The Value of Creating Flexible Rhythms

If last fall was filled with new challenges, this fall was filled with recreating those challenges. We did the Whole30 again; I wrote for 31 days again; we’ve reestablished bedtime and wake-up routines, though slightly different since our schedule is slightly different.

BackyardThe biggest difference between forming a habit the first time and re-forming a habit the second time is that it seems easier to cheat this second time around. On our second Whole30, it ended up being the Whole22 because we had visitors and commitments. We felt cleansed and reset and that last week just didn’t seem as important as the first time around.

I skipped a day of writing, due to a migraine this time. I debated going back to make it up but decided that Write 30 Days is good enough. I still achieved my purpose of telling a story and re-disciplining myself to write intentionally. In some ways, since the day I skipped was during my walk humbly week, it seemed fitting to just let it go.

My One Word for 2016 was enough; this year it’s capacity. Those two have built on each other beautifully and I’m learning that creating habits is important and life-giving. But it’s just as important to remember that when I slip on those commitments, it’s ok. That recognizing my capacity for each day may be different. I’m learning the value of creating flexible rhythms to my days.

Ultimately, I’m reminded of my need for structure. I enjoy formal challenges and goals because it is so easy to slip and let life meander. I think there’s something beautiful about the journey, not the destination but it’s a fine line between wandering and being lost. I’m learning to set goals with real life in mind; to not let my perfectionism become the end result; to remember that this is for my own practices.

Last year, I was inspired to do more 30-day challenges and changes. This year, I’m looking at some longer-term ideas, with a bigger overarching goal. These small practices are what build up strength for those bigger goals, but I want to remember that getting stronger means the ability to do something longer as well.

As I pursue justice, I’m learning this same thing holds true. Some days, I have the capacity to make calls, to show up, to post articles and be vocal. Some days, I need to be quiet and listen before any action is taken. Other days, I practice my privilege of turning off the news and focusing on my little family.

I’m learning to trust these flexible rhythms – that when I’m in-tune with where God has placed me, I am much more effective at playing a role in the restoration of this earth. Some opportunities are arising in 2018 for me to put these thoughts to practice and, while I’m still in the very early stages of these plans and hopes, I’m thankful for these past 30 days to reflect and form habits that will shape the way our family does peacemaking.

What do your rhythms look like? Is your life suited for shorter term goals and challenges or are you striving for a larger goal?

Thank you for joining me on this month of digging and questioning! I’ve so appreciated your comments,  engagement, and encouragement!

BackyardThis post is Day 31 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.


A Call to Live Small and Practice Peace at Home

Last week was fall break. We had no plans – no playdates, no excursions, just lots of lazy pajama mornings and slow-paced days. On Monday, I woke up with a migraine headache. I’ve gotten these since I was eleven years old, to varying degrees of intensity and frequency. The commonality is that my vision is obstructed and I feel nauseous. Thankfully, my parents were able to take the girls for the day and I spent our first glorious day of break miserably in bed.

IMG_7115I may take out my stress in headaches; Bea takes hers out in sleep. She’s always been prone to night terrors and restlessness. Over break, with the ability to breathe and unwind, she was unable to sleep through the night. Yes, we had a week of pajama days but they weren’t as restful as I was envisioning. They stemmed from exhaustion and lethargy from interrupted sleep and inability to rest.

In Mending the Divides, Jon Huckins & Jer Swigart end the book reminding us that peacemaking starts in our own homes, with our own families. I have a really hard time being loving, gracious, and peaceful when I’m running on a week of sleeplessness. I’m selfish and looking for conflict.

As we’re finishing up this month of looking at Micah 6:8, I’m realizing that doing justice starts with seeing the big picture in my own home. Bea isn’t waking us up out of vindictiveness. She’s a five-year-old who needs her safe parents in the middle of the night. Loving kindness means choosing to not respond sarcastically to Frank when all I want to do is drink a cup of coffee in silence. I live in a family who wakes up ready to go, while I love to ease into the morning. Kindness is a choice I can make each morning before any coffee has been made. Walking humbly looks like not needing to be right. When Bea wakes up from a restless night, she’s loud and screechy and tired, which manifests itself in a surplus of energy. It’s grating and I just want her to understand that she is the reason the morning is rough. But where does that lead? What good does that do?

I want this verse to be a commissioning – a great call to living BIG and well in this world. The reality, like so much of the Bible, is a call to live small, in our own homes and lives. How can I listen well and live as a peacemaker with strangers if I can’t even practice this with my daughter?

I suppose that is the most humbling part of this. Seeing that all the learning and reading and writing do nothing unless I can shift my thinking and behavior with the people I love most.

How do you practice peace in your day-to-day life? Which do you find more doable – the big practice of peace or the mundane practices?

BackyardThis post is Day 30 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

A Blessing for Community

On Sundays, I thought I’d highlight a blessing to start our week. Since this series ends on Tuesday, I thought I’d post a song that embodies what I’ve learned in this month. The Wailin’ Jennys song, One Voice came to mind. For me, it’s a beautiful image of how we’re created to live in community.

ONE VOICE by The Wailin’ Jennys

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice
This is the sound of one voice

BackyardThis post is Day 29 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Who Is My Neighbor?

I just took a class about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I’ll be sorting through those ideas and perspective for a long time. Partly, because the class was taught by a Palestinian-Muslim woman and so I’m learning to take what she has told us about her experience as truth and also listen to the perspective and stories of my Israeli-Jewish neighbors (and dear friends) as truth. It’s not that they are calling the other side wrong or untruthful. But there are definitely sides.

51lRXUeov4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the midst of all of this, I read Mending the Divides: Creating Love in a Conflicted World by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart. Co-founders of the Global Immersion Project, Huckins and Swigart have devoted their lives and careers to building peace in conflicted areas.

What they’ve learned is that talking and summits are not going to mend the divides of conflict. A radical shift in response the the question, Who is my neighbor? is needed. Or, perhaps it’s not a radical shift. After all, Jesus answered this question through his parable of the Good Samaritan thousands of years ago. It’s a story we’re still learning.

I appreciate the story-driven but practical approach Huckins & Swigart take in Mending the Divides. Each chapter starts with a real-life story, links a Biblical lesson, connects some practical next-steps, and ends with a few questions for reflection. The book is built around four steps to peacemaking: See, Immerse, Contend, and Restore.

As I look for ways to bring peace to this world through my own daily actions, I appreciated the gracious and helpful tone in Mending the Divides. I was reminded that, while international trips are important learning experiences, the real sustaining work of peacemaking happens during school pickup and in our family’s values and actions.

My biggest takeaway, especially in light of walking humbly with God is that peacemaking starts with listening. The more stories I listen to, the more complex a conflict seems. Everyone has a valid point of view and it’s hard to pick a “right side” when you hear stories from all sides. So, I’m listening and learning. I’m remembering that everyone’s experience is true. And, I hope that if more of us stop and form relationships, those divides will be mended.

Have you ever immersed yourself in a global conflict through relationships? How has that changed your perspective? Have you ever intentionally immersed yourself in a local conflict through relationships?

BackyardThis post is Day 28 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Bridging the Gap

The other day I went on a field trip with our Family Literacy program to the Museum of Nature and Science. We have had a membership here since Bea was little. One of our favorite activities is exploring the dioramas, the hall of life, and the dinosaurs. As I was talking with other moms, I was amazed at the fact that this was most of their first time visiting! Even though their kids are my age, going to this incredible place just wasn’t on their radar.

IMG_7032The older I get and the more stories I hear, the more I realize how little I’ve had to overcome in this life. My parents were able to provide for college; my loans for grad school were minimal since I was going into a field that was underrepresented, both in interested workers and in finances. I’ve had opportunities to travel, to learn, to be continually supported in my decisions.

I am incredibly grateful for these privileges and would never want to trade them. As we plan for the future and make decisions about how we’ll raise our girls, a lot of these same values are guiding our choices.

But coupled with what I’ve been given, I think it’s important to remember that I am unique. Not all my friends were given the gift of a paid-for college education. Not everyone I know has had the support to travel and explore.

I think that this is what everyday privilege looks like. When we talk about the evils of privilege, I think a lot of us think of one group working really hard and another group living off of government support. People have a lot of big feelings about the word privilege these days.

Privilege, of course, isn’t limited to travel and education. It’s not worrying about the bills or knowing we can finance something if we had to. It’s knowing how to save and live within our budget. (And how to make a budget in the first place!) I think privilege looks different for everyone because we all take our values and make choices differently.

But, part of walking humbly with God is recognizing all God has given me and all that others may not have. It’s learning to bridge the gaps, not so that one side loses out but so that all sides gain.

When did you first recognize your own area of privilege? How do you hold that humbly?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “overcome.”

BackyardThis post is Day 27 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

The Power of Stories to Enlarge Our World

If you’ve been around here for even a day or two, you know I can talk books and books all the time. I truly believe reading and engaging in perspectives outside our usual thinking can help change the world. Today, I’m over at SheLoves Magazine sharing some of my journey of reading diversity. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves and join the conversation!

annie-rim-power-of-story3I am a nerd in the very untrendy sense of the word. I don’t wear cool glasses. I know little to nothing about pop culture references. My clothing style is firmly preppy without any funky flair. But I can engage in conversation about a lot of political topics, about some theology, and my favorite: history. As an art history major in college, I learned about the evolution of cultures and societies through their art and literature.

Talking books and ideas lights me up, makes me excited, gives me energy. And so, in today’s culture of divisiveness and other-ing, I turn to books to help me understand.

In her inspiring TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds me of the power of storytelling, of the necessity of listening to the stories of other cultures and experiences. Ideally, this happens face-to-face over a cup of something warm or a shared meal. Realistically, that’s hard to make happen naturally.

I’m unlikely to find someone to be my new culturally-diverse instant best friend, so I have made an intentional point to read more books by people of different nationalities, different backgrounds and identities than my own.

Of course, I had read diverse authors before, working through Paulo Coelho’s magical worlds and my year of books from Iran and Afghanistan. But I knew I needed to be more intentional, to pick books not only because they looked interesting but because they stretched me and grew my perspective. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest!

What are some of your life-changing books? How do you expand your reading horizons?

BackyardThis post is Day 26 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

The Blessing of Curiosity

When I was in Nepal, some friends came to visit and we decided to take an airplane flight around Mt. Everest. I wasn’t much of a hiker then, so even trekking to Base Camp didn’t hold much of an appeal. But I knew I wanted to see the highest peak in the world.

IMG_1243The flight was incredible. We were in a tiny plane and my friend, who once held the title of Navigator of Air Force One turned a blind eye to all of the FAA code violations. But, when we saw Everest through the windows, it was breathtaking.

I’ve always been someone who’s held a healthy reverence for Nature. I’ll be the first to turn around if a thunderstorm threatens us above tree line; I prefer to hike with buddies; I’ve never set out to push the limits or conquer a mountain or a trail. I feel like the vast majority of the time man goes up against nature, nature will win.

When Frank and I were talking about “walking humbly with God,” he said hiking immediately came to mine. The vast magnificence of nature keeps him humble. (Though, I challenge you to have a discussion about life with Frank that doesn’t somehow circle back to hiking and/or nature…)

There is something humbling about nature and all that we don’t know. When I’m on a trail or in the Grand Tetons, I’m in awe of how huge our world is. And then I read about new discoveries, deep in the ocean and am reminded even more so that we don’t know a whole lot about this earth. If I’m really ready to be awed, I’ll start to think about the scope of our small planet in a vast universe….

When I think about my friend’s advice to start reading the Bible deeply, one book stretched over many months, it reminds me of how vast this story is. I suppose that’s how we have hundreds of years of theology and graduate degrees uncovering all that we don’t know.

Her advice also reminded me to think about the humbling experience of walking through nature. I would never presume that I was conquering a trail or hiking a mountain for the sake of crossing it off my list. In some ways, that’s how reading the Bible in a year felt – like an accomplishment to cross off a list.

What if I approached my faith and study of that faith with the same humbleness I approach nature? What if I knew I was learning for the sake of asking more questions, rather than finding answers? How would that change my relationship with God?

I wonder how this would change my relationship with my community? If I went into conversations for the sake of finding out more and more, rather than knowing a story?

I’ve been reading more about God’s curious nature. In Jan Richardson’s In the Sanctuary of Women, she reframes the story of Eve through the lens of curiosity. For so long, we’ve viewed this character trait as the root of our sinful nature. What if this is an expression of the glory of God? How would we approach life and faith differently if we viewed curiosity as a blessing rather than a curse?

Walking humbly doesn’t come naturally to me. I want to know and to check off the knowledge boxes. But humbleness is grounding myself in the unknown and breathing in the slow walk of discovery.

What’s your view of curiosity – is it a blessing or a curse? How do you approach curiosity in your faith journey?

BackyardThis post is Day 25 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Reframing the Story Arc

Have you ever played that game, If you could only have one book forevermore on a desert island, which one would it be?

800px-Freytags_pyramid.svgSometimes, I feel like I’m playing that game with the girls. We listen to the same song over and over again in the car; Elle always reads Goodnight, Moon or Quiet Time with Cassatt before naptime; I sing Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs every night before bed with Bea.

I totally get it. Already I see the benefits of repetition as Bea is reading more and more and recognizing familiar words in unfamiliar texts. But it can also be mind-numbing. It makes me really reconsider which one book I would want on a desert island. (And, no. The Complete Works of Shakespeare doesn’t count.)

I’ve been having some conversations with really smart women about reframing the Bible’s traditional story arc. What would hope and expectation look like if Jesus, the Cross, and Resurrection wasn’t the climax of the story? What if we moved that all to the beginning? What if Heaven and the New Earth were set as the rising action? I’m just starting to mull all of these over, and I don’t know where they’re all going.

What I am learning is that the traditional story arc doesn’t apply to a lot of life. Seemingly right and wrong points of view are never as cut and dry. Conflict is made up of layers and layers rather than sides and clear lines. Redemption rarely follows the path I think that it should.

During one of these conversations, a friend suggested picking one part of the Bible and spending a year just with that. Look closely at the story and what the arc seems to be with what we know. Carefully peel back the layers of the text. Read books and commentaries about it.

I just finished reading the Bible in a year (though really, it took about two and a half years…) and I’m so glad I finally read it from cover to cover. But honestly? It didn’t really help with my understanding at all. It gave a foundation and overview, but I really do need to view this as a lifetime read – something that I slow down and take my time.

I’m learning that to walk humbly with God probably means to recognize that I don’t know the story arc at all. That I need to spend a lifetime reframing the rising action and climax. And that most likely, God’s story arc doesn’t look anything like the literary arc I’ve been taught.

My friend said that she hopes God is way more creative than we imagine and that even redemption and the New Earth is just the very beginning of the story. Who knows what worlds are to come?

Where do you find Jesus on the story arc? How have your views on the story journey been reframed?

BackyardThis post is Day 23 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

A Blessing for Walking Humbly

On Sundays, I thought I’d highlight a blessing to start our week. This week’s theme is walking humbly and this song from Heatherlyn Music immediately came to mind. Heatherlyn was our artist in residence at church a year ago and her music has changed the way I worship.

EVER by Heatherlyn Music

Peace, ever
Joy, ever
Following you
Light, ever
Love, ever
Radiating through

Hope, ever
Faith, ever
Strengthening you
Life, ever
Breath, ever
Nourishing you

And everywhere you go, may you always be home
And everyone you meet, be messengers of peace

Let your light shine through
And your heart ever be true
Move in grace and gratitude
And walk in wisdom, sharing all that’s good

Peace, ever
Joy, ever
Following you
Light, ever
Love, ever
Radiating through

And everywhere you go, may you always be home
And everyone you meet, be messengers of peace

May we choose courageously
May we hope defiantly
May we love outrageously
And walk on lightly, in humility

Beauty and laughter, ever filling you
Friendship, affection, surrounding you

BackyardThis post is Day 22 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Engaging in Uncomfortable Topics

Sometimes the idea of befriending the checker at the grocery store or volunteering with refugees seems too daunting. It may be outside my comfort zone to strike up a 32075671conversation in the park or I may not have enough extra hours to volunteer somewhere. Does this mean learning about people who believe differently, who look differently, or who are in a different economic bracket is out of our ability?

This is what I love about reading. I may not be able to have coffee with every refugee or march in every demonstration but I can get to know people outside the news headlines and stereotypes through a well-written memoir or well-researched novel.

Earlier this year, I compiled a list of books to help see the “other,” but I thought I’d add a few to it today.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
If you want to read more about immigration and refugees.
This powerful collection of short stories focuses on Vietnamese immigrants who have been displaced and affected by the Vietnam War. Honestly, this is a group of immigrants I don’t think about much. They aren’t in the news; the war ended before I was born, so it seems like history. However, it’s not ancient history. Our involvement in this war has shaped the way we view the military and our world responsibility today. These stories made me think about the lasting impact of our foreign policies and the displacement involved.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
If you want to read more about women’s rights, equality, and oppression.
This was a well… difficult book to read. Most of these fictional short stories included some sort of sexual abuse or violence. They were incredibly hard to read. The reason I always recommend Roxane Gay is because she does not tie up these stories with a neat, redemptive bow. She keeps them incredibly raw and real. After the recent #metoo stories that flooded social media, I think we could all do with a bit more discomfort and openness to hearing the stories of abuse survivors.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If you want to read more about police engagement in predominantly black neighborhoods.
This book follows the story Starr, a high school girl after she witnesses her best friend shot in a “routine traffic stop.” It’s an incredibly timely book and, while it will make many people uncomfortable, I think that’s the point. Thomas does a good job of bringing the lasting reality of police bias and resulting misconduct to life. This is a young adult novel and, like most YA novels tie everything up with a tidy ending. I guess, at 15, I wanted that type of ending too, but I need to remind myself when I start to roll my eyes.

What are some novels that have helped you learn about uncomfortable topics?

BackyardThis post is Day 21 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.