what I wish I'd known when I was raising toddlers (the first time)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

This is my crew. My first two are eighteen months apart, my second two are twenty-one months apart. Right now, I'm raising my second round of toddlers. As I'm chasing my current little ones, I often think back to the first time I had two toddlers - balancing one on a public potty while holding the other away from the toilet with one arm, scanning a playground for two little heads at all times, the exhausted whiney late afternoon hours, the intense bedtime routines, the way I was forever searching for sippy cups and helping with shoes. The fight for my
lap during story time. The fighting, period (that part doesn't really change). Nurturing little ones close in age is an intense experience. And - thanks be to God - I get to do it all again.

when it's time to talk - even if you're uncomfortable (a guest post by Tyler Francke)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sometimes, you meet someone and know right away they're your kind of people. That was how I felt when I discovered Tyler Francke recently. One article, and I was hooked. His words seemed thought-out, thoughtful, and gentle. My impression is that he's not the loudest voice in the room, but when he speaks, you won't want to miss it.

So I was thrilled when Tyler agreed to share a few of his thoughts here. If you, like me, hear his voice and know right away Tyler is your kind of people too, check out his new book, Reoriented, here.

Meet Tyler Francke.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have a friend who works as an admissions counselor for a Christian college, which, as I understand it, means that he pretty much talks to pastors for a living.

Ok, that's an oversimplification, I admit. He also talk to prospective students, in addition to the pastors.

Anyway, as you might expect, the pastors he meets with have all kinds of questions about the college's positions on a wide variety of doctrinal issues: predestination vs. free will, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, continuationism vs. cessationism, Coke vs. Pepsi, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. (Like most biblically based institutions of higher learning, my friend's school is pro-Lautner all the way.)

Being theologically grilled on a regular basis sounds to me like only slightly more fun than being a proofreader for scripts of new Spongebob Squarepants episodes, but my friend enjoys the discussions. There's just one question he doesn't like.

"I hate it when they ask me about homosexuality," he told me recently. "It's just hard to explain my position, and I'm so afraid I'll say the wrong thing. I just hate that question.

what we talk about, when we talk about social media

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2 pm, and not one kid was resting.

My exhausted little girl would have fallen asleep, but her brothers kept meandering through the room, asking for snacks and nipping at each other the way puppies and brothers do. I can't begin to guess why my baby boy was awake. Maybe he was overtired, maybe he's cutting a tooth, maybe there was a full moon. For him, sleep is always mysterious and delicate. And yesterday, it didn't happen.

Hell hath no fury like a mom without a nap time.

Are you sitting down?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Because Huffington Post just published my article.

"The truth is, none of us knows who our kids will grow up to be. Mine sing worship tunes, recite prayers and quote Scripture from memory often. They also still use the same slang as their Grandpa and pretend the milk in their mug is coffee, just like mine. Children are hardwired for imitation, and they naturally want to please their parents. My children mean every prayer they utter. They also mean it when they cry in despair because they are too tired to brush their teeth. It's not that their faith isn't real. It is. But it is too immature to be held out for the world to see. "

Click here to read the rest.

I never ask this, but if you follow A Wide Mercy and the article resonates with you, would you mind sharing it in your circles or leaving a comment? The thing is, HuffPost Parents publishes a ton of articles in a day. The ones that pass through our news feeds are only featured after they have already gained traction. So unless we share it first, nobody else will see it. If not, it's okay. We can still be friends. But if you're comfortable sharing it, I would be so grateful.

If you are here for the first time from Huffington Post, welcome! I'm so glad you stopped by. You may be interested in what I think kids really need, or what happened when the police showed up on my doorstep recently. If you connect with what you read, I would love for you to join our email list by contacting me the old fashioned way: shoot an email to awidemercy at gmail dot com, and let me know. You can also follow on Facebook or Twitter (though I'm a novice at Twitter - you've been warned).  So glad you're here.

ACK! Huffington Post!

on vulnerability, connection, and that time the police came to my door

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This thing we do - writing and reading blogs, emailing one another, talking over social media, the whole thing - is really about connection.  I don't write to build a career, I don't write to be heard.  I write because years ago, I was barely getting through the day. I was miserable, trapped, and I couldn't see my way through. Until one afternoon when I stood in my kitchen for almost an hour, reading the same blog post over and over. Someone had been where I was. I couldn't get over it.

Words became my lifeline. For the next year, blogs, emails, and articles were the bread crumbs that led me away from anxiety and fear and toward an entirely different way of life. Now, I write. I write because somewhere there is a woman standing in a kitchen, feeling the way I once did. Freely I received, freely I will give.

But connection doesn't just develop online. It also happens on back porches and in coffee shops, over phone calls and play groups. Everything in us longs to be a part of a whole. We look for it in
churches, in our families, in our friendships, with our kids. No matter where you are in life, the endgame for all of us is to build meaningful connections.

What I didn't realize until I started writing, though, is that real connection requires vulnerability. I can't connect to my neighbors or friends if I don't share my life with them, and if they don't do the same with me. I can't connect to the woman in the kitchen if I'm not willing to share my story - my real story, the way things actually happened, and not just the way I wish they'd happened - here.  Intimacy necessarily means exposure. It means honesty and compassion and valuing the person in front of you more than any philosophy or religious conviction. Connecting with others happens when we look, really look, at another person, and recognize the image of God.

But not everyone is safe. Not everyone wants to connect or values vulnerability. Sometimes you reveal the thing you love most in the world, the idea or passion or person you once tucked close to your chest, and they stare back numbly. Crickets. Or worse, you offer a sacred piece of yourself, and they point out where you went wrong.

And all at once I feel like Donkey in Shrek, skittering across a rope bridge as it sways over a bottomless inferno. Shrek essentially tricks Donkey into crossing the bridge, then tells him not to look down. Partway across the bridge Donkey loses his nerve and starts screeching, "I'm looking DOWN, Shrek! I'm looking down!"

That is exactly how I felt when the cop rang my doorbell last week.

My Colorado neighborhood is very different from my neighborhood in the Deep South. Almost no one here has air conditioning, which means in the warmer months, there isn't much privacy. Windows are open, people are outside more than in, and lives start to intertwine. I hear a mother soothe her disabled child late into the night.  I hear the fussy baby in the backyard behind ours. The family that lives five houses down? I can't quite piece together how they are all related, but they have kind faces, and my children love to play with their dog in the front yard. Summers in Colorado build both vulnerability and connection into daily life.

I'm outside every single day. I'm with my kids more or less every daylight hour. So I was floored when the officer said someone called about my daughter. My daughter is three years old. What could she possibly have done to garner the police's attention?

"One of your neighbors called because she was worried," the officer said. "They saw her riding her bike in the road without any clothes on, and they were afraid of who might ride by and what could happen to her."

It's true. Lately my little girl has been pushing boundaries, and following her brothers down to the cul-de-sac where most of their friends live. Like most three-year-olds, she is also flippant about clothing. Yes - my entire street has seen her streaking behind her brothers on her little bike. But if they have seen her, they have also seen me. Standing in the middle of the street to make sure cars slow down until she is safe, calling her name over and over, bringing her back to our yard and reminding her that three-year-olds are not allowed out front alone. They have heard her cry, "I'm not three! I'm five and I can ride with brothers to see friends!" and they have heard me say, "No, honey. Not yet."

Our street has certainly seen her in all of her glory. They have also seen me parenting, in all of mine.

I assured the police officer I am watching her closely, and I will make sure she doesn't go outside without clothes on again. The officer was clearly uncomfortable with the conversation. Relieved, she quickly left.

All at once, I was looking down too. After the officer left I looked down and around, wondering which neighbor had made the call. I have devoted my life to honesty and connection, and I hold sacred the vulnerable moments I observe in my neighborhood. But someone did not feel the same way about me. They were watching my family life unfold, and they didn't like what they saw.

At first, I wanted to retreat. Close the blinds, keep the kids inside, tell no one. Hide. If a neighbor was concerned, why didn't they come to me? Better yet, why didn't they help shoo my meandering girl home? Goodness knows I could use a hand most of the time. If they feared for her safety, there were many opportunities to voice their concern to me. Why call the cops? And if they weren't willing to connect with me, why should I continue to be so transparent with them?

Because as a society we are disconnected. We fight so hard for connections because they are not an intuitive part of our daily life. We search out deeper relationships, we choose vulnerability, we keep doing this hard thing because without the deliberate act we will stay isolated - staring at one another from behind our screens, our blinds, our pews. Staring at each other day after day, but never looking for glimpses of the image of God.

I wanted to pull away. But if I do, I lose a part of who I am. I lose the freedom and hope that connections bring into my life. I remember when I was that woman in the kitchen, and I don't want to be her again. I don't want to be isolated and put together. I want to be transparent - whether that's here, on the blog, or standing in my yard, chasing a naked toddler. I want to be vulnerable. I could pull back to where I'm always safe, and no police officer ever rings my doorbell again. But if I do, I give up who I am.

This week I have practiced not looking down. Instead, I keep looking up and around. I've reminded myself how much I love this way of life. I've remembered the value of connections, and why it's worth it to pour out my life to the wide wide world. Not everyone is safe, not everyone values connections the way I do. But how they act does not determine who I am.  As for me and my house, we would rather be vulnerable and connected than safe and alone.

If you would like to leave a comment and blogger is acting squirrelly, please feel free to email me at awidemercy at gmail dot com.  I love to hear your thoughts!  Speaking of emailing, if you haven't already done so, please sign up to receive a weekly email of new posts from A Wide Mercy.  Facebook is iffy, I'm still a novice at Twitter, and I don't want anyone left behind!

I just want to talk for a while.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Creative Commons - Kevin Dooley
A few weeks ago I read a story with a beautiful sentiment:  I just want to talk for a while. I hear that phrase and I ache with understanding. Isn't that all any of us wants?  To listen and be heard?  To know and be known?

As much as I love stories, the ones I most need to tell often stay silent in my gut. I know I'm not alone in this. We all do it. It's not that I'm ashamed of them, it's that I don't have a resolution.  How can I tell a story if I don't know how it ends? The relationships are still happening, the questions are still unanswered. They aren't going to be resolved in an 800 word essay or a two hour meal.  By now, they are woven so deeply into the fabric of my life, they are part of who I am. When someone asks, "How's that going?" My response is always, "It's okay."  What else is there to say?

Some things stare us in the face and defy resolution. In those moments, we just need to talk awhile.

when you ask for grace, and get a house instead

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Creative Commons: Franco Folini
Friday evening. I've just served plates and the house is in that brief lull of quiet chewing. My doorbell rings, and it's my landlord.  He looks stressed. "I have a problem," he says. "The bank foreclosed on my daughter's house today. I hate to do this to you, but I've got to give you thirty days notice. I'm going to need this house for her."

It takes me a minute to comprehend what he's saying. My first thought is, can he do that? But my landlord is a good man and I already know I won't push back. I feel like a cartoon character hanging in mid-air just before he plummets. We'd planned on staying another year, at least.  As he's talking all I can think is, I don't want to leave our neighborhood. I can leave this house, but please let me stay in my neighborhood.

The next morning my family hits the pavement. The market in Denver is insane right now.  Houses are sold or rented in hours. Many never even officially go onto the market, and instead change hands by word of mouth. We decide our best chance is to talk to every person in our neighborhood.


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