Meant stepping out of my comfort zone, moving to Paris, spending an incredibly hard but incredibly important four years abroad, learning about myself, my faith, my world.
Meant staying home, raising daughters, finding ways of fulfilling my strengths, of continuing to learn, of passing on traits and role models to the women of our future.
Meant sitting at a table of strangers, of making awkward conversation, of learning about what it’s like to be a woman in today’s world of balance and having it all (or not), of finding my own unique mix of life-giving needs.
Meant getting up early on a Saturday morning, meeting strangers in a parking lot, snowshoeing with a group of people I didn’t know, of unexpectedly meeting my husband.
Meant sticking with community, even when it didn’t feel easy, even when I felt I was putting in more work than anyone else, even when I wanted to quit, even as I saw amazing friendships and conversations and ideas emerge from all that work.
Is learning to say no to certain busy-ness and yes to quiet times at home, of learning that balance and the strength to recognize when no to one opportunity means yes to something quieter but often better.
Sometimes means my own carefully formulated plans are no longer reality and that’s ok.
Isn’t always the easiest or most natural response, but when I do say yes… I often find myself a more compassionate, complete person.
When Frank and I got married, we decided we wanted to wait three years before having kids. While neither of us were old, I was in my late-twenties, he was in his mid-thirties and we had done a lot of world exploring before meeting. We still had things we wanted to do together and places we wanted to visit so we determined that three years would give us time to enjoy married life before beginning a family.
Three years and three days after our wedding, Bea was born. Our family started just as planned and we’ll be adding our next child almost exactly three years after Bea’s birth. (Can you tell we’re both first borns?)
My One Word for this year is choose, and as always, it’s been showing up in ways I hadn’t anticipated. When I thought about choose, I thought about my own life, but choose seems to be showing itself more in ways that highlight my own privilege. I have so many choices because of my privilege – to choose when to start my family, to choose to stay home with our children, to choose to work part-time, to choose a partner who fully supports these choices…
I just began reading The Mother & Child Project, a series of essays highlighting the maternal and infant health issues around the world. I’m not even 100 pages in and I’m already hit with my abundant privilege of choice. From vaccinations to family planning to breastfeeding and so much more, my choices are made without regard to the high value they carry. Many mothers across the globe do not have these choices.
One of the big issues addressed in this book is access to family planning. This is a hot topic in many circles here in the United States. To support contraceptives as part of health care is not a dinner table discussion – people have big feelings about this topic. And yet, our debates and personal choices here translate to life-threatening lack of options in rural communities in developing countries. Here, with access to healthcare having children close together is more of a personal choice. In rural areas lacking in proper healthcare, not allowing a mother to wait at least two years between pregnancies can cost her life.
Reading these essays has me reflecting on the great responsibility of choice. Living in a country that helps determine aide policies and practices to countries who desperately need solutions to maternal health problems, I realize my choices are not just my own. I may feel passionately about certain policies, but I need to learn to step back and question if they are universally best or simply best for me and my family. If they are simply a personal choice, I need to weigh whether the fight for my own personal freedoms outweighs the health and survival of those who do not have those same freedoms.
At the end of the book are pages of resources that give tangible ideas for ways to help the crisis of maternal health. Frank and I will be reviewing our budget to see how we can begin giving to some of these organizations. In the meantime, I’m looking at my own privilege of choice and considering how I can alter my worldview to remember all I can take for granted.
How does your privilege of choice play into decision making? Are you a global thinker when it comes to personal decisions?
About a year ago, Rachel Held Evans posed a question about church stories on her blog as she was writing her new book, Searching for Sunday. I wrote this essay and left it. A few days ago, a conversation occurred that reminded me of it. As I reread, I realized nothing much has changed. I’m still so grateful for our community and the journey that brought us here.
Frank and I met on a snowshoe hike through the evangelical church we were both attending at the time. Over the course of the hike, we learned that I attended the evening service near my apartment and Frank attended the morning service at the more neighborhoody location. The next Sunday, as people were filing back to their seats after communion, I spotted Frank and gave a small, communion-appropriate wave.
Over our months of dating, our church made some changes to its leadership and soon hiking and camping took the place of showing up on Sundays.
After our wedding, we decided we needed to put down roots with a church community. Frank grew up Catholic and I attended an Anglican church during college and had tried an Episcopal church for about a year after I moved to Denver. Liturgical services had given me a refreshment from the seeker-friendly view I grew up with. We had gone through premarital counseling at a nearby Catholic church known for its showtune-esque liturgy, so decided to start attending.
In the meantime, Mark, the pastor who married us through the church we met in, had started a new location in a trendy neighborhood. We loved Mark and his philosophy, so we decided to attend the monthly meeting at an old movie theater. We tried attending both churches, sometimes on the same day, other times alternating.
I became exhausted, running around. I felt stretched, unable to truly get involved, yet unsure where I wanted to settle and in what kind of community I wanted to start a family. We started talking more and more about the pros and cons of each church.
About two or three months in, Mark made a big announcement to his congregation: After much thought and prayer, he and the leadership had decided to make the church all inclusive. LGBTQ attendees had always been welcome, but with the restrictions of not getting involved in leadership. Mark talked about how that didn’t fit in with his view of scripture and Jesus’ radical claim to redeem this world through love.
On our drive home, we were faced with where we stood on the “gay issue.” Was this a clear sign we should switch to the Catholic church full time? What did we think about a truly radical, everyone-is-welcome theology? I had never really examined my feelings on this particular subject.
Then, we began talking about our future children. What if one of them was gay? What message did we want to instill in our children’s worldview? Did we believe being gay is a sin? The phrase, “love the sinner but hate the sin” had never settled well with me, and I didn’t want to teach that attitude to my children.
After lots of processing and praying and more processing, we decided to commit to Highlands Church. Highlands is rooted in the evangelical framework. From time to time, we enjoy liturgical aspects, but there are times when I miss the common prayers, focus on images, and other elements I had grown to love in the Anglican and Catholic traditions. I had to process the return to my childhood denomination, especially with its decline in popularity.
Our first small group found us as the only straight couple. It was eye-opening being in the minority and doing life and community with amazingly committed, involved Christians. Their strong faith reminded me of the conservative church I grew up in, but somehow without the labels of who we can love and accept.
Now, five years later, we laugh that it was even an issue. Really? We thought we had to pray about whether or not someone could serve at church? I cringe a bit at my journey but am so grateful we are in community that utilizes, embraces, and celebrates every congregant’s gifts. I am grateful that Bea loves going to church and is so loved by a community just for being her – without any other expectations or definitions. I am grateful for our friendships and all we have learned from our community.
Even though it seems so uncool to say I go to an evangelical church, I look at the pioneering work Mark and our other pastor, Jenny are doing. I see how they are laying a foundation for future churches to change, to embrace, to accept with grace.
What type of church did you grow up in? Do you still attend a similar denomination? What are some changes you’ve discovered along your faith journey?
It’s officially spring here in Colorado. The temperatures match our weather expectations and even the occasional snow melts within the day. Bulbs are blooming, windows are open, and weekend hikes become routine again.
Because of the gorgeous weather, once-deserted trails are crowded with walkers, dogs, strollers, joggers, and cyclists. A friend and I walk every week, almost regardless of weather conditions. In wintertime, we have the paths to ourselves and have become quite spoiled. Now, we have to share and it’s an interesting study on personality types when so many people and vehicles cram onto narrow paths.
Generally, I’m very pro-cyclist. I believe we need more and better bike lanes and I admire people who are committed to cycling as often as possible. I’m more of a bike toodler. I’ll go for a picnic via bike, but am not looking for lots of miles or any speed records. However, I have had quite a few encounters as a pedestrian with aggressive cyclists. I was pushed into the bushes and yelled at when I was 8 months pregnant with Bea; I’ve been tailed even though I’m as far to the right as possible; and once Bea was almost run over on her tricycle as we slowly made our way to the park. It certainly isn’t the majority of bikes, but there are enough speeders that my sympathy toward sharing trails has waned.
In the trail world, cyclists yield to pedestrians and everyone yields to horses. I’ve only ever seen this hierarchy played out once, when a bike ranger pulled to the side of a narrow trail to let me pass. Usually I don’t mind – bikes are faster and it’s hard to gain momentum. But, like I said – there are times when I’ve felt in danger.
Sharing the path has me thinking about life and community. There are times when my friend and I are walking and we don’t hear the On your left! warning in time to get out of the way promptly. I know cyclists are just as frustrated with us as we are with them. Does it have to be an us-vs-them situation, though? Everyone is out enjoying nature and the sunshine. Can’t we all just get along?
Easter is almost here, which means my Lenten fast of social media on my phone is coming to an end. In some ways, I’m looking forward to the ease in which these apps help me stay informed with the world and with my community. In other ways, I think I’ll be surprised at how desensitized I’ve become to sharing online space with others. The opinions, the bold statements, and the memes become the part of the path I don’t like sharing. How can I learn to balance the noise? To see the good that comes from an online community and filter out the frustrations?
My dad and I were talking about church the other day and how easy it can be to categorize an us-vs-them attitude. Of course, our church is much more advanced theologically and socially; Our world views have progressed and we are true examples of how Christ has called us to live. In reality, we’re a community of broken, stumbling people, just like every other congregation in the world. How can we share the path? To understand our own strengths but also weaknesses as we love and celebrate the strengths and weaknesses of others?
I’m still grappling with how best to share the path. I still get so frustrated and offended with certain people, but I know I can also learn from them and gain insight into views that aren’t my own. I’m slowly figuring out that sharing the road can be frustrating and feel dangerous at times, but in the end, it’s worth it to have everyone out together, on the journey.
Any tips for sharing the road – both in the cyclist-pedestrian world and in life?
I just finished reading Found by Micha Boyett. It’s her journey as a new mom in finding space for prayer, contemplation, and the spiritual practices she enjoyed before her time was consumed with an infant-turned-active-toddler. Among many other gems, she talks about resetting expectations – perhaps prayer is one line while nursing rather than a focused quiet time. She also talks about the rituals of motherhood and how the day’s routines aren’t that different from those who live a monastic life.
It got me thinking about routines I keep sacred. Some are spiritual and most others simply help my sanity, which I’m learning is a spiritual practice in itself. Before I had Bea, I had a pretty set routine. I’d make my lunch each night before bed and I’d be in bed no later than 9:00 to give myself time to read before I went to sleep. (I think it got pushed to 9:30 after I married Frank, but I was still very strict!) I’d wake up at 6:00 each morning and always left the house at the same time. As a single person and even when it was just two adults in our house, it was pretty easy to keep a set routine.
And then Bea came along. Just when I thought we’d found a rhythm to our days, her naps would change or she would be teething or daylight savings would occur or some other phenomenon would happen to throw our routine off. It took a while, but I learned to relax in the non-routine of it all. There are some things, though – even in the chaos – I held sacred.
1) I always make our bed. No matter if I napped with Bea again in just a few hours in those early days, knowing it was made at the start of each day made me feel like a whole person. Even now, having a made bed makes me feel ready for anything.
2) I always shower and put on “real” clothes. Staying in my pajamas all day makes me feel like I’m recovering from an illness. Early in my stay-at-home days, I made a decision not to wear yoga pants out of the house. I would change into jeans, run an errand, and often change back into my comfy pants. For whatever reason, going out feeling semi-put- together made even the longest days doable.
3) Frank is wonderful about letting me have a first cup of coffee while I read the news on my phone. It has looked different at different stages, but having that moment to ease into the day and catch up on the world helps my mindset, especially on days we have nothing much planned.
4) We (mostly) have family breakfasts. Even with the busyness of tax season, we try to sit down together in the morning. This has been vital, especially when Frank works late at night and misses bedtime. It’s one meal we can connect and focus as a family.
5) This is a new routine, but I’ve moved my Common Prayer book to my nightstand. I try to read three prayers a day, but am satisfied if I just read the morning and compline prayers. There’s something about getting that in that makes me feel less guilty if other study falls by the wayside.
In college, my group of friends was all about reading Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. We would take retreats, pray the Hours, and share our favorite stories of Celtic monks. Living in Paris, the spiritual discipline I most longed for was solitude. Especially after reading Out of Solitude, I would schedule days by myself. Having a roommate, living in a big city, and being part of an active community meant little time for myself. I found a park just outside the city and would pack a lunch, bring some books and schoolwork, and go for the day, just enjoying the closest thing to nature that French landscape architecture had to offer.
Solitude is still a valued discipline and one I never feel I have enough of. However, reading through Celebration of Discipline again, now I am most drawn to the discipline of celebration. Without the foundation of joy, without the reminder that Jesus’ mission was one of redemption, all the other disciplines fall a bit flat.
I am reminded that at the end of Lent is Easter! Advent leads to Christmas! I remember that Jesus revealed the mystery of himself through the Feast at Cana, the Return of the Prodigal Son, and even in the Last Supper – something we view as a completely solemn event, but I’m sure there was laughter mingled with the seriousness. Jesus is present when we celebrate, when we take the time to gather and join in community.
It made me think about how I can celebrate more – to go beyond birthdays and milestones and calendar events. Reflecting about the discipline of celebration made me want to be the type of parent who has fun party supplies on hand so that we can celebrate the first hyacinth of spring, the last day of tax season, and a million other mundane celebrations that are only applicable to our family.
In a broader sense, I also wonder how I can celebrate those around me with more intention. In this spirit of celebration, how can I throw more dinner parties and brunches just because, how can I discover and celebrate my friend’s small victories?
Watching Bea interact with her world, I am reminded of the ease in which children celebrate life. She knows that the snow must be melted from her picnic table before she can eat her snack outside. No matter the temperature, if the snow has melted, she insists on celebrating a clear day by eating al fresco. Even the often redundant play of tea party after tea party reminds me that she is wired to celebrate – to have a party.
Thinking about how I read the news and books and respond to events, I wonder how things would change if I practiced the discipline of celebration as I connected with the world? How would I view foreign policy decisions if I read through a lens of celebration? How would I learn about social justice and restorative processes if I remembered that the root could be celebration? How might opportunities for redemption arise if I viewed connections and interactions through a lens of celebration? I wonder how much my world would change. How might a life of celebration empower me to seek redemption?
Maybe it’s the spring weather that makes me more naturally look for reasons to celebrate but my goal for this upcoming season is to follow through with celebration. I want to open my home, practice using a lens of celebration, and remember to celebrate all I can with my community.
Which spiritual discipline do you most connect with? Do you often stop to celebrate the mundane?
Last week marked the halfway point on the journey to Easter. Around that time, I cheated on my Lenten goal. I have taken social media off of my phone for the season. I still check Facebook during naptime, but it’s become a much more intentional and much briefer part of my day. Especially since Bea is such an independent kid, if I forgot a book (or chose not to bring one) I would scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest while she played.
Without it, I’m much more intentional about bringing a book along or simply sitting and watching Bea interact with new friends. It’s definitely shifted my perspective and made me remember how unimportant most of what happens on social media really is…
But, last week I was bored, so I scrolled through some Instagram feeds of authors I find intriguing. One was launching a new book and I got sucked into the praise and excitement of her newest achievement. I also got sucked into the darker sides of the message behind the new book. This is an author who empowers women to celebrate the everyday beauty in life, to take time to notice beautiful moments, and to embrace the community that practicing hospitality builds. In my more cynical frame of mind, all I notice is how expensive the decor of her home is, how much the wine and champagne cost, and how exclusive building tight-knit communities can be. In reality, she’s doing really good things and spreading a wonderful message.
My reaction reminded me of the importance of the Lenten practice. It’s not about being perfect for 40 days or giving up something forevermore. It’s about changing habits and recognizing how those habits really affect daily life. For me, it’s about stepping back and critically looking at my own choices – are they healthy or can they be tweaked?
After this Lenten fast, I’ll most likely load social media apps back onto my phone. It’s just way more convenient that way and the reality is that I keep in touch with many of my day-to-day friends via these social media channels. However, what has changed in this time? Am I using it for building community or am I using it to tune out? Am I celebrating with others or am I criticizing?
At first, I felt that this was an “easy” fast; that I should have picked something harder. Really, it’s done just what a fast should do: Helped me step back and evaluate my priorities and how I’m choosing to live my days.
Did you choose a Lenten fast? How is it going? Has it changed your perspective?