All posts by bethsritchie

Neurotic Mothering

I have a lot of anxiety about being able to give my kids what they need. I fret over whether I am too strict or not strict enough. I obsess about the differences between how I grew up and they are growing up and whether or not those differences are meaningful. I stress about how much sugar they eat, how few vegetables they eat, if they are on track developmentally, and if the penny Lucy swallowed a few years ago is still in her digestive track. I overthink whether I am emotionally available enough for them amidst all the laundry and activity, or that maybe I’m too emotionally available and they’ll become entitled. How do I know they’re getting what they need, but not too much? How do I know they’ll be ok?

I think this is the quandary of parenting. Since none of us has done it before, and no one else has done it with exactly our circumstances, then no one can guarantee that it will all be ok. No one can say for sure whether my kids are going to turn out all right. Throw in the whole concept of free will and you really can’t guarantee anything. It is the perfect storm for producing anxiety, which almost every parent experiences to one degree or another. Maybe you don’t have anxiety over the same things I do, but it’s a struggle for most of us when it comes to raising our kids.

 

With anxiety in general, and especially about our kids, one of the best things we can do is pray and truly leave it to God. I, like most, am a perfectionist in many things – and not in a good way. Parenting is no different. I try to fill every gap and hit every nail on the head with my kids, doing it all perfectly, not messing anything up, because it’s all up to me, right? And while I should do my best when it comes to parenting, I think something needs to change in how I approach it. I have to learn to leave it to God, to truly trust Him with these little treasures I’ve been given, and to trust that He will cover my blind-spots and inadequacies as a parent.

After all is said and done I know I will not have been a perfect mother; I will have messed up more than I would like to think about and in ways I can’t even understand. But in parenting, and everything else, God is after our interdependence more than He is after our perfect performance. He’s asking us to come to Him, to ask Him for help, to let Him have the control. We must let perfectionism give way to trust so that our lives are ordered correctly, including not allowing our kids and families to be placed before our relationship with God.

 

For me, this is where spirituality hits the road, gets down and dirty and real. God is in the minutiae of our lives and letting Him into the small things opens my eyes to just how much He wants to care for me. Let’s make it our aim to have an authentic faith that trusts Him with our children, our families, and all the little details we worry about.

 

Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?! (Luke 12:22-25)

 

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On Pregnancy Loss

It is snowing as I write. It felt fitting to start a fire, so the ambiance is perfect – snow outside, fire and warmth inside, babes asleep. I get this quiet moment once a day. This morning as I prayed for a few moments before the house awoke, I prayed for grace. I’ve been struggling to get back into our normal routine after Christmas and travel and constant movement. It gets a little too quiet, a little too slow and numbing when I’ve become accustomed to busyness and movement. This snow, this spark to my soul, feels just like the grace I prayed for. It feels like a tangible miracle, a little magic to delight my heart just because I was needing a little “oomph” in my day. It’s already starting to collect on the rooftops. I haven’t seen snow in three years; I love how it simplifies and quiets everything. All you see is white, all you hear is muffled and silenced.

In the new year one of my goals is to write daily, not just weekly or monthly. As I was struggling with what to write about, it quickly became clear. We had a miscarriage over the holidays and I feel like I haven’t had a moment to digest it. With early pregnancy loss, it’s like you never quite got your head around the fact that you were pregnant, and then it’s gone. You wonder if anything is happening at all or if it’s all just in your head. It’s a complicated grief – at least, for me it is. I’m always a little terrified when I find out I’m pregnant – it’s terror and hope tangled together.  And with miscarriage, before I get the chance to untangle it I’ve lost what I was already coming to love.

 

At other times, I feel relief, knowing that I would likely be sick by now. It’s hard not to at least be thankful for that. But it feels weird to be thankful for that; I feel guilty that I’m relieved. I’m thankful that I can still be active and keep working out. And again, I feel guilty. I’m even thankful that I get to have a glass of wine; for that, I feel especially guilty. And it’s like someone is in my head saying “how dare you feel relief – a little life was lost!” as if it was my fault. And I must remind that little voice – it wasn’t my doing. Grief is never a straight path; it has varying degrees of complication. Grief jumps us and surprises us, scaring us at how big it is, and then it recedes for a bit, leaving us disoriented in its wake and confused about where it has gone.

Everything is white now. Cliché as it is, snow always feels like a fresh start. A new perspective. A little tingle of life and light. Today I am sad; I miss the little glimmer of hope and excitement that I lost in the pregnancy. Grief always feels unmanageable. I look at it and say, “I see you, but what am I supposed to do with you?”. I think, I think – grief wants us to accept it, to give it some space and place to reside for a while. And that is the scariest thing of all, because grief looks big and like he’ll take up all the space we have. But he won’t; just trust him, let him cohabitate for a while, and he’ll leave sooner than later.

 

So I’m letting grief have a little space today. And the snow reminds me that my prayers are heard, that suffering is redemptive, and that I am not alone.

Enough Is Enough

A Letter To Myself:

 

Enough with the body shame. You’ve been at it for years – for literally as long as you can remember you were feeling something bad about the way you look or presented yourself. It wasn’t always your fault, sometimes other people said things that made you feel this way. But mostly you learned it and adopted this idea as your own. And so now it is time to move on, to adopt an original idea, and be done with this.

 

You are beautiful as you are. You do not need to lose ten pounds, although you’ve nearly destroyed yourself trying. You do not need to have perfect skin – nobody does. Why are you so consumed with trying to look like an image that isn’t real? Why do you worship at the altar of unreality? You are already perfect! This is all in your head, this idea that other people will really care if you lose weight and start looking like a magazine.

 

This is all a big sham that someone or something has created to keep you from growing into your powerful potential. It’s a lie to keep you from living the life you’re called to live. It’s a game that you’re losing and if you lose you won’t fulfill your life’s obligations. Maybe radically accepting yourself right now and seeing the beauty you’re carrying around but hiding with shame is the way you learn to radically accept all those other people you don’t get or who are so different. This is where love starts: letting go of all this shame. It’s time to get on with being the beautiful creature you already are.

You Have Something To Say.

You have something to say. You may not believe it, or even know it yet. All I know is we’re all called to figure it out. It’s not something political, and it’s not something that sounds smart– it’s just a way to show the world that you’re participating. It’s not demeaning to others. It’s not to prove anything. It’s just some bit of truth that is springing up from inside you, and when it finally has the right conditions to sprout, you won’t be able to help but let it bloom out of you. It may be quiet, and maybe no one will hear you, but you still have something to say and it still deserves to be said. You know the story, a tree fell in the woods – blah blah blah – even if you think no one hears you when you say it, it was still offered to the world and you never know when the echo of what you said that no one heard might ping off of a distant wall and someone will hear it without you knowing it.

IMG_1874Because it’s really about knowing what you have to say, and then living what you have to say – the words aren’t so important to be heard out loud so long as you know them inside. They grow stronger and louder inside your own interior walls so that other people will hear them just because of the echo of your life.

 

I’m thinking about tattooing this on myself, because I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting to let my words out onto the page, I keep forgetting that I have something to say worth hearing, I keep forgetting that my story matters. How is it that the prevailing belief is the opposite – that what I have to say doesn’t matter, that my story is unremarkable, that no one cares – when every time I do share something true, not hiding behind facts and knowledge, but something from within myself people tell me it matters to them. Why do I keep believing those lies when the truth keeps telling me it’s true?

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So say something from inside you – true, and kind, and you. Share yourself today. It’ doesn’t have to be packaged or pretty or polished, just true.

Joie-de-Vivre: Texas Style

Many other cultures, maybe even most other cultures, have a different set of values they prioritize in their daily life. You can tell what they value because of what they make room for in their schedules: slow meals with friends and family, coffee and tea breaks, walking, delicious food.

While many other cultures prioritize beauty, pleasure, and relationship, we tend prioritize values such as productivity, efficiency, and achievement. We run around trying to do everything, unwilling to trade any of our ambition for a more beautiful life.

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We all know this. We’re all working on it, or at least I think many of us are. I’m learning to give myself permission to live a beautiful life, in part so that my kids know that it’s ok to enjoy life, and in part so that I know it’s ok to enjoy life. Of course we should work hard, of course we shouldn’t be lazy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t savor our lives.

I’ve been feeling this pull to enjoy life more, day to day. To take time to sit down for a coffee and croissant at the coffee shop with my girls, to allow myself a nap or daily glass of wine. I think it requires slowing our pace, not trying to accomplish so much but really changing our priorities to enjoyment instead of completion. It’s like we have this collective angst, all of us in the modern western world, where we’re running from something – trying to get everything done – and only then can we truly live. I do this all the time – I tell myself, just fold the laundry and then you can take a break. If I would just take a break when I need it, then the laundry would’t be such a burden! When will I learn?

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So, even though I’m not surrounded by the beautiful architecture, fashion, style and culture of Paris; even though I’m not living in the warm, tropical environment of Costa Rica where they admonish each other with “pura vida”; even though I live among plain strip malls, too many parking lots, and risk being misunderstood by living a bit slower – I’m making an effort to cultivate a little more “joie-de-vivre”. Texas Style.