Mary Poppins

I have to write about something.

How many blog posts have started out that way? This is my heart’s cry: write, write, write.

And this is going to be messy because it’s more of a jot than well-planned thesis. But I do have a point, so just hang on. We’ll get there eventually.

I can’t be Mary Poppins.

Here is what I don’t mean: I do not mean that I can’t have my life “together”. I don’t mean that I am not capable of managing my days or the days of my littles. I’m not adverse to a little sarcasm when appropriate. I don’t mean that I can’t have a magic carpet bag or a lovely hat. I certainly have no issue with owning an umbrella that can fly me to the rooftop of a family in need.

Here is what I do mean: There is a lure in that phrase “practically perfect in every way” (this is how Mary Poppins and her magic measuring tape describe her). Do you know what a lure is? I’m not a fisherman but knowing exactly what a “lure” is seems beneficial here. A lure is something that looks pretty (and tasty!) but hidden inside is the means by which one is caught, and eventually killed. It looks oh-so-nice to be “practically perfect”. I look at Mary Poppins and my eyes are caught by her unflappable, compassionate (but also no-nonsense), purposeful demeanor. I desire that for myself. I want to be industrious and resourceful and strong.

I want these things because I don’t want to need anybody.

Mary Poppins doesn’t need anybody. That is the snare for me. There is not a thing wrong with perfection; God calls us to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt 5:48, 1 Peter 1:15). In my current culture, I see a bit too much of a pendulum swing against the “plastic” idea of perfection that we’ve started to give hearty approval to laziness and incompetence. We talk about the Proverbs 31 woman as if “getting up before dawn” has to mean something other than getting up before dawn, because — well, doesn’t God want us to be well-rested?

Oh boy I’m getting off topic.

My point is, the lure of Mary Poppins isn’t the perfection; it’s the self-sufficiency. And anybody who has walked with God more than a second knows that self-sufficiency is the oldest, ugliest sin. Eve wasn’t tempted to go off and murder anybody or even talk bad about her husband (what kind of woman is this!!); she was tempted by the thought that she could be like God, knowing good and evil. There are many ways in which we are called to be like our Creator, but clear and definite ways in which He alone is to be — omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign . . . self-sufficient.

When I attempt to be like God in His self-sufficiency, I become a traitor. God is not threatened by my attempts to usurp His throne, but those attempts are not winked at or brushed off. Like when our child decides he’s a big boy and can cook on the stove when he can’t even see over it, so am I when I try to do things in my own strength. God will not stand for this, not because He is threatened, but because He knows what danger awaits me.

Mary Poppins would have me believing that I can do it all, do it well, and have only my own reflection to argue with me. The truth is, I need God. I need Him desperately. And in resting, trusting, believing, and walking with Him I find far greater purpose and meaning than I could ever find in years of self-improvement and progress and productivity. To Him be the glory. Amen.




The Cross Before Me

Did you know that if you google (that’s a verb now; may I never cease to be amazed) “Why do I feel like everyone is upset me with me?” that the first result is for the suicide prevention hotline? I find that sobering.

I’m just having one of those days where all the things I’ve said and done in error are bigger in my mind than the finished work of Jesus. I find this perspective even more sobering.

Father forgive me for my arrogance. Wretched worm that i am, who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Milky Thoughts

I’m ready to stop expressing breastmilk (affectionately referred to as “pumping” by most mamas) for my Pumpkinhead. He’s six months old as of December 23rd, so it’s technically “okay” by most pediatricians recommendation. I do know quite a few people who strive for those golden boobies (in researching I actually found out there are “awards” for more years as well; that’s not panic-inducing for a recovering . . . whatever, I don’t know the name for this particular neurosis). I would love to get all the badges, medals, whatever. But this time around, I’m being realistic.

Nursing, and pumping especially, take a lot out of me. I think nursing takes more from me in the beginning when baby and I are learning each other, but after that it’s the pumping that just drains the life out of me. It’s a constant interruption to my workday; it feels cold and procedure-like what with tubes and plastic and bodily fluids everywhere. That sounds gross — I can sorta see why people look away when they see a bottle of my breastmilk on my desk now. Ha.

Anyway, I’m writing because I want to just make a note of this: the decision to quit pumping is not easy and it’s not a sudden thing. I will be gradually increasing the duration between pumps until my body says, “Ohhh, so baby doesn’t need so much anymore? OK!” And I will see those precious ounces dwindle until I’m getting 2oz or less in a pumping session; and I will panic a little.

But it will be okay. He will be okay. It is going to be okay.

Old Wounds

There is a phrase that carries more weight with me than it should because it was first spoken to me by a person in authority:

No reason.

As in, “There is no reason for the toilet to be stained from not cleaning it”.

This has become the hammer I use to come down hard on myself. No reason. It goes along the same grain as there’s no excuse, it’s not that hard, why can’t I just.

And if you hear me say things like this, even if it seems light-hearted, those are warning lights. These phrases can seem like the words of someone motivated to improve. For me, they are no less than crushing weights.

And when people try to comfort or encourage me that it’s totally possible to do whatever it is that seems to loom above me like a insurmountable obstacle, what I hear is you are weak for feeling like this is hard; you’re a failure.

The truth is, all things are possible in Christ and nothing is possible apart from Him.

Old wounds be what they may, I do know the truth. I’m not really sure how to heal that wound or why it keeps opening up, but I believe that healing is possible and promised in Christ.

This is just me being real, guys. This is what I’ve been thinking about lately.

A common thread

If I could find a common thing among all my stupid emotional ramblings, it would be this deeply ingrained idea that nobody cares how I feel. It’s not a judgment on those who don’t care. It seems only reasonable to me that no one would care, because a like thought that frequents these stupid moments is that my feelings are not worth anyone’s time. Even my own.

Dunning-Kruger and Parenting

Several months ago I wrote a post that summed up my parenting style at the time very well:

A few months after writing that, a friend invited me to come along with her to a parenting class she wanted to take as she is preparing to adopt from foster care. She is single and the class required a partner. I’m still flattered she thought of me.

The class was nine weeks long. It was grounded in the work of Karen Purvis. I started reading The Connected Child and — Honestly? It seemed a little much like attachment style parenting. That “let’s all baby-wear and hold hands 24/7” hippie dippie crap. That came out a lot harsher than I really feel about it. I actually do like baby-wearing (although I really dislike the name of it; who wears people? Is this Silence of the Lambs?). It’s just that I just go a little bananas when I see parents abdicating their God-given authority over their children, which seems to go along with the attachment-style philosophy, in my very limited life experience and therefore humble opinion.

So I’m reading The Connected Child and vacillating between sighs of, “Well that’s just common sense” and “Well that’s just stupid.” I’m probably exaggerating a bit here for the point of the story. I like to do that. Just roll with it.

After I’ve read most of the The Connected Child, a bit of The Whole Brain Child, and some Parenting is Your Highest Calling, I go along with my friend to the first class. I leave shocked to find out how little people know about kids. That was my takeaway: people are idiots. I heard three families all give their own version of the same story: My child had a meltdown and I don’t know what on earth is wrong with him (or her). She shouldn’t get so upset over something so small. He should know better. She should understand that it’s unsafe. He shouldn’t need my help with that.

For an embarrassingly long number of classes, I would carpool home with my friend and I don’t know how many times I said in every conceivable manner, How can these people have kids and not know this? My wonderful friend listened and applauded my insight and congratulated my self-aware approach to parenting. Not once did she point out that I have a two year old and a four month old and no real experience. This is the kind of friend everyone should have. 10/10 recommend.

But somewhere along the line, as I kept reading these books and continued on with Nurturing Adoptions, The Out-of-Sync Child, and finally getting around to reading The Soul of Shame, something began to click.

I had a lot of built-in trust with Littlefoot just because I’d always been there for him, never let him go hungry or ignored, tried my best to make sure he had a stable routine. I wasn’t at risk of losing that trust by asserting my authority in ways that weren’t always empathetic or respectful. Before reading all these things and going to these classes, I saw obedience as a “win”. It didn’t matter to me if he was crying while he obeyed; he was doing what I asked and that was the goal.

My goal has changed dramatically as a parent, and I can’t even tell you when exactly this  happened. Sometime over the last nine weeks, I stopped seeing obedience as the goal. I stopped wanting to raise an obedient child; I started desiring most to raise a child who was secure in my love for him so that when God came calling for him, it wouldn’t be this huge leap of faith to accept this Heavenly Father who loved him when he was obedient, disobedient, or even apathetic.

The soil was ripe for this heart change, because looking back on the names we chose for our first versus our second son, it’s clear how our focus shifted. Love and I see names as our first gift to our child, and our personal blessing and hope for them. What we call them by every day, many times a day, we know they are more likely to become. So our firstborn child, we desired most for him to become a man of integrity and thus named him. But by the time we had a second child, we saw a greater blessing we could give, and so we named him after one who calls on the Lord from an early age. I joked with Love that by the time we hit the terrible twos we gave up on such lofty ideals of integrity and in exasperation just prayed our second would find the Lord early.

While it’s fun to joke that way, the truth is finding the Lord early is a greater blessing. But we bless with what we have, and we knew nothing better than integrity when Littlefoot was born. I still highly value integrity, but I know more now than I knew then that only the Lord can give this.

Only the Lord gives us anything good we find in our lives and in our hearts. So why did I think it was my job to teach my child to be obedient? The Lord will give the harvest; my job is to keep tending the soil. How do I do that? Listening, protecting, guiding, correcting.

If I could have a do-over of that night, I might have sat with Littlefoot for a minute, gave him some milk, let him calm down and tried again for putting away toys. I would not have gone straight to spanking when he refused to clean up. I would not have left him alone in his room, even for those few minutes. I would have (as I’ve done since) firmly placed him in a chair in the same room and picked up the majority of the toys for him, then asked him if he wanted to try picking up the rest of the toys himself. But my entire approach back then was set up in such a way that if I picked up any toys for him, I would be undermining my own authority with him. I was Mama Drill Sergeant.

I’m no longer Mama Drill Sergeant, and I no longer come to parenting armed with tricks and tips and a will of iron. I come to my child as a fellow human being who has been given the hugest honor and responsibility of being his mama.

The irony of the Dunning-Kruger effect is you can’t see where you are on it until you’ve passed the peak of “know-it-all”.

Image result for dunning kruger graph

As I post this I hope I’m past that peak.

What I do know, without a doubt, is that I ended up learning a lot more than I let on during those car rides. Thank you, V.