Monthly Archives: April 2014

for every season, present

it was over three years ago that i was at lunch with a dear friend talking about my cliche crisis in approaching age 30. she knew about my embracing the nickname “student of Life” so she used it against me! she said something i’ve never forgotten since: “i don’t think a student of Life would dread being 30 or pretend to stay 29. i think a student of Life would embrace their current season, whatever that might be.” was i ever knocked down a peg. in a good way. after that conversation, i vowed to myself i would do just that — embrace my current season. i actually enjoyed turning 30, in part thanks to my friends & family making it such a fun milestone to celebrate. but i think i mostly enjoyed it because my point-of-view changed, & i started to look forward to this new chapter with new adventures & experiences, rather than lamenting the ones bygone.

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i think that’s one of the keys to preventing ourselves from wishing we were still ___ — fill in the blank. still in high school. still in college. still young. still married. still living wherever. still thin. still rocking small babies. still working at that job.

we have a hard time letting go of past seasons because we weren’t fully present & paying attention to what we had when we had it. i’m not talking about a nostalgic walk down memory lane. i’m talking about being consumed with thoughts of our past, maybe even trying to recreate parts of it. i have lots of seasons that i wasn’t really present during, & i regret that. i wish i could go back & better imprint each experience, each relationship, on my mind & heart. i wish i could relive “the glory days.” but i can’t. all i can do is not repeat the same mistake with the season in which i find myself now.

the season i happen to be in currently is motherhood. with my very own baby girl that i carried & birthed & who lives in my home 24/7. in so many ways, i have put off this season for years. a decade actually. two main things held me back from pursuing children sooner. one, i was afraid becoming a parent would compromise my effectiveness in ministering to teens, one of my greatest passions in life. i know all too well that merely being a parent, no matter what kind of parent, made you automatically different in the eyes of teens. but i finally realized that while my relationships with them would change, it didn’t mean they necessarily had to be ineffective. the other reason was i kept waiting to want a baby, but the plain fact is i’m not a baby person. i like babies; i’m comfortable with babies; i have held day-old newborns, changed diapers, & babysat oodles of wee ones. but i’m just not that person who ooo’s & ahh’s over & wants to hold every baby i see. i’m just not a baby person. once i came to terms with that being okay, that it didn’t mean i couldn’t be a mom & have babies of my own, i was ready to have them.

people say it will be different with your own baby. it is, & it isn’t. i’m still just not a baby person. but i do love each moment while i have it, all the while okay with each moment passing & her getting older! people also tell me all the time to enjoy it while i can because it just goes too fast, they grow up too fast. i believe it. and i’m trying to make a point every day to embrace being a momma, memorizing what roo is like today, enjoying the cuddles & naps & feedings & baby talk. i go a little stir-crazy sometimes, but i know one day she’ll be too big to sleep on my chest, she won’t need me to feed her, & she’ll have a mind & mouth all of her own! and hopefully i’ll embrace that season, too.

my focus for this year is flow — i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. [read more here.] i want to notice the “appointments” that God sets for me, holy interruptions in my day. i want to find Him in the weather outside, meet Him while i wash the bottles, talk with Him in the laundry room, & walk with Him through my neighborhood.

how? here are two exercises i use daily [albeit imperfectly, inconsistently] to help keep me focused on the present.

1. daily prayers — morning, midday, & evening. i have been using common prayer for ordinary radicals to structure these prayer times throughout my day. i say my morning prayers [a different one each day of the year] before i get out of bed in the morning. i love waking up this way. the midday prayer is the same every single day & takes only a few minutes. i keep it on my phone & in my locket so i can recite each afternoon [at 3:00ish] no matter what i’m doing — feeding the baby, making a bottle, at the office, or out doing errands. each evening, there are prayers that cycle every week that include a time for confession. sometimes i say evening prayers at my prayer desk; sometimes while rocking roo to sleep; sometimes in bed right before i drift off. each of these points in my day help reorient myself, today, & this moment around God, His Presence, His will. 

2. quick pics — this is something i actually learned from a pregnancy book called body, soul, & baby. the purpose of them is to intentionally pay attention to yourself throughout the day. a quick pic is simple a minute or two where you pause whatever you’re doing, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, & ask yourself how you’re doing in this moment, physically & spiritually. how does my body feel? do i need anything [food, stretches, a walk, etc.]? how does my soul feel? do i need anything [a break, a chat with a friend, letting something go, etc.]? i also add a third pic of my productivity from the last hour or so. am i using my time wisely? am i working on things that need to get done? is there anything i’m avoiding? i do quick pics once an hour throughout the workday. i have a soft chiming alarm set on my iphone that reminds me to stop & focus. these periodic pauses to pay attention to how i’m doing help bring me back to the present if i’m stressing about something from the past or in the future; help remind me what’s really important & necessary.

again, i must stress that i don’t do these things every day perfectly, but i do some of it every day, & that makes a huge difference. i’m still learning. always will be. and in this season, i’m learning that being present in every season can make all the difference in life, in experiencing abundant Life.

going with the flow this year

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written january 1, 2014:

i spend a good deal of time every end-of-year planning for the new year ahead. it’s one of my most important practices as a student of Life. i review my goals, accomplished & unfinished. i reread my “top 100” [a list of anything & everything i want to do in my life]. i reflect on my annual theme & what i’ve learned. i create a new set of goals & choose a new focus for the coming year. [read more on the goals of a student of Life here.]

the past eight years, i’ve worked my way through the list in 2 peter 1:3-8 as my annual themes — faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, & love. [i can’t believe it’s been eight years already!] coming to the “end” of the list, i had to decide whether to start over again at faith or move on to something else entirely. peter writes that these eight characteristics are to be added in ever-increasing measure, so it seems only right to make the full circle back to faith.

however, my faith walk, needs, & struggles are very different now from eight years ago. [thank the Lord!] then, i wasn’t sure what authentic faith even looked like. while i’ve come a long way in this journey with Jesus, i still struggle in many areas about what i actually believe & especially when contrasted to how i act on my beliefs. i especially struggle with consistency. discipline & routine are not my fortes.

i decided this year, my focus would again be on faith, but my “one word” for the year, my focus, would be flow. i got the idea from Jesus’ words in john 7:38-39 — “whosoever believes in Me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” by this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.

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i want to learn more about God’s Spirit within me & how to yield to Him daily. i want to embrace each day within this new season of motherhood that i’m entering — the day-in & day-out routine, the mundance & miraculous. i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. i want to take each moment as it comes, embrace it, learn in it, cherish it. i want to go with the flow.

in keeping with this theme, all of my goals & plans for this year are more daily in quality. and i’ve tried to keep my plans simpler, smaller, & more flexible. usually, i make grand plans, overcommitting & stretching myself too thin. this unrealistic tendency means i never accomplish what i set out to do. i want to be more forgiving with myself this year, gentler, giving myself a break. and hopefully, rely more on God & His Spirit in me in the process.

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i’m trying to cut myself some slack lately. now that i have a bitty one [roo], my schedule isn’t really my own anymore, & i can’t get as much done in a day as i’m used to [or as i’m used to trying to].

one thing that didn’t get done during my pre-roo nesting is cleaning & organizing our bedroom. i know i’m going to want a bedroom that feels like a refuge from the chaos that is gonna hit our house as she gets older & as other kiddos come along. but i just can’t tackle such a big project now. so i decided a couple weeks ago to set my timer for 15 minutes each day — either during a roo rest or with her hanging out on my bed — & just work on it bit by bit. my room is now clear off all the stuff that had been piled up from when we first moved in & never got around to putting away where it belonged. it feels great! next step is organizing things, like my closet & vanity. but for now, at least my clothes are hanging up & my makeup is all in one place! progress.

i also want to get back to writing, & i usually make ridiculous grand plans to blog 5 times a week & write a chapter a day. for now, my one goal is to start each morning by journaling for 3 pages. about anything. i don’t make it every day, but usually i manage at least four times each week. progress.

it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at work, especially after maternity leave & going back only one afternoon a week for however long. my best friend / sister / co-worker, rachel, has this quote [i think she got it from momastery] to “do the next right thing” to help prevent that drowning feeling that makes us all want to give up & hole ourselves away on the couch with a tub of ice cream & netflix on a loop. do the next right thing. progress.

i know from past experiences, when you strive for perfection, you’re more prone to shutting down & getting nothing done. i’d rather get something done than nothing, so i’m striving for simple progress here on out. join me. we’ll take baby steps together. one step at a time, & we can take over the world. or at least the laundry.