I just finished my first Jen Hatmaker book — For the Love. Now for those of you that know I am a jewish convert, you’re probably thinking for the love (just so you know, I will overuse this phrase throughout this blog post) of all that is holy what drew you to that book? But if you really know me, then you say to yourself — of course, she was drawn to that book … after all Jen Hatmaker lives on one acre in Austin and owns chickens!
Jesus or no Jesus, that is just cool.
Of course, I really only like the idea of chickens — I don’t actually want any chickens. Chickens are definitely #offthebeam, not that they were ever really on my beam (after all it was not until I read this book that I realized I even had a beam … ) — but how cool that she has chickens on her beam? I need to master feeding these kids I birthed three square meals a day before I can think about a chicken for anything other than the protein that accompanies dumplings.
Jen made me laugh — actual belly laughs. The kind my kids have when we watch videos of Teddy Bear porcupine eating pumpkins. Right now in my life, I need to laugh. Raising twin boys and starting a new organization is hard work. I am very serious most of the time. It takes all my brain cells and then some I am quite certain I do not possess to do all of this and I still come up short on a daily basis.
I love my Dumplings, but for the love … they make me crazy. At the end of some days I want to put on a straight jacket and beat my own head against a wall, but instead I pass out and do it all again the next day. I do this the same way so many woman do all around the world. I am not special in my plight — just getting through it every day like so many women before me. Women who have made this path easier for me to walk, quite frankly. I know that one day I will look back on this moment in time and wonder where those little boys went? I already do.
For the Love reminded me of the things I need in my life and more importantly, the things I don’t. On the Beam and Off the Beam. Boy did this hit home. Having kids puts a lot into focus for you, but for the love — if you spend any time on Pinterest you get to the end of most days and think, there is no hope for me because my children will not have bento boxes that cost $75 with lion shaped sandwiches and manes made of bean sprouts.
I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest and all of its perceived perfection. Perfection drives so many of us to put more on the beam than any one human can handle. The lion sandwiches are cute — but so far #offmybeam — and who needs a $75 bento lunch box? What on earth? I had Donny & Marie on my lunch box and I survived the 70’s just fine. I would argue more than fine. The 70s were so #onthebeam. So were the 80s.
For the love of my beam — here is some of what is on it (not in necessarily in this order). Feeding the family well is #onthebeam. Yoga is #onthebeam. Growing our new organization Patients Rising is #onthebeam. Reading more is #onthebeam. Time alone with my husband is #onthebeam. Time alone with my kids is #onthebeam. Writing more is #onthebeam. Time with friends and family is #onthebeam. Time alone with God is #onthebeam. Finding the place we will officially call home — #wayonthebeam. Finding community wherever we are #wayeronthebeam.
When you move, even if you know a few people, finding a community to let your hair down with is always hard — especially for an introvert like me. A part of me has been afraid to engage with our neighbors because I’m not exactly sure what we are doing. Are we staying here awhile? Will we decide this can all be done from someplace else with a chicken coup out back? — I really am kidding about the chickens, Mom. — I have no affirmative answers right at this moment, which is a rather bold place to be at 46, but this is where life has our family today. It’s very easy to get caught up in the future and forget about the moment you’re in. Couple all of that with the fact that I hate goodbyes so much, sometimes I get scared to say hello. Amidst all of the mishegoss I have lived through professionally over the past several of months I allowed a little too much wallowing through the day and not enough welcoming of it.
Since moving, I had a job I thought I wanted forced off my beam, only to discover I no longer wanted it … in fact, I never really did — and boy was it liberating. Sometimes we do things for the right reasons for others but the wrong reasons for ourselves. You have to be careful of this path because it leads to what’s know as … resentments. And boy can those wreak havoc on your life.
Letting it all go opened up something in me that had been missing. My spirit for work that matters. I was surrounded by so much drama and chaos I got lost in the maze of other people’s quiet desperation. Breaking those ties by force was by far the greatest thing that has happened to me since I gave birth to the boys and I am so grateful.
And for the love, the second best thing was finding this book to help bring so much into focus. When I was in my 20’s I was searching for myself — now I just want to focus myself. When we focus on what is most important and what drives us to action we come into focus — all the things not on that road simply become part of your backdrop. The place they should have resided all along.
I realized at the end of the book how much I was craving community — not my online community (which I am so grateful for, because it makes space for connections we would otherwise never have) — but the kind of community where you can let your hair down, drink copious amounts of cheap (or great) (or cheap-great) wine and solve world problems. That community. Can I find this community within religion? I have yet to ever do that, but I am not a quitter. I would like to for the sake of our boys.
Finding a spiritual home is #onthebeam.
The way I see it without community you really have no home. You’re wandering. Perhaps lost, perhaps not. I’ve done both. We need community to function well. We can’t do this thing called life alone. There was a time I was more of loner, but now I am not walking down any yellow brick road without my very own Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow — and let’s not forget Toto.
I’m not quite sure what leads me from one thing to the next in life, which is an exceptionally awesome way to live most of the time. (Though my mother might disagree with this sentiment.) I am always seeking not the Road Less Traveled (yes, I read that book) — but the road I am supposed to travel. That road the voice inside of me — be it God or the actual voice inside of me — leads me to travel by asking questions and seeking answers. Always be kind. Always be curious. I say these two sentences to my boys every day as they hit and bite each other hoping one day it will sink in and become the fabric of who they are.
Love. Kindness. Curiosity. Love thy neighbor, be kind to strangers (except the really creepy ones, after all, you can’t be an idiot) and be curious in the world. Soak in all that moves you because we’re all here together for like a minute. Seriously. And each day it feels shorter and shorter.
My entry into the Jen Hatmaker fan club was innocent enough. I saw some post on Facebook about a speech she gave at a school somewhere … It made me cry. Always a sap for the cry. So here I am. Learning to balance my beam with good stuff and shove off that which is not — be it a job, a person or a hobby.
Unlike Jen Hatmaker — I am not a fan of Top 40 (except for that time I bought Hanson … and don’t even get me started on the Yanni collection I will never live down) so here is my latest. I love Sarah Jaroz. I love bluegrass. I love Willie Nelson. I love Texas country.
I love life — all of it, even the messy parts — in fact especially the messy parts — because getting through those make the rest of it so much richer.
For the love of music, I love it all. But you will never catch me MMMBopping again … once was already more than I should ever admit to.