Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Peace and how to achieve it, not only in the world, but also in my heart.

Pregnancy - not my own, of course, but the pregnancies of two friends who are due the same week, and another who is waiting to hear if she is "with child."

Preachers - some under fire, some who should be, and why they are mostly men, mostly looking to preserve their male status as preachers and take great offense to the idea that women can preach, that Paul didn't mean that women can never speak before adult men, and who think that God intended for half of the people He created in His own image to never be able to speak to or teach the other half of the people He created in His image.

Perfection - In her book, Momma Zen, Karen Maezen Miller describes perfection like this: "Not perfect as in better than something else, but perfect as in complete." Perfection as completion.

Prejudice - as in "pre-judgment." Sadly, I would imagine there are several people who will read the title "Momma Zen" and roll their eyes, wondering what a good Christian girl like me could possibly be doing reading a book with the word "zen" in the title. Yup, I'm reading it. It is easily the most honest, down-to-earth, realistic book about motherhood I have ever read. Ever.

Here's a quote that hit me hard this evening as I read the book (sitting in the front part of Caribou Coffee while my daughter attended a volunteer meeting in the back room... the joy of reading about motherhood as I did the mothering thing: taking her where she needed to be, waiting for her, and driving her home) -

"Practice acceptance of yourself so you can be kinder with your child. Practice nonjudgmental awareness of your life so you can save your loved ones from the cruelty of your own impossible standards and your hard-hearted disappointment. Practice greater faith and less blame. Take this blink of time when you are still stumbling at the gate, still awkward at the tasks, to turn down the sound [of what she describes as our constant self-critical evaluation] and tumble freely in a state of grace."

Yikes! All my criticism of friends and family, whether it is in the presence of my children or in my own head: not good. All my criticism of the way that people dress and how poorly groomed they sometimes are: not good. All my moaning and groaning about how many people in my life have disappointed me: not cool. Do my husband and children and friends and loved ones deserve to hear me ranting and raving about everything that bothers me? No, they don't. It's time to turn down the soundtrack of my criticism and begin to fill the airwaves of our home, car, our telephone lines and the e-mailboxes of people I claim to care about, with the music of amazing grace, words of peace and encouragement, and the golden beauty of silence.

And here is another one:

"We give our children life. How, then, can we expect to keep our own intact afterward? But we do. We haven't yet recognized our new position in the natural order of things, and we keep trying to return to where we were before. At first, out of innocence: Let me get back my looks. Let me get back my energy. Let me get back into the swing of things. Then with ferocious will: Let me get back to my own life! So goes the battle between the old and the new, the giver and the taker, the parent and the child. I am talking about something more than just the gauzy cycle of life. Sure, you're older now and one day you're going to die, but before that, you have to die. Your child has arrived and the battle has been joined. It is the battle to the death of your ego. The demise of your selfishness and impatience. The end of your idle distractions and carelessness. The decline and fall of Numero Uno. Or so you must pray, because in this contest, you must lose and lose quickly. Pray that you will never bear the shattered consequences of winning when your child's safety, trust, and happiness are the casualties."

Okay, so maybe my children's "happiness" isn't the most important thing on my agenda. But their safety, their trust, their souls, their joy, their belief in what they are capable of being - that is on the line every day. Will I seek to win every argument just because I am the mother? Will I seek to win every argument just because "I am right" about certain points and they are mistaken? In the choice between being right and being kind, I must choose kindness more and more often.

In my childhood, I learned what it felt like to be beaten into silence and submission, physically and emotionally. Physical punishment is not doled out in our home. Period. And I pray that emotional punishment is ever decreasing in frequency. Forced apologies. Admission of grievous ills and wrongs that I never quite understood, but always offered in order to be back in the good graces of my parents and whatever other authority figures loomed in my life at the time.

I know what it felt like to be forced to admit that I was being disrespectful in a confrontational situation, but never be told that the point I was making was right. I want my children to be respectful in their words and their attitudes, but I also want them to understand that when they have made a valid point, they will be acknowledged for that.

And apologies from an adult in my life? Not so much. Apologies from someone who lied to me and was caught in the lie? Never. Apologies after being insulted and humiliated in public? Nope. My prayer is that I will set a new standard in our home, in our marriage, in our parenthood: a standard that applies to all of us. A standard of justice, of humility, of each serving the other, of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and innumerable chances to start over again when we inevitably mess things up.

I am ready to die: to die to my own selfishness, inconsiderate nature, impatience, carelessness, and superiority complex.

I sat and watched and listened while Steve offered Daniel help with his homework. Without interfering. They neither asked for nor needed my help.
So shut up, Gail. Shut up!

Yup, I'm pondering parenthood a lot. Marriage. Friendship. Forgiveness. Life itself. I'm learning how to remain silent sometimes instead of offering my opinion and advice. I am discovering that there are far more questions than answers. And I am learning to be okay with that.

More often these days, I sit and watch them do their thing. Live their lives. Swallowing my urge to speak up, lecture, offer my suggestions.
Again, shut up, Gail. (Her t-shirt says: "Don't be trashy. Recycle." She bought it with her own money and no commentary from me. Go, Kristiana!)

One final quote: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves... Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another... If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Most of the verses in Romans 12:9-18


Lisa said...

Wow, a lot of stuff here, Gail!

I can see growth and transformation amidst all those questions.

Your ego is fighting hard not to be defeated. You'll notice it's being diminsished when you speak less, have less opinions, preferences, judgments, etc. It's an amazingly powerful - and yet humble process. Not forceful at all, something that just happens over time as a by-product of doing all this *work* and discovery.

The Quakers say, "Unless you can improve upon the silence, do not speak". Sometimes keeping our mouths shut can create magic for ourselves and other people.

Amy said...


I've had to make peace with issues of childhood, too. Sitting by my dad's bedside these past few days, kissing his head and offering encouragement have been healing for me. We choose our attitudes each and every day, in spite of what happens.

BTW, our fridges are competing for "most covered!"

Ella said...

We've all had things to deal with in our lives as Amy points out and make peace with. Hurts that seem to never heal. Being able to share those thoughts with everyone on the WWW is not an easy thing to do.

Making peace with the past events in my life have been the most difficult paths I've ever walked and it's been humbling at times.

And until you've walked in someone elses shoes I don't think anyone can really understand how people hearts feel.Blessing to you always.



Smell Goods '98™ said...

I love this post. Simply love it.


~Be forgiving to a fault