About time

Yes, it’s about time.

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while,” says Jesus to his disciples.

That was in my daily reading this morning, and, oh, how I do long for a retreat.  I’ve been away from the family on weekends relatively recently, but it’s been a while since it was truly a retreat for retreat’s state.  At this point in my life, I need clarity, calm, and a solid sense of direction and purpose.  This is harder to maintain when one is frazzled, drowning in to-do’s, or just downright tired.


Jesus was speaking to his disciples.  I wonder who speaks to the women these days.  Who tells the overworked mother to rest a moment, take an hour between nursing, grab a pot of tea and go gaze out the window . . . or sleep a few minutes.  All will be well.  Who tells the outside-the-home-working-mothers that it’s okay to be away for another day or two from the family, not to feel guilty about the piling chores and pleading eyes?  I don’t think anyone speaks up because those around us aren’t sure that all will truly be well.  But, it’s better for a mom to take some time out than to walk around getting crazy eyes and becoming more and more like a woman on edge.  Maybe I project.


We have to take care of ourselves.  To nearly every mother I talk to, I ask if she’s taking care of herself.  I ask about her support system.  To the women I work with and for others I know, I try to set an example.  If I can get away from my household with four kids, surely they can, too.  It’s not perfect, but it’s OKAY.


I wonder about those who don’t need or take time-outs for themselves.  Are they being honest?  Have they fully shut down from their inner voices that guide and protect their best interests?  Because I think that’s where dreams and hopes exist.  If we shut out that voice, we risk losing sight of who we truly are and thus risk losing our sense of purpose in this world.  Yes, being a mother is a worthy purpose, but does it give you a sense of joy — mind, body, and soul?  If not, you’re not listening carefully enough to yourself.  If so, blessings, my Mother-friend; spread that love and joy!


I grant you permission to take a time-out.  Find a friend with a cabin for a night or a weekend.  Pack your favorite nourishing food and beverage.  Sleep in silence, all by yourself.  For you extroverts, take a gang of mothers with you and enjoy the party!  If a weekend doesn’t work, take at least 15 minutes a day for you, and only you.  I smile thinking of my friend who locks the bathroom door for her quiet time.  Take it where you can get it!


As the kids get older, it gets easier to find the time, but priorities will still have to be juggled.  Seeking out a deserted place, finding the time to listen to my still, small voice, I know more clearly what the priorities are.  It takes that leap of faith to put me first that ironically grants me insight as to what is best for all.


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Bedside Manner

At the day’s end, when I’m most exhausted, our youngest still makes sure that I come to tuck her into bed.  As parents, this is something my husband and I have always been pretty good about.  No matter how the day has gone, we make sure the last thing the kids hear before they slip into slumber is some variation of “Good-night-sweet-dreams-I-love-you.”

The act of getting on my knees beside her trundle bed reminds me that it’s time to be here, now; it pulls me into the present.  Perhaps knowing that she’s about to be my sole focus, that she’s about to have my utmost attention, is what brings her to bed so giddily.  She is usually very excited and giggily, or, if truly tired, she snuggles into her pillows and covers with deliberate intention, placing her hands together methodically and tucking them beneath her sweet, plump cheek before closing her eyes.

Sometimes she beats me to it.

“I love you, Mommy.”

Are there sweeter words?  They’re like balm to my maternal soul that has been battered and wounded.  All is well.

“I love you, too, Precious,” I reply, knowing that attachment is a dangerous thing, but the Lord of the Rings reference has become a running joke around here.  She is, after all, very “precious to me,” precious to us.

Sometimes I linger a while, resting my head beside hers.  Eyes closed, I listen for her breath to slow, to deepen.  With older sister in the bed slightly above, I’ll send my love to her again, too — out oud if she’s awake, intentionally if she’s not.  I settle into this supplication of devotion.  It’s not a comfortable position, mind you.  Circulation gets cut off at one limb or another, but I stay.

My hope is, of course, that the children will remember we tried to send them to bed with our love, even on nights when we kept them out or up too late and when they had long since fallen asleep.  When they’re too big to carry, we sleep-walk them, guiding them in the right direction.  (“Honey, your bed’s this way.”)  Sometimes they need literally to be steered.

Every child wants his/her parent’s or guardian’s attention.  We all want an outward and visible sign of the love that is either said too much or not enough.  I suppose the nightly ritual we have going is like our parental sacrament.  If the kids could experience this paternal love and affection as an outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible grace of God, then it would be, indeed — at least for us.  I’m okay with that.  It replaces the worldly attachment with a greater Love, one eternal and truly unconditional.  It’s not my aspiration to make every evening sacred.  It just is when it is (which is probably always), and some nights I’m more aware of it than others (and not nearly as often as I’d like).

Maybe I should start my days on my knees or on my meditation cushion, giving thanks for all that is and for the potential that is yet to be.

+ + +

This meditation led me to  my Lenten practice of extending my maternal blessing to my children, morning and evening.  I don’t always get to touch their foreheads, but even saying “bless you” or “blessings to you” somehow carries with it more deliberate Love than our vernacular “love you!”  I’m working on it.  As I said, it’s a practice.

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Meditation & Ponytails

Each day brings a reminder that I cannot practice enough.  I have  more to learn, more awareness to be had, more compassion to cultivate.  So I sit when I can — just sit.

Meditation often carries with it a connotation of being lofty, something mystics and monastics do because they can; their whole life devoted to being fully awakened.  I’m sure monks would laugh at this.  I know some nuns who certainly would.  They, too, live in the real world with real people.  Truthfully, meditation is for everyone.  It’s an opportunity to be still, be clear, and be quiet — mind, body, and soul. So I sit when I can.  I don’t do it often enough.

One morning not long ago I made time to sit.  Intention is part of the doing, but ultimately one does have to do it.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes.  I can’t even remember how long I intended to sit.  Most of the time I don’t set a timer.  When I’m ready to quit, I know I need to stay longer.

Sitting.  Breathing.  Counting.  Wandering.  Returning.  Sitting.  Breathing.  Footsteps . . . coming closer.

I feel the presence of our youngest creeping closer to me until she’s at my side, her mouth conveniently ear-level.

“Mom, I want a ponytail.”

Sweetness embodied in one simple request.  I smiled, eyes still half-shut.  I breathed deeply before turning to look at her.  Her gaze met mine, neither hopeful nor pleading.  She met me there in the moment.

“Alright,” I said softly.

I arose and went with her to the kids’ bathroom.  I fixed her hair into a ponytail.  Neither of us spoke.

The was no anger, no frustration.  She had a ponytail, and I continued my meditation for the day.

My teacher didn’t smile, but she did run out of the bathroom quickly, happily moving on to her next adventure.

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What Mary Knew

Of the four children smacking their cocoa-sweet lips and held captive by The Polar Express, one has a birthday this week, two days before Christmas.  Ten years ago I was 40 weeks pregnant, great with child.  But it wasn’t my first.  I had my support in place.  Preparations had been made.  I knew what to expect, more or less.

In this fourth week of Advent, I love that we light a pink candle to honor Mary.  I love remembering that she surrendered to something greater than herself, that she humbled herself to be a servant.  She didn’t know . . . she couldn’t know what was in store.

Every time I picture Mary or try to work with any kind of visualization or exercise of lectio divina, I have a sense of what Mary might have known.


What was happening was beyond her control.  It wasn’t just about Mary the innocent young woman suddenly expecting child.  As with every mother bearing child, from the moment the baby is conceived and grows, the mother can only do her best to keep healthy.  The formation of the child is left to genetics and the miracle of life.  A mother-to-be can seek the wisdom and comfort of other women to learn all that she can, but when it comes time to birth, there is no bringing forth of life without letting go of one’s identity.  Virgin Mary to Holy Mother of Jesus.  Can you imagine what Mary experienced alone in that stable?  Do you think she found in herself the capacity to pity poor Joseph standing helplessly by?  Could there have been a woman from the Inn who had mercy?  Such details are left unaccounted.

Next thing we know is that there’s a baby in a manger.  Mary has a child, a dependent.  This child’s existence depends upon her care and attention.  She knows this.  With her surrender, though, she knows this child she cares for is not hers alone.  She cares for this precious child not only as her own but as one of God’s . . . as God.  Did she know this?

Could she truly sense this from the beginning?  Could she know the heartache that would come?

From the very beginning, this would be beyond her comprehension.  She might never fully understand.  She could only do her best to do what was required of her in every moment.  She would live fully into each moment, keeping her heart as open as possible to live into the will of God.  This would be the best she could do.  It’s the best any of us can do.

Oh, that I have the humility to live into every moment with awareness and true surrender.  May I raise my children so that they will grow into the beings they are meant to be, not what or how I want them to be.  May I have the strength to be a mother of strength, love, and acceptance.

My children are blessings to me.  I am surrounded by abundance, and I understand this mother role . . . more or less.

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Being Home

Some days, some seasons, I find myself pulling toward something, someplace.  It may be outward or inward, but the pull is almost gravitational.  Now must be the season of my introverted self, and the home is my sun.

My to-do list is manageable, filled with much, of course, but the first half of the list are things to do around the house.  Okay, really the list was just home tasks.  My other obligations were brought to mind, too, though, so I added those.  Most of what I am accomplishing are the home tasks.  This feels right and good.

I figure I have to honor my body, heart and soul.  As the house becomes filled with the fragrance of a wood-burning fireplace, I feel at home, at peace.  I knit one of many rows in a Christmas gift and feel grounded.  It’s not so much what I am doing as what I am being.

At least for now, I am being home.

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“Above All Things, I Believe in Love”

Especially as mothers, we have a way of making things difficult.  In moments where all we need is clarity of purpose, we remember, as a friend of mine recently did, that we just have to make sure our kids stay alive, preferably safe and secure as well.  To this, however, we add layers of cleanliness, thriving, excellence . . . overall perfection in all areas. 

This perfectionism invades all areas of our lives.  We create for ourselves an inner censor that reminds us every time we visualize a goal that we probably won’t/can’t/shouldn’t do it and points out that we can’t/don’t achieve what is perfect.  I am completely projecting here.  This is one aspect of my personal censor.

I recently did an exercise where I had to describe my censor, sketch a cartoon of her.  I highly recommend this.  Remember, if you can name it, you can know it, and you can see how truly ridiculous it is.

In another exercise where I had to describe who I am (from the third person), my inner critic appeared again.  In everything I want, in all I do, I will never be good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, etc., etc.  My strong, true inner voice immediately countered.  Of course Sara’s not perfect, but God is.  If all I am is a channel for God’s love, then that’s good enough.  There’s nothing more perfect than that.

So, in all things, in all aspects of life, all I have to do is live, believing that to Love is my purpose and living into that purpose.  This is clarity.  When I close the door to this love, I mess up.  This is part of suffering.  I can even lock the door and keep it closed, but I always have the key, no matter how hard it might be to find.    

We need to remind each other of this sometimes, remind each other that our jobs are really quite simple.  We are all called to love and to serve, with gladness and singleness of heart.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Some weeks are just going to be hectic.  A big project, a big event, any reason for excitement and borderline anxiety will do it for this family.  Not only is this upcoming weekend the retreat I love so much (and for which I am also the speaker), but this week is also the week I wanted to start monitoring my son’s diet, eliminating gluten and dairy (reasons are for another post).

Amidst all the busy-ness, I do what I can for the kids.  Sometimes, they will eat cake for lunch (after a healthy, hearty, late-morning snack, of course).  This won’t be the day we eliminate gluten.  Cake sounds good to me, too.

During my phone call with my friend, my youngest — nonverbal — child comes to me smelling like mint, more precisely like toothpaste, showing me her white-covered hands.  It looks like it could be icing.  After all, her mouth is still blue and green.  No, she smells like toothpaste.  A bathroom check and hand-washing confirms that she has, indeed, squirted out quite a bit, smearing it into the sink.  The good news is that her toothbrush is out, too.  Bless her heart!  She wanted to brush her teeth after all that sugary cake!  This is the comfort I give myself.  Naturally, I’m hoping she didn’t eat it.  I’ve made that poison control call before.

A deep breath.  There’s no real harm done, even after she takes the cake server and mutilates the rest of the cake.  I can’t be everywhere at once.  She has reason for angst.  I have reason for cake (though it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing anymore!).  We’ll just have to see each other through this, and I’ll have to remember that a mother’s sense of calm is sometimes her best coping mechanism.

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Guest Post: A Journey

by Maggie Beason, wife, mother, student, Army gal, aikidoka, hair stylist, runner, woman-extraordinaire shares her latest adventure after the Hogeye Marathon.

It is hard to fall asleep when you’re flat on your back. It’s
especially hard to sleep when you have a pillow wedged between your
legs in a desperate attempt to keep your knees from either touching,
straightening or bending too much while still trying to maintain a
modicum of comfort. You wrap a blanket around you, tucking in the lose
ends around your aching body while carefully avoiding your toes; any
weight on your toes is almost unbearable and the thought of donning a
pair of socks is simply out of the question. You close your eyes and
will yourself to fall into the blissful slumber that continues to
eludes you–a side effect from having eaten five packets of Gu (Energy
in goo-form. Necessary, but rather unpleasant.) earlier in the day.

The five medals that hang on your bedpost make a jingling sound as
you fold your arm underneath your pillow to support your head as you
stare at the ceiling replaying the day’s events in your mind. Today you
added one more medal to your small, but growing, collection. It took
it’s place at the headboard with the other four medals, your goggles
and your Buddhist prayer beads. You’re not actually Buddhist, but you
are a runner. A slow one, but a runner nonetheless.

Distance runners are usually depicted as “crazy” or “nuts” and
people often say something to the effect of Willy Wonka’s famous line,
“If God had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented Roller
Skates.” Silliness aside, there is something about running that gets
people in the way that shoes get Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in
Sex in the City: you just get addicted.

Once you get bit by that bug, you will run–by your own
choice–through the pre-dawn chill of a ten-degree January morning. You
will run through rain and snow for miles and miles with glee. You will
relax (or try to, anyways) in an ice-cold bath with a drink in your
hand, a smile on your lips and joy in your heart because you just ran
eighteen miles. “Uphill both ways. Man, that was a great workout,” as
you’ll later reminisce to whomever will listen. If the idea of
running for five hours over the hilly terrain, thirty-something mile an
hour head wind, freezing (or at least what feels like it) temperatures
seems like fun and you don’t mind that you are the last person to
arrive, you are a runner. If all of this seems like fun to you, well,
need I say it?

My latest addition to my collection of medals, is from the Hogeye
Marathon on April 5th, 2009, at the beautiful downtown square of
Fayetteville, AR. The race started out like any other: cold, windy and
in the company of old friends, new friends and friends I hadn’t met
yet. Two of my companions were running the half-marathon, and judging
by the hills that they had to run up on their return trip, I was
thankful that I was doing the full.

I stayed in the back of the pack for the majority of the race, and
once the half-marathoners broke away, it was safe to assume that only a
handful of runners were behind me. I was focused on taking in the
scenery and enjoying my first hometown marathon–plus, in a town
renowned for it’s outstanding University of Arkansas track and field
program, I knew that it would be a marathon composed entirely of elite
runners and myself, about as un-elite that you can get.

For the first thirteen miles the roads wound and wove their way
through subdivisions, back roads, and running trails. Spectators and
volunteers dotted the course and brought with them supplies,
refreshments and cheers (I must say, the aid stations and volunteers
were phenomenal. Well done, Fayetteville!).

Between miles thirteen and fourteen, some friends had set up a
celebration station of sorts. Bringing with them were gifts of
oranges, water, Gu and a surprise: a bratwurst and a beer for my return
visit at mile twenty.

The brat has been a dream of mine ever since I was denied one by
the vendor who had stationed himself inside the course at the
twenty-six mile mark at my very first marathon. He told me that I could
have whatever I wanted so long as I had the money for it, which of
course, I didn’t. Thus, effectively smothering my hopes of crossing the
finish line with a giant bratwurst in hand.

The next seven miles where spent with dropping temperatures, a
nasty headwind and having every single runner who was behind me, pass
me. I paused for a moment to celebrate the passing of my very favorite
mile, Mile seventeen. Mile seventeen is a huge deal for me as the
remaining miles are now in the single digits. Meaning: nine more miles
to go. However, the elation I experience when I realize this is often
diminished by the fact that there are still nine more miles to go!
Usually, by the time mile twenty rolls around I’m in pain, exhausted
and somewhat insane. But this time there was my tasty manna from
heaven, bratwurst and beer.

At mile twenty-three, a dear friend of mine met me on the trail to
offer her support, water and to snap a few photos. Mile twenty-five
found me running up Dickson Street, thanking the police officers and
volunteers who had stood in the cold for five-plus-hours. Mile
twenty-six found me on the corner of Block St. where I burst in to
tears when I saw my family cheering.

The urge to cry was replaced by the urge to vomit as I realized
that I still .02 miles left and half of that was up a hill. I trudged
on, more hobble than stride. Most of the bystanders (apart from my
family, the racing officials and the paramedics) had left by the time I
crossed the finish line at five hours, eighteen minutes and some-odd
seconds. I failed to break through my five-hour barrier, but was too
exhausted to care.

Running for five hours at a time allows plenty of time for
introspection and often your sanity gets called into question. After
four and a half marathons, I’ve stopped asking myself why. I know the
answer: it’s an almost-spiritual experience and a guaranteed way to
quiet an over-stimulated mind. It is a chance to commune with nature:
to watch the birds flit among the branches of trees, feel the rain on
our skin or the heat on our backs. And it is an opportunity to explore
what the saying “one step at a time” truly means.

So as I listen to the clinking sounds of my five medals from
Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City and Fayetteville, I
drift off to sleep smiling with a new appreciation for what my medals
really mean: it isn’t the destination, but the journey.

*  *  *

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Maggie.
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SpringTime Haiku for Moms

An invitation . . .
Sun beckons to come play now.
The dishes will wait.

The beautiful weather this day couldn’t keep us indoors, even after me having two fillings replaced at 8:10am.  Off to the woods we go so I can get another go at rock climbing and so the kids can enjoy the warm, fresh air and the dog a good swim.

A few minutes alone, walking along the upper trail to fetch the draws from a climb, I felt it– the presence of nature that speaks through the living things around you and whispers on the breeze.  It’s a stillness and peace, an acceptance of life as what it is, for what it is, and all is well.  All is beautiful.  Oh, that I could bring that presence into every breath.

I’m pretty sure that the potential is there.  We have within us the ability to be still and fully present.  But how quickly I forget how beautiful it can be, even in the storms, for when the sun returns again I wonder, was the green so brilliant just the other day?  Was it this amazing last spring; did the colors so vibrantly glow?  I don’t have to compare.  I don’t have to know.  My purpose is to love indiscriminately; it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like.  I always have a choice.

Will it rain or shine?
As you make each choice, you ask.
Is Love wet or dry?

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Ebb and Flow

As a writer by nature, it’s easy for me to put something down on paper or to type something on the screen, but I know the difference between feeling divinely inspired and rambling on with nothing to say.  So, in all honesty, this post will be short.  I’m not feeling it.  Thoughts have come to me for blog posts, but I haven’t been making note, following through.  It’s time for some soul tending.

For me, the tide may have receded for a bit.  I have a chance to get things in order.  It’s time for me to be very present to the needs of my family, home and self.  After much work within the unconscious, I’m not surprised by this; we can’t stay underwater forever.  Now is the time to set some goals, make some plans and follow through.

The water’s still here.  My feet are still wet.  The well has not run dry.

How are you doing this day?

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