Finding Truth Close to Home

Last week I had an unexpected afternoon to myself. I ate a solitary lunch and was looking at my to-do list. It was filled with everything from cleaning and household tasks to writing and more creative endeavors. But all of those things made me feel antsy and I knew that I wouldn’t be productive. I needed to get out.

Muslin Concepts

So, I headed to the Denver Art Museum for the Christian Dior exhibit. As I stepped into the first room, my breath caught. The beauty of Dior’s earliest collection literally made me stop. I had forgotten how incredible it is to see haute couture up close. The details, the quality, the way the fabric hangs is absolutely stunning.

After wandering for an hour or so, I felt refreshed and energized. I thought about my to-do list and all the things that would eventually get done. I so often hear that writing is about sitting down and doing the work; That often the muse doesn’t show up and yet we still need to be ready. And while I totally agree with this, I also need to remember that without filling my life with beauty and new experiences, the muse has very little to draw upon.

I recently finished Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Devotion. The book is about Shapiro’s spiritual journey and a lot of it draws on her yoga practice. She writes about attending workshops and retreats around her home base of Connecticut. At one point, she is offered an opportunity to travel to India to study at an ashram there. The chance to go practice in the land of yoga’s origins tempts her. Honestly, even without a serious yoga practice, I’d imagine a trip to a new culture would be tempting to most of us. Shapiro turns down the opportunity and offers a reflection that has stayed with me.

Truths found out there don’t travel well.

Dani Shapiro, Devotion, pg 152

What she means is that if we can’t learn new truths at home, we aren’t ready to learn new truths. Traveling abroad won’t tell you what you can’t hear at home.

She’s not discounting travel or the beauty of learning from cultures outside our own norms. What she is saying is that we can’t depend on leaving home for a life-changing experience. If we are unable to be changed at home, we cannot expect to be changed abroad.

I needed to hear this. I’ve been feeling in a creative slump lately and it’s so easy to think that if only I could fill my world with a trip or an exotic experience then I would have material to spark creativity. I imagine how lovely it would be to walk the streets of Paris or Florence, surrounded by beautiful architecture where the very presence of greatness inspires so many of us. Or maybe a trip somewhere completely new like Peru or Palestine will spark that newness that is so exhilarating.

And while I will always feel invigorated by travel and exploration, I’m learning that the lessons I need to learn are right here. Now, a break in routine is often necessary to help us see those lessons. Shapiro didn’t limit her yoga practice to living room videos – she attended retreats and pushed her limits. When I was feeling overwhelmed by the routines of my small world, a visit to an exhibit twenty minutes away transported me to another place and time.

What I’m trying to remember is that intentionality starts at home. Where can I look to disrupt my routine? Maybe it’s a walk at a new park. Maybe it’s seeking out art exhibits that help me expand my horizons. Maybe it’s reading a challenging book in a different environment, rather than in my own living room. How am I holding both sacred – the need for new and the recognition that I can learn from where I am?

As January comes to a close and we enter February – perhaps the longest month of the year – I hope to keep this at the forefront of my thoughts. All the truths I need are close to home, right where I need them most.

How do you mix up your routine? What are some truths you’ve found right at home?

Are you signed up from my newsletter, The Compost Heap? It’s been a couple months since I’ve sent one out and I’m trying to get back in the practice. It’s a short letter with a thought, a book recommendation, and some other thing or two that has been interesting lately. You can sign up here: The Compost Heap.

When You’re Done Adulting, Go Home

I had one of those days, with a sticky comment to mediate in a group I manage followed by an intense breakfast conversation about business and identity and life-choices. I went to the park and was met with yet another conversation that would have been a fun,

hello-i-m-nik-635708-unsplash
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

lively debate over drinks but turned into what felt like an attack in the middle of the playground. By noon, I was done “adulting.”

So I did what any 36-year-old mom would do. I called my mom and asked if we could come over for lunch. As the girls got settled with mac & cheese and Pinkalicious, I felt myself slip into the safety of processing life with my parents. I was hugged and affirmed and felt so much better.

The day was still exhausting. I felt like quitting everything and becoming a hermit for the summer. And, while breaks are important, that’s not really how conversations continue or conflict is resolved, is it?

My biggest takeaway is the importance of having a safe place. I’m thankful my parents live close by and that, when I walk in the door, I’m just their daughter. It’s what I hope my girls will feel when they’re grown – that, no matter where life takes them or how small or big the hurt is, they can come home and just be our daughters.

There’s something profound about that experience, of being known and held. I know for some, that will be found in friendships rather than family relationships but, regardless of who is holding me, I’m remembering to turn to community when I really want to retreat. To reach out when I feel overwhelmed. And to find people who simply hold me, no matter what.

Do you have a place you can return when life gets hard? How do you cope with too much “adulting”?

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

Finding My Place at Home

This summer passed by in a flash. Before we knew it, school started and we were thrown into a routine. Part of me was so ready to get into this rhythm of schedules and the security of knowing what happens on Tuesday. But part of me mourned the fact that we were out of time for one more camping trip; one last swim at the pool; one more lazy day.

IMG_5895I suppose this is what the changing seasons is – an excitement in the new mingled with disappointment of what is lost.

We had a trip to Yellowstone planned for this weekend. Just one more adventure before the weather turned cold. We’d stay in a little cowboy cabin, head down to Jenny Lake one day and up to Lake Hotel and the Geyser Loop the next. Until we saw the forecast for snow. As much as we love northern Wyoming, I didn’t want to be in a cabin without heat or electricity in the snow and rain.

In so many ways, this is probably a good thing. We just got back from a weekend in Ocean City (where it rained!) and are still settling into a good routine. A laid-back weekend is never a bad thing.

Frank grew up going to Ocean City – it’s part of his family history and it was fun watching the girls create a new generation of memories there. All of the cousins go regularly and love it and it was magical watching our landlocked kids chase the waves, dig in the sand, and eat ice cream right before a greasy dinner. Ask any of Frank’s family for a memory of childhood and most likely Ocean City will play a large part of the story.

In a lot of ways, we want Yellowstone to be similar for our kids. Already, Bea remembers hikes we’ve done and geysers we’ve seen. We want this park to be a place of good family memories, the stuff that starts most of our stories.

Last year, I listened to part of a podcast and the phrase, theology of place was used. I don’t remember the exact point or where the conversation went from there, but that idea stuck with me. It’s the theology of tangible moments; of creating a gritty story that you can run through your fingers. It’s finding God in the routines outside of home; in the stories we tell as a family to our children. It’s this idea that our place matters. The locations in which we choose to spend our time matter.

I love the intentionality behind this theology. That our routines matter and that kids have something to look forward to in their vacations. And yet, life gets busy or things happen and that place may look different.

When I reflect on our weekend in Ocean City, our girls loved the physicality of being next to the ocean, yes. But the loved hanging out with their cousins, playing games, reenacting Moana, waking up together, eating every meal together so much more. I need to remember the point behind the place.

I’m learning to look around right now, in our own home. What are we doing to establish a theology of place routine? I remember that for many, an escape to the mountains or the beach is simply not possible. And yet, this family rhythm is still important. What park do we always visit? What pancakes mark rest and vacation? What simple things do we do to remember our place in this world?

I’m not sure if this is exactly what that podcast meant but for me, theology of place is grounding me home and reminding me that our everyday rhythms are as significant as the vacation routines we’ve established, as well.

Where do you find your rhythms? When you think about theology of place, do you think of your home or a destination?

I Am Home; This Is Where I Belong

I borrowed my mom’s car the other day and, because I don’t like messing with the radio, listened to the Christian radio station on my errands. I don’t mind the upbeat music normally and this trip was no different.

Until the song Where I Belong by Building 429 came on. As I listened to the lyrics, I became sadder and sadder. This is how they view our precious life on this earth?!

The chorus goes:

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

When Bea is mad, she often yells, Fine!! I don’t want to live here anymore!!!! Usually at this stage in our interaction, I’m more than ready to help her find an alternative living situation. In reality, I tell her that we love her and that her home is here, with us. No matter how frustrating life feels.

There seems to be a lot of fear these days – fear of others taking things from us: our jobs, our guns, our religion. We want protection.

In this fight or flight mentality of fear, it’s easy to want to run away. Since Canada isn’t really an option, heaven seems as good a choice as any.

Life is hard. I don’t want to engage. This isn’t my home anyway – I’m just waiting for heaven!

I want to sit down with Building 426 and ask for more. Surely they aren’t really asking us to disconnect.

I do believe we’re home. This earth was created for us and as long as we humans view it only as a pit stop, we’ll treat it as such: A means to an end. Rather than an incredible place for us to live and thrive, we’re treating this amazing creation as no more than a concrete picnic bench on a long highway.

I do believe this is where we belong. I believe that when we recognize our place in creation, it’s hard to ignore injustice or truly believe that we aren’t meant to care right now, in this time and place.

When the lyrics say Take this world and give me Jesus, who are we giving the world to? Take it from whom? I believe God gave us this world – how we care for it and cultivate it and respect it is a reflection of our values. I don’t think Jesus wants us to give this world “back.” I think he came to redeem and restore this earth.

It makes me sad to think of people listening and humming along to this catchy song. Perhaps they aren’t picking it apart now, but the next time a politician doesn’t reflect their own worldview or a news story laments the systemic injustices in our world and country, a go-to response is that we don’t really belong here anyway. Why care too much?

I think we need to care more! I think we really need to look at the commandments that Jesus gave – to love our neighbor; to live in an upside-down mentality where the poor are the greatest and the last are first; to recognize that kingdom living isn’t measured by the normal standards of health and wealth but by a completely different set of standards, where people care for strangers and outcasts.

As Christians, rather than seeing the brokenness of the world and, like a preschooler yelling, Fine! I don’t want to live here anymore! perhaps we need to actually consider what it means to walk like Jesus, to live a life of justice and mercy and kindness. To be an active part of redemption and restoration rather than hoping that God somehow magically takes care of things or gives the world back, as if there’s a benevolent return policy on faulty civilizations.

Especially during this election season, my hope and prayer is that we remember that our home is here. We are not passive players, nor are we called to outsource our beliefs to government leaders. It is our job to live out the kingdom, to recognize our own part in changing this world.

What’s your view of heaven? Do you think it’s a place we go after death or is it a restoration of this current earth? Does this shape the way you interact with this earth?

If you’re wondering about the place of heaven, I’d recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope, followed closely by C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra.

Room with a View

One of my favorite places in our new house is our bedroom. After painting its stark white walls bluish-gray and putting in a sitting corner, it’s a place I’ve come to enjoy just hanging out in. After Bea goes down for her nap, I’ll come in and read by the window, not wanting to go downstairs where reminders of things to be done wait.

One of the best parts of our bedroom is the natural light. The entire south wall is filled with windows and a sliding door. A balcony separates our room from the backyard and neighbors. Tall, old evergreen trees tower over the house and now that the deciduous trees have filled in, it feels like we live out in the mountains, rather than in the heart of the suburbs.

We also have an east-facing window, next to our bed. After making the bed each morning, I’ve taken to looking out and surveying our yard. It began in early spring, just to see what was going to bloom. But, after finding a stray book left out overnight under a tree, I’ve taken to looking to make sure indoor toys are recovered. This morning, I look out and see Bea’s bike parked in the easement. Seeing it reminds me of the hours she spends out there. She showed interest in her bike before, but with a house on a busy road and a backyard decorated in flagstone, we didn’t have many places for her to practice.

View from our east window
View from our east window

Our realtor had concerns about this easement, as it belongs to the city even though it’s fenced into our yard. It’s been one of our favorite features. On nice days, Bea will go and ride for more than an hour. Daisy, whose herding instinct is strong, loves herding her around, running just behind the bike. Bea’s confidence has grown and she’s able to balance and maneuver around old pots and piles of leaves.

One of our biggest concerns about buying a bigger home is that the yard would get smaller. Even in these early days of spring, it’s been fun to see how our smaller yard seems to be more used than before. The nooks and crannies and groves of trees that the previous owners (who happened to be landscaper architects) created have been the perfect place for a little girl to run and imagine. I’m looking forward to this summer and its days of outdoor living.

What’s your favorite view? Do you have a spot in your home that’s best for looking out and reflecting?

Joy

“…but if the goodbye is not painful, the hello cannot be joyful, either.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude

When I was 18, my dad and I, along with 4 gigantic suitcases, got on a plane to Paris. I was heading to my freshman year of college in the iconic city. We dropped off my luggage at the flat I was sharing with friends of our family’s and then set off on two weeks of visiting family friends who lived in Europe. After traveling through France and Germany, classes were set to start and my dad was going back to Colorado.

We walked up to a cemetery at the top of a hill in the small suburb where I would live during my first semester. It overlooked the western side of Paris, and you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. My dad and I talked about the year ahead and he prayed for me – for my classes, relationships, and in finding community. We then headed to the airport, where I sobbed as I watched my dad stand on the moving sidewalk, waving until I couldn’t see him anymore.

The next semester was tough. Learning French was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be; living in the suburbs, while it provided the support and stability of living with a family, felt far from my classes and new friends; homesickness was much more intense than I could ever imagine. Thankfully, this was before Facebook – I’m not sure I would have lasted if I could have seen my friends having “normal” college experiences.

Miraculously, I was in France during the years when airline tickets were cheap. A flight during the holidays ran just over $500. I was able to come home for Christmas and summer vacation and my family came to visit a couple times each during my nearly-4 years abroad. Each time I came home, it was such a relief, such a wave of ease and joy. Each time I went back, it was hard. I was glad for my experiences and how France shaped me, but those were incredibly difficult years, and saying goodbye was never easy.

After college and a few months in Nepal, I returned to Denver, ready to begin adult life. I had briefly thought of continuing the adventure – perhaps New York? But, deep down, I knew I needed the stability and ease of my home-state. I look at my very unadventurous life now: living in a small house with a big yard, staying at home with Bea, walking Daisy, running errands, and dreaming with Frank about our future. I think about all the painful goodbyes of college and how that time away molded me into who I am today. And, I’m so thankful for the joy of our simple life now.

Linked up with SheLoves Magazine’s month of Joy.