Living On the Edge

This summer I did something completely outside my comfort zone. I composed an unsent letter and read it to an audience of strangers. I was one of about 15 or so people who read letters that ranged in mood and theme. One woman responded to a misogynistic text sent after a first date; an Uber driver wrote responses to his passengers; one woman wrote about an abortion and another wrote a letter to America through the lens of her experience as a black woman.

My letter was one of the tamer ones, written to a group of friends I lost a few years ago due to circumstance and misunderstanding. It was a healing process – I knew my feelings were hurt but I hadn’t realized how I hung onto those hurts.

I took away two lessons from this experience. First, we need to listen to more stories. Each person spoke between 5 and 10 minutes and, as an audience member, all you could do was listen and applaud at the end for their bravery. Folks were vulnerable and I was reminded that there are so many stories just below the surface, waiting to be told. It is powerful to be in a space in which my only response is to listen – no asking questions, no personal connections, no feedback. I need more of this in my life.

My second takeaway is how incredible it is to do something completely outside my norm. I lead a very routine and quiet life. And I like it that way. I like knowing that our meals are planned and that school pickup looks about the same everyday. I like having rhythms and expected behaviors to guide my days. But it is invigorating to do something new, something scary, something that gave me butterflies in my stomach the week before my performance.

It was a reminder to push my boundaries and to say “yes” to opportunities that make me nervous or that I don’t seem qualified for. It’s also made me wonder what I need to pursue, without invitation. What are some dreams I may have or even just some ideas that are bubbling below the surface?

As we transition from summer to school-season, I’m thinking of adding just one big risk to my days. Maybe I’ll fail at it or maybe it will teach me something new about myself. Either way, I want that feeling of challenge and a break from the average days. I don’t know what this will look like and perhaps the opportunity won’t present itself until months from now. At any rate, I’m calming my expectations and keeping my eyes open for something that will help me take a leap.

What are some new risks you’re taking? How do you intentionally pursue something outside your norm?


Mapping My Hopes With a Foundation of Flexibility

School started last week for Bea and, while we have another week to go until Elle begins her preschool adventure, I’m enjoying the rhythms that the school year has to offer. This summer was pretty unstructured. Outside of a week at zoo camp, we hung out, went swimming, got on each other’s nerves, and played outside a lot. I think that freedom and boredom are incredibly important to a summer schedule, even if I get overwhelmed with the mess and chaos.

IMG_0487Now that school has started, I’m itching to get back into a productive routine. This first weekend of the school year arrived and I found myself out of sorts and frustrated. I looked back on the week and saw all the things I wanted to do that just didn’t get done. Elle and I went to the zoo but I didn’t write as much as I was hoping; we didn’t clean the playroom; we just kind of hung out.

With Elle starting preschool two mornings a week, I’ve been imagining all of the things I’ll get done with those five extra hours each week. I have big plans! I’m going to practice French and work on a project that kept getting shelved over the summer and really go through the closets for a good purge. Frank and I want to have morning-dates and I want to try to find a workout rhythm. I want to volunteer in Bea’s classroom and go to the art museum regularly. I absolutely recognize that I have more planned than I have space for.

Before preschool begins, I’ve started making lists of my hopes for this year. Things I want to accomplish and rhythms I’d like to create. I’m hoping to map out this time so that it’s not wasted away doing things I could do with Elle around.

But I also want to be intentional about this time with Elle. I’m recognizing that these goals and hopes need to be flexible and fluid. I see how quickly the time passed before Bea started full-time school and I want to savor these moments with Elle.

In her reflections on summer routines and the beginning of a fall schedule, author Addie Zierman says,

“And so I’ve come to accept that this summer, for me, was not supposed to be about being productive, or even really functional. It’s been about being grounded.”

Addie Zierman: Field Notes from the End of Summer

As I plan my fall and our new schedule, I need to remember these words. I have hopes of productivity and I know our routine needs to be functional for our family. But above all, I need to find the ways in which we all stay grounded and rooted. How am I building a schedule that leaves me energized and fulfilled for those days I spend with Elle? How can I feel as productive as possible during my alone time so that the after-school flurry feels more energizing rather than draining?

I have a feeling this will take a good amount of trial-and-error and I need to remember that this is part of building rhythms, as well. What is working? What clearly needs to be fixed? How can I read my family and myself through this shift in seasons?

For now, I’ll keep scribbling my lists and goals as I assess what makes the most sense for us, at this moment.

How do you set goals at the beginning of a new season? How do you tweak your plans along the way?

Assuming Positive Intention

I always know Frank and I are too busy when things that are done from a place of help and love feel like they’re done out of selfishness and habit. When Frank leaves a cup in the sink and I immediately think that he did it on purpose to add to my workload, I know we need to pause and spend the evening talking rather than reading or looking at our phones.

IMG_8176I don’t remember where I first heard (or more likely read) the phrase, positive intention but I’ve been trying to root myself in that more. Essentially it means that, before jumping to conclusions about a behavior, you assume the person is acting out of help rather than hurt. So, when Frank leaves his mug in the sink, I would assume it’s because he decided to help one of the girls and got distracted, rather than thinking he would like to create one more thing for me to do in the morning.

Assuming positive intention means I look at the playroom chaos and see creativity rather than mess. It means I read a Facebook post from a friend and assume a different life experience rather than anger or hatred. It means I read the news through the lens of hope rather than despair.

Of course, sometimes the intention isn’t positive and then I shift gears. Sometimes, the playroom is messy because the girls choose not to follow directions to pick it up. Sometimes, the mug is put away because Frank doesn’t see the sink in the same way I do. Sometimes the news really is bad. And then we talk and problem solve.

But when I go into a situation assuming this positive motive, my whole mindset has already shifted. Maybe I still have to deal with something but because I’m not assuming the worst, my reaction is different. I’m still working on this – it’s definitely not my first response. My hope is that, with practice, it becomes second nature and I start to see the world first and foremost as a place of hope and creativity.

What are some areas of your life you could practice seeing positive intention? If you already do this, how have you seen a shift in your worldview?

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

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The Compost Heap


Intentionally Disorganized

I recently got my first liturgical planner in the mail. I debated buying it since Advent (the beginning of the church year) is almost two months behind us. I wondered if I should just wait until next year. And then I realized we’re only mid-Epiphany – only one season behind.

img_3381So, I ordered it and started using it mid-week, mid-calendar. And it was so freeing. Because I began the process with an imperfection, I already feel open to continue the process with less control, with more reality. It’s a bit like starting my One Year Bible reading plan mid-April, knowing that days will be missed and that it’s easier to continue imperfectly than get stuck in a cycle of perfection.

This is a stretch of an analogy, but it kind of reminds me of controlled burns that keep the forest healthy. There’s still a level of imperfect destruction that comes from keeping the forest healthy. Of course, burns happen intentionally and infrequently, but they are important, nonetheless.

Perhaps I need to remember this idea of controlled burn more in my own life. That often, organization and intention are good to work from. But sometimes, I need to be intentionally disorganized to truly appreciate a project or season. Sometimes, letting go of the details to see the big picture is a a point-of-view I need to practice more often. (Not natural for this detail-oriented person!)

As we move into a year of changes and big decisions, I’m thinking this small practice may prove to be one that keeps me peaceful.

How are you wired? Can you start midstream or do you like opening a fresh page on Day One of a journey?

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


It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I swore at someone. I had reached the end of my rope with my roommate and, in the midst of an escalated argument in French, I just couldn’t translate anymore and I ended up yelling at her. It was an awful moment, one in which I didn’t know what to do next. Fortunately, my brother was visiting and he quickly stepped in and suggested we go for a walk. I cried, my brother listened, and we came back to an empty apartment. A couple days later, Brad and I left for a week in Ireland and then after that, I left Paris for Nepal. Needless to say, my roommate and I have lost touch. I’m not even sure I said goodbye.

Now, beyond an annoying SUV driver or when venting to Frank, I’m still not much of a swearer. My parents raised us to think that “shoot” was a swear word and, after hearing Bea say it one day, I can kind of see why. These days, Bea mimics everything we say. Some are positives that I want to stick: Have patience! Thank you! I’m sorry. Some, thankfully, aren’t repeated enough for her to remember. It’s been a good reminder that we model everything for her. Some days, I do a pretty good job and am confident in the reflection of my own actions. Other days…. Well, hopefully some reflections and behaviors will fade quickly. The types of humans we are will determine the type of human she will be.

It’s not just my words, either. Actions, facial expressions, mannerisms – Bea imitates them all as she figures out how to interact with the world. From patting and shhhing Bitty Baby to whisking eggs in her little kitchen, Bea repeats our days during playtime. Before bed and naps, she retells events that have happened recently. Very little escapes this perceptive girl, and I am amazed at the details she remembers from her days.

Modeling quiet reading time
Modeling quiet reading time

Frank and I want to be intentional about raising a daughter who hears kind words and sees generous actions. I believe that, beyond Sunday school and the Jesus Storybook Bible, the best way to present the idea of Jesus and grace is by modeling our own beliefs. As she interacts with us doing our daily routines, we try to explain why we do what we do. Listening to Frank in the kitchen while Bea acts as his sous-chef is like listening to a cooking show. Even if I write a blog or respond to email while she’s around, I try to stop and explain what I’m doing. She loves to sit with me and absorb it all. I look forward to the day when we can explain more about Kiva and Food for the Hungry as we model giving to others.

Often I think about, as a Christian, what kind of reflection I am of Jesus’ message. As I read the Gospels, messages of love and redemption fill the pages. Yes, there is the odd example of Jesus losing his temper and overturning tables, but overwhelmingly, the Gospels show a man of generous love and grace. Sometimes it can be easy to justify my “righteous anger” toward injustice and point to the one time Jesus overturned tables. But, he more often stopped and listened to others. He modeled radical grace.

As I look at my interactions with Bea, I hope she takes away my moments of love and grace and not the times I lose my temper. I know I’ll fail and she’ll see me acting less than gracious, but I would be mortified if those were the only actions she absorbed. I wonder if it’s similar with Jesus. I imagine he hopes I reflect love and grace instead of anger. How would he feel if I clung to the examples of judgement and never mirrored those of love?

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s month of Mirror.