Squeeze & Space, Jenny

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So many thanks to Elaine Hamilton for her post last week. If you want more of Elaine, definitely check out her latest book, Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy, an important book on how to foster authenticity within our church communities. And, if you’re local to San Diego, you can also find her at The Soul Care House, her marriage and family therapy practice. Thanks, Elaine, for the reminder that even when our very bodies are betraying us, we can still experience a soft place to land and be loved through the people God has given us. Loved that post. And be sure to also read Kristin’s beautiful post, the first in this guest series.

Today, I bring you a gutsy post from Jenny Leboffe. She’s raw and she’s real, and I know her words will resonate. Jenny is a pint-sized person with a larger-than-life soul, and I SO SO SO connect with what she shares here. As with every guest writer in this series, I asked Jenny, “Where are you currently experiencing the squeeze in your life? And, where are you currently experiencing some space?” Here is Jenny’s response . . .

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Hi, I’m Jenny. I’m an elementary teacher turned stay-at-home mom turned part-time-work-at-home mom as a kidmin staffer for our church. My athletic, math-brained husband, our three kids, and I live in San Diego in our 1960’s “rancher” home craving restorative redesign. Originally an Oklahoma girl, big skies, loyalty, and cherry Coke are near and dear to my heart. I want children to know they are Divinely loved and I want to encounter God in ordinary moments. 

On Caring , Creating, & Reintroducing Myself to Me

I’ve been on a journey the past six years. With our youngest almost two, I’m finally coming out of the pit. You know that pit. The one that’s all diapers and organic purees, desperate prayers, Target walkabouts and eyes so bloodshot the college kids are stopping to buy your presumed weed. The pit pulled me down with the weariness of exhaustion and the sameness of routines and the expectation I had for myself to be perfect. The pit laughed at me in the harsh reality that I will never be enough for my husband or kids or friends. The pit stole Me from myself then threw poo on my face and walls and rugs to add proverbial insult to injury.

Most people look at me and see that I have my shit together.

“Supermom!”

“How do you do it?”

“You’re amazing! Tell me your secrets!”

The job description of “mom” is tiresome. It’s monotonous and often boring. Truth be told, I resent making dinner (plus lunch, breakfast, and countless snacks between). Viva la pb&j! We bathe kids only when we can’t remember it happening last or if my daughter’s hair moves out of the wavy category into possibly permanent Rasta-locks. There is a pressure for bedtime to be this mystical experience. But with three little ones, my husband and I would both rather take a slap to the face than facilitate tuck-ins. Make that twelve slaps. Alternatively, one of us (me) will occasionally pretend to sleep actually sleep through bedtime on the couch and wake up like Christmas morning, full of hallelujahs and hollow so sorry, Babe’s.

As I climb out of the pit and turn away from the hobbled hopscotch of perfectionism and people pleasing, I’m starting to experience living in freedom. Allowing myself to be on my list of needy people. Living creatively and expressively. Not locking up my free spirit self for a Cinderella’s-stepsister-fit of “togetherness” behaviors I equated with being a good mom/wife/woman. The freedom to say shit earlier without the petrifying fear my pastor’s wife will be reading this. (Hey, Roxanne!)

I’m learning that reintroducing myself to Me and befriending Me includes embracing my Creator-inspired empathy as a strength instead of strong arming it away. This means feeding it the nourishment of creativity and tenderness it aches for; requires. For those of you who share this gift/curse of empathy, you know that at times you feel like a walking bruise. It’s living without skin.

So what do we do when marriage and parenthood taunt us to wear armor or die? How do I keep myself open when I feel pangs of rejection supremely and carry the heaviness of how I hurt my family, how they hurt me, and how we are hurting as a world in general? How do I step into not allowing the fear of what others think dictate my actions? Worry of people not liking me. Worry of whispers labeling me as (gasp) “flaky” or (gulp) “uninteresting”.

Self-preservation says to stop it with the feelings. But I yearn for connection. I burst forth toward life. More than manners or martyrdom, the gift I can give my family (and myself) is to show them how to live unapologetically as the one our Creator-Designer-God dreamed up. The over-feeler. The crafty, creative dreamer. The one who rescues unwanted furniture on the street the way others rescue stray dogs. The one who spontaneously drives a carload of kids to the beach and puts them to bed, heaps of sand and sunshine. 

Recently I’ve been reading new research connecting EQ (emotional quotient) with creativity. Drawing a direct correlation between empathy and creativity makes so much sense to me. I rely on art more than meals as daily sustenance. Acrylic paint and Broadway reverberations are just as necessary and crucial as water or air. I’m not a painter, but I must paint. I’m not a singer, but I must sing. I’m not a writer, but I must write.

Through the act of the creative process, I am unknotting the threads of pleasing, performing, and de-sensitizing that threaten to entangle me.  I am forgiving the wounds of hurting others and being hurt. I am feeling God’s yes-breath over me.  

Being enough in God’s design. Letting myself off the double-hung hook of always feeling too much and somehow never being enough for others, connecting and creating, learning to be okay without everyone’s approval; these are the holy truths I’m standing on and my invitation to:

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – The Message, Matthew 11:29&30

But, shit, it’s hard!

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5 Responses to “Squeeze & Space, Jenny”

  1. lisa tindal

    Honest and a joy to read. As a mom of a grad student and high school senior I feel just as exhausted. I keep calling it ineffective because everything I do seems tedious and pointless.

    So, I find solitude and I grace in random places and I continue to be mom.

    Reply

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