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.

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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.)


The Girl Seeing Stars


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.


The Girl Typing With Nine Fingers


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