Meal and Oil


I do not often like to write about the hard stuff when I am in the middle of it. I feel too close, too rattled, too raw. But, often, that is when I am at my most honest, just as I am sure it is for you. Part of the work of Christmas within me, I believe, is that very honesty. I am apt, often, to sweep my own difficulty under the rug, or at least shove it out of sight. But that isn’t truthful, honest, and I want to be honest.

These past month has been stressful, as in ridiculously stressful; stressful enough to throw off my body’s clock and rhythms. I won’t downplay how it has felt. I have collapsed into weeping several times—on my classroom floor, in my car in the grocery store parking lot, on the phone with my husband after a failed trip to the BMV.

Alone in those moments, I cried out to God. I begged and pleaded, “I need a miracle!” I wanted to ask God to make it all better. I just wanted a new car to show up in my driveway (or at least one without a myriad of problems that need constant fixing) or for a windfall of money to solve all the issues. Instead, though, a completely different thought floated into my mind and out my mouth.

“Please, God, be my meal and oil.”

Meal and oil? Where did that come from?

In the Old Testament story of Elijah, it tells of his experience staying with a widow and her child. When Elijah asked her for some water to drink and bread to eat, she warned him that she only had a little meal (flour) and oil left. Enough to make a small cake for herself and her son, and then they were going to wait to die. But she took the little that she had and began to cook. In the end, she fed God’s prophet and herself and her son with it! Lo and behold, the next day, there was more! Not much more but enough more.

I have not thought about that particular Bible story in many years, but I remember being struck by it even as a child. So I have found myself repeatedly praying for God to be my meal and oil—to hold our cars together just one more day, to give me enough grace to deal with my students today.

Sometimes, day by day is what I need. I know me: I would look ahead into a year’s worth of tomorrows if I could, just to make sure everything would indeed work out. Not necessarily as I hope but just work out at all. So, for now, perhaps this is the best for me, the best that I can do: expect the best that God can do. Expect him to give me what I need daily, as I learned to pray as a kid. “Give us this day our daily bread…”

Dear God, please be my meal and oil today.

When a Mom’s Voice is Silent


Author’s Note: Edited and revised on 9-14-15.

I think I was just called out by a friend. I don’t think she meant to or even realizes that she did but, yes, I feel like I have just been called out, in a good (very good) way, to vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not easy. It’s the proverbial exposing my belly but I also know that some of the best conversations and growth I have had with friends and family is through being vulnerable and exposing those tender, soft parts of my heart and soul. So, here I am and here it is:

I do not ask for help well. I don’t.

When it is emotional support I am in need of, that I can ask for because that can be given at a distance without me having to meet someone’s eyes in what so often feels like my weakness. But when it comes to physical help with the person offering standing there in front of me, that is almost impossible for me to ask for. Most recent example: I had a rough day with my toddler daughter the other day; she and I were at odds all the day long. I was tired; I was frustrated; I was angry. My girl was driving me mad and I had been graceless in response. My husband, bless his heart, asked me point blank if I wanted him to take our daughter for a while so I could have a break. And I couldn’t — could not — make myself say yes. Everything inside me screamed, “Yes! God, yes! I need a break! I need quiet! I need away!” But the words were stuck somewhere far away from my lips and would get nowhere near them. I physically could not force the words out of my mouth. I knew I needed help; moreover, he knew I needed help. But I just could not manage it, could not ask for it. And that is really scary sometimes. Scary that I cannot ask for help. Won’t ask for help. Even when I need it. Especially when I need it. It hurts and I’m sure it hurts the people who try to help me, too.

So why can’t I ask for help with my daughter when I really need it? Bluntly honest? Because I see her as my responsibility. Yes, she is our daughter but  was the one who wanted to stay home with her. I was the one who put my husband in the position of having to be the sole breadwinner with this desire, allowed that weight to settle on his shoulders alone for the first time since we got married seven years prior. So, as I took on  the roll of SAHM, I often feel like I need to be there and do my job, regardless of what sort of day I have had. Now, I know what just pushing on in such a vein will do: eventually, I will twitch out of my skin and collapse into a puddle of stressed, exhausted tears, most likely after some sort of blowup with my husband that really had no need to become such a mountain-out-of-a-molehill.

need  time to to care for myself. I need time to recharge and, for me, that requires time alone. “Alone” doesn’t happen with my girl, even though we do have periods of quiet when she is in the mood to do her own thing. But, even so, I am often reticent to call for help because something says, and loudly, “You are her mother! This is your job! You need to do it!”That voice is insistent. It is loud. And it silences me at times when I need t speak. When I need to ask for help.

Now, it isn’t all gloom and doom. I have a great support system, and I get great joy from my daughter, from teaching her, being taught by her, and watching her grow and develop into a little girl. While my difficulty in making full/often use of my support system frustrates me and I despise frustrating others, I am better than I used to be. I am doing better at my self-care and strategies for helping Elizabeth develop more independence.

Asking for help is still hard, very hard sometimes, but I know that it is something I need to do, in whatever way I can manage. Right now, those few ways are: asking the grandparents to take her out to lunch for a few hours, having a friend over to give me an extra set of hands and dose of attention for my energetic girl, or letting her have Daddy-time while I hit the gym for an hour. This is a start.

I know I am not the only one for whom this is true, and it isn’t just mothers either. Many of us, though staunch advocates for others, often have a hard time advocating for ourselves and our own health, care, and soul rest.

Another dear friend of mine commented to me (after reading the first draft of this post): “While I don’t have a daughter to chase after, sometimes having depression and panic attack disorder can feel like I have something to chase around (or be chased by). So, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, people can tell I can lie and tell them that I’m fine. That I don’t need help. Even though I do. And I feel like a hypocrite because if someone else were to do that I’d call them out and insist on trying to help them.”

I appreciate this perspective and his opinion is one that I value very much. Sometimes asking for help for ourselves is one of the hardest things in the world, harder yet to work towards overcoming it. I have made a start, small ways to ask for help when I need it, and I am hoping that it will help me to get one step closer to finding my voice to answer with the specific words, “Yes, I need help.”

Until then, please, keep asking.

My Sacred Spaces: Pen and Paper


Author’s Note: Here is the second installment of my “sacred spaces” writings.

2015-07-17

When I started this post, I was sitting on the floor and next to me were my newest journal and my fountain pen, waiting for when I was done blogging so that I could pick them up and record and reflect on my day’s moments. This is one of my sacred spaces: pen and paper. When I open my journal, a notebook, or notepad, and am greeted by empty lined pages, I cannot help but feel the potential, a welcoming sense in that openness. Like the page is waiting for me, holding its breath as it waits to see just what I will create on that open paleness.

As I write, I sometimes feel like my mind is just pouring out through the 11863455_10153060013348133_4766593114216941972_ncracks, flowing out through the ink in my pen. Some of those cracks are repaired, healed, and stronger than before, some are still healing, and yet others are just now nicks that I am trying to tend to before they hairline and snap. My pain, my joy, my creativity, my utter lack of spoons, whatever is going on in that particular moment, it all flows through the fissures in my humanity, filling the page with emotions, perceptions (correct or incorrect), rantings (impassioned or enraged), worlds, characters, fantasies, life decisions, prayers, dreams, and reflections.

As I let it all pour out, I sometimes feel those fractures getting lighter, as if my own flawed humanity doesn’t weigh quite so heavily on my soul. Whether I share that poured out humanity with others or keep it private, the lightening is still there. My heart feels a bit freer sometimes when I force myself into honesty. To answer your question: yes, honesty with one’s self is just as hard or maybe more so than honesty with others. When I sit down with my journal or my computer, I still sometimes struggle with the idea of being accepted, ie, the freedom to write whatever I feel like I need to write. I cannot accurately describe the force of will and courage that it has taken for me to press the “Publish” button sometimes, and the reception hasn’t always been great BUT I was true to my soul and what I felt I needed to write in that particular moment. And that is worth it.

There is a peace in putting pen to paper that I do not think I have ancient or perfect enough words in my vocabulary to describe. I have been filling notebooks and journals since I was in middle school. Geek moment: I once filled three notebooks in the writing out of the film “3 Ninjas” from memory. There are hundreds of pages filled with the story of my life, with the peace that I have found in reflection and pouring out my heart and mind through the cracks. I even remember particular favorite spaces to write. One of the is the booth all the way back, against the wall, on the left as you walked into the Student Union on the University of Evansville campus. From there, I had a great view of the rest of the union and, particularly, the corner that the theatre students had claimed as their own, and, from there, I could turn inward and fill pages with silver and black ink, the sweet scent of leather in my nose from the journal cover, as I worked my way through my undergrad years, those first few years on my own away from home.

I will forever call pen and paper home, safety, peace, and portal. A deeply sacred space.

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An Honest Legacy


Shakespeare said that “no legacy is so rich as honesty”. There is probably no legacy as costly either, however. To be honest is be vulnerable, to show them your belly and risk being struck.

Today, I was boldly honest with a friend of mine and it struck me how rare that instance is: me being completely honest. I often tend to keep back how I feel deep in my core in favor of homeostasis, or, rather, lack of confrontation and discord. It has kind of always been that way. I keep certain things, deeply heartfelt things, to myself out of fear of others’ disapproval or disappointment. I’m trying to be more honest, to step out in trust more often, and what I realized today (again) was how…freeing it can be to be honest and have someone utterly refute your fears. They do so by not only listening to you and not turning away in disgust or disappointment, but by also being supportive and encouraging. That never fails to take me by surprise. Tearfully so, most of the time.

I’m very thankful for my friends and their support and encouragement. It means a lot and strikes my heart each and every time you prove such amazing mettle as a friend. Thank you, from the bottom of my little heart. Thank you.