The Eighty-Fourth Letter: Greasy Linoleum, The Promised Land, & All The Things

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Dear Daughters,

Your dad dropped the metal spatula into the narrow crack between the counter and the refrigerator this evening.

Our normal solution to items falling into this crack—yes, it happens often enough to have a “normal” solution—is to use the tongs or the yardstick to fish the dropped items out. The spatula, however, had fallen on its side with the flat part against the linoleum so that it would not come out without turning it first. And we couldn’t get a grip on it to turn it, which is really just way too long of a story to tell you this:

The whole refrigerator had to get pulled out away from the wall.

I’m pretty sure we haven’t pulled that refrigerator out since I painted the cabinets, and that was before either of you were born.

Oh my goodness was there dirt and grime and grease and general fuzzy-stickiness.

In fact, there were solidified nasty drips of who-knows-what down the side of the refrigerator up to the level of the counter. Because clearly we drop a lot of things down that crack. And the linoleum under the frig had a top layer of dust but an under layer of sticky, greasy, black stuff.

Yuck.

Your dad got out the Pine Sol and began cleaning the side of the frig while I used the vacuum behind it to get the loose stuff up. Then he gave me the soapy bucket of water to begin scrubbing the floor while he dished up dinner for the two of you. Appetizing, I know.

As I scrubbed at that floor, as the water in the soapy bucket turned so dark it could be mistaken for black tea, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be grand if this were enough?”

What I mean is, I like a well-cleaned house.

I like the feeling of a rewarding project accomplished, and I happen to consider a clean bathroom a rewarding project. I like taking the time to, say, prepare a nice meal, organize a junk drawer, sort a closet, get on my hands and knees and scrub the grease off of linoleum, or paint the aforementioned cabinets.

What I mean is, I actually like housekeeping and housetending and doing the tasks of daily life that keep a house tidy and running smoothly.

They are wonderful and rewarding tasks.

And I often wish they felt like enough.

It’s the same with mothering, girls. Mothering is rewarding and beautiful (and tiring and exhausting and infuriating and mind-numbing sometimes, too, but mostly rewarding), especially now that you’re turning into miniature human beings.

I have friends who so rock the mom thing, and so rock the clean-house thing, and so rock the house-decorating-project thing, and so rock the keeping-their-kids-clothes-sorted-by-size thing. I envy that a bit, to be honest.

I want that to be enough, and to find joy and completeness in that, because those are beautiful and fulfilling things. And many of those rockin’ friends really are fulfilled and happy and thoughtful.

But: me.

I remember sitting in my friend’s minivan after I became a mom and feeling so utterly not fulfilled with motherhood and telling her that I keep swinging back and forth between two extremes: one, wanting to be content in this new season—to just get acclimated, stop complaining, accept it for what it is—and, the other extreme, being content to be as Abraham was, which means not being settled, living as a stranger in the promised land, living in tents, not having much except God’s promise of what would be eventually.

I told my friend that I didn’t want to be comfortable, that I wanted it to feel strange, wanted to be the stranger, because I knew that there was more than this to my calling.

More than the greasy green linoleum.

More than the clean house.

Yes, more than mothering.

And, girls, I still believe that, but I can see a little more clearly than I could in those early months of mothering. I’m not so swallowed up by the misery of it all. (That sounds awful, but it was a tough time at first.)

I can see how this—all of this beautiful messy life of house and mothering—doesn’t just live in a tent alongside all the other beautiful messy things I do: the writing and painting and designing and loving and leading and teaching and serving and laughing and encouraging and following up and showing up.

No, the mothering and the wife-ing and the house-making are right inside the tent with me. I can’t be a stranger from them.

That said, tonight, girls, tonight I wished longingly for a life that could focus on one single thing, rather than a million things.

It’s a life that nobody has, not really.

Especially in this culture, where it seems everyone is trying to do all the things and be all the things and post pictures of all the things on social media.

Still, tonight I wished for a life that after the floor got wiped down, the rag hung up, the frig scooted back, I didn’t feel compelled to pick up my laptop and write you a letter, didn’t have a freelance project to work on, didn’t have a chapter of a book to read for homework, didn’t need to read Amos and prep for the Bible study I lead tomorrow, didn’t feel like I needed to touch base with a half-dozen friends and acquaintances going through tough times, didn’t have two art commissions to paint.

I won’t do all those things tonight.

But I could.

Don’t get me wrong: I love those things and I love my full life and I love being called to do the work of the Kingdom and seeing that Kingdom-work all around me in each poem written, each banner handlettered, each text sent, each chapter of the Bible pondered and discussed.

I love it.

But sometimes I just want to put on my PJs and snuggle up next to your dad and watch Madam Secretary.

And ignore all the things.

And sometimes, girls? Sometimes I do.

Love,

Your Momma

The Thirty-First Letter: I Am Enough

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Dear Daughters,

Sometimes when I’m putting on my makeup in the morning, you ask me about why I do it and why you can’t, and I say it’s a grown-up thing, and then you ask why Daddy doesn’t ever put makeup on, and I’m suddenly confronted with these vast and complex webs of gender and feminism, and feeling the weight of every sociology class I’ve ever taken, I bumble around more than I like and don’t give you good answers.

There aren’t good answers.

It’s tricky to suggest that the makeup makes me prettier or more put together or whatever ridiculous social construct is motivating me to do it, while at the same time emphasizing that you are so stunning, my beautiful girls, so stunning without it. And I’m not even someone who wears a lot of makeup–certainly not every day. It’s easy for me to leave the house without makeup on and not think twice about it.

But I hear you ask why I wear make-up, and I’m torn. If I believe you are gorgeous without it, why not live like I believe I’m gorgeous without it?

Another example: You’ve asked about why I pluck my eyebrows. Because they’re beastly, I want to say.

But I don’t say it. I don’t want you to hear me voice dissatisfaction with myself. (I get the irony here. Ideally there wouldn’t be dissatisfaction with myself.) And yet I tweeze tweeze tweeze to avoid the unibrow. Our genetics are against us, girls.

When we talk about my squishy belly, I pretend to not care that it’s there, to keep you from hearing my inner thoughts, and instead talk about how I carried you inside my belly for many months. I want to help you to see that all bodies are amazing and beautiful. My body is amazing. Your body is amazing.

All bodies are.

Squishy bellies and all.

A friend of mine asked me to take a picture of myself last week with “I am enough” written on my hand, so she could compile a series of photos to raise awareness for Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It was a worthy cause, and an important message on so many levels, so of course I did.

But, well, see, she asked in the morning. While I was in my pajamas. With bedhead. And no makeup on. Actually, I did have makeup on because I hadn’t washed my face from the day before, but I hadn’t brushed my teeth. I wasn’t really feeling like “enough” at the moment.

But then I realized that was the point. So I took the picture.

What does it mean to be enough? To believe that I am enough? That I’m enough of a mom. I’m beautiful just the way I am. That I’m complete. That striving for more isn’t necessary. Maybe all of these things. And a million other things.

I think the point is that there isn’t reason to be dissatisfied. There should be a wholeness to my existence, not a comparison with others or with my former self or future self. Do I live like I’m enough?

I’m not completely sure what that means.

I kept thinking about it throughout the day and then at some point in the afternoon, when I looked back at the picture, I didn’t see my bedhead and unbrushed teeth. I saw those words on my hand.

I AM enough.

I AM.

Maybe because I had inexplicably capitalized them when printing with the Sharpie on my hand, I suddenly heard the echoes of scripture.

I AM.

That’s what God says when Moses asks God who God is. I AM.

A present-tense, living God.

Jesus says I AM the bread of life. I AM the light of the world. The gate. The good shepherd. The resurrection and the life. The way, the truth, and the life. The vine. I AM. I AM. I AM.

I AM enough.

It’s a big statement.

I am enough, for sure. Fearfully and wonderfully made, the psalmist says.

But it’s not about me. My life’s not about me. Your life isn’t about you either.

The world will tell you differently. You’ll be told you’re the center of the universe and you should do what makes you feel awesome, but at the same time it will bombard you with messages telling you that you aren’t worthy, that you aren’t complete, that you aren’t enough. You’ll wonder sometimes about your looks, you’ll compare yourself to your friends, to celebrities, to your enemies. I can’t even imagine what the world of social media will look like in ten, twenty years. But I know that you’ll be challenged and nudged and prodded and made to feel less than fearfully and wonderfully made. So much less.

But girls, listen to me.

You are beautiful. You are strong. You are courageous, gifted, intelligent. You are loved and you will love. You are called. You have the image of God in you. You will create and redeem and sustain. This I know.

You are part of something bigger.

And that’s what makes you enough.

I want you to know it. I want you to feel it. I want you to believe it. I want you to live it.

You are enough, girls.

More than enough.

Love, 

Your Momma