Transitions When Life is Always the Same

After a particularly dreary winter followed quickly by a stay-at-home order, spring is finally here. Of course, we can’t plant our annuals just yet for fear of another frost, but besides that potential, trees are blooming, windows are wide open for the majority of the day, and the hope of sunshine and an emergence from dormancy are on everyone’s minds.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The changing weather has made me even more aware of our unchanging days. I’m antsy to hang out with my neighbors without hovering at barely six feet away. I want to run to the store without overthinking whether or not it’s truly an essential trip. I want to host friends for dinner and celebrate birthdays and the end of the school year properly.

Our stay-at-home order has changed to a safer-at-home order which really doesn’t change life at all for our family. But the slightly looser mandate combined with the weather have loosened everyone’s outlook on what safety really means. Folks who were vigilant at the beginning are now choosing social functions over staying home. We all perceive “doing our best” and “safer” differently which, for this rule-follower, is stressful.

One friend recently commented that it feels like the beginning of the end. Frank and I were talking later, and reminded of an article that borrowed Winston Churchill’s quote, we’re really at the end of the beginning. We may have enough hospital beds available in this moment but we are far from implementing longterm best practices to safely reopen in a pre-COVID sense of the word.

In a lot of ways, I’m thankful we can at least say there’s a shift from being totally in an unknown state to one that is seeing some sort of change on the horizon. Any sort of movement feels hopeful. But is it?

Next week is Bea’s last week of school. We’re ending early to give staff time to sort out and clean up from distance learning but it means yet another transition, just as we’re settled into a routine. Summer break feels different, too. We’re not anticipating the same need for rest as in years past. Many of our favorite outings will be closed, at least for a little while longer. We’re not sure if summer camp will still be an option to break up the long weeks.

I’ve been thinking about how we can mark transitions in a time when most of our usual markers have been taken away. How can we shift from learning at home to lounging at home? How will we fill our days anew? I have a feeling this summer will be much more structured than years past. Whereas before I had the loosest of loose routines, now I wonder if we’ll need just a bit more guidance to our days.

Maybe this will be the year for each girl to pick one new thing to learn. Maybe we’ll figure out a family project to do. I’ve never been “that” type of summertime mom but maybe this is the year to not only tap into my homeschooling skills but also my organized summer skills. I want to view this next transition as an opportunity to try something new, even if it’s the only year that makes sense for us to do this.

As I watch our trees sprout leaves and our lilac bushes blossom, I’m not as envious at my own lack of change this year. Maybe I’ll have to be more innovative in the transition but it can still be there, teaching me about myself in ways I hadn’t explored before.

How are you viewing the next transitions, whether seasonally or as your own home starts to open up more? How do you mark your days in new ways?

Poised on the Horizon

My alarm has started going off at 5:45 after ten blissful weeks of waking up “naturally” at 6:30. (Can a mom of early risers wake up without assistance?) Bea has been back in school for a week and Elle starts preschool next week. We are easing back into schedules and routines after a busy July.

Even though I don’t love rising early, I do love having some minutes to myself before the day truly begins. I sit in my hot pink chair by the window, read a devotional thought from Walter Brueggemann and a chapter in The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I’m dressed and ready by the time the girls wake up around 6:30.

The other morning, I was peeling hard boiled eggs, stocking up the fridge for breakfast, lunch, and after school snacks. I was hoping to complete the task in the small window between brushing teeth and leaving for school and found myself rushing. The more I hurried, the more trouble I had pulling the shell from the white of the egg. The membrane would stick and I found myself getting frustrated. Looking at the clock on the microwave, I left half a dozen eggs in the ice water bath where they had been cooling and put the container of peeled eggs in the fridge. I decided to finish my task after walking Bea to school.

When we returned just fifteen minutes later, I found my mindset had shifted and I took my time tapping the eggs against the counter and peeling the shell off. When I took my time, the task became so much easier and quicker. Soon, eleven eggs (minus one eaten right away) were stored in the fridge, ready for a healthier option to bunny crackers and popsicles after school.

Cracking those eggs made me pause and take note of how I so often live my days. Bea just started second grade and Elle will be in her last year of preschool. Time seems to be picking up speed. It’s not that I want to stop in this season – we’re just now catching glimpses of more independence and possibly easier adventures – but it does make me recognize the ache of time passing.

Maybe it’s that we’re in a transition year as a family and my last grandparent just passed away. Maybe I’m more attuned to the fact that I’m approaching a season of shift – for my girls and for myself. I’ve been asking the question, “What next?” for a while but it’s feeling more and more real, knowing that this time next year both girls will be in school all day long. What does this mean for me?

I want to rush the process, to have a plan in place by next August. I want to know what I want to be when I grow up. But that is such a misnomer – that we suddenly become something when we are twenty-two year old graduates or thirty-seven year old moms. This takes the journey out of the equation.

Recently, I read a passage about Patience and Longing in In the Sanctuary of Women. Jan L. Richardson reflects on the fact that we are so often wedged between Longing and Patience. In a poem she says,

Patience has not told her
she has some envy
of Longing’s perfect ache
or that she thinks it must be an art
to hold oneself
so perpetually poised
toward the horizon.

For her part,
Longing has not confessed
that there are days
she find Patience restful.
Soothing. A relief.

In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan L. Richardson, pg 177

I’m remembering that neither one nor the other is the place to rest but that leaning into both patience and longing can be a simultaneous act. I can confidently dream and embrace what is on the horizon while also finding rest and relief in the waiting.

I’m slowing my pace, putting aside tasks until I have the time to do them well, and remembering that I may not discover what it is I’m meant to do in the next season right away. And that’s ok. I’m leaning into the journey, saying yes to what I need to lean into and saying no to distractions. I’m planting my feet in the present without feeling guilty or anxious about listening to dreams of the future.

Where are you on the journey? How do you lean on both longing and patience?

One Small Change

At the beginning of the year, I signed Bea up for Guppy swim lessons. Geared to 3-5 year olds, the goal by the end is to bob under water, float for 3 seconds without support, and feel confident in the water. I started her in January with lofty goals – we had enough time to repeat a level here or there but by summertime, she’d be in her second round of Minnow, perfecting her strokes and ready for this summer.

IMG_9618Last week was the last day of our third round of Guppy. Bea was so emotionally exhausted that she fell asleep in the bathtub after class. (Perhaps the most disconcerting experience I’ve had as a parent so far…)

My new goal for this summer? To regain a love of the pool and swimming. I don’t think it was really lost – we just spent a week in Moab where Bea used her noodle to kick all over the pool – but I want to refocus my own expectations. She’s three. We will always have adults around to watch her. She is water safe enough that I’m watchful but not worried. We’ll play this summer and we’ll keep trying next year.

I feel like if I have learned nothing else from motherhood, holding my expectations loosely is a recurring theme. My ideals and expectations are still high. I still strive to be as intentional as possible with our decisions. But, I’m learning that the specifics are often not how I originally envisioned.

The journey is ever-changing, ever-shifting and I’m finding that the scenery I hadn’t expected is often more beautiful. Or at least makes for a better story when perspective is gained and situations become funnier with retelling.

It’s not an easy small change that I’m learning to make. In fact, it goes against my view of an ordered, “happy” life. But, it’s a small change that makes me a better wife, a better mom, and a happier person all around.

And while small changes are often more attainable than lofty goals, they are also harder to stay consistent with. Sometimes small changes are easily reverted back because they are small and seemingly insignificant. I guess that’s the misnomer of small, easy changes. They are small and most likely easier than a major life-shift, but they still take intention, discipline and a willingness to work toward the big picture.

So even though my small change is simply having fun in the pool this summer, I hope I catch glimpses of something bigger – that I see life and parenting as less linear and more looping, circular, spiraling, spinning, and twirling. I hope that instead of viewing this as one step forward, two steps back I view it more as a dance.

We may not be able to easily see the lines clearly but the end product is something remarkable.

What’s one small change you would like to make this summer? How do you see life – in a line or like a dance?

Linked up with Alexandra Kuykendall as she asks us to consider the power of the small as we learn to love our actual lives. Head over to her place for more stories!

I Used To

“It’s about the beautiful things we might reclaim and the stuff we may decide to kick to the curb. It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come. It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next. It’s about not apologizing for our transformation and change in response to the unchanging Christ.”
Sarah Bessey, chapter one, Out of Sorts

I used to think I had to have all the answers but now I think God is found in the “I don’t know.”

And as I learn to embrace the “I don’t know” in my faith, I’m learning to embrace it in my everyday life. I’m learning that God is found in the search rather than the answers. And that search can’t happen until we hit that vulnerable place of saying aloud, I don’t know. On the days I don’t know if I’m the best wife, the best mother, the best Christian, when I stop and recognize I don’t know, I’m suddenly freed from these self-imposed labels and am able to live in the balance of the unknown.

GODisHEREPrint-SarahBesseyI used to think God lived in church buildings but now I think God lives in hikes and coffee shops and long dinners and playdates and church buildings, too.

I still find hope and love and community in my church building. And I’m unable to give it up. Yet… On those Sunday mornings when we’re off and we just need to make scones and go for a hike, we do. And we find God and reconnect and are refreshed in this nature that is given to us. I’m learning that now is not the time to find all the big conversations in the right places – at seminaries and with theologians. For me, right now, I have those big conversations at playgrounds, where thoughts are constantly interrupted and I’m left wanting more. But, if I don’t start them (and stop them and start them again, all within twenty minutes) I’ll never have these discussions to begin with. I’m learning to take what I can get at this phase, and am learning that it is just as good as those devoted days of college discussions.

I used to think quiet time meant following a devotional and reading my Bible but now I think quiet time includes poetry and theology(lite) books and the Jesus Storybook Bible and actually taking quiet naps.

I’m finding that God can meet me as I read a Psalm aloud to a fussy baby. That I learn about the Bible from books snatched during quiet moments. That my one year Bible reading plan will most likely take two years because we just aren’t on a schedule, no matter how hard I try. I’m learning that self-care is just as spiritual as book knowledge and that God is bigger than a formula.

I used to think doubt was a phase to overcome but now I think doubt is a journey without scary finality but with beautiful questions that lead to more questions.

I’m learning to love the tension of doubt and belief and am finding that one without the other isn’t as sweet. I’m learning that doubt isn’t the opposite of the belief, but is part of it – like marriage. It’s a compliment and a push to go further, to be better, to learn more. Without doubt, I wonder if we could even have belief?

I used to think there were just a handful of ways to do Christianity but now I think Christianity is a tapestry with more threads than I can see.

This one still makes me uncomfortable but the boxes and definitions make me even more uneasy. So, I’m wondering what Christianity looks like without labels. Without denominations or even without one single path. I’m wondering about this mountain we’re all climbing and all the ways to get to the top. I’m imagining an amazing story, woven together, that needs plots and pivots and discord and mixed metaphors to reach that perfect denouement.

I used to think being out of sorts was a problem to be solved but now I think being out of sorts is the path that leads to redemption.

And I’m coming to terms with this idea that being out of sorts is how I best experience God’s love and mercy.

How have you changed and grown? What’s something big that has shifted?

Linked with Sarah Bessey’s blog celebrating the release of her newest book, Out of Sorts.

FB-Banner-600x222Out of Sorts just released this week and explores the idea that our faith is a dynamic, changing, living thing. That, as we grow and mature, our faith should as well. Sarah challenges us to examine our beliefs and continue to embrace the questions.

Celebrating Strong Women: Five Minutes to Happiness

unnamed-1This week’s strong woman is Valerie Brown, a friend who lives out generosity and compassion. Valerie has been a Colorado Native since 1982.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and has a career with helping people with tax issues.  In addition, she also helps people through her public speaking for weight loss and weight management.  

She is a dedicated mother of one son, a wife for nearly 20 years, a daughter and a friend.  Her hobbies include hiking, volunteer speaking, reading and spending time with her friends and family.  She’s a full time working woman always trying to seek that balance between her personal life, her work life and herself.  

Five Minutes to Happiness

Over the course of a year and a half I have lost 135 pounds.  The first question everyone asks me is, “What’s your secret?” They look at me with wide, anticipating eyes waiting for me to deliver the most poetic, beautiful and miraculous piece of wisdom they have ever heard.  They think there HAS to be some secret to weight loss they have overlooked somehow.  I can almost hear the game show failure buzzer (whah whah) going off in their head when I tell them the age old answer…diet and exercise.

Diet and exercise — that is how one loses 135 pounds.  But why did my diet and exercise suddenly work?  I have to admit, this attempt at diet and exercise was probably attempt 147.  Prior to this attempt I was one of those people always looking for the miracle answer myself.  146 attempts later I finally figured something out…in order to be successful at diet and exercise you have to stop beating yourself up and take it in small steps and put some new habits into place.  

First came the diet.  Of course I wanted to eat those delicious yummy foods that had given me such pleasure in my 39 years of life.  How could I break this habit of not turning to food in my time of sorrow, boredom, happiness, or needing a reward?  I decided to break it up into small time increments.  I told myself, I’m going to stick to my diet today.  If temptation arises, I will give myself 5 minutes to decide if I REALLY want that doughnut, cheeseburger, pizza, etc.  After 5 minutes if I still want it, I’ll eat it.  No guilt, no punishment, I’ll eat it; I’ll log it in my food journal and move on.  What I started to discover is that after 5 minutes of distraction…I forgot about my craving.  So the first days of diet 147 had days filled with at least 20 five minute food challenges.  Gradually over time and as the weight started coming off, my five minutes challenges decreased.  I found I didn’t need the 5 minute challenge.  This new diet slowly started to became a habit.  

Second is the exercise.  Same concept.  In the beginning I would tell myself…get your rear end on that treadmill for 5 minutes.  No matter how much I weighed or was out of shape I figured I could at least walk for 5 minutes.  At the end of my 5 minutes if I felt my workout was complete, I gave myself permission to stop and be done.   Oh my, I was horribly out of shape.  There were actually days that 5 minutes WAS all I could do.  But somehow or another, 5 minutes turned into 10 turned into 20 and so on and then I didn’t have to challenge myself at all to exercise.  It became habit.

Annie’s husband Frank gave me a book about habits and how that is pretty much the key concept to success on many different levels.  I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.  No matter what you are attempting to conquer or overcome, you probably have to put some new habits in place.  Give yourself permission to fail as long as you tell yourself you will give them another try.  So maybe I failed my five minute test at lunch and ate that piece of pizza in the break room…it’s okay, I’m going to attempt this again at dinner with whatever temptation arises.   It won’t be long before many failures turn into success just because of the repetitive motion of performing the act itself.  It will become habit and soon you won’t even be thinking about it. 

I’m sure this is a broad oversimplification of a very complex theory.  But I urge you to give it a try the next time you are faced with a difficult situation of any sort.  Give yourself five minutes to try something different.  My hopes are that after a while you will start to see a new habit starting to form and won’t need the miracle, poetic, beautiful answer to your problem.  You had it in you all along!

When Perspective Changes

When I was growing up, my dad either worked from home or he worked within a block of my elementary school. He was always available and it seemed normal to have him as the go-to volunteer and pick-up parent when I was sick.

Now, our reality includes tax season, which means for three months, we have to be incredibly intentional about how and when Bea is able to see Frank.

Bea "helping" Frank in our home office.
Bea “helping” Frank in our home office.

When I was in college, I imagined myself working at a big, famous art museum. I would have an impressive title and would be changing the way we look at art through the power of education.

Now, I work at a small art museum, juggling a very flexible part time job with playdates and “mom” commitments. But, I am helping to change the way we look at art through innovative experiences and one group of kids at a time.

When I was a young teacher, I thought the system could be changed with energy, handwork, and parent support.

Now, I see how easy it is to burnout when relying on energy alone. I see that parent support is nuanced and complicated and that the system needs to be changed in so many ways.

When I was single and traveling the world during my vacations, I imagined I’d raise my family in some exotic location where we didn’t speak the language.

Now, I’m realizing so many ways to change the world and care for my neighbors right here. I’m learning to look around and see that making the world a better place starts in my own area.

How has your perspective changed over the years and with life experience?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Goals and Spontaneity

We just got back from a week visiting family in Oklahoma. It was filled with conversations, cousins meeting and playing (and occasionally fighting), and lots of delicious, unhealthy holiday food.

Cousins!
Cousins!

We stayed at a hotel and had the room next to the lobby. This worked out perfectly, since we could put Bea down for naps and bedtime, bring the monitor out with us, and hang out with the others staying there. We took over the lobby and made it our temporary living room, which was great for catching up with the adults.

One night, Frank, two of his sisters, and I were talking about goals and visions. His youngest sister is embarking on a journey to become a motivational speaker. She is an amazing sales person and has an incredible life story, which seems like a very successful combination. She has created a vision board to help keep her focused and believes in the law of attraction. She has accomplished many of her goals already and is well on her way to successfully launching this new career. We talked about how creating specific, visual goals increases the likelihood for success.

Frank’s other sister views success and goal setting in a more inward, spiritual way. She is a very visual person, as well, but believes more in the power of meditation. She visualizes her goals, but also is aware that “success” can disrupt the peace and quality of life she has worked hard for. (One could argue that she has achieved success in this realization alone.)

Frank is of the opinion that writing out goals every day is how they are achieved. Before Bea, when time seemed less at a premium, he would take time to rewrite his goals in his journal nearly every day. This discipline kept the goals in his mind and helped him fulfill the steps to achieving those goals. By keeping the goals at the forefront of your consciousness, you become more aware of opportunities as they arise. It also allows for opportunity to reflect on where life’s journey is leading.

I am a goal-oriented person, as well. But, the past couple years I’ve been trying to live life more open-handed. While I always have an idea of what I’d like to accomplish in the future, I’ve found that embracing spontaneity and the unknown often leads to experiences and opportunities I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to envision for myself. (The flip side is that some of my worst experiences are ones that I thought “met” my goals, rather than listening to my intuition.) When I cling too tightly to a vision, I find myself frustrated or disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way I imagined. And, while I keep ideas and goals at the back of my mind, I also try to look for unexpected and new opportunities, which seem to fulfill a dream in completely different ways.

In ten days, we are moving into a new house. We have been talking about the need to move for quite a while, and suddenly we felt that now was the time. The weekend after making our decision, we found the house we loved and a week later, someone offered to buy our house. It’s all happened so quickly! While we had researched over the past year neighborhoods we like and had talked about our dream home, we hadn’t ever mapped it out in minute detail. I think the combination of dreaming together and the spontaneity of the moment helped us find our new home.

Looking back on the conversation about goals, I see that each of us does believe in goal-setting, but the ways in which we find success is very reflective of our individual personalities. I look at how differently Frank and I go about the practice of setting goals, and in many ways those differences compliment each other. It made me think, as we enter the last month of the year, how I may change the way I set goals and how to balance having a focus and vision and enjoying the unexpected journey.

What about you? Are you a goal setter? What is the most successful way for you to work toward a goal?

Turning Colors and Beauty in Change

I’m in the Autumn camp for favorite season. I love the brilliant colors, the need to check the weather everyday, and the ability to wear sweaters with sandals or tank tops with boots. I also love the visual reminder of natural life cycles. Watching the trees turn brilliant colors before shedding their leaves doesn’t bring images of death but of beauty.

View from our front yard
View from our front yard

We’re in a season of change as a family – nothing major (although we did end up buying that house in the suburbs!) but just changes and reflections on life and death. I’m glad this personal season has happened in the midst of autumn. I need the reminder everyday that there is beauty in change and, in order to achieve that beauty, leaves fall off and trees become bare.

I also love the reminder of bare branches that winter is not just a cold, dark season. It’s one filled with snow and hot chocolate. It’s when we get out a lot to snowshoe and build snowmen. As I think about winter approaching, I think about the coziness of fires and family and the hope of spring.

What’s your favorite season? Do you live in a place with fall colors?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Long

When I was in high school, my mom went back to school to earn a long overdue Master’s degree. She took weekend and summer courses to finish, managing to work and be present for her family as well. After she graduated and got a job doing what she loved, I was impressed with the change in her: She had gone from having a job that didn’t truly fulfill her gifts and skills to having a career that gave her the opportunity to help others in ways she was so talented. It made me realize that it is never too late to pursue a job that uses innate talents and brings life – to myself and others.

“The days are long but the years are short.” Gretchen Rubin

I remember hearing this quote quite a bit when I first became a mom. In that context, it meant savor those precious newborn moments – they fly by. And they do! What I’m noticing now with my long days is that I think about life after this moment: When Bea is in school and I have days to myself.

Enjoying the small moments
Enjoying the small moments

I feel like becoming a stay at home mom has given me an opportunity to really evaluate what I want to do next. Do I want to continue as is – be a mom, with plenty of time to help out at school and volunteer opportunities? Do I want to go back to teaching, with the benefits of matching holidays and breaks? Do I want to go back to school, to pursue art history or something completely different?Even though I have time to decide, the years are short and flying by. Bea will be in kindergarten in three short years, drastically changing our routine. In the meantime, I’m trying out different things and trying to be as open as possible. I want to look back at these years not only with the nostalgia of all that witnessing childhood brings, but also with the lens of self-discovery and knowing I said yes to new opportunities and experiences.

If you could reinvent yourself, what would you do? Are you pursuing your dream career or life right now or would you take a different track?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Change

Frank and I keep a change jar in the guest room. We try to throw any loose change we have in pockets or wallets into it. Even if I know I have exact change, I’ll usually break a bill just to help fill the jar. It’s not very large, but about once a year or so, we’ll have between $150-$200.

IMG_6402

In the days pre-Bea, we filled the jar much more rapidly than now. One year we bought a bottle of Dom Perignon. One year we bought steaks and a bottle of wine three times our normal budget. Last year, we went on a lunch date and had exactly enough to cover our three course meal plus bottle of fancy wine.

When Bea was born, we wondered if the change jar would end up going toward household expenses, since we’d be down one income. Once the thought crossed our minds, we decided to choose to spend any change on ourselves – this would be just for us, just for splurges.

Even thought it’s taken longer to fill, I love watching the change in the jar grow. It’s a good reminder that romance, splurges, and just the two of us are the foundation for our family. I’m sure that, as we add kids, it will take even longer, but I’m guessing that means the dates and bottles of wine will be sweeter because we’ve had to work harder for them.

We’re quite a ways from this next jar filling, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we choose to spend our loose change.

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.