a season of uncertainty and certainty

I wrote so many thoughts over the weekend and not one of them is ready for print. Not even on the internet.

I did, however, have a breakthrough last night when I realized the post I had written was the very thing I needed for something else but was definitely not the right thing to post here.

Sometimes, I wish I had written things for people to read when I was so sure, so certain of equations and sums.

If I am this sort of wife then, if I am this sort of mom then, if I am this sort of worker then . . .

But I’m very glad I didn’t. Because now, as much as I may like to think a thing should be this way, or this effort should produce this result, I know outcomes are not always up to me.

Perhaps that is the real crisis of mid-life.

Suddenly, the things you thought were real and true and guaranteed do not turn out as you expected.

The marriage you thought was unbreakable is broken. The effort you put in seems wasted. Children grow up and make their own choices in spite of (and sometimes to spite) you.

I am more reluctant now to open my mouth with certainty. Because what will come of it all is not yet known.

Because the important of yesterday fades as the walk becomes more by faith less by sight. Where I once thought I had a measure of control, I have discovered I have none at all. And the great mystery to me is that the less I am sure of myself, the more I am sure of God.

Because if you ask me if I believe people can change, I will say yes without a shade of doubt.

Ask me if there is hope in the worst of circumstances, and I will say always and never give up.

Ask me if the broken can be restored, and I will say nothing is so broken it cannot be mended.

Ask me how to parent a child, and I will say pray always without ceasing.

Ask me how to keep a marriage together, and I will say forgive.

Most things I write need to sit a while . . . and then filter through life and be worked out . . .

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a season of fragments

Creating meaning from scattered moments, half hours, and hours takes strength and purpose and vision. It’s too, too easy to just languish in the not enough time to do.

Our days are often fragments:

Unfinished sentences.

Unfinished conversations.

Unfinished laundry.

Unfinished books read and written.

Here a little, there a little, line upon line.*

Pieces of time connected by strands of musts, shoulds, and ought to’s.

Creating meaning from scattered moments, half hours, and hours takes strength and purpose and vision. It’s too, too easy to just languish in the not enough time to do.

I’m time-challenged.

Always ten, fifteen, thirty minutes late. I stretch the time to fit my need, or want.

Projects can span days, months, years. Put away for seasons or until seasons, finishing is elusive.

But lately, I’ve been challenged.

Challenged to love and really live in the pieces of time I would normally pass, believing them too small:

15 minutes of contemplative prayer,

1 hour of power to get jobs done,** and

20 minutes to write.

To appreciate the fragments and to piece them together.

To use what I have wisely and not ask for more.

* * * * *

My sister, Tamara Rice, is a wonderful writer in a season of work on other writers’ words. She’s been an editor for almost 20 years and these days, is doing it full time while being mom and wife and friend and sister.

We both took time this summer to do as many things with our kids as possible. We are counting summers with children at home now. And there aren’t as many as we’d like. Our babies are twelve years old.

Tamara wrote a piece in a fragment of time at the end of the summer, and I asked if I could share it here while I’m talking about Live the Season. Here’s an excerpt:

Because I’ve Got 20 Minutes …

I neglect my writing in the summer months.

Since my children got out of school 10 weeks ago I have posted precisely four times, and two of them should barely count as blog posts, since one was a photograph with a single sentence and the other was a 200-word writing exercise.

Maybe this shouldn’t count either.

You see, I have set my alarm for 20 minutes—yes, exactly 20—and have promised my daughter that when my alarm goes off I will hit publish and get back to our day, because she is more important than filling the blogosphere with more words and opinions or even stories and feelings.

* * * * * *

Read the rest of my sister’s wonderful post over on her blog, Hopefully Known. Yes, written completely in 20 minutes. While you’re there, check out some of her other writing. She’s amazing.

Making the most of our time, as fragmented as it is, brings satisfaction.

I want to be content with pieces.

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*Isaiah 28:13

**that’s for another post

 

middle age, metabolism, and Monday

I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Someone used “middle age” to define my season the other day, and I have to say I was a little offended.

Although — to be fair — if I’m blessed to live for 90 years, and I’m 45, I guess technically you really can’t get any more middle than that.

It’s not so much denial as perhaps my failure to adjust to the change of seasons. I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Well, maybe I’m more like August 22nd in a perpetual last-week-before-school-starts frenzy of doing all the things, buying all the things, trying not to feel to awfully bad about all the things on your summer list you didn’t get to, and rushing to Office Max at the last minute hoping you get to the college-ruled composition books before all they have left is One Direction. And in front of me is September, when the Pacific Northwest weather’s suddenly rainy, then warmer, then cooler, then cold mornings and intensely hot 3 p.m.’s and you’re sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game in Seattle in October getting a sunburn . . . (don’t read too much into that).

So, half way through my 45th year, I suppose I should accept that I’m staring down autumn pretty hard.  And I think I’m finally okay with it. Except the lack of metabolism.

No. This is serious. I’m in a season where merely looking at sugar is the new actually consuming sugar.

I’ve got fat now where I used to be super smug that I didn’t. Watch out, young braggarts. Even after four babies I had a flat stomach. Had, being the operative word here.

And there really is only one solution to this problem. (Well, of course there are others, and I know them and need to do them, but do please hear me out here . . .)

Mom jeans.

That’s right. For the first time since the 90’s,  I bought a pair of pants that hits me at my natural waistline. Surprisingly, they’re far more comfortable than the hipsters I’ve worn forever, and they seem to have the side benefit of reducing the muffin top. Who knew?

Also, I could actually wear the size I still am in my head, which was quite pleasant because that never happens with low-rise jeans. And hey, if I don’t tuck my shirt in, no one will ever know . . .

Unless, hypothetically, in your rush to get out the door to work you accidentally leave one of the forty-six stickers of marketing brilliance on the jeans and walk through the office with a shiny Ultrastretch plastered across your bum.

It could happen . . .

And also . . . I just realized why I fit into the size I thought I should. Wow. Really — just now.

But seriously, last week was hard. I had to go buy clothes, and I would so much rather buy that cute little red-fluted crockery dish than try on thirty-six dresses that are decidedly NOT “all about that bass.”

It was so traumatic, I yearned to stop in Trader Joe’s and buy dark chocolate covered anything to make me feel better.

And then it hit me. Duh. That that’s part of the reason I’m feeling crappy about the shape I’m in. I can’t eat like I used to. And that is so sad. Partly because it’s just a bummer and partly because I have a houseful of men who can pretty much eat whatever they want and run it off.

I resisted Trader Joe’s. (cue applause)

I have to face the reality that at my age (yes, I said it) and with my metabolism it’s going to take long-term commitment and discipline. The for-the-rest-of-my-life kind.  Cuz if I told you how many calories a person my age and my height and tiny bone structure needs, you would cry for me. Or you would say, Oh Honey, learn to love running.  

I guess I say all this because the need for discipline is hidden around every corner of my life right now. And I see value in the daily and the mundane — as much as my flibbertigibbet spirit resists it.

So here’s my simple prayer for a new week:

God, help me to accept that my body is not what it once was, and please help me take good care of it now. Help me embrace a season of discipline without becoming obsessed. And please help me resist the free M & M’s  at work, you know how much of a temptation they are on Mondays. Amen.

Happy Monday!

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P.S. What’s your favorite thing about your current season of life and what’s the thing you could really just do without? Write it here in the comments. I would love to know!

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treasure the doing more

Somewhere over the past few years, I’ve lost a little of the fervor for living the current season of my life. Sometimes, it’s wall to wall crazy and I don’t have a moment of quiet til after midnight.

I got home late from work tonight. Missed the boys and Dave by a few minutes, I think. They’re off to soccer practice and workout time at the Y with dad.

Though the September sun was still shining mad and hot just down the road, our house in the shadow of the woods was dark and cool.

When I opened the door, I noticed the dryer and dishwasher going. As I flipped on the lights, I saw the tidy kitchen and dining room. Elves. I’ve wanted them since I was a little girl. Best of all, was the distinct aroma of Pillsbury crescent rolls.

In wonder and delight, I opened the fridge. Yes, the boys had made dinner for themselves . . . and they saved a plate for me. Two pizza roll ups sitting on a plate with a little dish of marina, covered in cling wrap.  I called, just to be sure. Yes. They saved it for me.

It occurred to me, as I settled in on the couch in silence and put up my feet, that we’ve been parenting kids for twenty years.

As I bit into calorie-laden deliciousness, all the sleepless nights with the child who made them vanished. Well, technically they vanished a long time ago, along with the rest of my memory . . . But no. Actually, I remember the nights too well. Especially the year it seemed I sat upright all night, every night rocking, praying, singing, giving nebulizer treatments so the one who made these tasty treats could breathe.

Years ago, now. Fourteen. My third child. The one who introduced me to a new level of stress because for goodness’ sake, I only have two hands! How in the world am I supposed to hold onto the third one? The one who proved to me once and for all that I can’t do everything and expect to be good at it.

I left full-time career world when my oldest was born, wandering back in to education part-time here and there. But a few weeks after baby three was born, I realized I could not stay up all night with a sick baby, teach and go home to make dinner, do lesson plans, grade papers, and still have time for three kids.

This precious little boy who kept me awake at night, singing, rocking and praying took me to the absolute end of myself. He was the one that finally made me let go.

Nearly a year after he was born, sitting next to a bathtub of kids, I read an article that changed me.  “Goodbye Dr. Spock” by Anna Quindlen was printed in Newsweek in November of 2000.  I still have the article, water stains and all. These are the words that stayed:

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Treasure the doing.

I took it to heart. I finally shelved the “how to be a perfect parent and have perfect kids” books and just plain parented. We cooked. We made messes. We had picnics. We went on adventures. We talked. We read stories. We made playdough. We painted. We spilled legos all over the floor and built things. We made towers and knocked them down. We sang. We banged on the piano. We had dance parties. We stayed up too late. We read all the books aloud.  We skipped school to play in the snow. We got lost. We planted seeds. We made cookies for the seasons and decorated them. We all went to swimming lessons together. We tried homeschooling. We prayed long prayers and asked God for things like trampolines. We sat in the back of rehearsals til we’d memorized every line. We stood on the sidelines of soccer games in pouring rain. We played “what’s next mother” to clean the house. We yelled, and laughed, and we let our cat have kittens. I didn’t even try to be successful at anything else, I didn’t have time.

When the kids were all in school, and Dave lost his job, I went back to work part-time and it took years for us to figure out a new rhythm. Seven years later, the house has decidedly lost the battle for my time and I let the kids watch way too much TV. But the boys clean, do laundry, cook. It’s wonderful. My house isn’t going to win any prizes, but it doesn’t really matter. We work together so we have time for each other.

* * * * *

I wrote all that a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it constantly. Somewhere over the past few years, I’ve lost a little of the fervor for living the current season of my life. Sometimes, it’s wall to wall crazy and I don’t have a moment of quiet til after midnight. Like today — which I will tell you about tomorrow.

Treasure the doing more than the getting done today. Every moment adds up to life.

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P.S. That’s my 14 year old’s baby face. And I still kiss it every morning and every night.

1500 size Live the SeasonWhat’s your season? 

the healing power of daily discipline

We’re all in a season of something, we might as well live it.

You can do anything for 30 days.

I said this a few months back — before I’d really thought it through.

I’m a great starter. I’ve got vision, enthusiasm and energy for something new almost always. But finishing takes every ounce of discipline I don’t have.

Take the “30 Day Shred” for example . . . I enthusiastically accepted a friend’s challenge  and kept at it for approximately ten days.

And then we went camping. And then I had to write a website for a client. And then, no matter how much Jillian yelled there is no modification for jumping jacks! I make 400 pound people do them you can do them, too! my ankles and knees began to tell me things I’ve never heard my body say before . . . things I really can’t repeat.

I’m a big thinker. A dreamer. But the daily grind, the day to day . . .  it takes everything I have to fold my clothes and put them away. It’s so daily! That’s why cooking is my favorite home chore. I can create, dream, and delight my family. Frankly, no one is all that delighted by my tidy room. I’ve asked.

To be fair, it’s not that I’m completely unable to do anything consistently. I brush my teeth every morning and every night. I’m just not so disciplined.

Over the years, I’ve embraced this freedom and turned it into an art:

  • I’m spontaneous, creative, I do my best work at the last minute. (All true.)
  • There are more important things than having a clean house. (Also true.)
  • I’m a Mary not a Martha. (Not so much true. I’m more of a daydreaming Mary who decides at the last minute to be a Martha and then pleads for all the Marys in the house to help.)

This “procrastinating perfectionism” has worked for me for years. Years. In just about everything.

At least I was. Until I hit a wall.

About a year ago, I ran out of words and writing became a chore. The problem is, writing is my job, so I had to find a way to recharge. Plus, I love to write.

I read books. Memoirs about writing. Self-help books for writers. I did exercises. Nothing really worked. I was deeply discouraged and it affected everything. I withdrew. I gained weight. I became listless and apathetic.

And then I came across a book about monks and acedia:

The desert monks termed acedia “the noonday demon” because the temptation usually struck during the heat of the day,  when the monk was hungry and fatigued, and susceptible to the suggestion that his commitment to a life of prayer was not worth the effort . . . .

. . . . I have come to believe that acedia can strike anyone whose work requires self-motivation and solitude, anyone who remains married “for better or for worse,” anyone who is determined to stay true to a commitment that is sorely tested in every day life.

Acedia & me  – Kathleen Norris

That was it. Acedia was what ailed me.

Anxious to discover the secret to defeating this demon, I devoured the book in a week. If you’re anything like me, you are not going to like the answer I found. To battle acedia, monks turned to simple, daily discipline serving through the doldrums. Working with their hands while talking to God, creating a rhythm that renewed their passion for prayer.

I know this to be true. If I was writing at home, I washed dishes and carefully cleaned the kitchen, praying as I cleaned. I spent four hours deep cleaning my bathroom. I washed everything in the house and folded every piece. I went for walks with my boys. I said yes to invitations and activities. After a while, I needed a pen and a notebook next to me while I was making dinner again.

I wrote and wrote. And it felt so good to be writing again.

About that time, I ran across another month long challenge: writing every day for 31 days.

I mentioned it to Dave — who is very happy that I’m writing again. But he said, “You’ve never done 31 days of anything. The last 15 days will be a surprise.”He’s right. So I’m taking lots of pictures just in case I give up and this becomes 31 Days of Cats.

But I figure, maybe I’ll have to clean something every day in order to write every day. In theory, if I am successful, I should end up with a spotless home. In theory.

So I’m taking the challenge. Because discipline really is reviving me.1500 size Live the Season

I settled on a theme, wrote out a list of posts and ideas, tidied the blog, played around with graphic arts and I’m ready to go.

My theme for the next 31 days is contentment: Live the season. I expect I’ll write about parenting, recovery, being 45, and relationships among other things. Some days will be serious and others not. I mean, I’ve never done anything like this before. Who knows what will happen?

No matter what season you are in,  I hope you’ll follow, add to the discussion and share posts with friends.

We’re all in a season of something, we might as well live it.

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repost: a light between here and there

the Grandma I wrote about in this post passed away today. she was an example to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

a light between here and there

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the dailyness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *