I sit in a plastic Adirondack chair and watch my two children play in the front yard. The dry Southern California grass crackles beneath their feet while they splash the water they've filled to nearly overflowing in a rubbermaid tub they found in the garage. They will both be in in-person school in the fall (after this year of school at home) and for the first time in 7 years, I won't hear the sound of little feet running around me every day. I realize that my days will soon be filled with a stillness that I don’t know if I remember.
A stillness that, if I'm being honest, sometimes frightens me.
Who will I be without their constant presence each and every day?
Yes, yes, I know the verses about stillness and quiet and peace. The necklaces reminding me to inhale and exhale. The social media invitations to stop and breathe. I used to post those captions, too.
Be still and know that I am God.
It's beautiful and true.
And, yet, I have come to know my loving Creator so well in the loudness, in the movement, in the chaos of young motherhood.
In my mind, I replay the seemingly fast-forwarded memories of diapers and sleepless nursing-filled nights and stroller walks and building lego towers and painting on the patio and making baking soda and vinegar volcanoes in the backyard. Even in my slow-motion recall of these tender moments, time has gone so very quickly.
And, I know full well in these new days of riding big kid bikes and jumping off sand dunes and climbing trees and running half a mile ahead on the forest trail that the chaotically beautiful movement of this singular life will continue and only get faster.
And so I bow my head into the winds of my life and spread my wings wide.
I have learned that the stillness I seek isn't in the stopping but rather in the gentle opening of my arms to the updraft of God moving ever so faithfully in the swirling winds of life around me.
The movement of life is not mine but His.
The wings I spread are not mine but His.
The breath that gives me life is not mine but His.
My stillness will not be found in my stopping to breathe but rather in accepting with gratitude and hope the freshness and goodness of this life that God breathes into me each and every day.
Gratitude and hope.
Gratitude and hope.
Gratitude and hope.
The breath of my heavenly Father giving life to a heart that beats for Him.
Well over a year ago, one little phone call turned into one little project that may very well be one of my favorites to date. Over the past year, I had the privilege of writing a small book for Twenty Third publications that is now available on their website and on Amazon. "Meeting God in Motherhood: Opening Our Hearts To Moments of Grace" is filled with brief reflections (and personal stories) on how we encounter God in the very everydayness of our vocations as mothers.
Honestly, I feel SO unqualified to have written this, but I think that's exactly the point. None of us are the perfect mama (as much as we try to make that appear on social media or in the school pick up line); we can only be mamas who, in our vulnerability, are willing to unabashedly take hold of Grace in each challenging and beautiful and messy and sacred moment.
This book is essentially a collection of the words of encouragement that my own heart needs to hear day to day. If you're anything like me and needing to refresh your spirit (maybe even more so after the past year than ever before), maybe this book will be a balm to your soul.
The words I hear again and again in the depths of my heart...
become the psalmist.
Trade my grumblings for gratitude.
Trade my pettiness for petitions.
Trade my self-serving for God=awing.
And so I begin where paint meets paper, with a Bible in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.
Psalm by psalm, puddles of color, learning to meet God here in this very moment.
150 songs to sing in my soul.
There is never any traffic.
There are no bad drivers.
No stop signs. No rush hour. No brake lights.
Back in the day, I used to look forward to my drive home from work. It was an opportunity to unwind, listen to some tunes, and drop by the Starbucks drive-thru. More importantly, it was a chance to reflect on and pray about the happenings of my day.
As a stay-at-home mom, I no longer have a physical commute. I do, however, have the chance to reflect on my day during my evening prayers. Some days, I have the time to read out of a favorite devotional or to sit and ponder the daily readings. Other days, I struggle to keep my eyes open as the first opportunity for calm doesn't arrive until my head hits the pillow. (Parents of small children, I know you can relate!)
One of my reasons for creating The Examen Journal was to really reinforce my "evening commute" with God each and every day. I put pen to paper for a few minutes as I revisit the events of the past 24 hours and seek the presence of the Divine in my life.
God is always there, even in the simplest of moments.
As I "drive home" tonight, I'm praying for us all, friends, that we are empowered to make time to see the beautiful presence of God in our every day.
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
He said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."
Last week, I had this moment. I turned to my husband, Greg, and said, "What on earth am I doing? Who am I to be doing all of this creative work? I don't have a background in art or design or writing. Am I just a poser?" Without my realizing it, doubt had crept slowly into my heart as I diligently worked the past several months on all that is Creating To Love. In the blink of an eye, I felt absolutely paralyzed.
Doubt makes us believe we aren't worthy enough...doubt cancels our projects, our dreams, our goals...doubt prevents us from sharing our God-given talents with the world. Doubt tells us that we don't belong to a God of beauty, truth, and goodness.
And yet, doubt does not, can not, and will not halt our prayers. Perhaps, sometimes, doubt forces us to look beyond the comforts of our superficial successes to seek more deeply the only One who can save us and bring us into being most fully ourselves.
As I went to sleep that night, I frustratingly asked God, "Where are you in all of this?!"
The next morning, I read the daily Gospel (isn't God's word often so timely!) and heard Jesus say to Peter, and really, to me, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Jesus heard Peter's desperate plea and prayer for help, "Jesus, save me!" With arms of love, Jesus scooped Peter up out of that stormy sea of doubt and reminded him whose he was.
"Mary, why did you doubt?" I may not know what I'm doing most of the time (read that, all of the time, and honestly, who does?), but I do know that I want to set my eyes on my Creator and be reminded that I am creating to Love.
Today, let's pray for each other that we steady ourselves and focus on hearts on God in all of our endeavors!
Last week, just after a dinner of sandwiches and salad, my three year old son popped up off the floor and proudly exclaimed, "I did it all by myself!"
He stood there, with a grin as wide as his sweet face, his little 4T khaki shorts pulled all the way up to his waist...backwards.
For the very first time, he had pulled up his shorts all by himself. He may have done it backwards, but...he did it all by himself!
My husband, Greg, and I laughed later that night at the sweetness and humor of this particular milestone.
And then it hit me.
Here I am, crafting this website, beginning a new creative adventure, and sharing my art and writing. In all of that vulnerability, I have no doubt that I'm going to make numerous mistakes and missteps, that others will chuckle with me in my youthfulness as an artist, and that I am probably going look like I'm standing up with a gleeful grin on my face with my shorts on backwards.
But. I'm doing this. I'm learning the ropes of buying ISBNs and setting up printing bleeds and pouring fluid acrylic on canvas and painting in my Bible and setting up an artboard in Adobe Illustrator and scanning my own drawings. I'm finally bringing this dream of a creative ministry to life.
And yet, unlike my son. I'm not doing it all by myself.
God, my Creator, is calling me out of myself to design and write and paint from a place of love in service of others. My prayer is that Creating To Love always remains focused on God, that my desire to create only brings God's beauty further into the world, and that through this ministry, others more deeply know how fully they are loved.
And so here I stand, with my "shorts on backwards" joyfully ready to share Creating To Love with you.
Let's pray for each other that we might always be willing to bring ourselves and our vulnerability to the table with such joy!