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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: fear

Risking the Heights (and climbing blind)

jenmichel@me.com

COTW lake We came home last Saturday from family camp in the Adirondacks. This is the fourth year that we’ve spent a week of vacation there with two other families. Inevitably, it is one of the best weeks of the year. 

Beside the beautiful view of the lake, the nightly campfires, the fantastic chapel speakers, we have always enjoyed the many sporting activities and competitions the camp offers. If I can brag just briefly, after having been dethroned last year by a seventy-something couple, Ryan and I are once again reigning mixed doubles tennis champions. (More accurately, we are co-champions, having decided to split the ice cream sundae gift certificates with another couple rather than play the second match of a double-elimination round). Sporting competitions, especially those with prizes, suit the sensibility of being a Michel. As Audrey, our oldest daughter has jokingly asked, “How do you spell Michel?”

W-I-N-N-E-R.”

This year was the second year that our older kids participated in outdoor rock climbing, the first that Ryan and I joined them. After we hiked out to the isolated spot where we would spend the afternoon climbing and had listened dutifully to the instructions of our belayers, I volunteered to go first in my group. I wasn’t nervous—until, of course, I was five feet above the ground and convinced there was no higher hold for my hand.

“I think I’m going to come down now,” I announced to Tessa, my twenty-something belayer. Winner, I was not.

“Really?” she asked gently. “That’s fine if that’s what you decide to do. But what do you think about having me talk you through this a little?”

On the one hand, I had the comfortable reassurances of midlife pragmatism. What did I have to prove? On the other hand, I nurtured the smallest inkling to put myself into Tessa’s hands, to let her voice guide me just a little further on.

“OK, sure. Talk me through this.”

She began calling up instructions.

There’s a small place right be your knee to put your feet.

  Look a little to the right. See that small crevice? You could put your hand there.

 Hoist yourself up like you are getting out of a pool.

climbing

I listened. And what I had assumed to be sheer rock face actually betrayed cracks, crevices, small openings for fingers and toes that hadn’t, at first glance, been visible. I made it to the top and touched, with surprising exhilaration, the very top of the rock face. Enthusiastically, I volunteered to do another climb.

This experience of rock-climbing, as metaphor for faith, is rather obvious. How many of us, five feet from the ground, decide to come down? We aren’t going to risk falling. We aren’t going endure the strain of our muscles for an uncertain end. We refuse to listen to the voices at our back, calling up instruction.

We’d rather have certainty on the ground than risk at the heights.

We’d rather have sight than blindness, even if it means staying put and getting nowhere.

Several days after the afternoon of climbing (which turned out to be, for me, the best day of camp), I was reading the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9. I was immediately struck by the fact that upon meeting Jesus, what Saul got wasn’t sight but blindness; not clarity but confusion. Of course we have the advantage as readers to know that the blindness and clarity lasted a mere three days, but Saul did not have that knowledge. For all he knew, blindness was his now permanent condition.

As Saul learned, the journey of faith is lot like walking (and climbing) blind. This is, in fact, its most predictable condition. In reality, we shouldn’t really be surprised when God takes us up an unexpected rock face, which on the way up, seems to have no foothold. There would be no need to listen to his gentle, reassuring voice pointing out the cracks and crevices if we had a set of stairs in plain view. There would be no occasion for surrender and trust.

Faith begs the willingness to leave the certainty on the ground for the risk at the heights.

Faith begs us abide the seemingly permanent condition of temporary blindness for the wobbly promises of staying in motion.

Faith grows with strain and tension, even from the furnace of our own heart’s fear.

climbing 2


If you haven’t signed up for Miscellany, my monthly-ish newsletter, you can do so really easily. Just scroll up to the top of the post and enter your email in the right-hand column. It will be coming out on Monday, August 1st.

Next week, I’m beginning a weekly guest series calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from across the internet to share their stories of home, and I hope you’ll come back, every Friday, to find them here.

Guts for Sale

jenmichel@me.com

One and a half months— Till my guts get sold on Amazon. (I remember Emily Freeman blogging about this idea when her first book, Grace for the Good Girl, hit store shelves. I’ve completely stolen the “guts” language from her.)

Incidentally, you can’t sell your guts without pain. First, there is the splaying open of your insides, then the wringing of blood from your laptop. You remember that you’re donating words to the cause, but it makes you feel faint, this endless sitting and staring, the bleeding and the pages you can’t cauterize.

The book writing. The bleeding.

Then, when you’re not sitting and staring, you’re standing at the stove, chided by children who wag their fingers at you. “You don’t listen!” And it’s true, what they say. You’ve been paying your most earnest attention to some foggy, faraway soliloquy—a chatty Cathy, this book is. ‘Til you’re back at your desk.

Sit. Stare. Bleed.

Guts for sale.

A friend asks yesterday how I’m feeling about the book. “It’s coming out so soon!” she reminds me excitedly.

I’m excited, too. And simultaneously panicky. I describe to her the anxiety that hollowed out my insides when I got the details for my first book signing. It made me feel so fraudulent.

“I knew this book was about overcoming fear,” I say. “But I guess there are new fears to confront, new courage I need to grow into.”

We hang up. I, Bartimaeus, feel hesitatingly for something solid and safe. I’ve never done this before: put my guts up for auction. I feel parched for language, want to drink in more understanding for what is happening—right now!—and what is about to happen when those words that have been squeezed from my veins are:

For sale.

I turn on Psalm 20 in the car. Over and again. The joy, the celebration of fulfilled desire! “May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!” I remind myself how I had wanted to write a book, how it’s now been written. I remember the miracle of my no-name securing a book contract and feeling the surge of all that impossible, dizzying joy. Hadn’t he been in this – behind, before, ahead? “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

I back it up to Psalm 19.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Creation has spoken and is speaking. About the eternal glory of God.

I take this to mean I can worry less about the criticality of anything I say or do.

Guts for sale.

And when I write these words–right now!-it’s this passage that comes to mind.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk, Without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

Perhaps this most of all? That the good news isn’t for sale. It’s free, been bought – with blood squeezed from veins.

Guts for free.

* * * * *

Join me in Orlando for The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. I'll be in the bookstore signing books at 10am on Saturday. (My mom can't come, so I'm counting on YOU!)

Atonement. The End.

jenmichel@me.com

I traveled to Delaware this past weekend to speak at the church where my college friend’s husband serves as pastor. And it was this weekend that I had my first awkward moments as a blogger.

On the night I arrived, after our conversation had stretched close to midnight around their long kitchen table, my friend began giving me instructions for using her Keurig the next morning.

“No, no, hun,” her husband quickly interrupted. “Don’t you remember she likes the French press?”

I was left only momentarily wondering how they knew this little factoid.

And it was the next morning that a tall, pretty young woman introduced herself to me before the tea. She’s shaking my hand and smiling, telling me that she’d been reading my blog and enjoying it.

There are facts she cites to establish the intimacy she has with the mechanics of my life.

I feel awkward. My life is no paragon of virtue.

In fact, in the week leading up to the event, I am conscious of how irritable I’m acting. Hustled by deadlines, I am quick to snap at the kids, quick to wish away my responsibilities as wife and mother, quick to hope for some quiet, permanent corner of the world into which I can withdraw and work without interruption.

And all week long, I sit down with the Bible in the morning. And I feel nothing. And I hear nothing. And sooner rather than later, I bring to an end what feels to be nothing more than a rote exercise – one I’d hardly constitute as faith.

Do you go speak for God when you fail to hear Him speaking?

Do you go claiming to serve God when it’s your family’s needs you’ve been willfully ignoring?

All this incongruence – between the life of my words and the life of my skin – it heaps up like one big heap of accusation.

And that’s why I wake with the pit in my stomach on Saturday morning. It’s early and dark. I lie there sleepily and feel the familiar knot of anxiety tug, churn, and settle deeper.

Isaiah 6.

Somehow, this passage rises to conscious thought, and I’m out of bed, slipping noiselessly into the kitchen to make the coffee. (Yes, French press.)

And I begin reading Isaiah 6, and it’s as if finally, I can hear more than the leaden silence of the past week.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.”

Where am I, Jen?

Seated on a throne. And what would you do or fail to do, what you say or fail to say, that would change my sovereign position of power and authority?

If that were the only reassurance I had had, it would have been enough to calm all the jitters. But I found more, even more.

“Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”

And so, Isaiah had his own mirror? And in it, all his own incongruence stared back at him?

Of course.

And what was it that stood between the agony of that reflection and the answer to the call? What makes sinners so daring to believe that they could be commissioned for service?

ATONEMENT.

“One of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for.’”

Here was the consoling reminder that God never uses perfect people – or perfectly confident people. It’s not our capacities or confidence that qualify us for ministry.

It’s the blood of Jesus.

I took that with me into the tea. I beat back the torrent of self-doubt with two words.

Jesus’ blood.

And the weekend was so NOT about me coming to share some pithy word with that crowded gymnasium full of women. As is typical with God, there was more goodness to be had than I could ever have imagined, goodness that I’ve since been mulling over, goodness that made me cry all the way from the moment I landed in Toronto, walked down the jetbridge, through the airport terminal, and out to meet a silver van packed with eager kids.

But that story, that goodness, will have to kept for another day.

 

 

Feeling jittery

jenmichel@me.com

I order my tall vanilla soy latté and begin wondering where my wallet is. I fumble through the pockets of the bag that hangs from my right shoulder and start feeling the panic rise to my cheeks. Where's my wallet? And passport and money? All the worst-case scenarios play out in fast forward speed. I am dizzied and feeling slightly faint.

Fumbling furiously now, I rummage through the books and computer chargers. I find my lipstick bag (one small sigh of relief - the lipstick is here) as the customers in front of me pay, then peal off the ever-shrinking line to get their drinks. They are not dummy-heads like me. They manage, like grown-ups do, to keep their wallet in sight.

The line is the only thing shrinking now. The panic has now fully seized my body. And I'm up next.

And it's then I realize - suddenly - that my wallet is tucked under my left arm. Safe. Right there in my arm pit. I try sidling up to the cash register to play the cucumber cool part of seasoned business traveler, but it's fairly obvious to anyone who has watched this extemporaneous scene that I am NOT.

I'm feeling jittery, the kind of jittery that makes you all clumsy.

I tried to figure out how to drape my winter coat over - around? - my carry-on. Unsuccesfully.

I tried to maneuver my one tall latte, one cup of ice water, and one yogurt parfait (with the carry-on and shoulder bag and winter coat) back to my gate. Unsuccessfully. (Ok, no spills but visible awkwardness.)

I am feeling the part of old woman whose husband has just died and can't complete the simplest of tasks without the help on which she'd learned all her life to depend.

I'm alone. In an airport. Flying off to Wilmington, Delaware, to speak on the subject of joy.

And I'm feeling all turned inside out, wondering why did I agree to this?

It may have been years ago that I saw myself doing exactly this. But there's something beautiful and right and yet hard about time as it marches forward - and erodes all those smug confidences of youth.

You know your own phoniness better when you're older. You're a fake, a fraud. The accumulated years: exhibit A.

So, yeah, I'm feeling jittery because it's been a busy week and I've tried to pray and failed and wondered why God feels beyond the next closed door.

They're boarding now.

I'm boarding now.

And that means a quick, hurried goodbye.

And the only thought with which to leave is this: "Conscious of all that I am not, confident of all that He is: and maybe that's where real ministry begins."

 

 

Raccoon-phobia: And what I'm learning from Jeremiah

jenmichel@me.com

I am terrified of raccoons. I suppose it began the day when one greeted me from inside my garbage can. I lifted the lid to find a masked bandit burrowing in the trash. And as is true with Toronto raccoons, they scare us far worse than we scare them. Ryan recently relayed a story typical of their nonchalance: several weeks ago, he was outside in the late afternoon when one casually sauntered down the driveway toward the backyard. Had the raccoon been able to speak, Ryan imagined he would have announced, "Honey, I'm home!"

What has any of this to do with what I've been reading in the Bible recently?

Nothing except that I'd left my One Year Bible in the car several days in a row, and in order to retrieve it in the dark hours of early morning, I would have to chance an encounter with a racoon.

So I didn't.

Clearly I'm no candidate for martyrdom.

But I did remember that I was in the book of Jeremiah and decided to continue reading there - from a Bible that was safely shelved in my family room.

God's Word has been speaking to me through the book of Jeremiah in ways that are timely and relevant. I marvel at how this happens: that I land at a certain passage, and its providential counsel speaks directly into a situation I'm facing.

Jeremiah is a prophet asked by God to preach hellfire and brimstone. Judah is soon to be exiled, and he's tolling the warning - except no one cares and there are a host of other prophets announcing peace and prosperity whom the people would much prefer to believe.

It isn't as if Jeremiah is always impervious to persecution and threats and hatred. He begs for his life. He pleads for God to intervene. He commiserates that such is his task.

Jeremiah is human, not bionic man: there is real sadness and despair and fear in the midst of doing what God has clearly called him to do. But what you sense is the open dialogue he shares with God - that it is to God he always returns and finds safety and further courage to keep advancing.

"If you have raced with men on foot, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?" Jeremiah 12:5

When God calls us to participation, we shouldn't imagine that it will be easy, that our movement forward will be unobstructed, that we will feel perpetual joy and peace as we work for the kingdom. No - that is the wide road.

And that's not the one that we travel.

Do something for God, and remember that it will always, always require of you COURAGE. And you don't get courage handed to you in a vat, as if all you needed was to ladle it out and drink it up when the situation demanded for it. You get courage in the form of a Person, who is the Holy Spirit. He walks with us, resides within us: He's closer than our breath.

He is always near, hemming us above and behind and around.

"I will make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls . . . they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you." Jeremiah 1:18

There are so many forms of courage that we need as God's people: relational courage: to forgive and be forgiven, to speak truth and to receive it back in kind; moral courage: to do what is right and defend what is right; spiritual courage: to offer to God and to others whatever breeds from our faith; vocational courage: to work as if we were working for the LORD, not for men and woman; emotional courage: to stick it out in the dark places of self-doubt.

I have no doubt that you need courage today. I do. And I have no doubt that we need it because God's calling is usually bigger than us. God invites us into jobs that only He can do.

And faith grows in that kind of partnership.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God." Hebrews 11:6

 

 

 

 

The Business of Calling (A Look Back: Days 9-15)

jenmichel@me.com

Yesterday, I posted highlights from the first eight days of this series on calling. Today, we'll look at days 9 - 15, and tomorrow, I hope to have a new post on calling. (Some disappointments of the last week have made me feel particularly snarky. If I don't settle down, you're in for an earful.) I'm wondering if there are questions you find yourself asking on calling? I certainly wouldn't pitch myself as an expert, but feel free to ask questions in the comments. I could attempt some kind of a response in the days to come.

 Day 9: Yin and Yang

Responsibility and shame, the yin and yang of calling. Responsibilities are the weight God gives us to bear, but we are not meant to bear this weight alone. Indeed, they are always too impossibly heavy for our skeletons of human bone, and they are mean to draw us towards deeper dependence on Christ. But if you’re like me, you add to your pack extra stones of worry, which weigh heavy with the fear of failing. If you’re like me, your responsibilities are too heavily tied to your identity. Meeting them – or failing them – will be the exacting measure of who you are and how much you’re worth.

 

Day 10: Hesitating Steps

Fear and uncertainty can be evidence of calling. We often begin with hesitating steps forward; we feel our way in the proverbial dark, unclear about the direction we’re taking, uncertain about the purpose behind the imperative. But what we follow at first is the smallest, faintest perception of a little something toward which God is nudging us. We heed an imperative, that small God movement which leads from behind. We move towards a relationship, a vocational decision, a spiritual practice, a ministry venture.

And it requires enormous risk. We don’t get architectural blueprints or project timelines. We get lamplight for our feet. No more, no less.

 

Day 11: Looms and Laptops

Calling must never become ceaseless rhythms of work, subconscious reflexes of self-protection. Hours at a loom – or laptop -, having only mechanical relation to the objects – and people – of my life. Calling is no excuse to lone-ranger it: if anything, calling makes it all the more necessary to find companions for our journey.

 

Day 12: Downhill Glides, Uphill Climbs

One dimension of calling is the easy, downhill glide where effortlessly, you cruise. The wind is at your back. You’re not even pedaling! But there’s another part of calling, which is far more grueling and difficult. They are the hills we have to climb towards whatever height of purpose God is calling us. At the bottom of the hills, we survey the impossibilities. Our body, the hills, the sun beating overhead. There is simply NO way we’re getting to the top.

Thank God for downhill glides because sometimes, that’s the only reason I get on the bike at all. Thank God for uphill climbs because there’s where I’m meant to learn my dependence.

 

Day 13: The Uphill Climb of Visibility and Responsibility

Shouldering all those lives on my little frame had become impossibly heavy, and I needed someone to help me process the exhaustion, the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety. I was fighting the sin of self-importance, and as a result, laid down the greater portion of my ministry responsibilities.

I want to begin again and begin differently.

I realize now that the work of God continues while I sleep: this is to me, immense relief. Tomorrow, were I to wake up debilitated – or not wake up at all – the world would keep on humming and spinning, whirring and whirling. It's just that big. And I am just that small.

 

Day 14: Purposed Participation with God

Attending to our heart’s desires isn’t always recommended to us, whether for life or calling. It may also be that our evangelical emphasis on serving and doing simply keeps us too busy for the practices of self-reflection.Whatever the cause, the false heart-mind dichotomies prevail. It’s the continental divide of the modern soul.

But look at the Psalmist’s integration of desire, plans, and petitions. We often do and become what we’ve hoped and planned and prayed. Life – and calling – may well be this three-strand cord of divine will and purposed human participation.

 

Day 15: Write for Your Neighbor

It’s some of the best advice I’ve had. Write for your neighbor, said Calvin Seerveld, when he lectured to artists and writers at our church recently. By this, I think he meant to say: Get over yourself. Get over all that grandstanding and grand planning. Write for your neighbor.

In other words, do something small and do it for love. Neighborliness is the most fundamental of our callings.

 

 

The way out of fear

jenmichel@me.com

We're leaving for Chicago today for Colin's scheduled adenoidectomy and ear tubes. This time, it's not fear leading the way.

source

Remember the nightmare that was our November? Colin, hospitalized with pneumonia, his asthma spinning recklessly out of control? The days of phone calls, the nights of worry, our family doctor's receptionist playing defense on the phone, insisting that no, I couldn't talk to the doctor personally, and, yes, when there was another problem, I'd simply have to take him to the ER.

Uh-huh. With my other four kids in tow. Oh, the speeches I prepared.

By God's grace, I never delivered any of them.

And by God's grace, there were miracles even then.

Asthma has this violent way of igniting overnight. What begins as a seemingly innocuous cough turns dragon-fierce, and you race the clock, hoping you can administer just enough medicine to keep the monster at bay.

We've read this script and acted these scenes with our oldest daughter, Audrey. She was 8 months old when she first saw the inside of an ER. When she was a toddler, we sat mindless hours in front of the t.v. while she inhaled her nebulized medicines. And in kindergarten, she left her doctor's office in an ambulance, after the treatments they'd given and the epinephrine they'd injected failed to break the stride of her cough. Her doctor later told me that eventually lungs fail when a person's coughed long enough.

Lungs fail? What mother can even admit the possibility that lungs fail?

But what mothers might well work to avoid, fear does all too ably: contriving possibilities, scripting nightmares. Audrey described it best in her own blog: "Worry threads its way into your dreams, and wakes you up at night."

There's this crazy frenzy to which fear drives us, and often for me, it becomes an agitated hurry to head disaster off at the pass.

When Colin came out of the hospital at the end of November, I spent two solid days on the phone. Calling his doctors in the States, calling all of our doctor friends. A little flexing of my time and money, and I'd muscled my way through the shadows. Colin was scheduled for a consult with the ENT and a tentative surgery before we were even meant to leave for the holidays. With his history of chronic infections, this was what we needed to keep him healthy and keep his asthma under control.

I felt better. Relieved.

In the evening, Ryan admitted to me hesitations. It just seems like a lot, he said. Two trips to the States? And then back again for the holidays? I countered his hesitations with all the reasons why all this inconvenience and expense was critical. Fear can be incredibly persuasive. It even sounds reasonable in the moment.

The next morning I woke to more questions. A tender probing of the soul. The gentle wind of the Spirit rustling.

Where was all this leading? The fear, the worry, the bulldozing the obstacles?

Did I believe that I was in control?

Had I been trusting?

Was there not a better way?

The morning mercies of God make a way out of fear.

I would cancel the appointments, reschedule Colin's consult with the ENT for a day we'd already planned to be in the States.

I would wait. I would trust.

And mercifully, Colin's stayed healthy these past eight weeks. The ENT, at the December consult, did confirm he would indeed need surgery.

It was scheduled for January 20. This Friday.

Now, only two more days of waiting.

God's ways are good and always worth waiting for. I am deeply grateful for each of you who has prayed for us and for Colin. And most of all, I thank and praise Him for the way He holds us in fear and invites us somewhere better.

Psalm 16

1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

3 I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Advent: Make room for courage.

jenmichel@me.com

We're all universally cowards if we have courage enough to admit it. I know I am.

It shouldn't surprise us that the Scriptures take up a familiar refrain, reprising a phrase that comes again and again to new characters in new chapters.

Do not be afraid.

These are the words spoken to Mary, to Joseph, to Zechariah, to the shepherds.

Why is it that the words of God inspire such fear?

Maybe it's because God is relentlessly moving us out and beyond the limits of the familiar and the comfortable.

Maybe it's because the only way we grow is to step into new shoes and take precarious steps of faith.

Maybe it's because greater trust and dependence are born in the moments when we most feel the weight of our inadequacies, the moments when the light is obscured.

Moments when we, like children, have to put our hand in His.

Do not be afraid.

Exhale

jenmichel@me.com

Audrey walks toward me, her canvas bag swinging at her ankles and her backpack visibly heavy.  The twins have wrestled and giggled wildly for the hour we've waited outside as the older three finish their swimming lessons. I squeeze her, and she gives her perfunctory, "Oh mom, please" look.

"You've got to talk to my teacher."  Swimming teacher, she means, and yes, I'm shamefully absent when all the other dutiful parents pick up their children and wait for the instructors' feedback.

It's just too much effort. Seven minutes to corral the wild horses and herd them inside. Two minutes to remove coats and shoes. And the spectacle of my ineffective parenting the moment we've stepped foot on the pool deck as they ignore all of my warnings to "Stop running!"

Mother of five, I simple can't do it all. As much as I think I've made peace with the limitations, fears simmer beneath the surface.

There's never enough time, money, energy, or attention for this crazy brood of kids.

And I'm beleaguered by the cultural messages.

If you want your kids to succeed, you've got to involve them in a variety of activities from a very young age. Remember, it's achievement that counts, so give them enough opportunities to be the very best. It's going to matter for college. And college means career, and career means money, and money means security.

I see the parents around me driven wild by the fear, and they can't stop the perpetual motion of securing the best for their kids.

And then the school announces the topic of their next parenting discussion, led by a renowned expert.

"Self Reliance and Independence: Letting go can be difficult at any stage, and yet working ourselves out of the job of managing our children’s lives is one of our most important tasks as parents. Get practical tips for building a child’s confidence and ability to be resourceful and self-evaluative."

They have seminars for this?

This is our life. Resourcefulness, autonomy, self-expression, independence: these are the fruits that grow wild in families as big as ours.

And so it is that I exhale and embrace the limitations of this family, this life, this mom.

How-to Friday: Find the Courage to Fail

jenmichel@me.com

Blogging was a good idea. For about five days.

Only four people knew that I was at it again. When I decided to close up shop and quit this whole blogging thing, I imagined my husband and three closest friends nodding knowingly. I had a track record for flings. My momentary crushes were familiar. And so was my cheating.

Then The Nester posted this video on her site, and I watched it early one Saturday morning as I leaned against the kitchen counter, water falling on burnt toast.

http://vimeo.com/24715531

I decided that the coward in me was getting way too much airtime.

So what if I failed? And what was the point really? Hadn't I committed to this whole blogging thing as a way to grow as a writer? And sure, there would be days that the ideas would shrivel up, and the words would skip town, but the real trick was committing.

Practice. Experiment. Risk.

And find the courage to fail.