Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Category: Unforced Rhythms of Grace (page 1 of 3)

When You Hit the Same Wall All Over Again

Do you ever feel like you’re hitting the same wall again and again? That no matter how spiritual you think you’ve become, no matter how much counseling you get, you just keep making out with the pavement? Yeah. Me, too. But there’s hope. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrew 12:12-13 Continue reading

Tardy Artys

Better a patient person than a warrior,
 one with self-control than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Two falls ago, when Abraham began preschool, I went through—what shall we call it?—a Momzilla season. I was obsessed with the idea that I was going to be the perfect preschool mom: on time, makeup on, every single morning. I wanted to make my family proud, proving to everyone I encountered in this new environment that I was a fabulous mom. And, because of that silly little thought stuck in my head, I behaved differently toward my sweet little flibbertygibbit preschooler than I would have otherwise.

Abraham has never cared about food. When he was an infant, I had to wring ice cold water over him to wake him up enough to keep nursing. He has always barely hovered at 5th percentile on the growth chart, with his little ribs sticking out, despite my Ma Ingalls efforts to feed him homemade, organic, whole foods slathered in butter and olive oil. Throughout his babyhood, I often left the doctor’s office crying, after rattling off my list of “good mom” reasons he should not be so little, wondering why my home-made purees and breast feeding didn’t seem to be growing him any faster. The words Failure to thrive haunted me. So, every meal his entire life has consisted of some kind of negotiation or battle. Every meal.

Of course, beginning preschool brought a new stress into the breakfast negotiations because we were on a set timeline for the first time in his life. And yet, this free little spirit still acted as he always had, twirling on his bench even though I told him ten times a meal not to twirl because he often fell off and hurt himself, playing with his food, talking to his brother who chortled at everything he did. . . everything but eat!!!! And I started out patient. But, when the child began eating at 7:30 am and had barely made a dent in his oatmeal one hour later, I started to panic. And, then, Momzilla emerged.

I lost my pleases and thank-you’s and the low, kind voice I greeted him with every morning. I entertained fantasies of shoving his mouth full of oatmeal. I took deep breaths and asked God to help me not let it come to that. I spoke louder. He still sat on his bench, looking at me like “there she goes again . . .” The baby laughed, thinking it was all a new breakfast joke routine. 8:31. There were only fourteen more minutes left until we had to leave, fourteen more minutes to change a flibbertygibbit, who would now be uncooperative because, alas, he did not eat his breakfast. And, how could I unleash an unbreakfasted child on those sweet preschool teachers? He would turn on them–for sure–after being awake for hours and eating nothing substantial. We would be known as the late family, ushering the last preschooler through an already closed door. The teachers would frown, labeling the Arthurs the problem family of three-year-old Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I would be known as that mom who could never get her kid to school on time. That mom. As if by accident, I became so worked up over the idea of Abraham getting in trouble at preschool and me being that mom that I found myself screaming: “Get on your clothes! Sit still! We’re late!”

As I was losing my mind that morning, screaming, wondering when my own head was going to start spinning around in a 360 degree demonic fashion, a thought struck me: this has nothing to do with what’s happening right now.

I stopped. I looked at their little, shocked faces, trying to figure out why their sweet Mama had turned into a raging lunatic.

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And I asked myself this:

Why are you doing this? Why are you so worked up? Five years from now, who will remember this morning?

Funny thing: I know five years from now, it will be a miracle if his preschool teachers will be able to remember our names if we bump into them in a different context. Five years from now, I will not remember this morning. But five years from now, their character and spirits will reflect the choices I make today. The choice to be patient, to be late instead of raging, to be kind instead of having my makeup on, will reflect in who they are as people.

When I forget that loving these little faces is my most important job in this moment, that my actions toward them should not be reflective of my past frustrations or my future fears, I allow love to transcend everything else. Maybe my kid’s a slow eater. Maybe we’re late a lot. But really? In the big scheme of things? Who cares?

He’s fabulous in a million ways. He’s the most miraculous piece of Rainbow I’ve ever known. I choose to love him, to be patient with him, even as I am ever trying to find new ways to make him eat faster. And guess what? Two years later, he can just now eat his dinner in one half an hour. Progress, people: slow and steady.

So, I don’t know if your kid eats like a turtle or screams endlessly (we went through that) or hits every other kid smaller than him at every party you go to (yup, we’ve done that, too). And if you’re like me at all, I know how it feels to want to crawl under the carpet and hide as you assure all the other parents that screaming/throwing food or tantrums/hitting other kids is not acceptable in your family and won’t be tolerated and you’re sooooo sorry that your kid just pooped on their carpet (yup). But in the end, that face will matter long after that party full of people’s opinions. And that face will remember and reflect my behavior for the rest of his life.

As for this failing and sometimes still screaming Mama, I would rather my family say that I was patient than punctual. I would rather them know love than all the worldly success of those kids I never understood that win the “no tardiness” award at the end of the school year.

May we be the Tardy Artys, patiently and kindly standing in line at the school office waiting for our late slips. May I ever choose to exchange my fear, pride, and anger for a child grown in love.

Trying, reaching, ever-failing and exulting in God’s grace,

Taylor

Bless this temple

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.

Song of Songs 4:7

One afternoon on vacation, Jack sent me to the pool to relax while the kids took a nap. As I settled down into my lawn chair, I didn’t even think about how I looked in my swimsuit. After three babies in four years, bedrest, NICUs, and endless doctor appointments, I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like that blessed afternoon I spent by the pool alone. I ordered chips, guacamole, and a glass of wine and reveled in my nap-time freedom.

That is, until a young woman about 17 sprawled her perky body across the lawn chair next to me. She wasn’t overly provocative or flirty, behaving no differently than I would have at her age. But she just was, ya know?, that fresh gorgeous that turns heads.

I’m not a very jealous person by nature, but it was difficult to not start asking myself how in the world Miss Fresh Gorgeous turns into–well, to be honest–me. I sat there, remembering my own first bloom at seventeen, when I wasn’t even sure of this gift of a body I’d been given. I had just stared in the mirror in shock over the way a bikini did, in fact, fit me.

As the afternoon progressed, I noticed how much my young and gorgeous counterpart fidgeted with her suit. She turned and readjusted herself, as if she was working out this new body of hers, like a new car she hadn’t yet gotten comfortable driving. And while I wistfully admired and even envied her perky hot number that day at the pool, I didn’t for one second wish to return to her phase of novice womanhood.

That night, while my family slept, I brushed my teeth in front of the mirror and stopped to look at myself for a good long while. I stared at my sunburned shoulders and my pore-pocked face, along with the new wrinkles starting to form from too much stress or just too many days by the pool. I tried not to focus on the lines running down the sides of my nose from the way I’ve always scrunched my face up to smile. I made a mental note to get home from vacation and buy wrinkle cream.

As I washed my face, I let my scrutiny fall to my hands. Sporting the same rings and holding the same man’s hands every day for a good fifteen years, I failed to wear gloves or get manicures after washing mountains of dirty dishes and planting gardens. You can tell by their wear. Yet, they’ve served up love in countless meals and softed feverish heads, typed hundreds of blog posts,and folded thousands of loads of laundry.

And as I slipped on my pajamas, I couldn’t help but wince. I sport more stretch marks from my lithium weight than my swelling humongous to deliver three babies. And, oh, these legs! I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them since girlhood. I’ve always wanted the other girls’ skinny “chicken legs,” to wear skinny jeans and look like something other than a stuffed turkey in them. But turkey or chicken, these legs have rocked me and my babies back and forth in Aunt Ginny’s old glider, paced waiting room floors, and sprinted at the sound of my babies’ cries. And I am grateful for them, to be carried through this life by sturdy and reliable if not chicken legs.

I don’t know when it happened, but somehow between all the ways I’ve been angry at this precious, God-given body for failing me, all the ways I’ve punished her for falling short, I started to see all the ways I needed her and all the ways she’s come through for me. I started to cherish her for the temple she is, for the spirit of God she houses, not just for the sum of her parts (1 Corinthians 3:16). And when I started to see my body as temple–as sacred–I started to say thank you more and scrutinize less.

As I closed my eyes that night, I whispered to heaven,I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, not only in spirit, but in this body as well. I have been blessed with a precious temple in which I’ve loved a man, co-created children, fed, dressed, held, rocked, hugged, and danced. I have been blessed.

but I did hunt down that wrinkle cream when I got home . . .

Good luck at the pool;)

Lovingly,

Taylor

Lenten Cup: Planting Ahead

Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126:6

It’s that time of year again. I wait with anticipation for Caleb’s birthday, pregnant with longing and an ache my body feels to the marrow, never quite sure of how I should feel or what I should be doing. It will be his 7th birthday this week. And, as our family grows, our schedule changes. Caleb’s birthday must change, too.

We are stepping further and further away from our first born the more we step into the world with his living, thriving, growing brothers. Abraham attending full day kindergarten means we will not be going to the beach as many days as we normally have. I am venturing into the world–for my living boys’ sakes–on days I have, up until this point, hidden. Life moves me forward.

Samuel’s teacher approached me about celebrating him in class during March, due to the fact that his real birthday is in August. Of course, the day that worked is right in the middle of Caleb’s week. Our God is so good that He plants blessings right in the midst of my grief. I am now busy making cake pops for my miracle son, while my heart grieves Caleb. And do you know that the alternate meaning of Caleb’s name in Hebrew [is] כָּל (kal) “whole, all of” and לֵב (lev) “heart”? Thanks, cousin Kelsie, for that!

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So we will be celebrating St. Patrick’s day, green shirts donned and leprechauns leaving jellybean trails, and we will celebrate our Samuel‘s half birthday, thirty homemade “banilla” cake pops and all. Because we are crying, and we are laughing, and we are praising a God who weaves all of us together.

Leprechaun traps

Leprechaun traps

The more I live this twisted, blissful life, the more I understand there is no way I should do this. I’m not white knuckling or stuffing down these tidal waves of tears. I am throwing seeds as I walk through this grief, as many as I can. I’m planting ahead for the times of joy to come, the times of trial when I can look back and see how My Provider harvests righteousness from these seasons of pain. I’m birthing the joy of the Lord this March, as the tulips bloom and we visit our son’s grave, because I’ve learned now that this pain will yield. The tide will turn, friend. And His joy comes in the morning.

God bless your tears, that they might yield.

Taylor

Thanks to my Aunt Keely, who pointed this verse out during one of her “Living in the Unforced Rhythms of Grace” talks. I can still see you crying and throwing seed during your talk!

Lenten Cup: Seeking first

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

Seeking first the things of God seems simple enough, but why is it so hard for me? I wonder where the kingdom ends, and where the dirty dishes begin. If I am busying myself with kingdom work, and fail to get the cobwebs from my bathroom corners, have I missed the mark?

There is this great movement going on in the Christian blogosphere where we women are being liberated to be imperfect and to be authentic, to open fingerprint-covered doors for guests into dusty homes. Instead of staying inside and polishing our floors, we’re supposed to suck up our inner perfectionistas and serve in the everyday mess of our lives.

I love this, in theory. But a girl’s still got to find time to wipe off the fingerprints, Swiffer-dust, and bleach the toilets, right? Just saying.

I had a weak moment on Saturday morning, where I actually prayed outloud in the car in front of my family–okay, I was almost yelling–beseeching the Lord for help, or more time, or more strength and energy, or just maybe a housekeeper? I know what I am supposed to be doing for the kingdom, but I also have to do the laundry. In most minutes of every hour that there is not enough of me to do all of this. And I know His power shows up in weak people, but sometimes my lack seems a bit much.

I’m just going to come out with it: The dust bunnies bug, even if I know they don’t define me.

So I keep praying that somehow, in this life of mine that I want to count for something, to give something lasting to the world from every breath, that He will help me know in each moment where the Kingdom work is, and when I just need to fold the laundry.

Pray with me, as you empty the dishwasher, commute to work, bath babies, write blogs, lead Bible studies, and pray in your quiet time:

Whatever I do, Lord, help me to work at it with all my heart, as working for YOU, and not for human masters. I know that I will receive an inheritance from YOU as my reward. It is YOU, Lord Christ, I want to serve alone: in every changed diaper, dirty dish, folded onesie, prayer prayed, Bible study led, person loved, and time-card punched. Help me to seek first your Kingdom work, to see every moment where Your priority lies, instead of my own. This is my Lenten prayer. Amen.
derived from Colossians 3:23-24

God bless you all.

Taylor

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