Purple Cow

A pile of books sat on the lake house floor. When I took a minute to read the titles I discovered a copy of children’s stories published in 1956. On one of the pages is Gelett Burgess’ The Purple Cow, a poem about blending in or about the value of being a spectator. It really is in the mind of the reader to decide, but in my opinion there is hidden value in both.

“The Family Treasury of Children’s Stories Book Two Edited By: Pauline Rush Evans

Today, here in 2020, we all want to be somebody. Everyone is craving to stand out and be heard. When Seth Godin wrote Purple Cow as an inspirational book for marketing companies, he set the theory into motion that you need to stand out from the herd. He brilliantly calls marketing agencies to be a purple cow.

This seems to work excellently for a marketing firm selling a product, right? But it seems to fail when individuals try to build their personal brand. The huge field of independently branded humans trying desperately to be Godin’s version of a purple cow seems excessive.

What about the value in Burgess’ purple cow?

We are people, not products. Maybe that is the underlying thought that bubbled up when I read Burgess’ words, which happens to be categorized as nonsense verses. They just reminded me that seeing a purple cow is as equally valuable as being the purple cow, but we but more emphasis on living the stand-out kind of existence. It is really kind of exhausting. People are not corporations, so the idea to be your own brand just falls to pieces. Therein rests the value of Burgess’ nonsense verse.

Would you rather be the purple cow or see one?

Desire

I recently woke up to the reality that I had stopped dreaming. Somewhere between now and then I’d lost my hold on looking toward the future. I was emptied out by this normal life, and in the void, I rediscovered my calling.

There’s this cluster of words in an ancient text that I’ve heard most of my life, and have read over and over. These words are like fresh grapes on a vine and people use them to comfort others or to remind others that God gives you things to pick. These words, up until recently, have always seemed as fruit for me to consume.

“and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

There’s a few words before those, and they go like this…

“Delight in Him,”

My entire life has been a sequence of pursuit. I’ve set my eyes and heart on the desires of my heart, and when I was running up on a hurdle I would ask God to give me the desires of my heart. I used that cluster of word, from the ancient book of Psalms, like it was written for me.

And in a way it was written for me, and for you, because it’s truth for thriving in this life. But, on that day when I woke up to my emptied out heart void of dreams to chase, something fresh took root deep within my soul.

I had no choices left. The only option for me was to fall below that cluster and rest in the dirt while The Vine of Words covered me from a false reality. I look up at it and saw newness growing. I saw truth differently.

“Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I had been anchoring my delight in my desires.

On that day, and still today, I am asking God to fill my hear with His desires. It’s gone beyond asking and shifted into craving. My existence as a joyful, present, purposeful human rests under these words of truth. Because, what else is there in life than to live delighted, in Him. That is my calling.

Move

It was a rainy Tuesday in August and the three of us were grumpy. Living in a post-Covid world with kids has enabled me to explore new levels of emotions.

I just wanted bedtime to be immediately. Instead, it was 1:34pm and no one was resting. That means no break for me either, and when the ages of the kids in our home are 5 and 2.5 years old, skipping rest time sucks.

The music was on faintly in the background of our day, so I turned it up. I collected all the throw pillows in the house and tossed them onto the floor. The boys looked kinda concerned and also equally excited. I faked my desire to have fun, and I just started hopping to the beat of the music from one pillow to the next. It actually caused my mood to shift from grumpy to not so grumpy.

We had a spontaneous dance party and our feet were everywhere. The more I moved the clearer my mind became. Pretty soon the floor became hot lava (of course!) and then the family room transformed into a headquarters of some kind. I wasn’t calling the shots, I just kept moving and playing with the space I was in. It was my discovered way to get out of the space in my tired-out mom mind.

The boys pretended to sleep in their headquarters and they let me know my sleeping spot was on the stairs. Sitting up. Oh. Okay.

I sat on the wood steps and chose to meditate and be thankful while deep breathing. Three counts in and five counts out. It was so relaxing. This is the stuff I learned while doing Dr. Caroline Leaf‘s Switch app. I just never thought I’d be calming my nerves while pretending to be in a secret headquarters. But, I also never thought we’d have “quarantined for four months” in our recent past. Just go with it. All of it.

Stress and emotions look all kinds of weird when parenting. Sprinkle into that the awkward reality of a global pandemic and we have a mega mental clutter fest. But, on this day I chose to move.

We all felt kinder and happier there after. Until no one wanted to eat any of their veggies for dinner…mmmkkk, breathe…

Then move.

Gather

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2020 was a few days old when I was still searching for my word for the new year ahead. I like to search for words that become motivators instead of forcing their arrival into my life. So as each new day passed, I just listened for my word to make itself known.

Then it happened. The word “gather”. That was my word for 2020! It presented itself like a new book. The cover was highly anticipated, the story inside was going to be exciting and challenging, and for some strange reason I felt like it was going to make me uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable that forces me to grow.

I had no clue it would make others uncomfortable too.

So without any delay, I began planning a Super Bowl party. We’re not really a sports family. We love being outdoors and active, but no one I live with has a favorite team and we definitely have never owned any sports swag.  Our Super Bowl party invites said something like…

We are the most neutral NFL house in the county, so come on over for food, drinks and a place to gather. Go team!

Our home was filled with friends, kids dropping corn chips on the floors, and neighbors. It was a great kickoff to embracing my word. It felt so right.

That was the last party we hosted and the last big gathering inside a home that we’ve been to in 2020. In March things got really uncomfortable for our county, and basically the entire north east, when everything stopped. No one was gathering. It was not allowed.

But then we unofficially decided that as humans we need to come together. We need to see the nonverbals on our faces when we talk. We crave connection. It’s in the fabric of our beings to gather together. So, we began reinventing ways to come together.

It’s August, and I have realized the word gather is still my word for 2020. We have been challenged by creating new ways of gathering. We are craving ways to still be connected while staying apart. Our lives have embraced the value to gather in ways that might have been totally missed prior to rules about social distancing. We are made to be in community. We are made to stay socially connected. We thrive when we gather.

I had no idea that my word for 2020 would become the launching pad for innovation in the way we stay human during times like these. We are going to make it through this time of false isolation, because we have adapted to new ways of gathering.

They are more pure and intentional, the times together while still being apart, are cherished in ways that words can’t describe. We are made to gather, so we will. Our ability to come together, even while distancing is an example of the adaptability of the human condition. Our need to be a part of each other’s lives has sparked innovative ways to gather while staying a part.

Who would have imagined that here, in 2020, we are being forced to reimagine something we have been doing for centuries? Gathering together isn’t ending, it’s just repurposing our innate need to be connected.

My word for 2020 was and is gather.  I’m embracing all the beautiful mess that this word has come to mean.

 

 

At Home

We focus much of our attention on the things that go on outside of our homes. Don’t we? The stories in the news, the hype of the award shows, the sports games and certificates of achievement, all these things are how we measure success in our culture. It’s really easy to forget that everyone began at home, talking and having meals, and it’s where they, we, were anchored for our becoming.

“It’s in the houses that people talk, and do things and have meals. Nothing goes on in the in-between places.” C.S. Lewis

That idea is tucked into a paragraph found on the pages of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Magician’s Nephew.  It stopped me when I read it, and I began to think…

A home is the space that gives the other places their fill. We spend so much time being cultivated and nurtured inside our homes.  Then as we grow we end up spending time in the in-between and giving our gifts and talents to the places that need it, and in a way we need those places too. Eventually a familiar desire for home challenges us to move. If we grew up in amazing homes, we imagine modeling a home to be similar to where we came from. If we grew up in a not so amazing home, we dream of the ways to make our future home better. Either way, our hearts eventually guide us away from the in-between places toward home.

Home is more than a place. It’s an arrival, within your soul, claiming “I belong here.”

Home is were there is a quiet awareness of belonging, and from belonging grows a richness to create, talk and make things better. When we know and believe we belong, we can love and have the courage to fail. We can have hard conversations because we know talking won’t make us homeless, rather it feeds the soul and inspires relationships, thoughts and new ideas. That’s the stuff that fills the in-between spaces. That’s what home nurtures.

 

 

 

Grown-up Tree Climbing

I recently began climbing a dogwood tree in our backyard. It began as a way to hang out with my kids. Then I started climbing when they weren’t even around the tree. It’s my space to look up and feel like a kid. It’s just pure fun.

The winter lets sunshine into places in our 50 year old yard that the summer closes off. Without leaves shading the usual places, the light drips onto the ground and into high up spaces. It’s in the middle, of the ground and the up-high places, where I find it relaxing. I climb up, then rest on a few branches and limbs perfect for lounging back and soaking up the winter sunlight. When I first climbed the tree it hit me: I spend way too little time looking down. I look down at my phone (too much!), I look down at my counters, kitchen sink, Legos on the floor…you get it. My kids are about three feet tall, and of course I’m constantly looking at them. But, that’s down too. So, literally looking up is a welcomed shift.  When I’m there, hanging out above the ground and between the branches, I look up and it automatically changes my mindset to follow upward.

When the air is brisk and fresh I find myself breathing slower and with intention.  Sometimes there’s a breeze moving through the empty branches all around me. Other times it’s so still there are no sounds at all. Both are life-giving in their own way. I don’t even have a picture to post with this, because I have been so in the moment when hanging out in a tree. (That picture above is from a winter hike a long time ago.)

It’s a new year, and I am desperate for new things. Climbing trees is pretty basic, free and definitely not new in anyway. For me, though, it’s new and fun. I’m keeping it in my life as a way to chill out and find simple moments of fun.

Are there ways you have fun and chill out throughout your week? Would love for you to  share in the comments.

 

 

The Messages We Consume

I’ve been thinking about something Marshal McLuhan said back in 1964 about the way we communicate. He said, “The medium is the message.” The level at which the message gets misunderstood or embraced depends on the medium it comes through.

It’s been a weird season for me and social media. I go through phases of being active and then passive and also totally ignoring it. However, I struggle with fully disengaging. Partly because I realize some greatness can come out of sharing. So, in light of that and within my recent break from FB and Instagram, I’ve grown these thoughts…

Do we believe where we are is beautiful?

When we look at staged photos of color coordinated closets, immaculate laundry rooms and a sibling tribe of perfectly dressed kids — ages 5 and under, you just wonder how we are all thriving. If we can’t gather our emotions long enough to refuse these images, how will we find the courage to teach our own little tribe to believe where we are is beautiful?

When you look up from the feed that seldom feeds you, do you still see what you like? Do you see what you are in the middle of building? After all, you are creating and feeding and building something real; something very much alive.

Does social media feed you?

Your life is in constant movement. Some days may feel stuck or derailed or like walking backwards, but that’s movement. Who says forward movement is the best? That gets redefined in motherhood. We live with so many feelings and experiences, why add to it the tension that bubbles up from too much social media.

We spend so much time looking at frozen shots or 10 second loops of points in time within other people’s lives.

We are a collection of beatutiful, plus messy with a side of momentary perfection. That all gets lost in translation in certain mediums.

Are you free to abandon perfection?

So what happens when we spend so long digesting images currated by minds who want to be perecieved as influencial and worthy of likes? Those hand-picked moments get adopted as our personal goals and uncomfortably pushed into our real world happenings. Subconsciously, they do.

It just shouldn’t be this way. When immersed in the act of creating, raising up and guiding children you need to be free to abondon perfection.

Our souls demand this of us. Our children beg us, in silent attempts, to be more than moments to capture. To be more than a post, captured in perfect light while surrounded by monochromatic fabrics and shared in an attempt to influence.

We are more than these moments. We are.

The medium is the message. Your medium, your life, your home, your messy closet, your laundry room that eats half your family’s socks, your refrigerator that houses too much cheese….this is your space. Be okay with it. Or change it. But don’t allow your motivation to change to come from another mother’s moment in time temporarily supported by 5,465 likes.

Be smart, be wise and be intentional.

Be smart, as you are already smart, about feeding your mind. The messages you spend time believing will impact how you are over there building, creating and caring for your family.

Choose wisely, as you are wise, and look around your space with freedom to build your message, within your home, far beyond the image on your screen because that is where love is growing and love can’t be currated for a post.

All the goodness and authenticity a growing family requires is found inside the hearts and minds of the people living in that family. Choose where your messages come, use them as your tools or discard them if they aren’t helping you build your family up.

Be picky. Be intentional. Be aware of your needs, then be aware of how you feed your mind and your heart.

You are smart. You are wise. You are the builder. Go and gather your tools to support your family’s growth. Make sure to vet the messages being shared with you when you scroll your feeds. Choose how you feed you mind, because the medium is the message.

Photo via Pixels.

 

 

Deep Into the Love Well

We sat together on the bathroom floor in a puddle of tears. My two and a half year old son was curled up in my lap and his head rested on my squishy postpartum belly, when he whispered between deep sobs, “I miss you, Mama.”

My first baby boy had just become a big brother. The transition was easier than I imagined, but he had his share of tantrums and I noticed his feelings were swirling deep within his growing self. Change is hard, especially when change requires someone to make more space for someone else.

I tried to teach, coach and guide him through the field of blooming emotions he seemed to be navigating every day. However, we never fully got to the root of how he was feeling about being in his home with a newborn brother, until that moment on the bathroom floor.

It was just before his evening bath when he began to freak out about nothing. Like, literally nothing. He stood like a toddler statue planted beside the bathtub with his bare feet on the soft rug, his face was electric red and drenched with tears. His lips were a deep shade of purple as they stretched over his mouth to let out all the sobs.

I was exhausted from all the simple tasks of the day, and I wanted to walk away from his unravelling. I had just held my newborn through eating an unfinished dinner. I had just wiped bottoms and served meals and have responded to all the needs. I was present and available for my boys for over 12 hours, and I wanted to be off the clock. Obviously motherhood doesn’t have clocks or an office to leave the return to after a full night of sleep. Time is different in the motherhood. At that point in time I just wanted to put on clean pajamas and wash my face then relax for a brief moment.

Instead I reached deep into my love well and I pulled up a bucket of patience. For me in that moment love looked like patience. I chose to stay there in the tension between us.

I began to speak so quietly I could barely hear myself under his crying and incoherent babbles. His words were arrested by his emotions. I sat down on the floor and I held his hands. I looked into his blue eyes, and it was like looking at the ocean floor. There below the ripple and movement of water was an entire world of happenings. I gently pulled him onto my lap hoping it was all the safety, comfort and warmth he needed in that moment.

I waited for his sobbing to slow down and for his body to be less rigid. Then I told him softly, “I love you. Everything will be okay.”

He slouched down into my lap and laid his head on my squishy postpartum belly, then whispered, “I miss you, Mama.”

I stayed there with him for a long time, just holding him.

Not saying anything. We both cried. I missed him too, but didn’t realize it. My simple act of leaning in showed me how we can be around someone all the time but still long for moments together, reminding us of how things are and used to be.

We didn’t talk, we just cuddled and cried. That was what love looked like at that point in time when I chose to stay instead of walk away. When I chose to love well.

Do you have a a time when you chose to stay and love, even though walking away would have been much easier?

Comment or email me at writeladywrite@gmail.com

Hugs,

Teresa