Logo Credit: Evolving Faith Conference
The kitchen light was dim, except for the one fabulous selfie spot light, so my guy and I took one. It was 7 am, with dark, rain filled skies, but we were so excited to be greeting the day fill with Evolving Faith 2018. The night had been filled with a smattering of my thoughts as the rain pitter-pattered on the roof all through the night. As a relatively recent California transplant, who has not had any significant rain since April, this nights October rain was magical. As the sound of drops landed softly on the airbnb, they intermingled with the unfolding thoughts of my current place of faith and hopes towards the weekend.
It seemed poetic that as the rain fell, so did my own awareness of the grief that has laid deep so many of my years. But the grief didn't startle me or shut me down. It appeared almost as an old friend, who I was able to listen to as the rain fell. This wasn't the tear dripping kind of grief. It was the kind of silent acknowledgement and knowing. Grief danced with me through the night, as my man had gone to bed and I doodled notes in my journal. Most of the time, she stayed at arms length, though there were several tender moments where she leaned in and whispered insights that had been painfully gained. But as I wrote, particularly about God and my mother and I, I was overwhelmed with a sense of Nurturing, Mothering God. I saw that in the earthly absences of that in my life, hijacked and stolen by illness and distance, God's presence previously came to me through the hands and heart of my mother and God's presence continued to come to me through the hands and hearts and leadership of nurture. I had not set out or intended to sit with grief or planned to ponder my earthly or heavenly Mother, but that is what unfolded the night before we set out to Evolving Faith.
The dance with grief was so comforting to me as so much of my sense of God and my earthly Mom has been jumbled for some time. I was able to let go of a long time held exhale, that God could and would come to me as I nurtured myself and others, just as my mom had done for me. It would be misleading to pretend that this awareness came in and as a result of one night's journaling. This work as been and continues to be a long time in coming, filled with numerous books from the likes of Brene Brown, Anne LeMott, Glennon Doyle, Kelly Corrigan, Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Sharon Harper, Rachel Held Evans, and Sarah Bessey and connecting with a life coaching guide for purposeful listening, learning, and living. The stories and work of these women have come around me and stood witness and held vessel for meaning making for me, during times when my life offered many voids. So to realize that I was preparing to attend a gathering where, not one, but three of these Sheros and mentors were going to be sharing and teaching was thrilling.
The rain continued to sing through the next morning as my husband and I traveled down the stairs out the door of our garden market apartment door. The morning's 8 am start proved to be no obstacle for my west coast legs. Yes, we had to be at the coffee shop by 7:00 to wait 20 minutes in line, for our well worth the wait expresso. Yes, we had to decide to park just out side the conference center entrance, choosing a half-mile walk in the soaking rain. But I did not want to miss a moment. Our determination and legs carried us through the 20 minutes of foggy-glasses, soaking rain. It was tempting to spitter-spatter thoughts of frustration and resentment that we had to walk through the uncomfortable conditions, but as we entered the open-air rotunda, the realization of this moments meaning came full circle and brushed away any spitter-spatter. Jen, Sarah, Rachel and the tribe that they had assembled, these gifted servants who because of their own diligence, study, suffering, and service offered me vessels of God and community of church in spaces and times when nothing else did - they were all here, ready to share and celebrate with me and the hundreds of others who were fortunate to join me. The sense of joy just settled in me.
Joy is where the day started. It was where the day was founded and grounded, but it was only the beginning of a journey that all of the speakers walked through with us. As I sat on the cushion, in the wooden bench seat, all I could notice was my dark denim blues, soaking cold around my legs. The walk had been long, so long that the water's drops were guaranteed to trickle from the tops of my thighs to the tips of my ankles. So the denim just lay there, as a reminder of the the previous nights visit with grief, the previous years journey with grief, and the present morning's walk with discomfort.
But I was in good company at this gathering of Evolving Faith. I was in the presence of meaning makers - both in the crowd and on the stage. These were not just any meaning makers. These were men and women who understood at some level what it is to lose the identity that they came from and who had or were grappling with how do I begin again from ground zero. Some were more seasoned. Some were more versed, but all were genuine. So as I set in the same conference center with the voices of love and leadership, who spoke to my heart when it was most lonely and broken, I looked around and saw others who had a similar gleams in his/her eyes as they spoke and I learned in a tangible way that I am not alone.
The unfolding moments, hours, of Evolving Faith sessions were filled with content that scaffolded us each into our self and invited us into the sacred. The day started out and was grounded in joy, but it traveled a long road through the day. I wish I could articulate the work of the sacred in one full post, or even one full book. But I think the sacred work that is collectively unfolding through the participants of Evolving Faith is a story for the generations. I don't presume to have any, let alone all of it figured out. But what I can claim and share is that through Evolving Faith Day One, the God of Shalom, the God of Creation, the Spirit of the Word, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is emerging to this time, this place, and this generation in ways that we cannot even imagine.
Even though I am attending in person, I hope to purchase a copy of the conference. Sitting in the auditorium, I find my self soaking in so much from the space of my soul. Yet, this path way to my soul was opened with the genius of the wisdom offered by so many of the community's speakers. I cannot even begin to process it all. There were amazingly important calls to Love, Justice, Equality, Hope, and Freedom, acknowledging that we are in the midst of a time when all of these values are being attacked and erased. No one offered a pat, 5 step, how-to solution answer to this tension and call. In fact, no one even offered a collective call to action. What was offered with the exhortation to do the individual work of evolving faith: dying with the grief, sitting in the ashes, and living steps into the rising. As Jen Hatmaker said, "this is humble work." As the day grew long, and I sat there longer (after my pants had dried), I realized that the work that I have to do has zero to do with performance, zero to do with production, zero to do with others (for now), and everything to do with me.
The wilderness that I had so obliviously been seeking to hide and avoid was mine for the taking. No church reformation advocacy work, personal behavior modification plan, or professional credentialing would be able to take place for my own intentional, honesty, and acknowledgement that I am walking in the wilderness with God. And as I walk into and through the wilderness, Mother God, the nurturing, holding, defining love moves with me every step of the way. My wilderness has not changed. Autism, special needs parenting, giftedness, anxiety, etc continue to be part of my landscape. There continue to be more questions than answers and moments of asynchronous and disconnect than balance and integration. However, I hold a knowing that God can and does meet me in the grief. God meets me in the mental illness. God meets me in the chaos. God meets me in the margin. The work of conscious living, learning, and loving, into the One Love, the Creator, the resurrected Christ, this is my call to the work of evolving faith. It is the call to peace in the midst of chaos. It is the call to service in the midst of selfishness. It is the call to justice in the midst of evil. It is the call to mercy and grace in the midst of revengeful wrath. Evolving Faith is a resilient faith, an adaptive faith, that offers an open invitation into the work of the "arc of the universe."
This is the life, the love, the work that I am about.
Pictured at Evolving Faith left to right: Cindy Brandt, Mike McHargue, Osheta Moore, Kathy Escobar, Pete Enns, Jen Hatmaker, Jeff Chu, Rev. Wil Gafney, and Sarah Bessey
Logo Credit: Evolving Faith
The jazz saxophone is streaming from my husband's iphone. A yummy meal and brew from Trailhead Restaurant and Bar is in my belly. The suitcases are opened in our AirBnB suite above Roots and Fruits Market, and my bum is snuggled into the orange and brown thread 1970's cabin shag couch, as I sit to write a post that has been a long time coming.
Tomorrow begins the first of a two day spiritual retreat, Evolving Faith 2018, in Montreat NC www.evolvingfaithconference.com/ and my heart has been set on attending it ever since the word of it spilled 6 months ago, in April. As the title tells, Evolving Faith is a conference for pilgrims, wanderers, and wonderers - who at some point along the way became at a minimum, curious about the concept of shalom, good news grace, Jesus Christ. For all thousand plus attendees, there are a thousand unique stories and faith journeys that can be told. The point of this weekend is to begin listening and telling these stories. I know my initial story is the cliche of post-evangelicalism, but the unfolding of my rising is its own.
I was a young, blond-headed, pleaser, wanna-be kid, growing up in the corn land midwest, where Jesus was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - so I ate. And at first, for quite a few years, I didn't know any different, and it's taste pleased me. I was told that I was loved, made on purpose, for a purpose, and that all I needed to do was "love God with all my heart" and "confess my sins to Jesus" and I would be rewarded with the gift of God's love and heaven in the afterlife. It was a pretty sweet deal for a girl who didn't know differently. So for years I sat at the same table. I was a regular attender of VBS, youth group, youth group leadership, youth church choir, college ministry, summer youth minister, professional youth minister, and even seminary for graduate work. You name, if it was 80's & 90's christian evangelical, I likely had some exposure to or part in it. These were the years that my body went from a young child to a grown adult woman. These were the years when my education went from kindergarten to graduate degree. These were the years when I went from being a daughter in a nuclear family, to being landed single, alone at 2000's doorsteps.
I could say that it was sitting in my garden floor apartment, alone with the nearest family & friend support hours away, as I watched television coverage of 9/11 attacks that sheared my faith. I could say it was the countless Sunday morning church services I sat in, where the church's unwritten social code wrote me out as a single woman, that punched holes in my faith. I could say that it was chronic absence and marginalization of others who were anything else but white, heterosexual, fully abled, middle class individuals that shredded my faith. However, what pushed me over the edge to losing my religion is when I lost the "privilege" that I so ignorantly gripped all of the previous years, when I became marginalized with my mom and daughter, as life dealt each of them brain injury and brain anomaly. Through all of this, the culture that is church and the dogma that is church, and the bullshit that is "church" has become meaningless to me. Scratch that. It has become the opposite of that. It has become what I seek to dismantle. But the Jesus of church? the shalom of God? This is the water of my soul, that no matter how much others may seek to hijack and manipulate, I cannot and do not let go of.
So with a California driver's license, a cup of latted-expresso and a pen in hand, and wide open ears, that can only be out matched by me even more open heart, I'm headed to the conference center for Evolving Faith. Because I know there there are other wonderers there. Other seekers. Other genuine, honest, pilgrims, who don't have all the answers, but know that Love's table is open for all and we have a love to build that isn't profitable to humankind, but builds wealth for souls. We have a shared hope, that in the midst of all of the mess and the mundane, the Creator God still moves and partner's with us, to bring Shalom to and through the world.
I'm praying and claiming this Shalom even now.
You all, if I just showed you and told you about the box mix bread I made this morning you might count me a Pinterest diva But can I also tell you this morning I instantaneously snapped at my youngest for opening the “wrong” peanut butter jar when she made her snack. I took her “mistake” straight to the heart and my tone bounced back with a ferocity that should generally be reserved for zoos. What you don’t see on instagram or Pinterest is how i genuinely struggle to manage my drive for security and clarity - in an extremely unstable and murky time. And I am ashamed to say that sometimes this fear gets leaked out through my parenting. If I can just strengthen my kids executive functioning skills, then all will be well with them and the world, right?!!? As much as I love the good look and taste of warm pumpkin bread, no amount of effort or perfection is ever going to ensure that the sun will rise for the next morning or that I will have pumpkin bread mix in my cupboard or mobile hands to make it Just as I am proud of and grateful for a child who safely and successfully grows up and “launches” to the world, no amount of parent planning or executive function training is going to guarantee a healthy launching adult. This is a hard, hard thing for many of us, and most definitely me, to acknowledge. But I am realizing that my grip on the either/or mentality is failing. No matter what the Sunday school lesson or the tv commercial said - there is both/and in the world. By gripping the good/bad, all or nothing mentality, my hands are left empty, holding nothing. No amount of effort is going to erase my fear. Only acknowledging love will. I’m looking forward to opening my hands up to the both/and of love - that I may acknowledge anxiety’s role in my life, but that I will also be even more capable of tenderly showing her rightful place in my life, so that I can grow into more of the conscious person and parent I can be. To me, my tearfully learned lesson is more Pinterest worthy than pumpkin bread. #pumpkinbreadlessons #consciousparenting
My girls are day dreamers. Some times they are actually day dreaming and other times they are mistaken for daydreamers. It's just inherent in neuro-diversity, especially as its gender stereotypically expressed. Staring off into space, getting sucked into a story or a screen, distracted by the nearest bypasser - my daughter's ability to tend to, regulate, and negotiate their attention, focus, and thought is a constant dance or battle.
One of the common ways that parents and teachers are encouraged to support neuro-diverse individuals is to use visual schedules. They can be truly helpful, for individuals and those who work with them. But have you ever tried to find or make visual schedules? Not. an. Easy. Task. Occupational Therapists are most likely the best versed in making visual schedules. There is possibly an easy and quick visual schedule maker available out there - but I have not found it. I'm sure some tech solution may be floating around or just around the corner of innovation. But until this happens or if you don't want to spend too much money or you don't want your child's face in a screen even more minutes, we are forced to create our own visual schedules. In my most organized and well intended moments, I have great visual schedule making plans. However, many days my energy is used up before the dinner table is even cleaned and there is little time left over to make a visual schedule.
But today was a new day and as my daughters round the corner into adolescence, and I wanted to create a visual schedule that is more appropriate for what my tween girl would appreciate and need. So I made one today. And I wanted to share it with you, for free. So many times, I go seeking resources or support for specific questions or challenges, and often come away empty handed, or handed with knowledge that I am then expected to make something out of. While I am very thankful for the knowledge, sometimes it would just be so helpful if someone had already done the handiwork. So I am sending this out to you and the universe in hopes that the goodness will come back around and that you can also pass it and the goodness on to someone who might want an already made a tween visual schedule.
If you want to make one yourself, check out unsplash.com for free images and google docs can get you going. From one warrior parent to another!
Even though my life has been dispersed across geography and time, at a rate much greater than I expected, and getting and staying connected has been more of an issue than I'd like it to be, I have found lots of wisdom and companionship in the gifts of other writers. Wether it has been on a blog, podcast, or book, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses on this journey, who through humor, transparency, suffering, and wit, have spurred me on in my life. This blog post I wanted to share and talk about one example.
The Hand's Free Mama site, produced by Rachel Macy Stafford and her team is one such example. While her writings have not been the most frequent of my readings, when I find a great nugget of wisdom, I want to share it and Rachel offers us just that in her post, "The Discovery of a Disappointed Parent and How It Led to Limitless Love." Rachel does a WONDERFUL job of laying out her personal transformation and how it freed her experience of being a parent. It is a journey that most all parents can relate.
First and foremost I just want to extend a big KUDOS to Rachel, for not only being willing to see and own the impact of her own personal fingerprints on her parenting abilities - but even more so to share them with the world so that we can all connect and learn. Rachel's post (which is SOOO WORTH a full read) shares the process of her realization about the power of what and how she communicates with her teen daughter. Rachel intertwines the insight of research and writing offered by Carol Dweck, Jessica Lahey, Jim Taylor to build a lens for us to observe her own self analysis. Rachel goes goes on to say that she had a humbling ah-ha moment to realize that she had been parenting in a manner of outcome love, noting that her focus and time had narrowed in on her daughter's performance and behavior.
As I read Macy's words, a lump formed in my throat. I knew she was speaking my truth too. From the moment my oldest was born, in those early days of short term, low-level NICU stay, my mother bear was born. As a special needs parent, not only are you ushered into the world of parenting, but you are ushered into the society of special needs. As a new mom, on top of the distorted birthing body and rapidly changing identity, you are also demanded to battle in the arena of ensuring your baby stays alive and has the freedom to grow forward. The slur and slush of hormones, hopes and expectations, and your baby's ever-present developmental differences makes for a chaotic fog that a mother must forge through. Our Mother Bear must lead us. Many mom's make it through, but none of us are the same going forward.
The special needs parent society is a forced gathering of parents who live life full time in juxtaposition. Regardless of our child's individualized unique needs, each of us is confronted with the reality the the world's ill fit, ignorance, or exclusion of our child means that our role as a parent morph's into multiple jobs. Where much can be and is written about what an effective or successful parent does or or looks like, the special needs parent must do differently and must do more. Special needs parenting is like a full contact sport, that is combined with tandem skydiving, with the goal of landing through the narrow eye of the needle that society offers you to launch your child. This kind of chaos and pressure molds the special needs parenting experience in a unique manner.
As a special needs parent, society demand that we have such a synchronicity with our child that we can understand and translate her experience to the world so that she has a bridge to move forward across. You can imagine the impact that this has on a special needs parents' self, parenting style, and the parent child relationship. In the book, Smart, but Scattered, by Dawson and Guare, they describe part of the experience as constantly "loaning out your (brain) frontal lobe," as we interact with and guide our children. I've found this so true as so many days my "brain" is exhausted from the "thinking ahead of, behind, and all around my child's experience."
For those who do not have special needs children, and specifically those who do not have twice exceptional children, this concept could seem foreign, at best. But for the child whose body and brain create a Swiss cheese learning and development experience, we have no choice. Our children can talk to us in depth about the game they are playing, the book they are reading, or the latest interest they've found, but yet they don't have access to the brain functions to manage their emotions around the immediate circumstances, or they don't the cognitive capacity to organize their thinking or their body to complete the routinely expected social demands like sitting in a public school for 7 hours a day or eating dinner and getting ready for bed. To the uninformed, this can seem to be a dysfunctional relationship and not a product of biology.
But the reality is that it is both. Reading Macy's post was a reminder. For all of the developmental questionnaires I've had to fill out, to all of the specialists I have had to consult with, to all of the educational conferences I have had to attend, my Mama bear role has required me to spend an inordinate amount of time as an observer and an analyst of my daughter's life and development, all of it points me to my daughter's behavior and performance. As the social demands of formal schooling increased, so have the pressures to assess and conform. This has been hard. For inherently, no one likes to conform, but many do so begrudgingly, with expense. However, individuals and families with special needs most often conform at great cost. And many can't and lose everything. One can imagine the rumba on a hire wire like experience this becomes.
Most any of us special needs parents sacrifice the nature and quality of our relationship with our children in order to play conforming to convention's game. Reading Rachel's post was a reminder and a call to resist. Her writing modeled the capacity to step back from her drive to micro-manage her daughter's performance and behavior so that she could embrace a "Discovery Love" with and for her daughter. To do this, she spoke of letting go of the expectations and the worries that she personally held so that she could embrace the moment with and of her daughter.
The term "Discovery Love" sounded so delicious as I read it. I knew to taste it meant surrender. Surrender to the fear that my atypical developing child may or may not live the life that she wants or needs. Surrender to the fear that I am not enough or too much for the parenting that my daughter needs. Surrender to the reality that my efforts are no crystal ball or guarantee. Not surrender in the sense that I am giving up, but releasing the grip of my hands on what was not real to be open-handed to receive the gift of the moment of what is. This was the "discovery love" that Rachel was referring to.
As Rachel unfolded discovery love further, she offered the quote....."Nothing you will become will disappointment; I have no preconception that I'd like to see you be or do. I have no desire to foresee you only to discover you. You can't disappointment me." --Mary Haskell. How gorgeous!!! What a way to show up to yourself, your children, and the world around you. As I read this, I knew that as a special needs parent, this is the foundation that we need and deserve to live and grow from. Unconditional love is not new to most new parents. But special needs parents are repeatedly threatened to loose touch with this and conditioned to live and operate from operational love. It's a pressure and a threat that is not often talked about or addressed. But I seek a new way - to talk about it and to seek to find a new way for me and for my daughters. I am thankful to Rachel Macy Stafford for her eloquent reminder and me too encouragement that we can all live and parent from a place of discovery love
10. She can rapid fire list the names of high end and low end fashison designers and tell you which brand she thinks you should wear - all while obliviously crossing a major city intersection
9. She asks you repeatedly what she can “have for snack,” in spite of your numerous redirections that it’s her choice to choose for her self.
8. She loves to oblivious dance through the store iles of the local malls AND grocery stories.
7. She loves to read any tween-lit or American Girl guide she can get her eyes on, but yet is rarely invited to hang out with other girls afterschool
6. One day she freely requests to do multple loads of laundry for the family and the next day you have to almost literally hold her hand to move her through basic tasks of the day.
5. She has a beautiful giggle and singing voice and will use it and share it most any where and everywhere - because her verbal filter just doesn’t stay consistently operational.
4. She can carry on a coversation with her teacher about clostridium difficle and the new method of “poop pill transplant” treatments, but cannot get out of her 5th grade class room with all of her necessary school and personal belongings with out, supervised assistance.
3. She will use every inch of energy and ability to make it through the day, and then find the evening filled with exhaustion, anxiety, and emotional overwhelm because the “neuro-typical” demands of the day stretch her way beyond what her brain and body are developed enough to do.
2. She will be able to safely navigate the steering wheel of her parents Civic in a parking lot pre-teen driving lesson, but yet always struggles to gracefully, and sometimes safely get in and out of vehicles with her body.
1. She edits your website for you and does a better job of spelling than you do.
I am very pissed
I'm cramming it to Haiku
I will let it rest
spring air carries far
butterfly butterfly go
poems bring full heart
able is the heart
to break and to mend
but mending is a misnomer
settled settled down
cry baby, cry baby wah!
bring relief now
sprint to the cat
purrrr purrrr curl on my feet
my toes become wet
cry the torn country
he weeps at omniscience's feet
bleed bleed, the best do stumble
yet so few hear
where do you go when the land who birthed you, turns to grab you buy the throat
as much as the enemy lies within the houses walls, even more does it lie within the individual hands and hearts
One can't help to wonder what will become of this blue planet circling around the sun.
Our path tread through the universe is spoken to be worn,
but would it not be unexpected to find itself in Jupiter's yard?
I am one, but many.....
known but unknown,
found, and still searching
From the New York Post article.....
"One of the difficult parts of getting help for children suffering from anxiety is that anxiety often presents as a constellation of negative behaviors. Parents and educators are quick to spot the behavior problem, but they don’t always see the underlying anxiety that drives it.”
This makes so much sense..... how many adults do you see claiming they have anxiety based difficulties vs how many adults do you see behaving in angry, addictive, and disengaging ways? You're right. We many more the latter. Children use the space and the resources they have to act in or act out their anxiety. So do adults. It's just much more socially common and acceptable to behave "badly" than it is to acknowledge the inner or outer chaos. And so both children, adults, and society suffers.
I think about anxiety as the reflection of dis-regulation, a lack of symbiosis and symmetry between parts of the whole. Whether the imbalance is within the one individual system or the relational, collective system - anxiety is a part of and a product of being human and living on the earth. Yet, what is most commonly done is to focus on, judge, seek to extinguish and then pull away from the expression of the behavior. For example, if my daughter's not doing her homework? A common response might be "thinking she must be lazy and undisciplined. I should take away her access to technology until she changes her behavior." If that is all I focused on and did, I would be judging her and her behavior as unacceptable and bad and I would be using negative consequence to "teach her." But that's just the point, there is little "teaching" in this approach. It is only offering the chance for her to develop negative association. With this approach, I would also be missing the opportunity to pull in close and observe and listen to find out what other factors (such as holes in her learning, broader holes in her capacity to learn, or some other physical or social obstacle) is getting in the way of her homework getting completed. Her expressed avoidance of the homework, fueled by her anxiety is an invitation to engage more, not less. As her parent and the loved ones around her, my increased engagement can actually model and teach her how to address the sources of her anxiety. And yet, how often do we seek to pull away from that which is not readily apparent with a straight forward answer or fix?
Anxiety is not a demon to be exorcised or an illness to be cured. While addressing and supporting it's symptoms are essential for relief and freedom, a child or an adult who suffers from anxiety is NOT inherently broken and in need of fixing. What anxiety says is that what I alone bring to the situation is inadequate to meet the need and I need the engagements of other parts of myself or my tribe and community to meet me in meeting the needs of the situation. Wether it is a 7 year old child saying with behavior that "my physical needs to move and learn do not allow me to sit in a desk for 5 hours a day" or an adult attempting to squelch with aggressive or addictive behavior, "I am really lonely and frightened of what is next" both are expressions of anxiety at different stages and seasons of life.
Anxiety is not a one facet experience. It involves ones thinking, physiology, neurology, learning, family and friend network, financial means, history of trauma, and more. Each of these serves as an entry point to connect with the person behind the anxiety. Does the person need more routine moments of quiet to calm down-provide them with a quite space/or head phones. Does the person need a chance to know more specifically where, when, and how money/resource are going to be handled - pursue resources for budget making and make the budget. Does a person have routine dips in blood sugar or wake up unrested - build in multiple small snack breaks and/or nap breaks. Does the person come home at the end of the day jittery and agitated - get them to a pair or running shoes or boxing gloves. The bigger helping question you can offer yourself if you love someone with anxiety is what is his/her anxiety profile? How does anxiety manifest itself in them and what are the global points of relief and connections that you can partner to building into practice.
If we are able to honor anxiety as an invitation to connect, rally, and innovate - rather than judge, shun away or punish, if we see anxiety as an ever present energy that is a function to serve us, as opposed as a reflection of weakness, then individuals, families and tribes will have access to the full expression of connection, life, and hope.
It's likely if you are reading this blog post, you are or love someone who has struggled with anxiety. You know they are not being "bad," and you know that this is not something that can (or should be) disciplined out of them. You also know loving them can often be a unique, frequently challenging hard. I just want to send some love and encouragement that you are doing the right things. There is no one-shot straight forward fix to anxiety. But the more you draw closer and connect and the more we can share and tell this story of the need for connection and integration in society, the closer we will be to creating the peaceful, symbiotic, and symmetrical world - many might call heaven.
There is nothing like sitting down to a fresh blog post screen with a burnt tongue! I was so happy to get to the point in the day when I could return to my thoughts in writing that I didn't care that my coffee had just come out of the microwave reheat, and the steam billows on top were a clear warning sign that I should wait to sip and savor. But I couldn't. I didn't. Open went my mouth. In went the coffee. Sizzle went my tongue! Not the kind of wake up call to writing I was vying for. Thankfully, the heat landed more to the middle of my tongue and it's work on my tastebuds is now dissipating. Nothing a spot of dark chocolate won't cover!
This is the kind of frame of mind I find myself in today, one filled with a bit of real life frolic, which feels so good and foreign all at the same time. These moments of my life's season are turning up things new that 6 months ago I don't think I could have dared hope for. It has been a long, long road these last 10 years and seriousness has been my closest companion. For good reason, but seriousness can be down right cranky and it is such a gift to be experiencing more moments where hope is my guide. There are many reasons hope's planting has begun to spring forth goodness and there will be many moments of writing to further unfold them. It is not lost on me, that as I enter into the season of fall, when nature's beauty comes at the expense of nature's end, I know my life's steps are mirroring both these ends and beginnings. The ending, the death of something held so close, can produce gorgeous.
I don't necessarily think of death in a gorgeous way. In fact, I think it's fair to say that fear of ending or fear of letting go of something hoped for has been a driving influence for so many. I'm no different. When my babies were little, my heart grew to explode, and so did some parts of my sense of reality. I think most parents are love drunk over their children. Yeah, the fatigue and the drain of parenting young ones is real, but somehow, the way they knock the tower of your personal building blocks over, giggle while doing it, and hand you the chance to rebuild yourself with them is amazing to the deepest parts of you. Their unassuming glee as your tower falls invites a recheck in with all that you are. It's fair to say that parenting will flatten you. Which is oh so hilarious as I was one who yearned and beckoned for the title of mother ever since I was old enough to hold and fold my dolly's baby blanket. Little did I know that parenting, and mothering was about a internal, architectural re-engineering that no polite person ever talks about in public. I went into parenting with the most robust hopes and intentions, but met myself on the other side. Oh, has it stung.
I wish that I could be that "polite person" and say that the sting of parenting was akin to a bee. But that wouldn't be true or fair. So the real deal is that parenting, and in particular, parenting children of exceptional needs, is a death march from who you were to who your child and the universe is inviting you to be. To get more specific, not up in abstract's clouds, I did not realize how tightly I gripped the sacred cow of my own effort and abilities, until I met my girls. To live through the moment when their nap schedule (or lack their of) included me yelling at my 3 year old and giving her diapered bottom a swat, so that she would bend into obedience because all of my other parenting strategies had failed, (then and now) brings me to my humble knees. In all of my sane and centered moments, I NEVER would have supported yelling at a toddler, let alone swatting a bottom - but this was the reflection that I had to look in the mirror at, as I realized my own needs and exhaustion were not met or considered equal in this gig of parenting and I didn't have or know how to take the personal steps to avoid getting to that moment. No one tells prospective parents that parenting pushes you out of your sane and centered existence - for real. Up until those moments, my own striving and being had produced success. It sounds very vain now and no doubt, if my life had been compared to others, I was by no means a cream of the crop human. BUT.....my efforts and my abilities had served and deceived me to that point. Who was I to give away my own credit and dominion?
Even now as I think of it many years later, a sense of shame puddles around my feet when I think about how I actively allowed that yelling and swatting situation to occur. No doubt, all parents have one, if not multiple experiences where they found themselves puddled with a sense of their own inadequacy and (likely) shame. When that moment occurred years ago it was the most distinctive dawning of awareness to the shadow and the dark that was in me. Until that moment, I had glossed over or misinterpreted just how strong my drive for control and perfection was. As a "successful Mother" you weren't supposed to acknowledge how much was not in your control or how much you strove to make it be so or how much you exerted to make it appear otherwise. These were the lies I was gripping and serving. I wasn't so aware of this then, or even days and months after the swatting incident occurred. It has taken multiple moments of ponder, and a fair bit of modern science, prayer, and mentoring for me to realize that I had to let go of my grip on self and on control. It's quite the bitter-sweet betrayal and rising to let go of certainty rooted in your own effort and being to be free to hold onto the buck wild ride that life is.
It is a socially, culture-propped illusion that humans and mother's have control and dominion, Wether it is sermon's served from the pulpit, commercials broadcast on digital platforms, or scientific theory's drive to deconstruct the data - all are molded to learn that EGOS and EFFORT are supreme. Mother's are not spared. In fact, they are most likely square center in the lies' cross-hairs. Nurturing is often portrayed as one's ability to shelter and guide through a dangerous landscape, and so many of us have settled up to the bar of this mentality. If we keep our kids safe and move them through life in a way that meets the expectations of all that is around them and us, then we will have been successful. This is what Pinterest says, anyway. But as a Mom who has spent countless hours on Facebook group for mom's of exceptional kiddos, and as a Mom who has lived her and her daughter's exhaustion of effort and ability and still comes up short, I know more than ever that the works-righteousness, pull yourself up by your boot straps philosophy is dead on arrival.
This is scary as hell and freeing to ride the wild buck, all at the same time. Some humans and mama's have learned and lived this lesson for such a long time and they are able to welcome me and other's like me into the fold. I'm really grateful that their presence and proclamation of this truth has been available in my life. But it is also a surreal place to know that no amount of morally upright behavior is going to save me from myself or the world around me. This realization is not a call for a free-for-all. It is a letting go of what isn't and an embracing of what is - which is a REALLY expansive place to be as a person and a parent. It means loosening my gaze so that it becomes a cursor to the moment of life unfolding in front of and around me. It means letting grief in, over what should have been and what wasn't, so that what was could be realized and owned. The shifting of my place in my own story from ancillary to primary.
So many mother's have been shoved into the ancillary, that it has mistakenly become part of the definition of motherhood and femininity. Even to the point that mother's are deemed responsible for the organization of in-utero DNA - how preposterous!?! Don't think it's true? I remember in the early weeks of our daughter's brain anomaly diagnosis considering that God might be cursing my baby with abnormality because I had not lived exactly to the moral code. Wow, was I drowning in the fallacies of the teachings and times! It hurts my heart to realize that this is where I was in those moments and it hurts my heart that the voices and experiences of life around me and led me there. However, living through these moments and questions has moved me from the ancillary to the primary in my life. As Glennon Doyle would say, this is "the pain, then the rising."
Maybe this is what fall is about.... the beautiful fury of the life's pain, that will later give way to nature's rising. Fall is the rhythm of the landscape's last move, to leap forward, as if saying, notice me, before I am no more, as she clears the way for what is to come. Kind of like the gleeful child, who has just knocked down her parents' building blocks. From the primary seat view to my life, it is "brutiful" and gorgeous to watch nature's and my transformation. May we find peace and compassion and community in each of our moments. May we grow and give gratitude to our children and God, that they are our ultimate teachers.
Oh. My. Goodness!!! Isn't there just so much scrumptiousness in this picture? Each of our pudgy cheeks are bursting with joyous smiles. Even though over 8 years has passed since this picture was taken and all of our shapes and forms have changed, the intuitive lines of this joy are what I sense when the dwelling of my family comes forward in my being. This moment-captured holds all the best of who our family is and what we mean to each other. Even though the girls are so much grown, and all of their time with us has transitioned from diapers and feedings, to homework help and chauffeur service, the imprints of who they are as human beings is as solid in this moment captured of our family as they are today. They are so beautiful.
It is from this inner knowing and dwelling of joy in my girls and our family that I seek to serve and love where and how I do. These scrumptious, giggly babes are in the process of growing up. And what is seen and welcomed from a young one, can often be rejected and shunned as an adult. As little ones, it was "no big deal" that they were more clumsy to the room, less interactive with the neighborhood kids, or having to complete as many weekly doctors and therapy appointments as they were days in preschool. Their difficulty with orientation of physical space, their ability and confidence to independently start, walk through and finish a multi-step task, adapt to changes in our schedules, maintain focus to a task, or safely play on a play structure or hike through the woods didn't matter so much as 5 and 6 year olds. The doctors and teachers presented as if they assumed that, since the girls verbal abilities were so healthy and strong, the other lagging or missing abilities somehow were less or inconsequential. It was ignored as if to imply that some how their verbal IQ could morph into "Non-Verbal" skills and abilities (ex. motor abilities or social aptitude, or executive function)
Standing from where I stand, with my girls, and family, in 2018, I can firmly say, IQ does NOT morph into other cognitive capabilities. In a time in human history, where there has never been any more global demands on students, the workforce, and our communities to perform as a whole neurological being, the lag and absence of a full range of neurological functions and abilities becomes crucial to individuals and families. The validity of my "babies" struggle and disabilities to stay focused to a task, or organize and move her body is hindering to her and those around her more than any handicap sign can articulate. They walk around with stealth disabilities that not only burden their present moments, but slay the psyche because their internal reality and struggle is not matched, nor acknowledged by the community and world around them. When your brain does not perceive, organize, or regulate in ways that match with the community expectation or demand, it creates the no-fun, "fun-house" effect. The exaggerations, the constrictions, the sprints, and the lags of neuro-diverse thinking and being often quickly transport individuals and families to islands of isolation.
I know as people and a community we can do better. This is my why. All families, regardless of their orientations, perspectives or abilities are WELCOMED into the community of human beings and the community of the human family. I know from the inside out that girls and boys, men and women, like my daughters and our family, who may live through some point of neuro-diversity, can and should be welcomed to community's table. Disabilities of Non-Verbal skills and specific learning disabilities are so incredibly influential and we can do better and understanding and accommodating these dear ones at our shared table.
I write and serve so that knowledge and understanding will expand and my squishy cheek bundles of joy babies will have the freedom to grow into the women that only they can be and they can share seats at society's table, where they are desperately needed too. I mean, look at that joy!! Who wouldn't want to share this at the table?!!
Melinda is a recovering "normal" seeker, who is often distracted by unexpected moments of nature's beauty or questioning children