23 Aug On Basements & Belonging
Our house is brimming with boxes and bubble-wrap: we’re moving soon and I’m determined to downsize. I fancy myself (mostly) organized when it comes to things, but paper is a problem. No matter how much I toss, keepsakes, greeting cards, and documents of all sorts are still doing life in our basement on Juniper Lane. No mas, I say. No mas.
I sent my husband, Regis, with our three-nager and newly weaned chubby cheeks off to PA for a long weekend with family so I could tame the paper tiger and reevaluate our belongings.
It was the middle of the night when I found a box from my years as an HR professional. I quickly tossed outdated materials but unexpectedly lingered over performance reviews and email commendations like they were old friends; memories of successful projects, bonuses earned, amazing colleagues, a career path, a different wardrobe — a different me — all bubbled up and made messy-bun-basement-me seem quite pitiful. So I did what any professional would do: I cried. Like the ugly, ugly cry.
“I used…to be…a…person…these people recognized what I brought to the table…my brain and insight actually mattered…and we…we built real things…and they…they…were invested in me…my life was interesting and I had…momentum…” I sputtered at the pile of papers in my lap.
I left my family and beloved Kansas City for DC when my husband and I married four-ish years ago, and six weeks afterward we became pregnant. I telecommuted from home, hunkered down, and feathered our nest. I quit my job a few weeks before baby boy arrived and together we navigated the next year with all its firsts. A couple months later I got pregnant again but miscarried (a whole journey of its own). And eight weeks after miscarrying, we were pregnant with our second son, who is a year and a half now.
I WANT A DO-OVER
“You should have never quit your career,” I chided. “It’s about so much more than money. It’s about having a place…and dignity. Regis gets to parent and maintain his personal identity and productive life while your possibilities die a slow painful death under piles of laundry and dishes.”
My hissing continued: “I’m just gears that turn to enrich everyone else’s lives. I want a do-over. I want the old me back and I want to be with people who knew me when I mattered. I’ve never been anything but an appendage to Regis’s identity in this place…I…just need…to…fix it. I need to go back to work NOW.
Right, at 3:30 am. That will solve it ALL. Oh, and don’t forget the opportunity cost. Ugh, I hate feeling this way and I don’t know how to fix it. Why can’t I figure…me…out?”
Reality is I don’t always feel that way. Many days my heart bursts with glad satisfaction. But sometimes remembering, “I don’t always feel this way,” isn’t strong enough medicine.
WHAT’S A MOM TO DO?
What do I do with me in those moments? When my path forward looks exactly the same as the string of days (years) that have already passed? My first inclination is to switch it up. Make a change and quick. But my go-to coping mechanism is regrettably not transformative, and it’s on lock down with caregiving constraints anyway.
“What if I mastered self-care? Work-life balance? Sharing kin-keeping tasks and the ‘mental load’?”
All worthy goals, but outcomes will never be perfect, because I will never be perfect. So what do I really want? I really want to be set free from me — my negative emotions, perceptions, and the sense of squander pressing down on my spirit.
JESUS WANTS TO SEE YOUR HEART POOP
When we began potty training our eldest, he would excitedly announce, “I pooped! Come and look, Mommy!” I would cheer loudly, run to the toilet, and we would observe his poop together before flushing it away. Disgusting? You said it. But he didn’t see it that way: he trusted me to be with him and get curious about his stinky poop. And I did.
The deeper I tip-toe into trusting relationship with God and experience His gentle parenting love in return, the more this toilet-training memory assures me God isn’t put off by my heart poop. He wants to be with me and He is curious about me, heart poop and all.
“But my heart poop is awful, why would I show God what certainly frustrates Him? I already know all the truth I need to believe, so if I just keep reminding myself, eventually my desire to absorb it will materialize in real time — God sees how hard I am trying to walk out my spiritual inheritance — eventually I’ll better channel the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. See? Then I will have the strength I need to start really overcoming. If I just keep moving forward, keep praying and praising, and trying to trust Him more fully…eventually my perseverance and His all-sufficiency will mesh into real growth…somehow. Right?”
How is that working out for you? Has that spiritual hamster wheel lead you deeper into lighthearted freedom? Same here. But what else is there?
KNOWING ISN’T SOLVING
Knowing what’s wrong is the diagnosis, not the cure. I know some of the lies behind my basement rant; but my self-awareness can’t move me past, “Yup, that’s heart-poop. Right there it is.” For authentic transformation, I need the living Lord Jesus to kindly engage with me, comfort, curiously explore my thoughts and emotions, and then “flush away” the internal ugliness through relational, supernatural exchange. The true love miracle is He wants to do just that.
In scripture, after Lazarus dies, Jesus says to Martha: “Where did you bury Him?” Another translation reads: “Take me to where you put him.” And in the Garden of Eden, God said to Adam after he sinned, “Where are you?” Of course God knew where they were! But He wants me to take Him to the hidden and buried places where I am dead and decomposing. Those are the parts that need His healing touch of resurrection — resurrection that comes fuller and deeper, again and again, through interactive connection with Him. (Thanks to my friend DQ for this truth nugget!)
FORMING: AN INTERNAL TRAJECTORY
On the hardest days it can feel like I’m dragging along a dead-end existence. But Kingdom reality is my good Father has an internal trajectory for me. Even when I feel invisible and wasted (and angry about it), He is slowly and lovingly rearranging my internal landscape to make room for joy. Invite Him closer and know that the darkness you feel has no power to stop Him from orchestrating your life-giving renewal.
Want to hear more? I recently finished a group study of Forming: A Work of Grace (click title to purchase) and the process and materials were soul-salve in ways I can’t verbally express. If you have ever found yourself yearning, “I know how to study scripture and pray but there has to be more to communing with God…but what exactly…and how?” you are on track, and there are answers to your deep-down questions. This resource simply and kindly walks you past all the faces of religious self-help straight to the true Lord Jesus, our Emmanuel, your God with you.