, but the judges are looking for a certain size of shoulder cap."

OMG, I thought, there's a perfect size of shoulder cap? Why has nobody told me this before? Here are people who've transformed judging the female body into an exact science, and I've been doing it amateur all my life? Where can I download a copy of the spreadsheet?

The trainer stopped to say hi to me as she crossed to the other side of the gym. "How are the babies?" she asked, "I see you running out on Hartwell Road."

"Yeah, I'm out there a lot," I said, and then added guiltily, "When I'm not here lifting weights."

"Your legs look great!" she called as she walked away.

Wow. My legs, huh? Coming from someone who scrutinizes bodies for a living, that feels like a loaded statement. Of course my legs look fine if I'm running 20 miles a week. Aesthetically speaking I'm more concerned about everything ABOVE them.

What is the point of making fitness goals? Are they anything more than vanity? Sometimes I find myself thinking odd things as I look at myself in the mirror doing crunches. "The God of thinness will never be pacified," I tell myself during lower body lifts (which, admittedly, I hate.) The other day I was doing a particularly hard-core twisting exercise with a medicine ball, and just as I was thinking how badass I looked the thought crossed my mind, "You won't be able to do this forever. This body will eventually decay and die."

Which, while true, is not really a motivating mid-workout sentiment.

Running, unlike weight training, is rewarding to me in itself. But I also have running goals, or rather I think about having goals. I say: Maybe this fall I can run 20 miles in one shot. Maybe next spring I can do a marathon.

The problem with those goals is what do you do once you meet them? Will running 20 miles really make me feel so much better than running 15? Will the finish line of a marathon feel like an accomplishment? Or will it be just another place I nurse a baby?

There are distances beyond a marathon, if we get into this game of making up goals. 50K and then 50 miles. Will running THEM change me into a person I magically like better? The day after I conquer a new distance, will I be fundamentally changed? Probably not. Probably I will wake up and still need to decide between a shake and an egg for breakfast, and whether I'm "doing sugar" today, and the choices will be terrifying.

What does the body building trainer do when she finally earns her professional status? Does she take a day off? Eat some food that isn't chicken breast? No, she'll need to compete with all the other professional body builders to win endorsement deals for green-tea supplements. She never gets to an ending point, a place where she can say: There. Now I can rest.

The ending point for all of us, though it's lame to admit it, is age. Or injury. Or terminal disgust at our own failure.

I wonder if something different is possible, if I could make enthusiastic fitness goals with an air of detached humility. It's not so much a cultural trope, non-attachment, not in the spirit of the Nike swooshes I wear on my singlets. It's doesn't sound right to say, "I'm planning an ultramarathon next summer, God willing and the crick don't rise." But it sounds a teensy bit less vain.


Settlement versus Settling

On Wednesday when the Early Intervention specialists were over, I sat on the floor of my living room literally swatting flies away from my baby. To prevent the nurse from phoning DSS over the filth in my house, I explained that there was a brooder of baby chicks in our kitchen. (This sounds more lovely than the equally true explanation: "The flies are attracted to the large box of chicken shit on our counter.")

"Oh!" said the nutritionist in awe, "It's like you're a pioneer woman!"

Pioneer woman? I thought about our pantry stocked with as many boxes of pasta as jars of preserves and I thought: "Pioneer woman? I feel more like a housewife with a hobby."

On Friday we went to Plimoth Plantation to see some REAL pioneers.

homeschoolers doin what they do: playing in dirt in interesting places

In many ways Plimoth Plantation is a crafty homeschooler's paradise. I wandered from hut to hut analyzing what fibers the Pilgrims used for their baskets, or what stitches they used for their knit stockings. When a Pilgrim rein-actor put a poppet in my friend's daughter's hand, it was all I could do to let her hold it for a minute before I snatched it away to reverse-engineer the pattern.

On the other hand, Pilgrim life was hardly driven by DIY daydreams. Most of their thought and energy went into surviving. Farming and construction (my least favorite homesteading hobbies) came first. For clothes and other sundries they preferred to import things from England. They didn't even knit their own stockings.

Of course, this was an economic calculation too. The more corn they sewed the more they could trade with the tribes up north, the more furs they could send to England to become hard currency and "proper made" clothing. They didn't come to the New World for self-sufficient austerity. They came to the New World for this:

A Scholastical Discourse Against Symbolizing with Antichrist in Ceremonies: Especially in the Sign of the Cross.

The came to do their weird religion.

When they weren't reaping and trading and doing carpentry, the settlers were reading tomes like this one, a book of several hundred annotated pages about how the Church of England was into Antichrist shiz. I tried to skim the argument myself, but half the "s" letters were written like "f," and also there were a lot of extra "e"s thrown in there. I sounded out the first paragraph, but a Pilgrim actor interrupted me when he walked in to check whether our kids were breaking ye olde broome.

This field trip made me think that there is no homesteading panacea. There is no group or period or commune we can look at and say triumphantly, "There! That's the way to do socially-conscious, sustainable, happiness." Every life is worked or enjoyed in context. Financial context, geographical context, and in the context of our understanding of God.

If I look into someone else's life, whether they're Pilgrims or Indians or a neighbor down the street who drinks lots of soda and refuses to recycle, I am nothing more than a visitor their human museum. I can only see things as an outsider.

Harvey and Zion spying on the indian camp.

Harvey and Zion spying on the indian camp.

After several hours spent in sunny 1624 my nerves and the children's' nerves were shot. So we stopped at the visitor center concession stand on the way out, and I demanded the largest iced coffee they had. "In this cup?" The server asked me incredulously, holding up a big-gulp used for soda.
"Yes," I answered, "I want the biggest cup of coffee you have."
"Did you say you wanted decaf?" she asked.
"No, I did not say I wanted decaf." I said. "Why would I say such a thing? I have to drive home two hours in Friday afternoon traffic with a fussy baby and two cranky kids. I want that big big cup filled with caffeinated coffee, and also want this granola bar for my three year old and this bag of chips for my five year old and we are gonna suck down these carcinogenic treats like we're hungry Pilgrims and this is the first Thanksgiving."

I don't know what makes a beautiful sustainable life. I love knitting and weaving, I love the idea of work, but I also love ready-made clothes as much as the next Pilgrims, and I love driving places in my big minivan and going home with a BIG coffee for the ride.

If this is not sustainable then maybe at least it's okay for now. I have a feeling my level of discourse is too "scholastical." I'd hate to put an ocean of misunderstanding between me and others making the sign of the cross.


grace is many kinds of chicken

On a busy Saturday afternoon a week ago I took all three boys with me to run some errands. That was my first mistake. A one-hour trip quickly turned into three hours (Homegoods now has a TOYS AISLE), and by the end it was way too close to dinner time. I promised my children all kinds of comfort foods (noodles! chicken nuggets!) as I raced through my last errand, depositing a check in the ATM. They were both screaming that THEY wanted to put the check into the machine, and in my rush to get out of the shopping plaza I left my bank card behind. The ATM machine ate it, and I had to cancel that number and have a new card shipped. The result was I had a little enforced holiday from spending. I couldn't purchase anything online or with cash for 7 days.

Which, you know, should not be a big deal.

I had my SNAP card for groceries. There wasn't anything I thought I NEEDED immediately. I figured our pioneer ancestors went months without visiting a store. Surely I could go a week without a disposable coffee or anything from Amazon.

On Tuesday we got new baby chicks. I felt extra pioneer-ish.

a veteran at this now, but no less delighted

Then on Thursday morning the chicks' brooder light burned out. "Oh my God!" I screamed as I walked into the kitchen and noticed the absence of red light, "Help help help, the baby chicks are getting cold!!!" I tend to overreact a LITTLE BIT, but still we needed to get a replacement bulb.

We looked at Ace Hardware dot com and saw that they probably had one at the store down the street.

"Okay," I said to Dan, "how much cash can we scrounge in this house?"

From our wallets and the change jar we amassed $11. That was enough for the bulb we saw online. I zipped off with Lijah to Ace Hardware.

There was only one red heat lamp in the store. It cost $13.50

For the sake of our baby chicks I threw myself on the cashier's mercy.

"I lost my bank card. This is all the cash I have. We have baby chicks in a brooder at home, and their heat lamp just burned out. Can you just... make this cost eleven dollars?"

She looked at me. She looked at her computer screen. She looked at the line of people forming behind me.

She opened the till and took my quarters. "Because I love chickens," she said.

Apparently grace (in the order of magnitude of $2.50) still exists at Ace Hardware Bedford.


The next day I was out doing my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I had my SNAP card, so I could buy up to my balance of actual food, but no non-food items or prepared food. Unbeknownst to me, Whole Foods was running a one-day-promotion on rotisserie chicken. Two whole cooked chickens for $10. The prepared-food section was stocked accordingly, with hot chickens piled to the sky.

Man, did I want a cooked chicken all of a sudden. It was almost lunch time too... But prepared food requires cash, so I would have to go home to a vegetarian lunch.

I ran into my friend Christie who is the goddess of one-day sales. "How many chickens are you buying?" she asked. "I'm on my way to an appointment but I had to stop and get the deal."

I agreed that it was a FANTASTIC sale but that I didn't have a bank card, and I explained about the ATM, and the limited scope of SNAP benefits, and I threw my yelling kids into the story to make me look like less of a white trash idiot. Or more, I don't know.

"Oh shut up, I'll buy you two chickens," Christie said. "Do you want teriyaki or barbecue?"

On my way to my car I reflected on the wellspring of human generosity I hadn't even noticed until I lost my bank card. Then I laughed that both these stories are about chickens, albeit in various stages of alive-ness. Maybe it's not me, maybe it's the chickens. Maybe our societal love for chickens, both alive and deliciously roasted, trumps currency.

Or maybe it is about me, about my ability to accept grace. Maybe I have to lose something to realize I'm deserving of human kindess regardless of my inability to pay.

A replacement bank card arrived in the mail late yesterday. Back to hard-headed self-reliance.


how to succeed?

My senior year in college I had a lot going on. I was teaching aerobics, working curtain for the senior dance recital, finishing core credits in math and sociology, and writing a 20-page paper (all in french) about the theatricality of the Marquis De Sade (don't ask.) But one day I was sitting at my desk looking at my color-coded schedule (I used a custom excel spreadsheet back then because MS office was so bad) and I noticed I had an opening two evenings a week. What was I going to DO with all that free time? Tuesdays and Thursdays CANNOT be empty! The hours loomed in front of me like a swirling black hole of unbooked dread.

I know! I said. I'll try out for a musical!

And that's how I landed a chorus role in my last play ever, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

how to succeed apparently includes finger pointing. I'm top left.

The lasting impact of this production is that sometimes when I go downstairs in the morning to make coffee a line pops into my head. "If I can't take / my coffee break / something within me DIES."

Cutting libretto. Sondheim it wasn't.

I was thinking of this production today as I poured my coffee, pumped my breastmilk, and simultaneously planned my day as much as I can. What are we doing today? What's on the schedule? Will I get to exercise? Will I take the kids for an outing so they don't fight? What are they eating for lunch? For dinner? What am I eating to stay under 1800 calories? Did I say we would do ice cream today? Do I need to make allotments in my eating plan for ice cream?

The same part of me that says "coffee coffee coffee coffee AAAAAAAAH!" (to steal a line from the show) is the part of me that says, "No unplanned time, there must be NO UNPLANNED TIME." I have thought this is the way I cope with motherhood and the demands of housework, but I realize now it goes deeper than that. Scheduling myself so that I can't pause to reflect. This is the way I cope with life.

Life sometimes provokes emotions that are unpleasant. Loss, shame, fear of future loss or shame, and failure. It's easier not to deal with these things. It's easier to run to the next thing, to think "Quick, what am I going to eat?" instead of thinking, "Why do I feel this way? What is happening?"

What IS happening? That seems to be the perpetual question. My inner child is a stary-eyed Cupie doll, stupid, clueless, wondering what everyone else knows that I don't. What's going on guys? What are we supposed to be doing? Did I miss the orientation on EVERYTHING?

This little person feels helpless against the swirling black question mark future. Quick, schedule things on top of that. Things that scream: I KNOW what is going on! I have MADE the timetable!

But in a moment of caffeinated lucidity, I am giving myself a reality check. None of us know the future. None of us is prepared for the hurts that might come our way. Nor the surprising heart-stopping joys, neither. I can deal with that reality through failed attempts at control. Or I can approach it humbly, through fear and trembling, in some way that invites the devine, something akin to awe.

I'm not quite sure how to do it. Maybe... drink tea?


level up, self-awareness

Here's a meal I made while holding a baby. I blog it to make you think I'm hot shit.

This morning I was prepping a big meal in the kitchen, listening to the sermon I missed in church on Sunday. Elijah is working through a baby virus, so I stayed home with him to rest while Dan took the older boys on a play date. While Elijah slept fitfully I figured I'd use the time to prep tomorrow's 9-person dinner. At least cut up the vegetables, I said to myself, so I can pop them in the oven tomorrow when I'm dealing with three kids at once.

I often miss the sermon on Sunday because I'm working in kids' church, and then dealing with my children's nutritional and social/emotional needs afterward. Once they all get lunch and juice and playing on the playground we sometimes get a chance to do a little worship together. It makes for a lovely morning but not exactly a growing-in-God type of regimin.

So when I get a quiet moment during food prep I try to catch up on whatever the church is teaching. Not for my own sake, of course, but because I lead a small group and I have to be up on the message for the benefit of others.

I live on a very high ivory tower and that is the subject of my blog post today.

So I turn on the sermon while dicing potatoes and I hear our pastor ask this odd question: If you had a t-shirt emblazoned with a phrase that represented your identity, what would it say?

What indeed?

I have a friend who exercises in a tank that reads, "I want it all!" She exercises pretty hard.

My neighbor's daughter has a shirt that says, "Princess." She comes into our house and demands cookies.

So what would an accurate t-shirt say for me? I reflected for a moment, scrolling through all the phrases that reflect my hippy parent self-presentation. "Local milk supplier" for example, or "Powered by stevia and not cane sugar!"

And then it hit me, the phrase that I'd never put on a t-shirt. The phrase that describes my personality 100%.


What are you doing, pouring glycerine soap into cute little sheep molds? Make your own soap! LEVEL UP, BITCH! What are you doing, attachment parenting one single child? Homeschool three! LEVEL UP, BITCH!

What are you doing, trying to rest with your sick kid because you haven't slept in three days? Cook a day ahead and write a blog post! LEVEL UP, BITCH!

In my own mind, I can never stop working. In my own mind I am never trying hard enough.

I am not alone in this, I find. This is an American mothering thing.

I came across this article the other day while I was nursing sick Elijah for like ten million hours. It made me laugh because it put into words the way I think about domestic tasks. "Bento Boxes That Will Establish Your Dominance Over Other Moms."

'But this is taking me too long!' Waaah waaah waaah. What are you, a little bitch? Set an alarm for 3:30 am and get it done!

Dan says I'm attached to the praise of others. "You're so AMAZING" and "How do you DO it?" I say, haha that's generous. Caring what others say would mean having a genuine relationship with them. Instead I have a genetic inability to process compliments. What matters to me is my own definition of winning, a warped view of Christianity in which Jesus loved Martha better and demonstrated it by ordering more sandwhiches.

I have thought: "I am the fucking Michael Jorden of giving myself to others."

Dan says this is a spiritual issue and I need to repent. I guess I'll have to, because I am the fucking Michael Jorden of obeying my husband.

Anyway, let's wrap this up so I can go back to cooking.

What should you do if, like me, your self-concept is a little unhelpful?

Go back to God for a different t-shirt. Ask him what he thinks it should say. If I honesty ask God how he sees me I hear, "Oh honey, you are sooooo tired. You're afraid that you're a loser and you'll always be a loser. This not eating sugar thing isn't going to help."

Maybe instead he'll give me a pink t-shirt that says "Princess!" I wonder if my neighbor has any cookies...