verbosevictoria

Painting heart-cries, word by word

Putting “Good Job” to Death April 15, 2014

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Quite unintentionally, I have become a pretty decent fan of Matt Walsh and his thoughts which he publishes at themattwalshblog.com. Today he posted about motherhood, and more specifically, why it is not THE (exclusionary) toughest job in the world.

The man enjoys conflict. This he readily admits.

Even so, his full post makes some hard-hitting points about the perceptions of parenthood in the United States at the moment. I appreciated the clarification that he does not detract from the difficulties and full-time commitment required in being a mother. The point about fatherhood being just as challenging as motherhood had me nodding. I nearly cheered when he touched on the dismissive attitude our culture has towards fathers in general and how debilitating that is for the entire concept of family.

But what prompted me to make a dash for my laptop keyboard was this little sentence tucked into a concluding paragraph: “One day maybe we’ll realize that parenting is designed…to be work — not a job at all, really — that is best accomplished through the harmony of husband and wife.”

Consider this. There are times—many, many times—when I am insecure about whether I am successfully fulfilling the role of mother for my children. In those moments, my wonderful husband and the amazing daddy for our children tells me, “Hon’, you’re doing a great job.” And I am a little relieved, a little disbelieving, and a little mollified that it’s probably just a skewed perspective in my head.

Now, what if the conversation ran like this:
Me: Ahh! I feel as though I’m doing a terrible job at being these poor kids’ mother! I keep making mistakes that will probably send them to lifelong counseling and I can’t DO it all with the house and the blahblahblah…freaking out…blahblah.

Husband: My dear, what you do with our children is wonderful work.

Me: *crickets* Um… Well. That is true. Regardless of how I see my abilities, it’s the kind of work that’s always worth my best. I can’t argue with or doubt that. Silly to freak out, really.

Okay, so in reality, I’m not that quick to turn my hissy fits around to rational thought. But truly, the difference between “you’re doing a great job” and “the work you’re given is great” could be the paradigm shift I need as a parent. The shift in focus is from my qualities and performance as a mom to the REASON I am doing it.

What does Galatians 6 say? “Let us not grow weary in doing good…” (vs. 9)

Hear me out because I’m learning this as I’m typing, which means I’m sharing and not teaching. I may not have this figured out yet. When it comes to the concept of hard work, I get very whiny very quickly, historically. It is something I am having to learn as an adult, having never received the joy in it as a kid or teenager.

In the past, I’ve always felt a little exhausted after reading that verse in Galatians. Maybe even falsely guilty. I do get weary of always having to choose those hard, self-sacrificing, never ending good things.

But what if I was looking at it backwards? What if it is talking about good work, not good jobs? What if work is something objectively good or bad? You can do a bad job in a good work, can’t you? That doesn’t change the nature of the work. Charity organizations are doing good work. But a badly trained CEO may run the organization into bankruptcy. Badly done job, but still within the category of good work.

Being Mom to my five kids who are home schooled and therefore hardly ever out of my minute-to-minute life can be exhausting, of course. (As can being Dad to those five kids after working a rough job every day, Mr. Walsh.) But do I really have a right to call the work of motherhood dreary? Motherhood as a calling, a kind of work, is objectively good. So rather than appealing to my husband out of my insecurities, what if I simply asked for a reminder of the truth?

I could stop being insecure about my mistakes as a mother—not stop improving, but stop beating myself up over my imperfections—and instead…

Instead, I could focus on the work.

I might raise my voice when I promised I wouldn’t, but the work of motherhood is worth an apology and doing better next time.

I might mess up dinner for my family, but the work of motherhood is worth gratitude and sometimes laughing at myself.

I might ignore my daughter’s many, many, many requests to bake something with me on a busy Saturday afternoon, but motherhood is worth listening to the pang in my heart and handing her an apron on Monday morning.

I’m not sure if I’m conveying what I saw in this difference between a job and good work, but hopefully the glimmer of truth in there has caught your eye enough to mine the rest of it yourself. There is something precious here. I intend to keep digging.

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Time for Goals March 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 9:13 am

If If

If someone asked you to sum up 2013 in three phrases, what would you say?

I think I would say slightly risky, family-focused, and shifting paradigms.

It was a good year for learning. I learned how to take a positive step forward instead of thinking my motivation to death. I learned to love people who were hard to love without sinking. And I learned a bit more about how God likes to work—one.thing.at a time. I learned patience with myself (a little). I learned about having a vision for my family. I learned to appreciate how quickly my kids are growing into the people God planned for them to be, and how quickly obstacles to their growth crop up.

But it definitely wasn’t all shining happiness. In some ways 2013 felt like a lot of growing pains. It wasn’t tragic, but it was hard. I saw my progress in life and struggled to accept that my hopes are still a long way off. I saw my ugly sides and struggled to chip them away rather than obsess over them. I saw where other people failed me (don’t we all) and the choice to be gracious or hold a grudge. I saw the minutiae of my daily life—clean up the spill, stop the bickering, make the food, change the diaper, make the food, read the baby book AGAIN—and I saw how it builds the foundation for my family now and the family to come… I saw big responsibility in the tiny moments and felt intimidated. Had to move past that. Still working on it.

All of this has been useful, some of it was inspiring, and I am grateful for 2013’s lessons. But I do have one regret. Just one. Not too bad for a whole year, I suppose.

My one regret was crowding out my time to be creative. I had little moments, but I didn’t invest in making things, whether it be crazy projects with my kids or a drama for church, or just writing in my journal.

So now it’s March of 2014.

If you asked me what phrases I would want to see this year, I would say this:

Expressing joy

Bigger risks

Creating at every turn

I’ve been training myself to embrace the joy God gives me so freely and I want this to be he year that I dive into it. That’s a risky move.

I don’t like risk; I don’t like that rush of adrenaline, the possibility of messing up or being ridiculous, the responsibility that comes with success. It’s twisted and a little weird, but I’ve lived with it for so long. Last year, I took some definite risks. I didn’t think my way out of them. It was a good beginning. I want to build on that foundation and leap into the void, knowing God holds me up no matter what the outcome.

God made me to create. In some sense, I think He made all of us to create and it just comes out differently for each one of us. That’s a topic for another day. For me, it’s an artistic kind of expression, something to pull us out of the everyday moments and realize He made something beautiful. I have so many ideas, so many plans, so many hopes. I have dreams that would take me years, even decades to accomplish. I have dreams I don’t see how to reach yet. And there are plenty of dreams that are within my reach, if only I would carve out the time to get there.

So it’s time to make goals. I’m not confident with making goals. That’s probably why this blog is so stuffy. :p But I want to give in to the dreamer in me, be filled by the joy God gives me, and dance my way through space.

Here’s to the unknown!

 

Oh… Maybe I should list some concrete goals?
Well, I guess so. Although that feels terribly final and—

Okay. Compromise. Baby steps. Here are some IDEAS of goals I’m playing with. I can’t have too many or I’ll give up.

  1. Write a certain amount (1 page, 500 words, 15 minutes worth, etc) of whatever EVERY DAY. I’m terrible with “every day” goals. But hey, shoot for the moon, land in the stars, right?
  2. Write a complete fictional story (short, children’s, novel chapter/arc) at least 3 times this year. Baaaaaby steps, remember?
  3. Streamline blogs format and invest into content.
  4. Do what it takes to gain followers. Within reason. I’m not mercenary.
  5. Get at least 4 articles published.
  6. Invest in writing with a budget—magazines, conferences, a class or two, etc.
  7. Choreograph a lyrical dance/drama for church. I have several roughed out but I need to actually do them.
  8. Look into starting a children’s choir.
  9. Take kids to art museum to explore. Bring drawing pads.
  10. Take a dance class!
  11. Explore poetry.
  12. Read new authors. I don’t like doing it because I am a little picky about the books I read. But I want some new books!
  13. Crochet. Anything. Just re-learn how to do it.
  14. Get a garden going for the first time ever. I saw this really cool method where you put the seeds and some topsoil in a bale of hay or straw (forget which) and just let it do it’s thing. No weeds, no digging, and hopefully no epic waste of money. I’m thinking potatoes, attempting tomatoes, maybe bell peppers. Easy stuff.
  15. Practice, actually PRACTICE, singing. Maybe even try writing a song. Maybe.
  16. Craft with the kids once a week, via Pinterest.
  17. Print pictures of my family and friends of my kids so I can help them scrapbook.
  18. Bake more with the kids. Step away and let them make mistakes.
  19. Epically decorate at least one cake.
  20. Lead a group study.

I cannot do all those things. But I can pick a couple that really mean a lot to me and do those. I can’t pick right now because that is just too much pressure, but I WILL. 😛

I will. I have to. I want 2014 to be better. I want to be better.

 

What I Hear in “Let It Go” (Yes, this is about the movie, Frozen.) March 18, 2014

My family is slow to see the newest films, mostly because we aren’t a very movie-theater-friendly group. When your youngest is one year and your oldest is seven-and-a-half, the possibility for disaster is exponential. Therefore, I am very, very late to the bandwagon of blog posts about the movie, Frozen.

As far as review goes, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My kids thought it was fantastic. The humor was clean (I’m lookin’ at you, Shrek), the characters grew and changed, the story was a fascinating expression of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, and the songs were brilliant. It was more like a musical than the typical animated kids film, which was a pleasant surprise for me. I love musicals!

One song, of course, stands out more than the rest. “Let It Go” is written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and sung by Idina Menzel. The character Queen Elsa has just exposed her magical ability to manipulate snow and ice in front of her subjects and she sings about the next chapter in her life. From a young age, her father coached her to conceal her gift and separate herself from emotion. The more emotional she was, the more her gift would explode out of her. Elsa is fearful of the hurt she can do (and has done) to her dearest loved ones and to her kingdom. She can’t control her ability. She can’t control how she feels.

And then one day, her choice to hide behind the palace gates is taken. Everyone sees what she can do. Everyone is frightened, including Elsa. So she runs away. She hides in isolation, just as she was taught to do by her father, only now she’s on a mountaintop instead of in her room. On the mountain, she feels a rush, a release. There’s no point in trying to make her power disappear. Alone, she is able to explore her power without hurting anyone.

To me, this is actually a complex part of the movie and of Elsa’s development as a character. As a child, she learned quickly and desperately how to remove her existence from the rest of the world (and even from her sister). She tried to pull her power inwards, tried to control how much it scared her, tried to tame it. With the urging of her parents, Elsa learned to keep everyone out—for THEIR safety as well as her own. But she also received a special prophecy by a troll that it was fear which would consume and destroy her.

Rather than explore what drives out fear, her family embraced fear and held it close. Elsa was a slave to fear. As an adult, when her parents were dead and gone, her sister was desperate for relationship of any kind, and her kingdom needed an involved and confident leader, Elsa was unable to rise to the challenge. She buckled under the pressure. Her fear ruled her, as it always had, and she ran away.

And so, alone on the snowy mountain, in her element of power and far from anybody who feared her, she sings this:

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

not a footprint to be seen.

A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.

Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.

Be the good girl you always have to be.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.

Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go!

Can’t hold it back any more.

Let it go, let it go!

Turn away and slam the door.

I don’t care what they’re going to say.

Let the storm rage on.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s funny how some distance,

makes everything seem small.

And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do,

to test the limits and break through.

No right, no wrong, no rules for me.

I’m free!

Let it go, let it go.

I am one with the wind and sky.

Let it go, let it go.

You’ll never see me cry.

Here I’ll stand, and here I’ll stay.

Let the storm rage on.

My power flurries through the air into the ground.

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!

The cold never bothered me anyway…”

(Read more: Idina Menzel – (Disney’s Frozen) Let It Go Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

My soul soared while she sang this song. I’ve seen people describe it as an anthem and that is how it feels. But as she slams the doors of her newly created ice palace, a look of cool confidence on her face, I felt a pang.

Yes, I want to “let it go” sometimes. I want to feel wild and free and able to explore all my potential without fear.

But…it doesn’t work that way. You aren’t freer on the mountain top than behind the closed palace door. You’re still shutting people out, still pulling away. Her frozen powers built embellished walls for her prison.

And that’s what I love about this scene. Elsa is experiencing the exhilaration of releasing responsibility, but it comes at the same price which crushed her since she was a girl. It comes at the price of relationship. It costs her a real life.

This is an invaluable analogy for us, especially us ladies and girls. We would love to toss responsibility and consequences to the wind—we all would, at some point or other in our lives. And in this scene, in this anthem, we yearn to feel Elsa’s pseudo-freedom, to feel her exhilaration. If the movie ended there, if it said, “Well done, Queen Elsa. Go pursue your self-improvement, far from the expectations and needs of others. Become one with yourself. You don’t need anyone!”—I would hate this movie. I would hate it for the lies.

But Elsa doesn’t stay there. She learns to love and BE loved by the sacrifice of her sister (another blog post in itself), and she accepts her part in the world. She is forced to leave her ice castle on the mountain, but she also does not go back there.

It is vital for us to see this for ourselves. The allure of not caring is so strong sometimes. But the price of escape is self-imprisonment. You won’t be better off alone. You’ll just be alone. And you’ll never know what you were truly able to do. Elsa doesn’t discover how to complement her kingdom with her power until she uses love as her source. Instead of making an ornate barred door, she creates an ice rink in summer and saves the comedic sidekick snowman, Olaf, by giving him his own “personal flurry.” (I do wish they had explored how her magical ability fits into ruling her kingdom a little more, but you can’t have everything it seems!)

The only real exploration of your potential is in putting it to use in LOVE.

I do love this song. I love it for being poignant, for being honest, for so accurately encapsulating all I’ve longed to feel as I get weighed down by the struggle against fear. But most of all, I love it for being proven wrong.

Fear and Love do not coexist. Being alone is not freedom. Exhilaration is not true joy, and is swiftly swept away by the fear that sent you out in the cold and built your ice castle.

You were designed for self-sacrificing brotherhood. It is hard. It is exhausting sometimes. But stay, sisters. Stay! When you let go of the fear, you let love in. And love makes all the difference.

 

A Heart Cry February 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 10:33 am
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Fast Asleep

“You are a woman of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

My husband goes through this statement-and-answer with our daughters and sons every night before they fall asleep. Even the baby responds “mmhmm.”

It is precious to hear, like dropping little golden balls into their future selves. I pray they know it all to be true when they are no longer sleeping in beds down the hall from me. I pray they know they are children of God, created and designed for a purpose, and loved. Loved so deeply, surrounded by it on every side, regardless of where they go or what they choose to do. When they are scared or confused or hurt, I pray they can take those golden spheres of truth we’ve dropped in, one by one, and be comforted.

I know I can’t give them their salvation. I know I can’t keep them from pain. But maybe if we give them a wealth of truth to start, it won’t be so hard for them to find the glints of gold on their own. Maybe if we show them truth, show them what love looks like, over and over and over again… Maybe they’ll learn to recognize the real thing. Maybe the twisted imitations won’t be as alluring. Maybe the pain they feel at times won’t be without purpose or value if they can find the golden ball tucked away in the dark.

We hope so. We trust God that we are doing what we can.

These people, these individuals, these precious eternal beings destined for greatness in God’s kingdom are entrusted to us. We don’t mold them. We don’t clip the edges to match our own shapes. We don’t crush who they are under the weight of who we became.

They are unfolding, still delicately but with little increases in vigor and confidence. They need protection, to blossom in health and wholeness. They need guidance, to learn the steps in the journey all must take. They need encouragement, to be brave as they grow. They need prayer, to cover their paths as they go. They need discipline, to choose their design over their default. They need counsel, to navigate the currents flowing between people. They need wisdom, to give them a head start.

But mostly, they need love. Love reassures, comforts, demands better, forgives hurt, rejoices, hopes, perseveres, and is always, always there with open arms.

God be praised, we can pour out His love on them. If our love is a sparkling trickle, God’s love is a luminous waterfall, rushing down and mixing with and overwhelming our trickle. His love cascades on us, on these precious people who are still so young, and flows out from our family into the world He created us to influence.

And each night, before they close their eyes, the daddy God gave them drops another golden ball of love and truth into their very souls–
“You are a man of God.”

I am.

“You are special.”

I am.

“You are loved.”

I am.

“Goodnight, buddy. I love you.”
“Goodnight, silly head. I love you.”
“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you.”
“Goodnight, princess. I love you.”
“Goodnight, bubby-boy. I love you.”

I love you, Daddy.
Goodnight.

 

A Little HP Introspection January 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 12:04 pm
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I am about to be nerdy. You have been warned.

So I like online quizzes because they have the same kind of immediate satisfaction as making a three-point shot into the trash can with a crumpled bit of paper. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t signify much, but you feel disproportionately pleased over it.

I took a “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” quiz and I decided to read wayyy too far into the results.

My first result was Albus Dumbledore: “Not only are you incredibly intelligent, but you’re also really good at dishing out sage advice. You have a bit of an ambitious dark side, but ultimately you’re all about the power of love.”

I decided to take it again with using all my secondary answers. This time, I got Luna Lovegood: “You’re definitely a quirky free spirit, but you’re also surprisingly perceptive. You don’t care too much what people think you, though you really value the people who accept you for exactly who you are. The world would be a lot less interesting without you in it.”

I did it one last time, and this time I changed to whatever I may secretly WANT to do, but would never really choose. And I got Draco Malfoy: “Rich, powerful, and well-bred, you can’t help it if other people don’t understand how truly awesome you are. Other people are idiots.”

 

I approve.

Most people would probably peg me as a Hermione, but frankly I am not that resourceful, determined, or gutsy.
I do have enough brains and curiosity that I can see the Dumbledore. I do give out a lot of advice (ha) and offer my thoughts in conversation. Ever since I was 10 or 11 I can remember friends coming to me and asking what they should do or explaining their problems. I love to help weave a thought process with someone and show them a different path.
What really clinches that first result for me is that, if I’m not careful, I can go so deep into observation mode that I foreget to interact with people. I start seeing them as specimens. I analyze them, try to discern a pattern in their choices, take their environment and family life into account, and hypothesize about their strengths, flaws, hopes, frustrations, etc. Albus and I have that tendency in common, I think.

However, I’m not brilliant. I’m sparkly, but I’m not brilliant. Luna’s perception is tinged with curiosity rather than being clinical. I think that, coupled with feeling like the giraffe in a room full of gazelles and not being terribly bothered by it, gives me a camaraderie with Luna. I also feel very strongly about my friends, something Albus wouldn’t allow himself to express. So the creativity is there as well.

And Draco? Well, I’m a fairly good conversationalist so I suppose that counts as good breeding, haha! I have always felt Draco and I share a fear of failure and a somewhat unhealthy desire to make our family proud. It can be consuming and crippling. I also like to think I was probably much more like Draco when I was in high school. Much more likely not to care what others thought because I thought they were all too busy being stupid. Much more angsty FOR SURE. Much more likely to wander off by myself to brood. I think I’ve all but outgrown Draco in my character, but it’s a part of me still. (And secretly, sometimes I really would like to show up people I disagree with. It’s a very smug attitude. I try not to let it linger. 😉 )

So, I think these three results are a good cross-section of the Harry Potter version of myself. And now that I’ve determined that, the rest of my day can continue on. 😛

 

What Numbers Do For Words (also, happy blog-iversary to me) January 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 9:26 am
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Apparently I’ve been blogging here two years now. Two years. That is simultaneously longer than I thought and a very short period of time.

Numbers are not my language, but they do hold a certain fascination when you quantify your memories and experiences in those terms. It’s straight-forward, untheatrical, unassailable. You can’t argue with naked facts.

I’ve been online since I was 15 years old, which is when home computers and dial-up internet really started to get popular. That’s 13 years online.

After a year or two obsessing over AIM (Aol Instant Messenger, in case you didn’t know) I spent 3 years on a Christian message board on kiwibox.com, learning to be an apologist for my faith. The “Christian” board had an equal number of agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, and multiple denomations of the Christian church. Discussions were lively and I loved it.

For 7 or 8 years I blogged on xanga.com. Those were my “golden years” I guess. My blog was popular enough on the site, I had plenty of followers, the community was unbeatable, my blogs were varied and interesting. I poured my heart out during my first years being married, my first child, the first real tragedies of my life, the first real triumphs. And people responded.

Now, for the last couple years, I’ve somewhat sporadically blogged on WordPress. I came here so I could blog without being totally absorbed. The community here has not… Well, it isn’t the same. But that’s why I’m here. I wanted a place to shout into the dark and hear my own echo.

I’ve not given myself much credit for these last 13 years of words. I don’t seem to think of it as writing. It’s been a little too easy for me. But I guess maybe that was my education in self-expression. I didn’t get much in the way of craft, but I’ve been mining my own brain and heart for material on a pretty consistent basis for over a decade. I guess I can value that, looking back. I learned what gains a response, I learned how to spark controversy, I learned how to navigate conversations of opposing views, I learned how to have fun with these words–playing with them, batting them around, mixing them up, tearing them apart. I found out people heard what I had to say and found something resonating there. I found that I have a sweet spot when I’m writing and I can feel it happening, that moment when what I wanted to express actually comes out of me in exactly the way I was hoping it would.

As much as I get intimidated by numbers as a language I’ve never comprehended, I find it does lead me to considering the naked facts in a way I hadn’t, and I find out something new. Like all this “wasted time” wasn’t really wasted. It was all an investment.

I’ve been investing in my own imagination. I can live with that.

 

“When I Am Afraid” by Laura Hackett -Worship Dance- November 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — verbosevictoria @ 11:19 am
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I wanted to express what I’m learning about clinging to my God the Rock. I don’t choreograph, I’m very amateur, but this is an honest picture of my heart.