Are we going to have another kid?

Photo by Amber Ratliff.

Every time my husband and I talk about having a third child, I cry. I uggggly cry. He thought we were just talking about hopes and dreams for the future and third-row seating. Boy was he wrong.

The emotion that welled up inside of me (and still does) is hard to put into words, but I will try.

The first time we decided to get pregnant, we had no idea what we were in for. We knew the logistics of conception, the horror stories of birth, and the family picture at the end. That’s like 0.001% of the knowledge we would learn. Side note: we committed to cloth diapering way too early in the game.

The second time we decided to get pregnant, we knew we didn’t want to have an only child, and the general haze of parenthood was starting to lift enough that I could see my husband standing a foot in front of me. It was kind of mind over matter, because we knew what we were getting into mostly, but we decided to do it anyway.

If you are cringing, because I keep saying, “we decided to get pregnant,” I’m totally with you.

The idea of “family planning” can be so offensive. I think of women who were raped and impregnated. I think of women who chart their ovulation meticulously and no amount of planning can bring them the family they yearn for. I think of women who cherish the baby growing inside of them who dies. None of them planned any of it.

But for my husband and me, we talked about having a baby, we made love (Just kidding; I would never say that. So gross.) We made lov-ing someone else a priority over our own comforts. And we got pregnant fairly easily. I’ve felt deep guilt over this fact: that we can get pregnant when we try and carry the baby safely to term. I’ve felt deeper guilt than I’ve felt gratitude to God, which is a big problem.

I think what God wants, and what we desperately need, is to come to Him with thanksgiving. Always. It’s easier to do that when you have a healthy pregnancy or a bouncing baby. It’s harder to do that when you’re facing loss and grief that makes your heart drop to your toes. In either circumstance, it’s right. It’s appropriate. And we should do it together.

I’m not saying we should thank our Lord for taking a baby who hasn’t been born. Maybe a more mature believer can authentically do that, but not me. I’m thanking the Lord for my sweet friend’s Mama-heart and a precious baby, gone too soon. That she provided a safe, nurturing home for that tiny baby, and that she is trusting God, even though she won’t meet her baby this side of heaven.

I’m thanking God for another sweet friend’s Mama-heart, who faithfully asks her Father for a baby, even though He hasn’t given her one yet. I thank Him for her warmth, hospitality, and her nurturing spirit and her diligence to pursue His truth, even when it hurts. I thank Him that He made her a Mommy, even before she has anyone to call her that.

And I thank Him for my two babies, who now live with us and fill our home with their giggles. I thank him for my trusty uterus and my husband’s jazzy sperm that make it happen.

Sometimes we feel paralyzed by the weight of pain, others’ or our own, and we don’t make it to thankfulness. It’s why I couldn’t feel gratitude past my guilt for having two babies.

But if we can help each other there, take turns carrying the stretcher holding the grief-ridden mama, I really think the heaviness will lift. Where there is thankfulness, there is freedom.

What does that mean for our family? I’m not sure why I (seemingly) get to answer the question, “Do you want more kids?” and so many others don’t. Right now I’m just trying to thank God for my circumstances and my dear friends’, in the good times and the hard ones.

And if you make a joke about the hard ones and making babies, I will absolutely start crying. So just don’t.

 

(family photo by Amber Ratliff)

Five things I want my daughters to know

to my daughersIt’s the New Year, and my resolution comes from my reflection. Thinking back on the last several years, I see patterns I’d like to break and opportunities I’m ready to take. With children, I think regrets can sink deeper. With the Timehop app, deeper still.

When a picture from my first daughter’s first year pops up, when I was in the throes of postpartum depression, I long for a re-do. To relish the tiny baby snuggles and keep a level head with the all-nighters, knowing it truly does pass. I so wish I would have had the capacity to feel the fullness of the love and terror I felt, instead of putting on the shroud of numbness and apathy that comes with depression.

But there is grace. In an effort to forget what is behind, I will push forward clinging to hope and understanding that regret will be part of this journey too. Regret can be just a tiny shadow in a landscape of laughter, messiness, tears, and living.

The line is fine between squeals of laughter and shrieks of impending breakdowns and overall apocalyptic behavior. I find my intentions in parenting get lost in the madness, and some days we’re just trying to keep our voices to a dull roar and our biting remarks in our head. Or perhaps the roaring and biting is all me, and the two and four-year-old are developmentally appropriate.

Either way, in the midst of disciplining marathons, homemaking monotony, and the overall challenge of parenting, I’d like my children to know a few things above anything else. This is my letter to them.

Dear Laila and Adalynn,

I’m not sure if I’ll read this letter to you now or down the road. But I hope that you’ll know these things in the tiny moments and the big ones. I pray that you’ll know the God who made you and who gave you to me and your Daddy. I want you to know these things about our life:

  1. I delight in you. You make me smile, you make me chuckle. Laila, when you tell me you should be able to watch Kung Fu Panda because your friend who is clearly shorter than you can watch it, I grin. Adalynn, when you say “actually” before or after most clauses, I love it.

    You fill my Instagram and star in my best one-liners, because you’re both pretty great. You make life fun.
  1. You are not a burden. Privileges can be heavy. When you got your new bunk bed, there were a lot of ways you had to grow – you had to keep your room clean, learn how to share a room as sisters, and Adalynn, you had to adjust to the tantalizing freedom of a big girl bed without being disobedient.

    It’s a privilege being your mama. God is letting me care for you, teach you, and have fun with you. It can feel heavy sometimes, and not just when you crash your bike a mile from our house and I carry you home. I have to learn how to meet your needs when mine go ignored and fill my ears with Caillou or the Hungry Caterpillar or kid songs when I basically detest them all. I am learning that sacrifices and blessings are two sides of the same coin. Being your mama can be hard, because God’s biggest gifts are, but it’s not a burden.
  1. You are not my everything. My days and phone storage might seem to be consumed by you. And even though my sour mood might reflect your nap boycott, you do not define who I am or determine my identity. That’s a good thing! You are free to be your own person, learn your own lessons, and make your own mistakes without the threat that I will unravel.
  2. I am broken; you are broken. Sin is a big part of growing up, whether you’re 4 or 34. I will fail to trust God. I will act terribly. I will think murderous thoughts. I will disappoint you. You’ll do the same things, probably with a permanent marker in your hand. Just as we can always go to God to ask for forgiveness, I hope we can always go to each other. The cycle of sinning, repenting, and being made new will mark our lives, and it will surely be part of our relationship too. I will always love you, no matter what.
  3. You were made to reflect God. When you create magnificent ice cream cones out of play-doh and break out in revolutionary dance moves to Bruno Mars in the kitchen, you are right where you’re supposed to be. Possibly even father along, because of your parents’ dancing genes. Being a kid should be fun, and you should play over being serious nine out of 10 times.

As you grow, this list will change. But tonight, in this snapshot of time, I want to remember these thoughts. And I hope that you’ll carry some of this through life, braiding it in with the other voices and truths that make up how you see yourselves. I love you to the moon and stars.

Love,

Your Mama

 

Christians, you’re handling the Syrian refugee crisis wrong.

While the Syrian refugee disaster is nothing short of devastating, our response – namely among Christians – in the United States is polarizing and causing a wake of devastation of its own.

It’s no surprise that Christians fling themselves from one end of the political spectrum to the other, quoting the Bible and holding staunch to our theology and those who agree with us. What a shame, as we continue into election season, that we have separated ourselves, like sheep and goats or donkeys and elephants. Brothers and sisters, they will know us by our love for each other (John 13:35).

Yes, there are refugees to love and U.S. veterans to love, there are the least of these, there is our neighbor. We’ve got a lot of loving to do. Let’s start by giving – even the smallest, salt-grain sized – grace to fellow believers who think differently than we do. It’s OK to start small.

Wherever you land on the issue of welcoming refugees into our country, I think you got there because it feels like coming home, where things feel right and make sense. Where we know who we are and who is in charge. It’s where we feel loved.

For me, home feels like a Father who is sovereign and good, and love prevails over fear every time. You can make assumptions about what that means, but you won’t really know until you understand me.

When my dad immigrated to the United States from Pakistan nearly 50 years ago, he adopted the American dream as his gospel, moving here at 19 to further his education, build a career, and earn success. He became a U.S. citizen in January 1983, two years after marrying an American woman, my mom, and just five months before I was born.

Raised by a Missouri Synod Lutheran and a Muslim, I had a childhood carefully built on rules, like a house of cards, which might have had less to do with their religion and more to do with my personality. Perfection is attainable, if you try hard enough. No elbows on the table. Hard work with a little elbow grease doesn’t matter, unless someone commends your hard work. So my coming of age story needed a lot of to-dos and parameters, but with a reason behind it all. Christianity can be good for that.

By the time I realized I didn’t need to kiss dating goodbye or be a teetotaler for total control over my image and good standing with God, the pendulum swung heavily to the other side. I’ve found the pendulum carries shame and grace, idols and dogma everywhere it swings.

But then there’s Jesus. The one who stops us in our tracks, and makes us, the unlovable, utterly loved.

Fear of failure and authority motivated me for a long time, because I didn’t understand that God was powerful and good, and that he loved me. You can’t effectively love other people until you understand that you are loved by God; you just can’t.

I only share my story – a small piece of ground that my life is being built on – because I think we lose sight of our humanness in the midst of tweets and headlines and tirades on social media. Someone vehemently opposing you has her own lenses through which she views the world. It’s OK to try them on for a peek.

Every one of us, whether a displaced man or a Wall Street man, a Muslim from Syria or a Christian from the U.S. suburbs, is looking to come home. We want safety and comfort in four walls and a roof, sure, but we also want the policy, rules, and motives of the people in charge to be in line with what we think is good, beautiful, and true.

There is too much about this world that is not good or beautiful. Let’s draw together to point to who we know to be true, Jesus. Of course, let’s find shelter and comfort for those who are hurting, who have lost more than we could imagine. But we can’t honor the stories of those who need our help before we’ve honored each other’s stories.

You are enough.

allthepoop“I don’t want to change you, anymore.”

My toddler said this to me, after she crapped her pants for the fifth time today, and she didn’t want another diaper change. (We’re working on pronouns.) But it might as well have come from the heavens, because it’s profound.

OK, I get that sin is an issue and I am despicable and Jesus is my only hope. God the Father loves me just as I am, but too much to let me stay that way.

However, I think about sin with the same ease as I do cancer. I either avoid it at all costs, or it becomes the center of my dark thoughts. I’m struggling with grasping the concept, and I hope someday I’ll arrive at the place where my theology and belief in a good God shelter me when I get the Tuesday afternoon call that the tumor is cancerous. The shit hits the fan, but I’m saved. Death is coming, but I’m unafraid.

I’m not there yet. It’s messy and anxiety-inducing. For each step I take forward in understanding the fall of man, my other foot takes a step toward grace that is so sweet and life-giving. I wouldn’t mind camping out at grace for awhile.

Let’s get back to my message from heaven, a la my tummy bug toddler. Things start to feel a bit more roomy when I think that I don’t have to change anymore. I can stretch out my arms and breathe a little. What if it were to say to myself, “I don’t want to change you, anymore?”

1. Your body is OK. Better than OK. Stretch marks? More like battle scars. Gray hairs? Wisdom strands. Punctuation points on your face, like brackets (wrinkles) or periods (acne scars)? Girlfriend, please; tell the world your story. Diastis recti? OK, maybe work on that to avoid future complications.

But what if we didn’t have to grind away for change, to reverse the clock, to firm and flatten? What if *gasp* we are beautiful as we are, because we have loved and been loved and our time has been well spent. Just sit with that thought, like a mud treatment. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Your parenting is OK. Sure, you suck at playing with your kids because you always want to play “sleepy time” or “clean up time,” and every child knows that’s a farce. But you are amazing at sneaking veggies into unassuming foods and you tell killer bedtime stories and you truly want your daughters to believe that they are created special and beautiful. There’s value in that. You are a good parent.

Don’t focus on your weaknesses and take away from the strength of your gifts. There is much to celebrate.

3. Your place in the world is OK. Whether the extent of your interactions are in the checkout line or you manage a team of thousands across continents, you are right where you need to be. A smile, truly seeing the person in front of you, and acting generously is your best step at loving whomever is around you. You are needed.

After a lifetime, or too much life, spent trying to be smart enough, pretty enough, good enough, holy enough … I don’t want to change you, anymore. You are enough.

OK, so literally, my little girl just pooped like crazy again, and again she said, “I don’t want to change you, anymore,” but I know that there’s a diaper full of sludge waiting for me. We still have to deal with the yuck. I looked her square in the eye and alluded to her fecal output. But this time, she turned away and said:

“I want Daddy to change you.”

I’m not sure what to do with that.

When you’re angry, when you’re sad

A photo posted by kirstenlamb (@kirstenlamb) on


I’ve heard it said that you don’t know true love until you hold your baby for the first time. I hate that, for so many reasons. And I hate whoever has said it to me or anyone else. Hate it.

This may come as a shock, but I’ve got the slightest anger issue. It’s more accurate to say I didn’t know true anger until I became a mother.

There’s the daily anger, like slaving away in the kitchen for hours only to have people gag and demand crunchy toast and cookies to eat, while they scream and scratch their sister and slip on spilled water and cry for hours. There’s the hourly anger, like the struggle between wanting to check out and check e-mail in the face of little people wanting to play or needing to be disciplined.

Then we have the deep anger, which is borne from lies that tell us we’re not good enough and never will be. Or from horrific attacks and mass injustices that make us see all the ugly in the world at the same time as we hold our babies in our lap, unable to protect them. And I get angry thinking about the lurking cancer, rapist, infertility, poverty, addiction that will claim me, my family, my people, my neighbors. God, why?

I heard once that anger is our surface emotion, and sadness is what’s truly underneath. I think that’s true. My righteous indignation can fuel me for a long time, but once the dust settles … so much sadness. While conflict and fighting can be uncomfortable – I’m not talking about violent, deadly fighting, but the relational conflict that comes from living life with people – I think sitting in sadness is even harder.

Have you mourned with a dear friend who lost a baby? Have you held the hand of someone who just found out she had cancer? Have you just entered into the sadness and been present?

If you’re like me, you want to find a solution, not sit in the sadness. Even dropping off a meal to someone in pain is solving the issue of grumbling tummies, which is better than sitting in awkward silence with tears and no answers. At least for me. And on the flip side, when I’m hurting, I hide.

On the global level, like terrorism in France, there are real culprits. They incite rage and inflict the ultimate sorrow. They have motives, and they should be, must be stopped. But there’s a time and place for finding solutions. (This isn’t the place; I talk way too much about diapers and crunchy toast to be of any real help.)

We can pare the brokenness, the intense pain and suffering, down to sin. I think that’s the most important truth, while also being the most irresponsible oversimplification. Thankfully – really, thank you, Jesus – there’s a solution for our sin. But for now, there’s a lot of anger on behalf of people watching France from close or afar. I think there’s even more sadness. Now is the time, I think, to mourn.

Let’s mourn together. Whether over a global event or our own personal experiences, we find healing and depth of relationships in sitting together and allowing ourselves to feel sadness. Don’t hide your pain behind false happiness or anger. And when you’re feeling rage-y, instead of screaming at the kids, peek behind the lids and see if there is sorrow.

Perhaps it isn’t motherhood that’s ushered in my anger. Maybe maturing and aging widens our breadth for joy and sadness, and everything else that comes with them. There’s a time for reconciling those emotions and chipping away at the negativity, repenting of our sin and changing our outlook. There’s also a time to shake our fist in anger or hang our head with sobbing. It’s OK to feel it, and to share it with others.

Every tear will one day be wiped away, but for today, I say, let’s cry.

Why my voice matters. And yours does too.

Whenever_I_tell__nicholaslamb_I_have_to_tap_oWhen I was in kindergarten, there was a mix-up. Somehow I ended up in the wrong class, and the teacher mispronounced my name every time she said it. I can’t remember how long it took for someone to notice me, or whether my mom had to come save the day, but I remember the feeling once I realized what had happened. I felt unseen, unimportant, and guilty for not speaking up and making it right.

I see now the pattern this set into course. People have always said my name incorrectly — It’s K-ear-sten, not K-errr-sten. And it’s always been hard for me to speak up and correct them. Even now, I have an acquaintance I’ve known for months, who just introduced me to someone under a pseudonym of sorts. I nodded and we moved along.

I’ve always lived in tension – especially as an introvert – of feeling unseen, but not knowing how to use my voice, while also wanting to stay invisible, but feeling like I’m not valued when I’m not seen or heard. Writing used to help me use my voice. Until I couldn’t write anymore.

I’ve been in a dark season. Having children is more than it’s cracked up to be. Behind tales of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, first words and identity crises, there were real, hard thoughts, at least for me: I don’t like motherhood. What if I don’t love my children enough? Sometimes I don’t like them at all. I am not good at anything I do – from dishes to discipline to playing. I don’t deserve the precious gifts in my life, and even worse, sometimes I don’t want them. I miss my life before kids.

It’s impossible to write about any aspect of life, the superficial to the painfully deep, when that’s your reality. It’s also impossible to read other people’s thoughts on it. How do you deal with an undercurrent of emotions and thoughts that you hate, but you can’t ignore? You can chalk it up to sin, and pray for repentance and forgiveness. You can go to counseling and dig around deep to find roots and wounds. You can surround yourself with truth, Bible verses and study, and people who know you and will point you to Jesus. I recommend all of those things.

For me, healing is coming from a newly diagnosed physical condition that can cause depression. It has come from EMDR therapy. And from life-changing encounters with God. My next step, I think, is to find my voice again and use it. To believe that I am worth being heard and known.

I recently had dinner with friends I hadn’t seen in 10 years. They are both in the process of getting doctorates, and we were all talking about our life’s work. As a stay-at-home mom, mine was both incredibly easy and hard to explain. The minutiae of housekeeping and child-entertaining is painstakingly observable. But how do you capture the first time your 4-year-old tells the truth about something she did wrong, and asks to be forgiven, all of her own volition?

My friends were both encouraging me to write. To sit and start. One of them said, “You have the choice to be vulnerable, honest and authentic. Doing that gives people permission to do the same. When you don’t, you are choosing to be closed off and not invite anyone in.”

I still wonder if I have anything to contribute. Can I shed enough light, communicate clearly, not add to the noise but cut through it? I don’t know that I can do any of those things or how to try. It seems OK to be hoarse and stuttering as I find my voice, but what if this is my voice? Grace to be imperfect is my best lozenge. Our best lozenge.

I think you can only show others as much grace as you show yourself. With each measure that I receive, I realize how deeply I want to empower others to share their stories and use their voices. We are not alone, not apart from God or from each other’s experiences. We are in this together: motherhood, womanhood, humanhood, all of it.

One thing I know is that my story matters because of who the author and perfecter is, not because I tell it in the right way. He knows my name, and he has brought me here. I’m no longer an unknown kindergartner in the wrong place, regardless of how often I feel that way. This is grace and this is hope, and I will tell of it, even if only to hear my own voice where there used to be none.

5 ways my C-section was like your natural birth

5 ways my c-section was like your natural birthMany mamas-to-be have a birth plan in hand and a distinct vision for how her labor and delivery should look. As well-intentioned as our plans, philosophies and approaches to motherhood may be, they often divide us, as mothers and women.

When it comes to birth, epidural mamas think the natural ones are crazy for muscling through. Homebirthers can’t imagine why a scheduled C-section lady would choose medical intervention. All of them have a sweet baby ready to burst forth, and their control over how it grew in them and how it will leave is minimal, at best.

I can feel the shudder of our invested spectators – husbands, grandmas, infertile mamas-in-waiting – exclaiming, “It’s not about you! There’s a child coming.”

It’s true, of course. But that doesn’t take away from the absolutely life-changing experience that ushers a baby earthside. Childbirth is hard and miraculous and beautiful and bloody, and the way we go through it doesn’t change any of that.

I can say that, because I’ve had a water birth without drugs and a highly drugged C-Section. Allow me to share. Heads up: this could get graphic, and not just because it’s about a breach birth! You can read about my first birth, the au natural one, here.

5 Ways my C-section was like your natural birth

  1. My journey was mine. After a difficult third trimester, I finally went into labor one night! And the night after that, and the night after that. Three nights of regular contractions, punctuated by days of a calm, bored uterus. That third and last night, my husband and I finally made it to the birthing center at 2 a.m., where I labored inconsistently and just generally felt like things were off. Six hours later, we got an ultrasound and realized baby was breach. We transferred to the hospital and went from pre- to post-op in an hour. But every step of the way – no matter how unexpected – was ours. I had the choice to embrace the process or fear it, to trust God or delve into doubts and anxiety. I had the choice to celebrate her birth story, with all of its twists and turns.
  2. I was surrounded by caring professionals. My midwife from the birthing center rode in the back of our car for the two-minute drive to the hospital, and she stayed with me through those pesky contractions that weren’t getting my baby any closer to my arms. (The doctor strongly advised that I get a C-section instead of aim for a vaginal birth, because I had labored for so long and only progressed to 3 cm). Then the midwife kissed my belly and said, “You get to meet your parents soon, sweet girl,” as I was rolled into the operating room. The nurses and the anesthesiologist were so caring and gentle that I kind of want to buy them a car or a vacation or a steak or something, every time I think of them. I actually think back on my few days at the hospital with the same warm and fuzzies as I do our honeymoon. Must be the oxytocin.
  3. I had instant bonding with the babe. I will admit that the euphoria of pushing a baby out and bringing her to my chest in a birthing tub is quite different from feeling the yanks and tugs of some masked medical professionals, who pull my baby out and hold her above the curtain for me to see briefly. But the few seconds from when the baby was inside me to outside me where traumatic either way. I felt like a victim in the C-section – unable to move, drugged, sterile, vulnerable – and a victor in the natural birth – drained and veiny like a deflated Hulk who can finally rest. But when my baby was finally on my chest, she was home. And at that point, it didn’t matter how she got there, just that she was there!
  4. My body felt like an art project. Yes, pregnancy is beautiful, I’m a work of art and our baby is fearfully knit together and whatnot. But seriously? I got stapled. Tiny little staples kept my stitches shut. And with the natural birth? I got sewn up with what might as well have been yarn and a knitting needle, because that hurt like nobody’s business. The professionals who kept my insides from coming outside were skilled, and I’m so grateful that I’ve healed nicely on all accounts. But, like I said before, birthing of any sort is a bloody business.
  5. I was humbled. My first birth looked exactly like I had hoped. My second, the C-section, was nothing like what I wanted. They were both in God’s hands, and he is sovereign over all. What makes me strong enough to push out a baby unmedicated? To face the unknown with hope? To wake up as a mama at all hours of the night, for weeks/months/years? Nothing that I’ve done on my own.  I am no more blessed with two sweet girls than the mama whose baby couldn’t make it past 12 weeks or the parents who sprinkled kisses on their stillborn child. For all the joy in the world, there is sure a lot of sorrow. Maybe being a mom has made me more aware of both sides to that coin; maybe that’s just a lesson life teaches, without discrimination. But God’s goodness is true and real and reaches a lonely woman’s tears as well as a gleeful baby’s giggles.

I so wish that we mamas could look past our differences to see our similarities: the miraculous little poop-machines sucking us dry and giving us life, simultaneously. And I wish that as women, we could learn to sit in the hard times together: the unexpected surgeries, miscarriages, unfulfilled desires and unmet expectations. I really hate pain, physical or emotional, my own or someone else’s. My first instinct is always to hide, isolate and wish the pain away. But my births have shown me a glimpse at the rewards of hunkering down, steadfast and out of love, and facing the ups and downs that time brings, together. We gain life.

Your turn. Input, please?

Well, I’ve been writing my second girl’s birth story for a few weeks. I get a few sentences in and then the emotion and memories sweep me away, and I can’t write any more. I’m not sure if my musings are more suited for my personal journal, scribbles and tear drops and cuss words and all. I’m stuck.

So, in the spirit of my last post, I’m just going to be vulnerable. I feel like blogs have shifted a lot since Google Reader went kaput. And the noise I mentioned before leaves me clicking between my social media sites because I only care about people I know, or I read headlines and little more, or I search for very specific recipes.

If you’re reading this blog, can you let me know what you’d like to read about? What would encourage, challenge, benefit or entertain you? What doesn’t add to the noise, but cuts through it to bring something of value?

I’ve gone from an awkward DTR to a full-out existential crisis. At least we’re progressing.

But I really value every person who reads the words I post, comments or asks questions, or shares something I’ve written. I don’t want to take that lightly. So please, share. Seriously, please. I’m going to have another crisis if my mom is the only one who comments.

I’m back for a DTR

Oops, looks like it’s been more than a year since I blogged. In my defense, I had morning sickness, then pregnancy exhaustion, then a newborn and C-section recovery, and then I had too much fun cooing at my baby and dancing around with my toddler. And I’m just tired.

Also, I got tired of all the noise on the Internet: Self-promotion by writers, tweets carefully constructed to increase views, headlines that I hate but I have to click. I don’t want to add to that.

But I miss writing, and I miss blogging. The conundrum. I despise the triviality and self-indulgence of social media and blogs, but rising above it is too much pressure, and frankly, it’s just not going to happen. I mean, I have to Instagram my toddler’s quotes and a few selfies here and there.

So what to do? Maybe I should harken back to ye days of olde and xanga. You know, basically journal online, for the world to see and for me to deeply regret years later. Or just shut this blog down and creep around other blogs, commenting “anonymous” like a guy in a black hoodie and unmarked van.

Or I could just write whatever I feel, whenever I feel like it. Ah, this is so meta; I should just go put another glass of Tempranillo on my tab, close this tab and forget it ever happened.

But whatever. This is me. The naturally confused mom. Drinking wine in a quaint coffee shop, on a rare afternoon of “alone time,” wearing crunchy past-their-prime nursing pads, trying to figure out what to do with her life. Or at least her blog.

Fabulous. I’m making a DTR with myself so awkward, publicly.

Glad to be back.

CrossFit: a Secular Church?

The first Christmas after my daughter was born, I got a two-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness as a gift. Included in the membership was one personal training session.

My trainer bristled with annoyance at my “fad diet” when I told him we were going Paleo for three months. Then he showed me to the elliptical machine and told me that he lost weight by drinking sugar-free Kool-Aid all day and ordering off of the light menu at Taco Bell.

Obviously, our philosophies weren’t in line. But I was still able to get some cardio, weights and an occasional spin class in at the gym. No hard feelings. But staying motivated and committed to working out while staying home with a toddler has been hard.

That might be because I haven’t tried CrossFit.

I think CrossFit is like secular church. It offers more than weight loss or fitness. It speaks to our innate desires for community, purpose and transformation.

Community:  When you workout regularly with the same group of people, you form a bond. It’s like how adrenaline helps you connect with people, so misguided young suitors take their first dates skydiving. Sweating, groaning and rolling on lacrosse balls multiple times a week offers plenty of opportunity for vulnerability and sharing life beyond the workout. When people notice that you weren’t at the 5 a.m. WOD*, you feel known, missed and loved. Then people start hanging out together, outside of the gym and without their crazy colored socks and workout clothes. And real relationships, complete with vulnerability, accountability and acceptance come into play.

*When my husband told me they pronounce “WOD” like “wad,” I cringed. A highly unfavorable word, right up there with “panties.”

Purpose:  Beyond the after-workout NorCal Margaritas or themed parties catered by Paleo food trucks, there’s a more personal reason CrossFit is like church. It provides discipline that meets tangible goals, something to be passionate about and to tell others about. Regular classes, white boards recording personal bests and very specific warm-ups and workouts provide CrossFit-ers with a way to measure their progress and work toward gains. If I could go from lifting my puny 10-pound hand weights to hang cleaning a bar with a bunch of weights piled on, I would totally feel successful and purposeful. And if you really buy into the CrossFit philosophy, you’re getting back to Grok, the best version of you. (Maybe Grok is this subculture’s savior. Hmmm … something for another post.)

Which brings us to the real clincher.

Transformation:  Who hasn’t seen those bathroom selfies of CrossFit masters who have crazy muscles and perfect Instagram-filter-induced tans? We have a deep desire for our bodies to be new. We want to go from decay to life. Strength and vitality helps us forget that we all die anyway. And who doesn’t want to look good in some spandex shorts or a form fitting T?

I have no doubt that CrossFit provides a version of community, purpose and transformation. And I’m sure that people feel alive, healthy and better than ever when they’re regularly doing CrossFit. Which means the other side of life-giving fun and health is there too.

Legalism: I imagine there’s guilt for the CrossFit-er who hasn’t made it to a workout in a few weeks. Or shame for the poor sap who can’t do a chin-up to save his life. Or superficial hope for everyone, that if they just show up, just do it, do it, do it, they’ll get better, be fitter, look hotter, be stronger. Add to that the temptation to cut out all grains and dairy, to become a Paleo warrior, and suddenly a Friday-night beer threatens your identity and security in who you are.

I should include my disclaimers at this point:

  • I haven’t gone to a CrossFit gym or done a workout, although my husband regularly does. I’ve just read about it a lot.
  • I believe our only true hope and salvation can’t be found in anything we do (including CrossFit); that comes only from Jesus.
  • That being said, don’t get your panties in a wad. I would totally try CrossFit. Maybe when my gym membership expires.

I think this CrossFit thing is going to be around a lot longer than Jazzercise from the ’80s, big-box gym memberships from the ’90s or boot camps from five years ago. Now I’d love to hear from people who are actually part of the culture. Do you agree that CrossFit can be like a secular church?