Monthly Archives: May 2010
This says it all:
Last night, after we put the babies down (after I had rocked Luke for some time because he had slipped in the bath tub and knocked the heck out of us head and lay there flat on his back, naked, screaming, looking up at me with terror in his eyes and that look that says, “why did you let this happen to me”), we put the blue suitcase on the bed and I took out all my clothes from my trip to Nor Cal last week where I spoke to a so-lovely group of women from Menlo Park Pres, and Steve began loading his clothes into the bag for his week-long trip. Revolving suitcase.
At about 6 this morning, I was back in Luke’s room, back in the rocking chair (I’m wondering if a splitting headache was what woke him up so early) rocking my getting-big-boy back to sleep when Steve snuck in and kissed me a silent kiss goodbye so that Luke wouldn’t stir.
“Bye, babe,” I mouthed to him silently and we both just kind of smiled, knowing that you always do whatever it takes to avoid waking a baby.
When Steve had been gone an hour or so, and the rest of us had a bit more sleep, I loaded the babies into the car and headed to Target for an Americano (there are few things that speak to my heart more completely than a Starbucks inside a Target), VeggieTales, and a frozen pizza for dinner tonight.
While in Target: Lane almost swallowed her faux-flower hair clip, Luke dropped ¼ of a banana which I promptly rolled over with the cart, Steve called on a layover, both babies wore me down until I took them out of their harnesses and let them loose in the main part of the cart, and I almost started taking shots of whatever they were selling on Aisle 9. Like a troop of wild animals, the wake behind us was resplendent with foodstuffs and ruined displays.
As I was checking out, the Target employee says with great concern, “Uh, ma’am, she’s about to fall out of the cart.” Lane has one of her legs pitched up and over the side and she’s trying to figure out how to shift her weight so she can dismount the cart. Of course, I’m not supposed to have a child (let alone both of my children) standing in the main part of the cart. Very dangerous.
So I grab Lane before there’s an incident, and with both of my children “complaining,” I slide my credit card with my free hand.
The Target employee ends our time together with, “Are they always such a handful?”
I keep Lane in one arm and with the other lamely steer the cart out into the parking lot with Luke at the helm. We hit a bump and my car keys hit the ground while I’m in the crosswalk. I wedge my foot behind the wheel of the cart (so it doesn’t roll away) and bend down and grab the keys as Lane throws her head back thinking it’s all a game. A man in a sedan waits for me to do this whole song and dance.
It was an unglamorous morning.
I often feel like the rest of the world is clipping along in synchronized goodness, and we (me and my handful children) are the clumsy barnacles on the broad side of humanity, dropping keys and spilling coffee and launching out of shopping carts.
Today, some sliver of grace has presented itself out of nowhere, and I can actually just smile and say, “Oh, well.”
For that reason, and that reason alone, today is a total success.
Thought you might enjoy reading a guest column I did for www.wivesoffaith.org, a fantastic website that provides support and inspiration to military wives and families.
The Slipper Slope of Coping
I talked with a Navy wife the other day. She has five children, and her husband is preparing for his fourth deployment. I asked her how she was handling it all, and she coolly (read: defensively) told me she was doing “just fine.”
She added that she gets so frustrated when military wives struggle with their situation. “We knew what we were getting into when we signed up for this marriage. We have no right to complain.”
I stared back at her, somewhat pained, knowing she was not doing “just fine” and fairly sure she had made the mistake many of us make, which is to simply dismiss any kind of honest confession for complaining.
Some of us have gotten good, maybe even too good, at coping. We steel ourselves into this pillar of strength, and we challenge anything to penetrate our armor. Meanwhile, we may or may not be feeling that same way on the inside, underneath our self-protective layers.
The problem with practicing this kind of incongruence—the outside and the inside at odds with each other—is that we get used to living split off from our true selves. We become accustomed to denying what’s actually going on inside us, and this creates a person who cannot be honest about her pain, cannot let others see her weakness, and cannot tolerate any kind of authentic struggle in others.
This woman sends the subtle (or not so subtle) message to her friends and to her children that the real winners are those who suck it up and deal with it and never let anyone see them sweat.
How incredibly isolating this behavior becomes for everyone. Yes, others may see us as amazingly stalwart, but they will never see us approachable. This keeps everyone dancing around each other at a safe distance, never really able to offer help and support. How sad! All of us in need, and yet none of us able to access our own emotions or each other’s.
So how do we decipher between complaining and true confession? Complaining is all about staying stuck, rehearsing the injustices with no desire to see things differently, change behavior, or receive support. Complaining is about wallowing and whining, unconcerned with growth, maturity, or transformation.
Confessing is something different altogether. Honest confession is an externalizing of an inward conversation for the purpose of gaining insight, releasing a burden, or admitting reality.Confession leads to movement and helps us get out of the grind of merely coping. It opens doors to growth and change because it is an act of congruence. By externalizing—sharing—our true state of affairs, we are better able to identify what we need and how we might be able to engage in some simple acts of self-care.
So, let me practice what I’m preaching.
If you were to ask me how I’m doing with 17-month old twins, a Navy SEAL husband who is in and out on travel, and the delicate situation of all of us living with my mother in her house, I would tell you the following:
“I’m tired. I’m trying to be honest about how exhausted I feel and, instead of pushing myself all the time (read: punishing myself for not doing my life better), I’m slowing down when I can.”
What does that slowing down look like? Glad you asked.
“I’ve started yoga twice a week. I’m taking naps when my kids nap. I’m reading more and watching TV less. All of these things are good for the soul. In addition, I’m trying to figure out some fun things my family can do together when my husband is home because we need more fun in our lives right now.” Then I might add, “So, tell me what you do to take care of yourself in the midst of this stressful life? And what do you do for fun as a family? I could use some suggestions.”
And then you might offer me some great ideas of how you and your family are getting through the ever-changing days of military life.
Isn’t that so much better than, “just fine”?
(BTW, I really would love to know how you take care of yourself and how you create fun for your family. So post a comment and share the wealth!)
My first draft of this post was entitled “Ranting” and was a little angry. My mom says I have a chip on my shoulder. Of course, she’s right. And I’m really trying to work on that—trying to be less critical and divisive and less concerned about everybody else’s issues as I know such qualities are generally unbecoming. To that end, I realized I needed to tone it down a bit, and before I wrote the current draft, I asked God to tell me what it is I really need to say that would actually be helpful instead of completely inflammatory. I’m trying to take responsibility for myself instead of just calling out other people. Baby steps. :)
Here’s what I really want to say:
I am so inspired by the people who are doing the very, very difficult work of recovery. Especially those who are openly talking about how that work is going for them.
I feel like many of us are struggling (read: all of us are struggling) . . . more than we care to admit. Many of us need a supportive community, the encouragement to seek help from experts, and an understanding of how our faith actually intersects with our struggle. Many of us don’t have the words to articulate our pain even if we had the courage to do so.
So, we need people who will stand up and show us how to do all this, how to take growth steps and come out on the other side. We need people who will talk about and write about and share about the real and raw moments of life and how a regular person (like you or me) just might be able to have hope and healing in the midst of the chaos. We need to see people who are telling the truth, people who are paying attention, people who can handle the gray areas, people who aren’t sure, people who are checked in to life, people who are changing, people who are creating, people who are healing, people who are living, people are finding joy and beauty even in spite of the painful jags.
I get bogged down so easily, and I’m so incredibly quick to forget how to stay alive and to keep breathing. I need people who will remind me . . . not only through their knowledge, but also through their experience. I need people who will provide encouragement, an example, inspiration.
I not only need that from others, but I desire to become that kind of person as well.
When I go speak places, I cannot tell you the number of people who share with me about the tragic things in their lives. I am realizing that people need to know they’re not alone. None of us has it figured out. We’re all feeling broken. I’m realizing I need to talk about my own brokenness and my own healing with unmitigated honesty, resisting the temptation to try to look like I have things together in areas that I actually don’t. And it is tempting. It’s always tempting to try to look good. Giving in to that temptation is so incredibly dangerous, though, and I’m seeing that more and more.
Perhaps instead of wasting energy on how I wish everyone else would be better at being emotionally authentic (and conveniently leave it at that), I could use that energy to look at myself and see how I might be more brave.
I want this blog to be a forum where we can all discuss our various questions, struggles, triumphs, perspectives, frustrations . . . and the unlikely beauty we can see laced through it all.
So, when you have a sec, share something that has been helpful for you lately . . . something that is helping you pay attention or keep breathing or pursue wholeness.
I am completely fascinated and inspired by other artists, and I love finding out about their creative process.
Let me introduce you to Kelli Larson. She is the Head Designer for Jedidiah Clothing, and she has tons of other amazing outlets for her work as well. You can visit her etsy store athttp://www.etsy.com/shop/KelliMurrayArt and her blog at http://www.kellimurray.com/news/. Kelli also does commission work here and there, including custom illustrations of brides and grooms for save-the-dates or wedding invitations (darling!).
If you’re in the San Diego area, Kelli has a show coming up on June 12, so you can check out her work live and support her and a number of other artists.
The show is put on by SEZIO at the Subtext Gallery, and each artist will be painting on hand-crafted 12×12 birch panels (sounds amazing!).
Artists Include: Kelsey Brookes, Pamela Jaeger, Mike Maxwell, Know Hope, Morgan Blair, Kelli Murray, Exist 1981, Diana Sudyka, Jolby, Andrew Heine, Erik Otto, DJ Brelje, Knorphus Zortorch, Eric Taggart, Kevin Taylor, Alberto Fregoso Gafford, Dustin Ortiz, Brad Kester, David Adey, Matt Stallings, Alyson Fox, Justin Skeesuck, Austin McCormick, Taylor Dunfee, Wes Bruce, GrandLarsen and Tocayo.
I asked Kelli some questions about her art-story . . . enjoy!
LT: How did you get into art?
KL: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to “create” in one form or another. Drawing, sewing, craft projects, fashion….I loved it all. But it wasn’t until after college (FIDM) while working as a fashion designer and graphic artist that art really took hold of me. A co-worker, who came from a background in graffiti and street art, encouraged me to pick up the paint brush and take what I knew I knew in graphic design and illustration to the next level. First inspired by street artists like Fafi and Miss Van, I tried to develop a style of my own. From that point on, I just couldn’t stop painting. My art has definitely developed over time and my hope is that I never stop learning and growing as an artist.
LT: What inspires you?
KL: people / emotion / nature / art books and blogs / fashion / music. One thing specifically that might inspire me the most is the simple encouragement of others. Knowing that my art has effected someone else inspires me all the more to keep creating.
LT: In your opinion, what makes a good artist?
KL: There are a thousand ways I could describe a good artist, but I think I am most drawn to art that speaks to me or evokes some sort of emotion or thought. Good art can be a matter of a good concept or incredible artistic talent, but I think GREAT art touches the mind, heart or soul of the viewer. This could come in many forms and styles.
LT: Walk us through your creative process.
KL: First, I need an inspiration…and that could come from literally anywhere. Nature, a person, a book, a song, an image I stumble across on the internet. In that moment of inspiration I usually jot down or bookmark what I see. From the inspiration I move to a sketch, and then to the canvas (or often times computer if it is a graphic design I am creating). Now begins a big blur of trial and error until I reach a point where I am happy with the outcome.
LT: What would you say to someone who wants to be more creative and expressive, but feels insecure about his/her skills?
KL: I was once that girl. Shy, insecure, and afraid that no one would like what I did. I guess it was just a matter of realizing that art is what I LOVED…and I wanted to do it for simply that reason alone. Not to fit a mold or to make a sale. Just keep creating and don’t get discouraged. Art is an ever evolving process. You might be surprised at the number of people that might appreciate it.
I especially love the following from this interview:
1. Kelli’s comments about the creative process involving some trial and error (very much relate to that)
2. Finding inspiration in graffiti
3. Her comparison of “good” art and “great” art
4. Everything she said in response to the final question
A special thanks to Kelli for inspiring us all with the beauty she creates.
Now it’s your turn . . . Have you created anything lately? A good meal. A vegetable garden. A scrapbook. A piece of jewelry. A poem. A photograph. How does creating make you feel?
Here’s a sample of Kelli’s work . . . fabulous!
My dear friend, Joanna, keeps a “Gratitude Journal.” Love the concept. Life certainly has it’s deficit moments, but abundance is always present, too. Sometimes you have to look under a rock to find it, or tear up the carpet, or search between the seat cushions, but it’s there. Waiting to be found.
So, today I thought I’d practice looking for the abundance with a post of 10 things I’m grateful for:
1. Babies who have slept through the night the last handful of nights after a mind-numbing couple of weeks of night-crawling. Ughhh.
2. My husband’s support. Steady and sure.
3. Being able to live with my mom.
4. Great books/Great writers. The endless pleasure I receive from well-ordered words is true soul food for me.
5. Sharp cheddar cheese. Cut in big hunks.
6. Hope. Because it’s fleeting and so hard to harness, but right now I’ve got a little, and it means the world.
7. Help. My Dad and Step-mom are tireless in the help they provide us. Without them, I probably couldn’t go to my Growth Group every week (which would most certainly be the end of me) and Steve and I wouldn’t have nearly as much time alone as we get. It is hard to know how to repay such an extreme and consistent kindness. My friend Katie (Kiki) watches the babies for me a couple times a week so I can get some work done. She doesn’t realize how much she saves me week after week. The best part is, my kids light up when they see her coming through the door. My friend Jamie stayed the night with us a couple of nights last week while Steve was out of town for work, bringing over Fame (the movie) and Sour Patch Kids. Water to the soul.
8. Nine by Design (the new show on Bravo). I am inspired by people who raise their kids and pursue their passions. Such a rare find. And, anyone who has the guts to name their kids names like Wolfie and Five are just plain fascinating to me.
9. The conversation I had on the phone with my sister yesterday. With work and husbands and kids and too many miles separating us, I’m still savoring every word.
10. Yoga. I’m going three times a week, and I feel like I’m working some things out. It never ceases to amaze me what closing your eyes and breathing deeply can do for you.
11. (Okay, just one more). I spoke at a great event on Saturday at Camp Pendleton, hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters. My lifelong friend, Tina, invited me to be the keynote speaker and share my story and my book with this amazing group of military wives (talk about in the trenches!). Not only was it incredible to hear these women’s stories, it was such a gift for Tina to support me in that way.
Post a list of your own and inspire us all!
I met Rachel Held Evans a few weeks ago at the Calvin College Writing Festival. She’s got a very vital blog community, and her first book — Evolving in Monkey Town — releases this month from Zondervan. I’ve been following Rachel’s blog since meeting her, and I was really anticipating her interview of Brian McLaren, which jumps off from his most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity.
Check out the interview on Rachel’s blog, and let me know what you agree with and what you disagree with. Also, if you’ve read A New Kind of Christianity, please let us know what you think of it. Of course, please make your comments with grace and kindness (especially the disagreeing variety).
I feel like McLaren’s voice is an important one and especially respond to his courage in the face of great criticism. He has started some necessary dialogue, thinking, and assessing. All of which are important in today’s “believers.”
Thanks, Rachel, for an interesting post.