Category Archives: seasons

School is in Session

Welcome. My name is danae. I am not the teacher. I’m a student. A student of life.

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What is a student of life, you ask? In a nutshell, I quote Thoreau’s apt words: “I wished to live deliberately… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

The focus of this blog has been primarily spiritual since its inception three years ago. But being a student of life necessitates a more holistic approach, as I’m learning lately. [More on my definition of holistic living tomorrow.]

A lot has changed in my life over the last year and a half. These changes are profoundly affecting my paradigm, my worldview, my approach to life. I’m making new friends and reading new books, all of which are exposing me to new ideas. I’m struggling with figuring out how to mesh what I’m learning and accepting today with how I’ve always seen life and God and everything. I’m in a season of renovation. I’m deconstructing what I’ve always built myself upon, throwing out what no longer makes sense or offers value to me, adding new information and relationships, and slowly rebuilding my life, my faith, myself.

PC: Oleksa Haiworonski source

Ruins of the Eupatorion Fortress, Ukraine // PC: Oleksa Haiworonski
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I might even describe my current state as “in ruins.” But as a lover of architecture, I am drawn to the haunting, mysterious beauty of ruins. Being in ruins need not be a state of despair. Instead it can be one of opportunity, hope. I love the poetic words from Isaiah 61:4.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins 
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

Renovation is a wonderful experience of growth and improvement. Renovation is also a tense balance between updating and preserving. And renovation is often a maddeningly long process, almost always taking longer than we expect or plan. 

My self-renovation recalled to me my focus on being a student of life. And honestly, I might be rewriting what I believe that means! I will be sharing what I’m learning along the way. I hope you will share with me what you know and think, too. One lesson that seems to be on repeat in my life right now is how much I can glean from the ideas and experiences of others. [I’ll be writing a great deal about this.] I look forward to growing as a person and as a community on this corner of the blogosphere. Together we can walk the narrow path of getting rid of and adding on and building something beautiful. It’s a lifelong pursuit. It’s life. 

Welcome.

 

 

You can read more about being a student of life [or at least what I have thought about this in the past] in my posts about how I became one and goals.

words to LIVE by #9

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wise words. they have helped me keep my sanity since becoming a momma staying home with a baby everyday. in some ways, i’m more productive than ever because i feel the importance of every free ten minutes that i have the use of both my hands! but i’ve struggled with getting my “work work” done because i need more than ten minutes together to make progress on some projects. i have to remind myself that in this particular season of my life, i’m just going to have to accept this new disjointed schedule of ours. 

i’ve started breaking some big projects down into small 10-15 minutes bites. roo can usually entertain herself with a crinkle toy or looking at a ceiling fan for that long, so i can sprint my way through a simple task. and it doesn’t matter if i get it done. if i don’t, i leave it in progress & return to it the next 10-15 minute chunk i get. i repeat to myself often, “i can doing anything for 15 minutes.” and i can. i can waste it with tv or twitter. OR i can clear off one surface in my house or reply to a couple emails.

i’ve also started using donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule. [you can find it here.] only one week in, & i love it already. it’s working for me in ways nothing else has. storyline breaks up my day into projects that i need to prioritize with a secondary task list. it doesn’t have me put timeframes on my projects, which is important for me since i never know quite what each day, each hour, each minute[!], will hold with roo’s needs. it helps me create a structure that eliminates lots of unnecessary distractions but still allows important interruptions [like feeding the baby — ha!]. i absolutely recommend it to anyone who sets their own schedule each day. but i also always recommend that you find what works for you, & that may not be what works for me.

most importantly, today, i want to emphasize that you can’t do everything! so stop staring in despair at that impossibly long to do list. [i say to myself.] however, you can do something. maybe even lots of things. so do that. take baby steps. you’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish over time with this mindset & method. i am now a stay-at-home mom to a three-month-old [today!] sweet girl. and by just doing what i can when i can, i’m able to take care of roo AND: work on my book, work on this blog, coordinate a major ministry at my church, keep my house functionally & presentably clean, do 2 loads of laundry [cloth diapers is always one of those] including folding & putting it all away, cook dinner, go for a walk or run, read for pleasure, catch up on twitter, & usually watch an episode or two on netflix — every day. [disclaimers: i only cook dinner 3 times a week usually! i don’t go for a walk or run every day, but try for 3-5 times a week depending on the weather & roo. i might spend 15 minutes on ministry one day & 5 hours on it the next; same with writing — it depends on the priorities i set each morning. and it helps that shaun is the best dad to roo & hogs her to himself most evenings!] i should also mention that to do all this requires me to get up 2-3 hours before roo each day, which is around 6 a.m. [disclaimer: i usually snooze until 6:30 though.]

last thing i want to make sure we cover — ignore what you can’t do!!! focusing on what you can’t do is called worrying, & worrying is zero helpful. actually it’s in the negatives against helpfulness. it skews your priorities, it diminishes your productivity, & it cheats you of enjoying the current moment & season of your life. that’s another thing i appreciate about the storyline productivity schedule — it gives you a place to ponder “if i could live today over again, i’d…” which is a great place to write “worry less” & “focus only on what i can do today.” having this mindset from the beginning of the day makes a difference in how you live it. the schedule also has a section to record “things i get to enjoy today.” i love love love this part! mine for today is: seeing ness!!! [my sister flies in today], eating at pei wei, taking a run outside, & taking roo’s 3-month pictures. simple pleasures that are really the most important parts of my day & what i’ll remember about it in 5 or 50 years. i want to be intentionally present during these moments, these things that i can do, rather than missing out because i focused & worried about all the things i can’t get done. it’s making all the difference in my day, my attitude, & even my productivity.

what mantras & methods to you use to take baby steps & be productive?

how do you keep focused on what’s really important each day?

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.

[a different calendar] what EASTER means for us today

happy easter!!! the greatest feast day of the christian calendar! in addition to my personal liturgy & daily devotional routines, i am celebrating today by attending early mass at the catholic church down the road [can.not.wait!], worship at my home church [we make a bigger deal out of communion this particular sunday], & a huge lunch with shaun’s colleagues [one of my favorite traditions]. how are you celebrating the risen Christ today?

these thoughts from my book of liturgy challenged me to view easter not just as a day but, as it should be in the christian calendar, a season. i especially love how the authors reframe what our holidays are in terms of God’s kingdom calendar. i hope you are equally blessed by this!

excerpt from common prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals:

“As Paul said in the first century, our faith means little if Jesus isn’t risen from the dead. If Advent is our New Year’s and Pentecost is the church’s birthday, Easter is our Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Presidents’ Day all in one. This is when we remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, celebrate his victory over the powers of evil, and honor him as our true Commander in Chief.

“Holy Week begins with Jesus’ inaugural parade on Palm Sunday and takes us through the drama of his last week in Jerusalem. In many ways, this is the week that teaches us our rhythm for every week in God’s kingdom. It’s often called ‘passion week,’ because it’s full of suffering. (Passio is Latin for ‘suffering.’) This is one of the harder things to learn about following Jesus: his way to real life isn’t easy. In the end, it’ll get you killed. And most of us don’t want to die. (This is why we have to practice denying ourselves through forty days of Lent, fasting from stuff that we usually enjoy so we can learn to hunger and thirst for God’s kingdom.) . . .

“Resurrection is such a big deal that we don’t just take one day to celebrate it. Every Sunday is resurrection day. But we also set aside fifty days for the Easter season, putting aside our normal fasts and taking extra time to celebrate what God has done in our world. Forty days after Easter, we remember Jesus’ ascension, when he returned to heaven and told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, so they might become his body in the world. The ascension seals the deal for the disciples. (Up to that point, some of them had headed back to their familiar world of fishing and life as usual.) For us it is a reminder that the resurrection isn’t just a miracle that happened two thousand years ago. It’s a way of life we practice. Pentecost ends the Easter season, reminding us that we don’t practice resurrection by our own strength, but have the Holy Spirit’s power among us as a community called church. Jesus’ story is now our story. And the next chapter begins today.”