“It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life that ultimately nourish our souls. It’s knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is firm.” -Fred Rogers
I’ve gone on ad nauseum about how I love Elizabeth Gilbert and TED. So obviously I love them together. In this talk she describes creativity/inspiration in a way that many other writers that I admire have: as a gift given by God.
One of my favorite books is Walking on Water by Madeline L’engle. In the book she described writing as her vocation: her calling from God. She felt that it was her job to write everyday and do her best. In her opinion it was God’s job if he chose to speak through her. Elizabeth Gilbert describes writing the same way on her website, saying that her commitment to be a writer was as sacred as any wedding vow. She feels that she cannot guarantee that what she writes will touch people, she can only promise to write. Right now I’m also reading a book from Anne Lammott that describes writing in a very similar way.
All three women are writers who I highly admire. All three describe feeling that their calling was to write but that bursts of greatness were a blessing for which they were the conduits not the source.
Although I’m just learning to write I totally get it. I am not an accomplished writer by any stretch of the imagination but I try to post everyday in the hopes that occasionally something worthwhile will emerge. And like them I feel like I have little control. When I write a good post I know it is good even before people tell me. I know it that way you do when you nail a test, or hit the high note, pirouette with perfect balance or stick the landing off the pommel horse. It just feels right! Unfortunately for me (and you my dear readers!) I have little control over when that happens or not… sometimes I blog stuff knowing that it’s not good but I’m unable to make it better. This terribly wounds the perfectionist in me, so I have to tell myself over and over again: Just like all of life, the commitment is to try your best everyday, the rest is up to God.
Description from TED: TED Talks Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
My favorite charity is the International Justice Mission. They free slaves. Literally. They free slaves and prosecute slave-holders in order to bring them to justice. When I was a Senior in college I heard the Intl. Justice Mission’s founder speak at the Urbana 2000 Conference and I have never forgotten his story. For me it defines the Christian life and calling. You can check it out here:
http://www.urbana.org/archives/2000/30th-pm - Click on the Gary Haugen link.
Of course I want to be clear that I’m not under the impression that bringing light into dark places and fighting slavery is the sole territory of Christians. We all need to work against evil in the world and if you are a person who does not believe that slavery should be eradicated get the frak away from my blog!
Check out the IJM’s work at their website www.ijm.org or check out the video below for more info on what they do.
Okay, remember how I was waxing philosophical about parenting being full of HIGH HIGHS and LOW LOWS. Well let me elaborate further on that statement. Specifically the LOW LOWS part. I’ve been a mother for about oh 2 months now and I have to confess that I’m learning real slow-like and for me sometimes the lows are bleakly overwhelming.
Elian is in the stage where he is learning how to talk to express his needs instead of crying like babies do… you know the stage where they are able to kind of control their screaming but not all the time. So sometimes everything goes real smooth and sometimes he just throws himself down on the floor and screams and screams and screams some more. I’m sure the whole “getting new parents and moving to a new country” situation isn’t any help either.
I’ll emphasize that in general he is a very good little boy but I am a new Mom and the screaming, well it gets to me. And I get frustrated and then sometimes it’s just not so good. And then we’re both yelling and it’s terrible… and anyways, sometimes it all builds up and you have to leave the house to get away and visit your friends and sob hysterically about how you have no patience and you are so frustrated and you are pretty sure you’ll never be a good Mom. You will wail hysterically that you’ve already messed up your little dinosaur for life and cry and cry and cry some more. And then your friends will comfort you and they won’t object at all when you ask them to give you a beer and a silly straw to drink it with.. and…. well this whole scenario is only hypothetical right? I wish.
And because your friends are the best somehow fresh tortillas and girl scout cookies will magically appear. Then they will assure you that you are free to cry whenever you want and are incredibly understanding of your temporarily ruining the nice get-together with your small mental breakdown.
Then to top it all off they will dose you good with re-runs of So You Think You Can Dance and you will return home calmer, happier and assured that your child has not already been ruined by your lack of parenting skill. When you get home you will thank your husband for watching the baby while you ate girl scout cookies and cried and thank you mother-in-law for letting the baby sleep in her room for the night.
The next morning you will wake up and realize that things have to change. That you cannot teach your child not to yell by yelling at him. You will awake with a clear head and a semblance of common sense. You will remember that last year you traveled for two weeks in Panama with your adored and much-admired older cousin and her two small children. You will marvel at the fact that you do not remember her yelling at them even once. Not ONE time! And you thank God for the small hope that maybe somehow you share the same genes and will be able to become a more patient person. And then since you are talking to God anyways you remember about Ash Wednesday and that you haven’t really decided what to do for Lent yet. And then all of those events: the silly straw, the girl scout cookies, the trip to Panama, the Ash Wednesday miracle, and lent itself lead you to one inevitable conclusion. It’s the time to ask God to change you in ways that seem impossible. It’s the time to believe in miracles, grow closer to God and become a better person. Lent is the time to renew your life and live the gospel. It’s the time to remember that you believe in love beyond anyone’s understanding and that everyday is a new beginning.
So here we go:
40 days of staying calm and not yelling.
I might fail some but I hope at the end to be a better Mom. I will need God and I will need you. Be my cheerleaders blog friends!
Let me be clear by first saying that I dearly love my little boy. I say this just to head off the criticism because now I’m going to complain a bit about being a parent. You can’t stop me: it’s my blog! Now, let’s get on with it…
The thing about being a parent is that it’s very intense. The highs are VERY high and the lows are VERY low. And now that we are back from our “vacation” in Bogotá its sinking in even more that our life has changed permanently. And while I would never want to go backwards it doesn’t mean I don’t miss the freedom we used to have. To go to the bathroom in peace or make it through the day without having a little one scream, shout, scream. Or to be able to eat at a restaurant without wondering when the peaceful, good table manners are going to run out. Etc. Etc. You all know the drill: parenting=life is now dedicated to your child’s needs.
Among the things I miss are being able to go to church. Sure we could go to church and leave him in the nursery but I just don’t think that’s a good idea: It’s scary for him to be with strangers. So we have to go in shifts because Elian absolutely cannot be quiet for more than 15 minutes and Carmen needs to go to church in Spanish. Sometimes my shift gets dropped and it’s a bummer.
Blah, blah, blah. Complain, complain. Get to the point already!
Last week was Ash Wednesday and we were in a pickle. Arnold had a meeting and couldn’t take Carmen to church. Which is how I ended up taking both Carmen and Elian to St. Francis at 6:30 pm on Wednesday night. 6:30 =time of day when Elian is crazy grumpy/tired. I was ready for a terrible night of wrangling a tired, screaming toddler and a confused non-English speaking mother-in-law. I was feeling kind of sorry for myself. Poor me! Can’t even go to church. Such suffering!
Shockingly though… Elian was a complete and total angel. He was quiet the ENTIRE SERVICE. And by quiet I mean he was quietly climbing the walls and burrowing through the legs of complete strangers, but still he was SILENT as a church mouse! It was an Ash Wednesday miracle! He even calmly walked with me to the front of the church and didn’t scream at the lady who applied his ashes. It was the best moment of our week!
I can’t imagine a better Ash Wednesday service than the one I spent sitting on the floor in the back of St. Francis playing with my blessedly quiet son. And I guess that’s the thing about being a parent. Just when you are expecting a disaster you receive an unexpected gift. A giggle when you are expecting a tantrum. A hug that comes out of nowhere. A little person’s hands on your face babbling softly in your ear. And ashes to remind you that life is fleeting so it’s important to cherish each moment and live it well.