The Body Never Lies

The body can’t lie. We can avoid, deny. Deal with, list out. Arrange, re-arrange, anticipate. Organize, re-organize. Adjust or face a stress-induced situation head on, but the body never lies.

The body cracks. Scales. Itches. Bleeds. Tangles. Constricts.

Metaphysical representations of the psychological within. Even when it feels dealt well, not just dealt with.

Plate tectonics of scalp shift and lift. Headaches squeeze eyeballs against brain. Shoulders touch earlobe.

Reminders that while I am Monica Gellering the hell out of whatever life obligations require me to manage, to check back in with myself.

Ask my husband. Slow down is not my auto-pilot. Obedience is not my strong suit.

I attribute this need to be a part of everything to my little-sister-syndrome. I peg this distrust of authority in part to the code of conduct characteristic of my no-man’s-land generation straddling the X/Y gap, in part to my family, but mostly to my general stubbornness.

Like, intense stubbornness.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that when I heard the bell-whistle of a voice in my gut called God-Wisdom to quit the job I love doing, it took a struggle to obey.

Excitement in change. Power in subduing chaos to order. I like these things.

Work. I actually like working, even though (or maybe because) I don’t know how to do it any other way than putting my very heart and soul into the work. Beating, bleeding out of my chest into the work.

The line between product and performance is easily blurred for those of us who enjoy working, especially in roles like church staff or teacher (examples of my actual adulting life) where the purpose of the work feels important. It requires a hyper vigilance and self-awareness to recognize when I am resting in my worthiness simply by existing as a child of God and when I’m tap dancing for that worthiness by presenting a product of my effort to others.

My body is telling me to rest. My soul is telling me to rest.

Do you know what mental work it is to rest?

The moment I slow down, the shame spiral, like vertigo sets in. Disorients and spins. The not-enoughs and would-coulda-shoulda lies abound and I’m doing the mental work required before true rest can ensue.

All to say, I am walking away from my part time gig in ministry. I am thrilled about the space this is creating for our family to reclaim a nothing-on-the-calendar day during the week, about the possibilities of more creative energy, of attending or not attending a church service again with my spouse, and the freedom to say yes to more fostering gigs. Ministry is the full-time gig of our lives anyway right, not a position on church staff.

It’s work to exit a job, work to claw out of a shame spiral, work to not allow the projected perceptions of others about why I’m leaving matter, work to not become scared about how the last time full time stay at home mommydom drove me a little bit batty, and work to not fill up my dance card of commitments before I’ve actually left this one.

I feel so good and true and confident in the decision that an obedience to not work right now is the actual heart and soul work I am required to pursue. I am grateful. I am joyful. Even so, my body is the truth-teller highlighting the inner tension. It struggles on the outside while I struggle with obedience on the inside. The body can do many things for us, but it can never lie.

Waiting

God. Just, blah. Was I attached to those two specifically or just the idea of it? Both maybe? Do you got this? Everything feels so out of control of my plans, my hands.

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The weight of it all in the wait of it all is the energy required to maintain a stillness.

At first assumption the wait is an inactivity. A period of fallow and nothing. An appearance of dormancy confused with rest or ambivalence when in fact waiting is work. It requires a level of focused, determined faithfulness.

We are in the wait. No shocker, it’s hard for me. Painful in fact. Yet, simultaneously a gift while I am acutely aware of how precious each day 1-on-1ing with my three year old is while we hold out to be placed with kid(s).

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I tried using a smile to show them I’m a good person. I tried using my writing to campaign our family as first draft pick. I tried. Always too much effort. All effort and worry and attempt and anxiety-eating the cookies that were meant for the kids’ after-school snacks. 

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There is faithfulness needed during the wait. A belief that this desire for our family is also God’s desire and there is a course unfolding that I am too short sighted to see. Part of waiting means putting in the ugly work of lifting the rug on our hearts and examining every gritty piece of pride and failure and flaw there, then deciding what needs to be healed, held, or tossed.

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Are you waiting for me to say take it? I thought I did but maybe that was a passing thought while I was busy trying this into existence. So do you got this, God? Because I don’t got this. All I got is a faithfulness to the wait.  

On Writing Practice

At turns I come to write, to give an attentive yes to the creative rattle within but find the ink of originality dry so I shush the suspicions confirming my fear that I am, in fact, boring not blocked and I pat my ego and console my soul by reading great writing.

Reading as palpitation and resuscitation to a dormant, stalled idea – the dance of writing and reading and keeping a heart of awareness awake to let in the light, hell, to find the light, unearth the light, unearth the connection, unearth the words from the rabble that threatens to suffocate.

Then, at turns, as I am faithful to sit and offer hospitality to the sprites of creative collaboration – as I set a place at the table – inspiration collides with ability and even as she whisks herself forever forward my needy pleas fall to her feet and my lips thank her for visiting at all.

In a rare stroke of luck the lines of pen, passion, and purpose transfuse into life-breath of being then in a post-publish-panic I convince myself of subconscious plagiarism – because can I actually be as good as that phrase – and frantically re-read every word of importance that has recently crossed my path to clear or condemn the fear of fraud.

And that, my friends, is what it feels like to write.

Pantylines and Politics

It’s a big week for our world and a pivotal time in history. Naturally, I’m going to take space to discuss important issues on my heart like my personal rally to forever end the Rhinestone Butt-Bling Pandemic sweeping our globe’s streets since ’99.

But seriously. Enough with the butt bling, ladies. We’re all staring at the under girth of your tush, which, unless you’re Queen Beyonce herself, is not likely your best feature.

While we’re on the topic of pants, I’d like to remind you to please wear them while shopping this holiday season. I saw not one but two fellow mamas out there in the aisles today wearing silk long johns as legware. We get confused here in San Diego without true winter, but those are base layer. Not leggings. And definitely not stand-alone pants.

I have to let myself laugh at your blasé approach to underwear lines because I’ve been there myself and because my heart is heavy for our world. The sanctuary for refugees debate is a non-question to me.

There are plenty of examples in our recent history where mentalities of fear and scarcity wrote us hall passes to dehumanize entire sets of people – usually based on ethnoreligious grouping. Looking back on a not too distant past we are bewildered by these actions. Yet. The present repeats itself.

Look. I do not pretend to come at this with any more credentials than a housewife not using that liberal arts degree with an emphasis in multicultural studies. I am not a politician or a military analysis. And I’ve been hovering over the “publish” button on this for days partly because I talked myself into being unqualified and partly because there are so many voices already out there on the subject.

It scares me that when choosing shoes to complete an outfit before a trip to the mall, one of my fashion mental filters is “how fast can I run carrying children away from danger in these”. This hate is fearful.

What scares me more is living in a time when shared tragedy somehow permisses hate-speech to be spread. Okayed. Expected. Unruffling.  This hate is fearful too.

That’s why I’m going ahead and hitting “publish”. Because while others are dehumanized, we, ourselves, are not whole.

I’ve been singing the last few stanzas of I Heard The Bells on repeat the past several days. A breath prayer. A heart plea.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Staring at your unabashed panty lines and singing in my head as prayer. May voices of compassion and hope and a shared humanity speak louder than the fear.

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” Howard Zinn

 

 

 

 

For The Mom Who…Our Talks About Foster Care

For the mom who is genuinely confused about how many kids I have:

There are three.

We are still hoping to grow our family through foster to adopt. Ideally with a kiddo from the two or under crowd. That’s kind of our sweet spot and where we know we can offer a physically and emotionally safe environment for current and incoming kids.

Meanwhile, we wait.

While we wait, we offer respite care for other foster families in the thick of it.

I say thick of it because parenting is hard. Parenting foster kids who may or may not want to be with you and have a train-load of trauma is extra hard. Parenting a mix of bio kids and foster kids together is a whole other level that can only be understood by those who live it: words simply can’t imbue the experience.

Recently our family hosted five kids within three weeks and we jumped onto that elliptical of learning curves that happens every time you venture into a difficult arena. At the end, it was an affirmation that we want to do this and we can do this.

For the mom who said she isn’t emotionally strong enough.

Previously daunting things become normalized. For instance, I am capable of meeting birth parents. That felt scary before. When trading kids after visitation in a fast-food parking lot, we are, in fact, standing on the same ground. There is no more “us vs. them”. There is only an us together for these kids.

I am not “stronger” than you, more “ready” than you, more “figured out” than you. This is something our family values.  We simply said yes. Clearly it hasn’t all been worked out yet and has only been an uphill journey. We are confident that fostering and adoption is worth it. What a greater privilege than offering life and hope to what was previously void?

For the mom who told me she could never do that [foster care] to her real kids:

I’m going to skip over that “real kids” part for now.

I get it. It’s scary. I would be lying if I said we never signed off from a day hard-drawn asking if our children will spend their adult years in therapy overcoming these years of childhood.

No, our bio kids don’t always like every minute. Let’s remember that no one in this family actually likes each other every minute. We don’t shy away from doing something because some parts look hard.

Here’s the worth-it news. Our bio kids actively learn compassion. It is not a stale Bible story or an abstract idea. It’s making silly faces at the baby to entice a laugh because giggles are healing. It’s fetching a sippy of milk for the toddler because food means safety. It’s moments when their specific personalities are highlighted and utilized to meet the need of another child sharing in their home.

Our kids have to wait sometimes and be late sometimes. It is not always their way, their choice, their moment. When did this become a bad thing? That’s just called being a part of a family and being ready to grow into a socially responsible human in relationship with others.

For the mom who calls me superwoman and for the other mom who thinks I’m a frazzled spaz-case:

Yes. You are both correct.

It is true that I have a high-capacity for life, however there is no time for me to be fake with you. Adding kids into the mix means simplifying and shaking off non-essential commitments. There is not space for doing it all, people-pleasing, or perception campaigning. I have a much more resolute “no” to peripheral requests because the importance to create space for this “yes” is bigger.

Respite & foster care for our family makes a very real physical and metaphorical mess. Each mess creates an opportunity to see traits of generosity and kindness in our bio kids, an invitation for me to remain close to the vein of God’s heart, as well as an opportunity to continue healing for the foster kids.

It is shaking it all down, and knowing God’s loving compassion and fierce resilience is holding it all up.

The Bike Ride

Do you remember that adolescent feeling when the stirring to interact with your world is bigger and wilder than your means to actually do so? Had we been in our twenties, it would have been a day for letting the car lead us, windows down and hair whipping to wherever the road and winds of inspiration intersected. Since we were fourteen we took our only option – the mountain bikes.

For a split second in the mid nineties I lived in northern California. No, no San Fran. Higher. Nope, not Chico. North, north. A little place time left untouched in the Sierras where the corners of valley stretching for sunlight are wrapped up in mountain peaks. One with the profile of a chief and headdress for alluvial fans flowing to the north and one a formidable feat of granite to the south.

There was a gala tree at the corner of our yard near the fence where fermenting apples and my teenage ideas gathered in heaps. An entire year of my life can be accounted for straddling splinters on that fencepost, looking down the hill into the valley below, singing classic showtunes and the folksy yodels of an up-and-comer; Jewel.

One year minus a few hour window when my new best friend and I entered the valley floor. The sun invited us into an unusually warm spring day, stirring our teenage boredom beyond bearability. We had to be a part of it. Hence, bikes.

Gears shifted, wheels whirred over asphalt as we passed pastures of wild grasses and the occasional cow. It would have all been very free and invigorating had it not been for the panting of the Pathfinder grinding out five mph behind us.

Yes, mom was there redefining hover before “helicopter parenting” was a thing. At some point after saying yes to our request to bike the valley but before saying yes to rationality, she allowed anxiety to overcome. She tracked us. Like a panther she persisted, following with the hazard lights flashing and an occasional honk and holler for good measure.

After a certain mileage we waved the white flag. A teenage psyche can only overcome so much. We loaded bikes on the rack and PAH-RAY-ED none of the (very small town very limited selection of) cute guys saw us with cycling helmets, let alone with this lady leaning out the window shouting at us to “push to the shoulder”.

Recently both my mom and friend-who-endured-the-bike-ride-of-shame asked if I remembered this day. (Thanks for hanging in there to be friends the day after, by the way. Not to mention nearly two decades more.) The answer to which is, of course!

It is a memory to be pocketed and revisited when my own daughter is fourteen and feels the crosshairs of independence and a need to interact with her world stir loud and unavoidable within.

I will want her to climb down from her fence feeling permission to engage in adventure. I will want to watch the freedom unfold. And yes, I will probably be totally terrified and want to offer her the experience while still controlling every aspect with my hand readied on the horn to honk warning and my head tilting out to holler cautionary reminders along the way.

Instead, I will rub this memory between my thumbs with the frenzy and familiar smoothness of a worry-rock and repeat the maternal mantra of each new generation of mothers – “don’t do that thing your mom did to you”. But we will because teenagers dream and sing and adventure and moms of teenagers worry. Just each generation a little less than the one before.

On Being A Yes Mama

I’m a Yes Mama. I love saying yes to my kids. It’s one of my greatest delights. Let’s face it, kids have so little control of their lives and all too often there isn’t space in our family schedule of school/errands/activities/dinner/repeat to open doors for variance or hair-brain ideas. I’m a big fan of hair-brain ideas.

Yes. The most powerful word I have for my kids. Yes! Wrap is up in exclamations and smiles and throw a rodeo arm up as it flaps and flies you to unknown lands with your littles leading the way.

Quantifiers, qualifiers, disclaimers; saying yes doesn’t mean being permissive or rolling in excessive selfishness. It has been noted that I have the world’s lowest BS-o-meter in relationships with others which presents itself in a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cases of gimme-gimmies with my kids. There is goodness and benefit to saying no. But right now we’re talking about saying yes.

I live for saying yes. They bring their ideas to me hopeful, expectant. One hundred percent of the time these thoughts are packed in inconvenience and inefficiency. And yet? Worth it. Every time worth the opportunity to let them grow. Every time saying yes digs up treasures otherwise left fallow.

Here’s the shape sorter: Does it create connection? Does it connect creativity? That’s it. If they bring an idea that links relationships, I’m in. If it fans the flames of inspiration and art, we’re doing it. As often as possible.

Because of “yes” we have: sprinkled toes spontaneous and sandy at the bay, enjoyed burnt toast topped with banana and bell pepper followed with Pediasure chasers for dinner, stocked the car with chenille handled homeless snack packs, unceremoniously painted walls of our home, and hosted neighborhood stuffed animal birthday parties to name just a few.

Really, it’s less about the activity and more about what it creates. A safe practice ground for kids to explore God’s heart, a parametered space to get to know their own,  and to recognize what sparks the pitter patter of joy or gratitude or lightness of being within it.

Yes bonds over unexpected adventures and giggles. It is extravagant love expressed in actions kids can understand. Yes is a memory maker.

I want to be a Yes Mama.

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