October Links I Loved

One thing I have missed about blogging is having somewhere to share the pieces that made me think the most from the month–if only to come back myself and see what I was learning about at that time (beyond books). I just have three this month, but sometimes less is more, right?

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Verity Podcast on motherhood + asceticism :: “In this episode we dive into the mommy wars: the toxic culture surrounding motherhood and its decisions. Specifically, this episode deals with asceticism and our view of suffering in motherhood. How does God sustain us in this season? Why do we act as if certain decisions are ‘holier’ than others? “

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong :: “The second big lesson the medical establishment has learned and rejected over and over again is that weight and health are not perfect synonyms. Yes, nearly every population-level study finds that fat people have worse cardiovascular health than thin people. But individuals are not averages: Studies have found that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of people classified as obese are metabolically healthy. They show no signs of elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance or high cholesterol. Meanwhile, about a quarter of non-overweight people are what epidemiologists call ‘the lean unhealthy.’”

Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin :: “Is it not baffling, then, that so many Christians seem to be sure that they are saving human lives and freedoms by treating as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin?”

Oh! And I’ve been enjoying Chance the Rapper. His song “5 Year Plan” really hit me:

“There’s no time for impatience in your five-year plan
You got time for hesitation in your five-year plan
A lot of **** came at you in a five-year span
If you followed your flight plan, you’d be right here prayin’
Eyes closed, right now sayin’, Lord of Lords
I know you gave abundantly, even gave up your son for me
No need for sacrifice in my plans
And I love to say your name, it come from my diaphragm
I just had to scare ’em off and draw a line in the sand
Anything you gave to me, they couldn’t pry from my hands
Anything you gave to meI know it’s right for my brand

I am obviously not a rapper or famous, but these lyrics. Dang. Full song below (pearl clutchers, beware of language 😉).

Happy October, y’all!

On a decade of parenting

We plunked down a wad of cash on a slew of matching photo albums. That means I’ve been going through old mismatched Target clearance albums to pull out photos and printing what I need to bring us up to date.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It is really something to have so many moments from that season captured, both through photo and video. A lot happens over a decade, but a lot also stays the same.

For instance, my waist has never been small, even as I sigh and wish for long ago days that never existed.*

We ate a lot of peanut butter toast. And drive-thru ice cream cones.

People we hung out with regularly have fallen off of our radar, replaced by new people because somethings are for seasons and some are forever.

My kitchen was always a mess, and someone was always screaming or crying.

Just looking at the photos and videos makes me tired, 2015 especially.

Roger was born in January of that year. I had started homeschool with Claudia. Ellie, at 2.5, was big feelings and big messes. I was trying to work 20-30 hours a week from home without outside help. There was just always more to be done.

That mama was so tired. But fulfilled, too. It was hard and holy work that left her in sad and happy tears, all in the same day.

If I look too long, I start to pick it all apart. Where I messed up, fell short, could have done better.

But.

That mama laid the foundation we stand on today. That work bought our car in a season where saving would have otherwise been difficult, and it gave me the framework for time use that allowed me to write a book that I cared about, even if it never made a bestseller’s list.

All those meals that made our kitchen messy grew those kids into the towers of strength they are today–and all of them will be taller than me. They scramble and fry eggs; make macaroni and cheese, pancakes, sandwiches, quesadillas, little pizzas; prep fruits and vegetables; bake cakes; and talk through whether our meals are balanced, all because we spent so much time chopping and prepping and cooking and just being in the kitchen.

And when they sit down to that breakfast or lunch they prepared themselves on crazy days when we’re not all eating together? They bow their heads and thank God for their food, because they’ve lived that out three times a day every day of their lives.

Books matter now because they mattered then. Putting pen to paper with words or pictures or ideas matters now because it mattered then. Helping to clean up even though we’d rather not bother matters now because it mattered then.

After a hard hospital season and a pandemic that left me feeling unmoored, those exhaustion-inducing photos remind me that the job isn’t done, even if I’m constantly trying to look over the fence at what God gave someone else. Those baby faces changed so much, reminding me that no season is forever, nothing about our situation is changing, and I have an obligation to lean into where the Lord has put me.

So I’m thankful to that tired mama who persevered. She made me who I am today, and I would do well to honor her legacy by continuing (or going back to) putting in the full effort, just like she did.

{2020 word count: 2,527}


*It has taken me a long time to recognize that there’s only about an inch between the top of my hips and the bottom of my ribs. Sure, I could lose some weight…but it wouldn’t change my bones. Skinny waist just ain’t in the cards. So.much.angst could have been saved by recognizing the truth of my skeleton long ago…

I’m ready to write a bunch of crappy stuff.

I deleted my Instagram account a while back. Not deleted the app off my phone, like deep dive, do it from a web browser, face the blue “Are you super duper sure you wanna do this?” button.

Photo by Cristian Dina on Pexels.com

It was my only regular writing outlet. I had established a good rhythm: three posts a week–one about a book, one a quote, one a miniblog–posted through a third-party service so I could set it and forget it, spending less time on the app altogether.

But I took a social media break and heard that still, small voice.

Walk away.

I didn’t really want to, but I did.

Today, I read a random post on a random personal finance blog about some random personal finance blogger. She keeps her New Year’s resolutions because she’s very specific and takes on one at a time, one of which was writing 100,000 words during that year.

I like the freedom in that.

I don’t know what I want to write, and that makes for a crappy blog. Or book. Or anything. But it makes for a lot of opportunity to try things.

2021 is a long ways away. Plus pandemic days are like dog years, mathematically speaking. But 100,000 words in 2021 sounds like a doable goal. Flexible but with a hard deadline.

I’ll probably be back before then, but if not, it’s nice to at least shake the dust off here.

{I guess we can keep a total for 2020 starting now?
234 words for this article
+ 809 for this article I wrote for Fathom Magazine
+ 909 for an article waiting to be published elsewhere in the new year,
bringing our total-ish for the year to 1,952}

What I Would Have Said at Graduation

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
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The weirdest thing happened senior year. I was chosen as a student speaker for graduation.

No no no, that’s not the weird part. I was in speech and plays and used to speaking in front of people, so that part made sense.

It got weird when I suddenly wasn’t on the speaking list anymore. (Which was sad, but honestly, also a bit of a relief.) But then graduation day came, and it got really weird.

At the ceremony, my principal lied about how they chose their three speakers. 

Why? I hadn’t asked him why I wasn’t speaking, and the decision had been made months in advance so I don’t think anybody else asked either. It was an elaborate explanation that–to this day–I don’t understand.

But every time graduation season rolls around, I remember and fume and scratch my head, still wondering what the heck happened there.*

And my poor husband is tired of hearing about it, so at his request, I give you what I would have said (remembering the themes I had considered before I was cut and doing my best to channel 18-year-old Michelle who was a very different person from 30-something Michelle).

1. Don’t let these be the best years of your life.

We will never have more freedom than we do at this moment, being sent out into the world with no strings or encumbrances. Most of us probably lack money and will have to go to school or work or the military, but beyond those obligations, that time is ours, just like it’s been in high school.

We’ve had the freedom to pursue interests or go to parties. To stay up late with few consequences and go wherever our cars would take us. I’ve learned that Perkins is way more exciting after opening night of a play or post-prom than it is any other time of day.

We have spent our lives thus far able to focus on discovering who we are and what we like doing, whether it’s band or football or drama or watching the clouds roll by. We have made friendships and learned how to navigate the way they change–sometimes gracefully, sometimes not.

There have been high highs and low lows, and for many of us, it’s been a great ride.

But. I worry that there are too many songs and storylines out there that look back on high school with immense longing, calling these “the best years of my life.” Friends, the average life expectancy in this country is close to 80. Can we really afford to peak sixty years early?

I hope that as we scatter from these place, the memories will remain warm and happy, but if they aren’t eclipsed by brighter ones, we have done ourselves (and society) a disservice. We were made for more than high school glory.

In that vein, I have two pieces of advice. The first one brings us to my second point:

woman in orange academic dress
Photo by Feedyourvision on Pexels.com

 

2. Don’t chase unicorns.

We hear parents say all the time that they want their kids to be happy. They aren’t looking for their kids to become president or start the next Amazon; they just want them to be happy.

It’s a nice sentiment. But.

Happiness is like a unicorn. Happiness is an emotion; it’s fleeting in nature, such that when the candy or coffee or drug or Instagram or whatever spiked the pleasure centers in your brain is gone, so is that feeling.

Parents say that they just want their kids to be happy, but really, they want their kids to be content. But contentment is not as pretty as a unicorn; contentment is like a mule that plods along day by day, doing the work required of it, work that matters to you and to society, work that is needful and important, and you can do it well.

That mule-level contentment can mean finding in a person to love in good times and bad and building a life together, working together to invest in the community around you and in the next generation–through your own children or other people’s children for the sake of the future.

Now, this doesn’t always look like fun. Sometimes, mule life is full of frustrating co-workers or not knowing the next right step. Mules struggle with babies who won’t sleep at night or spouses who never pick up their socks, no matter how many times you’ve asked.

And sometimes mule life is so much harder. Failing. Admitting serious wrong against someone, or worse, being caught in that wrong. Working for a terrible boss. Losing a job. Losing someone close to you. Losing a baby. And then having to pick yourself back up and do whatever it is in front of you.

It’s not flashy, but over time, the mule life, one of consistent effort and commitment, leads to contentment and a body of experiences to proudly call your life.

Be useful and become content. Because the unicorn chasers out there will die searching, and mule life is full of bursts of happiness all along the way, the bright and shiny top-of-the-mountain moments that come from the days and weeks and years of faithful plodding.

And now, we arrive at our third and final point.

achievement cap celebration ceremony
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3. Look up.

This might be 31-year-old Michelle talking to a large extent, because 18-year-old Michelle did not know about the coming wave of smartphones that would radically alter how we interact with each other and the world.

You see, it is easy while living the mule life to keep your eyes on the ground as you plod along. And in this day and age, it is easy to keep your eyes glued to a screen rather than your shoes.

It is easy because this world is noisy–and has only gotten noisier since I graduated. Advertisers know that we can’t resist screens

In the noise are millions of voices selling millions of products aimed at fixing some problem you have, real or perceived. Even if they’re not selling you an actual product, they’re selling you on the idea that they have something you don’t have that you want, whether it’s influence or a perfect body or enough money to travel the world.

Chasing this noise is the same as chasing that unicorn. But if we look up from our shoes our own phones, we will see people. Real people. And when we look at real people, we can find real joy in being with them–singing and laughing and sharing stories–or in serving them and making the world a better place, which is worth more than any product any influencer can peddle.

So go out into the world, head up and ready to work hard. Build great things and let your best days be ahead of you. Good luck, class of 2005.

 

*Me not speaking may have had something to do with a senior prank involving some pigs. All I can say is that I was not involved. I may have mentioned in conversation where you could get feeder pigs but had NO IDEA ANYBODY WOULD ACTUALLY ACT UPON IT. And also, they never actually got into the school, okay? No harm, no foul, amiright?

My Sister, Gladys

white concrete houses
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

I didn’t grow up having a sister. My brother is great (and I can say that now that we’re grownups!), but there’s something about watching sisters that has always made my heart yearn. You can see their shorthand–in language or facial expression–that ends in a knowing giggle, even though no one else understands the joke.

But God did not make a mistake or withhold a good gift from me by not giving me a blood sister:

But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothersFor whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50, emphasis mine)

To all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine)

If all believers are children of God, then ALL believers are my brothers and sisters. I have more sisters than I could possibly know in the short time I have on this planet!

This also means that I have sisters who have already gone on before me. They lived lives of faithfulness and little-by-little sanctification–and luckily for us, some of them wrote about their lives or were written about.

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Gladys Aylward is one of my sisters. She had a burning heart for China and worked tirelessly to get there to do missionary work–even after she flunked out of Bible/missionary school.

My sister Gladys prayed in a moment of trouble and saw God’s certain and providential answer–in that very moment and throughout her life in less immediate but still impactful ways. Her example reminds me to pray without ceasing.

My sister Gladys showed me what obedience looks like when it feels pointless and stupid–and that God readies the obedient for his purposes.

My sister Gladys reminded me to sing hymns during tough times. And since my tough times are infinitely easier than leading a hundred children over a war-infested mountain, surely I can find the gumption to sing.

My sister Gladys taught me that God uses unlikely people and equips them where he calls them.

My sister Gladys is a sober reminder that God calls many of his people to hard circumstances I can’t even fathom–and that I should be praying for my sisters and brothers around the world in those situations.

It was so sweet to share this story with my children. To ask at every turn, “Guys, was this a coincidence that everything just happened to line up exactly to provide for Gladys’s need in this moment?”

“Nooooooooooooo,” came their resounding voices. My sister Gladys is helping to disciple my children, giving them a picture of the Lord’s continual provision for his people, even though she’s not here anymore. Praise God!