The Want Monster

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We’ve lived in our smaller house for a year now. It’s been an adjustment, but we’ve figured it out. Mostly. Just don’t open the hallway closet.

Still, as another birthday passes and the weather turns towards Spring, my heart starts to want. More square footage. A third bathroom. A self-cleaning dog run. I cruise the MLS and Pinterest. I dream.

At some point, the wanting steps out of my heart and becomes a monster in my chest.

The Want Monster.

It is naturally in my personality to obsess, and the Want Monster needs obsession to survive. At first, it seems harmless, like I’m considering. Let’s just see, the Monster says.

But then when Common Sense kicks in, or Shea puts his foot down, the Monster roars.

Why do we have to be patient? Why do we have to wait? Now, now, now!

And that’s when the Want Monster begins to steal my joy.

Shea and I have been mostly calculated and patient financially our entire marriage. We’re planners. Right now we are in year 3 of a 5 year plan and we are on track.

In the last month, the Want Monster has tried to tell me that this life is not enough.

I know it is a lie. But once the Monster is born, it takes a minute to beat him back.

Last week, I prayed for God to ease the wanting. I don’t want to want. I don’t want to have my head turned by things away from our life, which is good and solid and manageable.

I think a lot of us struggle with the Want Monster, whether in our homes, our marriages, our jobs, our families. Someone will always have it better, or have something we think we want.

I also think it is an act of grace to be happy with what you have built, with what you have been given. God calls us to live our best lives according to His time and guided by His plan.  But best lives doesn’t relate to accumulation of things and the Want Monster is not the voice of God.

Knowing is half the battle. Prayer is the other half. This Lent, I am coming in armed for hunting monsters.

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us. 

We Will Rise

This post first appeared last year. When I reread it this morning, I realized that it means something different to me today than it did last year. And since it’s still January, I reflected: In the last year, did I rise?

The story of the eagle who thought he was a chicken is a reminder to all of us that we are gifted by God with our dreams and our freedom, and no human law can strip us of those gifts. 

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On Sunday at Mass, our visiting priest from Tanzania told this story:

A farmer was given an egg. He didn’t know what kind of an egg it was so he put it with his chickens and waited to see what might happen.

The egg hatched. It was an eagle. But the eagle didn’t know he was an eagle, so he grew up as a chicken.

One day a wild eagle landed nearby and said “Friend, what are you doing among the chickens?” And the eagle said “I AM a chicken.” The wild eagle shook his head. “No, my friend. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. You can fly. You can hunt. The world is yours.” But the eagle said “I have always been here, in this coop, eating corn and termites. I know nothing about those other things. I am a chicken.”

The wild eagle flew away. But the next day he came back. “You know what life is like as a chicken, cooped and corn and termites. Come with me for one week and see what life is like as an eagle.”

The eagle agreed to one week, and the two eagles flew away. For a week, the eagle flew as high as the heavens and saw all the world below him: mountains, oceans, prairies, lakes. He hunted fiercely and visited nests built in the tops of the tallest trees and clinging to the steepest cliffs. He saw all the vagaries of life and death, beauty and pain, courage and fear.

But at the end of the week, he went back to the chickens.

The wild eagle flew after him. “What are you doing?” he asked. “You’ve lived the life of an eagle! Why would you go back to the chickens in their coop, eating corn and termites and never having the chance to fly???”

And the eagle said “I like the chickens. I belong with the chickens. I am a chicken.”

The world calls us to be chickens, content in our cages, heads down, eating what we are fed.

But we are not chickens.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are beloved children of God.

We are eagles.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
    they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
    walk and not grow faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Gut Check

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This picture. It’s from the Women’s March in 2017, but the message resonates even a year. Maybe more, after Charlottesville and Roy Moore and #metoo and all the other mind boggling crap that happened this year.

I didn’t vote for Trump, because I’m a pro-life Christian. But I’m white and I KNOW that with those lame ass pink hats and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Persistence, we made the women’s social justice movement Pinterest-able, and then acted like we invented the damn thing.

It’s not that #metoo isn’t important, because it is and, #metoo.

It’s not that women are not marginalized, not abused, not underrepresented, not all of it.

But there’s something off about the pampered and privileged white women of Hollywood taking a diamond-laden and perfectly coiffed stand against sexual abuse in the workplace while still clamoring to act in movies that objectify women, glorify violence and desecrate marriage.

It’s in this picture too, where white women stand with carelessly curled hair and memorialize their “social justice girls weekend” with selfies.

As if this is the first moment, the first rally, the first battle.

As if this outrage didn’t exist until we felt it.

That black woman with the bored look on her face and the searing truth on her poster? She is LITERALLY keeping it real. God bless her, because that’s the business. And she’s probably been doing the business, like her mother and her mother before her and back and back.*

She’s also been waiting on us to show up. She is our dose of humility. This is not about a girls weekend or stylized pink ear pictures on Instagram. It’s not supposed to be fun. There won’t be wine later, for the love of God.

Show up. Be humble. Change the world.

 

*Turns out, she has. Her name is Angela Peoples and she was the director of GetEQUAL before leaving to start her own consulting group called MsPeoples. Her friend Kevin took that picture. You can follow her on Twitter at @MsPeoples. 

Grow Good Coconuts

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In our church we celebrate Epiphany—Little Christmas, or the arrival of the Wise Men—as evidence that Jesus was sent to save us all, not just the Jews. King of ALL Kings, baby. Everybody’s in.

Christians have been known to forget this. We all like to think our church is the best, even though we know that’s not the name of the game. The Wise Men serve as a reminder that our ways are not God’s ways and we don’t know what we don’t know.

But in case we missed the point, on Sunday, Father Arje told this story at church:

There were three coconut farmers, and they all lived on the other side of the island from the market. This required them to haul their harvest across the island. One day they were sitting in the shade, sipping cool coconut milk. Two of them were having an argument about the best way to get to town.

“To go around the east side of the island is the best way!” said the first. “It’s the way people have always gone.”

“Bah!” said the second farmer. “That path is old and crowded. Too many people. The west side is new and less crowded. No towns. No one but farmers on the road. It’s faster!”

They continued to argue back and forth until finally they turned to the third farmer. “What do you think?” the first farmer asked.

“Well,” he said, “I have gone to the east and I see the value. But I have gone to the west and there is value there as well. And recently, my sons and I forged a new path right through the mountains, and it seems solid.

“So here is what I think. You can go to the east, and he can go to the west, and I can go straight ahead. But we’ll all arrive at the market. And when we get there, does the owner ask us ‘Which way did you come?’ No—he asks us ‘How good are your coconuts?’”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this year we worried less about what the other farmers were doing and focused instead on growing good coconuts?

With Grateful Voices

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You might be tempted to kick 2017 in the behind and then slam the door on it tonight.

I sure was.

Then on the way to church this morning, Kate said she was going to miss 2017. I snorted, but Shea asked her why.

We swam with turtles! she said.

Yeah, and my football team had a really great season, said Gabe.

And I started kindergarten and played soccer, said Annie.

My volleyball team only lost one game!

I got my favorite teacher!

Mama got a job!

We got a new house!

I have the coolest man cave bedroom ever!

We got a new puppy!

I was in my first play!

One of my best friends from my old school came to my new school!

Teresa got engaged!

All the way to church they shouted out the “highlights” of the year.

Jesus knew what he was about when he said to let the children come and be among us. Adults are burdened by noise and stuff and fear. We let it steal our joy and narrow our vision. I almost let it make me feel like a year–a whole freaking year–was not worthy of my gratitude.

But my babies and their simple love of life reminded me this morning that 2017 was full of blessings and love and goodness.

It really, really was.

Happy New Year, friends. May God’s peace and joy be yours in 2018.