on real-izing

When I was playing around with titles for my book, I made a Wordle of the entire manuscript to see what words I used most often. I hoped inspiration might leap out at me from the word cloud. And here’s what I saw:


The nouns leapt out at me first – God in the center (whew! at least I got that one right), work, love, time, church, mother, baby.

But I have a hunch that if I made a Wordle for this blog, it would be the verbs that would catch me: wonder, remember, imagine, realize.

Particularly that last one. Realize. I find that verb slipping into my posts more than any other. Sometimes I stop for a synonym. Sometimes I let it slide. Lately I’ve been embracing the abundance of realization.

Because this whole blog might be about precisely that.

. . .

Two things I try to do in this space: see truth and tell truth.

First, I try to notice. Good writing comes from open eyes and ears, heart and mind. I try to see the world around me through the lens that asks what is beautiful here? What is hard? Where is God? Being a mom affords plenty of interaction with all three questions.

So part of how I try to realize here is by witnessing and wondering about the everyday epiphanies. The moments that flash brightly with some slant I never saw before. The clearer view that lifts the veil from sluggish or selfish slouching through my day-to-day and invites me to hold my breath. The fresh light that glimmers on some flash of the holy I never expected to find.

To realize is to become fully aware. To understand more clearly. To learn. All of that is wrapped up in why I write, and – I hope – why you might read.

Second, I aim for honesty. For me, the emphasis in writing falls on the first syllable: real-ize. To speak my small truth, what I know of this one wild and precious life. And not to sugar-coat or to sour-puss, but to strike an honest balance between the hard and the beautiful.

Like every writer, I struggle with tone – is this piece too depressing? is this perspective too idealistic? Sometimes I second-guess whether I should tell the stories of the harder times and the darker days. But I always come back round to the idea of God being the Truth and God being the Word. The truer we try to make our words, the more they might reveal of where God can be found. I see this in so much of what I read, and I dare to hope I might try to find it in what I write.

To real-ize is to live fully within the life I am given. To not be afraid of the pain or ashamed of the joy.

. . .

This week I’ve been meditating on “realize” as I dove into Power of Moms’ latest book, Motherhood Realized: An Inspiring Anthology for the Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love.

motherhood realized

In the essay I’m honored to have included in their collection, I wrote about picking green beans from our garden as a practice of gratitude. The piece winds around from our time of infertility to the fullness of life with two little boys underfoot. And when I think of the sharp contrast between aching for motherhood and “realizing” it, I see the fulfillment of a dream, the granting of a hope, the answer to a prayer that someday this calling would be part of my journey.

But in truth my experience of becoming a parent feels like less of an achievement and more of an invitation – to revere the gift, to release the expectations, to respect the enormity of the challenge, to remember the cost of the sacrifice. Realization is wrapped up more in awe and gratitude than easy embrace.

So I see the need to keep gathering those ordinary insights and everyday epiphanies along the way, the hard-fought ones and the grace-filled ones. I love that this book does exactly that: draws together the voices of many women who have truths to tell and stories to share about how motherhood has shaped them, even as its joys and sorrows brought them to their knees.

That is the role I hope realization continues to play in my life – to keep me open to wonder and humbled by how I am changed when I open myself up to love.

And if you’re curious as I am about how others make sense of the deepest truths in their experience, I hope you’ll check out Motherhood Realized. This piece by Katrina Kenison (whose writing I have long loved) sums up so much of what makes this book a beautiful collection:

“Heading Home with Your Newborn” might ease a new mom through the drama of giving birth and surviving the first few sleepless nights. But Motherhood Realized is a book that will live on bedside tables for years to come — well-thumbed, underlined, bookmarked, shared. Here are the personal stories of mothers just like you and me, not experts who have everything figured out or agendas to promote, but ordinary women who have seized time from their daily lives to report from the trenches of firsthand experience and who have summoned the courage to write from their hearts – the ups, the downs, the hard lessons learned, the small moments savored, the tears shed, the priorities reordered, the humble revelations celebrated, the inevitable challenges confronted.

. . .

This week I also have a new post at Catholic Mom about my latest Lenten realization. That all those 40 bags for 40 days I’ve been faithfully collecting for Goodwill? They might be more about me and mine than God or good spiritual practice. Gulp.

I looked again at the bags I’d gathered. Every last one contained the extras, the excess, the unused and the unwanted. It certainly wasn’t the best I had to offer someone in need. All those prettier clothes were still hanging in closets. All those nicer plates and pans were still stacked in kitchen cabinets. All those well-made toys were still saved for my kids to enjoy.

Was my 40-day challenge really about giving to the least among us? Or about saving the best for me?

Read the rest at Catholic Mom…

I’m grateful for this uncomfortable realization, even if it doesn’t have a clean and tidy resolution. Good thing there’s still plenty of Lent left to ponder.

. . .

Sometimes realization is about remembering what you had known but forgotten. Sometimes it’s about discovering something entirely new and unexpected. I believe much of the spiritual journey is spent wandering back and forth between these two – the deepest truths we know and the mysterious realities we never suspected.

Maybe these two aspects of realize – the real and the realization – are the best of what blogging can bring. When someone shares from the particularities of their experiences to invite others to consider their own lives in a new light.

What do you think? Why do you blog, if you blog? Why do you read, if you read?

4 thoughts on “on real-izing

  1. Claire says:

    First of all, I am so excited that you wrote a chapter in Motherhood Realized! Power of Moms is a great blog, and I’m really glad that they include your writing (on the blog and in the book). Also, thank you for introducing me to CatholicMom.com. I had heard of it before and probably even went on the website a few times, but I didn’t realize that there were daily blogposts. I thought of it more as a resource to go to when looking for ideas such as liturgical activities for kids, etc. Through you I have discovered what a wonderful blog it is, and I now subscribe to it. I love getting the daily digest in my email, chock full of inspiring and informative articles.

    I do not blog, in part due to my technical limitations. But I read a lot of blogs. In blogs, I look for inspiration and information primarily about motherhood and faith. It’s very helpful to read about other mothers who struggle with issues similar to mine, and to read about new ways of handling these issues.

    • Laura says:

      Claire, thank you for your comment and your support about the Power of Moms book! It is definitely such a great blog. And I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Catholic Mom as well – so many good resources there. I think I read blogs for the same reasons you do – mostly inspiration, but also practical suggestions for dealing with whatever questions or issues I’m puzzling over at the time. I have honestly learned so many helpful tips and approaches to parenting from blogs that I can’t imagine how the last few years of my life would have gone without them!

  2. Ginny@RandomActsofMomness.com says:

    I love your idea to do a Wordle of your manuscript.. What a fascinating way to see where one’s focus lies. (Though with two boys of the ages mine are now, I fear the word in the center of my blog would be “Fart” or “Poo in your pants”, with which they seem to be obsessed these days).

    For me, one of the greatest things about blogging has been connecting with people I wouldn’t know otherwise. I’ve “met” so many great people (yourself included!) and I’ve even gotten to meet some of them in person. It has broadened my horizons in a way I wasn’t expecting when I started blogging, and it’s such a gift.

    • Laura says:

      Ginny, the Wordle thing is SO cool – you should try it with one of your manuscripts just for kicks! It’s enlightening to see what comes up. I tried to do it with my blog, but it only worked for the most recent posts so it doesn’t give a full perspective…still fascinating to see the words that you love and that capture your imagination. (And fear not, we have just entered into the bodily-function-obsession stage over here, and I dread that with these boys, we have probably many more years of poop jokes being The Funniest Thing Around. sigh)
      I agree that one of the best parts of blogging is the connections you make – right back at you! 🙂 Finding kindred spirits, especially during the long or lonely stretches, can be so uplifting. I am grateful for the connections that have turned into real friendships.

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