Yearly Archives: 2011

Three

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Dear Luke and Lane,

We just celebrated your third birthday. An orange and pink party—as you requested—because Brother’s favorite color is orange and Sissy’s favorite color is pink.

I took a moment last night to just look at each of you for some time. To gaze. To capture you at this moment in your life. Not just a photograph, but to take you into my memory and carry that image with me.

Here’s what I saw . . .

Luke, to me, you are this unique combination between your dad and my dad. I love that about you. Your wide, Fred Flinstone feet, your big hands and big head, your fair skin, your beautiful light green eyes, and your dad’s face in most ways. When the doctor held you up over the blue surgical curtain on the day you were born, I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t know your face. And your infancy was about the two of us getting acquainted, and I have fallen in love with you. Now, it’s as if you are the most familiar thing in the world to me.

You have a purity about you that catches me off guard almost every day. Very, very clear on your preferences. And yet, also very deferent to those you love. Like your father, you don’t miss a detail in the world around you, always pointing out a lone hawk, the moon, an ant in the grass. You keep me aware of beauty. You keep me present. “Her needs her mommy,” you say if a little girl is crying at the playground. Tuned in to everyone and everything.

I like the way you debrief your day with me right before you fall asleep at night, often rehearsing the things that didn’t go quite right, that puzzled you, that worried you. I feel like I could break in two listening to such significant things come out of such a little man. I love you.

Lane, you are dark, which is different from me, and yet you have so many of the other traits of the girls in my family. When the doctor held you up to show me your face for the first time, one minute after I saw Luke, I knew you immediately. Your face was exactly as I expected. And yet, since then, you have developed this little twinkle that always keeps me guessing, makes me wonder what you’re up to, and most of all—who you are becoming. You are beguiling, and you are beautiful.

I can’t wait to see you with Baby Sister. When I found out we were having a girl, my first thought was you. How thrilled you would be to have a little sister and what amazing companions you two will be.

I love that you’d rather we sing you “Cat and Mouse” and “Rye Whiskey”—drinking songs—before you go to sleep instead of any kind of sweet lullaby. This is so quintessentially you. Spirited, creative, clever, brazen.

At least once every day, you grab my hand and say, “Mommy, can you come sit with me?” and you just want me to be by you. You have always needed a lot of close, physical attention. And it soothes me and calms me to be near you. In many ways, I feel as though I have always known you. Since you slept most of your entire infancy, we have spent a lot of time just cuddled up together. I hope we always do. I love you.

My greatest joy, Luke and Lane, has been to watch the incredible bond that you two share. You are so distinct from each other, and yet you are so connected. It’s an amazing thing to witness.

Raising twins presents challenges, and I have often wondered if we have been able to give you what you have each needed to begin your journey of becoming in this world. But when I see you two together and the great love you have for each other—this unexplainable knowing—I see that something profound has happened right before my eyes over these last three years.

We watched you snuggle up to each other in the womb, and the miracle of two separate lives interconnected in such a unique way continues to unfold each and every day. I am so profoundly grateful to have been a part of this miracle.

My very favorite picture of the two you remains the one that the nurses took in the hospital with you swaddled together into one big blanket, in daddy’s arms. He has a surgical mask over his nose and mouth, but you can tell by his eyes that he’s smiling the most full-tilt smile.

It was like we just got handed the most absolutely-no-words-for gift. Three years later, I’m still speechless in so many ways. Shocked that we’ve all survived these early, intense days. And also silenced by the unspeakable gift that is you two.

Happy Birthday, Luke and Lane.

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Reflections on My Birthday

I turned 36 on the 16th. More than anything today, I feel thankful. Not in the cute or glib way that you might use the word thankful because you don’t want to share what’s really going on. Thankful sums it up for me because it’s been a hard year—culminating in a really hard late summer and early fall—and I’m so thankful to be in a calmer, quieter space in my own soul at this moment.

I look back on this year and think about a beautiful one-day retreat I did in March with the women of Menlo Park Pres church at the reverent grounds of the Mercy Center. We spent the day talking about the soul’s journey of Exile to Belonging. I was just six weeks pregnant at the time with little knowledge of what was ahead. Little knowledge of the journey I would be taking later that year, a journey that has been, yet again, about the passage from exile to belonging, as life so often is.

We were still hanging in the balance, wondering if we’d be able to come to Bahrain with Steve or if our family would be living apart for a year.

Soon after that retreat, I miscarried, and we still waited and waited and waited to find out if we would be moving or not. Looking back, I remember a blur of exhaustion and sadness. A feeling of helplessness. As I wrote then, the feeling that something inside me had been silenced.

In very early May, just five weeks after the miscarriage, I spoke at a weekend retreat in the Seattle area. I spoke about the recent loss, and how badly I was upside down, grieving and not knowing if we’d be able to go with Steve or not. I have never been so raw in front of such a large group of people. The women there shared their own pain with each other and with me—one particular story of a young woman who lost a baby at 28 weeks that I will never forget—and somehow the solidarity started a tiny spark of healing in me.

Steve got his orders with such little lead-time and we packed him up and got him on a plane and I remember standing outside our rental house in Mission Hills, holding Luke while Lane still slept inside, putting Steve in an orange cab as he sped off to the airport. Not exactly sure when we would see each other again.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, I got pregnant again. Still not sure how that happened. I remember trying to get in touch with Steve to tell him I was pregnant, and having to hold onto that news for three days before I could finally get in touch with him on skype to let him know. And I remember his shock. Mine too.

Shortly after, we found out that we’d be moving, too, adventuring—yet again—to the Middle East. But this time with toddlers and a brand new little baby budding. And all the sickness that follows.

Commence one million details necessary to move across the world and the tireless help of my mom and Steve’s mom during those demanding days.

Next, I remember hazy goodbyes to my closest friends, feeling as though I was underwater about half the time. Overwhelmed. Hormonal. In such incredible shock I could barely cry.

We stopped off in South FL to see my siblings and their families—a circus of 7 kids and all the accompanying adults under one roof—making the most of swampy summer weather. And then Jamie joined us and we got on the plane to make the long trip to Bahrain.

I remember the first few months here like a scald. A hot boil that left me raw. Steve traveling. Our stuff somehow mistakenly put in long-term storage back in San Diego and the news that it was going to take so much longer to get our belongings and get settled. Steve traveling. The realization that you can’t just take your two toddlers out to the park when it’s a 120+ degrees outside. Ramadan. Plagued by mothering guilt and those howling monkeys in my head. Losing Steve’s grandfather. Steve traveling.

Never wondering if we made a mistake coming. Just wondering when I would feel better, settled, at ease again. Cue the self-contempt. Wishing I could be one of those women who could just do it all better.

Late fall, the heat evaporated and it all cooled off. I mean that in every way. And now, as I think back on this year, I am so thankful, grateful, hopeful, in awe. That we have come through it all and we are together. What more could I possibly ask for on my birthday or ever? That I get to wake up next to my husband. That I get to love these two precious maniacs, Luke and Lane. That I get the profound gift of growing another baby. That I get to put life into words and give that to others. That Christ remains with me. Even on the far side of the sea. Even here his hand guides me and holds me fast.

As I opened gifts and emails and texts and read all sorts of messages on Friday, I was undone by the great enveloping love of my tribe. And the words that kept coming to me were Thank You (breathed in the direction of countless vigil-keepers, including Christ himself). Thank You that we survived this year, and that despite its desolation at times, I have always received the gift of consolation.

As I have said before, and I believe more than ever, there is great beauty in foreign places. Discovering this beauty is never convenient and is hard-won. Such difficult news for me, as I’m too often tempted to stop at glamour when my soul really longs for beauty.

Yet, I’m seeing right before my eyes, an unfolding. That life rarely stays in the scald forever.

Thank you. And thank you again. For coming near. For delivering me. For your great love. I am held so entirely.

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Bacon Soap

We are a bit short on glamour this year.

All four of our birthdays are in December—the Pirate’s is today!—and that means a level of general feverishness descends on my psyche that I try to keep from turning into total hysteria.

Currently, my holiday is epitomized by the following: I find myself tearing up while singing “Tender Tennessee Christmas” as loudly as possible while the fake fireplace DVD crackles from the television. Pine scented candles. Plastic tree. Toddler trenches.

Today, I gifted my husband with “Bacon Soap.” That probably sums things up for you.

This is not the first year the glamour-meter has been low.

At this very time three years ago, I was finishing my Christmas shopping at the Mission Valley Target in San Diego, and I was GREAT with child(ren). So great, in fact, that when I came back out to my car with my purchases, and a car had pulled into the spot next to mine, I could not—no matter how many different directions I maneuvered—squeeze my substantial self into the gap between my car and theirs.

A few weeks previously the same situation had happened, and I was able to open the back of the car and crawl through the entire length of our vehicle into the driver’s seat. But those days were long gone.

My only option was to wait until a seemingly kindhearted stranger crossed my path and ask her if she would be willing to help me out of a tight spot, literally. Such a woman presented herself, and I handed over my keys to someone I had not known 5 seconds earlier, and asked her if she would pull out my car. “Well isn’t this what Christmas is all about?” she said to me through such deeply empathetic eyes, I knew I must have actually looked even more rotund than the world’s fattest Santa stuffed with two oversized elves.

A couple of weeks later, on December 23, the elves arrived. All 7 lbs 7oz (Luke) and 7 lbs 9oz (Lane) of them. Full of all kinds of life.

Sometimes—and I am learning this slowly and painstakingly—beauty outshines glamour.

A few nights ago, we attended a Christmas tree lighting event on base, complete with live nativity featuring an authentic Middle Eastern camel. All Lane wanted from this evening was to get to touch baby Jesus. So we made our way over to the nativity and she was pushing her way into the scene, wanting to get a better look at baby Jesus’ face.

Mary was played by a young pre-teen girl with braces, and she held a white gym towel all wadded up in her lap with no real sign of a baby inside the bundle. Joseph stood over them, looking like he could be Mary’s father. The camel swatted excretion from his tail onto bystanders.

Lane kept pulling Steve’s hand, wanting to actually enter the nativity so she could touch the baby. Mary laughed uncomfortably not really knowing what to do. But Joseph bent down on one knee and motioned to Lane to come toward them. “You can touch Jesus,” he told Lane. And she reached out and patted the white towel like it was the most beautiful baby she had ever seen.

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Wild Rides

IMG_0030We’ve been utterly resuscitated by Steve’s parents’ nearly month-long visit. We were in need of extra hands, energy, company, familiarity. And they showed up with all of that in large and generous doses.

Showing them around our lives here has been meaningful to me. Joanie had visited in 2004, when we lived here previously, but Bill had never been. Taking them to the Souq, the Grand Mosque, our favorite carpet store, our favorite restaurants (Café Lilou, Monsoon, Copper Chimney, CoCo’s), and also showing them the everyday—the base, the kids’ school, the mall, the grocery store—all of it added up to a feeling of being seen here.

Something important happens when you are far away from “home” and familiar faces show up to witness you in your new life. Like you are visible once again.

We also struck out on a little adventure together and spent three days in Dubai. Just a quick one-hour flight—which is about all I can handle at this point in my pregnancy—and we were in another country. We sat on the beach and played in the sand, floated in the pool, ordered room service, and went to the aquarium. I even braved the “torrents” and “rapids” at the water park. Seven months pregnant, bouncing around in an innertube. Not spectacular. But very, very fun. Luke saying to me the whole time, “This is a wild ride, Mommy. A wild ride.”

I still can’t believe they let very pregnant women and small children, almost babies, on that wild ride, but we all made it out. Whooping and woo-hooing like only Americans can do.

As adventurous as I felt on the rapids, the highlight of the last month, for me, was visiting the Grand Mosque with Steve’s parents and seeing “Fatima” again after 8 years. She was the young woman—just 19 then—that took me on the tour of the Grand Mosque that I later wrote about in chapter 16 (“dying”) ofFound Art. Something in our interaction back then forced me to look at the whole concept of desire as it related to my spiritual life.

When I walked into the mosque all these years later, I recognized her practically immediately even with everything covered except her eyes. Still so petite and such big brown eyes. The tour hadn’t changed much at all in eight years, but I listened to her as if I had never heard any of it before. I couldn’t believe I was back in that beautiful place, with her, after what feels like a lifetime later.

We stood in the upper level, the woman’s prayer hall, overlooking the main prayer hall, as the Muezzin offered the call to prayer. The first time I had ever been inside a mosque during the call to prayer. Standing there in a black abaya and head scarf, it was like we were in another world.

My mother-in-law told Fatima about my book, and Fatima gave me her email address. I’ll have to take her a copy someday soon and tell her what she has meant to me. Maybe we will go to coffee and talk spirituality. Maybe we’ll talk marriage as she is considering a proposal right now. Maybe we’ll just talk about what it means to be a woman in this world. I’d like to think I will see her again.

When we left the mosque, she kissed me on each cheek and asked me to pray for her. In Islam, it is believed that a pregnant woman’s prayers are twice as likely to be heard by Allah. I said I would pray, and she padded off—in her black socks—back into the Mosque. I tucked away the neon green sticky note with her email address on it. I say a prayer for her when I see it. And I smile to myself at the wild, winding ride that is life.

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Care Package

A care package from my Growth Group back in San Diego has arrived just in time. Jamie masterminded the whole thing—have I mentioned what an incredibly generous friend she is to me?—and I’m in awe of how loved we are.

The package includes:

  • Notes from the girls—some on pretty stationary, one with a hand-drawn pepperoncini on the bottom since we always have a Costco jar of pepperoncinis at our gatherings, one written in hot pink pen on a napkin
  • A photo with a handwritten note on the back
  • A flyer from a found art exhibit at an art show by the Bay
  • A Thomas shirt and bathtub toys for Luke
  • A princess starter kit for Lane, along with the cutest chocolate brown corduroy bloomers ever and a little outfit on a miniature hanger for one of her dollies
  • Magazines for “inspiration” and “creativity” (including People, Real Simple, the Pottery Barn catalog, and a Writer’s Digest pub)
  • A flower hair clip for me and one for Lane
  • Perfectly pale pink nail polish
  • A mix CD that includes El Shadai from Amy Grant, if you can stand it
  • Archer Farms Tex Mex trail mix from Target . . . one of my personal favorites
  • A beautiful hardback journal with swallows on the front—in a signature turquoise and green pallet
  • A novel
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • And all this crazy love spilling out on random sticky notes and scraps of paper

And once again, I am cared for by this band of Gypsies . . . mind, body, and soul.

Just about once a week I get a video of the girls when they all get together. Some of it is them saying hi to me, but mostly it’s just a couple trips around the table so I can see them and be with them—laughing, eating, talking, being together. Mostly it’s just them letting me know I’m still a part of them and they are still a part of me.

I was really moved by the response I received from my last post. Clearly, some of you are struggling with that stuck feeling, too, and you needed to hear that Emmanuel might in his own way be coming to thee. Not necessarily to change your life but to keep you company while you’re living it.

I didn’t realize when I wrote those words in that post that Emmanuel would be coming to me in the form of a care package. Christ in the bread and wine of Sour Patch Kids, the sacrament of Target Tex Mex. Christ scrawled on napkins. Christ in a cardboard box. (Who says you shouldn’t put God in a box?)

I am believing that some kind of care package could arrive for you today, too. And that it would nourish you as you need to be nourished.

All my love.

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Company Keeper

I listen to Christmas music year around. Not constantly or anything. Just a little here and there, all year long. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I am a melancholy, and the message of Christmas is so incredibly poignant, so tragically beautiful, so achingly humble and hopeful. I can’t just save that for a few weeks at the end of the year.

This morning, after I dropped off L&L at preschool, the following played from the Christmas mix CD Jamie made for me last year:

O come O come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears

O come thou Dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

Rejoice!

Since my last post, we lost Steve’s beloved grandfather, a gentle giant of a man who treated his family like we were all some kind of royalty. What a guy. We will miss you, Grandpa. I hope you’re having a Manhattan in heaven right now!

When it came time to decide who would be traveling back to Arizona for the memorial service, it became clear that it really didn’t make sense for the kids and me (22 weeks pregnant! more on that development soon) to pack up and go—such long travel and such a short stay. Also, the family would be preparing Grandpa’s house for sale during the few days they were all together, and two 2-year-olds wouldn’t have been helpful in that process.

I got it. But I didn’t like it. And here’s why:

First, I was sad to miss the opportunity to grieve with the family and to celebrate Grandpa, who had been an incredible patriarch. When we moved to Bahrain in 2003, within practically weeks of arriving, I lost both my remaining Grandparents and was not able to go back for their services, and this brought back those sad memories as well.

But then I felt myself getting angrier and angrier, and even a feeling of desperation started rattling around inside me. I tried to pay attention to what all that was about, though it was mostly—in the moment—about resenting Steve for having freedoms I didn’t feel I had.

Ultimately, I realized how isolated I was feeling. And while we are settling here and we are making this house our home and this place our place, I’m still fragile and vulnerable in all the worst ways. And not getting to be with family, while Steve was getting to, just made the burn worse.

I felt stuck here. If you’ve ever felt stuck, you know what a terrible feeling it is to believe you are trapped and powerless. I panicked a little and mostly took it all out on Steve, which he appreciated I’m sure.

On top of it, I was here with the kids by myself for five days. And, of course, the morning Steve left, the battery in my car died, making me feel that much more vulnerable, that much more trapped, that much more angry. You’d think getting a battery replaced in your car would be a simple matter. As it turns out, nothing is a simple matter in the Middle East.

I’ve learned one thing in my life and that is when feelings as strong as these surface, you’d better pay attention because stuffing them back down will create something intensely toxic.

So I just tried my very best to feel what I was feeling and not try to explain it away or “yeah, but we’re so blessed” it to death or try to manufacture resolution with the “God brought us here” pleasantries or slap a “God has something to teach me right now” on it . . . because doing any of these things prematurely will just backfire.

And I got through it. In the very ugly way that you get through sometimes. Lacking hygiene and cussing under your breath a lot. Eating fast food and sleeping with the lights on.

Still a bit tender and not totally on easy street yet, this morning I heard this song, a song sung to someone mourning in lonely exile, to someone who needs her spirits cheered, a person under gloomy clouds and death’s dark shadow. Someone who need an injection of hope, no matter how humbly it arrives.

And I thought, especially after the tears started streaming down my cheeks, hey maybe that’s me. Maybe that’s all of us.

Emmanuel shall come to thee. The dayspring is here. The darkness disperser. The love. The presence. The company keeper. He is here.

Rejoice!

And I cried all the way home. Because something finally entered into that space of pain and relieved it an inch with a balm of love and presence.

So I’m not going to move too quickly, for fear of needing to resolve it all. I’m just going to let myself be kept company because that’s what Christ does for us most of all if we let him.

And if you’re feeling widespread gloom today or there’s just a tiny place inside you that is pricked, I will keep my fingers crossed that you might be able to hear these words:

Emmanuel shall come to thee.

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Life Signs

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Thinking about home making today. Seven of our thirteen crates of belongings have arrived from the States to date. And the most random assortment therein, might I add. The bottom part of the leather rocking chair but not the back. The books but not the bookcase. The footboard but not the headboard. The wine cabinet but not the wine glasses. The cushions but not the couch. The sheets but not the mattress. You get the idea.

So we’ve unpacked and arranged as much as we reasonably can at this point. While we’re waiting for the balance to arrive, I’m daydreaming about where everything will ultimately go, how it will all look when it’s finished, the new touches I want to add as time and budget permit. I’m thinking about how this place will be a haven of familiar and comfort in the middle of a foreign land. And I’m thinking about how much I love making a home mine—even if it’s a rental, even if we’ll be packing up before we know it, even if it isn’t actually mine at all, but instead belongs to some rich Arab guy who is making a killing off me living here. Even if.

Right now my favorite spot in the house is at our dining room table that’s positioned near a sliding glass door that looks out to “the garden” as they call it here. “The garden” is essentially a tiled patio with a pool and some potted plants. There is no grass or yard here. Just a tall wall around the perimeter of our property and lots of tile, so this bit of beautiful blue that looks in at me from the pool creates some softness and movement in an otherwise still landscape.

The light comes in through this sliding glass door as well, and I like that sense of being indoors and yet being so near the outdoors. The pool reflects off the awning that extends from the side of the house and out over a bit of the patio. I like it all.

I set my laptop up at the end of the table and watch the birds splash at the edge of the pool whenever I’m between thoughts or emails or sentences. Nice to feel and see the signs of life.

Perhaps that’s what making a home is all about. Nurturing, celebrating the signs of life. Letting the light and the movement in. Celebrating what’s there and not bemoaning what isn’t. Allowing beauty to emerge from the unfamiliar and unlikely.

I love that I’m sitting next to an old deacon’s bench that was in the home I grew up in just about my whole life and belonged to my grandparents before that. I love that my mom let me paint it Swiss Coffee and have it distressed so that it’s old and new.

I love that this very bench is sitting on top of the rug Steve and I bought from Yousef eight years ago when we were here previously, the rug that has been a centerpiece wherever we’ve lived. And I love that all of this is in immediate proximity to an old wooden drink crate from Shreveport, LA, my mom’s hometown, from the neighborhood “Piggly Wiggly,” which I now use to house some of my favorite “accoutrements,” as Steve might refer to these items. You know . . . favorite pens, a few art supplies, a handful of small wood finials, some scrabble tiles. Just things I like having near me.

These are what make me feel home. Odds and ends from the far corners of my story, all presiding together. Thankful today. And smiling.

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three learnings from life’s labyrinth

I must secretly long for life to be less dimensional than it really is because I’m almost always caught off guard by the paradoxes of life, the complexity, the way it doubles back on itself and gives you mourning and dancing in the very same moment. How beauty and struggle coexist, loss and gain, strength and vulnerability.

And, how quickly I forget that these seeming paradoxes are not, in fact, opposing forces, but instead companions that create richness and depth in life.

In reality, I long for the dimensionality of real living—the texture and vibrancy of raw life—but then when I get it in heaping doses, sometimes I get a tiny bit overwhelmed, maybe even a bit desperate, wishing for a dozen or so Diet Cokes, some Real Housewives, and any other kind of soul-anesthetic I can get my hands on.

Anyone else out there relate?

Some of you are rocking a new baby as you read this. Some of you are sitting in the middle of someplace you never thought you’d be. Some of you are aching and longing. Some of you are celebrating. Some of you are just trying to survive the mundane reality of your days in a way that is honoring to yourself and to God, as hard as that is.

I thought I’d share some of the paradoxes that I’ve experienced lately, some things I’ve learned or relearned about myself during this life transition.

#1 I am more resourceful than I realized AND I need more help than I realized

Another way of saying this might be, I am strong and I have limits. Along the way from San Diego to the Middle East, I have seen that I am  more competent than I sometimes give myself credit for being. I’m not as helpless as I sometimes feel. When it was time to get my family from one side of the world to the other, I did it. And I’m actually kind of proud of it all. At the same time, it took an extraordinary amount of people helping in order to make this move happen. Very, very practical help as well as that intangible support you feel when you know there’s a tribe of people believing in you. The learning here is that competence/strength/resourcefulness are not the opposite of needing help. In fact, as I’m realizing, some of my more resourceful moments were acknowledging my limits and allowing the help in when it was offered.

#2 I love adventure AND I love home

This is such a tension for me. The adventure is full of risk, dis-ease, vulnerability, inefficiencies, and indirect routes. All of which are difficult on the nerves. And yet, what happens during the seasons of adventure–defined widely and broadly–are the kinds of things that can’t be duplicated smack in the middle of comfort. I’m crazy for comfort. That’s why I love home. I love the feeling of place. I love homemaking. Candles. Coffee. My turquoise desk. And yet, adventure often asks us to abandon place for a time. So the task, I’m beginning to believe, is to find that bit of home in every adventure and to find that bit of adventure in every home. And, mostly, to validate both placement and displacement in our becoming.

#3 I am a struggling mother AND I am a soulful mother

There have been some ugly mothering moments since arriving here. Both my children covered in ice cream sprawled out on the floor of the base food court, undone, 50 yards apart from each other. Me, towing purse, backpacks, empty stroller, beverage  — trying to figure out which way to run first. Everyone passing by offering comments like, “Wow, it looks like you’ve really got your hands full.” Shut up. These are the moments when I believe anyone else, everyone else, would be doing this so much better than I’m able. The shame is practically pooling around me. And then I do what I’ve learned to do in these moments, which is (1) secure the escapees, (2) breathe deeply,  and then (3) reach out. So I email someone who treats me with the kind of care I often wish I could summon toward myself, and I tell them how desperate it’s all looking. And then, like balm, I get a note back that reminds me of the important truth about myself. And I’m able to access a place deeper than the shame — a true place — and I’m able to connect with the part of myself that knows, that truly believes, I am a soulful mother. I am not a lost cause. And, then the most important part illuminates: just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m a failure. In fact, the struggle might somehow create the greatest beauty of all. Dang, I hate that.

I hope something in this intersects with you today as we all try to remember that life is nuanced, a labyrinth much more than a direct line. Grace and peace to you as you wander through it all.

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It’s All Valid

Feeling a bit raw and teary these last couple of days. I’m wanting to make peace with all my emotions surrounding this huge transition and allow myself the space to just let it unfold as it will. But it’s hard to do that sometimes, isn’t it.

It’s hard to feel vulnerable, like I’m just learning how to ride a bike for the first time . . . again.

I hate it when life lacks ease. I just hate it. I’d like to be sweeping around this desert island in my effortless caftan and loose curls. Today is not that day, by any stretch.

I shared in my last post that I have just finished Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In addition to the need for moments of centering solitude in each day, I finished the book with one other profound concept that keeps coming back to me:

She says, “Every stage of a relationship is valid.”

She’s speaking of marriage in this particular context – how we often long to recapture the honeymoon bliss of early marriage but how we might be better served to embrace each stage of a maturing and developing relationship as a way that it deepens and endures. Even the fighting. Even the struggle. Even the less-than-blissful seasons. Perhaps, especially these times.

I have been thinking about this concept in the context of my move and of my new life here in Bahrain. Every stage of this relationship – my new, refound relationship with Bahrain – is valid. The agitation of starting over. The feeling of displacement. The in-between of being here but still not having any of our stuff — living on borrowed furniture, eating off borrowed plates, not feeling “at home” yet. The inspiring discoveries of myself and this place. The new, slower pace. The loss and the gain. It’s all valid.

What if I allowed myself to validate the inevitable mess of change instead of denying it or hurrying it or wishing it away? When I try to move things along in a disingenuous way, because that would help me feel more in control, I find the toxic voices start howling. And the next thing I know, my soul is absolutely skewered with shame that I’m not more or different or better.

So I’m trying to be true to the process, as awkward and unattractive as that is some days.

A couple of weeks ago, our landlord called and said someone was going to come look at our house – a temporary place we are staying until our stuff arrives and we move into our permanent house – because they were interested in moving into the villa when we move out.

Could I show them around? Sure.

So I showed this woman the house. We realize, after some conversation, that our husbands work at the exact same command and that one of her children is very close in age to L&L.

She liked the house and wanted to bring her husband back to show him. She came back with him and their three kids. And, after some negotiating and decision making, she lets me know that they’re going to move into our place.

During all the back and forth, she and I talk more and I take a chance, risk appearing needy and glommy, and ask her if she’d like to get our kids together for a play date sometime. They’re new here and we’re new here, and I figured we could all use some friends.

So we’ve had a play date and it was great and in the course of the afternoon together we realized some other things we have in common, and I felt this little glimmer of thankfulness in my spirit.

Last night, while I was making dinner, I said a quick “thank you” to God. “Thanks for bringing a friend right to my doorstep.”

I felt like God was sending me a wink and letting me know, “I see you.”

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A Beautiful Lantern

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Most of the homes (referred to as “villas”) here in Bahrain are surrounded by a tall cement wall with a scrolling iron gate. So each property feels like its own compound. One of the beautiful features of these walls is the lighting perched on top of them. Particularly pretty at dusk when they begin to glow.

This lantern caught my eye. On this property, there are at least a dozen of these gorgeous lanterns adorning the top of the wall around the perimeter of the inner courtyard. At the risk of being intrusive, I pulled my car over and captured this one because I loved it so much — a bit Bahraini and a bit Moroccan, too. Though it’s beige cement against a beige cement wall against beige sand against a beige sky, something about the form of this piece inspires me. Foreign. Ancient. Other-wordly. Beautiful.

I’m reminded today that beauty is waiting for us in the world — waiting for us to awaken and discover.

I’m reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea currently. It’s a short little book of essays that is really speaking to me. I highly recommend. My friend Annette gave it to me years ago, but I never finished it. The other day I was rooting through the “take one, leave one” book stack at the base library and refound this little gem. Funny how you can pick up the same book at a different season and it resonates so deeply.

Lindbergh’s essays are inspired by shells she finds on the beach while taking a vacation alone — away from her husband and five children — to recharge and reflect. Again, letting the beauty of the world she finds herself in speak to her and inspire her. Letting Truth in through the shapes and sounds and smells of the world around us.

One of the most profound things in her book is her insistence that every woman needs some time alone in each day (she’s not necessarily saying men don’t, she’s just writing to women specifically). She writes, “When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. . . . Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.”

So difficult to give ourselves permission to attend to the core, to stop the noise and center. May we all be brave today and quiet down enough — even just for a moment — to let something or someone speak to us . . . and to really hear what is being said.

Love to you all.

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