Monday, January 5, 2015

A Happy New Year Indeed

If you've followed my blog or Instagram or life for very long, you know there is one day of the year that I particularly struggle with more than others. It is usually a tear-inducing, fear-producing, joy-reducing day. It's pain is raw and rare and comes once a year on a freezing January eve. It's the other end of the spectrum of Stanley Hudson's pretzel day and if he were here, I'm sure he'd be pouting about it too. And this day, my friends, is today, the day my Christmas tree comes down. I cry or pout nearly every year, regardless of if my tree has started rotting or not. And this year, in my excitement about the next season, the unthinkable happened. I almost rushed through it alone and didn't feel it. I almost missed the symbolism and beauty of taking my tree down, and I'm so thankful for the 8th ornament I took off my tree that made me slow down and savor the moment.

I love the way a Christmas tree looks in my living room. It takes us hours to pick it out, hours to set it up, and I stare at it with joy in my heart all season long. At least twice a week through Christmas tree season, while my husband and I are on the couch, one of us will ask, "What's your favorite ornament you can see from right where you are?" And without fail, we end up talking about 6 or 7 different ornaments and the meaning they hold in our hearts. We spend a big chunk of our precious time looking and enjoying and daydreaming and remembering, every single Christmas tree season. And I think it's both the remembering and the daydreaming that is holding me captive this Christmas tree wrap up day. Remembering where we've been this year and daydreaming about what's to come.

Every Christmas before, I have clung to the season, to the magic, to the joy that season brings. And I love that. I love sinking my teeth deep into the beauty and magic and simplicity of Christmas, of all it means for me and to me. I think it's a gift to relish each moment, and I'm so very thankful for the perspective to do just that. Unfortunately, for many years, I think I  have taken it to the next level of savoring and I have become possessive of and fixated on Christmas. I have sunk my claws into it and reacted like a screaming toddler when someone tries to take it away and Christmas slips from my grip. It's like the Christmas tree, my favorite part of my favorite season, has been the place where everything has been okay and wonderful amidst whatever pain was going on in my every day life. And my tears each time I've taken the tree down have been me not wanting to let go, not wanting to move on, not believing anything could be better than this moment in front of this tree.

But this year, something was and is different. Suddenly, through my healing, it appears that there may be magic and fun and beauty outside of the Christmas season. I don't have to cling to my sentimental ornaments and my twinkle lights and my sparkly gold ribbon. My tree (affectionately named Rockefeller for its grandeur) could come down from the corner of the room this year, and it might be possible that I could move on without mourning. The Lord has brought my sweet husband and I through some really challenging years, some really challenging Christmases. And no, we haven't reached the Promised Land yet. But I believe we have reached some of His promises in this land. He has taken this weary, longing heart, and given it new life this year through community, through healthy counsel, through mentoring and His people, and through each other. We don't have to cling to the tree, to the season because the season is only a symbol of the gift and the promise that rings throughout the whole year. Praise God.

The problem was, I almost didn't stop to remember it. I almost received the gift, put it in my pocket, and headed onto my next adventure, gratitude and reflection cast aside for another day, another soul, another moment... maybe. I was just going to rush on, like our whirlwind world suggests we do and get onto my next thing. Do you ever do that? Rush on to the next thing out of excitement or readiness or reacting instead of stopping for gratitude? I sure do. But not this time, baby. Hobby Lobby's Valentines decor and Target's spring break swimsuits out aren't rushing me. No way. Not this year.

So you know what I did? With that precious ornament in hand, I stopped taking down the tree. I grabbed my phone and sent a text to my Josh. I told him that I had started removing ornaments because I was ready. I was ready to usher in our new season where we welcome a baby boy into this world. And that's huge for me. I'm not missing the beauty of that. God has healed me from so many of my struggles and anxieties. I've released my death grip on Christmas this year and embraced the coming changes and fears, no matter what's in store when I usher it in.

But I wasn't and will never be ready to usher it in alone. So I hung those eight ornaments back up and told my precious husband that while I know we're ready to usher this new season in, I want to usher the old one out together. We weathered every second of 2014 together and I want to wrap it up together, dance in front of our twinkling lights in the dark, play that Mickey ornament one more times, and essentially hold hands as we thank God for the gift of 2014 and the gift of readiness He gave us through this last season and tell Him that we're ready for the next one, whatever it may bring. Without stopping with our grateful hearts, how will we know and how will our God know that we received the gift?

I'm very well aware that some may call this pregnancy hormones at their finest and some may call this sappy and lame. And that's okay. To me, it's a ritual with my love and our Father. It's carefully taking the time to not rush through life and hustle into our next season without remembering where we've been. It's being present and intentional with our time, with our gifts, with our growth, with our gratitude. It's slow dancing with each other and with God and telling Him that we aren't moving too fast to notice what He's done this year and we don't plan to start this new year with our first baby that way either. We're here, palms open, Christmas tree still up, tiny son in tow, saying thank you for what is and yes to whatever He has in store.

For each of you and your families, whether your tree is up or down, I pray love and life and slow starts and meaningful presence in your new year that defies this culture of this fast-paced world. May you create your own intentional ritual with someone you love as this year begins. As for us, you'll find us slow dancing in front of our tree, grateful hearts joined, remembering what has been and ushering in what is to come.

A happy new year and happy Christmas tree removal day, indeed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unruly Recovery

I like Pinterest. I won't deny it. I like the ideas it gives me and the recipes I see and the escape from the monotony of my days sometimes. I like dreaming about this Christmas and what I could get my sister in law for her birthday and how on earth to decorate my odd-shaped living room that we've basically left untouched for a year and a half now. I like looking at cakes and nurseries and what to grill for the perfect summer barbecue. And I like the quotes. Well, let's get real honest.. I don't like a lot of the quotes. But the ones I like, I like, of course. Do I think Pinterest can be destructive? Yes, definitely. And has it been for me before? Of course. But like most technology things, it's pretty neutral. Whatever you make it. Sometimes, I get money hungry and want to tackle 19 DIY projects at once that no part of us can afford or want to accomplish and I forget to be content with the abundance we have. Sure. I do that. That's when I need to give it a rest. Get outside. Connect with others who keep me humble and grounded and authentic, grateful for exactly what we have. 

And then some days, Pinterest takes on another spin. Some vulnerable human being posts something real and true and it rings my bell in all the best kinds of ways. That's what happened with this post.

And then there's that moment. The moment where I have to make the vulnerable choice to either support or deny the way that picture got me. I can pin it and share or I can pretend it isn't the story of my life and move on. Or, I can do what I consider as the least vulnerable option in this scenario and put it on an all-too-embarrassed secret board. You know the ones I'm talking about. There's no need to call you or me out here!

So I made my choice. I re-pinned it. Because it's real. It's true. It's my story. And my guess is that it's probably yours too.

Recovery is a scary word. It's admitting that something is wrong or was wrong in a very deep way. Maybe it's recovery from a knee surgery like a friend of mine had recently. She wants to be at full capacity now, months later, able to run and play with no tweaks. But it's scary and hard and different now. Or maybe it's alcohol or drugs, a different kind of hard, but terrifying nonetheless. Or maybe you're a recovering gossip or a recovering jealous sister or recovering competitive friend. Maybe you're recovering from another miscarriage or the loss of a friend. Maybe you're recovering from a heartache where someone you love hurt you deeply. I'm here to say that each of those are certainly painful and certainly require healing, no one more or less real than another. 

Or maybe you're like me, recovering from a multitude of things: internal aches, heartbreaking anxiety or depression, struggles in faith, traumas and heartaches, and a sore throat as the cherry on top. Maybe you're like me in that you finally think you've made it, you're free, and then you stumble right back into the pit just when you think you couldn't possibly be THERE... AGAIN.

I'm not here to tell you it's easy. Healing rarely is. It's messy and icky and has so many turns along the way. 

What I know is this: I needed that Pinterest pin reminder this week. That I'm not in control of everything and recovery might not be as seamless as I demand. I might take two steps forward and five back and then one forward again. I might finally get on my feet just to fall back on my face again. I might get cocky and think I'm home-free and collapse, still unable to take on all that I think I want to take on.

I'll say this too. I hate admitting it. I hate admitting I'm weak and broken and need help time and time again. I'm a stubborn three year old at heart, just wanting to stand up tall and say, "I do it myself!" And though I love my spunk, I gotta admit.. There's probably something really sacred in needing to admit over and over that I need a Savior. 

So even on days where He feels far away, I cling to that truth. Admitting I'm weary and need a Savior opens up tremendously more room for Him to come do His work. And my recent weeks of resistance and complaining are certainly not helping the process.

So last weekend, I found myself mid-free fall again, almost on my face, covered in my own worst version of myself asking for grace for the journey. The healing journey. The recovery. 

And I invite you in to do the same. Not only does the recognition that we need Jesus change everything, but the recognition that we need each other does more for the soul than words can explain.

So here's my promise for the week: I'm going to lower my expectations for recovery. I'm going to choose to believe that it's okay if it's slow and trust that someone greater than me has me on the journey and won't let me fall. I'm going to make the vulnerable choice to be honest with myself, my therapist, my mentor, my friends, and even my Jesus that I need help and support for my recovery journey. And I'm going to enlist you all to do the same. 

And I must admit. It feels better than being "perfect" and bitter already. (Did I leave out that I was bitter before? Oops. Yeah, add recovering cynic to my list to.)

So tell me. What's healing like for you? Does your recovery arrow have as many twists and turns as mine?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Won't Go Back

About once a year, I pull out my copy of Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet and start devouring it again. Sometimes I'm in a life slump, sometimes a faith slump, sometimes just a book slump. Sometimes I want to learn what she learned writing it and sometimes I want to learn what I learned reading it. It's marked and scratched and stained, probably from a dozen different breakfasts or lunches on my back porch or bathtub. And it never fails. Every time I start to read it again, I'm drawn back into her story and mine and really the story of life with a good God who gives us both the bitter and the sweet and loves us to the very end and even further. Clearly, if you haven't read it, I recommend it. I'd let you borrow mine, but it's become a sort of journal to me. Sacred and personal in all the best ways.

Today, I decided to read a chapter or two again on that same back porch and again with a fork in hand. In true Shauna fashion, I'll tell you.. My lunch was weird and wonderful. Sautéed squash right from my weed-overtaken garden and chicken salad with italian chicken, apples, sun-dried tomatoes, pecans and homemade mayo straight from my fridge. It's a sick day at my house, and we're in the midst of this crazy/fun/miserable diet challenge with some friends, so I took advantage of my kitchen, my new culinary skills, and my creativity. I even texted one of my friends and told her that if my lunches got any weirder, I would be that kid with no friends in the school cafeteria. (Sorry I told you that you couldn't eat with me in the 9th grade if you brought tuna, Mary Beth! I've grown since then, I promise!)

Anyway, I sat down with a chapter about 3/4ths of the way through the book and the weirdest thing happened. I read this chapter where I had underlined literally almost every single word. And I could literally feel my old self reading this chapter. I could sense the younger April underlining and searching, desperate for some of the words on the page to put her anxious heart at ease.

It's a chapter about all that can change in a year, about how maybe you are broken now but there is redemption, about seasons, about finding your old self again and how amazing it feels. And that's where I felt her. Younger April. Literally thinking she might die if she couldn't find her old self again. And I'll be honest with you. I felt that way for a really long time. All I wanted was to be carefree again. I couldn't imagine moving on in life, unable to be that blissful, joyful, no worries in the world girl. For a while, I think I was resigned to telling God that if I couldn't be her, I didn't want to live.

And here I sit, a full three or maybe four years later, still not the same girl. And what I realized as I experienced the old me's longing today was the most magical thing. For the first time in those long and painful four years, I don't want to go back. I don't want to be her anymore. Was that April joyful and beautiful and exactly who God made me to be for a while? Yes. But this new version of me is better, more. I know pain now. And heartache. And longing like I didn't know was possible. I know that it's okay to doubt and be terrified and want to quit. I know community like I didn't even know was possible, more than just late night sleepovers and hilarious pranks. The kind of community that comes to your house just because they know you can't be alone and the kind that makes you pull your car over when they think you might quit.

Suddenly, all those days and times I longed to go back to have less appeal. Would I trade them for anything in the world? No. I learned a significant part of who I was then. I laughed and rejoiced and worshipped and lived so full and free. I'll carry those memories and those people with me every place I go and cherish every minute of who I was then, who God was to me then, and the path we were on together. The times were sweet. And I am forever grateful.

But now, there's a whole heaping tablespoon (or maybe large vat) of bitter to mix in there with that sweet. And where it used to just tick me off that I had to deal with that, I think it's become a part of me. A very real, living, breathing part of me and without it, I wouldn't be who I am now. And by jove, I like who I am now! What I have to offer the world is different, battered, changed, redeemed, beautiful. Beautiful in the kind of way that my nephew's most tattered stuffed animal is beautiful or my grandmother's handwritten recipes are beautiful or my tear-stained journals are beautiful. They are worn. Loved. Tested. Better.

I had dinner at my friend Maryanne's house on Sunday. We sat at her kitchen table and chatted for a while, as we have consistently done over the last eight years. We laughed about some things and got real deep on others. And she told me something I'll never forget. She said she liked who I was back then okay, but she likes who I am now much better. "You're more real and better to talk to," she said. I just like you like this. Thanks, Maryanne. I think I like me like this too.

So I don't know where you are today. Maybe you're in your sweet spot. Eat it up, sister. It's a good place to be. Or maybe you're where I was for far too long, out of the sweet spot but unwilling to move anywhere but backwards. Believe me, I know it's hard to give it up. But wherever you are, I pray that you know that our God is in the process of making things new, us included. And being the God that he is, I highly doubt new is going to ever be worse. So maybe you'll join me today in celebrating that life and even you yourself are ever growing, ever changing. And if we can just let go of who we used to be, we might all find that we like the new people even more.

Blessings and peace for the new you.

And for the record, yes, I did weep as I typed paragraphs #6 and #7. Just keeping it real :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vacation Tears

A few weeks ago, my dear sweet husband and I got to take a trip we have been dreaming of for years. It was a trip that was intended to redeem our honeymoon. (You know.. the honeymoon where there was a hurricane and we got kicked out of our resort, moved to another, all the restaurants and room service closed, had to attend resort-wide meetings, and could stand in water that was at least a foot deep. Yes. That was our honeymoon.) Now don't get me wrong. It was actually a really sweet time. Our first time to vacation alone and a sweet week of rest after a busy wedding season. Other than the fact that we were reprimanded pretty intensely by our parents for not letting them know we were alive in the hurricane, it was a pretty good time. We watched the Titanic on Mexican television, ran to the buffet in our rain jackets for our meals, took baths and read books, and laughed hysterically at our misfortune.

Basically, our honeymoon only needed to be redeemed because we got moved around so much that it was hard to settle and because we wanted some good tropical sunshine and lazy days on the beach and by the pool. So we saved up our Southwest points and set out to redeem our trip. The date was set for the day after my grad school comps and we were absolutely stoked.

We headed out at 4 am on a Wednesday morning for Punta Cana. All we had planned was to lay on the beach or by the pool with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other and eat delicious food and rest. Sounds heavenly, right? We thought so too. And when we arrived, it was bliss. Seriously. No hurricanes, no boarded up windows, the clearest and most beautiful pool of all time, crystal blue waters, the works. We were elated.

And then, we did the unthinkable. Instead of being uber content with the bliss that we had, we got the itch for more. "If we took them up on their promo offer, we could get a free romantic dinner on the beach." "If we'll go stay one night at their sister resort, we'll get free massages when we come back." Etc, etc, etc. We completely lost sight of our agenda of rest and took off like a rocket trying to trade up and get more. Not only that, I think we even lost sight of who we are. Not a good start.

Now, I will insert one paragraph in here that I love about what we did with taking up the promo offer and visiting the other resort. (And it will only be one paragraph because there's only one thing that I love about it!) Josh and I are getting braver. Honestly, we're getting safer with each other too. We are more able to risk and fail and make mistakes (like abandoning our agenda for rest!!!), and I have to admit... I love that about us. Gone are the days where anxiety ruled this relationship and spouses have to be perfect. Praise the Lord, seriously. And hoooooray for secure attachment!

Anyway, in our little healthily attached selves, we totally lost sight of what was important. We traded our room for the promo, spent the night at the other resort which we didn't even love, had to pack our bags up three different times, and boy oh boy, did we ever learn some good lessons. It's ironic, really. I wrote a post three weeks TO THE DAY before we left about how I was leaning into surrender and learning to rest and play and breathe. And I was doing that, at home. And when we stepped on that plane, I forgot. I completely forgot. The Lord had been so patiently speaking to me about resting in His presence and not choosing on-the-go as a lifestyle. And what did I do? I chose on-the-go not only as a lifestyle but as a vacation. What is wrong with me?!

In essence, and I hate to admit this, we became ungrateful people, always wanting bigger and more. We totally outsmarted ourselves in trying to make the perfect vacation and it was approximately day 3 when I turned to Josh with big crocodile tears in my eyes and said, "I just want to feel settled." And he held me and I cried. Big, ugly vacation tears.

Vacation tears because I wasn't settled. Vacation tears because we were reliving our honeymoon (packing, resort hopping, unpacking, packing again) instead of redeeming it. Vacation tears most of all because I didn't listen. I didn't listen to the still, small voice in my spirit telling me that rest and connection were all I needed. I thought I needed more. And if I'm honest, it's the same lesson as before with only a little twist. Still surrender, yes, but add a dash of thankful and a heaping handful of contentment as well.

My Josh, who I'm convinced is a saint by nature, and I were recounting all of the lessons we had learned as we were walking to the pool on day 4 of our trip and he turned to me and said, "Godliness with contentment is of great gain." Luckily, I was done crying by this point so I didn't turn and smack him when he said it. And now, I've been thinking about it ever since. What would our lives be like if we lived with thankful hearts, content in all we've been given instead of giving into the temptation that constantly seeps into my weasel brain that I can trade up, get more, have better?

So here we were, day 5 of our trip, a mere 24 hours before we headed home and I finally let go. I went back to waving my white flag again, thankful for a God who gives grace upon grace upon grace for people like me who need it every day. And you know what? It was the best day of the whole trip. I rested. I sat on the beach in the early morning hours and spent time alone with the Lord. I basked in the sunshine and dominated an entire novel. I ate dinner on the beach with my sweetheart for hours upon end and when we didn't like that food, we had second dinner at another restaurant, complete with the best desserts at the resort. It was a day like we had dreamed of for years. Even in the midst of being stubborn, forgetful, silly people. What a kind God we must serve.

So now we're home again, back to our regular weeks and messy jobs. And here I'm standing, in the midst of it all, vacation tears dried and white flag waving again. Deeply leaning not only into surrender, but into thankfulness and contentment as well. And I have a feeling this next season will be the best yet.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Sandy Toes and Friendships That Last

Last week, one of summer's sweetest gifts was given to me. I got to go for a long walk on a breezy beach with a dear friend on a beautiful day. We were on a girls' getaway trip, just three amazing women and myself. It was the best kind of beach weekend. We rode bikes with baskets on the front for hours and shopped in the most precious little shops. We ate more than our fill of chips and queso and white chocolate fondue and goat cheese stuffed peppers. We read books until we fell asleep and sat on the beach until the sun went behind the clouds. It was glorious. So much laughter, so much food, so much peace. A true escape from my current reality of internship hours and comps studying and the race against the clock every day. And on this escape, one of my friends and I went for a long walk on the beach. It was one of those walks where we talked, really talked about life and what's going on for us right now. We shared fears and insecurities and joys and pains and tried to choose which of the majestic beach houses would be ours in our highly unlikely millionaire futures. It was one of those walks where I knew we probably needed to turn around for more sunscreen at more than one sand castle, but I also didn't ever want to stop for fear of losing the beauty of that moment of our friendship.

Friendship. That's what's ironic, really. Friendship was perhaps the most covered topic of our walk. You see, we are both at this place between college and kids where friendships are changing.. all the time. Honestly, thinking about and talking about friendship is a commonplace for me right now. Not just on the beach but at Greek restaurants and in friends' living rooms and on back porches and in line at Chuy's nacho car. It's an exciting and interesting time for friendships in life and also a really hard one. It has left me thinking all the time about what makes friendships last and what doesn't. And that's what my friend Kaitlynn asked me about on the beach that day. So I tried out my working theory about friendships on her. I said, "I think the friendships that last are the ones that allow for change. Change in the friendship and change in the friend. Capacity to change, that's what makes a friendship last." And so, as we kicked our feet in the waves and sand, she asked me for an example. I didn't have to stop and think for more than a second before answering... "Mary Beth."

Mary Beth, my best friend of 21 years. She holds the friendship that has withstood Barbie days and puberty and high school boyfriends and college choices and marriages and big moves and all the high points and low points in between. And throughout these conversations with so many of my friends and I struggling to figure out our friend scene in these post-college years, I started to realize that there is a theme running through my friendship with Mary Beth and all my other friendships that are lasting well and that is this: Mary Beth has allowed me to change, to reinvent myself time and time again. She lets me figure out who I want to be and then doesn't hold me to it if I change my mind. Not only that, but she allows our friendship to do the same. There have been seasons where we have been inseparable for weeks on end. In our current season? She lives 200 miles away and I've rescheduled coming to see her three separate times now, if anyone is keeping count. (But she isn't keeping count, God bless her soul.) We keep up through texting and an occasional email or call. And that's it. But there she still is, steady and supportive, knowing that everything changes and nothing changes and maybe so do we and maybe that's okay.

Have we always allowed for that space for change well? I don't think so. I remember at times clawing for things to stay the same and never change, grasping at what we used to have and who we each used to be. But isn't that life sometimes? We grasp and claw and fight for what we used to have when something even better and healthier and more freeing is around the corner if we'll just let go. So, inspired by this revelation of the beauty in this sweet friendship, that's what I'm trying to learn to do in all my relationships these days. Build into each the capacity for change. It feels freeing and real and so much easier than trying to hold on to exactly who we used to be and what we used to have.
So today, whether your mind or your toes are in the sand, I encourage you to take a moment to think about the relationships in your life. Are you allowing space for the people you love the most to change and become who they want to be? Are you fighting for what matters and letting go of the rest? If so, enjoy the freedom it brings to keep becoming and to allow others to do the same. And if not, if you're like me and you have had to or need to learn to like (or maybe just accept) change, welcome aboard. It's scary and daunting, but the reward is sweet. Letting go and allowing for change may be one of the most pivotal elements in cultivating sacred space for friendships that you want to last to truly last.

What do you think? How do you cultivate friendships that last?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waving the White Flag

Tonight, I want to write. I want to write because I need to learn from and remember.  I want to write because I think maybe what I’m learning is a lifestyle shift I didn’t know I needed until I started to write it and now I’m convinced that you might need it too. I want to write because I want to be quiet, alone, and reflective, at last, deeply leaning into surrender.

And I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that is what my next season is supposed to look like. Maybe it’s time to let my iPhone go to voicemail a little more often, quit making so many plans and dates and meetings, and just sit back a little. Maybe, is it even possible that if I continue living in this drive-thru culture, I might miss exactly what I’m here for anyway? What if the me underneath it all needs to take a deep breath, stretch her legs out, and leave this on-the-go lifestyle in the dust for a while? It sounds awesome and it sounds terrifying. Like I want to sprint toward it and dart away from it all in the same breath. Because choosing to not live on-the-go might mean I miss something. It might mean that some of my colleagues learn things that I don’t. It might mean that some of my friends make monumental memories that I miss out on. And you know, it might just be exactly what I need.

For most of my twenty-six years on this planet, I’ve lived pretty on-the-go. From my earliest memories of my childhood to my most recent hours of this very day, I’ve been never-stopping, grab-food-for-the-road, hopelessly and often happily on-the-go. As a little tike, that looked like being one of four kids, in a blended happy little mess of people. I have an onslaught of memories of more than my fair share of baseball games. And basketball games. And football games. And tennis matches. And yes, even golf scrimmages. I was the baby, the only girl, the not-so athletic one, and the nature of that was ballpark after ballpark, metal bleacher after metal bleacher. It seemed like there were weeks where we had games and events every day and every night, and I rarely missed a second. Now don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t hate it. I would pack my toys and dolls in my beach ball bag and meet up with my friends in the dirt under those bleachers and play. And it was good for then. Somehow, amidst it all, my mother kept us fed and clothed and got us back to the ballpark the next night, on-the-go again.

When adolescence struck with all its awkward splendor, I upped the ante a notch in my personal life and had a constant stream of people that I “needed” to be with. Youth group events, movie nights, school functions, last minute trips to Waffle House... If you can name it, I didn’t want to miss it. I lived my high school years running up and down the back stairs, driving my little Nissan Sentra wherever I could convince my parents to let it take me. I remember hearing the words, “Where is she going this time?” and “Is she ever home?” more than once (a week) as I skipped out my revolving back door, ready to be on-the-go again.

I lived college like that and grad school like that and jobs like that. Go, go, go. Don’t stop. Or if you have to, don’t stop for long. “There are people you have to meet up with, events you simply can’t miss, and more more more you always need to be doing,” the voices in my head seem to chant at me. They convince me that scheduling something every hour of every day is somehow a great idea and I definitely won’t be tired at the end of it all. It’s like a warzone. Be here, do this, don’t miss that. You need more training, this friend won’t understand, one more appointment won’t be too much. And today, on the day of our Lord, July 2nd, 2014, I’m calling a truce. Actually, I’m calling it quits. Yep, I’m quitting. Despite the words of my mother in my head telling me that we never give up (Sorry, Mom!), I’m giving up. And here’s why.

I’m giving up because my quest for constant on-the-go is too good. Too perfect. Too much. I’m giving up because if I stay on-the-go, I don’t have to face what’s really going on inside of me. When I’m running from appointment to meeting and on the phone in between, I miss it. I miss everything. And then I get to the end of the day and I’m grumpy and on-edge and have so little to offer to those I love most. And I think that just won’t work for me anymore. 

So I’m giving up on-the-go as a lifestyle. I’m giving up trying to do it all. I’m giving up the need to please everyone and meet more needs than I have the capacity for. I’m giving up the desire to hit up every therapy conference and answer my phone every time it rings. I’m giving up filling my calendar to the point where you have to turn it and start writing vertically. Yep. I’m doing it. Starting tonight, after a day where I fit in one too many appointments and meetings with friends and spent too little time being quiet and listening to what my soul needed. Honestly, I even heard what my soul needed at one point today and disregarded it because I was too busy to really stop and notice. See why I’ve gotta slow down?!

And you know what I’m going to do with that new space that just opened up on my calendar? I’m going to sit. I’m going to pray. I’m going to read books. I’m going to take long baths and cook yummy food. I’m going to go for walks with my husband and hang out with our 19 year old live-in child. I’m going to watch documentaries that sound interesting and find TV shows that make me gut laugh. I’m going to write and reflect and play. And I’m going to look deep into my spirit and its longings and see what feels life-giving and what feels life-draining. (Thanks, Grow Class.) Yeah, I have some responsibilities I’ll have to keep up. Maybe they’ll fall in the life-giving categories and maybe they won’t. But how will I ever know unless I make time to see what God is or isn’t doing in my heart and life? There’s a chance I could keep running on a hamster wheel forever if I never stop to look around to see what’s outside my wheel.

So that’s my vow for the second half of this year. I’m going to give on-the-go the boot and slowing down a chance. Really, I think I’m giving God a chance. A chance to speak to someone who is attempting to step off that hamster wheel and listen again for the first time in quite a while. And yes, I know as babies come and jobs change and life moves on, there will be more on-the-go days and on-the-go seasons. But I’m thinking on-the-go can be just that... A season, not a lifestyle. 

So here it goes. I'm surrendering. I'm waving my white flag. And it looks curiously like the back of a ripped out sheet of my over-filled weekly planner waving high in the sky, a bold display of defiance in my on-the-go world.

Anyone want to join me?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Birthday Toast

Two months ago this week, I turned 26. I happily bid year 25 a farewell and a "don't let the door hit you on the way out." It was a wonderful birthday. One of my favorites of all time. We gathered people in our backyard and ate a huge Italian feast under these gorgeous outdoor lights. My best friend came all the way here from three hours away to celebrate and another of my dearest friends even FaceTimed in from Malaysia. I baked a loaf of bread that looked straight off the Bread and Company shelf and we all ate barrels of pasta and dipped our bread in gallons of olive oil with the perfect spice blend my husband whipped up for the occasion. I'll always cherish the food, but more than that the laughter, and more than that the people. Because, you see, the people were the reason there was even a party to begin with.

This year, this party, it had a specific purpose. It was to gather together the people who carried me through my 25th year and got me to this birthday. So that's what I did. I got as many of them there as I could. And I wanted to make a toast. To let them know what they meant to me and how thankful I was. It was gonna be awesome. I wrote the toast a few weeks before and read it aloud to my husband and we both cried our ugly, thankful tears. 

Then the big night came, and quite honestly, I got scared. I felt my own insecurities come over me like a big giant wave. Suddenly, I wasn't sure how my big brother/friend's boyfriend/co-worker's wife would respond to my vulnerabilities thrown out there for all to see. So I took the half-brave way out and made a short and sweet little statement before the prayer about how thankful I was for these people and their gift of life and friendship to me. To some people, it may have looked like I chose bravery by even saying what a said and being half-vulnerable in front of everyone. But I know me and I know my heart and I know that choosing half-bravery that day was choosing to not fully be myself and even choosing a side of cowardice to go along with my pasta. 

So that's what led me to today. To sharing the real toast. Josh told me I had to. He said Melodye had to read it and so did Karen and Bob and all those other people who stood in the gaps for me and for us. And he was so right. So today, over two full months later, I'm sharing the toast I wanted to give on my birthday. It may be a little belated and a little backward. But I've always been a little unruly and am just learning how to lean into it. (More on that to come.) Anyway, here's a birthday toast, my birthday toast.. and it's to you. 

I want to make a toast. And luckily, it’s my birthday so none of you can argue with me. It might seem backward and to some of you, I know you’re thinking it’s lame, but I’m doing it anyway.

On my birthday, I want to make a toast to you. Each of you. It’s no secret to most of you that this year has kinda felt like hell. And tonight, as I literally stand on the cusp of a brand new year, I know that I’m only here because of you. It’s been humbling and honoring to be carried through life this year by each of you.

So I want to say thank you. To the ones of you who quite frankly packed our boxes and moved our home for us, this toast is to you. To those of you who let us sleep in your beds or cry on your couches because we could find no rest at home, this is for you. For the people who brought flowers to brighten to darkest days and sent letters to let us know you care, this is for you. For the people who wouldn’t let me lie about how I was doing and encouraged me that it was okay to feel whatever I felt, this is for you. For those of you who loaned me your children when I was down or asked me the hard questions, its for you too. For those of you who helped me get on a plane to go across the world when I was scared to death and didn’t even say a word when you saw my tears, this is for you. And for those of you laughed hysterically with me over Cheez-Its in an actual typhoon, this is for you. For those of you who have showed up when I just needed someone, anyone, and for those of you who have given me space, this is for you.  For those of you who have prayed your brains out for me and let me be okay in my faith struggle, this is for you. For those of you who have honestly held my husband up when he thought he might collapse, this is for you. For the people who sent messages that have made me laugh out loud and the ones I have reread with tears over and over, this is for you. For those of you who have held me night after night as I cried myself to sleep, this is for you. The words and the love and the presence and the hot bread on my porch from each of you, whether you knew it or not, got me through this year. Thank you.

I honestly feel like I owe you guys my life. But that’s the thing about each of you. You’d never ask or even want that and don’t feel like you’re out a dime. So thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you. Through the pain and the heartache, I’ve become more myself this year with you than I could have ever imagined, and that is a gift I’ll always cherish. So tonight, we celebrate. We celebrate my last year ending and my new year on the horizon. And we celebrate you, you rockin’ awesome family of mine. And if it’s okay, I’d like to make this toast to all these things and to you... and to your new beginnings as well, no matter where you are. 

It was a very happy 26th to me, indeed.