Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Weather was at the front of my mind as I headed out to the lake for the long weekend in July with four kids in tow while my husband was away working. Temperature, sunshine, rain, and wind speeds affect packing and planning, and perhaps most significantly, our moods. It is so easy to check the forecast, and a little harder to gauge the weather in my internal world.
We parked the car in front of a small rental cabin and I asked the kids to help me unload our stuff. The oldest took the baby, the middle one helped reluctantly while trying to escape between each load, and the little one lifted everything she could. For me, parenting solo is a stretch, and the barometer rises on vacation. As I set the kids free to go play, I unloaded the cooler and checked in on my own forecast.
My assumptions are the single biggest predictor of the weather in my world. If I assume that parenting is primarily difficult, that the kids are trying to make my life harder, or that camping will be exhausting, my assumptions are the filter for reality. If I am unaware of my assumptions, then my understanding of reality can be pretty far from the truth. The cool air from the fridge met a few interesting assumptions: that our sleep would be bad, that I was alone, and that the weekend would be fun.
The forecast on my assumptions depends on the questions I ask of them.
Assumptions about sleep are almost always unhelpful for me. With young kids, my sleep and theirs can be disrupted anytime. Assuming terrible sleep is a guarantee than no matter how the nights go, I will be disappointed, as well as tired in the morning. How can I think about our sleep differently? I can plan to arrive as well-rested as possible, ensure there is some downtime when we get home, plan well for bedtime, and then give us permission to make it through however it goes down. We might need more naps, but we will go with it. I shifted my assumption to sleep will be what it is, and suddenly a rainy weekend is looking more like a mix of sun and clouds.
Isolation is like a well-worn pair of sandals in my world. Anytime I hear myself saying that I am alone, I have learned that I need a reality check. My parents, siblings, children and a myriad of nieces and nephews were with me. What feeds me about the idea of being alone? Too often, I am trying to be a superhero and fooling no one. Help would be offered, and I could ask. I adjusted the assumption to remember that I’m in this with my people. If a storm blows in, we’ll be gathering towels and little people together.
Expecting fun is less negative than the first two, but also worth questioning. Camping with kids is a lot of work, and there can be some less than fun moments. What is it that makes camping with family fun? Most often, it is the surprises we haven’t planned, the way the kids pair up and make up games with sticks, the conversations that happen while we build sandcastles, the memories of retreating from rain. I could assume it would be fun, even if not in the ways I expected. I can stay open to sudden shifts in the weather.
As it turned out, the weekend was beautiful. The sun shone, the wind allowed us to get out on the boat a couple of times, and the beach was great even in the wind. Two nights were excellent and the last was a bit of a mess. I lost my favourite flip flops to the waves the first day on the beach and pulled out a backup pair of sandals. I followed a tiny toddler around a lot, did less dishes than I have done other years, and we all drove home in a rainstorm played out and happy.
The weather in my world depends so much on the assumptive predictors I put in. Adjusting my assumptions can shift both the forecast and my responses to what actually happens. Here’s to a summer with rest and play, sunshine and rain, and grace in what is.
Weather was at the front of my mind as I headed out to the lake for the long weekend in July with four kids in tow while my husband was away working. Temperature, sunshine, rain, and wind speeds affect packing and planning, and perhaps most significantly, our moods....
When I posted about being here on social media, a friend posted in response: Hearts are so so much bigger than places. He is so right. My heart could sort through back packs and listen to competing stories over pizza, let an ordination live stream in the background and facetime with Dad. I felt connected to all the people and deeply satisfied with being here in one.
There are little pots of wildflowers growing tentatively in the windowsill. There are little piles of soil on the ledge and the floor no matter how many times I wipe them away. There’s a little girl who smiles every time she looks at them and worries whenever someone else gets too close. What might grow if I make room for the messy gardening, the inevitability that some of the beloved sprouts will die, and the inconvenient tears that will follow?
. To be honest, I am better at repenting (and the accompanying self-criticism) than I am at rejoicing. Besides, doesn’t everybody know that joy is dangerous?
Two long years have passed since Abbie’s death, and I might believe it was yesterday if five inches of hair hadn’t grown since then. Last year, I was in shock that we had all survived a year without her. The second year has been harder still, facing the permanence of lifetime of her absence.
Healing was not the invitation I was expecting when I showed up at church several weeks ago. I arrived focused on the harsh words and tone I had exacted on my family in the days before. I want so badly to be kind and patient, loving and gentle. Going to church felt like walking into the brick wall of my own failure. I’ve been walking with God in silence for the better part of two years, so I was surprised by the flood welling high enough in my chest to cut through my guilt: it is time for healing.
My heart gets hardened in a thousand tiny ways, each almost imperceptible in ordinary moments. Softness comes from the same small and abundant moments. Softening, I am coming to believe, is a much more difficult way.
Every so often, the garage door opens and I notice what love is doing in me. It is the evolution I was made for.
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On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.