I went to a short retreat this weekend at a local Episcopal church where I am not a member. I have been to this before and always come away with a new awareness, renewed commitments and a deepened faith whether I have heard Glennon Doyle, Kelly Corrigan, Elizabeth Gilbert and today, Heather Lende. It is always a woman author or speaker who has made a difference in the world. The hors d’oeuvres the evening before are always tasty, the women are 90% blonde and as non-diverse as possible. The blondeness and lack of diversity irritates me some though at least this year, there were few high heeled pumps which was an improvement. I can’t fault these women for their genes and their long held southern tendencies. I always have to look past my own inadequacies and insecurities and simply remind myself that I am there for me and to learn and grow. So for the years I have gone alone that has been harder and for the ones like this one when I have attended with a friend, it is easier. Either way it is worth it.
I usually come away with some nuggets each time and if I believed in tattoos I suppose I’d have a good number of them by now because I’d want to remember these for a long time. Here are some from this weekend for example:
There are no atheists in delivery rooms (way better than “fox holes”)
Be kind, be brave, be thankful
Holy moments (not events, not lifetimes, just moments)
Living in the dash (as in your birth date-death date)
What would your days look like if God was in charge of them?
What do you want to become/What does God want you to become?
Don’t live with a manufactured life
Do not be crippled by fear
How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives (Annie Dillard)
The messy middle of the “not yet”
If you want to know my pain, feel my wound
Battling for joy
Guerrillas for grace
I have two friends who are also colleagues who make a lot of fun of me for how busy I am. They say I am always going to some retreat, some political meeting or march, some group that plans to do something to make a difference, some conference, etc. I guess I appear a little crazy to them when I am always trying to squeeze in the next interesting thing. I’ve written before about how much I want to learn, to know, to experience in my short time on earth. I try hard to cram it all in and after all these years of mothering, it is mostly about me and learning about my own heart and life. I cannot live my life for my kids any longer and no one loves their kids more than I. But, I also don’t think they need me to live for them or to constantly stand in their way by either over-indulging them, making their lives too easy or protecting them from dealing with challenges. I would be stealing from their development if I always directed or always influenced every choice they make. I do not pretend any more. I try to live the truth. Life is hard, very, very hard and I try to be as well equipped as I can be for each hurling rock that comes along. I’ve already been hit with several boulders and I never duck all that well.
One of the speakers this morning shared about having lost her young twin son early on. It was a horrific and tragic story that of course resonated with me. I think one of the hardest things I have ever had to learn I have had drilled into my head dozens of times. I have mostly learned it at 12 step meetings. I worry about my kids as much as and maybe sometimes more than, most other moms. I worry and I worry and then I worry some more. Having lost a child I might be even more terrified of this than the virgin moms who are fortunate enough to have never have known this harsh reality. What I have learned though stings like a sonofabitch! I’ve learned that I cannot keep them alive! Charlie has said that at many meetings and I don’t want to hear that. I really, really don’t. I can love them to death literally. I can stay right nearby and never travel , holding onto my phone ready to pounce. I can think that I am in control forever. I remember when my second oldest son was mostly bedridden for years at the feet of Chronic Lyme disease. It seemed he might die one day after another and I could-not-allow-that-thought though I felt it to my core.Every damned time I left the house I thought, “Oh God, please don’t let anything happen to him when I am away from him.” I realized though that that might happen when I was laying right next to him rubbing his sweating, feverish brow.The fact of the matter is, none of that will keep them alive. I am NOT in control. I am not sure who is or if it is simply a random universe, but it is not in my control to keep them from harm. I sometimes hope that a higher power keeps them safe, but even that is questionable and unreliable. I just know that it is NOT me.
So, the only life I have even remote control of is my own which is why I choose to enhance it and expand it and as one of the speakers shared today, to create a life overflowing in abundance. I am cradled in God’s hands and I do not want to miss the grace filled moments that come. Those I love so dearly are cradled in his hands as well despite their non-believing status. It matters not that they don’t believe in God. He believes in them.