Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I Learned in June 2015

June has been a doozy. It's usually my favorite month of the year. It speaks to me of long, warm days, getting lost in hours of fiction, decluttering my home, hours at the pool, creative projects and grilled meals with fruit salads. All extracurricular activities recede and margin-filled days reign.  The good life.  This month has held those things but also some health issues for me, deep and hard conversations with friends, disillusionment with the Body of Christ on all sides, and the pain that our country is in over racial and sexual identity issues.  It all feels like too much to ponder and hold. In light of all of this, here are some of the things I have been learning:

1. Unity doesn't mean uniformity or theological agreement. The foundation of unity is our identity in Christ. Unity isn't holding hands and smiling and warm hugs and nodding yes...sometimes it is fought for with tears and questions and listening and humility and disagreement while sitting at picnic tables and Panera and my dining room table. Unity means vulnerability. Unity means that we keep showing up and we don't give in to the very real temptation to fight or flight when we feel threatened and scared.

2. Reading heals me.  Besides sleep and food and connection, reading is one of the highest forms of self-care for me. Always has been and always will be.

3. When in doubt, go love someone.  There is so much in the Bible that is hard to understand and so many faithful Christ followers deeply disagree. However I think no one would disagree that the highest commands are to love God and to love others.  That much is clear.  So when your theology and thinking is challenged or you are in a space of doubt and confusion, the thing you can know is that it is always His will to go love the person in your path.

4. Sewing always proves to be a great way to get out my mind.  I internally process a lot of things. My mind is very very active and the ideas and thoughts that seem to go on overdrive are forced to stop when I engage an activity that makes me think.  Sewing makes me slow down and focus...the measuring, the seam allowances, the understanding of patterns and construction. I spent all last Saturday making Dottie Angel's just-released Frock Pattern from Simplicity and I adore it.  Planning to make many, many more. I also made four of these wonderful headbands and it was a quick, satisfying and practical project.

5. Friends ground me and pray for me and I am not alone.  I have had many seasons where I have felt so deeply alone and unknown and under-supported.  As stressor upon stressor arrived this month, I had many different friends listen and reach out and pray for and with me.  My temptation was to feel untethered and unseen but my dear friends from so many different walks of my life encouraged me and listened and prayed. It has been a beautiful, redemptive thing to experience.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Weekly List, June 15

I absolutely adore making lists and the deep satisfaction of checking things off. Brain to hand to paper helps me to make sense of my life and my daily priorities. Many friends enjoy seeing my lists, so for now, I have decided to share a personal photographed list every Monday. In the early years of the blogosphere, there was something so interesting about taking a peek into someone else's everyday life. My weekly list will be a small peek into mine.

Today's list are the goodies for the dinner that I am taking a new family that is new to the area. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

God at Walmart

If you know me, you know I have a giant dislike for Walmart.  The lighting, the crap, the clientele, the chaotic parking lot, the terrible carts, ad infinitum. That landscape never seems to change, but once in a while, cheap and convenient shopping wins so I put up with their scene for 20 minutes

On Thursday morning, I reluctantly entered those Supercenter doors and walked briskly down each needed aisle with a tightness in my chest due to anxiety-overload. I was emotionally drained by disagreements I had been having, schooling decisions that I am wrestling with, and that overall pressure I feel as a wife, mother of six, friend, and mentor. Combine those pressures along with figuring out my boundaries so that I can focus on personal projects and ideas that fill me, and I found myself in a perfect storm of internal stress.You know this feeling, right? The ache to live balanced and well, to love Jesus and others, to somehow find the magical solution where nothing is ever neglected and all blooms beautifully. Sigh.

I grabbed some ingredients to pull together some Pad Thai for dinner and tried to find a check-out line that wouldn't trap me for yet another 20 minutes. I was drawn to that rare Walmart phenomenon in which the cashier actually seemed to be moving efficiently. She was a warm-natured African-American woman with a bright smile and shiny eyes. As she was scanning my items, another Walmart Worker sidled up to her and began to share a sad story with her about some painful family issues she had been having. (Another reason why Walmart is strange...people overshare their drama in the checkout lines when they are supposed to be working...but I digress...but seriously) My biggest worry at this point was that this conversation would slow down my getting out of there because STRESS and WALMART. My spirit was already feeling teary and fear-filled and clamoring that I just needed to get out of here and go find some quiet already and deal with my issues.

But without skipping a checkout beat, the Joy-Filled Cashier glanced over at her associate, and with a giant smile and without reproach said, "TRUST AND BELIEVE!"

And in that crazy, crappy Walmart Moment, my spirit received that beautiful truth from one of my Must-Be Sisters.  A smile slowly spread across my face, and I knew that in what seemed like the Unlikely Spaces, God was speaking to me and offering me faith and grace. I didn't need a quiet space or a magical solution. I needed Jesus in the form of His Body to speak some Faith right into my spirit.

God meets us in the daily, ordinary and quotidian tasks of life. Over soap suds and in traffic. Check-out lines and laundry baskets. Toddler tantrums and juice spills. His Presence shows up in these spaces that seem utterly chaotic and confusing, and He gently speaks and comforts and lifts and corrects and infuses and calms. Everyday we have the Gift and need eyes to see Him and ears to hear Him. We are not without a Shepherd and not left here as orphan lambs to figure out our days and our lives alone. He offers us Himself which is far greater and more beautiful than a script of answers for life that we so think that we need.

What my anxious heart needs is relationship and abiding and through that, I learn to really live, to trust and to believe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What I Learned in May

I really like Emily's monthly post of what she is learning...the deep or the ridiculous, the funny or the random. I have found these posts to be great prompts for taking some time to reflect on what I have been reading and pondering, and of course, it's always good to share with others.

1. Spending about $100 on flowers and ferns and pillows for my porch is the perfect Springtime self-care.  There is just something about sprucing up neglected outdoor spaces that makes one feel like all is right and beautiful in the world.

2. Older Christian Book titles and design absolutely crack me up. A peek through my bookshelves or perusing my thrift store always uncovers some hilarious gems. Edith Schaeffer's books are mentors for me, but good gracious, the stuffed animal, truck, ball and flower combo leaves much to be desired when pondering the meaning of family.

3. A Lowcountry Boil is the perfect combination of delicious + slow + fun + community.  I always forget the happiness it brings me to eat outside, eat with my hands, and eat with others.  I am motivated to buy a few picnic tables and gather some friends and do this again this summer.

4. I really am an introvert. I adore people and I laugh loud and I love to talk, but I get this crazy inward jittery and anxious feeling if I go a few days without time alone. Our beach week with family was so deeply wonderful and fun, but when I came home, I could barely function socially. I had to cancel almost everything in my calendar and hunker down to refuel. Even still, I am committed to having low social obligations for the entire month of June because I feel overexposed and underfed.

5. We as Christians tend to try to move people as quickly as possible from grief or anger or fear or struggle to a place of joy and love and peace and hope. We seem to be deeply uncomfortable with the untidy spiritual process that people need and have discomfort with the emotional messiness of our journeys. I was amazed at how often I heard this past week admonitions to forgive and to walk in hope and be happy-clappy while I was struggling with the anger of spiritual abuse and grieving the pain of several areas of my life.  My encouragement is to hold space with the wounded and not always rush to make them better. Grieve with them and then walk out together. And THAT is certainly easier said than done. And I am not talking about "stuck" people who stay in patterns of negativity and need firm admonishment to move on...I am talking about the one who is growing and struggling and pursuing peace but is in a time of wrestling and questioning.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Weekly List, June 1

absolutely adore making lists and the deep satisfaction of checking things off. Brain to hand to paper helps me to make sense of my life and my daily priorities. Many friends enjoy seeing my lists, so for now, I have decided to share a personal photographed list every Monday. In the early years of the blogosphere, there was something so interesting about taking a peek into someone else's everyday life. My weekly list will be a small peek into mine.

Today's list is the Summer Bucket List that my children and I came up with at the end of last week! We are certainly ready for a change of pace and some intentional fun and adventure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On Temporary Healing from Phone Addiction

When I entered my vacation week, I felt like my phone was an extension of my hand.  The hyper-connectivity afforded by social media, texting and Voxer had unknowingly crept in and made my soul and mind a fragmented, unfocused mess.  I decided early on in the week to "be present and pay attention" and part of that would be documenting my vacation with capturing plenty of photos but not with scrolling through social media.  I left my phone behind most of the time, and at first, I was incredibly twitchy.

I had gotten used to filling every bored and lonely moment with a quick visual jolt through Instagram. If I felt momentarily uninspired, a quick glance through Pinterest might scratch the itch. And what if I missed an important status update on Facebook?!  What if someone was sick or troubled or celebrating something big and God forbid I MISSED IT. {FOMO: Fear of Missing Out is a real thing.} What if a friend had texted and needed a response? A missed Vox message? No!!

It's obvious to me and probably to you too that I lack good boundaries in this area.  It's crazy hard.  I have spent the last 16 years as a stay-at-home mama with littles being my constant companions, and as we all know, that can get lonely.  The choice to homeschool my children built in a greater sense of isolation and then having children that didn't fit tidy cultural molds compounded everything.  The lovely iPhone entered the room, and BOOM, I had instant contact with adults, images, ideas, music and podcasts, and it just felt so fabulous.  I love my phone and it has changed my life for good in a million ways. But just like I love really great food and too much of that makes me sick, the same is true for my phone consumption.  Too much of it makes my spirit and mind bloated, achy, distracted and anxious. There is also the sobering fact that it took its toll on my homeschooling this year (ouch) and usurped the normal outlets of creativity that have always brought me great joy and fulfillment like reading, sewing, knitting, crochet, decorating, crafting, etc.

These realizations all came into focus for me towards the end of my week. My spirit felt so lightened and free.  My mind chewed on deep ideas from really great books. I was all-in with my family and felt happier and healthier than I had in a while.  And yet I was also grieved. It sucks to admit how weak I am and how powerless I can feel over an addiction like this. I don't claim to know the way forward or what are the best and healthiest boundaries for me.  I am praying and seeking and asking myself the question before I click on the app, "Is this the wisest use of my time?"

You see there aren't any black and white answers for absolute right or wrong.  The better question with most situations for ourselves and for helping our children discern healthy living is to ask, "Is this wise?"  That simple question prompts the person to pause, to contemplate, and to listen.  It keeps us from legalism and from judging other's choices because what is wise for one may not be for another.  This is a lifestyle of keeping in step with the Spirit, and He moves one way and then another. Sometimes He prompts me to check Facebook because there is someone that He wants me to notice and pray for.  And two hours later, He may say instead, "Go take a walk and be still."

Smart phones are here to stay, and I am so happy for all the ways these amazing devices have enriched my life.  My responsibility as an adult is to learn and live the path of using them as responsibly as I can and recognizing that my deeper core needs for intimate connection, engaged parenting, tactile creativity, and reflective thought cannot be met without putting my phone in its proper place in my daily priorities. I must repent, choose boundaries, pray for wisdom, and probably err on the side of a quieter, focused life.  And that quieter, focused life sounds like the loveliest of gifts as we enter these lazier days of summer filled with long days, good fiction, pool visits, and dinners with friends and family. May it be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Umbrellas, Overestimating My Power, and Freedom

I sat down by the ocean with the wind whipping around and the sun turning my winter-white skin a golden shade of peach.  I was alone, pondering life and motherhood and roles and the self-inflicted rules that I once thought would bring me life but instead offered a slow death by fatigue.

I stared at our navy and white striped umbrella sunk deep into the damp sand providing a circle of shade and protection from the early summer heat. The wind whipped it and shook it and yet it didn't move.  I looked at it and thought of my mothering, and that the umbrella must be a metaphor for all that I am and do.  I must provide all protection and never waver in the storm, and my presence must stand deep, strong and firm, and there is no room for me to venture into any calling beyond that one rooted space.

And within minutes of that narrow and restrictive and formulaic thought, the wind took my umbrella down the beach, twisting and turning at the mercy of unseen forces. And the Voice whispered deep in my spirit, "You are not Me for your children. That is my job."

And I repented and I relaxed and I smiled the way that you do when freedom blows you hard and your spirit flies free.