Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Momma's Birthday

Today my mother defies all odds and enters another decade of her life.  My mother, who survived a horrible childhood, endured a difficult adult life, fought and won three separate cancers, raised two very strong daughters, and has been blessed by four adoring grandchildren, turns 70!  She is THE MOST beautiful, vibrant and alive 70 year old I know.  She is an inspiration to me every day I live.  She constantly gives of herself, of her time, of her love and of her prayer.  I often tease that she has the direct line to God.  She prays and things happen.  She is a wonderful mother and I have never doubted for a moment how much she loves me.  I only hope that I can raise my children in such a way that they have the security and unwavering love that my mother always gave me.  Thank you Mom for being a guiding light in my life and always setting a standard for which all others are measured.  I love you!


I stumbled back upon this the other day.  I think about this essay frequently but wanted to put it somewhere I could refer to it often and share it with others I think could benefit from its heart felt words and sentiment.

The Transformations of Motherhood
Honoring your "caterpillar self," as well as the butterfly you have become
By: Amy Tiemann, Ph.D.

     It is tempting to romanticize miraculous transformations.  A homely, leaf-munching caterpillar spins a cocoon, incubates and emerges as a gorgeous butterfly.  It's an image we're all familiar with, and we are always happy to see the new butterfly stretch her wings.
     But I bet you have never asked yourself, "what about the caterpillar?"
     The caterpillar is gone.  After she enters the cocoon, her cells completely rearrange.  The new butterfly is an amazing creature; one that is beautiful, strong and able to soar to new heights.  But one thing is for sure - she will never be a caterpillar again.
     Becoming a mom means that like the caterpillar, your life will change in amazing, and significant ways.  Getting a whole new life does not have to be a bad thing, but it comes as quite a shock if you don't realize that's what you are signing up to do.
     Our culture doesn't do a very good job of explaining this to people before they become parents.  Birth is such a big event that it is natural for us to over-prepare for it.  However, we do new parents a disservice by failing to look beyond the issues of delivery and infant care.  In many ways, the birth industry is to motherhood as the wedding industry is to marriage.  You get so caught up in the "big day" that you don't look beyond it to the rest of your life.
     A new baby is not just a temporary diversion in your plans, like a big project at work that takes over your life for a few months before things get back to normal.  Adding children to your family means creating a new way of life - a new "normal" - especially for the child's primary caregiver, usually Mom.
     Becoming a parent sets you on a lifelong path of constantly evolving challenges.  By the time you've figured out the terrible twos, you are faced with new three-year-old issues.  Having a baby means that five years from now you'll be the parent of a kindergartner, and in thirteen years you'll have a teenager!  You are signing up for challenges you can't even envision yet.
     The clash between expectation and reality can be one of the most stressful aspects of the initiation into motherhood, especially for women who are used to being in control of their lives.  Motherhood is an exercise in letting go of absolute control and making peace with chaos.  One of my goals is to reduce the shock of becoming a mom by giving women a more realistic view of what motherhood is really like.
     Becoming a mother takes on a new set of challenges when a woman has spent 30 years or more developing her own identity into the most wonderful caterpillar she could be before becoming a butterfly.  The older a woman is when she becomes a mom, the more of an established identity she has to leave behind.
     So after four decades of social change and increasing opportunity for women, we find ourselves faced with life at the intersection of feminism and reality.  Motherhood brings gender roles to the forefront for the first time in many women's lives, creating new negotiations with spouses about fairly sharing the care giving and household work that come with family life.
     Women are challenged to carve out career paths that balance the goals of financial security, finding an outlet for our professional talents, and at the same time "being there" for our families.  And on top of it all, somewhere in this complicated equation, we hope to find a place for ourselves in our lives.
     My hope is that in 21st Century America, women can learn to feel free to talk honestly about the joys of motherhood as well as the challenges.  It is not only okay, but also important to mourn the loss of the parts of your pre-motherhood "caterpillar self" that you miss.
     Find a way to express these feelings and honorably say good-bye to the parts of your old life you may not be able to - or don't want to - reclaim.  Find a trusted friend to talk to who will listen to your losses without minimizing them.
     Once you have let go of the idea of returning to life just as it was before you became a mother, you will have more emotional energy to devote to finding new pathways in your life.  If there is a part of your caterpillar self that you have put aside but long to reclaim, hold on to that goal.  You may be able to revive that part of your life as your children get older, or you can identify its essence and come up with a new outlet that gives you the same reward.  The goals of my work are to encourage you to make a conscious choice to continue developing your own identity after becoming a mom, and to provide inspiration and practical ideas to help you do so.

Media Contact: Michelle Tennant, 828-749-3200, michele@tennant.org  www.mojomom.presskit247.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Seed Was Planted

A couple of weeks ago a major shift happened in my life.  It has been over a year long journey to get to this place, but now I am here, and this change has taken over.
Heath was out of town over a weekend, and I was home with the kids.  Such a strange thing for me to be alone with the kids on a weekend.  Getting up for church that day was hard, I could have stayed in bed for hours.  Knowing Annabelle's disappointment and knowing there was really no good reason to miss, we pushed forward.  We were late to church, and I even thought as we were walking in, do I really want to do this?
Annabelle recently began going to the "big kids" service.  It is a lot more like church and less like preschool with playing and having a God centered craft activity.  They have bee learning about scripture, and several weeks earlier, we had purchased her own bible.  As we were rushing into church, with her new beloved pink bible in hand, being carried in her bible bag that my grandmother had made for me as a little girl, she asked me "Mom, why don't you bring a bible".  I had no good answer for my wide eyed innocent 5 year old.  I had no words that would even explain why there hasn't ever been a bible in my home since I moved out of my parents house.  Children have this amazing ability to hold up a huge mirror in front of your face and make you really look at the reflection.  I didn't like what I saw.
The funny thing was that I had been thinking about the bible a lot recently.  I sit in church, enjoy the sermon and carry forward in my week with a positive message.  The thing is that I really don't have a good grasp on what the bible says.  As my faith evolves and my questions arise, I have no bases for any belief or disbelief.  I know the big stories from the bible, and have heard a lot of the references, but have never had a great grasp on all the in between stuff.  Why are there so many chapters to the bible?  How do they all fit together?  Why does it have the same stories in multiple different books?  A lot of these questions had started bubbling to the surface.
A few months ago, there was an amazing guest speaker at church.  Patsy Camenti (https://vimeo.com/groups/363795/videos/151806509) planted a seed somewhere deep inside me that had been germinating since.  Around that time I had also watched the movie the War Room.  Both of these things went hand in hand.  These messages brought up a lot of questions about my own prayer life.  Was my prayer life cold, luke warm or on fire?  Well, lets just say that my prayer life doesn't hold a flame to the hot flashes!
Once I got the kids settled into church and made my way (15 minutes late) into the sanctuary, I took my usual seat next to my parents.  I fidgeted to get comfortable in my usual, I'm here but I have  a lot of doubts but want to believe way.  I was pondering all of my long list of doubts when one of the musician in the band looked up from his guitar and looked straight at me.  He walked to the front of the stage and offered his prophetic word.  God had told him that we were looking through the wrong lens.  We needed to close our eyes and look through our hearts.  I had my attention on the wrong thing and needed to look with a different purpose.  Whoa!
I always enjoy the music that the worship band plays.  That days especially hit me.  I have been listening to quite a bit of Christian radio, and there are a few songs that I tend to crank up the volume up when they come on.  There was a singer on stage that I have never heard perform and she started to belt out one of my favorite songs.  The songs message: let the love surround you, call upon his name when you have doubts, like the oceans vastness so is his love for you, hard to comprehend.
I have to say this is probably the first time I have sang in church in a long long time.  I love that song and I love our worship band.  I sang.  When I was a young lady at church camp when my faith was strong, I would sing my heart out and hold my hands up in worship.  I haven't held my hands up in 20 years.  I put my hand up.  Ever so slightly, right by my waist, but it was up!
The pastors message is usually very interesting and I always get something out of it.  That day, it was tailored just for me!  (https://vimeo.com/157064375).  The message talked about basing your faith in the word.  Develop a deep desire for the word and what it says.  He compared our faith to a harvest from a farmer.  People want to reap a harvest (of faith) without ever planting a seed (of the word).  Whoa!  That point flew out right into the audience and hit me right upside the head, D'oh!  Here I was having a desire for faith, and walking the walk, but not have done any of the work to plant the seeds.  I don't believe the message could have been any clearer.
The next day during my morning routine, I opened the book I have read a couple of times, Jesus calling, and what message do I get?  "You are on the right path.  Listen more to Me and less to your doubts...As I said to My disciple Peter, so I say to you: Follow Me."  Those words flew off of the page and hit me upside the head, D'oh!  I felt like saying, ok, ok I get it!  People always say that they are waiting for a sign from God.  I think God sent me a few signs on top of each other, because I obviously needed it in multiples to understand!
Since this series of event,s a shift has happened in my life.  Where there has never been a desire to read the bible, there is now a deep desire and curiosity for what the word says.  I have bought a bible, a highlighter, bible tabs, printed off a family tree of the old testament, and have read almost every day.  I am halfway through Leviticus.  I have had some wonderful poignant conversations with my father.  I have gone to church when I absolutely have not had to go, on days I have had time, I have downloaded and listened to or watched sermons.  I am curious how it all works and all the meat now.  I can't explain this desire other than I have planted some slow germinating seeds over the past couple of years and they are finally starting to sprout!  Soon, I believe, God will reveal what my garden is supposed to look like.