Bring More Mothers

This morning, my daughters walk to school holding the hands of another mother.  They want to talk to her about everything ranging from new earrings to loose teeth.

I’m walking alone behind them, watching how their little faces look up into this other mother’s face. I shove my hands in my pocket. I’m tempted to run up and interfere, take my daughters back into my own hands, and direct their sharing back to me

But I don’t.  There’s something beautiful and right about my children connecting deeply with other women.  The more mothers around, the better.  The more folks who love them, listen to their stories, care about their earrings, and witness their growing, the better. 

I love being in a community of women who know we’re all in this together.  The more mothers, the better.  May there be countless children who say, “She was like a mother to me.” 

Do I care for other children like a parent?  Do I let other mothers into the lives of my children? 


Your Glorious Descent

 It’s time.

One Leaf Takes Flight

You lift off, send yourself into the glorious unknown, and let God carry you.

Autumn Leaf Mid-Flight

My children twirl about in this dance of falling leaves. 

We’ll crunch them underfoot and crush them in our hands.  They’ll go on to nourish the soil and let another generation of leaves rise up.  As I think about getting older, about surrendering, about giving my life away to others, I realize it’s a glorious descent. 

I feel like that beautiful leaf against the brightest blue sky.  My daughter reaches up and grabs it in her hand, delighted.  In motherhood, you let go, die to yourself every single day, and fall into the ancient pattern.

But that’s the only way to dance in the wind.  It’s the only way to be free.

Have you felt free when you die to yourself?

PS:  Taking photos of falling leaves is really hard. I just wanted to mention that!


Everything Else Can Wait

My youngest arranges all the nail polish bottles on the kitchen table and asks me to paint her toenails.

Seriously?  I can think of 20 more important and urgent things to do instead of painting her toenails.  I do not have time for this. 

But I look at that little face and those little, little toes.  

In even just a few years, she won’t ask for this.  One day, she’ll paint her own toes, in her own bedroom, in her own house even.  Maybe it’s because another school year starts this week, or maybe it’s because I can see how tall she’s grown by the markings on the kitchen wall.  Whatever the reason, I suddenly can’t imagine anything more important or more urgent than those little toes. 

So here I am, painting little toenails silver and neon pink.  Everything else can wait.

Journal:  What aspects of parenting annoy most folks now that they end up missing once their children are grown? 


What a Child Needs to Hear from You

I’m visiting with my dear friend, the one who told me that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children.  This is my same friend who raises five children without a television set or computer games.  I’m always eager for what new parenting advice she’ll impart.

Today, I watch and listen.  Over and over again, I hear her tell her children, “I just love to be with you.”  Her teenage daughter comes to sit next to her, and she says, “I’m so glad!  I just love to be with you.”  She still walks with the teenager to school, she says, “because I just love to be with her so much.”  She says it so that daughter can overhear her. 

The teenager’s beaming face lights the whole kitchen.

Later, we leave to go on a walk in the neighborhood, and the oldest children want to come along.  Their mother says, “Of course!  I just love to be with you!” 

That’s the phrase I hear the most coming out of this mother’s mouth.

I make lunch with my daughters later, and I tell them, “I just love to be with you.”  I walk outside and push them on the swing and tell them, “I just love to be with you.”

Something’s changed between us already.  

I wonder if children would make better choices, grow in confidence, overflow with happiness, and connect better with their parents if we practiced saying, “I just love to be with you.”  I want my children to overhear me tell the neighbors this.  I want my children to know I’d choose them.  I want my children to know that those words reflect the boundless love of God who adores and delights in them.

I’m going to tell more children that I love to be with them.  

Journal:  What child in your life needs to hear the words, “I just love to be with you”?  


How Emily Dickinson (and a Friend’s Blog) Saved My Morning

I’ll just begin by telling you a certain child in my family vomits seven times last night.  This is the other child (not the one with the entirely different virus). 

I don’t actually wake up this morning because I never actually went to bed. 

Everyone complains.  Everyone feels miserable, and to make matters worse, it’s a holiday!  We’ll miss the bike parade, the hot dogs, the fireworks–everything. 

Then I check my email, and a new friend sends me a link to her blog.  She’s entitled it “Dwell in Possibility.”  I think about the phrase all morning because it resonates deeply.  I’ve heard the phrase before–from some distant place–that recalls a beautiful hoping in me. 

Then I remember.  It’s from Emily Dickinson.  I love Emily Dickinson. 

I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —

I read the poem again and again.  Today, I choose to gather Paradise.

Journal:  What are the possibilities of this day?  Who could even name them all? 


What Do You Need?

Today marks the 4th day of staying in a small apartment in a new city all day long whilst caring for a child who has a 103.5 degree fever.   I’m not even going to bother making that sentence more concise.  It’s been a long few days.  

It’s lonely.  It’s awful. 

My husband attempts to cheer me with coffee and jokes.  Then he announces, “You need people!  That’s how God made you!”  He calls several friends and invites them to take me out for ice cream.  It sounds so desperate.  Aren’t I stable enough to survive any circumstance?  Haven’t I been able to find the flair in even the worst of situations?

I’m learning that I really do need people.  I love community.  And living with flair means knowing this so I don’t go crazy and wonder if I’m sinking back into despair when I’m alone for too long.

Journal:  What are some things you need?


Why I’m Now Using Twitter

Last night, I tell my friend that I’m definitely not interested in using twitter.  “Why would anyone care where I am or what I am doing?”  Besides, I don’t really know how to twitter. 

“You’re thinking about twitter all wrong,” he says.  “Twitter is about influence.  You don’t tell people that you’re eating a hamburger right now.  You tell people that you’re eating the best hamburger, and you give information about where and how they can eat the best hamburger as well.  You’re influencing others with good information.” 

But what would I influence people about?  I blog about beautiful things–just to share them with the world–but how could I use twitter, too? 

I woke up wondering about this.  Then my youngest daughter asked me to teach her how to know whether a peach is perfectly ripe.  I had been feeling horribly inadequate as a mother all week, and then all of a sudden I didn’t.  Motherhood wasn’t about big moments or spectacular feats of patient nurturing.  It was, in part, about very small moments of instruction.

We felt peaches together in the kitchen.  

The peach instruction opened a new world of confidence in mothering.  What else could I impart today? 

So I twittered about the peach. In 140 characters, I hoped to influence other mothers who felt bad about themselves today. 

Living with flair means influencing others when you learn something. 

Journal:  Can I influence others about something today? 


This Could Be Your Shell of Protection

Well, it finally happened.  I found an eastern box turtle!  She was crossing the street, and after observing her in our backyard, we delivered her to her original habitat.  She was headed for the wooded yard of a neighbor (who just installed a lovely garden pond and lots of landscaping perfect for a turtle), so we brought her there.  

We watched her for a long time.

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011

The eye color and shape of the shell tells us that this turtle is female.  I can’t stop looking at her shell because it reminds me of something.

It looks like tiny children were finger-painting and made hand prints on her shell!

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011

As my own children romp and jump about me, I consider that I too have a home covered in hand prints (dirty walls, the sticky refrigerator door, the smudged table, and as art projects in frames).  I, too, am an aging woman with bumpy thighs (have you seen me in my bathing suit?).

And like the designs on her shell, I’ll carry the marks of motherhood–in its broadest sense–forever.  Hard and all consuming, you wear it like a shell you cannot shed.  On the worst days, it feels like a prison. 

But that’s what it means to choose adulthood, to choose to care for the next generation, to choose to nurture everyone in your path.  It’s not a prison.  It’s protection.  

She’ll keep these markings forever.  When I look at this turtle, I see impenetrable strength and resolve.   We let her go into the neighbor’s yard.  I’m not worried about her.  She has places to go, and even if it takes her a lifetime, she’ll get there.  She has the protection, now, to do so. 
Journal:  When I see myself imprisoned by my circumstances, can I instead see them as my shell of protection?  


Mothers are Beanstalks

This afternoon, the children run outside and design a bean garden for themselves.  They want a beanstalk.  

I discover that we need a structure in that bean garden around which the bean plants can twine.

I love that verb, first of all.  To twine means to interlock tightly, twisting up and coiling about.

Beans are twining plants, and this means they cannot support their own weight.  For vertical growth, they circle around a support in order to grow.  They exert continuous pressure against this support so they can rise tall and strong.

They will not survive without interlocking tightly, twisting up and coiling about a supporting structure.   

I needed that truth today as I think about motherhood and this life of faith.  I cannot do this on my own.  I lean hard against the Lord as that internal structure around which I cling.  I interlock.  Every tendril of thought and action encircles one singular support. 

If I’m exhausted, shriveled on the vine, and incapable of doing this alone, I remember I wasn’t meant to.  I’m supposed to twine

Journal:  What does interlocking with God mean when I’m exhausted?


What My Daughter Brought to Show and Tell

This morning, my daughter puts a copy of How to Write with Flair in her backpack.  It’s her show-and-tell day. 

I want to cry.  

I think that motherhood is all about celebrating children, but sometimes, they celebrate us.  

“I’m proud of you, Mom.”   

I’m going to go cry now.  

Journal:  I want to do things that make my children proud.  I haven’t thought of it this way before.  Am I living a life that my children will continue to celebrate?