What it Means to Fall

9/20/16

In my early twenties, I thought I knew what falling meant.  It meant hanging out in homes and with families a lot different than the ones I grew up in.  It meant choosing to live below the poverty line, or it meant my husband dropping out of college.  It meant moving to Indonesia and setting up our nest smack dab in the poorer part of the city.  It meant deciding to adopt a child when everyone around us was doing it the old fashioned way.

Oh, I knew all about falling.  (Just like I knew about everything else.)


I was so proud.  Proud of my feet for their willingness to step off the ledge, proud of my knees for never buckling beneath me.  Proud that things like weakness and spiritual timidity were not my lot in life.  I both pitied and scorned (but mostly scorned) those less "radical", especially those who called themselves Christians.  The harder something was, the better I felt about myself for doing it.

A decade later, I'm amusing myself by imagining the conversations surrounding me in heaven.

Mama Mary: "oh dear, this sweet one, she thinks she knows what it is to fall, Son."
Jesus: "I know mom. Isn't it adorable? To think she's falling free when she's just carefully walking down her own back steps.  But we really should move her along..."
Mama Mary: "a baby?"
Jesus: "a baby."

It's so funny now in retrospect - hilarious, even, in a slightly sick sort of way - that He bombarded my carefully crafted plan for exactly how I was going to fall, and He slipped the rug of control right out from underneath my bare feet.

That baby, the one that I stubbornly pleaded Him incessantly for, would be the one to take my hand and pull me down.  I only thought I'd known a fall; parenting Alyosha those first few years proved me ridiculously, laughably wrong.  And it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.


What I learned is that falling isn't really about doing radical things, things that might look like brave hard choices to outsiders looking in.  Those things are fine, and often beneficial, but they are still based on control.  They're based on the power I have to choose them.  And that, my friends, that ain't falling.

To fall free is to open up your hands and say "no really.  Thy will be done."  It is to be hopelessly dependent on the Source of Life: painfully aware of your need and of your lack, but surer than ever that the Source will somehow be enough.  To fall free is to find yourself confronted with your own face when you look at the face of your neighbor.  Or the face of your enemy.  For all our pious expressions and lofty thoughts, humans don't naturally see ourselves when we look at the other.  We have to be taught how.  And for my money, the best teacher is that outside-my-control, open-handed, rug-out-from-under-me fall.

Right smack in the middle of my way down, a friend sent me a post written by an adoptive mom who I could have sworn peeked in to the halls of my heart and scribbled down what she saw.  Through the communion of saints she looked right at me and said things like, "a mama and her little love can teach each other things while they wage war between everything they lost and this right here".

That was 3 years ago and I've rarely missed a word from Shannan Martin since.
(And I still cry when I read that line.)

Shannan has been a teacher on this journey of mine, this path that reeks of human sweat and uncomfortable silences and spending time with people whose baggage offers glaring reminders about the weight of my own.  Motherhood is a bit easier on us both these days, but we've been cracked open for wonky friendships and drawing wider circles and there's no turning back now.  I hold Shannan in the golden chamber of my heart reserved for Dorothy Day and Fr. Gregory Boyle, and I even sometimes give her a little extra room in there because she's got a knack for thrifting that squirts out happy juice in my brain.

(There's a scientific name for that, but it eludes me.)


Shannan's book, Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, releases today and I can't rave about it enough. Maybe you're longing to open your hands and your life to the will of the Holy Spirit, but you don't know where to start.  Maybe you've been falling so long you don't know which way is up anymore.  Maybe you're curious about what the Bible says about living a surrendered life.  There are a thousand reasons to pick this green puppy up and not one of them is wrong.

Basically I'm saying that if you're hanging around at this blog, then this book will almost certainly be up your alley.

I'm giving away a copy of Falling Free to a newsletter subscriber next week, so if you'd like to be entered for the drawing you can sign up here.  If you don't want to wait around I understand, because this baby is hot off the press and generating a lot of buzz.  You can order it on Amazon here for less than 10 bucks or lots of other places books are sold. {and just for fun you should watch the trailer!}

Thanks for sticking around this space and falling with me, you guys. It's truly an honor and joy.


*amazon links are affiliates, and I thank ya sincerely

How A Pair of Sandals Saved My Sanity (On Pursuing Goals Outside of Motherhood)

9/15/16

Many of you responded enthusiastically to my recent post about downsizing my closet and re-committing to buying fewer, more ethically sourced pieces.  I think you'll really enjoy hearing from my friend (and kind September sponsor!) Amanda today as she shares about how her interest in conscious consumption has intersected with her desire to have her own "thing" as a stay at home mom.  Welcome, Amanda!

(and psssst... if you make a purchase through one of the embedded links, you are supporting me AND Amanda. So thanks for considering ethically sourced Christmas gifts or fall essentials!)



A while back, Shannon posted on Instagram the following question: How many of you are to some extent pursuing goals outside of raising your little sweeties? I read that and literally raised my hand in the air, Me! Me! I was eager to add my two cents to the discussion because ever since my son was born almost four years ago, I have indeed been on-and-off pursuing goals outside of motherhood.

Right after I got pregnant, I resigned from a successful career as an elementary school teacher. I was respected, the school principal loved me, and I was good at it. After my son was born, with no career to go back to, I was not in a rush to get back to work outside of the home. I settled into the stay-at-home-mother mentality and participated in play groups and mommy groups and Facebook groups, but I could feel myself, the essence of Amanda, slipping away and getting totally swallowed up by the tidal waves of motherhood. Motherhood had changed me, for sure, but the new me was still part the old me. I was struggling to be true to both.
When my son turned one, I decided to go back to school and earn a Montessori diploma. When I graduated from the program, I was 5 months pregnant with my second child, so my new career would be put on hold until my daughter was old enough to attend Montessori school herself. It wasn’t long after she was born, though, that I started to feel the pangs of SAHM boredom.

I racked my brain for work I could do from home or even flexible jobs I could do in the evenings or on the weekends when my husband could stay with the children. One day ethical fashion brand Sseko Designs sent out a call to join their direct sales program, and I answered. I bought a pair of ribbon sandals and a starter kit. I remember my first Trunk Show with friends, wearing those sandals, and feeling nervous excitement. I felt the old me get comfy next to the new me.


I am so honored to represent Sseko Designs, which makes beautiful handcrafted leather footwear, bags and accessories in East Africa. Every Sseko purchase directly impacts the lives of young women in Uganda saving up for University. You see, Sseko runs a nine-month, gap year program for female high school graduates who would otherwise have a difficult time finding a job to save money for college, thus giving up their dreams of pursuing a University degree. Instead, they make sandals for a time, Sseko matches their savings with a scholarship, and off they go to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and more.


With how easily I took for granted that I got a college degree and went back to school to change careers because I simply didn’t like what I was doing anymore, being a Sseko Fellow (that’s what we call the direct sales program) is my little way of paying it forward. Plus, I have been passionate about ethical and conscious consumerism for many years, so encouraging others to purchase ethically made fashion just makes sense for me.

As if being a part of Sseko’s awesome mission weren’t reason enough, I am thrilled to be a Sseko Fellow because this program has done wonders for my own life. At Trunk Shows, I have the opportunity to connect with women from a variety of backgrounds. We snack, we laugh, and sometimes we dig deep. I am able to earn a little extra cash. I can treat myself to new shoes and bags without the guilt of dipping into the family budget -- not only do I use Sseko credit to buy them, but I am also buying less stuff and less often because I am buying timeless pieces that I will treasure for years to come. That’s the thing with Sseko products. You can’t pick them up at TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack in the clearance section.

Like Shannon, I am working towards a quality over quantity mindset when it comes to my wardrobe, so instead of purchasing a cheap bag from Target, I am investing in both a high-quality product that will last a long time and in a company that stands behind its products.

Even after I do go back to the classroom, Sseko will always be a part of my life. My sole sisters (as we Fellows call one another) are really like family now. We support and encourage one another to be our best selves, in and out of business. While I am pursuing my goals and dreams, I am directly helping other women stateside and half a world away pursue theirs, too.



If you’d like to check out the awesome products Sseko has to offer, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about the Sseko Fellows program, click here.

The Catholic Prophetic (thoughts on Taavi's baptism)

9/13/16

I breathe in the smell of chrism oil, marked solidly on your forehead in the sign of the cross on Saturday night.  Twice, I think it was.  For good measure I suppose.

I didn't well know the priest who baptized your brothers two years ago.  Father George was Indian and kind and indulgent of our tendency to show up at mass with a homeless lot, none of us able to restrain ourselves from an overeager swaying to the music.  But Father John, who baptized you this weekend, is our friend.  Or at least as close to a friend as a boss can be, but he came over for Christmas dinner so that counts for something.  John is white as snow, a Midwesterner to his core, worlds away from Father George with his brown skin and thick accent I often struggled to understand.  And then there's Father Charlie, who concelebrated your baptism mass but whose bum shoulder meant he couldn't be the one to dip you and make you cry.  Charlie is from Ghana, and the fact that you boys get to see a black man in a place of authority is a gift not lost on me in the times we live in.  Like when Kevin prepares the bread and the wine, his dark sacristan hands confident and steady at the altar.  I lean in close and whisper to Alyosha.  There's Kevin! Isn't it so cool that a Ugandan is up there?!

He nods his little head but I can't read him. Maybe it's because he's a child who has known nothing but a life of tapestry.

When we first felt the winds of change breeze across our cheeks, your daddy and me, we thought about Anglicanism.  It made so much sense to follow that trail, with its beautiful liturgy and catechesis, crossing over not insignificantly with Catholicism but carrying a lighter sense of severity in the minds of our Protestant friends and family.  In the end there were many reasons we jumped off into the deep end, but one of them was the universal component of the Catholic church.  How can we mindfully raise a transracial family, your daddy wondered, if our religious affiliation literally means "white"?

So here you find yourself, 3 months old and so freshly Catholic that anyone who bends to kiss you still inhales a waft of heaven.  I love this faith we've folded you into, tucking the most critical corners in tight and not minding about the rest, the way I swaddle you snug when the sun goes down.  It's a patchwork quilt of a collective, and the diversity of thought and culture and practice moves me to no end.

My heart's desire is to model for you what it is to be the Catholic prophetic: a voice that is for all people, all life, all from love. I will mostly fail but maybe I'll get it right here and there, and by God's grace maybe that will be enough to propel you further than what I can see.  You have begun your journey, my little one.  May the Holy Spirit prove an ever present companion for you.  May you trust the light exists when all you see is darkness.  May you dare to counter hate with love, offense with forgiveness.  May you live out the life of God that is within you.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen.


Why (and How) I Chucked 2/3 of My Closet

9/7/16

You read that right.  I recently got rid of most of my clothes.  We're talking church dresses to workout shorts, blue jeans to camis, the whole nine yards.  In one vigilant afternoon sweep, I got down and dirty and did the damned thing and honest to goodness, I have not regretted it once.  I look better, feel better, and may spend the rest of this post not so subtly trying to convince you to do the same.

It's an incredibly freeing experience.  I kinda feel like some ancient minimalistic nomad, roaming around hunting and gathering and carrying Taavi in a papoose.  Who knows, I might show up at your house tomorrow night.  You just don't know with me.

Where was I? Oh right, explaining why on earth you would ever want to do this. Although I'm sure the allure of a nomadic lifestyle is tempting you, I'll try a different angle just in case.

Here's the rundown of my process.  Maybe you'll see a little of yourself in it too.



The Problem
I could blame it on lots of things.  I could say it's because of this awkward postpartum-body stage, I could say it's because ever since I became a mother 6 years ago I've had exponentially less time for myself, I could say it's because we're on a razor-thin budget.  I think the truth is though, that adulthood is long and hard and tiring and most of us just stop caring as much about how we look for awhile.  Until one day we wake up and go, "I used to be a unique person who expressed myself in interesting ways.  I used to mix and match like a boss.  I used to dress for my own pleasure.  Now this is the third day I've worn my husband's t-shirt, and not in a sexy way.  Not in a sexy way at alllllllllll."

I was in a rut, and I was in it deep.  This is what that rut looked like for me:

  • - always throwing on awful clothes because: stay at home mom
  • - saving the clothes I actually liked best for some magical day when a unicorn stops by and takes me on a glamorous adventure
  • - most of my stuff fit badly because of postpartum body changes or simply poorly made clothing
  • - too many clothes to sift through, thanks to my affinity for buying $1 shirts at thrift stores

I had heard about capsule wardrobes before and I liked the concept, but all the rigid structure felt painfully insurmountable to my severely Type B personality.  And yet desperate times call for desperate measures, so when I came across Cladwell - a site that walks you through the capsule process with an ethical, anti-consumption perspective - I dove in headfirst.  (not sponsored! just a fan)


The Ideals
There a few goals that I knew I was striving for with this undertaking:

  • - an ethically sourced closet
  • - buying less made better, not buying more made cheaply
  • - look good and feel good about myself
  • - not working too hard at getting dressed (a cohesive wardrobe)


A Word About an Ethical Closet
The most ethical practice you can apply in regards to your wardrobe is simply wearing garments you already have instead of buying more, regardless of how more could be obtained.  That goes without being said.  But around this blog, when I use the word "ethical" in reference to shopping I am referring to two aspects:

1) that the creation and distribution of the clothes do not undermine the dignity of my fellow human beings (i.e. - fair wages, fair working conditions, and if possible offering more to the employees: microloans, educational scholarships, entrepreneurial endeavors, etc)
AND
2) does not significantly contribute to the culture of consumption (i.e. buying new things all the time) and disposability (i.e. throwing away or donating at an alarming rate)

Am I practicing what I preach? Yes and no.  This is what I shoot for, but honestly I fail sometimes.  But every so often I stop, realign myself, and get back on track.  And I'm doing better than I did 3 years ago.

(source)

The Method
Following Cladwell's directives was a great start, and very helpful as handrails in the beginning. They walk you through your best colors and how many of what items you will need for your particular lifestyle.  It's pretty fun, but its $15 and I'm not totally sure it's worth it if you aren't strictly adhering to their capsule mentality.  (Which, I didn't.) Their ethically-sourced shop recommendations are phenomenal though. So many places that were new to me!

FIRST
I made sure almost everything I owned was clean and hanging up or in the right drawers. EVERYTHING.

THEN
I went piece by piece and put every single item into the following piles:

  •      - absolutely love it but doesn't fit (including maternity)
  •      - love it and it fits great and works for the coming season
  •      - love it and it fits great but doesn't work for the coming season
  •      - everything else

NEXT
I made three categories of storage:
1) maternity clothes that I actually love,
2) a couple of regular items that I really love but don't currently fit
     (A COUPLE. Pick your very favorites to keep in case your body changes in the next year, but don't allow yourself more than that.)
3) things I love that don't work for the coming season.

AFTER THAT
I tackled the relatively small pile of things that I love, fit well, and are in season.  I did one last purge on the tank tops, pajama pants, t-shirts, and leggings, and then I said hello to my new closet.  (I even intentionally used only my white and silver coat hangers to cut down on the visual chaos.)

FINALLY
I sorted the remaining items into a few different giveaway piles.  I requested a bag from ThredUp (read about that option here), filled it with my best quality stuff, and the mailman picked it up at my doorstep! Easy peesey.  I took the maternity pile to a consignment store in town and the rest of everything I donated to the local thrift store.

that would be sidewalk chalk. errywhere.  c/o one Moses Emmanuel Evans

What I Kept for Fall

Pants: 4 (2 jeans, 1 black slacks, 1 funky print wide leg)
Shorts: 2 (denim and navy)
Skirts: 4 (1 knee length, 2 pencils, and 1 maxi)
Dresses:  3 (nursing-friendly)
Blouses: 2
Short sleeve shirts: 5
Long sleeve shirts: 4
Cardigans: 3
Sweaters: 2
Camisoles: 4
Leggings: 4
Workout clothes: 6 pieces (enough for 3x/week)
Pajamas: 3 pants, 1 shorts, 4 tops
Shoes: 8 (booties in black and brown, converse, 2 sandals, running shoes, 2 pairs flats from The Root Collective)


What I Bought for Fall
  • - relaxed fit tee from PACT Apparel in twilight grey
  • - slim fit hoodie from PACT Apparel (on sale for $20!)
  • - converse all stars (Only afterwards did I find out these aren't made in the U.S. anymore! Such a disappointment!- but still a hard staple to give up. I guess next time I'll look for a secondhand pair or find a comparable sneaker.)
  • - still itching to pull the trigger on one great sweater (maybe the one below from Krochet Kids?) and tapered jogging pants. and Sseko's oxford shoes are amazing, should budget work in my favor some day.



What I Learned

  • - I learned I need much, much less than I realized.
  • - I learned that too many options actually limit my creativity and result in me getting overwhelmed and not trying at all.
  • - I learned that I really don't have to wear stuff I don't like.
  • - I learned that I actually prefer wearing basic clothing and using head scarves and jewelry to jazz it up.
  • - And surprisingly, I learned that when I removed all of the excess, I really like my clothes after all.

From here forward, the most important thing I'm taking with me is to look at my closet before the next season starts and ask myself thoughtfully if I need anything new.  No buying on a whim, no buyers remorse, just an intentional purchase of something I need, something well made that will last a long, long time. That's it.

What about you?  Would you ever do this?  Have you done it?  Give me all the feedback!

(some links are affiliates. thanks for sending a little change my way at no cost to you!)

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