Love and Struggle With Carrie Underwood and Mister Rogers

Leaving Uganda is always bittersweet. I know how fortunate I am to feel at home in two such distinctly different places in the world, I know what a rare gift that is. This trip has been unlike any other, all of our projects going smoothly or taking unexpected turns for the better. My husband likes to remind me that it’s ok, good even, that things went so smoothly.

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For me the biggest challenge has been balancing being a mother, being a daughter, and being true to the beliefs we hold dear within Vigilante Kindness. It was a tightrope walk for me. My prayers were often petitions for grace and wisdom and strength and understanding. My actual prayers were not that eloquent. They were more like, “I’m out of ideas here, God. Can you let me in on the plan?” Or “God, remind me to be kind. Help me understand.” I prayed that one a lot. But do you want to know the prayer I prayed the most? I hope you find this as funny as I do. I’m not even a country music fan, yet over and over again I prayed-and I wish I were making this up-I prayed, “Jesus, take the wheel.” I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true.

There were times on this trip where I was bad at being a mom, bad at being a daughter, or bad at figuring out where to go next with VK. Sometimes I was bad at all three at once and I’d take a quiet moment, most times while I was washing my clothes in the shower, because there’s something about water that makes me think, and I’d say out loud, “Jesus, take the wheel.” Then I’d throw my soapy hands up in the air like I was releasing a steering wheel. No joke.

I’m new to this mothering thing and this year I got to know my boys better, got to see some of their less desirable qualities. They also got to know me better and I’m sure saw some of my less desirable qualities, too. Mix that in a bowl with my shortcomings as a daughter and two cultures that often operate in opposite directions than one another and you’ve got a big lump of mess.

A big beautiful mess.

But over and over again we chose to love each other, to navigate our differences, our disagreements, to build bridges across the chasms created by our cultures.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote from Mister Rogers about how the verb love is an active verb, like the verb struggle. Love is a choice we make over and over again. And to love someone as they are in this very moment, perhaps in an ugly mess of a moment, when love is the last thing you want to speak, and yet you dislodge loving words from your throat and speak them anyway, that is love.

I don’t know about you, but isn’t that great news, that in the throes of difficulty we can choose to love? Better yet, in tantrums of our own worst selves, we have people who choose the struggle, choose to love us. Best of all, God chooses every day to love our imperfect, praying in the shower selves.

Moms out there, I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t. This motherhood thing isn’t for sissies. Maybe you’re like me, and you and your kid are unveiling the vulnerable and sometimes messy sides of yourselves. Maybe you aren’t bridging the cultural gaps we’re traversing, but maybe your kid is residing in the very foreign land of Teenager and you aren’t finding common ground. You’re not alone.

In the moments when you’re on empty, borrow Mister Rogers’ words. Choose to struggle for love, choose to struggle in love, choose love. And in the moments when all you can do is throw up your soapy hands and give up the wheel, Carrie Underwood and I are here for you, too.

Bike Love, Part 2

This weekend I was a smidge under the weather.  I spent the bulk of my time moaning on the couch.  In between moaning and writhing in pain, I read about riding.  And drooled over pretty cycling jerseys.  And best of all, I ogled bikes.  Ogling bikes reminded me of a pile of bike photos I’ve been collecting since February.  I give you Bike Love, Part 2.

I love cycling because…

When I’m on my bike, I feel like a kid again.

On rare occasions, I feel like I can fly.

Image from ratrodbikes.com

Pedaling for all I’m worth lights a fire in my belly.

Image from utilitycycling.org

I’m reminded that being stripped down to the bone can be the first step in building something beautiful.

Image from instructables.com

I find that my load isn’t as heavy as it seems.

I ride in the company of some of the greatest people on the planet.

Image from hypebeast.com

My trusty steed is always ready for adventure.

I’ve fallen down, but it’s the getting back up that I remember most.

When I feel hollowed out, riding fills me back up.

My bike gives me a place to grieve without shame.

At the end of each ride, I get to come home to the one I love.

Image from junemeadow.com

When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I fall asleep content with the mark I’ve left on the day.

More Than Love

My blogger friend, Hippie, has this cool collaborative blogging exercise going on as part of her Algonquin Experiment.  It involves Hippie posing a question and people responding on their own blogs.

So this is the question she posed:  What do you love more than love?

I thought of a thousand answers.  God.  But that one’s sort of obvious.  Cycling.  Obvious squared.  Ice cream.  Sadly, also very apparent.  Writing.  Same.  My friends.  But everyone loves their friends.  My little ones.  But I’ve written about them ad nauseam as of late.  My husband.  (A fact I should probably mention to him more often.)  All of my answers were so generic.

Except one.

The thing I love more than love is being on the other side of it.

Huh?

Sure love is great when it’s new and shiny, when your beloved can do no wrong.  And after a few years when the sheen wears off a little bit and you settle into the day to day acts of love, mmmm, that comfortable love is good, too.

But sometimes love unravels, frays at the edges and begins to fall apart in the very hands that made it.

I’ve been in this stage of love, too.  When love was painful work, when it was all we could do to hang onto each other and pray.  A lot.  This isn’t the kind of glass slipper love that fairy tales are made of.  It’s not pretty.  It is devastatingly hard, so much so that for me, heartache was actually physically painful.

But we chose to press into God, to hold onto the frayed pieces.  We chose to love when it wasn’t the easy choice.  And that’s what I mean by the other side of love.

So the thing I love more than love is love that has been worn thin.  Love that has broken into shards.  Love that has taken on water fast and is listing badly.  You might be thinking that’s a bit of a metaphor overload.  If so, to you I say count your blessings.  Others know with painful precision what I’m talking about.  You, dear ones, know that it’s possible to be frayed, shattered, and sinking all at once.

I can only hope that you also know about the love that comes out on the other side of all that pain. This love is scarred.  And fierce.  And secure.  And more wonderful than anything I could have ever imagined.  This is the love I have in my life.  I thank God for it every single day.

You know, I wish fairy tales did talk about this kind of love because I can say with assurance that this is the kind of love that creates a happily ever after.

Thankful Thursday #12

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the little boy in my class who used his own money to buy valentines for the class
  • the windmills on Hatchett Ridge at night, all lit up in red lights like a valentine just for me
  • texts from my hubby just to say he loves me
  • realizing I haven’t driven my car for a couple of days because I’ve walked to all my destinations
  • waking up to the sound of rain
  • days when the rain stops just in time to walk to work and stops again for my walk home
  • weekends when my hubby starts the laundry
  • waking up and realizing it was only a dream and I did not, in fact, go to school in my pajamas
  • riding with the top down with my hubby while he sings along to Ray LaMontagne’s “Hold You In My Arms”

A Smattering of Thank You Notes

Dear Curtain Rod in my Bathroom,

Thank you for falling on my head when I had my arms full of laundry and was defenseless against your attack.  And thank you for doing it just as I was trying to move myself up a number or two on the Valentine’s Day scale of attractiveness.  My head was getting a little too big and big heads just aren’t attractive.  (For the record, big heads with bumps aren’t that pretty either.)

Sincerely,

The Girl Seeing Stars

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Dear Hammer,

Thank you for smashing my thumb into oblivion when I was putting the curtain rod back up.  It took my mind off my throbbing head.

Fondly,

The Girl Typing With Nine Fingers

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Dear Papa Murphy’s Take n’ Bake,

Thank you for making heart-shaped pizzas for girls like me who should never, ever, ever be allowed near the oven.  It was nice to give my special someone something edible for a change.

With love,

Me, My Hubby and Our Full Bellies

Little Love Poems

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Maybe today is your favorite day of the year and you’re surrounded by chocolates and roses.

Maybe you’re spending today in your own good company, but you wish you could just pull the covers over your head and stay in bed until February 15th shows its face.

No matter what today looks like for you, I hope you find a way to show someone you care about that they’re loved.

And to get you in the mood, here are a few love poems written by my little ones.

Here’s one a little girl wrote for her mommy.

Marshmallow Hugs

Mom, you are as beautiful as a rose!

Your hugs feel like soft, soft marshmallows.

I love you more than the moonlight.

XOXO

I love you, Mom!

And a couple for sisters and brothers.

My Love Poem

You are as sweet as a rose.

I love you so much more than my dog.

Dear Brother,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

You are kind.

You are sweet as sugar.

I like you because you share with me and you help me read.

Last, but not least, here is my favorite poem written by a little boy to his dad.

My Love Poem

Your love is soft like a soft cloud.

I love you to the ocean.

You are handsome like a tiger.

I love you with joy.

I am so using that tiger line on my hubby tonight.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Songs

I’m a sucker for a good love song.  Love songs for your best beloved.  Love songs for your friends.  Love songs for your home.  Love songs for God.  I can’t get enough.  I just can’t help myself.  Here are a few I listen to over and over again.

“First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes is a happy tune, the perfect driving song.  So, crank the windows down, grab the hand of a loved one and get ready to be giddy.  My two favorite lines are: “This is the first day of my life, swear I was born right in the door way.”  and “These things take forever, I especially am slow.”  You and me both.

“Have I Told You Lately?” by Van Morrison is a song I’ve loved for gazillions of years and will love for gazillions more.  I’m swooning just thinking of this song.  And the line that makes my heart do a little dance?  “For the morning sun in all its glory greets the day with hope and comfort, too.”  What a way to start the day, filled with hope and comfort.  Go listen to this one right now.  I will, too, and then we’ll meet back here, ok?

“Falling Slowly” by The Frames isn’t a happy-go-lucky kind of love song.  At all.  But for me it’s so tender in the wanting, wanting to pick up the broken pieces of a worn out, worn down, tattered love that’s worth saving.  The line that strikes me most is “Take this sinking boat and point it home, we’ve still got time.”

Next up is “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham.  I saw him in concert, and if you can fathom it, his voice is even more pure in person.  Hard to believe, I know.  I love how big this song feels, how he sings about all the things in nature that remind him of God.  My favorite line is not the most complex line in the song, but the simplicity of it moves me.  “I see Your face.  You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful.”

You’re going to make fun of me for this next one, but I don’t care.  “Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan is on my love song playlist.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that I will give my right arm for ice cream.  And if it’s Slow Churned Moosetracks, I’ll give you my left arm, too.  Although it would be really hard to eat ice cream without any arms.  I digress.  When Sarah sings the line “Your love is better than ice cream, better than anything else that I’ve tried.”, I’m amazed because she gets it-she gets how much I love ice cream and how much I love my hubby.  I prefer the live version of this one because it seems like the audience is having so much fun singing along.

“Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers might seem like an odd choice to be on a list of love songs, but love takes many forms.  It’s got this great bluesy feel and when Bill Withers sings the line “Grandma’s hands used to clap in church on Sunday mornings.” I can picture my own grandmother’s hands clapping along to all those Baptist hymns.  And the last line “When I get to heaven, I’ll look for Grandma’s hands”, well, that one is so true, so raw that it leaves me aching for that day.

Friends, Peter Gabriel could sing the phonebook and I’d be smitten, so it’s no surprise that “In Your Eyes” is a favorite.  Right, ladies?  I don’t even mind that it’s riddled with 80’s synthesizer.  That’s how good this song is.  In fact, I don’t even have a favorite line in this song because the whole thing is all kinds of delicious.  Not to mention the added imagery of John Cusack standing outside the house with his boombox held overhead.  I love being a child of the 80’s.

“Close Your Eyes” by Jump, Little Children is another non-traditional love song.  It’s such a tender song from a father to his child.  It’s the lullaby that keeps me company in the wee hours of the morning when sleep is elusive.  The second best line is “Tell me the stars are made of tin and that they’re banging on the roof.”  Man, I wish I could write like that.  And the reassurance that “The sun will rise and keep your mind at ease.”, that one makes me yawn, close my eyes and relax back into the soft arms of a dream. Sadly there aren’t many videos out there of this song.  The one I linked to is the best one out there and it doesn’t even begin to do the song justice.  This one deserves a listen in iTunes.

And finally, finally here is my absolute favorite love song, “How He Loves” by David Crowder Band.  It expresses perfectly how in awe I am at the depth of God’s love.  I get chill bumps every time I hear it and when we sing it in church, I can barely choke back the sobs that bob in my throat.  My favorite line is “Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us.”  Love that leaves no time, no space for to wallow in regrets?  Yes and amen.

Now it’s your turn.  What love songs do I need to add to my playlist?