Upstairs, Downstairs

This poem was written for my former downstairs neighbour and dear friend who has now returned home to Egypt with her husband and children. It was an honour and a joy to share our lives with them, and to find a warm connection that overcame any differences.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere!! Peace be with you. May you always be supported, embraced and encouraged by your fellow moms all over the world! Go team! 🙂

 

Upstairs: a crazy crew of kids

six littles bouncing, dancing, singing, banging.

Downstairs: two small sweeties,

running, shouting, playing, laughing.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the mothers scold, cook, cuddle and caress.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the mothers mother

day and night.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women sing

in Arabic and English,

songs of faith and lullabies

unique yet universal,

of one heart.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women weep,

mourn lost babies–

precious ones snatched away too soon–

in each other’s arms

these mothers find warm comfort.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women pray,

observe Lent and Ramadan,

break their fasts and rejoice together

over homemade sweets.

 

Upstairs, downstairs

the women hope,

cherishing the new lives

nestled in their wombs…

little tiny babies

due at the same time.

May they be best friends!!

 

In the world there is hatred

but not in our house.

Upstairs, downstairs

there is love.

 

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.

Insecurity

There is the illusion

that ‘the woman next door’ has everything figured out–

that the insides of her underwear drawer

are as neat as her perfect front lawn–

illusion of insecurity.

There is the nagging feeling

that you should be more like her,

so confident and productive…

It eats you up inside

until your walls crumble and collapse

into emptiness.

Voices of self-doubt echo

in the hollow chamber of your head:

“Are you sure you’re good enough?

Can you really do this?

What gave you that silly idea?”

You’re tempted to crawl under the covers again

but that’s just where the demons are hiding–

alone in your head.

Instead, throw back those blankets and step into the sun,

don’t give up without a fight,

empty rooms are good for being filled with light.

Empty hands are good for holding little hands.

Empty hearts are good for being filled with love.

Empty heads are good for listening.

So, instead of dwelling alone

in the harsh prison of your self-judgement,

reach out,

be open to other people’s stories,

listen to their hopes and cries of pain.

Everyone has their struggle,

and everyone has their blue flame.

Realize you are not alone

in all your broken beauty…

like them you’re just a tiny little human

entrusted by God

with the great task of love.

Beautiful

Yesterday I stumbled across this poem I wrote some time ago for dear friends who had suffered yet another painful miscarriage. As a number of people in our church community have either recently lost young children, or are approaching anniversaries of loss, I decided to share it.

Beautiful the face of a mother,

who suffers and who loves,

endlessly giving her all,

her very self, day and night.

Beautiful the face of a father,

whose word of love has become flesh,

and brought him joy,

and the necessity to serve,

forgetting himself.

Beautiful the hearts of husband and wife,

who give up pieces of themselves,

and let them to walk around outside their bodies,

tugging on their heartstrings

until they break.

Beautiful the sorrow of those who trust in God,

while they ache inside and long for the gift

that was briefly theirs,

but has flown to Heaven.

Beautiful the “Amen’s” that cost us the most,

the letting go,

the giving up what we only loved,

but never owned.

Beautiful the hearts that don’t lose faith,

when all seems cold and incomprehensible.

Beautiful the love that is stronger than death,

that stretches into eternity,

and bursts into God’s light with joyous triumph

on that day of reunion

which is to come.

Spring

Spring is finally here.

The toddler and I are equally happy

digging in the garden

with dirt under our fingernails

and warm sunshine in our hair.

Out in the garden,

I can almost forget my messy house

–rooms cluttered with kids’ clothes and toys–

out here where dirt means not disorder,

but openness to growth

and getting messy is a necessary step

on the path to beauty.

The Key to this Generation’s Biggest Problem

 Today I’m happy to share with you a guest post by Alexandria Robinson, who tells the story of her struggle with an eating disorder, and how faith helped pull her out of it by helping her to realize her true value and worth. In our age of many struggles with mental illness, the message that we are infinitely precious and loved, even in our brokenness, can’t be spoken enough. Enjoy!

There’s a conversation that we need to have. We’re starting to have it, but there is still so much more we need to do surrounding this issue. It’s something that directly impacts 1 in 5 people, so all of our families. Unfortunately, we need to have this conversation with younger and younger children. Although mental health is a decreasingly taboo topic of conversation, there is still a stigma surrounding it. At church, I am part of a new mental-health and emotional-wellness ministry. At our last meeting, I was heartbroken when a sweet mama shared her struggles with her teenage sons. One of them was on the right track, going to a counselor for his severe depression. When he told his girlfriend about it, she told her friends, and a slew of hateful text messages arose. What’s a mom supposed to do?

I’ve had several conversations with mental health professionals who say the church is perfectly positioned to help those in mental distress. I know for me, my faith was the game-changer in my mental health struggles. Like a lot of young women, I have struggled with body image since my pre-teen years. I remember talking to my friends about all of our tips and tricks on how to avoid food in front of our parents or throw it up later. Although I knew the long term damage I was doing to my body, I had no desire to stop or ask for help. It wasn’t until I came to know Jesus that things changed. I now know that my body is a gift from my creator, and he thinks I’m so beautiful that I am ‘to die for’, at any weight. Having respect for my body helps me to honor my king.

After my brother was diagnosed with depression, I became obsessed with finding out everything I could about mental health. I was one of the people in his primary support network and, more importantly, his big sister. I love my brother dearly–he’s my best friend–so when I found out he was self-harming and having thoughts of suicide, it brought me to my knees. He is agnostic, but because he is an intellectual, we are able to have great conversations about the questions that really matter–things like the meaning of life and suffering. The great existential questions that those with a mental illness often ask are answered by religion. Unfortunately, we often write off church as something we only have to do on Christmas and Easter. But I would challenge anyone who is experiencing a mental health difficulty, either directly or indirectly, to start making it a habit to get into the Scriptures.

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  Isaiah 54:10

I like to think of the Bible as our roadmap on life’s journey, and that without it, we are just wandering around aimlessly. Coming to know the one who made you can help you answer the all-important question of: “Why?” When you have your “why,” it makes all things easier. I know my “why”…or at least part of it. I write online Catholic bible studies on my blog. As a convert, I spent a lot of time online searching for answers. I came across a lot of amazing resources, but there was no Catholic voice readily available. That’s what I’m working to create.

Although I am involved in my bible studies, YouTube channel, and church ministries, I realized there was still something missing. People need help just opening the Scriptures. That’s why I wrote a book, A Catholic Millennial’s Guide to the Bible. In it, I answer some of the most common objections to Bible reading. Have you ever asked, or heard your child ask, questions like: I don’t know where to start; do Catholics even read the Bible; how can you read such an old book? I certainly have, and I answer all of those questions in the book. A Catholic Millennial’s Guide to the Bible is a short, easy read, written by and for Catholic millennials.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ”  1 John 4:9-11

We need the Lord, now more than ever. Spending time in the Bible can help us on our tough days. In my lowest moments, I remember my body is a gift to be respected, not garbage to be abused. This realization comes only from being rooted in the Word of God.

Alexandria Robinson is the author of the new book, A Catholic Millennial’s Guide to the Bible. In it she explains how to the Word of God is relevant to our lives in the modern day, the Church’s relationship with Scripture throughout history, and how the Bible came to be. It is written by and for young Catholic laity to encourage them on their long journey home to our Heavenly Father. It will make a great Lenten read or Easter gift. For more on Alexandria, check out her blog at www.TheGenesisFeminist.com.

 

Humble Audacity

A single flame in the darkness,

a single note in the silence,

a single child in a stable–

only God would have

the humble audacity to appear this way

when He wanted to reach everyone in the world.

He could have come with crashes of lighting

flashing across the entire sky.

He could have come with legions of angels,

fast and furious,

but He came instead in the quiet–

His little cries

barely heard above the donkey’s breath.

He came with a love as warm as hot chocolate

that spreads slowly through your whole body

and makes everything right.

He came small enough to fit himself

–the creator of the universe–

into each human heart,

affirming that each person

is a universe unto themselves–

infinitely precious and loved.

Tiny note, little light, set the world aflame with joy!