Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Into the Deep

"They that go down to the sea in ships;
That do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." 
~Psalm 107~

Lately, I feel pulled to deeper waters. 

The sudden rushing in of the tide caught me wholly unaware in the midst of my everyday life. The whitecaps with their foamed hands gestured for me to follow their rip-current further out to sea. "There's something more," they whispered. "Come out where it's deep."

I've lived most of my life wading in knee-deep water.

It's safe there. In the event of impending danger, you can easily splash your chicken-shit way to shore. I've never wanted to venture out so far that I can't look down and see my submerged feet shallowly staring back at me. 

Danger is always lurking in the deep. 

And yet, I hear a seafaring voice beckoning me to embark on a maiden voyage. It's a quest to leave shallow waters behind. A quest to embrace the unknown. To let the turbulence of the salty waves show me exactly what this vessel is made of.

Every maiden voyage begins with the ceremonial launching of the ship. 

We break a bottle of bubbly against the bow marking the birth and naming of a new vessel. It's a holy christening. A baptism of sorts. It's a tradition soaked in superstition that goes back thousands of years. 

The Ancient Greeks wreathed their heads with olive branches, drank wine to honor gods and goddesses like Atalanta, the virgin goddess of adventure, and poured water on the new vessel as a sign of blessing. In 18th and 19th century France, a priest would bless the newly named ship with holy water. England's Princess Alexandra commissioned an Anglican choir to sing Psalm 107 at the launching of her namesake battleship: "They that go down to the sea in ships; That do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." 

Sometimes first launch is disaster. 

The anchors fail to hold the ship's forward progress and it capsizes and sinks in deep waters. Onlookers have even been knocked into the water and drowned by the sheer force of a ship's wake. 

I'm aware of the dangers. I'm aware of the risks. 

But I know the care and precision the master shipwright put into shaping this vessel. I have a hope that is a sure and steadfast anchor for my soul. Like theologian William G.T. Shedd so aptly stated, "A ship in a port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."

This ship was built for adventure. This ship was built for the deep.

My oldest sister (who always takes exceedingly good care of me) used her big sister intuition (one of her super powers) to sense that I was getting ready to embark on a journey. She gave me a timely book to read called When the Heart Waits by one of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd (which I highly recommend if you, too, are hearing that seafaring voice). 

Kidd recounts advice a friend gave her when she found herself navigating uncharted waters: "If you think God only leads you beside still waters, think again. God will also lead you by turbulent waters. If you have the courage to enter, you'll think you're drowning. But actually, you're being churned into something new."

And so, I find myself setting adrift aboard a virgin vessel christened with new name and ancient blessing to do business in great waters. I want to see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. I'm fully trusting Him with the weight of my hull--and if you look closely, you can see H.M.S. Atalanta painted in red. 

I'm sliding down this slipway stern-first, starboard bow facing God. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dirty Little Secret

There's a whole lotta dirt in the Bible. 

If you think it's just a hum-drum collection of stories about cookie-cutter Christians and their squeaky-clean lives, then think again. From the dust of the ground that formed the first man in the Garden of Eden to the dirt the woeful sailors throw on their heads as they mourn the burning of Babylon in the book of Revelation, you just can't seem to thumb through a few pages of scripture without getting your hands dirty. There's temptation, seduction, incest, prostitution, adultery, vengeance, murder, and more. 

If it sounds like I'm talking about a racy New York Times best-seller, I AM.

Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it's the best selling book of the year. Every Year. To the tune of half a billion dollars annually. Don't believe me? Google it.

It might be called the holy book, but the Bible is chock-full of unholy people. 

And I'm not talking about the villains here. I'm talking about our beloved protagonists. The people whose lives we follow. The people after God's own heart. The people on whom His favor rests. Over and over again, God chooses to tell His love story for humanity through the filthy lives of the fallen. Through the scandalous deeds of the unrighteous. The unclean. And with this much dirt to work with, it's a good thing God has a green thumb. 

I have often wondered what kind of dirt I am. 

Jesus lays it out for us pretty clearly in the parable of the four soils. Some dirt is too rocky and shallow. Plants spring up quickly, but they have no roots so they are scorched by the sun and wither away to nothing. Some dirt is bedded with thorns that grow up and choke the young seedlings. And sometimes there's no dirt at all, but a path. A broad path with a wide gate that leads to destruction. It's the way of the world. The way for those who follow the crowd, not the road less traveled. 

Me? I like a dirt road. 

And being a southern girl, my favorite ones are made of red Georgia clay and lined with rows and rows of peach trees as far as the eye can see. Clay so red that it stains your bare feet and completely devastates your clothes. It leaves its mark on you. It makes for dang sure you never forget your adventures in the sticks.

I'd like to think I'm the good soil. 

The kind that produces a crop thirty, sixty, a hundred times what was sown. The kind of soil that gardeners love. It's loamy and mealy-- soft, dry, and crumbly-- in your hands. It has just the right combination of silt, sand, and clay. It's rich in minerals and lets air and water penetrate right down to the roots. 

That's the kind of dirt I want to be. 

The kind that Jesus leaves his footprints in. The kind that produces something lasting and worth the wait. The seeds may not spring up quickly, but when they do, their roots go deep and they are well-grounded. They can't be scorched and withered by the sun. They can't be plucked away by birds or choked to death by weeds. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13).

Here's a dirty little secret for figuring out what kind of soil you're working with. 

It's called the jar test: Take a sampling of your soil, put it in a small jar, and shake vigorously. Then, let the dust settle overnight. In the morning, you'll finally see distinct layers of soil. Sand at the bottom, clay at the top, and silt inbetween. It's only after the soil is tested and tried that you know exactly what kind it is. 

But me? I don't like to be tested. 

I don't like to be sampled and sifted. I don't like to be shaken vigorously. I have been through trial by fire before and came out burned and scarred for life. But the thing is, you can never really know yourself, all the nooks and crannies of your inner-most being--both the good and the bad you are capable of--until you are tested. Until you are shaken. Until you are sifted. 

And then you wait...

And then the dust settles... 

Then you know who you are in the morning. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

About a Boy

Do you have a second? I want to tell you about a boy. 

A boy who has completely swept me off of my feet and stolen my heart. A boy who always treats me right and makes me laugh so hard I have to pee. He is patient and he is kind. He puts other people's needs before his own. He is intelligent. Articulate. The perfect gentleman. And I am so madly in love with this boy.

He recently celebrated his 10th birthday. 

That's right. My first-born is finally double-digits. But, a decade ago, I wasn't so smitten. The transition to motherhood was difficult for me, to say the least. The baby blues. Postpartum depression. I'm not sure what to call it. But I do know how I felt... 


Even though I had always wanted to be a mother. Even though we had struggled with infertility for years. Even though I had a miscarriage before I got pregnant with him. Even though he had been longed for and prayed for. Even though he was the answer to all of my prayers.

It didn't help that I caught a terrible respiratory infection while I was in labor and delivery. So, when my husband brought the two of us home from the hospital, he had to spend more time taking care of me than our new baby. I have never been that sick. I'm talking deathly ill

Plus, breastfeeding sucked. Literally. 

I wanted to be good at it. I really did. I had big, big plans--that fell through. It wasn't the latching on. We had that part down pat. It was just that no amount of lactation consultations could make milk appear where there was none to be had. So, that was a big source of my frustration. I felt like a failure. I cried every day for a month. 

And so did my baby boy. 

Every single time I tried to sneak out of bed to take a shower, it seemed. And to top it all off, my boobs were engorged and my belly was wobbly and horribly stretched out of shape. Battle scars or tiger stripes, call them what you will. I called them depressing--at least I did back then. But my belly wasn't the only part of me that was stretching. 

Becoming a mommy squeezes all the selfishness right out of you. 

Before baby, I only had to worry about me, myself, and I (and my husband, of course). Then, all of sudden, I had to give myself over--body and soul--to the needs of a tiny human who was completely and utterly dependent upon me. I felt like a wrung out rag.

But then he smiled at me. 

Then I heard him coo and laugh. Then he grabbed onto my my finger with that chubby little dimpled fist, and I was hooked. I didn't know what the heck I was doing, but I was hooked.

And every day after that, it just got better and better. 

Every year after that was my favorite year. Every age he has been has been my favorite age. And now, he's 10 and he's looking at me with those big baby blues, and I am still hooked and I am smitten. I am so madly in love. He is mine and I am his. Forever and always.

Thanks for listening. I just had to tell you about a boy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dripping with Little Girls

(This was originally published by Your Tango on September 1, 2016.)

Sometimes, I feel like Miss Hannigan from the movie Annie.

Tripping over toys in my nightie with glass of wine in hand. Some women are dripping with diamonds and pearls. But me? I'm dripping with little girls. Everywhere I turn, I can see them. Night and day, I eat, sleep, and breathe them.

They say catastrophes come in threes, but my little angels are the perfect trifecta.

Or holy terrors. Depends on the day. Sometimes I'm living on Easy Street, but other times, it's the hard-knock life. I'm hanging on by my fingernails wishing Punjab would come and save me. Just like Miss Hannigan crows, "I'd have cracked years ago if it weren't for my sense of humor."

Don't get me wrong-- I love little girls. I used to be one.

Now, I'm dripping with three of my own: ages 2, 5, and 7. Someday, I may land in the nuthouse with all the nuts and the squirrels. But for now, here are a few pearls for raising little girls:

They Are Not You. So don't expect them to be.

My oldest daughter is nothing like me. And thank God for that. She has blonde ringlets like Goldilocks, but she's as rough and tumble as they come. And frankly, I'm not sure I'd win if we got into a wrestling match. That girl is as tough as nails. She's not afraid to play with boys twice her age on the playground. And within twenty minutes, she's calling the shots and has all of them following her lead. Sometimes it's The Clash of the Titans between us, but secretly, I wish I could be more like her. She approaches life boldly and bravely, staring down fear with the wind in her face and a song in her heart. I wish I could be more like that.

They Are Not Each Other. So don't compare them.

My middle daughter loves all things pink and sparkly. She loves make-up, high heels, and cheerleading. She is sugar and spice and everything nice. She's timid and fragile and delicate. A crystal glass in a china cabinet. But femininity takes on many forms and one is not better than the others. All little girls are fearfully and wonderfully made.

They are Not JUST Beautiful. So make sure they know that.

If you always tell them how beautiful they are, they may start believing that's all they have to offer. Tell them how smart, strong, and capable they are first. Then tell them they're beautiful.

They are Built-in Best Friends. So they have a bond like no other.

I, myself, am the youngest of three sisters, and through the years we've shared everything from hand-me-downs to butter cream icing recipes to our deepest, darkest secrets. Like the inscription on the jewelry box my oldest sister gave me says, "Friends and boys come and go, but sisters are forever."

They are Your Die-Hard Fans. So they think you're amazing no matter what.

No matter what you're wearing. No matter what your hair looks like. Make-up or au naturale. They are always in your squad. They don't care about your stretch marks or what you look like in a bathing suit. My littlest is still in diapers, but her little eyes are always watching me. Be sure you are leading the way for those tiny feet to follow.

They are Your Future BFFs. So raise them right.

After you have finished mommying them, you will eventually borrow each other's clothes and shoes and make-up. They will help keep you young and you will help keep them grounded. What you teach them during these brief mommying years is crucial because you are literally raising your future besties for life.

So, each time I get annoyed after tripping over a toy, I remind myself what an awesome privilege it is to be their mother. Each time I fold their little bloomers or match their little socks or iron their little dresses, I smile at their unbelievable cuteness. And there is nothing better than hearing the giggles and prayers and lullabies as I tuck them into bed each night.

It's WAY better than diamonds and pearls.