Compassion

Let it go, little mamma.

You have deeply entered their pain,

lived it with them,

prayed and suffered.

Their burden is not yours.

You can love

but you cannot hold the whole world

in your heart.

Don’t try to steal God’s job.

Only He, the eternal one,

can bear all the world’s suffering

without breaking to pieces…

Your call now,

is to go dig in your garden

and plant flowers of hope

in the simple brown earth.

Your call is to smile again

and find joy in the little gifts of each day.

Tears have washed you clean.

Now, little mama,

let it go,

trust more,

be silly and laugh again.

Courage to Grow

Little Chestnut: I will not put out roots and shoots. It might not be safe. I’ll remain locked in wood–pure polished potential.

God: Will you not open yourself up and grow into a tree?

Little Chestnut: How can I become a huge towering tree? How do I know there will always be enough sunshine and rain? I am far too little to grow so big. It’s too scary to try. I prefer to keep the doors closed.

God: Little Chestnut, you are filled with treasure. I have made you for growth. I will provide the sun and the rain. But you must reach out with your shoots and roots to receive them. To sun and rain you must add risk. You must add the courage to try—to hope—to believe that it will take someone bigger than yourself to help you grow, but that together we can!

Little Chestnut: But it is painful to open myself up…to split open and expose myself to your gaze.

God: One thing I can promise–to always look on you with love. Will you allow yourself to be loved unconditionally? This is the beginning of growth.

Little Chestnut: So, fully aware of my weakness, I am supposed to hope for greatness?

God: Change is founded on hope. I have great hopes for you…for everyone! Will you take risk of cracking your polished exterior for the chance to grow into a great tree, one who will make the world a more beautiful place? Or will you slowly fade into the dirt, become wrinkled and rotten, and never look outside yourself for nourishment? I am offering you everything you need…but it is up to you to reach out and receive.

Little Chestnut, do you have the courage to trust?

A Letter to Heaven

  
Dear Little Jo,

Tomorrow is a big day for Mummy. Your little brother is going to be born. We are going to coax him out into the world three weeks early, in hopes that he can be safe. In hopes that things will go differently than last time. He kicks and wiggles hello to you, his big sister in Heaven. 

Know, my dear one, that you are very much in my heart right now, as ever. Your little brother is, as a friend told me today, one of your many gifts to me. So I thank you for constantly making my life richer, deeper and more exquisitely beautiful. How much I love you!

After losing you in labour last time, I am afraid. When I think about how I couldn’t save you, I tremble. I want to cry. I want to hide my head in my blankets and not come out. But I know there is a greater, deeper plan than the one I can understand. I know you are safe and beautiful and loved. That you always will be. 

And I want you to know, my little sweetheart, that no matter how much time passes, you will always be my special baby, even when you have grown wise beyond your brief time on earth by so much time spent in Heaven, that timeless place of Love, where I hope to join you one day. 

Save me a huge hug and so many kisses, and tomorrow shower us with the grace of your perfect little prayers, as your brother makes his epic journey into this world. I know that we are wrapped in the wings of angels, and lifted up by the strength of so many heartfelt prayers. 

I pray that our new little one may, above all, become like his sister, a saint—a sweet beacon of love for the world. 

All my heart’s embraces,

Your Mummy

The Feast of All Saints

Island Encounter

Today my old university friend told me 
of his travels
to Greece 
a day he spent stranded
on a tiny island inhabited by 25 people
and about 40 cats

After missing his stop on the ferry 
he wandered about the island
and stumbled upon a little white church
perched like a sun-bleached shell upon 
this little rocky island

It was surrounded by a low stone wall
and as there was no one around 
except perhaps a stray cat
he clambered over it 
to take a closer look

After a few pictures
he reached up the rocky wall
to leave but lost his grip
falling backwards on the hard stone churchyard

Stuck on his back
with his face to the sky
he told me
laughing now
he figured maybe God
was punishing him for breaking in

I smiled 

thinking how instead this was a divine romance
Providence whisking him away to the little island
drawing him to the church
for a quiet moment alone
wanting to speak to his heart

But…fear of trespassing on holy ground
stifled the still small voice
and kept my friend in darkness
thinking the One whose love for him exceeds
that of any other
was only out to punish him

Dance with me, daughter

  

“Little one arise,

get up from your corner;

unfold your sulking arms

and dance with me.

If you don’t know which way to go

stand on my feet

I will guide you.

Give me your arms

see my face

I am with you.

Listen for the music of grace

give in to the mystery of my rhythm 

I will guide you.

Don’t refuse to dance 

because you don’t know all the steps.

The music will guide you,

you will see

when you let go.”

“Father God, forgive me

for being afraid

for refusing to dance

with a light heart

and joyful feet.

I know you are leading me 

and yet I resist—

call out in fear when you dip me,

stiffen my arms when they should be supple 

for a twirl—

Let me instead be responsive to your guidance,

open to your plan,

a joyful partner

in this unexpected 

dance of life.”

  

The Perfect Parent Lives in Timbuktu (and is likely a Sasquatch!)

I haven’t met the perfect parent. It’s not me. It’s likely not you either.
But that’s ok. Children are born of love, not perfection.

Still, sometimes we wonder if there is a scientific formula for being the perfect parent, a special combination of elements that will help us get it just right.

Our society encourages this; we are told we must have the right economic, educational, medical, emotional, and intellectual circumstances to responsibly have a child. It seems a very dangerous and risky business, and one must be perfectly prepared.

Sometimes people wait their whole lives to be perfectly ready. Baby room painted just so. Millions in the bank. 800 parenting books read. Relationship so stable it makes mountains look wispy and wobbly. Health just so, taking the right 60 vitamins, and doing yoga 10 hours a day.

What happened to something that used to be so natural? A creative overflow of love? Isn’t the sincere love between parents already giving your child a lot, especially in today’s world?

But our fear of being imperfect parents in an imperfect world really paralyzes us so much as a society. We fear traumatizing our kids and are haunted of visions of their future therapist’s couch before they even leave their cradle.

We are told we better consult the experts constantly, because we as “mere parents” (just rabbits really) know nothing. I don’t think all this fear is actually making us better parents, just less confident and optimistic ones.

If we risk having one, we think we shouldn’t have another, because we’re not perfect yet. The funny thing is though, that having another child helps us to grow better, more mature, relaxed and confident, and therefore helps our first child, too. Experience is a good teacher.

So please don’t let fear of your imperfection stop you from loving; that would be a terrible tragedy. None of us had perfect parents, but we’re still glad to be here, in this messy, imperfect, absurdly beautiful world.

While I haven’t met perfect parents, I have met perfect babies.
Actually many of them.
More specifically, ALL of them.
Each baby is perfect.
A perfect gift, a perfect miracle, a perfect parcel of love.
Each one makes the world more beautiful. That means you, too.

Siblings help each other to grow as well, precisely through their imperfection, their foibles and stubborn streaks; experiencing all this children learn, in a context of love, how to get along with, embrace and accept others.

If we are teaching our kids to love, to care for others and help them when they are down, we are doing a lot toward making the world a better place.

My kids can squabble as much as the next ones, but I was happy to see my older girls stepping up and caring for the younger ones this week when they weren’t feeling well. Here’s a picture of my 5 year old reading bedtime stories to her little sister. Without being asked. That made me really happy.

20140227-000434.jpg

So stop worrying about being perfect, unless you want to go live with the Sasquatch, who can maybe give you some pointers.

Personally, I think what you need as a parent is love, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and grow, because as much as parenting will make your children grow, it’ll make you grow more.

Happy trails! And may you be abundantly blessed in love.

20140227-000817.jpg

Live Free: Smash your Fears

The wise Aristotle once said,

He who has overcome his fears will be truly free.

Today I want to share an amazing true story with you. It’s the story of a woman who was expected to die, but lived instead. Her name is Heather.

20140213-003046.jpg

Her husband Cameron shared her story with me:

Eight years ago, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer that kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis. She had just given birth to our daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live. After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born. On February 2nd, we celebrated 8 years of Heather being cancer free.

20140213-004322.jpg

The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears! Each year, we gather around a fire in our backyard with our friends and family, write our biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. We celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life!

20140213-012158.jpg

20140213-003959.jpg

20140213-004008.jpg

Marcus Aurelius wrote long ago in his Meditations,

It is not death that man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

Heather wants to encourage all of us to truly live. To see life as a great gift and a joyful adventure, rather than something to be feared.

So what is it that you fear most? Rejection? Loneliness? Failure? Weakness? Poverty? Suffering?

Or perhaps responsibility, commitment or even success? What fear is holding you back?

Can you imagine if an eagle chose to sit in a cage because it was afraid of heights? It would never experience that glorious feeling of flying!

We are made for greatness, made for happiness, made for love. Sometimes these things scare us so we hide behind bars of fear we mistake for control. We convince ourselves to be stoic, to remain steady and unattached, to not get sucked into life lest it involve suffering.

But this is not freedom. This is not truly living.

Life is so much more of a beautiful adventure when we let go. Our real stories are more amazing than the ones we would write for ourselves; it’s the struggle and the suffering that makes the other moments so precious.

So what fear would you like to smash? What small step can you take today to face your fear and win your freedom?

It’s said that sometimes we fear what we desire most…

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had great desire to write, but I used to be so afraid of people reading my work. It was too painful. One great step to overcoming my fear was starting this blog. It was really hard to press publish that very first post. I literally had to force myself.

But what I feared as a source of rejection and failure has turned out to be a source of joy, encouragement, and liberation. I am more inspired and write more easily than ever before, because I gave myself permission to smash my fear and live. I feel part of a community and can rejoice in the successes of my fellow writers, because I too am pursuing my dream.

Sometimes if we ask for miracles, they really do happen, many little ones all the time, and sometimes big ones too. Our job is to be grateful and enjoy them!

20140213-004859.jpg

Please visit Heather’s page for more of her story and links to more info:
http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/

On Vulnerability

Lately I’ve become a little addicted to reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, despite my initial resistance. My husband wanted to watch the first movie one night, and I refused, claiming it was not my kind of movie, and that the idea of violent teenagers in an arena was enough to give me daymares. So he bought the books instead and got totally hooked, reading it tons while he was home sick for a few days. Then my husband, who loves to share, convinced me to read it too, and after this we’ll likely watch all the movies. That’s what I get for not watching one movie! 😉

But I’m glad, and it’s a lot more engrossing than I imagined. Certainly the ideas of media control, surveillance, and propaganda in their harsh society are politically relevant and spookily real at times. But honestly, what’s really grabbing me is the romance. Tortured teenage love triangle, which sounds cheesy but is actually quite beautifully done. I’m only half way through book two, but what interests me so far is the main character Katniss’ inability to authentically respond to love.

She craves the warmth and security of love a lot but fears it more. I think this is because to really open herself up to love would be the ultimate vulnerability. Her survival so far has been based on strength, grit, toughing it out, learning to lock away her emotions and overcome desperation to help her family survive. Her identity is the hunter, the provider, the one who doesn’t care about anyone but her family. The idea of letting her heart out of its cage frightens her, because she couldn’t defend it with violence, as she can her life. Her happiness would be out of her control.

As I said, love is the ultimate vulnerability; the more you love someone, the more their loss can hurt you, and in her precarious world this is a real danger. This is in a way the real tragedy in her world, that the freedom to love is choked by fear. But if we can’t love, are we really alive anyway?

When the baker’s son Peeta is repeatedly kind to her, she is suspicious. His willingness to repeatedly sacrifice himself for her causes confusion and shame; she can’t understand his actions. Only when he is severely wounded, and she can come to the rescue, does she allow herself to feel more. When he is strong, her pride rebels; when he is weak, she yearns to heal him.

It is similar with her best friend and hunting companion Gale; her strong attachment to him only becomes clearly romantic when he is flogged and near death. She only feels comfortable as the saviour, and gets evasive whenever love is expressed between equals. This changeable nature of her heart is extremely frustrating, and in a way, very realistic. After all, she’s a teenager!

Anyway, you can see what I’ve been doing in spare moments when feeding the baby, and what I’ve been obsessing over while doing the dishes. Yup, I’m hooked, and rooting for Peeta, the kind, generous, giving one who lays down his life again and again for Katniss. He reminds me of my husband. The nice guy whose strength lies in self-giving, as opposed to the dark, brooding hunter that is Gale.

But don’t tell me what happens; I’ll be crushed if my little crush is crushed…which given the awful nature of the world of The Hunger Games, is very likely.