Why – Start With Broken ?

Pretend we just met. Maybe we experienced a natural connection or maybe our conversation was unpleasantly awkward. Regardless of the outcome, I want you to leave the encounter thinking I can do it all. I want you to think I’m like the woman you read about once in a magazine – the one who rises before her husband and children for a morning run, followed by harvesting in the garden, then washing up to cook a breakfast of local eggs, hand-squeezed orange juice and heirloom fruit, all while writing a narrative poem that she will read to her family while they eat. The description seems ridiculous, right? Unfortunately, I pursued this lie of doing-it-all until my body no longer allowed it.

Years ago, someone called me a “renaissance woman.” At the time, it seemed the most significant accolade of my adult life. Being type-A, I took much pride in the compliment. My drive to do was fueled by a desire to make others believe I could do it all. Managing my life was exhausting – friends, family, church, hobbies, news, work, fitness. The flow of things to do or know was relentless. But admitting that I had physical and emotional limits seemed a submission to failure, so I pushed on, concealing myself with projects and activities. I believed if I stopped to rest, I would become ordinary, unremarkable.

Attached to our childless lifestyle, my husband and I waited 8 years to have a baby. I convinced myself I was finally ready for a child to rearrange my life. Secretly though, I hoped for a life not too different from the one I was living. I assumed I would find a way to do it all, only now with a baby at my side. Scanning the blogs of crafty young mothers only confirmed it must be possible. Believing the lie, I was clueless to the impact my son would have on my life, or to the journey ahead of me.

An extremely sick pregnancy took me by surprise. Every day was a great struggle. Gradually I was forced to surrender my life one activity at a time – hobbies, household projects, even a few relationships. Rest was the only activity within my capacity. Working and completing the simple tasks of each day seemed insurmountable. Sometimes I laid on the floor of my office in the fetal position just to make it through the day. The surrender continued following birth as infection and a complicated recovery followed my caesarian section. In the midst of it all, I fell deeply in love with my son. My longing to be near him helped me accept the slowing of my life as a gift. Raising a child decreases one’s margins. To a larger degree than many of my friends, my body enforces its limits. I could resent these limits, but the truth is without them, I would be a ship run aground by impulse. Physical brokenness is an integral part of my person. It is the discipline that precedes simplicity.

When I eventually returned to my baseline months later, the old impulses returned – “Try this project! Rejoin the media stream! Get back in touch with so-and-so!” Unlike in the past, I was now able to deflect these impulses. I had tasted simplicity. A year of physical brokenness released me from a fear of the ordinary and taught me that simplicity living creates more room for the real stuff of life. God created a work of beauty from the sickness, darkest months of my life – another of his “beauty from ashes” narratives.

What I learned is that the most delightful, the most heartbreaking, the most fantastic, is in the ordinary. Watching my son, I sense an importance in every moment – that right here, on the floor, in the long evening shadows, is a moment of influence I will never replicate. How humbled I am, knowing I could have missed these moments because of my own pride.

But what does the idea of simplicity mean practically? It means I give my family the first portion of my energy. Unlike before parenthood, I keep my commitments few. I do not pursue multiple projects or involvements, and I filter the relentless stream of ideas and news. Post-Pinterest-traumatic-stress anyone? I have stopped trying to prove I can do it all. If I forget my simpler priorities, my body reminds me. I admit there are days where the impulse to dive into activity is strong. I imagine my son as a young man and fear my accomplishments and activities might not be enough to make him proud of me. In those moments, I reject fear and trust he will be most proud of the mother who loved well and gave generously of her presence above all else. In contrast to “renaissance woman,” I now hope to be label as present, engaged in the moment. I am held accountable knowing my son will not learn to value what’s most important unless I model it myself.

Choosing simplicity has shifted my values and changed how I prioritize the different components of my family’s lives. My goal for a day is no longer a lengthy project list. The primary objective is to be present with my son. I look him full in the face and listen, not ruminating on projects left undone or darting between his requests and my cell phone. I allow the flow of the day to lead us. We walk outside, we build, we tear down, we take lazy baths and bike rides, we bang pots and pans, we dance to a record, we read a stack of books, we nap, we jump on pillows, we take blanket rides around the house. I simplify our schedules and our home so we have greater freedom to engage with each other – less toys, less noise, fewer commitments. In quiet moments I imagine life without my son and the work God is doing through him. The image always moves me to gratefulness – how much I almost missed!

To others experiencing physical brokenness – let it be a simplifying force in your life. Brokenness is a turning point, a preface. It is the point on the long drive where you make the final turn to see home ahead, sweet in firm but few expectations, simple, but generous in space and time, ordinary, but one of a kind.

Why start with broken? Because its the place where transformation begins.

make room for more of this

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16 thoughts on “Why – Start With Broken ?

  1. Pingback: Expectations – 5 ways to stop beating yourself up already | start with broken

  2. Pingback: 31 Day Writing Challenge – Almost Simple Enough | start with broken

  3. Thoroughly enjoy your writing and perspective. I went through very similar experiences after having my boys….the change did not come easily. There was a lot of anger, frustration, grief, and pain from me fighting the beautiful change that was happening in my life. Now, I look back at that and find it is one of the life experiences I am most thankful for. Because it made me become the real me, not the person who really, really wanted to be so many things that I knew other people would like. The “sowing” tore me apart for awhile, but what I “reap” now is delicious love and relationship with my family. I will say, that the past two years (as my boys have gotten into “kid” age), I have had a small space to re-engage some of the parts of my life that I had surrendered…I always have to keep before my ambition that there are seasons to life, a time for everything….

    • Very true on seasons Meredith! It’s about adapting to each phase while keeping the same few “things” at the center. Thanks for sharing some of your similar experience! You are definitely ahead of me there so I look forward to using you as a glimpse ahead for my life! Also – very excited for your adoption and sending prayers for wisdom and patience! Thanks for reading!

    • Thanks Kristi! And ditto on watching your journey as a mother and writer, especially as you move to having 3 children! I need frequent reminders of which things to put first and which to put last. 🙂

  4. Reading your post there were tears in my eyes. Your words struck many chords in my heart, and I am relating with the journey God is taking you on. Thank you for your courage in sharing, and your courage to simplify and boldly live differently than you did. Thanks for allowing us, me, to take part in your journey by reading your words. I would love the chance to give you a squeeze and meet your bear whenever we get the chance. Thanks so much for this blog. xo

    • Katie – I am so blessed that this story touched you! I so hope our boys can meet soon. And I look forward to hearing more about what God is doing in you through Makai and TJ. I saw you mentioned one of them making you a better person. It’s so true – they do! Xo

  5. Oh, Catwoman… I am smiling. I have *always* admired that you are a ‘walk the walker’ more than a ‘talk the talker’, so I can vouch that it is with genuine authority and sincere heart that you write the words you do. But I simply must challenge one thing. When whoever that person was called you a renaissance woman, I think maybe they meant it through a filter of longevity with which you had yet to see in yourself. Your whole life, those experiences, have all led you to today. And for as long as I have known you, you have seemed to be destined to be a mother. Remember when I took a big leap in my life? It was you who gave me a packet full of multiple envelopes, each one holding a handwritten note scribed with verses and messages of encouragement for me to open in times of brokenness. You have always been a nurturer first and foremost, and had the gift of true empathy. And while you now embrace simplicity, it makes me smile to know that what is truly happening is you surrendering to love. Because when your very lucky son looks back on his childhood and describes you to his future wife, I doubt that simple is how he will choose to describe you. Because in his eyes, you are the best chef in the world, the most exciting athlete and adventurer, the wisest counselor, the person he trusts on what to wear, the most lovely singer in the world, the best joke teller, the brightest light in the room. In fact, no one is more of a renaissance woman than a mother surrendered to love, because with that love as the fuel, a mother can do absolutely anything. And I guarantee that to your son, you can do absolutely everything. So, I still call you renaissance woman, but am just so thrilled to know that you have channeled all of your excellent talents into the ultimate job of all.

    • Bunny – you humble me so! And your wise heart is illustrated in your words. As much as I’ve internalized this, you’ve called out some things I hadn’t even thought of yet. (And I nearly forgot about the notes)! Thank you for capturing a little more of me here. I especially will treasure your mention of “surrendering to love” – you are so right! What a humbling surrender it is! You are a gift to me – thank you friend. Love u

    • Thanks Tyson! You have more wisdom in this area than about anyone I know. I’m glad we can all be reminders of faith for each other. Hope one day to meet Makai!

  6. I know we don’t know each other – this is the only post I’ve read on your blog – but I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I needed to read it. Here. Now. In this strange and beautiful time of my life…

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